For Immediate Release


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
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
(RTTP) draft guidelines issued by the Department of Education represent
a step
backwards from the President's goals." The FairTest statement
"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
students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests." Candidate Obama
added that
the nation needs to use "a broader range of assessments that can
higher-order skills, including students' abilities to use technology,
research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, present
defend their ideas." Just this June, President Obama explained that
could include "one standardized test, plus portfolios of work that kids
are doing, plus observing the classroom. There can be a whole range of


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
reform, not advance it.
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,
will intensify the damage.



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


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

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


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


- FairTest's full comments on the RTTT draft
guidelines are
posted online at


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