What Obama Said Last Week Could Change Our Classrooms

Have you noticed that so much of the instruction in our kids’ classrooms revolves around getting students to pass state tests? It seems that requisition of facts, and not critical thinking and creativity, is the name of the game. That’s all about to change.


On February 9th, President Obama announced that ten states would be granted waivers excluding their students from No Child Left Behind’s national testing mandates. Twenty eight states have applied for waivers so far (Virginia being one of them) and there are more to come.


Most agree that the initial intentions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) were good and genuine. The idea was that though mandating national standards, the quality of education would rise, and by the end of the 2013-2014 school year, all American students would have reached a level of “proficient or better” in reading and math. The bill, however, had unforeseen consequences:


  • Classroom teaching became all about the test.
  • States that could not pass the test responded by watering the test down to make it easier for students.
  • Classes which weren’t tested were put on the back burner. For example, in Virginia science is not tested on the 4th grade SOL’s, so the class was played down in favor of tested material. Also, the world history SOL didn’t cover Chinese history, so some classrooms spend as little as one day on it.
  • A wave of cheating by students (and even teachers!) desperate to meet testing standards.
  • Creativity was largely squeezed out of the classroom, and teachers had little room to adapt the material for their particular students.


Now, on the eve of the NCLB’s benchmark goals in the 2013-2014 school year, the Obama administration has decided to pull the plug. States will craft their own testing plans and be granted waivers by the Department of Education until all states are exempted and NCLB is retired. Here’s what we can expect to see in our schools in the future:


  • Less standardized testing.
  • Less classroom focus on teaching to a test.
  • More flexibility for states to focus on their unique needs. For example, Mississippi can focus on graduation rates, and Virginia can focus on getting kids college-ready.


The hope is that in time we can train American students to be critical thinkers and risk takers, not robotic memorization machines. National standards will remain in place for the time being, but as more waivers are granted, we may see the biggest change in American academics since No Child Left Behind was implemented 11 years ago.

For more info, check out this LA Times article and let us know what you think in the comments section below!


Ann Dolin, M.Ed. is the founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring (ectutoring.com) and is the Author of Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework.