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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Maintain Federal Protections for Children in Underserved Schools: Oppose H.R. 452, the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act

Advocacy Letter - 01/27/15

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: U.S. House of Representatives


Dear Representative:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, we urge you to oppose H.R. 452, the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, introduced by Representatives Christopher P. Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), because it undermines important federal protection for our nation’s students, particularly children of color; children living in poverty; children with disabilities; homeless, foster, and migrant children; children in the juvenile justice system; children still learning English; and Native children.

We believe that each and every child, regardless of race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability or ZIP code must receive the best education that this great nation can provide. The United States has historically played a critical role in promoting and protecting educational opportunity for all students and measuring student progress through yearly assessments is a useful tool in targeting where to allocate resources and where to intervene when systems are not meeting students’ needs.

One of the most important ways of ensuring all students have the opportunity to learn and grow academically is through valid and reliable annual statewide assessments. Assessments are the cornerstone of accountability systems, and they ensure the most vulnerable students’ achievement is not hidden within larger groups. This is especially necessary for children in underserved communities.

Although there are valid concerns about the amount of time spent on assessment, federally required annual assessments consume a small fraction of the time spent. The focus on reducing redundant, unhelpful, and misaligned assessments that waste the time of students and their teachers should be on curtailing the use of State and locally required assessments – the source of the problem. This concern should not lead to a rollback of critical transparency and accountability measures that are necessary to advance educational opportunity and protect the rights of all students.

As the House of Representatives begins its work to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we urge you to protect educational opportunity, transparency, and accountability for student outcomes. Critical to advancing those goals is the annual, statewide assessment of all students in grades 3-8 and 11.

H.R. 452 is a huge step backwards in protecting educational opportunity for students.  One of the most important ways to be sure students are learning and growing academically is through valid and reliable annual statewide assessments. H.R. 452 eliminates the annual testing requirement in current law and would undermine the ability to protect educational opportunity and the civil rights of all students.   For example:

  • H.R. 452 would deprive parents, educators, advocates, and the public of objective comparable information about the performance of most students. In a typical middle school serving 600 students, there would only be information on how one in three of those students are doing in any year.
  • H.R. 452 would limit our ability to ensure that all groups of students, including low-income students, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities, count in school ratings. To protect student privacy, the number of students in each of these groups must exceed a certain number before their scores are reported and counted in accountability ratings. Data on our most vulnerable children will count in far fewer schools, because such groups often do not meet the minimum size in a single grade level.  
  • H.R. 452 would force parents of students who are struggling academically to wait years before learning whether interventions are working.  Parents who learn that their child, or all children in their child’s school, are struggling to meet State standards in fifth grade cannot afford to wait until they are in 8th grade to learn whether they are back on track.
  • H.R. 452 would stop the public from knowing how much learning growth individual students are experiencing from one year to the next, which is the fairest way to hold schools accountable for results. Especially for schools serving concentrations of students of color or students in poverty, where students are more likely to have been denied meaningful educational opportunity and achieve below grade level, accountability systems should give credit for growing student learning from one year to the next, not just for whether or not students in one grade are meeting standards.

For these reasons, we urge you to oppose H.R.452, the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Liz King, Senior Education Policy Analyst and Director of Education Policy at king@civilrights.org or Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President, at zirkin@civilrights.org. Thank you for your continued fight to ensure educational equity for all students.

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President

Our Members