Bennet, Alexander Call for Examination of Education Regulations, Testing and Assessment Practices in Schools

Wasting No Time, Senators Announce Immediate Formation of Working Group to Begin in Colorado and Tennessee; Senators Want to Remove Red Tape, Improve Quality and Efficiency of Assessment Systems

Posted on March 17, 2011

Washington, DC – Continuing their efforts to cut red tape in education and improve our schools, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced a bipartisan bill to establish a national task force charged to examine federal, state and local regulations as well as testing and assessment systems governing public schools. 

The task force will analyze the findings to make recommendations for policymakers to remove red tape, reduce regulatory compliance while ensuring important regulations remain in place, and improve the quality of assessment systems.

In addition to the long-term, nationwide task force authorized in the bill, Bennet and Alexander announced the formation of a working group that will begin immediately to study the regulations and assessment systems in Colorado and Tennessee schools and determine their effectiveness.  Bennet, Alexander will serve as co-chairs of the working group along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D).

“The status quo in our education system simply is not getting the job done,” said Bennet.  “Too often, good ideas run into walls of bureaucracy or get caught up in red tape before they can even get off the ground.  It’s time we look at current education regulations at all levels of government and testing and assessments in our schools to figure out what’s working, what’s not and where we need to focus our reforms.”

“Every minute that a teacher spends on an unneeded rule or test is a minute that could be devoted to teaching a child,” Alexander said. “We want teachers and principals in Tennessee and Colorado to tell us which regulations and tests are useful and which ones we can get rid of.”

“We need to look for areas where we can tear down obstacles to success,” Duncan said. “We need to do everything we can to give states, districts and schools the flexibility they need to help students learn. That means at every level - federal, state and local - we need to balance compliance with innovation and support efforts to develop better, smarter assessments.”

Bennet, former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, and Alexander, former Education Secretary, are members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and are part of the committee’s negotiating team crafting a bill to reform No Child Left Behind.

National Task Force and Colorado-Tennessee Working Group on Education Regulations and Testing Practices

About the Bill to Establish the National Task Force: This bipartisan bill would establish a national task force charged with the responsibility of examining federal, state and local regulations and examining testing and assessment systems governing public schools.  The task force will analyze the findings to make recommendations for policy makers to remove red tape, reduce regulatory compliance while ensuring important regulations remain in place, and improve the quality of assessment systems.

Purpose: Examine the regulations and assessment systems for public schools under the new reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure a streamlined system of federal, state, and local regulations and promote the use of effective assessments to measure student achievement and teacher and principal effectiveness.

Membership:  Task Force members will include governors, state legislators, superintendents, teachers, principals, assessment experts, and others to bring a broad range of knowledge, expertise, and responsibility for education.

Duties: The Task Force will examine federal, state, and local regulations to identify unnecessary, redundant, or conflicting rules and regulations imposed on public schools to streamline administration and allow local education leaders to focus on improving student achievement instead of complying with meaningless regulations.  In addition, The Task Force will identify opportunities to improve and streamline assessment systems, improve the quality of assessments, and make sure they produce timely and accurate information that can be used to help teachers and students get better.

In examining regulations, the task force specifically will:

  • Measure the cost of compliance in terms of funds spent on compliance and time in hours and personnel;
  • Identify duplicative, redundant, or unnecessary regulations at each governmental level; and
  • Investigate how Federal, State, and local interpretations of laws and regulations create additional or unnecessary burden and are used as rationale for imposing requirements that are not actually mandated by law.

In examining assessment systems, the task force specifically will:

  • Determine purpose and intent of each assessment;
  • Determine frequency, length, and scheduling and measure impact on length of time in hours and days spent on testing;
  • Identify duplication in the current system and opportunities to streamline the accountability system;
  • Examine whether current assessments are returned with sufficient speed and quality to inform instruction, student grading, and teacher effectiveness;
  • Analyze the ability of quality assessments to measure whether a student is prepared to graduate from high school and pursue college or a career without the need for academic remediation; and
  • Identify opportunities to improve assessment practices to better promote parent, teacher and principal, and student understanding of progress toward college and career readiness and public understanding of school performance and educational productivity.

Report: The Task Force will report on an annual basis to the U.S. Secretary of Education, the Congress, and the public on findings and make recommendations on changes to regulations and assessment systems to improve their efficiency and quality.

About The Colorado-Tennessee Working Group: In addition to the long-term, nation-wide task force authorized in the bill, Bennet and Alexander are establishing a working group that will begin immediately to study the regulations and assessment systems in Colorado and Tennessee schools and determine their effectiveness. Bennet, Alexander will serve as co-chairs of the working group along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D).  The working group will follow the same examination and reporting guidelines as the national task force looking specifically at Colorado and Tennessee schools.

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