By: Jeff Katz – November, 2015
For those of us with children of a certain age, we hear on a fairly regular basis about what is going right and what is going wrong with our schools. Sometimes, the observations are spot on and on some occasions they could not possibly be more wrong. Of course, we expect wide swings when we’re getting insights from students but what about when we hear from our nation’s leaders?
Recently President Barack Obama decided to weigh in on the issue of testing inside of our classrooms. He declared that way too much time was being devoted by children to taking standardized tests. Some of the standardized tests we now see grew from the No Child Left Behind law and some of them have come about as the Common Core program has taken root in school districts around America.
According to the latest statistics available, the average student will spend approximately 2.3% of their total in class time taking standardized tests. That average student, between Pre-K and 12th grade will have taken approximately 110 such tests. When you crunch the numbers presented, each student will devote about 4.5 days each school year to taking these tests.
The President announced that it was his desire that no more than 2% of a student’s in-class time should be devoted to filling in the bubbles on those tests. Now you’ll have to pardon me, but as a graduate of the Philadelphia public schools, math has never been my strong suit but it sure doesn’t strike me as a major decrease in testing time.
I think the real issues that need to be addressed relate to whether our children are learning critical thinking and reasoning skills as part of their education. Are teachers restricted in only teaching to the test? Is the curriculum being used thoughtful and appropriate? Would an extra half-day be better used exploring thoughts and concepts as opposed to simply spitting back a series of facts is the question that people advocating for reducing the number of standardized tests always seem to ask. Frankly, I think it is a good question but it’s one without an easy answer.
I personally am not disturbed that multiple tests are being administered nor do I feel that we are placing an overly onerous amount of pressure on our children. Objective testing has always been employed to help determine whether our students are indeed learning the required material and performing at the appropriate grade level. I want our schools to foster a desire to explore and support our children as they learn about the world around them. I also want students to understand that studying is essential because this is going to be on the exam and yes, this could go on your permanent record.
Jeff Katz hosts an award winning daily talk show, heard from 3PM to 6PM on iheartradio and NEWSRADIO WRVA. You can listen to Jeff Katz any time you want by going to The Jeff Katz 24/7 Channel on the iheartradio app.You can follow him on twitter @jeffkatzshow and also at facebook.com/radiokatz