Opinion

Answering the test question

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — One wonders whether it has crossed President Barack Obama’s mind that one reason schools spend so much time preparing for and administering tests to students is that the federal government requires it.

But even more to the point, one wonders whether the president understands standardized tests are just one of the federal mandates that make life difficult – and probably less productive – for tens of millions of children and educators.

Probably not. Obama has jumped on the anti-testing bandwagon – politicians do that – to suggest schools should spend less time on standardized testing. Two percent of classroom time would be about right, his administration is proposing.

Here in West Virginia, standardized testing is a hot-button issue. It is likely to become a boil-over controversy because of the terrible showings almost all schools had on the most recent round of examinations.

But state officials did not concoct the new tests solely because they thought it would be a good idea. They did it so the state would comply with the Common Core curriculum initiative pushed hard by the federal government.

During his weekend radio address, Obama said all the politically correct things.?”Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” he proclaimed. Far fewer examinations should be given in schools. “Smart, strategic” tests should be substituted, he urged.

U.S. Department of Education officials seemed to think that was precisely what West Virginia and many other states were doing when they revamped standardized testing to fit in with Common Core.

For that matter, standardized tests given for decades in this state have been described with synonyms for “smart” and “strategic.”

Veteran educators have heard comments like Obama’s many times in the past. Too often, they are no more than precursors to new levels of federal control over public schools – with more time-consuming bureaucratic requirements that detract from the process of education.

By any grading scale, that approach has gotten an “F.”

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