Federal File

October 02, 2002 1 min read

Testing ... Testing

The Department of Education may be known as an advocate for “flexibility” these days, but the agency apparently has its limits.

When two senators recently announced the proposed Student Testing Flexibility Act of 2002, which would let high-achieving states and districts apply for waivers of new federal testing requirements, Secretary of Education Rod Paige was, well, a bit unbending.

“Testing in education is a way of providing information,” he said in an interview. “How could you argue against knowing? ... I hope this bill will be dead on arrival.”

Sen. James M. Jeffords

The legislation, introduced by Sens. James M. Jeffords, I-Vt., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., is aimed at lightening the testing load for states or districts that can demonstrate they are closing achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds or meeting annual student-achievement goals.

Under the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, states must test all students annually in grades 3-8 in reading and mathematics by the 2005-06 school year.

“While I agree that there should be a strong accountability system in place ... I strongly oppose overtesting students in public schools,” Sen. Feingold said in a statement.

Secretary Paige replied: “One test in math, one test in reading, ... once a year in grades 3 through 8. Is that too much?”

The National PTA and groups representing school principals appear to think so. They support the bill, according to a press release from Sen. Jeffords.

With the Senate already overwhelmed with bills it must pass this year, the proposal has little chance of getting a hearing, much less becoming law.

In fact, it appears to have few friends in the right places. Its five co-sponsors all were among the small minority of lawmakers to vote against the No Child Left Behind Act last year.

Beyond Mr. Paige’s criticism, the bill is opposed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate education committee, and Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who chairs the companion House panel.

“This debate has already taken place, and opponents of reform lost badly,” said David Schnittger, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. “The [bill] is going nowhere fast.”

—Erik W. Robelen