On January 21, 2015 the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held the first of a series of hearings regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), focusing on the subjects of testing and accountability. You can view the webcast of the hearing.
Key Issues Discussed:
- Witnesses and senators discussed how much flexibility states should have in creating assessment systems without sacrificing accountability. They varied in their support for larger or smaller state and local roles in accountability systems, in their support for annual grade-level or grade-span assessments, and in the extent to which standardized tests promote or inhibit learning opportunities.
- Witnesses and senators discussed creating accountability systems that hold schools accountable for narrowing achievement gaps for all students, especially low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners (ELLs). A few Senators focused on questions of the cap for the number of students with disabilities who are classified as severely disabled and thus eligible for an alternative assessment.
- Witnesses and senators discussed information on and opinions about the number of administered annual tests and over-testing concerns. They noted a lack of data on the number of tests required at the state and local levels and whether or not these exist because of the high stakes attached to federally-mandated assessments. Sen. Baldwin noted she has introduced the SMART Act, which would support state and local audits of assessments.