Action alert: Feds making decisions on important testing policies

As we mentioned in a recent email blast, Congress is discussing a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), now known as the Elementary and Secondary Education ACT (ESEA).

Why is this important? Despite what may have been good intentions, NCLB/ESEA has led to the overuse and misuse of testing that we see in CPS and around our country, narrowing of curriculum and a punitive instead of supportive culture in many of our schools.

What can you do?

Tell Congress to end yearly, mandatory testing for all students. Congress is waiting to hear from you! The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is working on a reauthorization of NCLB. They have solicited feedback from the public and Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander has said he wants to finalize a  draft bill by the end of February.

1) EMAIL: The Network for Public Education has set up this easy to use email link to write to your Congress people:

Click here to write your letter. Use their letter or customize your own. Some key points:

* support grade-span testing in place of annual testing requirements.

* support flexibility for states to choose assessments that help children and don't force schools to become standardized test prep factories.

* support a parents' right to opt their children out of any standardized test.   

2) CALL: Senators Mark Kirk (202-224-2854) and Dick Durbin 202-224-2152. Sen. Mark Kirk is on HELP committee, if you can only make one call please make it to him! Say: “I’m Sen. Kirk’s constituent.  I am calling about the renewal of ESEA. I want the Senator to support Option 1 of Sen. Alexander’s draft bill which will end annual testing for all students and move to grade span testing.

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Some background on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from More than a Score if you want to learn more:

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) originally passed in 1965 as part of War on Poverty to help schools with large numbers of low-income students. In 1994, a requirement was added to test children in Title I schools, those with >40% poverty, every year.

Then, in 2001, Congress passed a renewal of ESEA entitled No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), requiring annual testing of 3-8th graders and once in high school to all schools. Schools and districts were required to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) towards eventually achieving 100% of students meeting standards on the standardized test that state chose.

This past November, Republicans gained control of the Senate. The chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander is very motivated to pass a renewal of ESEA.  ESEA should have been renewed again in 2007, but gridlock in Congress prevented it from happening. In parallel, a bill renewing ESEA has also been introduced in US House, but the Senate is taking the lead.

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