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— Not another test!

The lament of many schoolchildren was echoed across a congressional hearing room as senators began working on a long overdue update to the No Child Left Behind education law.

The law, signed by President George W. Bush, dictates that states test students in reading and math in grades three to eight every year and again in high school. The results are used to judge whether schools are showing growth, and if not, they face consequences.

Many educators and parents have complained that the law led to teaching to the test and too much test preparation, but supporters of the mandate such as civil rights and business groups said it’s a critical way to ensure that historically underserved groups of students are learning before it’s too late to help them.

Complicating the issue, districts and states have required additional tests — some to chart how students are doing to prepare for the federally mandated ones.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, maintains he’s open to discussion on the issue as he seeks to get a bill to the Senate floor by late February. He said he hears from governors and school superintendents who say if the government did not dictate policy, it would be difficult for them to do, but he’s also concerned about the federal government getting in the way.

“Are there too many tests? Are they the right tests?... What should Washington, D.C. have to do with all this?” Alexander said.

Other senators on the panel such as Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, also expressed concern with the federal mandate, suggesting they are grappling with the issue.

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