01.21.15

NCLB: Baldwin and Brown Introduce Bill to Streamline Testing in Schools

SMART Act would eliminate low-quality and unnecessary assessments from nation’s classrooms, better align remaining tests to curriculum

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee examines fixing “No Child Left Behind,” Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have introduced the “Support Making Assessments Reliable and Timely” (SMART) Act in order to eliminate low-quality and unnecessary assessments from our nation’s classrooms. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) are leading the legislation in the House of Representatives.

“This commonsense legislation gives us the tools and resources to work with states and districts to reduce unnecessary assessments, especially by targeting redundant and low-quality tests,” Senator Baldwin said. “In doing so, the SMART Act will also free up more time for teaching and learning, allowing educators to focus on preparing students to be college and career ready. As Congress begins what I hope is a truly bipartisan process to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, I’m proud to lead this effort to address one of the shortcomings of No Child Left Behind.”

“Annual testing can be a useful yard stick to measure student achievement,” Senator Brown said. “But too often our students are inundated with duplicative tests. Excessive testing discourages learning and impedes instruction. That’s why the SMART Act is so important. By aligning tests so that instruction is not interrupted, teachers will remain accountable and parents can rest assured that their children are not undergoing duplicative testing.”

“WEAC is pleased to have worked with Senator Baldwin on this legislation,” said Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) President Betsy Kippers. “Students need time to learn and teachers need time to teach.  Schools shape a child’s future and we must instill a love of learning, creativity, critical thinking and curiosity. We look forward to working with Senator Baldwin to change federal policy so students – not tests – are at the center of all we do.”

“This bipartisan legislation will help identify and eliminate redundant tests that are monopolizing time and resources and creating a stressful environment in our nation’s classrooms,” Congresswoman Bonamici said. “Assessments can help determine students’ progress, inform instruction, and support academic growth, but too many tests fail to meet these standards. I am thrilled that Senator Baldwin is supporting the bill. Her leadership on education issues in the Senate will help the SMART Act gain further momentum. As my House and Senate colleagues discuss reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, I will continue to advocate for the provisions in the SMART Act.”

At today’s HELP Committee hearing entitled, “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability,” Senator Baldwin discussed the SMART Act and said, “A well-designed standardized test is one important tool among many that can help students, teachers, parents, communities and lawmakers understand how well individual students are doing, as well as how our nation’s schools are serving all children. As such, we should know if the tests given, those required by federal law and others, are of high-quality and aligned to a state’s learning standards. We should also have a clear idea of how much classroom time is spent on preparing for and taking standardized tests, as opposed to instruction.”

The SMART Act effectively targets federal funding to empower states to audit their assessment systems and eliminate poor quality and redundant tests. The legislation also provides for states and local education agencies to improve their use of assessment data, which might include providing more time for educators to design instruction based on test results and speeding the delivery of test data to students and families.
Joining Senators Baldwin and Brown in cosponsoring the SMART Act are: HELP Committee Ranking Member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senators Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Al Franken (D-MN), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The bipartisan bill has broad support, including endorsements from the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Education Trust, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCR), the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the National Council of La Raza, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Democrats for Education Reform, Third Way, Tech Plus, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Learn more about the SMART Act here.