Opt Out Groups and Common Core Opponents Oppose Senate Bill to Reauthorization NCLB
Parents and teachers have long awaited the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with the reasonable expectation that the onerous provisions of federally mandated, high-stakes testing would be removed. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee recently passed the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 to reauthorize the bill, but failed to remove the NCLB testing mandates, including the requirement for schools to test at least 95% of students. Ironically, the HELP committee claims the testing requirements were retained for the benefit of the two groups advocating the loudest for their removal: “These important measures of student achievement ensure that parents know how their children are performing and help teachers support students who are struggling to meet standards.”
Members of Congress have to be pretty out of touch with their constituents not to understand that everyone hates the high-stakes testing mandates, especially the students who are put through multiple days of unending tests which far exceed the length of the ACT, SAT, and even the bar exam. Parents have grown increasingly alarmed by the amount of classroom instructional time that is wasted to accommodate these testing schedules, which consumes between 15- 20% of the school year depending on the grade. Additionally, the tests aren’t structured to be useful to teachers in guiding student instruction, at least not in a meaningful way. How could they? The results aren’t returned until the next year, after the student has moved on to the next grade. Even if the scores could be returned sooner, the teachers aren’t allowed to see the actual test to evaluate why a student missed the question; the test is top secret and belongs to the testing company, not the schools.
If parents believed that high-stakes standardized testing provided greater accountability to them, they could have demanded it through their state legislatures; they didn’t need the federal government to promulgate it. Yet, the truth is that parents don’t see these tests as valuable to them or to their child. In fact, the number of state-level protests from parents opting their children out of the testing is at an all-time high. Perhaps it is because of parental pushback that the bill’s authors felt compelled to include a new provision which requires the state accountability systems to include a penalty for schools that don’t test 95% of students.
Provides a clear and understandable explanation of how the State will factor this requirement [95% student participation in state assessments] into their State-designed accountability system determinations. [Sec.1111 (b)(3)(B)(vi)]
Under NCLB, the sanctions for schools that fail to test 95% of students can only be applied to Title 1 schools that are participating in programs authorized under the bill. The ECAA changes this by requiring the state accountability system, which applies to all schools, to include the 95% rate in the identification of schools for sanctions. Essentially, it takes a federal requirement under NCLB and conveniently puts it into state law. If this bill passes as written, it will be a blow to the opt-out movement.
Congress has failed to recognize that parents don’t need these tests to know how their schools are doing. They already know, for better or worse, which schools are getting the job done and which are not. And, despite the past twelve years of NCLB testing, not much has changed in this respect- schools are still performing about the same.
In the absence of federally mandate tests, how would a parent measure his or her child’s performance? The same way parents have been doing it successfully for years; looking at tests, quizzes, and homework administered to their child by the teacher in the classroom all year long. Unlike the federally mandated tests, the results on these items are easily accessible to parents for inspection throughout the school year and instantly provide teachers with real-time information needed to immediately improve instruction. Constant communication between the parent and teacher regarding a student’s performance throughout the year is the best way to provide genuine accountability to parents and support for teacher instruction, not a single standardized test that no one can see.
Instead of mischaracterizing the testing requirements as an accountability measure for parents, members of Congress should admit that it is actually the federal government to which the testing mandates hold schools accountable. The mandated tests feed the US Department of Education’s insatiable appetite for student data, both academic and behavioral, which is used to push the preferred reform efforts supported by various interest groups, and conveniently creates a $2 billion dollar testing industry for their supporters.
The decision to retain the NCLB testing requirements in the ECAA was obviously influenced by the testing giants such as Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill, who have protected their lucrative testing turf by spending a combined $20 million on lobbying efforts. Unless parents hold Congress members accountable and demand an amendment to remove the testing requirements from the Every Child Achieves Act, unfortunately, it will have been money well spent.
Please contact your members of Congress and tell them not to support the Every Child Achieves Act unless the federal testing mandates are removed.
Gina Ray and Lisa Hudson, Opt Out Arizona
Heidi Huber, Opt Out Ohio
Erin Tuttle, Parents Against Common Core