Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NCLB: Some Democrats are listening

Improving Student Testing Act Moves Away from High-Stakes Testing as the Primary Measure of Achievement

September 17, 2007

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Improving Student Testing Act today to amend the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Feingold and Leahy’s legislation focuses on improving the quality of assessments used to measure student achievement in our nation’s schools. The legislation also encourages states to move away from high-stakes testing in reading and math as the primary measure of student achievement. Feingold and Leahy, who were among the ten Senators who opposed NCLB when it was passed in 2001, plan to push for changes during the reauthorization of NCLB.

“The federal government’s one-size-fits-all education policy under No Child Left Behind is the wrong approach,” said Feingold, who is seeking changes to the education law based on the feedback he has received from educators, administrators and others across Wisconsin. “Five years after the passage of NCLB, it is clear much work remains to be done to close the achievement gap that exists in our schools. Our legislation will ensure that the federal government leaves decisions that affect our children’s day-to-day classroom experiences up to the classroom educators, local districts, and the states.”

“Time and again I have heard from Vermonters that No Child Left Behind’s cookie cutter approach is not working for the students in our state,” said Leahy. “To raise the bar the right way for schools and students, states need the flexibility to design accountability measures that accurately reflect actual conditions and unique characteristics in real communities. A model that works for an urban school might be completely different than one that works for Vermont’s smaller, rural schools. We need to move away from a focus on penalties and failure, and toward a focus on the quality instruction that our children truly need to succeed.”

Feingold and Leahy’s Improving Student Testing Act of 2007 implements the following reforms to NCLB:

Provides grants to help promote stronger assessments of student learning. This funding will help encourage states to move away from accountability systems based primarily on standardized test scores in order to better take into account the diverse academic needs of all students.

Reforms the annual federal testing mandate to allow annual assessments at least once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12 for federal accountability purposes, instead of the current requirement for annual testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

Provides flexibility for states to develop alternative accountability models such as growth models.

Waives the 2014 deadline for 100% student proficiency if Congress doesn’t fully fund Title I formula grants, the largest source of NCLB funding.

Provides grants to states and local districts to help them develop better accountability systems, including developing increased infrastructure to use growth models and multiple measures of assessment in state accountability systems as well as implement school improvement programs in local schools.

Reforms the federal peer review process of state testing and accountability systems.

Requires states to report graduation rates by NCLB’s student subgroups to provide more information about schools to parents and educators.

Protects the privacy of students’ personal information within state education data systems.
Feingold and Leahy’s bill is supported by the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Education Association, the School Social Work Association of America, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance, the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, the Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services, the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, the Milwaukee Teacher Education Association, the Wisconsin School Social Workers Association, and the Wisconsin National Board Network of Wisconsin National Board Certified Teachers.

You can view a fact sheet on Feingold and Leahy’s legislation at http://feingold.senate.gov/issues_nclbtestingfact.html.
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