Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

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!

ESSA Part 2: Assessments & Opt-Out

The Every Student Succeeds Act is very clear about expectations for state assessments as well as participation rates in those assessments.  Some of this may surprise you, including the mechanism by which every single student can be opted out in certain conditions!!!

ESSA13

Once again, no social studies requirement.  Are these assessments the same as the current wave including the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests?

ESSA14

If you thought standardized tests were going to disappear from this legislation, you were wrong.  They are still there.  Who needs to take them?  The below language clearly defines the expectation on the school or school district’s part:

ESSA15.1

ESSA15.2

There is a lot thrown into these two sections.  The word “all” does not mean all students have to take the assessment.  This law stipulates schools must give the test, but it does not define the responsibility of the student to actually take the test.  The words coherent and timely need to be more defined in my opinion.  One of the biggest arguments against SBAC and PARCC was they did not provide either, nor were they considered valid and reliable.  Having the results come out after the school year ends, or even into the next school year does nothing for students who advance to the next grade.  By the time parents see the results, most have long since moved on from the prior year’s assessment.

ESSA18.1

This is the big one.  This is the heart of the legality of opt-out.  Those two words define what the school has to do, not the student.

ESSA18.2

The above defines what the school needs to do with assessments.  They must “provide for”.  I can provide chocolate-chip cookies at a bake sale, but I can’t make everyone buy them.

ESSA19

Welcome to stealth testing!  This is where personalized learning rears its head in this legislation, but not overtly said.  The future of standardized assessments will be embedded into end of unit modules on student’s computers.  Instead of the “once-a-year” assessment, or even 2-3 times like in the past in some states, these will be constant assessments.  This law allows schools to come up with a summative score based on all these little assessment.

ESSA27.1

ESSA27.2

Yes, adaptive assessments.  What we currently have in the once  a year assessment, but set up for personalized learning and competency-based education.

ESSA28.1

Here is the loophole, and one of the reasons these tests are so dangerous.  The adaptability allows corruption in the data.  The programmers of the assessment can manipulate them in a way that certain students have a disadvantage.  When a student gives an end-of-unit test, all students are given the same questions.  Why should a standardized assessment be any different?  But this law allows that!

ESSA29

Here is the snake in the grass.  How can a student be determined proficient for current school year instruction if they are given items on a test that are above the grade level?  I can understand items below the grade level.  If a student is behind, you would want to know what level they are at.  I get that.  But to go above like that…it leads to all sorts of issues.

ESSA30.1

This is the clincher!  And I love they put the words “local law”.  Does a district board of education policy honoring a parent’s right to opt-out of the state assessment count as local law?  If a state’s accountability system has opt-out penalties which could harm a school’s rating, would this not completely contradict this part of the legislation?  And if it is a state law to honor opt-out and not punish, then there is nothing anyone can do about it!  Which is why the legislators in Delaware need to override Governor Markell’s veto of their opt-out legislation as soon as possible!!!!

ESSA30.2

Another big thing going on right now is “assessment inventory”.  I believe this will wipe out many of the district assessments in favor of the state assessments.  Especially if the future will be stealth mode on assessments…

Time Is Running Out #StopESEA

We only have three days to make a VERY strong impression on the members of Congress before they vote on the ESEA Reauthorization on 12/2.  Three days.  They won’t even be releasing the final bill until tomorrow.  I saw somewhere, either on Facebook or Twitter, someone put out a plea to have the members of Congress let the public view this for 60 days.  For something as important as the future of education I am inclined to agree.  I don’t think it will happen.  This is the bill that the corporate education reformers are salivating over.  As well as the politicians who have the most to gain.

It wouldn’t shock me if Delaware Governor Jack Markell has known for months what is going to be in the final draft.  Because all indications point to the very agendas he has been having HIS Department of Education and HIS Secretary of Education inflict on Delaware.  These are crafty and sneaky people, whose sole existence is to do the Governor’s bidding.  Like little minions without a mind of their own.  I love how this bill “allows” states to create their own accountability systems but the ESEA Flexibility waivers demanded it from most states.  Even though it wasn’t congressionally approved and merely “guidance”.  It’s almost like the US DOE and the States knew exactly what was going to be in this bill…

Call your state members of Congress TODAY!  Time is running out!