National Testing on Hold, NAEP Reauthorization Starts

K-12 Testing

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have approved legislation that would prohibit spending any funds in fiscal year 1999 on national tests, unless Congress specifically authorizes such expenditures. The Senate version is part of a larger bill creating tax-free savings accounts for school expenses and shifting some federal programs to block grants. President Clinton is expected to veto the legislation as he opposes all three provisions. Neither house is likely to be able to override a veto.


When the legislation opposing national tests passed the House, Department of Education officials initially suggested President Clinton's testing plan was dead. However, the Department and White House quickly amended that to say they would continue to push for the tests.


Last year, a rider to the Education Department appropriations bill blocked funding for any national testing activities beyond limited development steps. The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) was given control over that development process.


If Clinton vetoes the legislation blocking national tests, and if Congress does not continue the spending ban when it approves the Department of Education appropriations this summer, or otherwise prohibit a national test, research funds could be used to proceed with the test in 1999.


Meanwhile, Congress is beginning reauthorization of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This legislation could be a vehicle for addressing the issue of a national test of individual students.


In response to a request from Rep. Bill Goodling (R-PA), Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, FairTest submitted written comments on NAEP reauthorization. In addition to opposing the national test, FairTest called on Congress to require NAEP to continue its detailed surveys which complement the assessment results. These surveys, for example, gather information about classroom instructional practices that can be correlated with results on NAEP exams. In its planned "redesign" of NAEP, NAGB released a policy statement indicating its intention to test more frequently, but greatly reduce the surveys (see Examiner, Summer 1996).


Though Rep. Goodling hopes the Committee on Education will approve NAEP reauthorization this summer, it may be delayed until next year if Congress adjourns early for the election season.


For a copy of FairTest's comment on NAEP reauthorization, send a self-addressed stamped envelope ($.52) to NAEP Comment at FairTest, or see our Web site.