|URGENT ACTION ALERT|
|a division of Home School Legal Defense Association||August 17, 2001|
Federal Alert Update—Committee Considers Step Toward National Test
HSLDA has been battling the expansion of the National Assessment Education Progress (NAEP) for five years out of concern that it would eventually become America's national testing standard. Now our concern is threatening to become a reality. Many congressmen and senators on the Education Conference Committee for House Resolution 1 and Senate bill 1 are leaning towards a mandatory NAEP test for every state. A confident National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB—the board responsible for developing NAEP) is already making plans to change NAEP to match Congress' potential testing requirements.
The Education Conference Committee will make the final decision in September on whether or not states must take NAEP and if home schoolers will be exempted from any federally mandated tests. HSLDA's staff has been lobbying all 39 committee members and home schoolers have been calling their offices urging against a mandatory NAEP and for a home school exemption from all federally mandated tests.
We extend a special thanks to our members who have made the effort to call Congress since our last alert in July. Many offices have reported receiving over 100 calls a day and have enthusiastically told HSLDA that "the congressman is on your side." However, a surprising number of other offices say they have received very little telephone contact on this issue.
Congress is now on recess until September 4 and most congressmen are in their home districts. During this time, congressional staff on the Education Conference Committee will be working out many of the details between H.R. 1 and S.1. The committee is scheduled to discuss testing and NAEP for the next two weeks.
URGENT ACTION NEEDED OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS:
- Please call your representative or senator at his home district office if he is listed below and give him the following message: "NAEP should not be a mandatory test. It will lead to a national curriculum. Congress should allow states to use alternative tests in lieu of NAEP. Also, keep the language in H.R.1 that says 'nothing in this act shall . . . require any home schooled student to participate in any assessment referenced in this Act.'"
- We encourage you to write your Senator and Congressman a personal letter if he is listed below. Please send the letter to his Washington, DC, office. One articulate letter (as opposed to e-mail), typed in a professional manner, is worth about 20 phone calls. See HSLDA's sample letter.
- Please e-mail HSLDA at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what congressmen you contacted. This will help us know how many calls each congressman is receiving.
The Education Conference Committee members and their district office phone numbers are listed below. You can find their address through the given link. Note: Legislators marked with an asterisk (*) have indicated they support HSLDA's position. They should be thanked for their support.
Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
James (Jim) Jeffords (I-VT)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
(505) 346-6601 or (505) 988-6647
Paul Wellstone (D-MN)
(651) 645-0323 or (218) 741-1074
Patty Murray (D-WA)
(206) 553-545 or (509) 624-9515
Jack Reed (D-RI)
John Edwards (D-NC)
Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
(518) 431-0120 or (212) 688-6262
Joseph Lieberman (D-CT)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Bill Frist (R-TN)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
* Tim Hutchinson (R-AR)
John Warner (R-VA)
Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO)
(573) 634-2488 or (314) 725-4484
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
* Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Michael DeWine (R-OH)
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
John Ensign (R-NV)
U.S. HOUSE MEMBERS:
* John Boehner (R-OH 8th)
Thomas Petri (R-WI 6th)
Marge Roukema (R-NJ 5th)
* Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA 25th)
Michael Castle (R-DE)
* Van Hilleary (R-TN 4th)
* Lindsey Graham (R-SC 3rd)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA 6th)
George Miller (D-CA 7th)
Dale Kildee (R-MI 9th)
Major Owens (D-NY 11th)
Patsy Mink (D-HI 2nd)
Rob Andrews (D-NJ 1st)
Tim Roemer (D-IN 3rd)
It will be several years before we have another opportunity to improve education policy at the federal level. Both chambers of Congress have passed their own versions of this year's reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Education Conference Committee, consisting of congressional members from both chambers, must reconcile The Better Education for Students and Teachers Act (S. 1) and The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (H.R. 1). After reconciliation, both legislative houses must then vote to approve the final bill before it is sent to the president.
POSITIVE ASPECTS OF H.R. 1 AND S. 1:
Both H.R. 1 and S. 1 contain many good privacy, education, and home school protections worked on by HSLDA. Because these protections are included in both bills, they are likely to be included in the final version as well. These protections include:
- Prohibition of a national database of citizens,
- Prohibition of a national curriculum,
- Prohibition of a national test,
- Prohibition of a national teacher certification,
- Complete repeal of Goals 2000, and
- Comprehensive protection of home schoolers from federal control:
"Nothing in this Act or any other Act administered by the Secretary shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage, or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of any private, religious, or home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a private school or home school under State law."
However, S. 1 does not include two important protections that are part of H.R. 1. If these two provisions are not included in the final version, dangerous precedent could be established that would negatively affect the education freedoms we enjoy today.
First, H.R. 1 protects home schoolers from the mandatory use of "any test referenced in this act." This language extensively shields home schoolers from being forced to take state tests. Already this year, five states attempted to implement mandatory state assessments for home schoolers. S. 1 does not provide this protection. If states are receiving federal funds to develop tests, HSLDA believes Congress has the right to restrict who takes these tests. Therefore, we are asking the conference committee to include H.R. 1's protective language in the reconciled bill.
Second, S. 1 requires that all states test a sampling of their public school students using the NAEP. However, H.R. 1 allows states to choose an alternative test to the NAEP such as the Stanford Nine or Iowa Test of Basic Skills. For five years, HSLDA has been fighting to reduce the use of NAEP as it could easily develop into a nationally standardized test. Therefore, we believe that the requirement in S. 1 is dangerous because it will eventually give states no alternative but to adopt NAEP as their guideline test. They will begin testing to the NAEP and their curriculum will have to be geared toward NAEP.
The purpose of an achievement test is to measure a student's strengths and weaknesses. When NAEP becomes the nationally recognized assessment test, it will become the bench mark of measurement. Other assessment tests will be used less frequently and become less respected among educational professionals. Consequently, home and private schools who currently administer various norm-referenced standardized tests would be pressured to take the national NAEP test or lose credibility. If home schoolers are forced to take the NAEP, it will jeopardize the independent thought and educational creativity that have largely contributed to the success of the home school movement. Families will then begin choosing curriculum that improves their students' scores on the NAEP. This outcome would be devastating to the home school community.
Your calls over the next two weeks are critical to protecting home schoolers and stopping NAEP from heading towards a national test. Please take the time to act as requested above—freedom is priceless.
Thank you for standing with us for family and freedom!