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Leahy, Feingold Introduce Bill to Reform NCLB

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Location: Washington, DC


Leahy, Feingold Introduce Bill To Reform NCLB
Improving Student Testing Act Moves Away
From High-Stakes Testing As The Primary Measure of Achievement

U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) introduced the Improving Student Testing Act today to amend the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Feingold and Leahy's legislation focuses on improving the quality of assessments used to measure student achievement in our nation's schools. The legislation also encourages states to move away from high-stakes testing in reading and math as the primary measure of student achievement. Feingold and Leahy, who were among the ten Senators who opposed NCLB when it was passed in 2001, plan to push for changes during the reauthorization of NCLB.

"Time and again I have heard from Vermonters that No Child Left Behind's cookie cutter approach is not working for the students in our state," said Leahy. "To raise the bar the right way for schools and students, states need the flexibility to design accountability measures that accurately reflect actual conditions and unique characteristics in real communities. A model that works for an urban school might be completely different than one that works for Vermont's smaller, rural schools. We need to move away from a focus on penalties and failure, and toward a focus on the quality instruction that our children truly need to succeed."

"The federal government's one-size-fits-all education policy under No Child Left Behind is the wrong approach," said Feingold. "Five years after the passage of NCLB, it is clear much work remains to be done to close the achievement gap that exists in our schools. Our legislation will ensure that the federal government leaves decisions that affect our children's day-to-day classroom experiences up to the classroom educators, local districts, and the states."

Feingold and Leahy's Improving Student Testing Act of 2007 implements the following reforms to NCLB:

*Provides grants to help promote stronger assessments of student learning. This funding will help encourage states to move away from accountability systems based primarily on standardized test scores in order to better take into account the diverse academic needs of all students.

*Reforms the annual federal testing mandate to allow annual assessments at least once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12 for federal accountability purposes, instead of the current requirement for annual testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

*Waives the 2014 deadline for 100 percent student proficiency if Congress doesn't fully fund Title I formula grants, the largest source of NCLB funding.

*Provides grants to states and local districts to help them develop better accountability systems, including developing increased infrastructure to use growth models and multiple measures of assessment in state accountability systems as well as implement school improvement programs in local schools.

*Reforms the federal peer review process of state testing and accountability systems.

*Requires states to report graduation rates by NCLB's student subgroups to provide more information about schools to parents and educators.

*Protects the privacy of students' personal information within state data systems.

Feingold and Leahy's bill is supported by the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Education Association. Attached is a summary of the legislation.

Fact Sheet for the Improving Student Testing Act of 2007

The Improving Student Testing Act of 2007 will make changes to the No Child Left Behind Act to improve the quality of education assessments used in our schools and support innovative state and local school reform efforts. The legislation is fully paid for through offsets.

The legislation contains the following provisions:

* Ending NCLB's Focus on High Stakes Testing - Encourages states and local districts to move away from high stakes standardized testing. The bill provides competitive grant funds for states and local districts encouraging the creation of higher-quality, authentic measurements of student performance. The legislation also provides states and local districts with flexibility to use high-quality multiple measures of assessment in state testing and accountability systems.

* Reforming Testing Mandates - Promotes state and local control over decisions affecting children's day-to-day classroom experiences, including the frequency and use of high-stakes standardized testing. The bill reforms the federal testing mandate to allow annual assessments at least once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12, instead of the current requirement for annual testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

* Reforming the One-Size-Fits All Adequate Yearly Progress Model - Provides flexibility for states to develop alternative accountability models. One example of such models includes growth models, which allow schools to better ensure that each student, regardless of his or her current academic level, continues to make academic progress.

* Addressing the 2014 Deadline - Reforms the 2014 deadline by putting in place a funding trigger that waives the 2014 deadline for any year that Congress does not fully fund Title I, Part A.

* Improving the Department of Education's Peer Review Process - Makes changes to the Department's peer review process to ensure that states have the ability to interact directly with peer review teams. The bill also provides for more consistent decision-making from state to state during the federal peer review process of state testing and accountability systems.

* Disaggregating Graduation Rates - Requires states to disaggregate graduation rates by NCLB's student subgroups, including economically disadvantaged students, students from major racial and ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency.
* Encouraging Capacity Building - Creates a competitive and flexible grant program to provide funds for states and local districts to help build their infrastructure and capacity. Increased access to federal funding for capacity building will encourage states to develop better assessment and accountability systems including using multiple measures of assessment and growth models.

* Improving Privacy Protections - Includes important measures to help ensure the privacy of personally identifiable information contained in state education data systems.


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