Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Randi & Lily: Why all the smoke-and-mirrors about new law's opt-out provisions?

ESSA allows parents to opt a student out of required assessments for any reason. -- AFT
ESSA maintains the right of parents to opt their children out of statewide academic assessments and allows states to limit the amount of time students spend taking annual tests. -- NEA
These requirements do not allow students to be excluded from statewide assessments. -- D.O.E.
Are teacher union leaders shooting straight with us about ESSA, the new federal education act? Or have they just not read the bill they've worked so hard to sell to teachers and parents?
AFT and NEA leaders would have us believe that the new law eliminates test-and-punish requirements and allows for parents and students to opt out of continuing No Child Left Behind testing madness. 

Is that really true?

Here's AFT's take on the new law:
ESSA allows parents to opt a student out of required assessments for any reason.Local educational agencies are required to notify parents annually of the ability to receive any testing participation policy of the state or LEA. If requested, school districts must provide parents information regarding student participation in mandated assessments and the parents’ right to opt their child out of the tests.
With this addendum:
 While states are required to have 95 percent of students participate in assessments,each state may determine the weight of the participation measure.
Whatever the hell that means.

But here's what's coming out of Arne Duncan/John King's D.O.E.:

Ann Whalen, the acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, wrote a letter to state school chiefs on December 2, reminding them of “key assessment requirements” for the statewide assessments to be taken in Spring 2016. 

She writes: 
This school year the states are still under the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Whalen notes however, “similar requirements are included in the recently signed reauthorization of the ESEA, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)."
Whalen cites the new law:
Section 1111(b)(3)1 of the ESEA requires each State educational agency (SEA) that receives funds under Title I, Part A of the ESEA to implement in each local educational agency (LEA) in the State a set of high-quality academic assessments that includes, at a minimum, assessments in mathematics and reading/language arts administered in each of grades 3 through 8 and not less than once during grades 10 through 12; and in science not less than once during grades 3 through 5, grades 6 through 9, and grades 10 through 12. Furthermore, ESEA sections 1111(b)(3)(C)(i) and (ix)(I) require State assessments to “be the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all children” and “provide for the participation in such assessments of all students” (emphasis added).
 These requirements do not allow students to be excluded from statewide assessments. Rather, they set out the legal rule that all students in the tested grades must be assessed. [My emphasis]
With the new law's supposed states' rights emphasis (Mississippi goddam) there is some lingo that allows states to interpret 95% participation differently. I'll get my lawyers right on it.

But it's doubtful that cash-starved states, with huge testing contracts with Pearson and others, will risk losing hundreds of millions in federal education by risking opt-out provisions.

Despite ESSA rather than because of it, the opt-out movement will continue to grow. The question is, which side will our union leadership be on? If the new law is so great, why all the smoke and mirrors about opt-out?


  1. No money for smaller class sizes, no money for field trips, but there's always cash for Pearson.

  2. The "unions" support Endless Testing and teacher evaluations based on that testing. They serve as mouth pieces for the education reform movement. Weingarten, in particular, has never seen a reform she considered worthy of opposition.


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