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The Problem with Obama's New Testing Plan?: It's Terrible, and It Changes Absolutely Nothing

Credit: Sarah Jane Rhee/Chicago Indymedia

By Peter Greene
As I noted in an earlier post, the Obama administration's announcement of, "Wow, this testing thing sure is out of control. We should do something," is absolutely nothing new—we went through the exact same exercise last year.

What is new this time around is a presidential video and an action plan. But there's a problem with the action plan: it sucks. More specifically, it doesn't represent any shift in administrative policy at all.

Let's take a look at this action plan that some folks are so excited about. Start with the first three sentences:
"One essential part of educating students successfully is assessing their progress in learning to high standards. Done well and thoughtfully, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. They provide necessary information for educators, families, the public, and students themselves to measure progress and improve outcomes for all learners."
Read those sentences carefully, because they make one thing crystal clear: the administration's philosophy on Big Standardized Testing has not shifted so much as a micro-millimeter. The rest of the document simply underlines that.

The preamble goes on to talk about "bad" tests that have been proliferating out there:
"... unintended effects of policies that have aimed to provide more useful information to educators, families, students, and policymakers and to ensure attention to the learning progress of low-income and minority students, English learners, students with disabilities, and members of other groups that have been traditionally underserved. These aims are right, but support in implementing them well has been inadequate, including from this Administration. We have focused on encouraging states to take on these challenges and to provide them with flexibility. One of the results of this approach is that we have not provided clear enough assistance for how to thoughtfully approach testing and assessment."
Before you get excited about the administration taking "some" blame for the testing mess, please notice what they think their mistake was—not telling states specifically enough what they were supposed to do. They provided states with flexibility when they should have provided hard and fast crystal clear directions.

Because yes, the problem with education reform has been not enough federal control of state education departments.

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