Boehner Supports Annual Statewide Testing in No Child Left Behind Redo

David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP
File Photo: David Jones/PA Wire URN:21969286/AP

As the debate heats up across the nation over the renewal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), House Speaker John Boehner – writer of the original NCLB law – says he supports annual statewide testing, which also has the support of House Education Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN).

As Education Week reports, Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Boehner – who served as House Education Committee chairman in 2001 – said, “Speaker supports the House approach, which includes annual testing, which was in the House bill last Congress and will be in our bill this Congress as well.”

The Speaker’s definition of “annual tests” reportedly means the current NCLB testing schedule, i.e., annual statewide reading and math assessments in 3rd through 8th grades and once in high school.

Commenting on Boehner’s support of the NCLB test schedule, Ed Week reports:

It’s worth noting that Boehner is a huge supporter of school choice. Some choice advocates, especially in the charter community, worry that getting rid of annual tests could make it harder for parents to make informed decisions about where to send their children.

In the Senate, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the education committee, gave lawmakers two options for assessments in the draft bill. One would allow states to make their own decisions regarding testing, and the other option would keep the current NCLB assessment schedule in place, but also permit school districts to experiment with other state-approved – not federal government approved – approaches to individual state assessment systems.

Politico reported in early January that both Alexander and Kline say they are open to scaling back testing, but “some suspect they’re capitalizing on the chance to grab hold of an issue they can use as a bargaining chip down the line.”

Williamson “Bill” Evers, a conservative research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, explained the intermix of issues for conservatives who favor accountability through assessments, yet who also oppose the Common Core standards initiative, whose tests are funded by the federal government.

“Harvard Professor Marty West testified that annual testing for each child is needed for accountability for teachers and schools,” Evers told Breitbart News. “We agree that Professor West is correct.”

“But we would say that federalism requires that it be states that make the decision on annual testing for each student,” he continued. “We would hope that states will do so – perhaps under pressure from parents and due to rivalry with other states. But we don’t think annual testing of each child should be imposed by the feds.”

In an article at Education Next, Evers and former U.S. Department of Education official under George W. Bush Ze’ev Wurman, share what they see as a positive aspect of Alexander’s NCLB draft, but note a necessary change:

For example, we like the idea that states can still choose to have a uniform statewide assessment system (as they must have today), or that they can choose to approve multiple assessment systems within the state allowing school districts to choose, perhaps, extra rigorous standards associated with high achieving states such as Massachusetts or with International Baccalaureate (IB) as their district standards and aligned assessment. Comparability is a non-issue, as we already have comparability among states via NAEP testing and NAEP-state equating studies that go back ten years, and this approach can be easily extended to multiple assessments within states. This section of the Alexander proposal still needs to be fleshed out, but the current draft’s language requiring that such multiple state assessments “are the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all students” (p. 25, lines 4-6) seem self-defeating and needs to be taken out—after all, assessments can’t be both “multiple” and “same … [for] all students” at the same time.

Many activists who oppose Common Core would like to send the message to Congress  that it’s time to call it a day with the controversial NCLB law.

Shane Vander Hart of Truth in American Education said he emailed Alexander, saying, “It is time to sunset NCLB, not fix it.” He went on to say, “The 10th Amendment of the Constitution is quite clear: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'”

“At the very least we must, we must, end the federal annual testing requirement put in place by No Child Left Behind,” Vander Hart continued. “We must also end any federal funding for Common Core. Testing and standards should be left to the states without any federal interference whatsoever.”


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