A major political fight has broken out in Washington, D.C., over whether to change the No Child Left Behind Act’s annual testing requirements, considered by many to be its defining feature, as Congress gears up to reauthorize the chief federal education law.
As it stands, the law requires states to administer reading and math tests in grades 3–8 and once in high school. Some states that signed onto President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top grant initiative are now in fact testing more often, such as in grades 9 and 10.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — who has made high-stakes tests a cornerstone of his school-turnaround and teacher-quality initiatives — has made it clear that the Obama administration is committed to preserving the law’s annual testing requirements.
The administration faces stiff resistance from congressional Republicans, who are critical of federal involvement in education, while support from many Democrats is only lukewarm. Many parents and educators from both parties have expressed concern that the increased emphasis on high-stakes tests is harmful to public education and schools. Two New York City teachers and UFT members were among those who testified at a recent congressional hearing on testing [see story on page 15].
The American Federation of Teachers opposes the high stakes attached to the annual tests, but is not opposed to the tests themselves as a means to track the performance of special-needs students and students of different ethnic backgrounds.
“Educators need data to inform instruction, and our colleagues in the civil rights community will fight for the information necessary to counteract the history of so many poor children and children of color being left behind,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
Education Week, Jan. 13, 16
Politico, Jan. 12