Senate-House Conferees Urged to "Address Fundamental Problems" In Elementary and Secondary Education Act Legislation

for information contact:
Monty Neill (857) 350-8207
Bob Schaeffer (941) 395-6773

for immediate release, Monday, July 23, 2001


Members of the Congressional conference committee attempting to reconcile differences in Senate and House-passed versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) today received a packet of materials documenting "fundamental problems" with the proposals and outlining "minimum revisions" needed in order that the final legislation "improve schools' capacity to educate all children well."

The mailing from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), the country's leading assessment reform organization, focused on the provisions for "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) adopted by the Senate and House. Among the flaws of that approach cited by FairTest:

  • Determining AYP solely by test score changes is a violation of proper test usage guidelines and is a process that guarantees "almost every school in the nation will not make its AYP goal in some years and therefore will be labeled as needing 'improvement;"
  • Requiring annual testing in grades three through eight will force most states to double or triple the number of tests they administer even though "spokespeople for the testing industry have said they do not have the capacity to meet the legislation's timetable;"
  • Imposing sanctions, such as state takeover or privatization, which are not "feasible on a large scale" and for which there is no "systematic evidence of consistent success in raising test scores or producing other substantive learning gains," will produce "chaos" in schools, not improve them."

FairTest agrees that schools can improve and that the federal government has an important role to play," wrote Dr. Monty Neill, the group's executive director. "However, the heavy-handed mandates now incorporated in ESEA must be replaced by a more feasible and useful approach toward ensuring that schools are able to support all their students in reaching high levels of learning."

The "minimum revisions" proposed by FairTest include:

  • Reducing required assessments to what is required by the 1994 ESEA authorization: administering one assessment annually in grade spans 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12, using multiple measures based on standards;
  • Proving adequate funding for schools and districts to develop more helpful assessments of student learning and requiring states to use those results in evaluating educational progress; and
  • Instructing each state to develop a formula for assistance based on results from multiple assessments and other data such as retention and graduation rates.

Earlier this month, FairTest sent packets of similar information to state education officials around the country seeking their assistance in pressing Congress to address flaws in the ESEA legislation.

- copies of the letter and fact sheets sent to members of the Education Conference Committee are available on request or may be viewed at