Obama Administration Takes Action to Ensure Fewer and Better Tests for Students

Archived Information

Obama Administration Takes Action to Ensure Fewer and Better Tests for Students

April 15, 2016

Building on President Obama’s Testing Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Education today released a series of case studies with examples of work states and districts are doing to ensure fewer, better and fairer tests for students. The examples are part of the Department’s continued efforts to lift up promising practices and provide information to states and districts about thoughtful ways to reduce and improve testing.

As part of that work, the Department also today outlined proposed priorities for applicants of the Enhanced Assessment Grant, a competitive grant program for states and consortia of states to improve state academic assessments. Through a notice published in the Federal Register, the Department is proposing three additional priorities for applicants: developing innovative assessment item types and design approaches, improving assessment scoring and score reporting, and conducting an inventory of state and local assessment systems to eliminate unnecessary, redundant or low-quality tests.

“Done well, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. Done poorly, in excess or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creative approaches from our classrooms,” said U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. “Across the country, educators are leading the way on innovative ideas to strike the right balance on testing. We’re committed to supporting that work.”

These steps build on an October 2015 announcement by President Obama of a set of principles promoting a smarter approach to student assessment, aimed at reducing the amount of time spent on standardized testing and providing support for states and school districts to develop and use better, less burdensome assessments. The Obama Administration’s Testing Action Plan outlines that assessments must be worth taking and of high quality; enhance teaching and learning; and give a well-rounded picture of how students and schools are doing.

Earlier this year, the Department released guidance on how states and districts can use federal dollars to eliminate unnecessary, redundant or unhelpful tests.  The guidance also includes ideas on how to revise assessments that are already given to ensure they are as high quality as possible. In the summer, the Department will release proposed regulations to provide clarity to states on exercising the new authority in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for states to pilot innovative assessments. The President signed ESSA into law last December.

The grants – amounting to $9 million – will be awarded to states later this year.

Today’s report, Testing Action Plan: State and District Profiles, was released by King during a visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he joined Tulsa Superintendent Deborah A. Gist in a roundtable discussion with members of a local committee that looked at testing in the district, and efforts aligned with the President’s Testing Action Plan to eliminate unnecessary testing;