Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

FairTest has posted a list of recommendations for next steps in the fight against the misuse and overuse of standardized tests.

 

The long-awaited demise of the despised and failed No Child Left Behind is gladdening, but it doesn’t end the fight against the misuse of high-stakes tests. Some states may decide to continue NCLB-ing their students and teachers because bad habits are hard to break.

 

FairTest recommends:

 

Congress will likely soon pass and President Obama sign the “Every Student Achieves Act” (ESSA). This bill is the latest version of the long-standing Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replaces the universally despised “No Child Left Behind.” The new law presents both opportunities and dangers for the testing resistance and reform movement.

 

How can the movement use the opportunities, counter the risks, and win greater assessment reform victories? The first task is to continue to build resistance to high-stakes standardized exams in every state in the nation, especially by expanding the already large numbers of test refusals. Next is to transform this movement strength into concrete victories by winning state legislation and local regulations to cut back testing, end high stakes, and implement high-quality assessments.

 

ESSA pushes decision-making power about most aspects of accountability from federal education officials to the states and localities. It will take strong and savvy organizing to win needed changes. Here are some ways activists can bring positive change and avoid the law’s dangers.

 

Push for far fewer state and local tests:

 

Movement activists should organize to win these goals:

 

– No state standardized tests beyond those mandated by ESSA.

 

– No standardized local interim, benchmark, predictive, formative, or other such tests, including those embedded in commercial on-line curricula.

 

– A ban on standardized testing in pre-K through grade 3.

 

– Transparency in the number, and uses of tests, and time spent on test preparation

 

While ESSA mandates 17 tests (grades 3-8 in reading and math, plus three grades for science), states and districts require many more. A recent study shows the average public school student takes 112. With fewer federal accountability mandates, states and districts will be under less pressure to test incessantly. ESSA also contains funding for states and districts to evaluate and reduce their testing programs.

 

Organize to end your state or district’s high-stakes testing mandates:

 

– End state requirements that students pass standardized exams to graduate or be promoted to the next grade, as many states already are. These are not required by federal law or regulations.

 

– End requirements to judge educators by student standardized exam scores. ESSA eliminated any federal mandate for test-based teacher evaluation. Now activists must incorporate this change locally by preventing states from deciding to perpetuate these dangerous policies.

 

– Fight for tests to be no more than 51% of the weight in your state’s formula for ranking schools (the minimum percentage allowed under ESSA). Ensure that other indicators are educationally sound, and that states provide assistance (including additional funding), not punishment, to schools identified as “low performers.” ESSA does require states to rank all schools and act to improve the lowest performing, but the types of interventions are no longer specified in federal law.

 

Win better assessment:

 

Push to have your state become one of the seven that will be allowed to completely overhaul their testing systems under ESSA pilot programs. Ensure that the overhaul includes primarily locally-based, teacher-controlled assessments, such as projects and portfolios. The New York Performance Standards Consortium is currently the best U.S. example of educator-controlled performance assessments.

 

Get your state to pass an opt-out law:

 

In 2015, a few more states, including Oregon [link to statute] passed laws recognizing the right of parents to hold their children out of standardized testing, while similar opt-out bills advanced in one or both houses of several other legislatures. ESSA recognizes that families can refuse testing if a state has an opt-out law. The new law does mandate 95% test participation, but leaves it up to the states to decide what to do if a school or district does not reach that threshold. At a minimum, activists should organize to block moves to punish students who opt out or schools and districts with low participation rates.

 

Use elections to raise issues:

 

Use the 2016 election cycle to hold incumbents and challengers accountable for implementing assessment reform. Groups with appropriate tax status should consider endorsing/opposing candidates based on their positions on testing. Activists, including tax-exempt groups, can use questionnaires, candidate forums, bird-dogging, and letters to the editor to force candidates to take clear positions.

 

Recognize and Block ESSA’s Dangers:

 

ESSA allows states to use federal assessment funding to revise their testing programs modestly, such as by adding tasks, portfolios and formative assessments. However, these tools are generally intended to be incorporated into standardized tests, as with the PARCC and SBAC Common Core exams. Performance assessments cannot fulfill their promise if they become mere adjuncts to current state exams. Similarly, a provision allowing districts to use a college admission test such as the ACT or SAT as the required high school exam must be treated with caution; those tests are no better educationally than existing state tests, and they have not been validated to assess high school academic performance.

 

Corporations such as Pearson and the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are promoting a dangerous version of “performance assessments.” They have perverted ideas developed by progressive educators, and the language used to describe them, such as “performance tasks” and “embedded” and “formative” assessments, to promote centrally controlled, largely on-line testing and instruction. The movement must strenuously resist these maneuvers, not by abandoning the fight for high-quality assessments or the labels we use for them, but by distinguishing educationally helpful from harmful practices.

 

The Next Reauthorization: ESSA is due to be reviewed by Congress in 2020. It is not too early to think about what kind of federal law can be won as the movement builds more clout and wins more victories at the state and local level.

 

 

Peter Greene wonders why the excitement over the Every Student Succeeds Act (replacing No Child Left Behind, which says the same thing). How do you spell NCLB backwards? ESSA.

 

If the Tea Party and right-wing extremists control your state, you still have to fight for the survival of public schools and professional educators.

 

The ESSA doesn’t settle anything. It doesn’t solve anything. Every argument and battle that supporters of public schools (and the teachers and students whowork and learn in public schools) will still be fought– the difference is that now those arguments will be held in state capitols instead of Washington DC.

 

Depending on your state, that may be good news. Or it may be that the best we can say is that your state government isn’t any worse, and they live closer to you.

 

There are definite advantages. State government officials are easier to find, to get to, to contact, to talk to. When a single state decides to implement terrible policy, they won’t be implementing it for the entire country. And there are now plenty of groups that have become very accomplished and effective at making themselves heard in their home state (looking at you, New York opt outers).

 

Both those who love it and those who hate it, I think, missing the most important feature. ESSA replaces a great deal of the old “you must do” this language with “you may do this” language and even “you could get money for this but you have several choices here” language.

 

ESSA makes it possible to take many important steps forward. It also makes it possible for states to step backward. The steps that are taken will be decided state by state, and the same players who have worked hard to break down public education are still right there, still well-funded, still fully committed to the goals they have pursued for over a decade. It is absolutely critical that advocates for public education keep the pressure up on state governments. Congress has taken an unprecedented step in returning some power and control to the states; now we have to make sure that power is well used and that all students, schools and teachers receive the support and the tools needed to do the job we signed up to do.

 

The struggle is not over. It has just shifted venue. Get ready for the next rounds of debate– all fifty of them. The one big change is the, unlike its predecessors, ESSA mandates relatively few things. But it opens the doors of opportunity wide to many many things, both good and bad. It’s up to all of us to be vigilant about what walks through those doors.

 

 

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. rhiller@voicesforeducation.org.

 

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.”

 

 

Beverley Holden Johns is a nationally recognized expert on special education. She is alarmed that the new “Every Student Succeeds Act” permits states to engage in “pay for success” plans, where investors earn money by not referring students for the services they need. Get on the phone to your Senators and Congressmen at once to stop this money-making scheme.

 

Johns writes:

 

 

As we just passed its 40th birthday, special education faces perhaps its greatest threat since the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA), now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was signed into law.

 

The new No Child Left Behind bill, S. 1177, as reported by the Conference Committee between the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House includes the permissive use of Federal funds by States and by local school districts of Pay for Success.

 

Title I, Part D
‘‘(A) may include—
‘‘(i) the acquisition of equipment;
‘‘(ii) pay-for-success initiatives;”

 

Funded by Goldman Sachs, Pay for Success in Utah
denied special education to over 99 percent of the
students that were in the early childhood Pay for Success program.

 

Goldman Sachs has received a first payment of over
$250,000 based on over 99 percent of students NOT being identified for special education.

 

Based on these results, Goldman Sachs may receive
an over 100 percent return on its investment as it
will receive yearly payments based on students
continuing to NOT be identified for special education (multiple yearly payments for one student).

 

“If special education is reduced to less than 1 percent of students, for all practical purposes it will cease to exist,” says Bev Johns, Chair of the Illinois Special Education Coalition.

 

Goldman Sachs has also funded a Pay for Success
program for the Chicago Public Schools based on
paying Goldman on the number of students NOT
identified for special education, but results for Chicago from that program are not yet available.

 

“Success is not the elimination of special education.
Success is not failing to identify students as needing
the specialized and individualized instruction required by IDEA,” states Johns.

 

“We simply cannot expect the general education teacher to do it all, to know it all, and to achieve academic excellence for each and every student,” says Johns.

 

“Pretending we can eliminate disability, pretending
that almost every student with a disability and their
parents will benefit WITHOUT the legal rights of IDEA which are only granted when a student is identified for special education, is to turn us back over 40 years to the time before we had State laws and then the Federal law requiring special education for each and every student with a disability,” states Johns.

 

It is possible that Pay for Success is also in other
parts of the 1,059 page S. 1177.

 

The section quoted above is in SEC. 1020 of S. 1177,
PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION PROGRAMS
FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH WHO ARE
NEGLECTED, DELINQUENT, AT-RISK
which amends Part D of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Section 1415.

 

For more information: 217-473-1790

Mercedes Schneider is one of the few people who have read all (or almost all) of the 1,000 page plus behemoth that is the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Her latest post provides valuable new information. This legislation was passed out of the Senate-House conference committee and is likely to move swiftly for full approval by both houses in the next few days or weeks. ESSA would replace No Child Left Behind, which should have been reauthorized eight years ago. It also kills off Race to the Top by stripping the Secretary of any power to impose his ideas about how to reform schools on districts and states.

 

The big change is the reduction in the role of the federal Department of Education (ED). This is the first big downsizing of the federal role since the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was passed. There are strict limitations on the power of the Secretary to meddle in state or local education matters. The shrinking of the federal role is Arne Duncan’s legacy.

 

Mercedes points out that the law is still mired in the testing-and-accountability mindset but oversight and responsibility shifts is from the federal ED to local and state governments. She says the bill is “test-centric.”

 

But there are some very good things in the bill. It puts an end to the hated No Child Left Behind and the failed Race to the Top. The bill eliminates AYP and Duncan’s waivers. States can drop out of Common Core without any penalty. No more teacher evaluation by test scores unless the states want to do it. Bill Gates will no longer have the Department of Education mandating his latest ideas. No more federal mandates about how to reform schools.

 

I know that many readers would like the law to go farther. I would like to see an end to annual testing, a practice unknown in the high-performing nations of the world. I would like to see stipulations about charter accountability and transparency. But that’s not there.

 

Nonetheless, I support the bill because it gets rid of a terrible, failed law and a terrible, failed program. The Bush-Obama era is over. Now the fight for a humane education system shifts to the states. In some states, that may seem like a herculean task. But the fact is that parents and educators have a greater chance of being heard by their state legislators than by the White House and Congress.

 

So what next? Organize, mobilize, agitate, wake the town and tell the people. Stop the privatization of public schools. Stop the testing madness. Join with organizations in your state and community that are fighting to transform the schools to places where learning, character, ethics, imagination, creativity, citizenship, and kindness are valued. Join the Network for Public Education. Find out how to make alliances with people who share  your values. We have a long way to go. The time to start is now.

 

 

Mercedes Schneider here offers the latest version of the new federal law that will replace No Child Left Behind. Prepare yourself. It is over 1,000 pages. Look for the titles that interest you. Any law that is so long has all sorts of political compromises tucked into it, and all sorts of favors to lobbyists and special interests. It is a Christmas tree, just in time for Christmas.

 

In this post, Mercedes analyzes the latest draft, the one that came out of the House-Senate conference committee and will likely be made law.

As we wait impatiently to learn what the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act will mean for classrooms across the nation, as we hold our breath while elected officials decide how public schools should function (as if they knew how), the New York Times has a wonderful parody of legislation to guarantee that our elected officials are smart enough to do their jobs.

 

It is called The Smartness Act of 2015, and it consists of tests for elected officials. If we were serious, we would require all state and federal officials to take the eighth grade mathematics test (PARCC or SBAC) and publish their scores.

 

The parody starts like this:

 

PUBLIC LAW 114–69 114th CONGRESS

 

An Act

To ensure that elected and appointed officials of State and Municipal governments are sufficiently prepared (i.e., “get it”) to enforce the Basic Skills provision of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the United States Federal government has enacted the Common Core Standards Reform Act for Government Officials.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as “The Smartness Act of 2015.”

SEC. 2. PURPOSE.

The purpose of this Act is to improve the implementation (i.e., “doing it”) of Basic Skills by establishing minimum academic standards for State and Municipal government officials that must be achieved within sixty (60) days of their taking office. It is believed that core knowledge provides a foundation for being “smart” and that smartness is in the best interests of the United States of America, now more than ever what with computers and all.

SEC. 3. RESPONSIBILITIES OF GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.

(a) Common Core Standard 1 English Language Arts (ELA)

(1) Read one (1) book in its entirety.

(A) Pop-up books, picture books, other nice books with cardboard pages, joke books, motor vehicle manuals, foldout maps and really thick magazines will not be considered in compliance with CCS1 except in the following States that have been granted waivers: Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Wyoming and any other State with legalized casino gambling.

 

(B) Cliff’s Notes, Spark Notes or other study guides will not be permitted as substitutes for reading a book except for “Beowulf,” “Middlemarch,” “Ulysses,” “The Godfather” and anything by Gabriel García Márquez. In the case of “The Godfather,” viewing the filmed versions (“The Godfather” Part 1 and Part II, but not Part III, so disappointing) will satisfy the requirement in the following States that have been granted waivers: New York, New Jersey, Florida, California and Nevada. Alternatively, line recitations as spoken by the films’ main characters (e.g., “Don’t ask me about my business, Kay”) will also satisfy the requirement in those States.

(C) The approved book must be written in English except for any book written in Latin. If you can understand Latin, go for it, Sophocles. Books whose original language is French and were translated into English will be prohibited except for “The Charterhouse of Parma,” which many government officials liked for some bizarre reason a while back, but no other French book like “Madame Bovary,” “In Search of Lost Time,” “The Stranger” or those paperbacks that look rained on and never move from the outdoor tables in Montmartre. It’s all so pretentious. Speaking of pretentious, any book by Gertrude Stein will not be in compliance with CCS1 even though, technically, she was an American and wrote in a language that sounds like it could be English. Can anyone explain “Tender Buttons”? “Stick stick call then, stick stick sticking, sticking with a chicken. Sticking in a extra succession, sticking in.” Really?

 

A time to laugh and celebrate that the dumb policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are widely recognized as failures and will soon go into the dustbin of history, where they belong. To make a better world for children and educators, the fight goes on, to replace poor leaders and failed policies, to save public education from privatization, and to make real the elusive promise of equality of educational opportunity: for all, not some.

 

 

nclb_cartoon