February 4 State of the Union Address: President Clinton first announces plans for a voluntary national test. Without the prior consent of Congress, he later orders the U.S. Department of Education to develop national reading and math tests for fourth and eighth graders. The plan calls for the tests to be developed over a two-year period and to be available by 1999.
February 24 Secretary of Education Richard Riley announces the awarding of a $13 million contract to begin development of the national test.
February 28 In White House meetings, Clinton administration staffer Mike Cohen describes the presidents goals for the national tests. Public school and public university officials express concern that this voluntary national test would inevitably force states to use the test to receive federal funding and then change their curricula to fit the test.
April 29 Secretary of Education Richard Riley testifies at House Subcommittee hearing, New test instruments must be developed because the NAEP assessments are not designed as individual student tests. . . . Riley estimates it will cost the Fund for Improvement of Education (FIE) $22 million to develop these tests.
May 14 In a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing, Congressman Bill Goodling (R-PA) blasts the Department of Education for beginning test development without specific or explicit statutory authority . . . Goodling attempts to add to H.R. 1469the FY98 appropriations billan amendment which would ban funding for national test development, but a procedural glitch stymies his efforts.
May 20 President Clinton, in a speech to the Maryland state legislature, claims that [T]he federal government will not require them, but they will be available to every state and every school district that chooses to administer them. I believe every state must participate and that every parent has a right to honest, accurate information about how his or her child is doing based on real, meaningful national standards. . . . We need . . . tests that measure the performance of every student, each and every school, each and every district . . . He adds, We will not attempt to require them. They are not federal government standards, they are national standards. (American School Board Journal, May 1997, p. 22.)
May 26 Congressman Goodling begins work on a bill to prohibit funding for national testing.
July 15 Senator Ashcroft begins effort to draft similar prohibition language in the Senate.
September 11 The Senate votes 87 to 13 to pass Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) so-called compromise amendment (to the FY98 appropriations bill) which allows national testing through an alternate route, although the language excludes home and private schools from being required to take the test.
September 19 The House votes 296 to 125 for Goodlings amendment to halt Clintons national testing program. President Clinton promises to veto the bill if the amendment is included.
November 7 After intense late-night negotiations, both the House and Senate approve the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Conference Report which contains Congressman Bill Goodlings amendment banning expenditures to field test, pilot test, implement, administer or distribute in any way, any national test for one year. The House vote is 352 to 65 (with 16 not voting); the Senate vote is 91 to 4 (with 5 not voting). HSLDA President Mike Farris credits the thousands of phone calls and letters for creating the momentum to carry this measure through with a veto-proof margin in both the House and the Senate.
November 13 President Clinton signs the 19971998 Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill into law, including provisions which put national testing on ice for one year. In spite of this ban on field and pilot project testing during 1998, the White House attempts to spin the event as a victory for national testing advocates.
January 6 Chief congressional opponents of federal testing Representative Goodling and Senator Ashcroft introduce companion, stand-alone prohibition without explicit authority legislation. Bill designations are H.R. 2846 in the House and S. 1215 in the Senate.
January 15 National Center for Home Education staffers deliver a letter from Michael Farris to every House office, requesting votes for H.R. 2846 to stop all funding for national testing.
January 27 In his State of the Union Address, President Clinton asserts that thanks to the actions of Congress last year, we will soon have, for the very first time, a voluntary national test . . .
January 29 The National Center for Home Education sends a nationwide alert by e-mail and fax urging home schoolers to call their congressmen to ask for support of Goodlings bill. Included in the alert is a list of 166 congressmen who have promised their support for H.R. 2846 with instructions that those congressmen not be targeted.
February 3 About 50 Congressional Action Program lobbyists gather on Capitol Hill to visit 125 offices urging support for H.R. 2846.
February 5 Congressman Goodlings H.R. 2846 passes the House by 242-174, largely due to thousands of phone, fax, and personal contacts from home school families across the nation. Action on Senator Ashcrofts version, S. 1215, stalls.
March 4 Following stirring speeches by Congressman Goodling and Senator Ashcroft, among other speakers at HSLDAs legislative summit, home school leaders and local home school volunteer lobbyists sweep through the Senate with packets of information on Senator Ashcrofts S. 1215.
April 9 Senator Paul Coverdell (R-GA) holds a meeting on Capitol Hill with a number of conservative groups to explain his A+ Education Savings Accounts Bill (H.R. 2646), and to urge their support. During this meeting, representatives of the National Center for Home Education urge Senator Coverdell to include Senator John Ashcrofts and Congressman Bill Goodlings amendment banning national testing in H.R. 2646. After consideration, Coverdell agrees to include the anti-testing language.
April 17 HSLDA sends out a nationwide alert asking home schoolers to contact their U.S. senators and urge them to vote for H.R. 2646 as well as Senator Ashcrofts testing ban amendment.
April 20 After a Capitol Hill rally and press conference featuring over 150 private and home school students waving Stop National Testing signs, a team of Congressional Action Program lobbyists visit the offices of 30 senators who have yet to announce a position on these issues. Meanwhile, home schoolers calls from across the country pour into Senate offices.
April 21 In spite of grim predictions from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and others, HSLDA insists that Ashcrofts amendment be brought to the floor for a vote.
April 22 The Ashcroft amendmentwhich supposedly couldnt passdoes pass by an amazing vote of 52 to 47. Senator Dan Coats courageously stands on the Senate floor, publicly changes his position (he had introduced a testing compromise in 1997), and votes with Ashcroft to ban national testing. H.R. 2646, the A+ Education Savings Accounts Bill, passes the Senate by 56 to 43.
June 4 Because of veto threats from the president, congressional leadership pulled the testing ban language and several other amendments from H.R. 2646. In spite of their efforts, the president vetoed the A+ Education Savings Accounts Bill anyway (on July 21), blatantly rejecting true educational choice for all American families.
June 5 In a letter, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) promised to include testing ban language in must pass legislation later in the session.
July 14 The Fiscal Year 1999 Education/ HHS/Labor Appropriations bill passed the House Appropriations Committee, with the Goodling/ Ashcroft permanent ban on national testing. Congressional leaders had kept their promise!
October 20 & 21 Congress closed the 105th congressional session by passing an omnibus spending bill, H.R. 4328complete with a solid, permanent national testing ban.
October 21 President Clinton signed the bill, and thus the permanent testing ban, into law.
R E L A T E D I T E M S
Home Schoolers Win Ban on National Test
What were the risks of a national test?
Victory Letter from Bill Goodling
A Mixed Bag: The 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Bill