To the Editor:
In his Commentary “Replacing No Child Left Behind,” (Aug. 12, 2009), Richard Rothstein offers valuable proposals to overhaul the federal role in education and transform assessment and accountability. The Forum on Educational Accountability (which I chair) has produced a complementary set of proposals, building on the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB that has been endorsed by 151 national organizations.
These proposals represent an extremely broad cross section of thinking about how to improve education. Both support efforts to use data on students’ opportunity to learn, inside and outside of schools, to correct the country’s profound educational inequalities. Both plans would reduce federally mandated testing.
Large-scale tests in two or three subjects do a poor job of assessing and assisting individual progress across a rich curriculum. They provide too little information, too infrequently, in too narrow a format. The public and policymakers have many expectations for schools, most of which cannot be measured with standardized tests. The solution is to build a variety of classroom, school, district, state, and national assessments to provide appropriate information for various purposes. Mr. Rothstein’s description of the proposal by the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education for an expanded and overhauled National Assessment of Educational Progress fits with this solution.
The BBA emphasizes inspectorates. The FEA focuses on building assessments of student learning from the classroom up. These are complementary approaches, which is why my organization, FairTest, helped craft legislation in Massachusetts to build a system with limited statewide tests, strong local assessments, and inspections.
In a 2007 draft reauthorization bill for the No Child Left Behind Act, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., proposed to fund development of new local and state assessment systems. States should include such a plan in their Race to the Top Fund proposals for grants under the economic-stimulus program, and it must be in a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Deputy and Interim Executive Director
National Center for Fair & Open Testing
A version of this article appeared in the September 16, 2009 edition of Education Week as A Second Set of Proposals for Better Accountability