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Letter to Representative Mark Udall in support of his Comprehensive Learning Assessment for Students and Schools (CLASS) Act (H.R. 2070)

September 11, 2007

Dear Representative Udall:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to express our support for the Comprehensive Learning Assessment for Students and Schools (CLASS) Act (H.R. 2070). This important bill will help ensure fair, effective, and realistic methods to measure student and school performance.

NEA strongly supports the No Child Left Behind goals of raising student achievement and increasing accountability. However, we believe that the law's reliance on standardized testing as the sole measure of school and student performance represents a one-size-fits-all approach that does not provide an accurate measure of achievement and dilutes the targeting of resources and assistance to schools truly in need. The current, rigid system has caused unrealistically large numbers of schools to fail federal standards. For example, the California Department of Education projects a 99 percent failure rate, and the Office of the State Legislative Auditor in Minnesota projects a failure rate between 80 and 99 percent. Furthermore, assessment experts have consistently advised that reliance on a single assessment instrument to determine school or student success is inappropriate and defies research and sound practice. 

H.R. 2070 clarifies an ambiguity in current law regarding subgroup performance. Your bill specifies that if the same subgroup fails to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in the same subject for two years, the school is identified as in need of improvement. We believe this was the intent of the original law, but the U.S. Department of Education has not interpreted the law in this manner. Furthermore, your bill specifies that when a school is in need of improvement, supplemental education services should be targeted to the subgroup(s) of students not making AYP, rather than the whole school. 

We applaud the fact that your bill returns authority for determining appropriate assessments for students with disabilities to the teams crafting their individualized education plans. The U.S. Department of Education placed arbitrary caps on the percentage of students with disabilities who can take alternate assessments and have those assessments count toward making AYP. This flies in the face of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which clearly requires a customized approach to educating each child. Your bill also prevents a student with disabilities from being given the same test year after year. Rather, schools will be required to give such students more advanced assessments each year, ensuring that students are challenged in an appropriate manner.

By allowing schools to measure the growth in student learning and rate school success through multiple sources of evidence, your bill will help provide a more accurate and comprehensive picture of school and student performance and a more equitable implementation of interventions and support. 

We thank you for your leadership and look forward to continuing to work with you on these important issues.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy