Bush's Student-Testing Plan Passes House Test
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) had tried to amend a bill reauthorizing federal spending on education to eliminate mandatory annual testing in grades 3-8. The White House regards testing as the key element of Bush's education reform initiative and threatened to veto the bill if it wasn't included.
Experts estimate the proposed testing would collectively cost the states up to $7 billion over the next five years. The House version of the reauthorization, officially known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or HR-1, provides only $320 million to defer the expense.
The Hoekstra-Frank amendment failed 255 -173. Fifty-two Republicans, most of them from the party's conservative wing, joined118 Democrats in opposing testing.
"The core of this bill is to require real accountability from every school in America that gets federal dollars," said Rep. John Boehner, (R-Ohio) chief sponsor of HR-1. The bill gives the federal government legal authority to provide school aid. The federal government contributes about seven percent of the cost of U.S. public education. the legislation would shortchange the states and fail to bring the educational improvement the testing is supposed to produce. "If the Federal government isn't going to put enough money in it then the states can either make up the difference with resources in their state budgets or I'm afraid some of them will look for cheaper tests. There is a garden variety of tests out there that really won't accomplish what is supposed to be the goal of this testing."
Advocates of grades 3-8 testing hope that it will tell schools and teachers which students are struggling, which will help direct resources to those students.
During House debate, Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Indiana) said, "Those that want to rip out the testing proposal in this bill are for the status quo. Sixty percent of the kids in the inner city can't read at reading level. A test done right is not a high stakes test. It is a diagnostic tool."
Rep. Tierney countered that there are only a few testing companies, and that they are already hard-pressed to meet a growing state demand for tests. "You have to wonder how they (testing companies) are going to get up to scale on that - there is no time for phasing this in -to develop a well designed test."