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This is one of the strangest political alignments ever: George W. Bush put annual testing into federal law, a practice unknown in the high-performing nations of the world. And Democrats–including President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Washington State Senator Patti Murray–are fighting to keep George W. Bush’s policy in place. In the case of Senator Murray, her role is especially puzzling because Washington State has been a stronghold of opposition to high-stakes testing–from the Garfield High School teachers’ refusal to give the MAP test to the Legislature’s refusal to evaluate teachers by test scores, which led to Duncan withdrawing the state’s waiver from NCLB. Now, in accordance with NCLB, every public school in the state of Washington is a “failing” school, having not reached the goal of 100% proficiency on state tests of math and reading. But Senator Murray blithely defends the obnoxious annual testing policy that has so infuriated educators in her home state.
GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR NCLB?: No Child Left Behind’s spectacular sputter in the House last week overshadowed headway being made in the Senate: HELP Committee aides working to craft a bipartisan NCLB bill have been inching closer to an agreement on Title I, according to several aides and lobbyists. An announcement could come as soon as today. What will the compromise deal look like? Tough to say. But HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray has been firm about keeping statewide annual tests and getting rid of the bill’s Title I portability provisions, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Washington Democrat is ready to give up to strike a deal.
– Of course, getting a bill through both chambers won’t be easy. Take last week’s House debate. Members approved an amendment from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would allow local assessment systems but chose not to take a recorded vote. It signaled that Democrats and Republicans expected the amendment to pass easily, and potentially with ample Democratic support. And it’s a sign that even if the Senate preserves annual statewide testing, the House may rebel and demand more flexibility for local districts.
– One more testing note: Political advocacy group Education Reform Now, a partner of Democrats for Education Reform, is calling out the National Education Association for a video [http://bit.ly/1BQeiZF] aimed at persuading lawmakers to scrap the annual testing mandate. ERN’s own video [http://bit.ly/1zBwyyA] tries to “fact check” the NEA ad – and warns the union’s stance “could cost you your child’s future.”