A trio of Lawrence area school superintendents is backing U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore's challenge of federal legislation that requires more testing of students, but doesn't provide money to pay for the assessments.
Moore, a Democrat who represents Lawrence in Congress, said he objected to provisions of President Bush's education reform bill that included an unfunded mandate that would force states to test students on an annual basis.
"I'm told by local educators that implementing the federal tests would cost Kansas schools millions of dollars," he said. "If Congress is going to require testing, it should pay for it."
House and Senate conferees are considering Bush's plan, which relies heavily on standardized testing. The plan would require annual testing for students in grades 3 through 8, with a lot riding on the results: Schools whose students perform poorly on tests could lose part of their federal aid, be reconstituted with new staff or converted into charter schools.
Parents would be able to use public money to buy private tutoring for their children or to enroll their children in better-performing public schools.
The three superintendents Randy Weseman in Lawrence, Loren Lutes of Oskaloosa, Steve Johnston of Perry-Lecompton said public schools didn't need another government edict that drained money from the primary mission of classroom instruction.
"We already have a sufficient number of assessments to make educational decisions," Weseman said. "Any effort by the federal government to apply mandates ... must be blended with what we have."
He said enhancing delivery of the curriculum was a higher priority than broadened testing.
"You don't fatten the lamb by weighing it," Weseman said.
Johnston of Perry-Lecompton said most school districts didn't test all students annually because of the large cost involved. For example, the state conducts reading, writing and math assessments on students once in elementary school, once in junior high school and once in high school.
A glut of tests can get in the way of basic teaching, he said.
"Every hour used for testing, it's an hour not teaching," Johnston said.
Loren Lutes of Oskaloosa said the district gave its students a special assessment in grades two through eight. Those results, combined with state assessments, are used to direct district resources in a way that best meets students' needs, he said.
A whole new battery of tests could overwhelm children, Lutes said.
"We have to watch that now even with the current state testing," he said.