Mercedes Schneider has followed the development of the new federal legislation to replace the failed No Child Left Behind. She is one of the few people in the U.S. who has actually read every word of both the Senate bill and the House bill.
She concludes in this post that there will be no federal sanctions for opting out. The Congress has made clear–in both houses–that it does not want the federal Department of Education to take an activist role in punishing states. Will states punish school districts where parents rise up in rebellion against high-stakes testing. Schneider thinks not.
However, I now think that if the House and Senate conference committee whose task it will be to merge SSA and ECAA into a single bill decide against the SSA blanket opt-out and go with the state-level opt-out provision in ECAA, the federal government will not sanction states, regardless of state-level opting out.
In other words, if according to the future ESEA revision, states are supposed to set their own opt-out policy and include as much in the future ESEA Title I funding application, and if a state includes no opt-out provision in its future ESEA application yet dips below the 95 percent of students completing federally-mandated annual tests, the federal government is not likely to strong-arm states with federal sanctions.
I believe the federal government knows it has gone too far in strong-arming states via conditions attached to federal tests. For example, both the SSA and ECAA revisions include language to limit the role of the US secretary of education. The current US secretary, Arne Duncan, has actively promoted and defended Common Core and its annual tests; with the backing of President Obama, Duncan has lured states into adopting Common Core sight unseen with the lure of Race to the Top (RTTT) funds; he has paid for two Common Core testing consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced; he has made it a condition of states’ RTTT funding to use student standardized tests to evaluate teachers, and via his NCLB “waivers,” he has cornered states into agreeing to institute Common Core and its associated annual tests as well as testing teachers using test results as a condition for avoiding having the almost all schools in all states declared “failing” according to NCLB.
So, the fact that major news outlets such as the Washington Post and New York Times are doing their best to chastise those who support opting out of standardized tests is not enough to conceal what is obviously a federal blunder to make annual testing the end-all, be-all of American public education.
In its August 15, 2015, editorial, the New York Times points to possible federal penalties for New York State’s failure to test 95 percent of its students. It also notes that parents’ opting out of tests “could damage educational reform… and undermine the Common Core standards….”
Gee, that would be terrible.
It seems that the plan in New York is for state officials to put the squeeze on superintendents and principals to encourage participation in future annual tests– and to not encourage opting out. But the opt-out movement is not driven by superintendents and principals. It is driven by parents who are tired of the toll that test-centric education is taking on their children, including the artificially branding of their children as failures and the state’s allegiance to this branding…
The reality is that opting out of federally-mandated testing is not going away and likely will only continue to gain momentum across years as increasingly more children are branded American public school failures.
Test-centered American public education has had its day, and based upon the growing appeal to parents of opting their children out of mandated tests, that day has more than passed.
There was no opt-out movement throughout the heyday of test-and-punish NCLB, but there certainly is one now.
Federal and state officials need to take the hint as they formulate a non-test-centered Plan B.