Bowman introduces legislation to end over-testing in schools

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks at rally in Washington D.C. on Aug. 28, 2021. Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Bowman addressed the crowd on the 58th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks at rally in Washington D.C. on Aug. 28, 2021. Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Bowman addressed the crowd on the 58th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Photo courtesy Georgia Parke

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman unveiled the More Teaching Less Testing Act on Thursday, a proposal reflecting decades of educator and family-led advocacy and activism to align education with lifelong learning, rather than with the standardized testing regime. Supported by the nation’s largest teacher’s unions and civil rights organizations, this legislation takes steps to make classroom teaching time a priority over annual standardized test preparation and test administration.

“We need a revolution in our public schools that unlocks the brilliance of all our kids and cultivates a generation equipped to take on 21st century challenges,” Bowman said. “This means valuing diverse intelligence and fostering school cultures grounded in joyful, rigorous learning across a wide range of subjects and skills. Our already underfunded schools should not be forced to spend valuable time and resources teaching to the test. Kids deserve experiential learning opportunities, and the time and space to play, discover, and create. These pursuits cannot be bubbled in on a multiple choice scan sheet.”

Fellow Bronx Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Adriano Espaillat are both co-sponsors of the legislation, among 16 others.

Specifically, the More Teaching Less Testing Act will:

  • Build on the flexibility of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), promote ways to improve assessment and accountability for the ultimate purpose of increasing student learning opportunities, and address one of the several interconnected factors exacerbating the nationwide teacher shortage.
  • Allow states more flexibility to administer summative assessments and design assessment systems that support high quality teaching and learning, eliminate the current federally mandated testing schedule for summative assessments in math, reading and language arts and science, and instead establish a menu of options for states to choose from.
  • Engage educators, school leaders, families and advocates in determining an appropriate limitation on assessment and test preparation time.
  • Establish an Assessment Taskforce to evaluate testing practices and recommend assessment practices that promote high quality teaching.
  • Authorize $66 billion annually for Title I – quadruple the current authorized funding level – to correct chronic underfunding of our public schools and prioritize public education in our federal budget.
  • Scale up and improve ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Demonstration program by offering $100 million annually, marking the first time the pilot program has gotten an authorization of dedicated funds.
  • And prohibit states from using federally mandated statewide assessments as the sole or dominant factor for large-scale retention policies, high school graduation decisions, teacher evaluations or school rating systems.

“For decades, educators and parents alike have been telling anyone who would listen that using standardized test scores to evaluate students and teachers was actually impeding students’ education,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “This fixation on testing simply told us to teach to the test, crowding out the projects, teamwork, debate, art, music, and anything not measured by a bubble sheet. And rather than focus on critical thinking, problem solving and classwork guided by teachers, it has led to a fixation on test prep.”

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