From the New York Times, an editorial that announces a startling shift in ED policy: The Trouble with Testing Mania

Congress made a sensible decision a decade ago when it required the states to administer yearly tests to public school students in exchange for federal education aid. The theory behind the No Child Left Behind Act was that holding schools accountable for test scores would force them to improve instruction for groups of children whom they had historically shortchanged.

Testing did spur some progress in student performance. But it has become clear to us over time that testing was being overemphasized — and misused — in schools that were substituting test preparation for instruction. Even though test-driven reforms were helpful in the beginning, it is now clear that they will never bring this country’s schools up to par with those of the high-performing nations that have left us far behind in math, science and even literacy instruction.

Congress required the states to give annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight (and once in high school) as a way of ensuring that students were making progress and that minority children were being fairly educated. Schools that did not meet performance targets for two years were labeled as needing improvement and subjected to sanctions. Fearing that they would be labeled poor performers, schools and districts — especially in low-income areas — rolled out a relentless series of “diagnostic” tests that were actually practice rounds for the high-stakes exams to come.

That the real tests were weak, and did not gauge the skills students needed to succeed, made matters worse.

Read more of this July 13 New York Times editorial.