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Bill Aims To Curb High-Stakes Testing Mandates
"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." — National Education Association
A bipartisan bill that aims to cut the number of standardized tests the federal can impose on states has received approval from the nation's largest teacher's union.
Today the National Education Association endorsed HR-4172, introduced last week by Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to change the number of federally mandated standardized tests state would be required to administer under the current law, eliminating annual testing and replacing it with grade-span testing (or testing once over a certain span of grades.)
According to Rep. Gibson: "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."
The NEA's leadership agrees. The organization today issued a lengthy endorsement of the legislation, praising the bill's sponsors and slamming high-stakes standardized testing as harmful to students and detrimental to education.
"The National Education Association and its 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," the endorsement read. "The federal testing mandates, combined with 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."
Instead, according to NEA, schools should be able to focus their energies on delivering education to students: "Test taking should not overwhelm a student's classroom experience, a teacher's instruction, or a school system's resources. Grade span testing, meaning required standardized tests once in elementary, once in middle and once in high school, provides more time for learning, more flexibility, and more useful data to help students achieve. 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. Teachers want to be able to identify student growth and determine if their practice supports student learning. The return to grade span testing will not impede our societal demand for progress and results for every student. Rather, it will give students and educators more time for quality teaching and real learning."
HR-4172 would change the frequency of federally mandated tests back to pre-NCLB levels, requiring tests once per grade span: grades 3–5, 6–9 and 10–12.
This change would help to curb the negative consequences of more frequent testing, the NEA argued: "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."
The bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives March 6 and referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Its progress can be tracked on beta.congress.gov. A PDF of the original text of the amendment can be found on Rep. Gibson's portal on house.gov.
About the Author
David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.
He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).