No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was signed into law in 2002, the latest version of the long-standing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Its provisions, such as testing grades 3-8 annually in reading and math and punitive sanctions, took effect over the next several years. The law is eight years overdue for reauthorization by Congress. In 2015, both the House and Senate approved reauthorization bills and as of October 2015 are working on a compromise.
To understand why President Obama and Secretary Duncan were compelled to admit that there is too much standardized testing in U.S. public schools, scan this week's news clips with stories from fully half the 50 states. Across the country, parents, teachers, education administrators, school boards and community leaders have built powerful campaigns to roll back test overuse and misuse. Growing support for assessment reform is forcing politicians to act. Even if their first moves are largely symbolic, more tangible victories will follow if political pressure continues to escalate.
U.S. Senators and Representatives return to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC this week after their early fall recess. High on the Congressional agenda, along with funding federal programs and leadership fights, are the final steps to overhaul the discredited "No Child Left Behind" law. Make sure your elected officials know that you want real assessment reform, not more failed policies. Meanwhile, the testing resistance movement continues to raise issues and win victories in many states across the nation.
This week's top news story is the decision by the nation's most populous state, California, to suspend its exit exam mandate retroactively. That means some 32,000 young people, who had been denied graduation solely by a test score, now may receive a high school diploma. Policy makers in five other states also suspended graduation testing requirements in just the past two years, a testament to the growing clout of the grassroots assessment reform movement -- for details, see http://fairtest.org/california-suspends-high-school-graduation-test
Though recent leadership upheavals in the Obama Administration and Congress have temporarily slowed the overhaul of "No Child Left Behind," there's substantial assessment reform progress at the state and local levels as well as in college admissions.
Though pundits are already predicting many more victories for assessment reformers, activists know that winning will not be automatic. The keys to success are grassroots organizing, public education and building coalitions with political clout. That is how we will end test misuse and overuse.