Statement of FairTest in Reaction to Pres. Bush Signing "Leave No Child Behind Act"

for further information:
Monty Neill (857) 350-8207
Bob Schaeffer (941) 395-6773

for immediate release January 7, 2002

The legislation signed by President Bush should more accurately be labeled "Leave No Child Untested" or "Leave Many Children Behind." This misguided federal mandate will most likely undermine, not improve, local school quality and student learning.
States will be forced to expand and intensify their testing programs. This approach has historically failed to produce evidence of sustained learning improvement for all students or to close the academic achievement gap between minority group and low-income students and their more advantaged peers. The result will be the reduction of many schools to test-prep centers that will not prepare students for college, high-quality jobs, or effective citizenship.
Schools and districts will be held accountable for producing test score gains. Yet the federal government continues to fail to provide the resources needed to ensure high-quality teaching and adequate buildings. Nor is there any additional assistance to address factors that have been demonstrated to powerfully affect learning such as nutrition, medical care, and housing.
Sanctions to be imposed on schools will be based solely on assessment results. The erratic nature of score changes means that many schools will be targeted for "improvement" based on data that is both too narrow and unreliable. The actions mandated under "restructuring" have all been tried before, and most have failed to produce positive changes in schools.
The one ray of hope is that the new law does not require standardized tests to be used as measures but simply calls for "academic assessments." A state can use local, classroom-based assessments as well as state exams to fulfill the requirements - as some states such as Maine propose to do. Classroom-based assessments have the potential to support high quality teaching and learning at the same time they provide public evidence of school improvement.
FairTest calls on all states to move toward classroom-based assessments instead of relying on tests and to pressure Congress to amend the new law to allow decisions to be made on a wider basis of evidence than just state assessments, not force states to take "corrective actions" that have not proven to work, and appropriate sufficient funds to provide every child access to a high quality education.
- For a more detailed analysis of the legislation, click here.