Education is often one of most frequently raised issues at these town hall meetings. With Congress set to take up education legislation next year, I am committed to making responsible education reform a reality. Since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was signed into law in early 2002, I have heard from numerous Wisconsinites concerned about federal testing mandates and how those mandates too often drive academic instruction in Wisconsin schools.
While standardized testing does have a role to play in measuring student achievement and holding schools accountable, the federal one-size-fits-all testing approach that NCLB takes does not serve the students in our public schools. Over the past seven years, NC LB hasn’t equalized educational opportunities for our nation’s students or closed the achievement gap. Instead, NCLB’s mandates have forced some states and school districts into questionable educational practices and focused too much attention on a single high-stakes test. Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study, which I requested, reaffirming these concerns, particularly in schools that serve our most disadvantaged students. As Congress undertakes reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) next year, NCLB should be overhauled significantly. That is why I am pushing for key reforms of the federal testing mandate, including supporting the development of higher quality tests and ensuring students and schools are measured by more than test scores. In the coming weeks, I will reintroduce the Improving Student Testing Act, which would provide competitive grants to states and school districts to develop alternatives to multiple choice tests.
These assessments measure more complex academic skills, can give a more detailed analysis of student achievement, and can also provide more immediate feedback to teachers and students than the current tests used in most states. For too long, many students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English language learners have received substandard educational opportunities compared to more affl uent students. These inequalities still exist in Wisconsin and around the country and we must do all we can to eradicate them. As Congress prepares to debate federal education policy, I will work to ensure our nation remains committed to closing the achievement gap, our students are on the leading edge of the 21st century economy, and our schools are being measured fairly and responsibly.