In a video posted on the White House’s Facebook page Oct. 24,  President Obama noted that he had directed the U.S. Department of Education “to work aggressively with states and school districts” to ensure that any tests used in U.S. classrooms (a.) “are worth taking” in terms of quality; (b.) “enhance teaching and learning,” while not taking “too much classroom time” or crowding out teaching and learning; and (c.) “give us an all-around look at how our students and schools are doing.”

The president is right – our students and teachers spend far too much time taking and administering standardized tests. The underlying problem is much worse. We have created a culture of “teaching to the test,” and rote memorization. We must instead empower teachers and provide students with engaging and inspiring learning experiences.

We must foster creativity and make learning relevant. We must help students learn to apply their knowledge and develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills – transportable skills they need to thrive in our evolving world.

Ironically and predictably, an overreliance on testing does not necessarily improve test performance. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test results, released Oct. 28, just four days after the president’s announcement, underscore the point.

We must foster creativity and make learning relevant. We must help students learn to apply their knowledge and develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills – transportable skills they need to thrive in our evolving world.

Math scores on the NAEP — commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card” — dropped for both fourth- and eighth-graders, while reading scores remained stagnant among fourth-graders and dropped among eighth-graders.

Given how much our nation invests in education, the NAEP results were disappointing — but not surprising. We cannot test students to excellence; we must inspire them.

While some standardized testing is necessary for accountability purposes, changes must be made. According to a study by the Council of Great City Schools released Oct. 24 — the same day as the president’s Facebook post — a typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-K classes and 12th grade.

Our nation’s eighth-graders test the most spending an average of 25.3 hours during the school year taking standardized tests. Overall, students spend an average of 20 to 25 hours per year on eight mandatory assessments.

Whatever changes result from the Department of Education’s efforts, it is important to assess student performance. There is a difference, however, between summative assessments – often state tests and those administered at the end of the school year which do not inform teachers in a timely manner to help improve student learning – and formative assessment, which is done throughout the learning process that informs teachers and gives students immediate feedback.

As our nation’s education leaders evaluate testing and the assessment process, we must focus more on the latter and less on the former. 

Dr. Vince Bertram is the president and CEO of Project Lead The Way, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to STEM curriculum and teacher training. He is the New York Times bestselling author of “One Nation Under-Taught: Solving America’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Crisis.” Connect with Dr. Bertram on Twitter @vincebertram.