In the discussion draft for the revision of No Child Left Behind, Senator Lamar Alexander posed two options for testing: 1) grade span testing (once in elementary school, once in middle school, once in high school); 2) the status quo, that is, annual testing in grades 3-8. Politico reports this morning that there is some interest in a third option for federally-mandated testing: Let states and districts give assessments of their own choosing and their own timing.


A THIRD TESTING OPTION? Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been considering a pair options for how to approach testing in No Child Left Behind – but additional language in Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander’s NCLB discussion draft raises the possibility of another option, by opening the door for districts to develop their own set of assessments. Alexander’s language gives them the option to go that route, if they meet a set of requirements, whether Congress keeps NCLB mandates intact or gives states more flexibility on testing. Districts technically have the same option now, but it never caught on. Might it catch on in today’s climate, given the public backlash against standardized testing? Depends on whom you ask. Anne Hyslop, a senior policy analyst at Bellwether Education Partners, wrote recently [] that it could become ‘an irresistible option’ for many districts. But Gary Phillips, vice president at the American Institutes for Research, said ‘this is one of those concepts that’s theoretically desirable, but practically impossible.’ It’s just too difficult, and too pricey, for districts to develop their own assessments, he said.



Here is a fourth option: Let state and districts make the choice to allow teachers to write their own tests and to supplement them by sampling, like NAEP testing. Those who believe so passionately in “school choice” should support the right of states and districts to “choose” when and how to test, including the option of letting teachers test what they have taught.