I am offering an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, addressing federal testing requirements.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has long included some federal mandates that state education agencies (SEAs), in consultation with local education agencies (LEAs), implement “student academic assessments” to be used for federal accountability measures. Prior to NCLB, ESEA required “grade span testing” for these assessments. Grade span testing meant SEAs and LEAs had to test students only once per grade span: usually, once in grades 3-5, once in grades 6-9 and once in grades 10-12.
When Congress reauthorized ESEA in 2001 with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the law was amended to require, for the first time, that students be tested in each of grades 3-8 and at least once in grades 9-12. These testing requirements initially applied only to mathematics and reading or language arts with testing requirements for science being phased in over time.
Soon after yearly testing began, there was pushback from parents and educators about the one-sized-fits-all approach to teaching and assessing. By the time NCLB requirements for science testing were phased in, Congress only required grade span testing for science, instead of yearly testing as with math and language arts/reading. So while current federal law requires students to be tested every year in math and reading/language arts, it allows students to be tested once in elementary school, middle school and high school for science. This is a clear recognition of the fact that grade span testing can be an adequate measure of student achievement and used for federal accountability purposes. Additionally, research affirms that student performance can be tracked when using data from grade span testing.
In the decade since No Child Left Behind was signed into law the focus in education has shifted from teaching to testing. But data shows the current testing regime established in No Child Left Behind has not led to higher standards. Teachers are spending more time preparing students to take tests and less time educating, while students are spending more time taking tests and less time learning.
Reducing the frequency of federally required testing allows more time for classroom instruction, decreases the burden on educational resources associated with testing and moves our public education system away from the practice of “teaching to the test” that was an unfortunate consequence of NCLB.
The amendment simply replaces current yearly testing requirements for math and language arts/ reading with the exact same grade span testing requirements that are in the underlying bill (and current law) for science. This returns federal requirements on testing frequency to pre-No Child Left Behind standards. Under the amendment, States would retain the ability to exceed federal testing requirements if they deem that appropriate. Importantly, the amendment ensures the decision about when and how often student assessment occurs will happen at the state and local level.
You can read the amendment here: http://amendments-rules.house.gov/amendments/GIBSON_036_xml715131530283028.pdf.