Project 21 Joins NAACP In Criticizing New National Academic Tests Proposed By the Clinton Administration – September 1997

With the House of Representatives expected to vote on the Labor, Health and Human Services Education appropriations bill on Thursday, September 4, the African-American group Project 21 has joined the NAACP and others in criticizing proposed new national reading tests that will be funded by the appropriations bill for fourth graders, and new national mathematical tests for eighth graders. Except for Rep. Major Owens (D-NY), who is cosponsoring a resolution opposing the new national tests, his fellow Congressional Black Caucus members — Bill Clay (D-MO), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Robert Scott (D-VA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), and Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN) — are still pondering whether to publicly oppose the new tests.

“I believe money should be invested in the children, not more paperwork,” said Project 21 member Burgess Owens, a 10 year veteran of the National Football League and Vice-President of Summit Financial Resources. “The kids aren’t getting the education they deserve. They need to learn more, not be tested more,” concluded the Philadelphia area-based Owens.

The Clinton Administration-proposed tests are being criticized for several reasons:

1) The new tests will be developed and administered by the Department of Education without Congressional discussion, review or authorization. Critics point out that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — the random sampling of American students in several academic subjects every two years — was enacted after extensive review and consultation. Also, the NAEP is governed by an independent board, whereas the new national tests will be under the direct control of the Department of Education.

2) The problem with education today is not that students are not tested enough, but rather that they don’t perform well when they are tested. In 1997, the Federal government spent $540 million to test students. There are already two federally funded tests including the NAEP. In addition, all the states and many local school districts have their own testing programs.

3) The new national tests will not be validated. In other words, the Department of Education will not have to scientifically study whether the tests achieve the purpose for which they are designed. The NAACP argues that the poor and minorities will be most adversely affected since tests that are not validated often lead to their misuse.

4) New tests may lead to a national curriculum. A national curriculum would mean more federal control, and less local control and parental involvement. The federal government’s last attempt to set national standards — in history — proved a dismal failure as political correctness, not history, was the primary focus of the standards.

“We have enough national tests,” said the President of Americans for Family Values, Project 21’s Ezola Foster, a retired high school teacher who spent 33 years as an employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District. “We need to attack the problems the existing tests already reveal.”

In addition to skepticism expressed by the NAACP and some Congressional Black Caucus members, Bill Goodling, the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, opposes the new tests and will propose an amendment to the Education appropriations bill to block funding for them. Chairman Goodling, a former teacher, principal and school superintendent, believes, along with many of his House Republican colleagues that the tests are unnecessary, and should be subject to Congressional consultation.

For more information (including a two-page NAACP analysis critical of the tests) or an interview with a Project 21 member, contact Project 21 or visit


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