A question from Sandy Walters of Concord, CA:
Will educational standards actually improve the education system in
America? If so, how?
Sen. Reed responds:
Since coming to Congress, I have worked to improve the education of children and expand educational opportunities. I supported the passage of Goals 2000, a major education reform initiative enacted in 1994, which seeks to raise academic standards and to inspire and challenge students to learn. Without critical Goals 2000 funds, already strapped states, such as Rhode Island, would not be able to implement needed reforms and innovative teaching techniques to improve the education of students and ensure their ability to succeed in the future.
In addition to standards, we must also have assessment and accountability. The national voluntary test proposed by President Clinton in his State of the Union Address earlier this year, is part of this effort. Widespread national participation will give students, parents, and educators the opportunity to evaluate student progress and identify the improvements that must be made to help our students excel. Given that the 21st Century is rapidly approaching and our world is increasingly more competitive, students must be able to benchmark their education progress in ways never needed before to prepare for their future.
In Senate action last week, authority over the test was shifted from the Department of Education to the independent, bipartisan National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). Currently, NAGB oversees the highly regarded National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This will help ensure that the national voluntary test provides valuable information about student achievement and progress, is based on high standards, and is free from partisan influence.
I would also like to take this opportunity to discuss something which I also believe will help improve education in America. Last week, I introduced the Teacher Excellence in America CHallenge Act, or the TEACH Act, which will change the way teachers are trained and improve the quality of teaching in America's classrooms. This is particularly critical given record increases in student enrollment and impending teacher retirements which will create the need for two million new teachers over the next decade. In addition, well-trained and well-prepared teachers are central to improving the academic achievement of students.
My legislation establishes a competitive 5-year grant program to provide grants to professional development partnerships consisting of institutions of higher education, public elementary and secondary schools, local educational agencies, the State educational agency, teacher organizations, and nonprofit organizations. Partnerships would use grant funding to support as well as create professional development schools, a reform that has shown success in improving student achievement, better preparing prospective and beginning teachers, and providing critical ongoing opportunities for the professional development of veteran teachers.
The TEACH Act puts us on track to answering the call of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future to provide every student in America with access to competent, qualified, and dedicated teaching by the year 2006.
Sen. Enzi responds:
Sandy and Shawn,
A mandatory national testing program
could lead to national standards which in turn
would necessitate a federally developed
curriculum to teach to those standards. This
is the wrong road for education to take in
Testing isn't the answer to our
education woes. I don't believe that it will
teach a single child a single idea. The
concept is kind of like a rancher trying to
add weight to his cattle weighing them. It
just doesn't work. What does work is
involvement by parents, teachers, local
administrators and school boards. The people
that know the kids by name are the people who
should be most involved in helping them learn.
We have to be very careful with any proposals
that threaten to usurp this relationship.
Requiring schools to submit to
national testing is at the top of the
President's agenda, but the Senate recently
voted for legislation that would make the
testing voluntary. If it turns out to be a
test that states and local districts really
don't think fits in with the educational
priorities and goals their children are
working to achieve, they don't have to do it.
There are many states out there that
don't have the money to design their own
testing program, or that are only interested
in having an in-state testing program. These
states may see this as a step to getting
funding from a national assessment governing
board (rather than the federal Department of
Education) and it may be a help in designing
tests with more validity and value to the
state. Testing is a pretty big cost and the
states need more direct involvement.
We've had a national testing program
(NAEP) and they weren't able to get results
back until two years after the test. Testing
someone in fourth grade and not sharing the
results with them that they have a problem
until they are in sixth grade would be a real
My philosophy on educational funding
is similar to my position on mandatory
national tests. Give the money back to the
states and local school districts. Let them
decide how to best spend the money because
they are closest to the people, where the
people live, where it's real, the local level.
No one lives at the federal level.
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