WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Under pressure from bipartisan political pushback in opposition to high-stakes standardized school testing, the Obama administration urged the nation's public schools Saturday to limit testing to no more than 2 percent of instructional time and said they should serve a meaningful purpose for student learning.
The administration called on Congress to reduce testing as it works to reauthorize federal legislation that governs the nation's public elementary and secondary schools. The suggestions come as a growing number of parents are opting their children out of standardized assessments and pushing back against controversial Common Core State Standards.
"I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support," said outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "But I can't tell you how many conversations I'm in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.
"It's important that we're all honest with ourselves," he said. "At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it."
The department said tests should be "worth taking" and should serve as one piece of the puzzle for getting a clearer picture of student learning.
"In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of purpose applied to the task of assessing students, consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students," the administration's testing action plan said. "The administration bears some of the responsibility for this, and we are committed to being part of the solution."
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the administration's plan is a step in the right direction.
"We need to celebrate improvement and the joy of learning, not sanction based on high-stakes standardized tests. So it's a big deal that the president and the secretaries of education -- both current and future -- are saying that they get it and are pledging to address the fixation on testing in tangible ways," he said. "Yes, the devil is in the details, but today it's clear: Parents, students and educators, your voice matters and you were heard."