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Testy About Testing

Although President Bush's ambitious testing plan appears to enjoy fairly wide support in Congress, it has inspired some strange political bedfellows to speak out in opposition, from a liberal author-activist to a libertarian writer to the Kansas state board of education.

Jonathan Kozol, famous for chronicling the plight of urban students and their schools in Death at an Early Age and Savage Inequalities, argued at an April 25 Capitol Hill press conference that imposing more high-stakes testing on impoverished students without an effort to equalize resources for all children was unfair.

"It's not the behavior of a president," he declared, "but the behavior of a schoolyard bully."

Mr. Bush proposes to require annual testing in reading and math for all 3rd through 8th graders in Title I schools. Under the proposed Bush plan, poor results on those tests would trigger consequences, such as allowing students in persistently failing schools to use some federal aid to pay for private tutoring.

Moving to the other end of the political spectrum, Sheldon Richman last week issued a paper for the Cato Institute, a prominent libertarian think tank, that criticized the Bush testing plan.

"Increasing the Department of Education's budget and using federal money to force states to come up with yet another set of standards and tests are not going to improve the schools," Richman writes. "Nor will it help to have the federal government checking up on the states through expanded use of the [National Assessment of Educational Progress]."

Meanwhile, state officials in Kansas just want to be left alone. The board of education there issued a statement in March complaining that Mr. Bush's approach would be too intrusive.

"We believe the program in place in Kansas is already accomplishing the goals of the president," the board said, "and our schools should not be forced to abandon a program that is working."

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 20, Issue 33, Page 26

Published in Print: May 2, 2001, as Federal File

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