Feingold, Leahy Unveil No Child Left Behind Reforms

Bills Would Provide States and Local School Districts Relief from NCLB’s One-Size-Fits-All Approach

As students across the country head back to the classroom, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Pat Leahy (D-VT) unveiled two bills Thursday aimed at reforming the No Child Left Behind education law. The Feingold-Leahy bills, which will be introduced when the Senate reconvenes after the August recess, are designed to provide relief for states and local school districts from the one-size-fits-all approach of the No Child Left Behind Law and increase resources for states to improve the quality of tests that are used in our nation’s classrooms.

The senators’ Improving Student Testing Act encourages states and local districts to move away from using low quality, multiple choice tests and provides fully offset funding to help states design higher quality assessments like computer adaptive tests that provide quicker feedback to teachers and parents. The senators are also introducing the Flexibility and Innovation in Education Act (FIEA), which reforms NCLB’s testing mandates and provides states with the flexibility to measure student growth rather than the current “snapshot” approach that is used in the majority of states. The FIEA bill would also improve the ability of states to use more than reading and math tests to measure student achievement to provide a more well-rounded definition of student achievement in our schools. Both Feingold and Leahy opposed No Child Left Behind when it was before the Senate in 2001. Feingold and Leahy were also among the first senators to introduce legislation to reform NCLB in 2002 and have been working to fix the law ever since.

“I regularly hear from parents, teachers and administrators in Wisconsin concerned with NCLB’s heavy focus on high-stakes testing and rigid ways to measure student achievement progress,” Feingold said. “I am very concerned about the achievement gap that continues to exist in Wisconsin’s schools, and fixing the flaws in NCLB will help us to close this gap. This legislation will correct some of the mistakes of NCLB while making sure schools are held responsible for ensuring that all students are learning.”

Leahy said, “The high-stakes testing and one-size-for-all solutions in No Child Left Behind have not worked for Vermont’s schools and students.  The reforms we propose would improve states’ abilities to develop testing methods that accurately measure student growth, while still ensuring that schools and educators are responsible for student progress.”

The Improving Student Testing Act would:

  • Increase competitive grant funds for states to create higher-quality, authentic measurements of student performance. Examples include computer-based adaptive tests and innovative performance-based tests that can incorporate formats like science experiments and written essays and that require students to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Clarify that existing federal funds for assessments can be used to develop better assessments and train teachers in the use of those assessments.

The Flexibility and Innovation in Education Act would:

  • Reform NCLB’s testing mandates and reduce its focus on high stakes testing.
  • Provide states and local districts with more power over the day-to-day decisions in classrooms by allowing states to use multiple measures of student achievement in classrooms in addition to reading and math tests and provide states with the flexibility to lessen the testing burden in their schools.
  • Revise the one-size-fits-all approach and provide states with flexibility to develop alternative accountability models such as growth models where schools receive credit for the growth students make throughout the academic school year.
  • Improve the Department of Education’s peer review process to ensure states have the ability to interact directly with peer review teams.
  • Include important measures to help ensure the privacy of students’ personal information contained in state education data systems.

Both bills are fully paid for through offsets so as not to increase the federal deficit.  Both bills have the support of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the NEA, the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, the American Association of School Administrators, the School Social Work Association of America, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Vermont Principals Association.


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