This post was written by David Hursh, Professor at the University of Rochester. It ably summarizes the critiques of President Obama’s proposal to reform testing and reduce the burden on students and teachers. It also contains excellent links.

Obama’s Testing Action Plan: A real change or more of the same?

David Hursh (

On October 24, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education released their Testing Action Plan as a response to the increasing concern of parents, teachers, and students that standardized testing is, in their words, “unnecessary,” consumes “too much instructional time” and creates “undue stress for educators and students.” On first reading, Obama and Duncan seem to be saying that they want to decrease both the amount to time spent on testing and the high-stakes nature of tests in evaluating students, teachers, and schools. However, a closer reading suggests that they are only calling for the federal government to provide “clear assistance…for how to thoughtfully approach testing and assessment,” that is, more federal control. So, the actual goal is more of the same, implemented more carefully, so as to blunt resistance.

The rest of the action plan’s goals are worded to suggest more than they deliver. For example, they assert that “no standardized test should be given solely for educator evaluation,” which makes it acceptable, as in New York, to use the Common Core exam to count as 50% of teachers’ evaluations and to determine whether a school is failing and should be placed in receivership.

It seems that the federal Testing Action Plan, like Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, is not meant to respond to the concerns of parents that led to 220,000 students opting out of the Common Core exams in April 2015 but, rather, to convince the media that they are going to fine tune it to make it more palatable to the public. However, what is needed is not fine-tuning but a decrease in standardized testing. The Council of the Great City Schools reported earlier this month that students in their 66 membership districts take, from pre-K to grade 12, an average of 112 standardized tests, most of which are required under NCLB and Race to the Top.

In sum, the Obama administration, outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and incoming secretary John King—who single-handedly made high-stakes testing the single most important educational issue in New York— want to do more of the same, only sell it better.

The Department of Education press release:

Response by the NYS Allies for Public Education

A smart and snarky response from Peter Green, a teacher

Anthony Cody (co-founder of the Network for Public Education): Obama (Again) blasts all the tests his administration has sponsored

Council of the Great City Schools

Click to access Testing%20Report.pdf

David Hursh, PhD
Teaching and Curriculum
Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development
452 LeChase Hall
RC Box 270425
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627-0425

New book: The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education. Routledge. November 23.

Associate Region Editor- Americas- Journal of Education Policy.

Associate Editor- Policy Futures in Education
Keynote address: New York State as a cautionary tale. New Zealand union of primary teachers and administrators.

UR Meliora Address: High-stakes testing and the decline of teaching.