Archives for category: Every Student Succeeds Act

Veteran educator Nancy Bailey has some very clear ideas about the next Secretary of Education. All her proposals are premised on Trump’s defeat, since billionaire Betsy DeVos would want to hang on and finish the job of destroying public schools and enriching religious and private schools.

Let’s hope that the next Secretary of Education has the wisdom and vision to liberate children and teachers from the iron grip of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, High-stakes testing, privatization, and a generation of failed federal policies.

Bailey begins:

During this critical time in American history, that individual should be a black or brown woman, who has been a teacher of young children, and who understands child development. She should hold an education degree and have an additional leadership degree and experience that will help her run the U.S. Department of Education.

Children deserve to see more teachers who look like they do, who will inspire them to go on and become teachers themselves. A black female education secretary will bring more diverse individuals to the field and set an example. This will benefit all students.

Many individuals, including accomplished black men, have brilliant minds, and understand what we need in the way of democratic public education. Leadership roles should await them in the U.S. Department of Education, in schools, universities, or states and local education departments.

But with the fight for Black Lives to Matter and for an end to gender inequality, a knowledgeable black woman with a large heart to embrace these times should take this spot. The majority of teachers have always been women, and while men are critical to being role models for children and teens, it is time for a black woman to lead.

We have had eleven education secretaries, and only three of them have been women, including Shirley Hufstedler, Margaret Spellings, and Betsy DeVos. None of these women were educators or had experience in the classroom. Only two African American men have been in this role, and neither of them could be considered authentic teachers and educators. Both had the goal to undermine public schools.

The time is now for a black female education secretary who will set a positive example and be the face of the future for children from all gender and cultural backgrounds.

David Berliner and Gene Glass are leaders of the American education research community. Their books are required reading in the field. They shared with me their thoughts about the value of annual testing in 2021. I would add only one point: if Trump is voted out in November, Jim Blew and Betsy DeVos will have no role in deciding whether to demand or require the annual standardized testing regime in the spring of 2021. New people who are, hopefully, wiser and more attuned to the failure of standardized testing over 20 years, will take their place.

Glass and Berliner write:

Why Bother Testing in 2021?

Gene V Glass
David C. Berliner

At a recent Education Writers Association seminar, Jim Blew, an assistant to Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, opined that the Department is inclined not to grant waivers to states seeking exemptions from the federally mandated annual standardized achievement testing. States like Michigan, Georgia, and South Carolina were seeking a one year moratorium. Blew insisted that “even during a pandemic [tests] serve as an important tool in our education system.” He said that the Department’s “instinct” was to grant no waivers. What system he was referring to and important to whom are two questions we seek to unravel here.

Without question, the “system” of the U.S. Department of Education has a huge stake in enforcing annual achievement testing. It’s not just that the Department’s relationship is at stake with Pearson Education, the U.K. corporation that is the major contractor for state testing, with annual revenues of nearly $5 billion. The Department’s image as a “get tough” defender of high standards is also at stake. Pandemic be damned! We can’t let those weak kneed blue states get away with covering up the incompetence of those teacher unions.

To whom are the results of these annual testings important? Governors? District superintendents? Teachers?

How the governors feel about the test results depends entirely on where they stand on the political spectrum. Blue state governors praise the findings when they are above the national average, and they call for increased funding when they are below. Red state governors, whose state’s scores are generally below average, insist that the results are a clear call for vouchers and more charter schools – in a word, choice. District administrators and teachers live in fear that they will be blamed for bad scores; and they will.

Fortunately, all the drama and politicking about the annual testing is utterly unnecessary. Last year’s district or even schoolhouse average almost perfectly predicts this year’s average. Give us the average Reading score for Grade Three for any medium or larger size district for the last year and we’ll give you the average for this year within a point or two. So at the very least, testing every year is a waste of time and money – money that might ultimately help cover the salary of executives like John Fallon, Pearson Education CEO, whose total compensation in 2017 was more than $4 million.

But we wouldn’t even need to bother looking up a district’s last year’s test scores to know where their achievement scores are this year. We can accurately predict those scores from data that cost nothing. It is well known and has been for many years – just Google “Karl R. White” 1982 – that a school’s average socio-economic status (SES) is an accurate predictor of its achievement test average. “Accurate” here means a correlation exceeding .80. Even though a school’s racial composition overlaps considerably with the average wealth of the families it serves, adding Race to the prediction equation will improve the prediction of test performance. Together, SES and Race tell us much about what is actually going on in the school lives of children: the years of experience of their teachers; the quality of the teaching materials and equipment; even the condition of the building they attend.

Don’t believe it? Think about this. In a recent year the free and reduced lunch rate (FRL) at the 42 largest high schools in Nebraska was correlated with the school’s average score in Reading, Math, and Science on the Nebraska State Assessments. The correlations obtained were FRL & Reading r = -.93, FRL & Science r = -.94, and FRL & Math r = -.92. Correlation coeficients don’t get higher than 1.00.

If you can know the schools’ test scores from their poverty rate, why give the test?

In fact, Chris Tienken answered that very question in New Jersey. With data on household income, % single parent households, and parent education level in each township, he predicted a township’s rates of scoring “proficient” on the New Jersy state assessment. In Maple Shade Township, 48.71% of the students were predicted to be proficient in Language Arts; the actual proficiency rate was 48.70%. In Mount Arlington township, 61.4% were predicted proficient; 61.5% were actually proficient. And so it went. Demographics may not be destiny for individuuals, but when you want a reliable, quick, inexpensive estimate of how a school, township, or district is doing in terms of their achievement scores on a standardized test of acheievement, demographics really are destiny, until governments at many levels get serious about addressing the inequities holding back poor and minority schools!

There is one more point to consider here: a school can more easily “fake” its achievement scores than it can fake its SES and racial composition. Test scores can be artificially raised by paying a test prep company, or giving just a tiny bit more time on the test, looking the other way as students whip out their cell phones during the test, by looking at the test before hand and sharing some “ideas” with students about how they might do better on the tests, or examining the tests after they are given and changing an answer or two here and there. These are not hypothetical examples; they go on all the time.

However, don’t the principals and superintendents need the test data to determine which teachers are teaching well and which ones ought to be fired? That seems logical but it doesn’t work. Our colleague Audrey Amrein Beardsley and her students have addressed this issue in detail on the blog VAMboozled. In just one study, a Houston teacher was compared to other teachers in other schools sixteen different times over four years. Her students’ test scores indicated that she was better than the other teachers 8 times and worse than the others 8 times. So, do achievement tests tell us whether we have identified a great teacher, or a bad teacher? Or do the tests merely reveal who was in that teacher’s class that particualr year? Again, the makeup of the class – demographics like social class, ethnicity, and native language – are powerful determiners of test scores.

But wait. Don’t the teachers need the state standardized test results to know how well their students are learning, what they know and what is still to be learned? Not at all. By Christmas, but certainly by springtime when most of the standardized tests are given, teachers can accurately tell you how their students will rank on those tests. Just ask them! And furthermore, they almost never get the information about their students’ acheievement until the fall following the year they had those students in class making the information value of the tests nil!

In a pilot study by our former ASU student Annapurna Ganesh, a dozen 2nd and 3rd grade teachers ranked their children in terms of their likely scores on their upcoming Arizona state tests. Correlations were uniformly high – as high in one class as +.96! In a follow up study, with a larger sample, here are the correlations found for 8 of the third-grade teachers who predicted the ranking of their students on that year’s state of Arizona standardized tests:

Screen Shot 2020-08-11 at 12.16.01 PMIn this third grade sample, the lowest rank order coefficient between a teacher’s ranking of the students and the student’s ranking on the state Math or Reading test was +.72! Berliner took these results to the Arizona Department of Education, informing them that they could get the information they wanted about how children are doing in about 10 minutes and for no money! He was told that he was “lying,” and shown out of the office. The abuse must go on. Contracts must be honored.


Predicting rank can’t tell you the national percentile of this child or that, but that information is irrelevant to teachers anyway. Teachers usually know which child is struggling, which is soaring, and what both of them need. That is really the information that they need!

Thus far as we argue against the desire our federal Department of Education to reinstitute achievement testing in each state, we neglected to mention a test’s most important characteristic—its validity. We mention here, briefly, just one type of validity, content validity. To have content validity students in each state have to be exposed to/taught the curriculum for which the test is appropriate. The US Department of Education seems not to have noticed that since March 2020 public schooling has been in a bit of an upheaval! The chances that each district, in each state, has provided equal access to the curriculm on which a states’ test is based, is fraught under normal circumstances. In a pandemic it is a remarkably stupid assumption! We assert that no state achievement test will be content valid if given in the 2020-2021 school year. Furthermore, those who help in administering and analyzing such tests are likely in violation of the testing standards of the American Psycholgical Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education. In addition to our other concerns with state standardized tests, there is no defensible use of an invalid test. Period.

We are not opposed to all testing, just to stupid testing. The National Assessment Governing Board voted 12 to 10 in favor of administering NAEP in 2021. There is some sense to doing so. NAEP tests fewer than 1 in 1,000 students in grades 4, 8, and 12. As a valid longitudinal measure, the results could tell us the extent of the devastation of the Corona virus.

We end this essay with some good news. The DeVos Department of Education position on Spring 2021 testing is likely to be utterly irrelevant. She and assistant Blew are likely to be watching the operation of the Department of Education from the sidelines after January 21, 2021. We can only hope that members of a new admistration read this and understand that some of the desperately needed money for American public schools can come from the huge federal budget for standardized testing. Because in seeking the answer to the question “Why bother testing in 2021?” we have necessarily confronted the more important question: “Why ever bother to administer these mandated tests?”

We hasten to add that we are not alone in this opinion. Among measurement experts competent to opine on such things, our colleagues at the National Education Policy Center likewise question the wisdom of a 2021 federal government mandated testing.

Chalkbeat reports that Colorado has canceled state academic tests for 2020.

Colorado will cancel state tests in light of coronavirus school closures, officials say

Any state that insists on giving the federally-mandated tests should be prepared to answer how they expect to test children who have been out of school for several weeks without instruction.

Under the best of circumstances, the scores reveal little more than family income and education. In the current circumstances, what will they mean? Nothing, although the differences between haves and have-nots might be accentuated.

Best course of action for every state: Cancel the tests now and focus instead on making sure that students have food, social supports, and access to medical care.

Cancel the tests. Care for students.


Alfie Kohn has written many books critical of competition and ranking in schools. This article appeared in the New York Times.


For a generation now, school reform has meant top-down mandates for what students must be taught, enforced by high-stakes standardized tests and justified by macho rhetoric — “rigor,” “raising the bar,” “tougher standards.”

Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose that next year virtually every student passed the tests. What would the reaction be from politicians, businesspeople, the media? Would these people shake their heads in admiration and say, “Damn, those teachers must be good!”?

Of course not. Such remarkable success would be cited as evidence that the tests were too easy. In the real world, when scores have improved sharply, this has indeed been the reaction. For example, when results on New York’s math exam rose in 2009, the chancellor of the state’s Board of Regents said, “What today’s scores tell me is not that we should be celebrating,” but instead “that New York State needs to raise its standards.”

The inescapable, and deeply disturbing, implication is that “high standards” really means “standards that all students will never be able to meet.” If everyone did meet them, the standards would just be ratcheted up again — as high as necessary to ensure that some students failed.

The standards-and-accountability movement is not about leaving no child behind. To the contrary, it is an elaborate sorting device, intended to separate wheat from chaff. The fact that students of color, students from low-income families and students whose first language isn’t English are disproportionately defined as chaff makes the whole enterprise even more insidious.

But my little thought experiment uncovers a truth that extends well beyond what has been done to our schools in the name of “raising the bar.” We have been taught to respond with suspicion whenever all members of any group are successful. That’s true even when we have no reason to believe that corners have been cut. In America, excellence is regarded as a scarce commodity. Success doesn’t count unless it is attained by only a few.

One way to ensure this outcome is to evaluate people (or schools, or companies, or countries) relative to one another. That way, even if everyone has done quite well, or improved over time, half will always fall below the median — and look like failures.

Kohn quite rightly concludes that the nature of the standards-and-accountability regime of federal policy (No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act) requires that most children are left behind, most children will never reach the top, and most children will not succeed. The reliance on standardized testing, normed on a bell curve, guarantees that outcome.


Betsy DeVos’ team warned Arizona that it could lose $340 million in federal funding if it persists in offering options to students taking standardized tests. The state has to pick one test for high school students—either the state test, SAT or ACT-or it may lose Title 1 funding for disadvantaged students.

Leave aside the fact that the SAT and the ACT are designed for college admission, not as a high school accountability test. Leave aside the fact that all standardized tests are normed on a bell curve to produce “winners” and “losers” and are completely misaligned as high school tests of competency. Leave aside that using these two commercial tests is a multimillion dollar windfall for two private testing corporations.

The federal government should not be holding any state hostage over its decision about how or whether to use certain tests. It should not threaten to withhold funding for the neediest students to force states to do what the U.S. Department of Education or Congress prefers. Congress should use its powers to protect the civil rights of students, not to interfere in how to educate students, a subjectwhereit is woefully and demonstrably ignorant.

This is a stellar example of federal control of education, which was banned by federal law in the early 1970s. Using a standardized test to judge the “success” of every student will predictably rank students by family income with only rare exceptions. The students from low-income families will cluster at the bottom, along with children English-learners and students with disabilities.

This spring, Arizona allowed its districts a choice of offering the ACT, the SAT, or the state’s traditional test, the AzMerit test, at the high school level.  ESSA allows states to offer districts the option of using a nationally-recognized college entrance exam in place of the state test, but first they must meet certain technical requirements.

For instance, states must make sure that the national recognized exam (such as the ACT or SAT) measures progress toward the state’s standards at least as well as the original state test. They also must make sure that the results of the nationally-recognized exam can be compared to the state test. And they have to provide appropriate accommodations for English-language learners and students in special education. All of this is supposed to happen before the state ever allows its districts the option of an alternate test…

The department has other, big concerns about Arizona’s testing system. The state passed a law allowing its schools a choice of tests, at both the high school and elementary level. That is not kosher under ESSA, which calls for every student in the same grade to take the same test, in most cases, Brogan wrote.

What’s more, Arizona hasn’t had a single high school test for several years. Instead, students are allowed to take one of three end-of-course math and reading/language arts tests, Brogan’s letter says. The failure to offer students the same test statewide is the reason the state has been put on high-risk status.

The state needs to pick one test for high school students, Brogan says, or it may lose federal Title I funding for disadvantaged students. It’s up to Arizona to decide whether the single test is the AzMerit, the ACT, the SAT, or something else.

Congress needs to abandon its belief that tests improve outcomes and that it can use federal funding to force uniformity of testing. NCLB proved that this theory was wrong.

After almost 20 years of failure, after a decade of flat test scores, isn’t it time for the members of the Congressional education committee to reflect on the bad ideas they have been promoting and figure out that it is time to stop compelling states to adopt harmful practices? Don’t they know they are still inhaling the toxic fumes of a failed NCLB? Or do they still believe that there was a “Texas Miracle”?

I will be in Washington, D.C., on Thursday for a “discussion” about education. I put the scare quotes around discussion because the schedule is jam-packed, and there won’t be enough time for any in-depth discussion of anything. But hope springs eternal.

A few things on the program of interest.

What will Rahm Emanuel say about Chicago? Will he boast about the historic day in 2013 when he closed 50 public schools in a single day, displacing thousands of African-American children?

What will Arne Duncan tell us about how federal policy can reform the schools, after seven years of trying?

I understand this two-hour event will be live-streamed and available online.

Education in America
November 29, 2018
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Washington Post Live Center

4:00 p.m.
Opening Remarks

Kris Coratti,
Vice President
of Communications and Events, The Washington Post

4:05 p.m.
Educating in America’s Urban Cores: A View from Chicago
A case-study of the opportunities and challenges facing the city of Chicago’s public school system — from funding to demographics to violence in schools.

Rahm Emanuel,
Mayor, Chicago

Janice K. Jackson, EdD,
CEO, Chicago Public Schools @janicejackson

Moderated by
Jonathan Capehart,
Opinion Writer,
The Washington Post @CapehartJ

4:30 p.m.
The View from the
Ground: Tackling the Challenges of K-12 Schools
Educators and prominent
activists on the front lines of America’s K-12 classrooms offer perspectives on the social, academic, safety and resource challenges facing students and teachers, including the aftermath of this year’s nationwide teacher strikes. Speakers will also discuss
how access to technology affects student learning.

Lori Alhadeff,
Member, School
Board of Broward County, Florida @lorialhadeff

Geoffrey Canada,
President, Harlem
Children’s Zone

Mandy Manning,
2018 National Teacher of the Year, Joel E. Ferris High School, Spokane, Washington @MandyRheaWrites

Randi Weingarten,
President, American
Federation of Teachers @rweingarten

Moderated by
Nick Anderson,
National Education
Policy Reporter, The Washington Post @wpnick

4:55 p.m.
The Case for Social and Emotional Learning
The majority of students and young adults report that their schools are not excelling at developing their social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. This session will highlight the importance of SEL, direct from the viewpoints of today’s youth.

John Bridgeland,
Founder and CEO, Civic Enterprises

by Victoria Dinges,
Senior Vice President, Allstate Insurance Company

by Allstate Insurance Company

5:10 p.m.
Education 360:
Defining the Debates
National education leaders debate the most pressing issues facing the U.S. education system, including school choice, standardized testing and federal, state and local funding for public schools. These experts will also discuss how well K-12 institutions are preparing students for higher
education and the jobs of the future.

Bridget Terry Long,
PhD, Dean, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University @bterrylong

Robert Pondiscio,
Senior Fellow and
Vice President for External Affairs, Thomas B. Fordham Institute @rpondiscio

Diane Ravitch, PhD,
Professor, New
York University and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education (1991-1993) @DianeRavitch

Moderated by
Valerie Strauss,
Education Reporter,
The Washington Post

5:35 p.m.
The National Landscape:
Evaluating Federal and State Education Reform Efforts
Where do Washington and
the states go from here on education reform? Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former Michigan Gov. John Engler discuss the role of the federal and state governments in crafting education policy and look ahead to what’s next on the agenda
for the nation.

Arne Duncan,
Managing Partner, Emerson Collective and Former U.S. Secretary of Education (2009-2015) @arneduncan

John Engler,
Michigan State
University and Former Republican Governor of Michigan (1991-2003) @MSUPresEngler

Moderated by
Christine Emba,
Opinion Columnist
and Editor, The Washington Post @ChristineEmba

At the end of 2015, Congress finally replaced No Child Left Behind–ten years late–with a new law called Every Student Succeeds. The two names actually mean exactly the same thing, and mean nothing at all. Does anyone really believe that a federal law will cause “no child” to be “left behind,” or that “every student” will “succeed”? Washington ships out some money and some mandates, and therefore what? Hyperbole.

No Child Left Behind introduced an unprecedented level of federal control of education, a function traditionally left to the states. The federal contribution of about 10% of overall education funding enabled the government via NCLB to set conditions, specifically to require that every child in grades 3-8 must be tested in reading and math every year. Based on test scores, teachers and principals have been fired, and schools have been closed for not reaching unrealistic targets. NCLB was an intrusive, misguided, evidence-free law that was uninformed by knowledge of children, communities and pedagogy.

Arne Duncan twisted the screws on schools with his absurd Race to the Top. Education is not a race, and there is no top. But once again, the standardized tests became the measure and the purpose of education.

After 15 years of NCLB and RTTT, there is a great deal of wreckage, demoralized teachers, and widespread teacher shortages. And if the point of all that testing was to reach the top of international tests and/or close the achievement gaps among groups, it didn’t happen.

ESSA attempted to heal some of the harm done by NCLB and RTTT. It limited the power of the Secretary of education, to prevent another out-of-control Duncan. But it left in place the federal mandate for annual testing of all children in grades 3-8. This mandate has warped education for nearly two decades but civil rights groups became convinced by the the Gates Foundation that these norm-referenced tests were the pinnacle of civil rights protection. This was the height of absurdity: black and Latino children, as well as students with disabilities, are disproportionately ranked in the bottom half of the normed curve because these tests accurately reflect family income and education. Normed tests, by definition, have a top and a bottom, and the gaps never close, by design.

Pushed by DC think tanks, Democrats became convinced that the testing regime introduced by George W. Bush was the linchpin of the civil rights movement. They fought to retain Bush’s testing mandates, which themselves were based on the hoax of the fraudulent “Texas miracle.” Testing did not make Texas #1, but this fraud was the foundation of NCLB.

So Democrats insisted that the new law had to include annual testing because the civil rights groups wanted it. What a coalition: civil rights groups, Democrats, Republican accountability hawks, and Republicans eager to prove the phony claim that public schools are subpar.

And now we have ESSA. The Senate just voted to kill the accountability regulations of ESSA drafted by the Obama regulations. This post at a Education Week explains what was killed and what remains. It’s complicated. Not surprisingly, it turns out that the Obama administration staffer who wrote the defunct regulations now works for Jeb Bush’s accountability-crazed, privatization-loving “Chiefs for Change,” the most rightwing state and local superintendents.

Peter Greene explains here that it is a mess because it is a collection of generalities. No one agrees how it should be interpreted. Former Secretary John King wanted it to mean that nothing had changed with the replacement of NCLB, but Senator Alexander was not having that.

Greene says there are no heroes here, just confusion.

In the meantime, ESSA sits there, uninterpreted and unclear, a stunning example of how badly top-down rules can go wrong– if the people at the top can’t get their act together and figure out what they want the rules to mean, all you get is top-down confusion and paralysis. States, districts and schools have no way of knowing which sets of bad federal rules we’ll have to cope with, but in the meantime we have to keep doing our day to day work. Best of luck to us all.

The Senate, in a narrow vote, ditched John King’s last-ditch effort to preserve NCLB accountability by regulation.

The oddly-named Every Student Succeeds Act was intended to rein in Arne Duncan-style federal dictates. King’s prescriptive regulations about how to measure “progress,” were meant to keep Washington’s control over state accountability systems.

Despite 15 years of failed accountability policy, every Democrat voted to defend the Bush-Duncan-King regulations.

Democrats really need to understand that rating students and schools by test scores is not a civil rights issue. It is invalid and just plain dumb. It hurts the neediest students most.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act was passed, there was a bipartisan majority that agreed on reining in Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education.

Race to the Top, which was not a law but a program, gave the federal government unprecedented power to dictate what happened in public schools across the nation.

ESSA is flawed in many ways but one point is clear: It is intended to empower districts and states to make decisions (about some things, but not about annual testing, which is still mandated).

Many observers think it is wrong to take power away from the federal government because states and districts have not always been diligent in protecting the rights of children.

Apparently John King, the Secretary of Education, agrees that the federal government should hold onto the power that Congress has taken away. He is writing the regulations for implementation of ESSA, and the regulations appear to nullify parts of the law.

He got his first grilling today, before a House Committee. Representative Kline let him know how unhappy he and the committee are.

King will also appear before the Senate HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions), chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander. Senator Alexander will demand fidelity to the law. King apparently thinks that Congress can be ignored, bypassed, or fooled. Senator Alexander was Secretary of Education from 1991-1993. He will not be patient with obstruction.

Please contact your members of Congress and tell them not to allow the Department of Education to impose regulations that subvert the intentions of the Every Student Succeeds Act. FairTest has drafted the following letter and explanation. (See Valerie Strauss’s article on “The Answer Sheet” here.)

The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) has drafted regulations for implementing the accountability provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The DOE proposals would continue test-and-punish practices imposed by the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The draft over-emphasizes standardized exam scores, mandates punitive interventions not required in law, and extends federal micro-management. The draft regulations would also require states to punish schools in which larger numbers of parents refuse to let their children be tested. When DoE makes decisions that should have been set locally in partnership with educators, parents, and students, it takes away local voices that ESSA tried to restore.

You can help push back against these dangerous proposals in two ways:

First, tell DoE it must drop harmful proposed regulations. You can simply cut and paste the Comment below into DoE’s website at!submitComment;D=ED-2016-OESE-0032-0001 or adapt it into your own words. (The text below is part of FairTest’s submission.) You could emphasize that the draft regulations steal the opportunity ESSA provides for states and districts to control accountability and thereby silences the voice of educators, parents, students and others.

Second, urge Congress to monitor the regulations. Many Members have expressed concern that DoE is trying to rewrite the new law, not draft appropriate regulations to implement it. Here’s a letter you can easily send to your Senators and Representative asking them to tell leaders of Congress’ education committees to block DoE’s proposals:

Together, we can stop DoE’s efforts to extend NLCB policies that the American people and Congress have rejected.


Note: DoE website has a character limit; if you add your own comments, you likely will need to cut some of the text below:

You can cut and paste this text into the DoE website:

I support the Comments submitted by FairTest on June 15 (Comment #). Here is a slightly edited version:

While the accountability provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are superior to those in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Department of Education’s (DoE) draft regulations intensify ESSA’s worst aspects and will perpetuate many of NCLB’s most harmful practices. The draft regulations over-emphasize testing, mandate punishments not required in law, and continue federal micro-management. When DoE makes decisions that should be set at the state and local level in partnership with local educators, parents, and students, it takes away local voices that ESSA restores. All this will make it harder for states, districts and schools to recover from the educational damage caused by NLCB – the very damage that led Congress to fundamentally overhaul NCLB’s accountability structure and return authority to the states.

The DoE must remove or thoroughly revise five draft regulations:

DoE draft regulation 200.15 would require states to lower the ranking of any school that does not test 95% of its students or to identify it as needing “targeted support.” No such mandate exists in ESSA. This provision violates statutory language that ESSA does not override “a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the parent’s child participate in the academic assessments.” This regulation appears designed primarily to undermine resistance to the overuse and misuse of standardized exams.

Recommendation: DoE should simply restate ESSA language allowing the right to opt out as well as its requirements that states test 95% of students in identified grades and factor low participation rates into their accountability systems. Alternatively, DoE could write no regulation at all. In either case, states should decide how to implement this provision.

DoE draft regulation 200.18 transforms ESSA’s requirement for “meaningful differentiation” among schools into a mandate that states create “at least three distinct levels of school performance” for each indicator. ESSA requires states to identify their lowest performing five percent of schools as well as those in which “subgroups” of students are doing particularly poorly. Neither provision necessitates creation of three or more levels. This proposal serves no educationally useful purpose. Several states have indicated they oppose this provision because it obscures rather than enhances their ability to precisely identify problems and misleads the public. This draft regulation would pressure schools to focus on tests to avoid being placed in a lower level. Performance levels are also another way to attack schools in which large numbers of parents opt out, as discussed above.

DoE draft regulation 200.18 also mandates that states combine multiple indicators into a single “summative” score for each school. As Rep. John Kline, chair of the House Education Committee, pointed out, ESSA includes no such requirement. Summative scores are simplistically reductive and opaque. They encourage the flawed school grading schemes promoted by diehard NCLB defenders.

Recommendation: DoE should drop this draft regulation. It should allow states to decide how to use their indicators to identify schools and whether to report a single score. Even better, the DoE should encourage states to drop their use of levels.

DoE draft regulation 200.18 further proposes that a state’s academic indicators together carry “much greater” weight than its “school quality” (non-academic) indicators. Members of Congress differ as to the intent of the relevant ESSA passage. Some say it simply means more than 50%, while others claim it implies much more than 50%. The phrase “much greater” is likely to push states to minimize the weight of non-academic factors in order to win plan approval from DOE, especially since the overall tone of the draft regulations emphasizes testing.

Recommendation: The regulations should state that the academic indicators must count for more than 50% of the weighting in how a state identifies schools needing support.

DoE draft regulation 200.18 also exceeds limits ESSA placed on DoE actions regarding state accountability plans.

DoE draft regulation 200.19 would require states to use 2016-17 data to select schools for “support and improvement” in 2017-18. This leaves states barely a year for implementation, too little time to overhaul accountability systems. It will have the harmful consequence of encouraging states to keep using a narrow set of test-based indicators and to select only one additional “non-academic” indicator.

Recommendation: The regulations should allow states to use 2017-18 data to identify schools for 2018-19. This change is entirely consistent with ESSA’s language.

Lastly, we are concerned that an additional effect of these unwarranted regulations will be to unhelpfully constrain states that choose to participate in ESSA’s “innovative assessment” program.