What Obama said back then about standardized tests

Then Sen. Barack Obama at Mapleton Expeditionary School for the Arts in Thornton, Colo., on May 28, 2008, for a campaign stop. (AP | Chris Carlson)
Then-Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a May 2008 campaign stop at Mapleton Expeditionary School for the Arts in Thornton, Colo. (Photo by Chris Carlson/AP)

“The tests our children take should support learning, not just accounting.”

That’s what then-Sen. Barack Obama said back in May 2008 when he was running for president and stopped by to talk to students Mapleton Expeditionary School for the Arts in Thornton, Colo.

Here’s part of the speech he delivered at the school, which he refers to as MESA:

We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind. We must provide the funding we were promised, give our states the resources they need and finally meet our commitment to special education. We also need to realize that we can meet high standards without forcing teachers and students to spend most of the year preparing for a single, high-stakes test. Recently, 87 percent of Colorado teachers said that testing was crowding out subjects like music and art. But we need to look no further than MESA to see that accountability does not need to come at the expense of a well-rounded education. It can help complete it — and it should.

As president, I will work with our nation’s governors and educators to create and use assessments that can improve achievement all across America by including the kinds of research, scientific investigation and problem-solving that our children will need to compete in a 21st-century knowledge economy. The tests our children take should support learning not just accounting. If we really want our children to become the great inventors and problem-solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn’t stifle innovation, they should let it thrive. That’s what MESA is doing by using visual arts, drama and music to help students master traditional subjects like English, science and math, and that’s what we should be doing in schools all across America.

Let’s review:

*As president, he hasn’t fixed the failures of NCLB.

*He hasn’t curbed the proliferation of standardized testing.

*In fact, students no longer spend the year preparing for a single standardized test because they have many more high-stakes standardized tests to prepare for as a result of Obama’s Race to the Top initiative.

*His administration has spent some $350 million to fund new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards, but they won’t be the great “next generation” tests that many had hoped because of lack of time and resources. (You can read about that here.)

*His 2008 presidential campaign slogan was “change you can believe in.”

Here’s the whole speech.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · May 26, 2013