Obama: Set Test Limits

(AP) Addressing one of education’s most divisive issues, President Barack Obama on Saturday called for capping standardized testing at 2 percent of classroom time and said the government shares responsibility for turning tests into the be-all and end-all of American schools.

Students spend about 20 to 25 hours a school year taking standardized tests, according to a study of the nation’s 66 largest school districts that was released Saturday by the Council of the Great City Schools. But it’s not known how much class time students spend preparing for tests that became mandatory, starting in third grade, under the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law and are a flashpoint in the debate over the Common Core academic standards.

“Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Obama said in a video released on Facebook. “So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.”

To drive the point home, Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan an Oval Office meeting Monday with teachers and school officials working to reduce testing time.

In all, between pre-K and 12th grade, students take about 112 standardized exams, according to the council report. It said testing amounts to 2.3 percent of classroom time for the average 8th-grader.

“How much constitutes too much time is really difficult to answer,” said Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director.

Obama cannot force states or districts to limit testing, which has drawn consternation from parents and teachers. But Obama directed the Education Department to make it easier for states to satisfy federal testing mandates and he urged states and districts to use factors beyond testing to assess student performance.

The Obama administration said it still supports standardized tests as a necessary assessment tool, and there are no signs they are going away soon.

Both the House and Senate versions of an update to No Child Left Behind would preserve annual reading and math exams, although the House version would diminish their significance in determining whether schools are up to par. The legislation is in limbo while House and Senate negotiators figure out how to reconcile the competing versions.

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