Abernethy Elementary Lisa Kane listens to a question from a student who has opted out of standardized tests. He's working on math problems that are similar to what's on the state exams.

Abernethy Elementary Lisa Kane listens to a question from a student who has opted out of standardized tests. He's working on math problems that are similar to what's on the state exams.

Rob Manning

Critics of standardized testing are applauding President Obama's call over the weekend for less emphasis on time-consuming state-run academic exams. But the time limits may not change much in Oregon.

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Obama took to Facebook over the weekend to call for changes to federally-mandated exams. He said schools should focus only on high-quality tests, and that tests should not be the only way to judge students and schools.

"Tests shouldn't occupy too much classroom time or crowd out teaching and learning. Tests should enhance teaching and learning," he said in the video posted to the White House Facebook page.

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A new federal "action plan" recommends that students spend no more than 2 percent of the school year taking tests. That might not lead to big changes everywhere, however.

Oregon state education rules require public high school students receive at least 990 hours of instruction. Two percent of that would allow high schools to spend nearly 20 hours per year on standardized tests. For elementary and middle schools, the limit would be 18 hours on standardized testing per year — based on Oregon's instructional hour minimum of 900 hours, for younger students.

In Portland Public Schools, officials say students generally spend less than 1 percent of school time on state-required tests. More than 2,000 Portland students avoided last year's tests, in part because of how much time they take.

A Hillsboro School District spokesperson estimated that its schools also spend less than 1 percent of instructional time on mandated state tests. But Hillsboro officials caution that debates about time spent on testing shouldn't lose sight of the benefit of such exams.

"The data we get from standardized assessments helps us improve instructional practices, which, by default, could actually enhance the quality of instructional time spent outside of testing," said Tom Luba, Hillsboro's coordinator of assessment and data analysis. "In other words, they help us pack more effective learning into the same amount of instructional time.”

If our kids had more free time at school, what would you want them to do with it? A) Learn to play a musical instrument?B) Study a new language?C) Learn how to code HTML?D) Take more standardized tests?Take the quiz, then watch President Obama's message about smarter ways to measure our kids’ progress in school.

Posted by The White House on Saturday, October 24, 2015
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