Civil Rights Leaders Plead with Congress to Maintain Annual Standardized Testing

In a letter addressed to U.S. Congressmen John Kline and Robert Scott of the Education and Workforce Committee, a group of civil rights leaders and education advocates argue that a newly-authorized ESEA must maintain annual standardized testing in order to provide all children with equitable access to education.

Signatories r include heads of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the Education Trust, National Council of La Raza, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates,  and Democrats for Education Reform.

As the anti-testing movement heats up in New Jersey and elsewhere and PARCC becomes synonymous with “evil empire,” civil rights leaders are pleading with Congress to not pander to the hard-court press of teacher union lobbyists (more concerned with new teacher evaluations tied to student growth) and Tea Party activists (more concerned with philosophical conceits about federal intervention)  and  gut the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  While there’s much to dislike about the current law, and multiple areas of potential improvement,  these leaders explain that “the  essential backbone of the law — assessment, public reporting and accountability for student outcomes” must remain strong.

ESEA’s  singular achievement, after all,  is its mandate that schools report academic growth broken down by subgroups: economically-disadvantaged children, those with disabilities, those new to English, members of minority groups. Without disaggregation of test score data, these children are rendered invisible. We know this, because that’s how it was before ESEA’s standardized testing mandate.

Certainly, there’s great value in evaluating whether schools are over-testing students. But eliminating annual standardized testing, which comprises a small fraction of the tests that children take each year, merely returns us to an era when our neediest kids were lost in aggregated averages.

From the list of recommendations from the civil rights leaders:

We'll see if the U.S. Congress is willing to write off our neediest kids who, say the  signatories, are "imperiled" by "the uneven quality and grossly disparate results of our education system"  or whether our representatives can  find the backbone to withstand political pressure from self-interested lobbyists. 

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