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NEA President-elect García: Duncan’s temporary moratorium on high-stakes testing consequences ‘common sense’

Department of Education announces flexibility for states committing to continued student data collection

WASHINGTON - August 21, 2014 -

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced today that the Obama administration will allow flexibility in tying high-stakes consequences to student test scores for up to two years. Those consequences, including using test scores in teacher evaluations and student promotions, will be waived as long as “data collection continues” and the state/district “remains committed to using student growth in its evaluation systems in an appropriate manner.”

The National Education Association and other education groups have been calling for a moratorium on high-stakes consequences for the new state exams for more than a year as states and districts attempt to implement new college and career-ready standards. Many states and districts are still working to align the new standards to the curriculum and to the new tests in order to ensure that students are not being tested on material not taught in their classrooms. Furthermore, many states—in order to qualify for federal competitive grants—hastily created teacher evaluation systems prior to the implementation of the new standards, curriculum, and assessments. In some states, teachers are being evaluated using the standardized test scores in subjects or on students they haven’t even taught.

“There is increasing evidence that the collision between old and new standards and assessments with already flawed evaluation systems are fraught with pitfalls and dangerous consequences for student learning and growth—especially when these systems are developed hastily with too much external pressure and too little time for collaboration. It is just common sense to allow a moratorium on high-stakes consequences of test scores,” said NEA President-elect Lily Eskelsen García.

NEA continues to provide training and resources for educators and continues to push for the opportunity for states, school districts, educators, and parents to work together to develop viable and reliable evaluation systems based on focused goals for student learning.

“I am proud of NEA members who are helping to train their colleagues in the new standards, develop high quality lesson plans and curriculum, review new assessment items, and help students learn. But all of these things take time to do well, and students and educators need the time and support to get this right without fear of inaccurate, punitive labels,” said García.

In many states, a student’s test score in one subject can be used to determine whether that student is promoted from third grade to fourth—regardless of the student’s grades in other subjects. In many states, one test score can keep a student from graduating from high school with a regular diploma, despite grade point average or other academic achievement. “How can we, in good conscience, hang our students’ futures on one test score?” asked García. “The attachment of such high stakes to a single test corrupts its primary purpose, and ultimately harms students.”

García emphasized that while educators are “encouraged that the Department of Education is listening to educators who work with students in classrooms every day, it’s not enough. Our students deserve more from the adults in their lives. This moratorium is a temporary measure and, while good, it is just a first step. We must end these absurd practices and replace them with a system that serves each and every single student’s needs and that prepares all students for college or careers,” García said.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Sara Robertson


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Video: NEA President-elect Lily Eskelsen Garcîa addresses the need to stop high-stakes testing