Minimum Revisions Needed to Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Testing and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Provisions

 

Revisions are needed to the ESEA legislation now in Conference Committee in order to help strengthen the effort to improve schools' capacity to educate all children well by avoiding the dangers of too much testing, unrealistic adequate yearly progress mandates, and unfeasible "corrections" and sanctions. FairTest recommends that the Conference Committee adopt the following changes:

1) Reduce required assessments to what is in the 1994 ESEA authorization: administering one assessment annually in grade spans 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12, in reading and math, using multiple measures based on standards.

2) Provide funding for schools and districts to develop local assessments of student learning, which may include teachers' classroom assessments; and require states to use the results of these assessments, and other factors including grade retention and graduation/dropout rates, in evaluating school and district progress.

3) Instruct each state to develop a formula for determining the schools in which to intervene based on results of state and local assessments and other factors including retention and graduation rates. Any school identified should receive a commitment for at least three consecutive years of assistance and support (including additional funding). All schools deemed in need of improvement should receive sufficient support and assistance to begin making significant progress towards the goals by the end of the three years. A state's formula should identify for assistance only the number of schools for which adequate financial support can be provided.

4) Drop the requirement that schools must test 95% of their students with state tests in order to be eligible for successful AYP determination. The federal government should not supercede state laws which allow parents the option of not having their children tested.

5) Have each state, district and school set continuous improvement targets on the variety of assessments and other factors, and publicly report its success in meeting the targets, for all students, for each quartile of students based on the assessment results, and for each groups whose performance is to be disaggregated, including racial minority, low-income, special needs, limited English proficiency students, and male and female students. Districts should review individual schools, and states should review districts to ensure that improvement targets are not set too low for all students or for specific groups.

6) Where a state has a significant percentage of students who have not reached the equivalent of "basic" on the state and local assessments, a specific goal shall be to ensure that all students who are not severely disabled reach the basic level in as short a time as feasible (while providing due consideration for maintenance of initial language if not English).

7) Each state shall develop a method to ascertain whether each school is able to provide every student with a reasonable opportunity to attain the "proficient" level in reading and math, and to meet other state goals and standards; and if not, what must be done to enable a school to provide such opportunity. The mechanism may include such things as school quality reviews or accreditation processes, and should include reporting on how well a school is organized to support continuous improvement among its teachers.

8) Sanctions such as school "restructuring" should not be mandated by the federal government. States may use the restructuring options provided that independent verification shows a school has been provided adequate resources over a sufficient period of time as to reasonably be expected to make progress, and valid independent research provides convincing evidence that restructuring will enable a school to make significant progress when provided adequate resources and assistance.