There is plenty of discussion this week on what’s ahead for education and science as Americans head to the polls on November 4, and the testing/accountability issue is really moving to the front burner as major players in education—including President Obama—weigh in on the issue.
But first, take a look at Education Week’s election guide, a great primer for K–12 political junkies interested in the key races to watch in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the key gubernatorial races. The primer also tracks key education ballot measures in the states.
ScienceInsider is running an After Election 2014 series on issues of concern to the science community. This story on the American COMPETES bill nicely sums up the political divide on this legislation over the last few years.
Earlier ScienceInsider installments (featured in a previous issue of NSTA Express) focused on the federal government’s attempts to improve STEM education. Writes reporter Jeff Mervis, “The last 2 years have provided a vivid reminder that improving U.S. science education will depend at least as much on grassroots efforts as on the federal government. The administration’s biggest gambit—a plan to restructure the $3 billion federal investment in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education—went down in flames after lawmakers from both parties and community leaders denounced it as unwise and poorly designed.”
Testing and accountability are also hot in Washington, D.C. right now. On October 15, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of Great City Schools announced a joint effort to improve student testing and released a two-page Commitments on High-Quality Assessments.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s blog post earlier this summer, which stated “testing and test preparation takes up too much time,” seemed to raise eyebrows since the Department of Education has been a stalwart champion of testing/accountability/teacher evaluations. Last week Education Week reporter/blogger Alyson Klein reported that “President Barack Obama appears to be behind his administration’s recent rhetorical push on the need to reconsider the number of tests students take, sources say. And the president’s new thinking on tests would seem to put U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a pretty awkward position.” Read why.
A few days later a broad-based group of 17 organizations—including the Alliance for Quality Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association—announced A New Social Compact for American Education, promising “a groundbreaking rethinking of accountability that replaces the current paradigm of ‘test and punish’ with a focus on what is needed to support and improve teaching and learning.”
On Oct. 29, Education Week again blogged that big suburban district leaders are now favoring different testing models for NCLB waivers, calling for options for districts such as grade-span testing at key points, or testing that just samples certain students. The group called for fewer and better local assessments, and less focus on the state summative tests.
Capitol Hill is also on top of the testing issue. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced the TEST Act, a bill that would significantly change the K-12 testing and accountability regime and would eliminate the federal requirement for science testing. This bill has bipartisan support and garnered significant attention in the press, along with a similar bill introduced by Rep. Chris Gibson (D-NY) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), which has the support of the NEA.
Jodi Peterson is NSTA’s Assistant Executive Director, Communications, Legislative, and Public Affairs; and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. She can be reached at via e-mail at email@example.com or Twitter @STEMedadvocate.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.