President Fuhrman in NYT Letter to the Editor: ESEA Reauthorization Should Consider New Ways to Measure
In March, Congress will likely vote on whether to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known since 2002 as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The law has been both hailed as a major step toward ensuring that all students succeed, and criticized for an undue emphasis on testing that has narrowed curriculum and penalized schools in poverty. With new legislation proposed in the form of the Student Success Act, the debate over reauthorization continues to heat up. We’ve asked experts from the extended TC family for their thoughts on the issue.
The following Letter to the Editor by Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman was published in the New York Times on Saturday, February 28, 2015. Read it in the New York Times here.
To the Editor:
As your Feb. 22 editorial “Don’t Give Up the Gains in Education” notes, the annual testing requirement in No Child Left Behind was intended to shine a spotlight on the progress of disadvantaged, minority, special needs and English-learning students.
But maintaining that focus does not mean that reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act must promote the same constricted view of annual testing — the same test questions for each child at a single sitting — that has prevailed over the last decade and a half.
The new Elementary and Secondary Education Act should encourage states to use approaches that are less likely to narrow the curriculum and stimulate test prep.
These include question sampling techniques, in which different students receive different questions across the entire curriculum (except perhaps for a core set, unknown in advance, that all students would receive); performance tests, whereby groups perform experiments or tasks working in teams that might incorporate divisions of labor; embedded test questions given throughout the year and aggregated to yield summary scores; and adaptive testing, in which students are permitted to advance through levels of difficulty based on their answers.
The federal language should permit more expansive views of assessment and, optimally, offer incentives for states to study alternative approaches to monitoring student and subgroup progress.
SUSAN H. FUHRMAN
President, Teachers College, Columbia University
The views expressed in the previous article are solely those of the speakers to whom they are attributed. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the faculty, administration, or staff either of Teachers College or of Columbia University.