Congress Asked to Rein in High-Stakes Tests

K-12 Testing

Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) have filed legislation in the Senate (S. 2348) and House (H.R. 4333) that would bar states and districts which receive federal education aid from using test scores as a “sole determinant” in making decisions about “the retention, graduation, tracking, or within-class ability grouping of an individual student.” The legislation “To provide for fairness and accuracy in student testing” also establishes requirements tests must meet if they are used in the decision-making process. It would apply to all funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which includes Title I, the largest federal K-12 education program.


While the proposed legislation is given little chance of passage in this Congress, it has helped to attract attention to the issue of “high-stakes” testing. A growing group of civil rights and education organizations have stated support for the bill. Supporters of test fairness are urged to call their legislators to express support and to ask that they co-sponsor it.


The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which supports the bill, called for a revision to allow accommodations for students whose first language is not English (as there are for students with disabilities), and to recognize that a student usually requires more than three years to become fluent in literacy or in academic work in English. The original draft of the Wellstone-Scott bill allows tests to be given in English to students who have lived in the U.S. for three years or more.