On Friday, newly christened U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a, how shall I call it, awkward letter to all the education leaders of each state. Alarm bells went up immediately. Many people are scratching their heads about the missive dealing with state Every Student Succeeds Act implementation plans. The word “may” in relation to Title I, II, III, IV and V funding is the part that is confusing many. Is this Betsy’s way of phasing from Title funding to her school voucher plan? And how many enemies of modern-day accountability standards are equally confused about Betsy gutting the John King regulations from last fall? This could be a Trojan Horse leading to more Competency-Based Education. We all know CBE is a darling of the ed reformers these days. Read the below letter and sit and wonder like the rest of us! I have no doubt President Trump is clueless about any of this and is applying his next daily helping of orange glow.
The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law. Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of. We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing. We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools. We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix. Nothing has changed. Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place. Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere. I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.
One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans. Now they are April 3rd and September 18th. Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st. The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).
So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?
In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.
And what about opt-out? Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment? Yeah right!
To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.
This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package. And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago. You reap what you sow!