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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

January 16, 2015 at 4:45 PM

Murray defends annual tests, quiet on score use in evaluations

Sen. Patty Murray, who will be one of her party’s principal players as Congress works to reauthorize the law known as No Child Left Behind, talked about the law in Seattle on Friday, following her speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier this week.

After reading to some first-graders at Seattle’s Madrona K-8 School, Murray basically reiterated what she said in the other Washington — including not revealing her views on whether student test scores should be part of teacher evaluations.

While Murray said she thinks the No Child law is “badly broken,” she continued to stay quiet on the contentious issue of using student test scores to help gauge teacher effectiveness. Last year, Washington became the first state to lose its waiver from the No Child law’s requirements because lawmakers here refused to require school districts use test scores as part of teacher evaluations.   Many states have been granted waivers from most of the law’s requirements since 2007, after Congress failed to reauthorize the law on schedule.

When asked whether she supported requiring school districts to use test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations, Murray said that’s a decision for state legislatures.

“But really, the answer to your question is we need to fix No Child Left Behind, so that those issues are not what we have a dividing line (over),” she said.

As a result of losing the waiver, Washington school districts lost authority over how they can spend about $40 million in federal funds. Many parents also received letters saying their children’s schools were failing.  (Under the law, any school in which all students weren’t on grade level in reading and math by 2014 is judged sub par.)

On Friday, Murray said she “spent a great deal of time on the phone” last year trying to convince U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to reissue a waiver to Washington, which left it up to school districts to decide whether to use student test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations.

But, as in Washington D.C. earlier this week, Murray criticized redundant testing while defending the current requirement that students be tested each year in reading and math from third to eighth grades, and once in high school.

Murray is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Congress is preparing for what could be a major overhaul the long-stalled law.

Comments | Topics: No Child Left Behind, Patty Murray, teacher evaluations

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