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Fair Test Reaction to President Obama's State of the Union Proposals on School "Reform"

Ohanian Comment: I think the answer to federal interference is to turn down federal funds. Research by William Mathis and others has shown that in the long run the federal mandates accompanying the funds cost more than the funds received.

Fair Test National Center for Fair & Open Testing


January 27, 2010

President Obama deserves praise for proposing increased funding for the nation's public schools, particularly if the additional money goes to classrooms serving children who have been left behind.

However, the President's plans for a national competition to improve schools embraces the failed high-states testing policies embodied in "No Child Left Behind." The "Race to the Top" program actually intensifies the damaging consequences of over-reliance on standardized exams: declining graduation rates and increased dropouts; good students and teachers turned off by dumbed-down learning; and too many classrooms becoming little more than test prep centers. Misusing tests to rank and judge teachers will make these problems worse.

A "world class" education requires major assessment reform. Other nations which produce superior performance test far less and attach far lower stakes to those tests.

A cosmetic makeover of "No Child Left Behind" is not adequate. The fundamental approach must be overhauled, as candidate Obama recognized in his campaign speeches. Washington needs to start helping schools get better, not piling on more tests and punishments. Otherwise, the Administration will just be repackaging warmed-over educational snake oil.

for more information, contact
Dr. Monty Neill (617) 522-0801
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

President Obama's comments on education in the State of Union address:

Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people. (Applause.)

Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. (Applause.) And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. (Applause.)

— Fair Test
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