Alyson Klein reports in Education Week that the anti-testing movement has slowed to a crawl. With testing requirements locked into federal law (the so-called “Every Student Succeeds Act”), activists are discouraged or waiting for another chance to attack the testing regime that has obsessed federal policymakers since the passage of No Child Left Behind, and even earlier, going back to Bill Clinton’s Goals 2000, which encouraged every state to develop their own standards and tests with an infusion of federal dollars. You can trace the testing movement even earlier, but it was not until Goals 2000 that there was real federal money offered to states to get the testing going.

She writes:

Just a few short years ago, there were real questions about whether Congress would ditch annual, standardized assessments as part of a makeover of the nation’s main K-12 education law. At the same time, parents were increasingly choosing to opt their children out of standardized tests.

But the Every Student Succeeds Act ultimately kept the tests in place. And since then, at least some of the steam has gone out of the opt-out movement in states such as New Jersey and New York, considered hotbeds of anti-testing fervor.

Some of the biggest skeptics of annual, standardized testing have taken a break from what was a big push to reduce the number of federally required tests. And they don’t expect there will be another opportunity to roll back federal testing mandates for quite awhile.

“Nobody is fighting on it now,” said Monty Neill, the executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, who has spent decades engaged in the national fight to pare back assessments and has recently announced his retirement. “It’s too early for the next round. On the consequences of the tests, the lengths of the tests, the nature of the tests, [the debate’s] continuing. It’s not on any state table now because there’s nothing they can do about it.”

Neill is grateful that some states took opportunities in ESSA to broaden accountability beyond test scores and shift teacher evaluation away from test results, although most state ESSA plans don’t go as far as he’d like.

On the other side of the coin, organizations that see annual standardized testing as a key equity principle are also taking note of a break in the anti-test action.

“I think it is much quieter, whether that’s because ESSA plans [are mostly approved] and [the] federal law is not going to be opened up for awhile,” said Patricia Levesque, the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a think tank started by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But, she said, she doesn’t expect that the debate is dead forever. “A lot of things are cyclical. That’s just the way that policy is.”

ESSA, like its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, requires states to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. But the new law says states must use other factors—such as chronic absenteeism—in identifying schools for extra support. And it gives states wide latitude to figure out how to intervene in struggling schools and evaluate teachers.

NCLB required states to test all their students. Schools that assessed fewer than 95 percent of their students were considered automatic failures.

Under ESSA, states must somehow account for low test participation, but just how to do that is up to them. And states can continue to have laws affirming parents’ right to opt their students out of tests, as Oregon does. ESSA also requires states to mark non-test-takers as not proficient.

There are a few things to say about the testing movement.

First, there were some gains initially on NAEP as a result of the introduction of test prep, the biggest gains occurring in the late 1990s.

Second, NCLB has been a major disappointment, with billions spent on testing and meager gains since 2003, when the high-stakes testing began. Even some of its biggest supporters acknowledgement that the gains since 2007 have been meager to non-existent. Apparently, the low-hanging fruit has been picked with test prep. For most states, NAEP scores have been flat since 2007, yet the testing continues.

Third, the U.S. stands alone in its demand for annual testing. Among the high-performing nations of the world, not one of them tests every student every year. Most have a single test at transition points, from elementary school to middle school, from middle school to high school. Finland has no standardized tests at all until the end of secondary school.

Fourth, the NAACP broke ranks with other civil rights groups recently and released an issue brief opposing high-stakes standardized testing.

Last, standardized tests are NOT a way of advancing civil rights; they are normed on a bell curve, and the neediest kids always end up in the bottom half of the bell curve. Being told year after year that you have failed does not encourage students to try harder.

Testing corporations are in D.C. and important state capitols, lobbying to keep the testing regime in place. The Gates Foundation funded numerous organizations to demand the continuation of high-stakes annual testing, a practice unknown in private schools like the one where the Gates children are students.

The billions spent on testing should have been spent to reduce class sizes, raise teachers’ salaries, and affect real change.

Annual standardized testing is a hustle and a fraud.

It is the Golden Calf of education. Our policymakers and members of Congress worship the Golden Calf. The gold, however, is available only to the test corporations, not students.