Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Feds Issue Reminder: Test Students or Risk Losing Funding

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Feds Issue Reminder: Test Students or Risk Losing Funding

Article excerpt

BUFFALO, N.Y. * The U.S. Education Department is not relenting on requirements to test students on math and language arts abilities, despite the end of No Child Left Behind, and it reminded some states that federal funding could be at stake if too many children skip the annual assessments.

But testing opponents say they're not giving up either, and after a surge in students opting out last year, they're looking for even more to sit out in the coming assessment season.

A letter from the federal department last month reminded state school chiefs that the requirement to test at least 95 percent of grade 3-8 students is still in place and will continue under the nation's new education law, passed in December.

Last year, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a group known as FairTest that's critical of standardized assessments, counted more than 640,000 students in over a dozen states who refused to take the assessments to protest the high-stakes consequences begun under No Child Left Behind.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act that was passed to replace No Child Left Behind leaves it to states how to handle schools that fall short in participation, but Ann Whalen, an assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, stressed in her letter that assessment requirements remain.

Whalen's Dec. 22 memo followed a series of individual requests for improvement plans from states at risk of falling short of the threshold in 2014-15. Letters went out to Illinois as well as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin.

Most states responded with plans that stressed improving communication with parents and teachers about the importance of assessments. Several promised to downgrade a district or school's rating should they miss participation targets, or revoke eligibility for recognition awards, according to responses obtained by The Associated Press. None of the plans appeared to carry any financial consequence.

New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia described a host of initiatives after 20 percent of students didn't take the tests last year about four times the number as the previous year. …

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