Archives for category: NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

Larry Cuban writes on his blog about the most important inventions that have raised our nation’s standard of living. He poses the question that is the title of this post. He supposes that most people would respond “the smartphone,” but they would be wrong. His post is an intriguing review of a book by economic historian Robert Gordon, who contends that the century from 1870-1970 experienced greater growth and innovation than the past half century.

Cuban summarizes Gordon’s central argument:

Thus, an unheralded, stunning century of innovation and economic growth produced the telegraph, phone, television, house lighting, automobile, airplane travel, and, yes, indoor plumbing. These inventions networked the home and workplace in ways that raised living standards and increased workplace productivity considerably. It was in that same century that medical advances reduced infant mortality and lengthened life of Americans dramatically.

The half-century since 1970 has surely seen innovations that have enhanced these earlier inventions but the template for economic growth was laid down for that fruitful hundred-year period. In past decades, new technologies have clearly expanded communication and entertainment, making life far more instantaneous, convenient and pleasurable. But social media, immediate communication, and constant access to photos, video clips, and films have not increased the standard of living as had the decades between 1870-1970.

Cuban then segues to a discussion of the current reform movement in education, which traces its roots to the 1983 report “A Nation at Risk.” That report was “driven by an economic rationale–the human capital argument–for improving U.S. schools” and embraced by policymakers, business leaders, and foundations. If we didn’t improve education dramatically, we would lose our competitive edge in the world economy. And thus was born the “reform movement,” in which governors and “reformers” sought to raise curriculum and performance standards for both students and teachers, increase testing, and create accountability frameworks that included rewards and penalties in subsequent decades….

The current reforms in education and the pressure to raise test scores on international tests have not increased economic growth, stimulated productivity, or reduced inequality, writes Cuban.

In other words, reforms aimed at getting U.S. students to perform better on international tests for the past three decades–think No Child Left Behind, expanded parental choice in schools, more computers in schools, and Common Core state standards–was of little influence on growing a strong economy, raising median income, or lessening inequality, according to Gordon. These reforms, while aiding low-income minorities in many instances, overall, contributed little to improving productivity or raising standards of living

Gordon’s book concludes, writes Cuban, with a list of ten interventions that could raise the standard of living, like raising the minimum wage. Of his ten interventions three have to do with education. They are:

“…investing in preschools, state and federal school financing rather than local taxes, and reducing student indebtedness in higher education. Not a word about the dominant school reforms in 2016–Common Core standards, standardized testing, technologies in schools, charter schools, accountability.

In questioning the dominant beliefs in current school reform as essential to economic growth, Gordon’s argument and evidence are useful to those politically active decision-makers, teachers, parents, and researchers who know that a democracy needs schools that do more than prepare children and youth for the workplace.

The paradox, as Cuban suggests, is that the more we focus on test scores and workplace readiness, the more we sacrifice civic values that may be of greater importance in a democracy.

It was difficult for Congress to agree on a replacement for the failed No Child Left Behind. NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007, but it took eight long years to finally reach a bipartisan agreement.


The good part about the Every Child Succeeds Act is that it spells the end of federal punishment for schools, principals, and teachers whose students have low test scores, and it restricts the ability of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to dictate how schools should reform. There is no more AYP (adequate yearly progress); there is no more deadline of 2014 by which time every student everywhere will be proficient, which was always a hoax that no one believed in.


The bad part about ESSA is that it preserves the mindset of NCLB, a mindset that says that standards, testing and accountability are the keys to student success. They are not. NCLB proved they are not. Since “A Nation at Risk” in 1983, policymakers have been in love with the idea that this combination will cause a dramatic rise in test scores and close the achievement gap among different groups. It has done neither, yet ESSA continues the fable.


At the outset of the Senate deliberations, Senator Lamar Alexander offered a choice between annual testing, as in NCLB, and grade-span testing (e.g., grades 4, 8, 12). A group of civil rights organizations issued a statement saying that annual testing guaranteed the civil rights of disadvantaged minorities. This sealed the deal; most other organizations and the Democratic majority fell in line behind the civil rights groups. In my view, annual testing does nothing to advance civil rights; to the contrary, it labels children based on test scores and disproportionately and adversely harms children of color and children with disabilities and English language learners. These groups should have been fighting for measures other than standardized tests, but they did not.


And so the children of American remain saddled with annual testing, and states remain saddled with the enormous expense of annual testing.


My view: The federal government should not dictate any testing. The decision to test or not should be left to every state. Contrary to the belief promoted by ex-Secretary Duncan, NAEP testing gives us all the information we need based on sampling about performance in math and reading, by race, language, gender, poverty status, disability status, and also achievement gaps. Annual tests of every child are a waste of instructional time and money. They provide no useful information.


I am disappointed, though not surprised, that the law encourages more privatization of public schools by promoting the funding and expansion of privately managed charter schools. More genuine and beloved community public schools will be replaced by corporate McSchools. The new federal money plus Walton’s new $1 billion commitment, plus Eli Broad’s charter zealotry, will spur the continuing destruction of public education, especially in urban districts, but their ambition is to go beyond the big cities and into the suburbs, the exurbs, and even rural areas.


I am disappointed that the new law encourages phony “graduate” schools of education, like Relay and Match, which have no scholars, no research, nothing but charter teachers teaching charter teachers how to raise test scores. This will not improve education. It will simply expand the supply of charter school enforcers who have learned to “teach like a robot.”



I am disappointed that there are strict limits on the number of children with disabilities who can be exempted from regular state testing and given accommodations. This seems to me to be a decision that should be made at the school level, not by the federal government.


I am disappointed that the law does not permit parents to opt out of state testing. As a law written by a dominantly Republican Congress, it is surprising that it does not recognize parental rights. Furthermore, a Congress that favors choice of schools should also favor the parents’ choice to say no to testing that they believe is useless and unnecessary for their child’s education.


I would have written a different law.


I would have removed testing and accountability altogether from the law and left that to the states. Why should Congress decide how often children should be tested? What is their authority for making this decision? What knowledge do they have? If states want to know how they are doing, they can review their NAEP scores.


I would have strengthened the enforcement of civil rights and student privacy within the law.


I would have established standards for charter schools, so that they disclose their finances fully and accept students that are similar to those in the community they serve. I would have prohibited for-profit charter schools and for-profit virtual charter schools.


I would have increased funding for special education.


I would have encouraged teacher education programs to raise their standards for entry, but not by relying on standardized tests (they might look, for example, at grade-point average and essays about why the candidate wants to teach. I would have encouraged the professionalism of teachers by requiring certification in the subjects taught, as well as at least a year of student teaching, so that states were not able to drop their standards for teachers. I would have required certification for district superintendents and state superintendents.


I would have funded and required school nurses, psychologists, librarians, guidance counselors, and social workers in every Title I school. I would have expanded funding specifically for reduced class sizes in Title I schools. I would have required an arts program staffed with certified arts teachers in every school.


But instead, we are saddled with standards, testing, and accountability.


The good thing that the law does is to shift the issues to the state level (except when it doesn’t). That means that citizens have some chance to get a better perspective on education by voting out those legislators who are currently crippling public education in their states.


The outlook is that, as a result of ESSA, the states in a downward spiral–like Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, Kansas, and many more–will continue in that direction until there is a rebellion among the citizenry. ESSA gives people a chance to take action. But that’s about all it does. I’m grateful that AYP is gone; I am grateful that the timetable is gone; I am grateful that the Secretary of Education can no longer boss everyone around. I am glad that Race to the Top is gone. Otherwise, it is NCLB handed over to the states to tinker with.


After 15 years of nonstop testing and accountability, we need a new vision. ESSA is not it.



John Thompson, historians and teachers, assesses a discussion about the role of scholars in the current era of tumult in education.

He writes:

Education Week published essays by four scholars, Jeffrey Henig, Jay Greene, Jeannie Oakes, and Rick Hess, on the role of academic researchers in school improvement. While I respect all four contributors, and with the key points of the four commentaries, I found a part of Henig’s message to be unsettling, so I will get my concerns out of the way before embracing the thrust of their arguments.

Being an academic turned inner city teacher, I know the joy that can come from bringing advanced scholarship into public education. I’m not surprised by Henig’s explanation why academics would be leery of edu-politics, however, especially during this era of bitter reform wars. He writes, “Younger scholars worried that those with opposing views would wreak revenge on them.” Moreover, Henig reports:
Seasoned and secure scholars worried about being drawn into making more simplistic and extreme statements than they felt comfortable with, believing that necessary to be heard above the noisy background of claim and counterclaim. As one researcher put it to me, “Once somebody else brings a knife to the fight, you have to bring a knife to the fight, too.”

Henig correctly complains that public discourse about education has become partisan and ideological. But, I wonder what exactly does he mean when charging that the debate has become “simplistic” and “simple-minded.” And, I was downright offended by his call for “at least some reasonable voices to be heard—voices that distill and accurately reflect what research has to say.” (emphasis mine) Speaking only for our side of the reform wars, teachers and unions are not just (belatedly) bringing a metaphorical knife to the fight that was imposed on us. Our spokespersons include some of the nation’s greatest education experts and social scientists.

Although I object to the ideology of the contemporary reform movement, scholars who embrace it are very skilled in their fields (such as economic theory and data modeling) and reasonable. The ones who I have communicated with merely don’t know what they don’t know about actual schools and systems. Had they seriously contemplated the social science of the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center and the Consortium for Chicago School Research, the historical wisdom of Diane Ravitch and Larry Cuban, and the practical implementation insights of Jack Jennings and John Merrow, I can’t believe that many would have gone down the test, sort, reward, and punish path to school improvement.

In the 25 years since leaving academics for the inner city, I have repeatedly seen situations in schools and policy-making that are downright surrealistic, as well as tragic. To be blunt, scholars who do not visit with teachers and students may not have the background to determine whether an argument is simplistic or simple-minded, or whether it is an accurate identification of policies, imposed by non-educators, that are “simplistic and extreme.”
In my experience conversing with pro-reform academics dismayed by the pushback against their policies by practitioners and patrons, the issue of Common Core usually comes up. Even after we teachers had seen students denied high school diplomas because they could not pass college readiness exit exams, I would hear the claims by some who still believed that Common Core only applied to math and English. Later, policy people protested that very few 3rd graders have been denied promotion due to Common Core tests. In doing so, they ignore the obvious reality that it was the Opt Out movement and the grassroots anti-“reform” counter-attack that prevented the full implementation of Common Core high stakes tests that would have been disastrous.

So, I’d add a concrete point to Henig’s commentary. An academic who wants to help improve schools should at least see how well he fares on a Common Core GED high school equivalency math test before assuming that our positions are simplistic.

Next, Jay Greene warns against engaging in “delicate ‘messaging’ [that] will produce a desired outcome or please a powerful patron.”

He bluntly but accurately writes:

Researchers involved in the Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” study from 2009 claimed the study found that teachers are best evaluated using a formula that combines multiple measures when the research actually found no such thing.
Greene links to specific misstatements issued by the Gates Foundation, but I would make a more general point. The MET methodology would have been beneficial if the Gates Foundation had acknowledged what it was actually conducting – theoretical research. It was hopelessly inappropriate for policy research.

I still find it hard to believe that academics would bring no more than regression models to a real-world fight against the legacies of poverty and discrimination. Why would they assume that statistical models could capture the complexities of urban education?

Then, Jeannie Oakes and Rick Hess offer solid advice to scholars. Oakes cites John Dewey in urging academics to embrace “the ‘hurly burly’ of social policymaking.” She explains that, “Education policymaking must negotiate strongly held public perceptions and contested political terrain—factors usually far more influential than research findings.” Oakes then encourages public scholars to “nurture trusting and respectful relationships with policymakers and public actors. These are not one-way relationships, but reflexive.”
Rick Hess adds that there are multiple “right way(s) to think about education.” Hess affirms that, “Parents, students, community leaders, journalists, and more all have their own legitimate, valuable perspectives.” He notes, “This robust pluralism is the very foundation of the American project.”
Hess is correct that “scholars have an important role to play in that democratic cacophony, though far too few play it enthusiastically or well.” Moreover, “public debates and decisions benefit when all of our talents are brought to the table.” Academics must “connect with and learn from their fellow citizens.”

I would add that academics need to learn from each other when they engage in policy research. For the life of me, I can’t understand why so much faith was placed in regression models, and how scholars seemed to believe they could advance policy studies without thrashing out old-fashioned falsifiable hypotheses. Had quantitative and qualitative researchers joined the same table to draft hypotheses, and ask what results would be necessary to support their assumptions and put their findings into a sound narrative, we all would have benefitted. Such conversations would have identified the nuances of education issues and prompted academics to talk with other stakeholders in the ways that are proposed by the four scholars.

Sandra Stotsky was deeply involved in the transformation of public education in Massachusetts from 1999-2003. As senior associate commissioner of education, she oversaw the development and implementation of curriculum frameworks and testing of entry-level teachers. Massachusetts rose to the top of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As she explains here, the Bay State did not have annual testing.

She writes:

“K-12 schools have coped with an abundance of mandated testing since the early 1990s. Worse yet, under federal guidelines, the consequences of poor student performance have in the name of accountability come to fall more on teachers than students. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) expanded the educational-level testing mandated in the 1994 authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), mandating annual testing for reading and mathematics in grades 3-8, once in high school, and at several grade levels in science.

“The 2015 re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), continued NCLB’s annual testing mandate. It did so in large part because of strong support from education researchers (e.g., Whitehurst, West, Chingos, Dynarski, among others, in Education Next). Yet, none provided evidence that annual testing via ESEA had significantly increased the achievement of low-income students in K-12 in both subjects. They couldn’t because there is none. Nevertheless, even though the national needle had not moved in reading at any National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)-tested grade in 50 years, ESSA punished the states with a continuation of annual testing and test-based accountability.

“A big question is why education researchers don’t look at what Massachusetts did and did not do to increase low-income student achievement. Remember, its average scores in both reading and mathematics, for grade 4 and grade 8, on NAEP tests in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 were the highest or among the highest of all 50 states. On the one international test of curriculum-based achievement (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—TIMSS), the state, entered as a separate country, tied with Singapore for first place in grade 8 science and was among the top six countries in mathematics in grades 4 and 8 in both 2007 and 2013. Surely, there should have been a long look at what the Bay State did, beyond its testing schedule.

“This is the testing that was done: From 1998 to 2000, testing took place in four major subjects (math, science, reading, and history) annually in grades 4, 8, and 10, or at one grade per educational level as mandated by the state’s 1993 Education Reform Act. After 2000, testing in math and reading took place annually but only at every other grade level (grade span testing) and at one grade per educational level annually in science and history until 2006, when NCLB’s annual requirements kicked in for math and reading because the tests were now ready for previously untested grades. The state’s high math and reading scores beginning in 2005 cannot be accounted for by annual testing. Nor can the state’s stunning performance in grade 8 science in 2007 or 2013.

“As the person in charge of the total revision or development of all the state’s K-12 standards, teacher and administrator licensing regulations, most teacher licensure tests, as well as criteria for professional development from 1999-2003, I have some basis for suggesting what I think likely contributed to students’ enduring academic gains in the past decade even if education researchers do not seem to want to learn what the Bay State did.

“Under my direction, the state department of education revised major documents to increase the content knowledge requirements in standards for all students, and to strengthen academically the licensure requirements for the state’s teacher and administrator corps. The results of high quality research were clear; teachers’ knowledge of the subject they teach is the only trait associated with enhanced gains in student achievement. The documents we developed during the years I was a public bureaucrat, including definitions of terms used, embedded policies approved by the field (via frequent public comment), the Commissioner of Education David Driscoll, and the Board of Education under James Peyser, chair.

“Annual testing at every grade level in math, reading, and science was not one of them. Nor was it apparently necessary for higher and enduring academic achievement in these subjects, even though ESSA froze it in for reading and math. Nor can the case be made today that annual testing improves low-income student achievement. It’s possible it may even retard achievement. We don’t know because the idea has not been explored by education researchers. Why civil rights organizations or the Gates Foundation support a policy that exists in no other country needs explanation.”

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.


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,
which amends Part D of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Section 1415.


For more information: 217-473-1790