Friday, July 3, 2015


The monumental Supreme Court rulings of the past few weeks, and the tragic murders of Black worshipers in their South Carolina church, have so captured the nation’s attention, that we may be forgiven for not noticing that our children’s schools are also facing a major milestone:  a decision from Congress to continue the harmful policies of No Child Left Behind, or to get rid of NCLB’s most onerous mandates – starting with the mandate to test every child every year using standardized tests.

We now know after more than a decade under NCLB (and 20 years in states like Texas) that these tests have no educational value, drain hundreds of millions of dollars away from classrooms, reduce children to “data points” used to rate their teachers and their schools, correlate more with family wealth or poverty than with other ways of assessing children’s learning, and actually work against our children’s learning as “test prep” and “benchmark” and “snapshot” tests take the place of substantive, active, engaged learning.

Even more dangerously, low test scores are often being used to punish underfunded schools by closing them or outsourcing those children to private charter chains.   Our system of democratic, public schools is itself a target of the tests.  It’s time to get rid of these tests.

“Opting Out” of the tests has swept across the nation, as parents refuse to let their children’s test scores become the currency of school “reform.”

It’s now time for Congress to join the Opt Out movement – and you can help.  Congress takes up the “Every Child Achieves” bill on July 7.  The current versions of the bill in the US House and Senate still include the mandate for annual testing for every child.  Senator Jon Tester wants to change that.  He proposes an amendment to roll back the federal testing mandate.  His amendment would require that schools test children once each in elementary, middle and high schools.    He has listened to teachers and parents and the research that shows the mandated tests to be against the interests of our children.  Sen. Tester now needs your help in getting your senators to vote for this amendment and get rid of the federal mandate to test every child every year.

A similar amendment has been introduced in the House by Rep. Chris Gibson.  Rep. Gibson needs you to contact your member of  Congress to urge support of this reduction in testing.

Who has time to call or email a member of Congress over the 4th of July holiday? We’re in airports or long car trips, setting up picnics and grills and finding where to park to see the fireworks.

But really, what could be more “4th of July” than declaring our Independence from the testing companies?  We don’t have to dump the answer sheets in the harbor – just contact our Senators with a brief but powerful message that says we’re giving them an opportunity to do right by the kids.  And we’ll be watching at election time to see how they voted on standardized testing.
“Every Child Achieves” is far from perfect; if you get a chance to read the document  – or even a summary – you’ll see still too many “accountability” pieces, a bit more discretion at the state level but not necessarily in classrooms, too little funding for anything – much less an investment in a powerful education for all our children.  But if the old system can’t be totally dismantled in this session of Congress, we can make progress by supporting the Tester and Gibson amendments and, in the process, remind our members of Congress that we’re here for the kids and we’re watching their votes.

Monty Neill and the folks at FairTest are my source for the most up-to-date and informed ways to influence legislation.  Do check out their site as these votes proceed.
Here’s the latest I have from them:

You can help roll back testing overkill by acting today! Tell [YOUR SENATORS] to vote for Sen. Jon Tester’s amendment to reduce federally mandated standardized testing from every-kid-every-year to once each in elementary, middle and high schools.
The Senate will vote the week of July 7 on a new federal education law to replace “No Child Left Behind.” The bill ends federally mandated high stakes for schools and teachers. That’s big progress for assessment reformers! But the proposal maintains annual testing in grades 3-8. Sen. Tester’s amendment will end that counter-productive policy.
We can win if you act now! Every Senator matters. Send this letter.

Please tell the House Rules Committee to allow debate by the full U.S. House of Representatives on Rep. Chris Gibson’s amendment to H.R. 5 that will allow states to test students once each in elementary, middle and high school. You can contact the committee at; Phone: (202) 225-9191; Fax: (202) 225-6763. Gibson introduced his amendment as a bill, H.R. 452.

A Rules Committee hearing on July 7 will determine which amendments can be debated by the full House membership when it takes up a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (H.R. 5) later this month.

Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32), Chairman
Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-05) Vice-Chairman
Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04)
Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-07)
Rep. Michael C. Burgess (TX-26) 
Rep. Steve Stivers (OH-15)
Rep. Doug Collins (GA-19)
Rep. Bradly Byrne (R-AL-1) 
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4)

Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (NY-25), Ranking Member
Rep. James P. McGovern (MA-02)
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20)
Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02)

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