Clinton's National Testing Plan Defeated
But Spending Bill Delays Scheme for Only One Year
WASHINGTON, DC-The House appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, contains language that shelves President Clinton's National Testing Plan for a year. The bill, which Clinton is expected to sign, bans funds for new tests throughout Fiscal Year 1998.
"From the beginning, we believed that a new federal test would do nothing to help our children," said House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Bill Goodling (R-PA), a major opponent of national tests, and author of the amendment to ban them. "If more testing were the answer to the problems in our schools, testing would have solved those problems a long time ago."
Though the final compromise agreement does not contain all of the Goodling language, it does prohibit any FY 1998 federal funds from being used "to field test, pilot test, implement, administer or distribute in any way, any national tests."
"This is a clear victory and an affirmation of the 295-125 vote last month prohibiting funds for new federal tests," Goodling said.
The law requires that the current contract with test developers be turned over to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). The only activity that will be allowed is the continued development of the test questions, with a requirement that the National Academy of Sciences evaluate these questions for technical quality, reliability, and adequacy, among other criteria.
The agreement further requires that Congress play a major role in deciding if, how, and why any new national tests will be implemented. It requires additional study and review of Clinton's plan, and stipulates that existing state and commercial tests be evaluated as information sources for assessing the nation's students.
The National Academy of Sciences, together with the National Governor's Assocation and the National Council of State Legislators, must do a feasibility study to see if tests now available can be compared on an equivalency scale. This report is due to Congress no later than September 1, 1998. The study could provide concrete evidence that Clinton's new individualized tests are not needed.
In order to permanently halt the federal government's attempts to establish national tests, Congress must include the prohibition in an authorization bill. Representative Goodling has pledged to work for a permanent ban on testing when the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) tests are reauthorized next year.
Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO), who led the battle against national testing in the Senate, called this an "important victory for local control." But he warned, "This fight is not over. I am confident that the President and his allies will be back in their effort to take power away from parents, teachers and community school boards, seeking to place more power over our schools in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington."
Ashcroft will work to put the testing issue to rest permanently. He said, "America cannot afford to destroy the educational success of our children through a dumbed-down national curriculum and a federal takeover of our schools."
A survey in November by Phi Delta Kappa, an academic association, reported that 69% of teachers oppose national testing, believing that students are already overtested.