Jason Stanford has written a brilliant analysis of the efforts by state officials in Texas and California to cut back on unnecessary testing, and of Secretary Duncan’s rejection of both requests.
Just in terms of federalism, this situation shows how Washington has now taken control out of the hands of the states, which can no longer decide what is best for their students, even though they put up 90% of the funding.
In California, state officials want to drop the state tests so they can make the transition to Common Core testing, but Duncan said no. The California legislature voted to drop the state tests. This should lead to an interesting showdown between the state and the federal government. Someone might even remember the tenth amendment to the Constitution.
In Texas, state officials developed a plan to test the kids who needed testing and to reduce testing for the kids who don’t.
Meanwhile in Texas, the Department of Education rejected a common-sense reform in, of all places, Texas. Legislators and Gov. Rick Perry recognized that it wasn’t necessary to force every child to take every test every year to keep them on track. Under current law, a Texas schoolchild has to pass 17 tests to get to high school. This takes months out of the school year, costs millions of dollars, and produces data of dubious value.
For example, a child who passes a reading test one year is overwhelmingly likely to pass it the next year, according to data from the Texas Education Agency. The legislature asked for a federal waiver to let students who passed their state standardized tests in the 3rd and 5thgrades to skip the tests in the 4th, 6th and 7th grades. Teachers could focus on those kids who needed more help, students who had mastered the work would be freed up to learn new things, and taxpayers would save $13.4 million over two years.
This was a great example of government getting out of its own way, but there was a hitch. Because the Texas law conflicted with No Child Left Behind, Texas needed permission from the U.S. Department of Education to stop giving tests to kids who did not need them in order to produce data that told us nothing.
Unfortunately, Obama’s Education Department said no.
Gosh, when even Texas thinks there is too much testing, that should say something about how far we have wandered from common sense.