Barack Obama: ‘Too much testing is taking the joy out of teaching’

In a message that will resonate strongly with teachers on this side of the Atlantic, president Barack Obama has called for schools in the US to limit testing in favour of introducing more creativity into the classroom.

Obama announced over the weekend that he wanted to curb the amount of time students were forced to devote to preparing for and taking standardised tests.

The move stems from concerns among teachers and parents, who, like their counterparts in England, fear education has been reduced to little more than working towards exams.

In a video posted on Facebook on Saturday, Mr Obama said he had ordered the Department of Education to “work aggressively” toward capping the time spent on tests in school.

“When I think back on the great teachers in my life, what I remember isn’t the way they prepared me for a standardised test,” he says. “What I remember is the way they taught me to believe in myself, to be curious about the world, to take charge of my own learning so I could reach my own potential. To inspire me. To open up a window to parts of the world I had never thought of before.

“That’s what good teaching is. That’s what a great education is.”

Testing “takes the joy out of teaching and learning”, the president said. He added that any tests should follow three principles.

They should be worth taking, they should enhance teaching and learning rather than taking up classroom time unnecessarily, and they should be one of many sources of information on a child’s ability.

“Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Mr Obama said. “So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.”

The move was welcomed by the two main teaching unions in the US, and was endorsed by Hilary Clinton, who is the frontrunner to become the Democrat candidate in next year’s presidential race.

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