What’s behind the Obama administration’s recent ‘180 on standardized tests?
Recently President Obama, in a surprising shift, committed to ending the growing trend of excessive standardized tests being forced on the nation’s public school students. He penned an open-letter to parents and teachers (published by Huffington Post
), in it he, “asks the Department of Education to work aggressively with states and school districts to make sure that standardized tests meet three basic criteria… in summary they should be worthy, not take up too much time (2% of classroom time), and one source of assessment data.” The online article also links his testing action plan
, which is a more comprehensive strategy to get standardized testing time decreased in U.S. public schools.
Now to the relatively novice teacher, these words of our president may seem like a welcome relief. Yet for those who know the D.C. shell game, its wise to be highly suspect of this development. For seven years we’ve had to endure his administration’s testing onslaught wrought by RaceToTheTop and continued NoChildLeftBehind policy. Therefore we must ask the question, what is behind Obama’s abrupt departure from over-testing?
Reflecting on the recent endorsements from both major teacher union presidents (Weingarten and Eskelsen-Garcia) for Hillary Clinton in the primary and the subsequent nationwide backlash from the Rank-and-File as this position was effectively forced upon us — this may be Obama trying to get back teacher union support for Hillary and the Democrats. Yet, more importantly we must keep in mind the nature of the Democratic party and their attempts, every two to four years, to gather support from what is an ever-shrinking base. If anything is said about the two terms of Obama — its served as a constant reminder that the Democrats are not a working class party. After seven years of the corporate education deform movement we should not be fooled by Obama’s last second effort to reverse his own testing-heavy legislation that has favored testing and textbook giants like Pearson.
What can we take from all this as we move forward? First, its clear our organizing and direct actions (strikes, hunger strikes, opt-outs, occupations) are having quality effects on the broader working class. The large-scale support Bernie Sanders has seen is evidence that people in this country are ready for something different. The liberal ruling class is in panic mode as they desperately try to bring back their base. But as more and more people wise up to their progressive bankruptcy, we need to continue building the necessary organization to harness that support and convince the working class that we need to actively change pubic education for our students, and not rely on whichever Democrat is pretending to be for working class teachers and students because its election season.