New legislation in the U.S. House seeks to reduce federal testing


by Colleen Flaherty

A new bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) takes aim at reducing the over-testing in schools put in place by the No Child Left Behind Act.

This legislation, dubbed the “Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act,” would assess students in certain grade spaces and reduce the number of federally-mandated standardized tests from 14 to six.

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“The National Education Association and its more than 3 million members applaud Representatives Gibson and Sinema for listening to the growing chorus of voices from parents, teachers, students and entire communities expressing concern about the detrimental effects and harm caused by the overuse and misuse of high-stakes standardized testing,” said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA president and Arizona teacher.

“The federal testing mandates, when combined with the amount of state and district level assessments, have snowballed to create the feeling that our schools are not centers of learning, but rather are test-prep factories.”

Many have spoken out against excessive testing, says Van Roekel, and reducing the federally-required testing to just once in elementary, once in middle and once in high school will provide educators with more time for learning and greater flexibility, while ultimately provided more useful data.

Educators across the country have been pushing for real assessment systems that help them teach by providing timely results to help them improve instruction during the current school year, rather than systems that do nothing more than label and punish. Educators know what’s best for their students and that’s why they are calling for well-designed assessment tools that can help students evaluate their own strengths and needs and help teachers improve.

The proposed bill would replace the current federally mandated testing schedule. All too often, these tests do not focus enough on student performance and are used as poor measures for school accountability and teacher performance.

The new testing legislation will actually improve accountability while putting student learning at the forefront, said Van Roekel.

“The over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school and driving teachers out of the profession. This bill by Rep. Gibson and Rep. Sinema would help put a stop to these negative consequences, and help ensure that all students succeed.”

Reader Comments

  1. In our district in Wisconsin, we teachers performed a sample of the Smarter Balance Test. We had a very difficult time–not that we couldn’t figure out the answers–but because the technology to answer the questions wasn’t working.

    We are setting up the students to fail on these tests to “prove” that public education is not working and that we need these tests to help students learn better.

    Read the latest issue of Yes magazine. It beautifully lays out the “reform” agenda and who is behind them all. Please act on this information and don’t shop at places like Walmart!

    1. Also, check out Progressive Magazine’s website to follow the money and expose the privatizers. There’s also information that helps parents, teachers and public school supporters to understand what is going on.

  2. This year here in CA, we are testing the SBAC test in 3-11. Yet 5th and 11th graders still have to take part of the old CST! Poor 11th graders who also take the college entrance exams and AP/IB tests. Which ones count? It’s just too much testing.

    I teach 2nd grade, so we don’t test anymore. This year I have been able to teach complicated concepts to mastery–for example subtraction with regrouping, which has always been challenging. This year they ALL get it! I haven’t had to race through the curriculum to meet an arbitrary test date. I can actually teach 2nd grade until June!

    The problem is education “reformers” who have never been educators, but rather do whatever is politically expedient to elect and retain certain political candidates.

  3. (California) Last school yr my son had an IEP and the first part of the school year, they pent studying on the CASHEE, to help them prepare and pass it, then after that test in February, they crammed what the kids were suppose to learn over the entire year into 3.5 months. And they wonder why kids do not do well… A month or so ago, I got a letter from the district they were starting yet another set of (different) testing and it was required of 10th graders to take it, 11th grader were “encouraged” to take it. It will be required next year of all students but not 12th graders. I showed it to my son ( now 11th grade) he literally ripped it up and said the F word and that he was not taking another f-ing text. I don’t blame him; kids need a life too with some time to still be a kid and not be in school all day long and then be doing homework from the time they get home til when they leave for the school the next day and over the weekends. Even adults get a breather from work; stop over-working our kids!

  4. How about we get rid of all the “state” tests (NCLB) and give states and teachers two years to prepare for the new Common Core assessments? That should reduce the amount of testing substantially.

    We also need to require ALL states to sign onto either the PARCC or Smarter Balance consortia tests. None of the opting out shenanigans because state officials are afraid their students won’t perform well on them. That’s exactly what officials need to determine; which states are and which states are not getting the job done in the classroom. Only then can state officials make the necessary alterations to get students in all states on the right track.

    While we’re at it, as educators, let’s own up to these tests and stop insisting they’re nothing more than money making schemes for publishing houses (Pearson, etc.). That’s convoluted chicanery which anyone in the public can see right through as a lame and feeble excuse. We’re better than that. Work on the new standards, prepare your students for what they cover, and make whatever changes necessary after you see the results. Will some kids (living in poverty) have trouble on these tests? Of course they will, but that’s no reason to throw your hands up and insist you can’t remedy the situation.

    1. Let us own up to these tests? Fine. We are all game.
      Unions and school districts have done everything humanly possible to comply with regulations.

      The difficulty is in the grading, Mr. Hoss. If you were actually an educator, you would know that.
      You would know that the only, ONLY, penalty for failure as a public school is to be handed over to a private company. You would know that private companies only make a profit by skimming off the budget for students.

      Who do you work for anyway?

        1. Retired teacher from Mass.
          Since your state scored higher than most countries in the world and the highest scoring on NAEP, then why did your state need to lower their standards in order to adopt the New common core standards which were not based on any reseach to show they will actually make a positive change for syudent learning? Could this be about MONEY! Have you seen the huge salariesUnfortunately, the testing is not to help students and teachers work on areas of need, but to get a score for each teacher to determine which teachers to fire and replace with TFA. Big money will win out as it almost always does in the end, so until we allow them to make huge profits on “educating” our children, we will have testing and more testing. the charter school people are getting paid while they hire temps. from TFA to learn how to teach on the job and then start their real career. I have been teaching for more than 40 years, so if you think this new system is fine, we have openings for good teachers every semester. Please consider applying because we need good teachers to replace all of ties who are quitting causing the average length of a teaching career to have gone from about 15 years to just over 5 years since 2000!

    2. I wish people would stop buying into (and feeding into) the media hype that teachers are lazy and “throwing up our hands” because kids in poverty will struggle on the new assessments. There are undeniable facts here that must be considered:

      1. Teachers have become the scapegoat for the effects of extreme income inequality in the US. While it’s true that low expectations of students living in poverty have contributed to the problem, it’s absurd to lay the blame on schools and then strip funding from urban school districts! Our district in WA has been dealing with cuts since I started teaching here in 2007, with consequent reductions in teachers, librarians, arts programs, etc as well as bigger class sizes, but there’s plenty of money to implement the new tests.

      2. There are corporations that stand to make a great deal of money from CCSS and the tests. If you don’t see that you’re not looking. Meanwhile my daughter, who just got her first corporate job offer after graduating from college, will be making as much as I do after working 15 years as a teacher. I still haven’t thrown up my hands on this job, but I can’t say I’m not tempted from time to time, especially when people accuse me of “chicanery.” It’s demoralizing, it keeps talented people from wanting to become teachers (and we’ll be facing a shortage soon), and many who do try it leave after only a few years, never reaching the level of experience that we really need.

      3. The tests are being used as a tool to intimidate teachers and schools, creating a “Gotcha!” climate where teacher professionalism is nonexistent and degrading trust among staff and administrators. In our district, principals whose schools do well on tests get bonuses, so of course they support the tests instead of supporting teachers. In current budget talks, our principal is fighting to keep a full time testing coordinator who makes 3 times what a teacher makes, and trying to cut teaching positions instead. This testing coordinator is busy during testing season, but the rest of the year can be seen reading the paper at his desk. He also picks up other administrative tasks like monitoring the hallways, lightening the load for administrators.

      4. Finally, the new tests are on computers, which means that for several weeks each year our computer labs are inaccessible for instruction. Yes we can plan around it, but this is yet another way that testing is stripping our schools of rich, engaging curricular activities.

      A good education can’t be measured by a multiple choice test. Assessment has its place, to be sure – indeed, I assess each of my students nearly every day. If it were cheap and easy to use CCSS to measure progress, I wouldn’t have spent so much time writing this comment. But the fact is that the testing craze is eclipsing efforts that are way more important, like recruiting more teachers of color and focusing on students with special needs.

      Most of all, we need to start trusting teachers more. Please, trust us. We actually do know a thing or two about education.

    3. Common Core was created by a Gates Corporate Committee and his friends are publishing and pushing the curriculum materials.Bill is paying big money to control our schools.

      1. Miracle upon Miracles: We just ended the legislative session here in “Gatesville” (Washington State) without a law mandating the use standardized tests to evaluate our teachers! This, despite a Senate bill introduced in February (voted down by all Dems and 7 Republicans), AND a March House Bill and Senate Bill in response to our governor’s push to get the NCLB waiver by bowing to Arne Duncan’s mandate – we MUST have a law to use the tests to evaluate our teachers – no law means no waiver from NCLB. The session ended March 13 without a law passed! Hallelujah! I can’t help but wonder (worry)what can our governor do now? I am exhausted after two trips to Olympia and emailing the gov, reps and sens on a daily basis. We got charter schools here only after four attempts on the ballot during the past 15 years – it passed by .5% after Gates and his buddies SPENT a S***load of money to blast the voters with misinformation. The misinformation whirling around the teacher evaluations had me SOOOOO worried. There was serious unethical reporting being done with a sick, twisted agenda. BUT, WE DID IT!!! No standardized test scores will be used on our teacher evaluations (unless a district decides to do that – which is the stipulation in last year’s law that was passed in an effort to get the waiver). The wording of last year’s law “districts MAY use tests scores for their teacher evaluations” was unacceptable to Arne Duncan. He demanded that we use the word “MUST”. We didn’t. Now what? We shall see: the media reported during the debate that all of Washington’s schools would need to send home a letter to parents to inform them that their school was failing (because ALL children must be at standard by June 2014, according to NCLB). Should be an interesting Spring!

    4. These tests do not measure if schools or teachers are “doing their jobs.” The only thing that these tests can be shown to measure are the effects of poverty and whether or not a teacher chooses to teach to the test. To suggest anything else is statistical and educational malpractice or fraud–and the victims are our children and our communities. The greatest huckster Bill Gates (net worth $76 billion)–the phony philanthropist who always profits from his “gifts”–will make billions through the Common Core tablets he is partnering with Pearson to create–which will of course be aligned with the Common Core standards he is trying to force on all states.

      Testing is a sham and a fraud if we are using it to measure whether schools or teachers are “failures.” Rather, it is America that is America that is falling apart, with the second highest poverty rate in the developed world, surpassed only by Romania.

    5. “That’s exactly what officials need to determine; which states are and which states are not getting the job done in the classroom. Only then can state officials make the necessary alterations to get students in all states on the right track.”
      State-by-state assessments have been available for many years through DOE data, showing graduation rates, drop-out rates, college readiness, SAT and ACT test performance, etc. After all, there were measurements made prior to NCLB that prompted the creation of that program.

      While it may seem there is a goal to improve the nation’s overall educational levels, consider how Common Core was rolled out with Race to the Top instead of focused trials first done in the poorest performing states.

      If you have a class of 50 students and some students are doing very poorly compared to others, and your goal is for the classroom average to be higher (because your class is only ranked 47th), do you hold a contest for students and those that are quickest to adopt some new learning method are rewarded with extra aid and materials? Instead, why not concentrate extra aid and materials on the students (named West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas, for example) whose grades are outliers and are significantly bringing down the class average?

      Common Core’s Race to the Top was designed to reward the nimblest states (many of whom’s reputation was about to be harmed because of the inevitable failure forced by NCLB). It was not designed to focus on the poorest performing states to bring about their improvement.

  5. Please keep the truth coming about what these “reforms” are doing to children and teachers and the reality that this is a grab for money. The idea of reform and improvement has been co-opted by those salivating to get their hands on $$$$$ that flows into education at all levels. We must wake people up.
    And— NEA—- stop supporting candidates who mouth these idiotic ideas. Bring new people to the forefront.

  6. Here in New Jersey, Felician College, one of our long standing premier teaching colleges, is laying of 130 professors. Why? Because our thug governor seems to have a pathological hatred towards teachers probably stemming from oedipal issues with his mother who was a teacher. He has continuously vilified our noble profession and the selfless men and women who fill its ranks. The college age students of New Jersey have received his vile message loud and clear. Become a teacher and I will treat you like a criminal as the State and Federal government has treated my criminal associates. I will take away what little is left of any financial compensation that is left in this profession and make you like the indentured servants of the charter school movement.

    1. This brings us back the Gates. All education reform leads back to Gates and his buddies. Replace teachers with “Blended Learning” or, better yet, completely online courses. It is difficult to find a course at a community college here in Seattle that is not at least half online (blended). The ultimate irony I found was the course he took in Multicultural Understanding (required to graduate, ALL Online). He never looked at a face or her a voice express a perspective during his multicultural understanding class! Our college professors have no bargaining power at all in Washington. We (our young people and our society) are screwed unless we can reverse this tide!

  7. Here in California, our problem is all the state tests. Not only do the students take several every year, BUT they don’t even count toward the students’ grades, only count to score the teacher’s effectiveness. Of course, students know they don’t count so they don’t try. Then the district comes back and chastises teachers.
    I would much prefer tests from the federal level that count. OR New York state has the best idea with Regents exams. Those count something like 50% of the grade. teachers are taught was in on them so they know what they have to teach.
    Here in Cali, it is all a game to make the state more money!
    I do agree with the last statement in your article. Teachers aren’t trusted to teach anymore so the state (in our case) ask that they spit out a bunch of data rather than actively learn something!

    1. Florida is the same. We have the education guru Marzano with his two years of classroom experience and psychometrics from PEARSON and it is just a way to get at the TAX $$$. Then throw in Bill Gates and his foundation for public service LOL along with many other foundations for public service which are a scam for rich people and corporations to avoid taxes and control their money to serve their own interests and we are in a mess that is only hurting the next generation of Americans.

    2. Sherrie, New York Regents exams are not as good as you claim. As a product of that system, I can point out how those exams have limited my education. In my French 3 class, our teacher told us that for the French Comprehensive Regents (covers 3 years of French), one didn’t need to know very much, but needed to know it very well. So we spent the year reviewing grammar and reading stories to increase vocabulary. We learned virtually nothing new the entire year. For my tenth grade math regents, our teacher pushed us hard and got us through the curriculum painfully by Easter. We spent the rest of the year taking practice Regents exams. We did extremely well on the test, but what a waste of two months! My teacher told me later that he would have preferred to have had time to run a math lab and show us some of the practical applications for the math we had learned. They also didn’t count as 50% of my grade; they replaced the final exam in a course. However, if a student passed the Regents, s/he passed the course automatically–no matter how poorly s/he had done all year long.

  8. I have seen students drop out because they could not pass the tests required for a high school diploma. Yet, in MD, they can then complete the GED and then receive that same diploma. All the while, the high school is being evaluated based on the drop out rate.
    The sad reality is that we are losing students who come to feel incompetent as a result of testing.

  9. We, as teachers, students, parents, and all voters need to get on this! I am an art teacher who provided two hours of math testing accommodations to 3rd graders, one of whom cried because his anxiety of all the testing. There was a calculation done in my district of how much time students, district wide spend testing…over 400,000 hours! Did I mention that the test being given this week, will count for nothing or that the information on the test does not align with the common core standard, which have been taught this year. Students are being forced to take a test on information they have not been taught because the USDE denied my state’s waiver from the current state test until PARCC was fully implemented. We ask why students aren’t performing, the answer is simple, teachers aren’t teaching, they are testing.

    1. How do we INFORM parents? We also need to empower the students!!! Where is the PTA on this? We need a Student Union.

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