02 Aug Uncle Sam moves against state assessments
By Dale Chu
In the latest episode of never sleep on assessments, the Senate Appropriations committee just passed a funding bill before going on August recess that underscores the deteriorating support for state testing on Capitol Hill. In what could be a harbinger of things to come, the proposal would cut ten millions dollars from the State Assessments Grants program. As context, Uncle Sam most recently appropriated $390 million in funds via both formula grants and a competitive program to help improve statewide exams.
Here is the Senate report language talking about the cut (page 217). It’s worth noting the underlined sentence. They almost sound defensive about it:
State Assessments Grants – The Committee recommends $380,000,000 [down from $390M] for the State Assessments Grants program… The recommendation includes nearly $11,000,000 more than the statutorily required amount for formula grants that would be available for new competitive grants for state assessments...
To understand this, it’s important to know that the statute establishes a baseline funding level of $369.1 million. Which is to say, the Senate seems to be suggesting, “Look, $380 million is already $11 million more than we need to allocate, so quit all the fussing.”
The outlook for testing doesn’t look any better in the other legislative chamber. House Republicans had proposed something even more extreme: completing zeroing out the program (i.e., a $390 million cut). This would never happen, but consider the aforementioned $369.1M baseline. By statute, if funding falls below that level, states would be completely let off the hook for administering any state tests (i.e., math, reading, or science) that year. This bears repeating. If the House bill were to become law, states wouldn’t need to test their students at all!
Of course, this won’t happen, and nothing approaching the end of testing as we know it is immediately imminent. However, we now have members in both chambers—and in the Senate on a bipartisan basis—on record voting for a cut to state assessments. At a time when people are clamoring for more assessment innovation, elected officials in Washington seem to be carelessly pushing for less of it.