Education chief backs expansion of testing
New York Times
Jul. 9, 2005
WASHINGTON - Margaret Spellings, the Education secretary, suggested on Friday
that the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires that public-school
children be tested in reading and math, could be expanded to include other
"I am a strong believer in this 'what gets measured gets done' kind of notion,"
Spellings told members of the American Federation of Teachers.
While she was referring to testing for science, which begins in two years, she
added, "It helps the system figure out what we need to do, where and when. . . .
And so we need to round out the system a little more."
Expanding the federal testing requirements to include subjects beyond reading,
math and science, however, would appear to require Congress to amend the law.
Spellings' comments came in a rare unscripted event for a senior member of the
Bush administration. She shared a stage with the union president, Edward J.
McElroy, who posed questions based on written queries submitted in advance by
Describing himself as a union president eager to forge a friendly working
relationship with Spellings and her staff, McElroy was largely solicitous of his
His deferential manner came a day after his keynote speech to the union in which
he said teachers were expressing "incredible frustration" with the No Child Left
Behind law "because of the way it's been implemented." Three-quarters of
teachers responding to a recent union survey expressed unhappiness with the law,
he said, telling the audience, "I hear it from experienced teachers at the top
of their game, from newcomers whose excitement is dimming all too quickly and
from all sorts of teachers in between."
Yet McElroy conveyed little of that discomfort in his dialogue with Spellings in
an apparent effort to keep her appearance more conversational than
Spellings told the audience "No Child Left Behind is working." She asserted that
children with special needs were getting the attention they required and that
the goals of the program were achievable, saying, "We just have to dial down
some of the anxiety about it."
For the coming school year, states are required to test all children in grades
three through eight and those in the 10th, 11th or 12th in reading and math. By
the 2007-08 school year, states must be ready to begin testing children in
science once for grades three through five, six through nine and then 10 through
The possibility that testing might expand arose as McElroy asked Spellings to
respond to criticism from teachers that an emphasis on math and reading was
undermining the quality of education in other subjects, like civics and
"I've heard that before about the testing issue," she replied, adding, "In many
ways, we're in the infancy of accountability and education in our country."
Speaking to reporters later, Spellings said the ability to expand testing
depended upon refining the process of how children are measured.
"A good measuring system can assess Lance Armstrong's fitness or a couch
potato's," she said. "As we get smarter about this, we can go into more subject
areas, more skill areas."