Archives for category: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

Readers of this blog know that Betsy DeVos decoded, against federal law and precedent, that CARES coronavirus funding should be divided among all students, rich, middle-income, and poor. She stuck to this decision even after her fellow Republican, Senator Lamar Alexander, pointed out that the money was for the neediest students, not all students. Betsy ignored him.

It’s heartening to see that Newsweek referred to this brazen action as “looting.”

If DeVos knew anything about the history of the federal role in education, she would know that the Elementary and a Secondary Education Act of 1965 was passed specifically to fund the schools of the poorest children.

While we chastise looting, let’s chastise billionaire Betsy for looting millions from poor kids in defiance of Congressional intent.

The National Center for Education Statistics released NAEP scores in history and geography, which declined, and in civics, which were flat.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went into her customary rant against public schools, but the real culprit is a failed federal policy of high-stakes testing narrowly focused on reading and math. If DeVos were able to produce data to demonstrate that scores on the same tests were rising for the same demographic groups in charter schools and voucher schools, she might be able to make an intelligent point, but all she has is her ideological hatred of public schools.

After nearly 20 years of federal policies of high-stakes testing, punitive accountability, and federal funding of school choice, the results are in. The “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the federally-endorsed (Gates-funded) Common Core, have had no benefit for American students.


When the ESSA comes up for reauthorization, it should be revised. The standardized testing mandate should be eliminated. The original name—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—should replace the fanciful and delusional title (NCLB, ESSA), since we now know that the promise of “no child left behind” was fake, as was the claim that “every student succeeds” by complying with federally mandated testing.

Restore also the original purpose of the act in 1965: EQUITY. That is, financial help for the schools that enroll the poorest children, so they can have small classes, experienced teachers, a full curriculum including the arts and recess, a school nurse, a library and librarian, a psychologist and social worker.

Here is the report from Politico Morning Education:

MANY STUDENTS ARE STRUGGLING’: Average scores for eighth-graders on the Nation’s Report Card declined in U.S. history and geography between 2014 and 2018 while scores in civics remained flat, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The results follow disappointing scores for math and reading released in October.

— “The results provided here indicate that many students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, the historical significance of events, and the need to grasp and apply core geographic concepts,” stated Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, which runs the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as The Nation’s Report Card.

— The digitally based assessments were administered from January to March 2018 to a nationally representative sample of eighth-graders from about 780 schools. The results are available at They will be discussed at a livestreamed event, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in a statement, said “America’s antiquated approach to education is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional. We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America

Open the link to find links to the NAEP reports.

No Child Left Behind will be recognized in time as the most colossal failure in federal education policy, whose disastrous effects were amplified by Race to the Top.

Its monomaniacal focus on test scores warped education. RTT just made it worse and left a path of destruction in urban districts.

And the gains were, as a new study reports, modest and diminished over time.

Anyone familiar with Campbell’s Law could have predicted this result. Social scientist Donald T. Campbell wrote:

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

Campbell also wrote:

“Achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways. (Similar biases of course surround the use of objective tests in courses or as entrance examinations.)”

Scores on NAEP rose modestly for a few years but went flat in 2015 and again in 2017.

Arne Duncan is traversing the country and TV boasting of his success and asserting that American education is built on lies. He should know. The biggest lie was NCLB. The second biggest lie was Race to the Top. The third biggest lie is ESSA.

The belief that threats and rewards will produce better education is not just a lie. It is stupid.

This is a first for me. I never posted anything from Breitbart, the website of the alt-right. But friends pointed me to this post there, which says that Trump soppoers oppose Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz, because they both supported Common Core. Rhee even included David Coleman, the architect of Common Core, on the board of her “StudentsFirst” group, along with Jason Zimba, lead writer of the Common Core math standards. The most prominent Republican supporter of Common Core was or is Jeb Bush, whose former commissioner of education is on Trump’s short list.

Anti-Common Core activists say they supported Trump because he promised to get rid of Common Core. They prefer Williamson (Bill) Evers, who has a long history of opposing Common Core.

I know Bill Evers. I worked with him as a member of the Koret Task Force on Education at the Hoover Institution. He is a nice guy, not a foaming-at-the-mouth ideologue. He supports school choice and opposes Common Core. He worked in Iraq for the Coalition Provisional Authority as an education advisor. President a George W. Bush named him as an Assistant Secretary of Education. He is a libertarian, less likely to trample local control, and less problematic than some of the other names that have been mentioned.

Trump and his allies don’t seem to know that the federal government can’t get rid of Common Core. It was foisted on the states by Arne Duncan and Race to the Top, but the decision about whether to keep it, revise it, or abandon it belongs to the states, not the Feds.

You may have read that Louisiana’s famous, controversial, ballyhooed Recovery School District has been dissolved. Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina, the district comprised of charter schools is being returned to the districts from which they were drawn. Most are in New Orleans and will be returned to the Orleans Parish School Board.


Can it be true? Are the charter champions really giving up their struggle? John White knows. He is the State Commissioner who regularly boasts about the miracle of the RSD. But he is not telling.


Michael Klonsky has his doubts. So does Karran Harper Royal.



Mercedes Schneider has written two versions.


Here is a brief overview.


Here is her close analysis of the law. 







Mercedes Schneider has read the new Every Student Succeeds Act, every word of it.


She has three major concerns:


First, the bill requires 95% participation in state tests. It is vague about parents’ rights to opt their children out of the test. States can ask for waivers, but this puts them, as she puts it, “at the mercy of” the Secretary of Education.


Second, she is worried about the security of data that the U.S. Department of Education collects. It has confidential data on every student and teacher. In a recent hearing, Congressmen mentioned that the Department’s data system had been hacked in the past. Why trust them now?


Third, ESSA is as charter-friendly as NCLB. Certainly, the Department is eager to shovel millions, hundreds of millions to charters. Mercedes cites the recent decision of ED to give $71 million to Ohio charters, even as the state’s charter industry was experienced a series of charter scandals. Clearly, the Department is good at talking standards, but its own standards are mighty low.

Mercedes Schneider did a neat job of locating the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It was 32 pages long.


The new Every Student Succeeds Act is 1,061 pages long. Nothing wrong with that, except not many people have the time to read such a lengthy and complicated piece of legislation. That is not good for democracy. When a law is so complex that educated citizens do not have time to read it, only those with a strong interest read the parts that affect them.


And the original bill included this clear language:


Near the end of the 1965 ESEA document is the following:


FEDERAL CONTROL OF EDUCATION PROHIBITED SEC. 604. Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.


Arne Duncan has certainly pushed the envelope on this one.


The main purpose of the original ESEA was equitable resources for the poorest students. Title I.


Title I has survived, but ESEA has morphed into a testing and accountability bill, especially since 1994, when states were required to develop standards and accountability systems. Then came the horrible NCLB, which created unprecedented demands for testing and accountability, enforced by the federal government with threats of cutting off federal aid.


Now ESSA returns to the states the decisions about how to use the results of tests, but it still mandates annual tests and 95% participation. Sadly, only 1% of students with disabilities will qualify for exemptions from state testing.


It has been a long journey, and it is not over yet.


After the passage of fifty years and many federal dollars, poor and black children continue to sit in overcrowded classrooms and to lack the basic necessities of schooling. If you don’t believe me, read this graphic portrait of Philadelphia’s filthy public schools. What suburb would permit such horrific conditions?


The Network for Public Education and the NPE Action Fund believe in transforming public education so that it works to meet the needs of all children. Both organizations oppose high-stakes testing and privatization.


The NPE Action Fund has watched closely as Congress works to revise the federal law called No Child Left Behind and to correct the destructive assaults on education and educators found in Race to the Top. We hope both NCLB and Race to the Top will be consigned to the dustbin of history, for historians to dissect as a classic example of why politicians should respect the work of educators and not assume that they know more than teachers and principals. We believe that the current legislative proposal can be greatly improved. We urge you to contact your Senators and members of the House of Representatives about some serious flaws in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka NCLB).


Here are some of the key issues that should be revised:


Unfortunately the bill continues the annual mandate for testing in grades 3-8, and a waiver will still be needed if states want to give alternative assessments to more than one percent of their students with disabilities and English Language Learners after one year. The reality is many state exams are neither valid nor diagnostically useful for many of these students.


The Network for Public Education has consistently opposed annual testing, a practice not found in any of the world’s high-performing nation. In earlier statements, we supported grade-span testing–once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school. We would prefer that teachers control testing and decide how much is just right, with little or no use of standardized testing except for diagnostic purposes, not for ranking and rating students, teachers, principals, or schools.


In addition, there are some new provisions that we are very concerned about:


The bill appears to require that “academic standards” including proficiency rates and growth based on state test scores, must count for at least 51% of any state’s accountability system. Some observers say that the bill would allow the Secretary of Education to determine the exact percentage of each factor in a state accountability system. This is not acceptable. Every state should be allowed to decide on its own system, including what percent to give standardized tests.

The bill would also allow states to use Title II funds, now meant for class size reduction and teacher quality initiatives, for Social Impact bonds, which amount to another profiteering scheme for Wall Street to loot our public schools. Recently, the New York Times reported on how Goldman Sachs helped fund a preschool program in Utah with Social Impact bonds. Goldman Sachs will now make hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on a flawed study that purported to show that 99 percent of these students will not require special education services – a far higher percent than any previous study. We vehemently oppose the inclusion of this provision in ESEA. If preschool is worth funding, and we believe that it is, it should be paid for by public funds and not provide another way for Wall Street profiteers to drain resources from our public schools.


We would also like Congress to strengthen federal protection for student privacy, which were weakened by changes in the regulations governing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in 2011. Students’ personally identifiable data should not be released to third parties without the consent of his or her parents.


As I previously explained, the Network for Public Education has split into two separate organization: The Network for Public Education is a tax-deductible, charitable organization that will soon have its own c(3) status and is currently hosted by Voices for Education in Tucson, which does have c(3) status. Carol Burris, who recently retired as Principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, New York, is the executive director.


The other organization, the NPE Action Fund, was created to endorse candidates and engage in political activity on behalf of public education. It will be a c(4), and contributions to it will not be tax-deductible. The NPE Action Fund does not have money to give to candidates, but we vet candidates and endorse those we believe to be sincerely devoted to the improvement of public schools, not their privatization. Any candidate for state or local school board or any office should apply to its executive director, Robin Hiller, to learn how to obtain the NPE endorsement.


FairTest has been the staunchest, most persistent critic of standardized testing for decades. Monty Neill explains here why FairTest supports ESSA, with full recognition of its faults.


He writes:


“From an assessment reform perspective, FairTest is convinced that the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) now before the House and Senate, though far from perfect, improves on current testing policy. The bill significantly reduces federal accountability mandates and opens the door for states to overhaul their own assessment systems.


“Failure to pass this bill in 2015 means NCLB and waivers will continue to wreak havoc for at least another several years.


“The primary improvement would be in “accountability.” The unrealistic “Adequate Yearly Progress” annual test score gain requirement would be gone, as would be all the federally mandated punitive sanctions imposed on schools and teachers. States will be free to end much of the damage to educational quality and equity they built into their systems to comply with NCLB and waivers. Waivers to NCLB would end as of Aug. 1, 2016. (Other provisions of the bill would take effect over the coming summer and fall.)


“Another modest win would be federal recognition of the right for parents to opt their children out of tests in states that allow it. While a 95 percent test-participation provision remains, states will decide what happens to schools that do not meet the threshold. (The feds had already backed down from enforcing this dictate.)….


“A dangerous requirement to rank schools continues. Worse, rankings must be based predominantly on student scores. High school rankings must include graduation rates, and all schools must incorporate English learners’ progress towards English proficiency. This data must be broken out by “subgroup” status. However, states must incorporate at least one additional indicator of school quality (such as school climate or student engagement) and can include multiple such indicators….


“Meanwhile, up to seven states will be able to fundamentally overhaul their assessments right away, with additional states allowed to join this pilot program after three years. States could design systems that rely primarily on local, teacher-developed performance assessments (as does the New York Performance Standards Consortium). New Hampshire already has a waiver from NCLB to do that, starting with allowing pilot districts to administer the state test in only three grades. For all grades, the pilots employ a mix of state and local teacher designed performance tasks, an approach with great potential.


“The new law also bars the U.S. Secretary of Education from intervening in most aspects of state standards, assessment, accountability and improvement. Given Secretary Arne Duncan’s history (and the track record in New York state of his soon-to-be acting successor, John King), that seems a good thing.”


The law is not ideal. But it is far better than NCLB or the failed Race to Nowhere. And we can keep fighting for a better law and resisting at the local level by opting out.

Here is a report from the Washington Post on the accountability features of the Every Student Succeeds Act.


“Specifically, under the Every Student Succeeds Act:


“The testing regime remains in place.


“States would still be required, as they are now, to test students annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and publicly report the scores according to race, income, ethnicity, disability and whether students are English-language learners.
“States get to set their own academic goals.

“Where No Child Left Behind set forth one goal for the nation — 100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2014 — the new bill would require each state to set and measure progress toward its own academic goals.
“Test scores still matter, but how much is up to the states. States would be charged with designing systems for judging schools. Each system would have to include measures of academic progress, including test scores, graduation rates and (for non-native English speakers) English language acquisition. But it would also have to include a measure of school climate, such as student engagement or access to advanced courses. All of the academic indicators together must count for “much” more than the non-academic factor, but the definition of “much” is not clear.
“What should be done in schools that are struggling will be up to states and districts. Under No Child Left Behind, a school could get dinged if just one of its subgroups failed to meet annual testing goals, and the federal government exercised a lot of say in what happened in persistently failing schools. Under the new bill, it’s likely that fewer schools will be required to be marked for interventions, and it’s up to states and, in many cases, districts to decide what to do to improve those schools. Schools marked for the most intensive interventions would be those among the lowest-performing 5 percent in the state, those in which fewer than two-thirds of students graduate on time, and those in which a subgroup of students “consistently underperforms.” It’s up to each state to determine how long a group of students would have to lag before the school would be required to take action.
“What happens if lots of kids opt out of testing?

“Again, it’s up to the state. Under No Child Left Behind, a school automatically got a black eye if it failed to test at least 95 percent of its eligible students. The aim was to ensure that principals and teachers weren’t discouraging low performers from showing up on test day in order to boost scores. The new bill maintains the 95 percent requirement, but states can decide how participation rates should figure into their overall school rating system.”