THE U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Council of La Raza, Business Roundtable and the Education Trust disagree about many things. That makes all the more significant their common accord that the country can’t afford to retreat from policies that aim to give every child — regardless of race, ability or family income — access to a quality education. We hope it’s a message that Congress doesn’t lose sight of as it undertakes a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind act.
“We come together at this critical moment . . . because of our common conviction that America cannot afford to keep squandering the potential of so many of her children,” read a letter sent from the coalition of business, education and civil rights leaders to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The group, reminiscent of the alliance that helped enact No Child Left Behind under President George W. Bush, underlined the need to retain the testing, reporting and accountability measures that lie at the heart of the 2002 law and that — despite their success in lifting the achievement of minority and low-income children — are under attack.
Draft legislation authored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) doesn’t take a stance, offering the alternatives of continuing annual testing in third through eighth grades and once in high school or leaving it up to states to come up with their own testing regimes. Legislation released in the House Education and the Workforce Committee would keep in place the federal requirement for an annual testing schedule but would leave accountability measures pretty much in the hands of the states.
Annual assessments are vital in providing objective and timely information on student achievement. This is information that parents need to know, and it helps school officials to see where to target resources. It lets taxpayers know what they are getting in return for billions of education dollars.
Among those seeking to undermine annual testing are teachers unions that give lip service to accountability as long as their members aren’t the ones held to account. Consider, for example, the latest “compromise” plan backed by the American Federation of Teachers: It would continue the practice of annual tests and publication of results, but most tests would not count in judging how well schools are performing. As for whether test scores should be a factor in teacher evaluations, as rightly advocated by the Obama administration, lawmakers from both parties are showing a lack of interest, The Post’s Emma Brown reported.
There are valid concerns about over-testing; states and localities should take a hard look at whether they have a structure of unnecessary or duplicative tests. But the federal government must not back away from the common-sense principle that states need to test students, use the results to judge if schools are showing growth and take action against those that consistently fail to do so.