'Race to the Top' Guidelines Conflict With Obama's Testing Positions; Assessment Reformers Say, 'Back to the Drawing Board,' for Stimulus Plan to Truly Support Better Education

For Immediate Release

FairTest
Contact: 

Dr. Monty Neill (857) 350-8207 x101
or Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

'Race to the Top' Guidelines Conflict With Obama's Testing Positions; Assessment Reformers Say, 'Back to the Drawing Board,' for Stimulus Plan to Truly Support Better Education

WASHINGTON - Draft guidelines
for the federal "Race to the Top" (RTTT) program, recently issued by
the U.S.
Department of Education (DoE), conflict with President Obama's repeated
calls
for less emphasis on standardized exam scores and "would actually make
high-states testing problems worse," according to the nation's leading
assessment reform organization.
     

In formal
comments submitted to DoE today, the National Center
for Fair &
Open Testing (FairTest) wrote, "Unfortunately many of the ‘Race to the
Top'
(RTTP) draft guidelines issued by the Department of Education represent
a step
backwards from the President's goals." The FairTest statement
continued,
"RTTT's focus on high-states testing goes well beyond what even the
test-centric No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law now requires."
    

During his
campaign for the Presidency, Barack
Obama said, "We should not be forced to spend the academic year
preparing
students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests." Candidate Obama
added that
the nation needs to use "a broader range of assessments that can
evaluate
higher-order skills, including students' abilities to use technology,
conduct
research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, present
and
defend their ideas." Just this June, President Obama explained that
assessments
could include "one standardized test, plus portfolios of work that kids
are doing, plus observing the classroom. There can be a whole range of
assessments."

     

Among the
problems with the DoE guidelines cited by FairTest:

     

- Basing teacher and
principal pay on how well
their students fill in multiple-choice test bubbles will undermine
school
reform, not advance it.
As
President Obama indicated, the use of test scores to judge schools,
as mandated by NCLB, has harmed education. By encouraging states to
make student
test scores a "significant factor" in teacher and principal evaluation,
RTTT
will intensify the damage.

    

- Encouraging
national exams will not reduce the problems caused by over-reliance on
testing
.
States with "tougher" tests do not consistently perform better on the
National
Assessment of Educational than those with less rigorous exams. Many
countries
with top-performing educational systems do far less testing with far
lower
stakes than does the U.S.

    

- Continuing to overemphasize test scores will limit the value
of data
systems
. Though it suggests
states gather various sorts of information, including out-of-school
factors,
RTTT treats test results as the most important data. Yet, test scores
provide
woefully insufficient data about learning.
     

- Eliminating some major
school reform
policies currently available to states makes no sense.
While
blocking the
more flexible options for "restructuring" schools allowed by NCLB
that some states are using successfully, the guidelines continue the
law's
automatic requirement to take extreme, often ineffective actions based
solely
on test scores.

   

FairTest Interim
Executive Director Monty Neill concluded, "If the federal government
truly
wants to play a positive role in improving education, the Department of
Education must go back to the drawing board. This misguided effort at
‘reform'
conflicts with President Obama's stated goals and would perpetuate some
of the
Bush-Paige-Spellings regime's worst elements of test misuse and
overuse."

 

- FairTest's full comments on the RTTT draft
guidelines are
posted online at http://www.fairtest.org

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