The Best of Publius, Part 2: Priority Schools

So much for my daily “Best of Publius” series.  Mice and men and all that!  But I will make up for it.  Two and a half years, the shot heard round Delaware happened on the steps of Warner Elementary School in Wilmington when Governor Markell announced the priority schools initiative.  Take six “low-performing” schools and turn ’em around!  The planning for it was horrible as was the community reaction.  Legislators jumped on the Governor and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Teachers and parents rallied at board meetings.  No one liked the idea of taking six inner-city schools, hiring new leaders, and replacing half the teachers.  Lest we forget, the definition of “failing” was based on standardized test scores.  Everyone hated the idea.  Well, except for Publius e decere over on Kilroy’s Delaware.  He had plenty to say about the debacle.

Yes, we should all bow our heads to the master, Publius himself.  I would shudder to think what would happen to Delaware education if his rantings ever bridged into an actual elected office!

DOE & Arne Duncan Accused of Breaking The Law With IDEA & Special Education by GOP Senate

In a letter addressed to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, GOP Senators from the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Kirk have accused the US DOE of breaking the law when it comes to special education determinations being based on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) testing and making changes to IDEA without legislative approval.  The letter was dated August 4th, 2014.

“The changes spelled out in your “Results-Driven Accountability” framework clearly amount to Federal influence on the standards and assessments states and school districts use to direct the educational program of students with disabilities and would give the Federal Government authority to use student proficiency as measured by the NAEP to evaluate and either reward or sanction school districts.  This is clear influence and coercion, if not direct control.  It is troubling that the Department made unilateral changes to the IDEA compliance framework without seeking legislative approval, disregarded Congressional intent, and appears to have violated the clear letter of the law.”

The Senators also said the authorizing statute for NAEP states “Any assessment authorized under this section shall not be used by an agent or agents of the Federal Government to establish, require or influence the standards, assessments, curriculum, including lesson plans, textbooks, or classroom materials, or instructional practices of States or local education agencies.”

Does this invalidate OSEP’s ruling against Delaware, Texas, California and Washington D.C.?  Special Education has now become a Federal intrusion into public school districts.  I hope this issue becomes much bigger, and can also be used as another reason why standardized testing and common core just don’t work for students with special needs.  Someone needs to hold Arne Duncan and his wild bunch over at the US DOE accountable.

Thanks to Education Week for supplying the link to the letter: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/Secretary%20Duncan%20Letter%208.4.14.pdf