Federal Action

The latest iteration of federal legislation governing education is being negotiated now in Congress.   There is a Senate version of the Bill, and a House Version of the Bill.

You can read one commentator’s take on these proposed bills here: https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/both-house-and-senate-esea-bills-allow-for-opt-out-without-penalty/

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is on the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions.  It is likely that Senator Whitehouse will be on the Conference Committee to negotiate the final bill that will be sent to the

Fairtest.org has a draft letter you can send to Senator Whitehouse, Senator Reed and House Representative Cicilline and Representative Langevin regarding the federal legislation.  The time to act on this issue is now.

Here is the letter you can send directly from Fairtest.org (you can, of course, edit as you see fit) via this link:

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-congress-keep-federal-accountability-mandates-out-of-a-new-education-law

The Conference Committee to finalize legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides an important opportunity to end the test-and-punish mandates of No Child Left Behind and the Administration’s NCLB waivers. Both House and Senate bills remove the federal requirements that have produced too much testing, narrowed curriculum, and scant educational progress. Ending NCLB’s flawed and destructive federal accountability structure will allow states to improve assessment and accountability in ways that strengthen education for all children, but particularly the low-income children the law is intended to serve.

However, there has been pressure to restore provisions that led to the misuse and overuse of testing we saw with the previous version of the law. Therefore, I request that you inform leadership and committee members of your support for the following:

1) Block NCLB-style accountability provisions. Both bills leave interventions up to the states and end the waiver mandate to use student scores to judge teachers. Both allow states to determine their accountability structures. There likely will be a push to restore NCLB-style accountability, including a variation of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and extensive mandated school interventions. Those provisions were central to the failure of NCLB and should not be included in the conference committee.

2) Retain state power to limit the weight given to test scores in accountability provisions. Both bills leave it up to the states to determine their accountability indices, provided that statewide assessment is part of the mix. There may be a push to make test scores the majority factor, but the final bill should leave decisions up to the states.

3) Retain as strong an opt-out provision as possible. The House bill allows parents to opt their children out of federally mandated exams. The Senate allows states or districts to decide. Where allowed, opt outs would not count against schools. Please support the stronger House version.

4) Retain the Senate section authorizing states to develop “innovative” assessment programs that include local and performance assessments, and the House section that allows local assessments. The Senate version should not limit the number of states that can participate if they meet the criteria. The House provision is in NCLB, but the Department blocked its use by states. Combining the Senate section with the House section will provide flexibility while explicitly supporting state innovations.

5) Retain limits found in both bills to the power of the U.S. Department of Education to manipulate state policies on standards, assessments and accountability, as well as bar the Department from granting waivers that require state actions that are not already mandated by federal law.

Thank you for your attention.

 

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