New Federal Legislation

K-12 Testing

The Republican-dominated Congress may soon re-write substantial parts of federal education law, eliminating and revising many programs, including the Goals 2000 Act which called for developing standards and new assessments for state-led reform (see Examiner, Spring 1994). A draft of the proposed House Education Reform Consolidation Act contains a much more limited discussion of standards and assessments than does Goals 2000. Work on this legislation is still at the committee stage, but it is expected to begin moving in 1996.


According to the draft, to obtain funds states would have to show plans to develop state standards, assessments and benchmarks of student progress. The option of local assessments tied to state standards, or even local standards, would not be allowed. As with Goals 2000, most of the money will go to districts and schools. State plans would be reviewed by the National Education Goals Panel (NEGP), and states would make annual progress reports to NEGP. The National Education Standards and Improvement Council would be eliminated.


There is no requirement in the draft that state assessments be fair or valid or that they use any particular method or more than one method (Goals 2000 required multiple measures, as does Title I of the recently-revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act; see Examiner, Fall 1994). Limitations on using assessments developed under the act for high stakes purposes are removed. While a process for involving parents and other community representatives, particularly business is included at both state and local levels, there are no requirements for diversity of participants, unlike in Goals 2000.


Also eliminated are all references to Opportunity to Learn (OTL) standards that would help ensure all students have access to high quality education. Goals 2000 had allocated funding to develop model OTL standards, but had not required states to adopt them as a condition of funding.


At least one Representative has said he will introduce an amendment requiring a national test. However, this is likely to meet opposition from many Republicans, who are promoting the changes as enhancing state control, as well as Democrats, and is not given much chance of passage.