Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dear Senators

Dear Senators Gillibrand and Schumer:

As the Senate takes up discussion of the Alexander-Murray revision of No Child Left Behind, I encourage you to consider a couple of things. The revision maintains testing at grades 3-8 but strips away consequences of that testing. If testing now only exists so that the public may see achievement gaps, it seems to me that the sort of grade-span testing we had before NCLB is adequate. Testing cohorts at grades 4, 8, and high school will clearly indicate those gaps.

What to do about those gaps is a civil rights question, and this nation has a bad track record when civil rights issues are left up to the states. And by ceding control over standards that the states create to meet new guidelines for rigor, the Senate bill ensures that we once again will have 50 sets of disparate standards, and that students moving from one state to another or vying for jobs or college placements will once again find themselves far behind or far ahead of their peers, depending on their ZIP codes.

Nations that compete successfully with us have national standards and fewer tests. Yes, those students beat ours overall in science, math, and even reading at times. But those nations don't educate all students. We do. To address achievement gaps, we need to deal with issues of urban and rural poverty, mental health, and absenteeism. We need universal pre-K, before- and after-school programs, and culturally competent teachers. We need multiple pathways to graduation. We need help from our teachers unions to mentor and monitor their members. We need funding streams that are reliable and equitable. We need better teacher training and support.

We don't need 3-8 tests to tell us what we need. We already know. I encourage you to support a bill that addresses schools' needs rather than one that continues to hunt for and publicize their deficits.


K.A. Zahler

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