NEA Takes on ESEA

K-12 Testing

Angered by the irrational testing and accountability provisions of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the 9000-member Representative Assembly (RA) of the 2.7 million-member National Education Association (NEA) authorized spending $3.6 million to work to change the law, minimize the damage to students and schools, and support different approaches to assessment.


Teachers active in the FairTest-initiated Assessment Reform Network played a key role in developing RA resolutions, which state:


•“To make state and federally mandated accountability programs useful to teachers, students, and parents, NEA will support the development of new systems using multiple measures of student performance with an increased emphasis on classroom formative assessment designed to assist learning."


• “NEA will work to increase awareness of instructionally supportive assessment among our members and the general public.”


• “NEA will gather information on the consequences of [ESEA] as it is implemented and will document, analyze, and publicize efforts to minimize the damage resulting from the testing and accountability provisions of this act. Further, the NEA will collaborate with the NAACP and the National Black State Legislators’ Caucus in their efforts to have state departments of education write specific plans for closing the gap in state scores between minority and other students" (see Examiner, Winter 2001-02).


• “NEA will conduct a grassroots campaign to inform and mobilize its membership and to build broad community consensus against the negative aspects of the ESEA, building strong alliances with other education, community, labor, parent, civil rights, and advocacy groups to fight the worst aspects of this legislation...”


The RA also approved resolutions to:
• support federal legislation to make needed changes in ESEA;
• support local campaigns to pass school board resolutions calling for the public to be informed of alternatives to high-stakes exams and calling for action to implement alternatives;
• study whether tests support or inhibit student acquisition of qualities and skills important for becoming “productive and engaged citizens”; and
• create a special Advisory Committee to oversee NEA work on ESEA. The Committee is to develop a coherent strategy by the end of the summer, incorporating ideas generated at three regional NEA meetings.
• The NEA RA resolutions are on the web at