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Support Grows for 'Multiple Measures' in NCLB

Support for using better ways to measure student achievement and school performance in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law got a new boost from 117 leading education leaders, scholars, researchers, and reformers.

Their Aug. 13 letter to the U.S. House and Senate education committees, which are considering the reauthorization of NCLB, called on the lawmakers to include "multiple assessments of learning and multiple indicators of school performance" in any new version of the law.

This latest call for "multiple measures" in NCLB requirements supports an earlier letter signed and sent to the same committees by nearly two dozen major civil rights and disability advocacy groups, who wrote, "If education is to improve in the United States, schools must be assessed in ways that produce high-quality learning and that create incentives to keep students in school."

Both letters are backed up by a report of the Expert Panel on Assessment convened by the Forum on Educational Accountability. For more information on the panel's report, see its letter to the House and Senate education committees.

Among the 117 singers of the Aug. 13 letter are leading measurement and evaluation experts, including Gene Glass and Eva Baker; educational researchers Linda Darling-Hammond and Howard Gardner, and leaders in school renewal including Ted Sizer, Pedro Noguera, John Goodlad and Public Education Network (PEN) Director Wendy Puriefoy.

Their letter emphasized that using multiple sources of evidence, including performance and locally-based assessments, provides many benefits to education and accountability:

  • The use of an index of measures of school performance provides a better picture of overall school performance;
  • Multiple measures supports a balanced approach to school improvement, insuring that a single-minded focus on standardized tests does not lead to narrowing the curriculum or to inappropriate practices such as keeping out or pushing out students who do not test well;
  • A range of assessment types is the only means for assessing a comprehensive range of content and skills;
  • Performance assessments provide for a focus on higher-order thinking skills.

George Wood, Director of the Forum for Education and Democracy, and a school principal, praised the focus on higher-level thinking skills.

"Many of us in the field know that the reliance on standardized test scores as the only measure of school success is narrowing the school curriculum, particularly for our most school-dependent children," said Wood. "This is a crucial civil rights issue; denying our children access to the skills and content which make democratic citizenship possible consigns them to second class citizenship and economic hardship."

August 2007