Dear Senators Schumer and Gillibrand:
As you consider the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), we urge you to end annual standardized testing. This change would allow Congress to return to the original intent of ESEA, providing access to educational opportunity while leaving particular educational approaches to the states and localities, thereby ending more than a decade of failed federal education policy. The following reasons further support making this change:
- Standardized test scores must not be used to evaluate teachers or schools, since this use is neither valid nor reliable.* Evaluating teachers based on growth in test scores is not reliable, as it frequently produces wildly inconsistent results for the same teacher from year to year.
- “Big data” about schools is of no use for instruction. These statistical generalizations drive schools to focus on improving statistics, instead of helping students learn. Assessment of each student’s work should be based on the professional judgment of the teachers and principal who know the student, and use the assessment to inform teaching decisions.
- Federal funding should not be used to build data bases; it is wasteful and ignores students’ right to privacy.
- Instead of annual high stakes standardized tests, the federal government should seek genuine and straightforward accountability from the states through measureable budgetary items to which every child deserves access: small class sizes; licensed and fairly paid teachers and staff; classes in a full range of subjects, including science and arts instruction; and safe physical plants including such facilities as laboratories, libraries, playgrounds, and working plumbing. All uses of public funds for schools should be held to this standard, and this data should be broken down by poverty level, race/ethnicity and disability.
- ESEA must emphasize direct grants to schools in high poverty areas, retaining the requirement that parents be informed and involved in school decision-making. The bill should require that funds be used to lower class size and provide school libraries and librarians, since research shows these factors are most effective in improving achievement in low income students.**
In closing, as more and more children in this country grow up in families facing economic hardship, the ESEA should return to its original mission of contributing to equity by extending funding to public schools serving large numbers of low-income children.
The Members of Change the Stakes
* Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling –Hammond, L. D., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., Ravitch, D., Rothstein, R., Shavelson, R. J., & Shepard, L.A. (2010). Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers: Briefing Paper 278. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.
Haertel, E.H. (2013). Reliability and validity of inferences about teachers based on student test scores. William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture Series. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
**Biddle, BJ, and Berliner, DC (2002). What research says about small classes and their effects. Review of Educational Research, 42(1): 129–143.
Krashen, S. (1995). School libraries, public libraries, and the NAEP reading scores. School Library Media Quarterly, 23, 235-238.