Skip to content

What I Did Over My Summer Vacation

I began my ten-week summer vacation in ;ate May 2015 with a trip to Houston on the Wednesday following Memorial Day. The purpose of the trip was to help my sister Anna move some of her belongings from her temporary housing in Houston back home to southern Louisiana. She is an engineer with Chevron, and she was finishing a two-year stint in Houston.

On that Wednesday night, my first night, my sister was driving us (herself, my nephew Aidan, and me) to dinner when she asked me, “What are you going to do this summer?”

I responded, “I am going to write my third book.”

Allow me to help you envision the look my sister gave me immediately following my answer: Imagine that I had just given birth to two children in two years and that I had just told her, “I’m pregnant.”

That’s the look. A combination of Are You Kidding and You Must Be Crazy.

Upon first hearing of my plan, my sister’s girlfriend, Gina, asked, “Do you not like summer?”

I get it. But here’s what I know: My ten-week summer vacation is the time for me to write a book, and if I want to write a book and not wait until the next year, I must do so when summer rolls around.

And for all of the effort and discipline it takes, I am really enjoying writing books.

If I could, I would move those ten weeks to December in order to give myself more of a reprieve from one book to the next. However, knowing that my book-writing opportunity is fixed, I realized long before May that I needed to figure out how I was going to manage writing a third book.

I already knew what topic the third book would cover: school choice. But I also knew that I must figure out how to not burn myself out.

My first book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education (Information Age, 2014), was by far my longest: 24 chapters. Too, within weeks of signing the contract to write my first book, I was also slated to have an unanticipated major surgery that would require my leaving school two weeks early. At the time, I did not know how my medical issues would affect writing the book, and I had to get my affairs in order at school because I was ending my school year prematurely. I am a member of a wonderful faculty, and I am especially indebted to my recently-retired English colleague, Susan Summers Muchmore, who graciously assumed responsibility for both grading my students’ research projects and entering my final grades. And I am also grateful to my long-term substitute, Bob Branson, who completely assumed responsibility for providing the lessons taught to my students in those two weeks.

As I was healing from my surgery, I was able to write. And midway through the summer, I was writing a chapter every two days (writing 7 to 11 hours a day) in order to complete all 24 chapters before the next school year began.

That was my first book.

My second book, Common Core Dilemma– Who Owns Our Schools? (Teachers College Press, 2015), was considerably shorter than my first, which it needed to be in order for me two write it that next summer. I still wrote for about 7 to 11 hours a day on most days, but I had fewer 11-hour days, and I took more time for each chapter: 4 days, with one day off built in.

But in order to write a third book, my school choice book, I had to build in even more rest time to keep from burning out, and I knew it. And at the outset of my writing, I made no one any promises about finishing. For my school choice book, I set my schedule at one chapter every week. Ten chapters, ten weeks. A daily goal of 1,000 words, with one day per week built in to rest from working on the book.

Now, the ESEA reauthorization was on the floor of both House and Senate in mid-July, and this added to my writing burden considerably for a couple of weeks. Still, I was able to keep to my 1,000 words per day for six days a week, even through the Senate ESEA hearings.

I even managed to take a vacation to Fort Lauderdale  for four days to visit a friend from college, Jason, and his wife Sonia and seven-year-old son Joshua.

Joshua knew that I was writing my third book (he asked for the first copy even though it is not a children’s book). He knew that I was on a schedule to write 1,000 words a day, and that I often did so before meeting up with his family each day.

On one occasion, as the four of us were headed to dinner, I told Joshua, “I want to tell you a story.” My story had nothing to do with my book, but before I could begin, Joshua asked, “Is it about your fourth book?”

I told him my mind was not even on a fourth book and that I still had to finish the third one. But his quick question made me smile.

Indeed, even as my sister Anna was giving me that Are You Kidding or Crazy look in Houston in late May, my second book, Common Core Dilemma, had not yet been published.

My other sister, Rita, asked for a copy of Common Core Dilemma to read this summer. By this time (early July), she knew I was working on my third book.

Standing in her kitchen, she had a mock interview in which she was both interviewer and me responding:

“So, what is your secret for writing these books so fast?”


I hadn’t thought of that.  People might think I write so much as a result of abusing substances.

Not so. I hardly even take aspirin.

My sister was only registering her amazement in our unorthodox, Schneider fashion.

So, here I sit, drug free, at the end of Week Nine and having written nine out of ten chapters. Three days ago, after I wrote my first 1,000 words for chapter 9, it hit me like a flood of quiet celebration:

I have written three books.

I began on chapter 1 of my school choice book sitting at my sister Anna’s kitchen table in Houston while she was at work, and it is highly likely that I will complete chapter 10 this week as I sit at my own dining room table. (Chapter 10 will be easier in that it is a summation of what was gleaned from chapters 1 through 9.)

And still, by God’s grace, I slept for seven hours on most nights; I managed to swim at least five days a week and enjoy the Jacuzzi afterward on most of those days; I was able to visit friends and relatives; I took a trip, and I even started reading a book for fun.

And my aspirin bottle is still full. :)

As to continuing writing more serious posts for this blog, I might lay low for a few more days.

Just a few.

gone fishing


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books


Introducing Louisiana BESE District 5 Candidate Johnny Fatheree

On May 31, 2015, I wrote a post about Louisiana’s next state board of education (BESE) elections, to be held on October 24, 2015.

Regarding BESE District 5, I wrote the following:

District 5 (Claiborne, Union, Morehouse, West Carroll, East Carroll, Lincoln, Ouachita, Richland, Jackson, Madison, Caldwell, Franklin, Tensas, Grant, Lasalle, Catahoula, Concordia, Rapides, Evangeline) currently has Jay Guillot, an engineer who has contracts with RSD and is often absent from BESE meetings.

Guillot had not filed a campaign finance report related to the October 2015 BESE election. This could mean that he has applied for an extension– or it could mean he is not planning on running.

The District 5 seat is ripe for a representative who genuinely supports Louisiana public education.

That same week in May 2015, Monroe native Johnny Fatheree threw his hat into the BESE District 5 ring.

fatheree  Johnny Fatheree

Fatheree is running for the District 5 BESE seat.

I invited Fatheree to write a post in which he introduces himself to my readers and details his position on pertinent issues in Louisiana education. Below is his response, which he has tailored to special education:

My name is Johnny R. Fatheree, and I am a candidate for the BESE District 5. I am writing this letter to clarify my position on Special Education.

First, let me provide my qualifications to write this post. I have served on the Evergreen Ministries Board, St. Mary’s Parent’s Board, President and Board Member at Northwest Developmental Center. In addition, I have been a parent of a special child who my wife and I fought for educational opportunities for our daughter for 32 years. I lost my Special Child in 2011.

In a civilized society, we MUST provide for God’s Special Children. In the following I would like to re-count some of my experiences, some current observations and offer some possible solutions or ideas.

It has been my experience and observation Special Needs Children have been and continue to be the “Step Child” in the education synopsis within Louisiana. Lack of focus on the needs of special children in the classroom has been continues to be an issue.

Currently, there are not enough spaces allotted for children, and it has become extremely difficult to get a child qualified for special education. There was a time when too many children were declared as special education students, but now there is so much effort to mainstream these children many are being left behind. In my recent interviews with special education teachers and supervisors, they told me a child can only fail a grade once. But what about the child who needs to fail twice or three times, or is just not capable of learning at the ridiculous “common core” rate. Does this child just keep continuing to be passed along failing?  Some of these children just keep struggling along until they become dis-interested, become problem children, and finally quit.

I recommend struggling children not just special education, but any child who struggles be tested early and an IEP or 504 be written for that child. The IEP/504 should be a set of visualized, predetermined goals formulated with the parent, teacher and support staff. New legislation will allow a pathway for those deemed to be special education students to receive a high school diploma, but current regulation still require them to take high stakes tests with results being used to evaluate teachers.  It also allows local development of IEP’s. In the many IEP meetings I have attended many of the goals and tactics were canned, mis-appropriate, or way to complex. They were presented by professionals who were great people, but had very little interaction with my child. My daughter was profoundly mentally challenged, and once she was given a goal to recognize all the letters of the alphabet by year’s end. How about teach her to make a sign for potty? The new law may allow for local control, but it does not give direction or funding for training committees, or allow for the development for IEP’s with parental input. We now have another very complex vehicle to implement. Great idea, but implementation is a challenge. There was no mention of 504’s.

The attrition, or “burn-out,” rate for special education teachers is extremely high compared to most other professions. 50% of special education teachers leave their jobs within 5 years. Half of those who make it past 5 years will leave within 10 years. This equates to a 75% turnover rate every 10 years (Dage, 2006).Teacher training is not what it should be to equip teachers to teach our Special Children. Jason France wrote in his blogabout how the LADOE has mis-appropriated millions of Federal Dollars which was earmarked for the training of Special Education Teachers. He also illustrates how employees at LADOE document their time spent on special education. Currently, most of the training is being done via webmail. Teachers tell me they can’t get phone calls or emails returned from LADOE, and when they do they can’t get answers to their questions. One superintendent I talked with said, “We are fed up with LADOE and we now just want them to leave us alone.” Does that sound like LADOE is very effective? Several educational leaders have asked for an audit of LADOE from the BESE, Inspector General, legislators, and the Attorney General, but to no avail.

We MUST provide EXTENSIVE hands on training for our teachers. All children can learn if placed in an appropriate environment for learning. Currently, my wife is teaching at a physically challenged day care where she is teaching children ages three through 12. These children have many and varied problems, and need help. This is an all Medicaid facility where these children have an opportunity to learn, and learning they are. Where are the other physically challenged children going? They are not in Charter Schools, many can’t go to public schools due to the lack of school resources, and if they do they become lost in the mainstream classroom. So, what happens to these children? One year my wife had 17 children in her classroom. Three children were (not politically correct) what teachers call “crack babies”, one had Turret Syndrome, one autistic child, one child with Asperger syndrome, four diagnosed with ADHD and several others should have been. Now someone has to explain to me how you meet Common Core Standards in this class and then be evaluated on a high stakes test which will determine the teacher’s career. Teachers are trying to do it every day, however maybe not to this extreme but not far from it. It’s not fair to teachers, the special needs children, or the other children in the classroom. We are so afraid we might label a child because it might not be politically correct, but we have been quick to test them along with all the other students and punish the teachers for being inept. We have a lot more issues to address in public schools. Each child is different, each class is different, each school is different, each school district is different, and each state is different. Not every situation is the same, so how can we just say let’s compare every child, school, district, and state without knowing the unique variables related to each. Things like poverty, language barriers, community involvement, resources, trained teachers, parental involvement, etc.

Special Education and Common Core do not belong in the same sentence. We must stop this madness of assuming all children are equal in terms of intellectual competency, this is ridiculous. There are far more children in the classroom which need a variety of assistance they are not receiving.

If I am elected to the BESE, I promise Special Education will have its own special voice.

For additional reading on Fatheree and his positions on educational issues, see this June 2015 Monroe News-Star article and this June 2015 press release.

BESE districts

BESE by District:

Light blue (right), 1; dark purple, 2; orange, 3; violet, 4; pink, 5; yellow, 6; darker blue (left), 7, and green, 8.


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

About the Upcoming House-Senate ESEA Conference Committee… and One from the Past

In July 2015, both House and Senate passed bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The House version is known as the Student Success Act (SSA); the Senate version is called the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015.

Both are an effort to reauthorize the last version of ESEA known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001. NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007, but Congress would not touch it because it was a bust and the bipartisan honeymoon that gave America NCLB was over. So, NCLB remains on congressional life support to this day.

Since both House and Senate have passed versions of an ESEA reauthorization, they now must come together and sort out the issues that differ between their two versions so that they might present a single bill to both houses for a vote.

The committee chairs who presided over the House and Senate bills, Representative John Kline and Senator Lamar Alexander, respectively, get to decide who to invite to sit on the resulting House-Senate conference committee. There is no set number of individuals, and House and Senate do not have to have equal numbers on the committee because the two houses vote separately and act via majority vote. Still, there might be some friction between Democrats and Republicans within a house regarding the proportions of each party invited to sit on the committee.

The 2015 situation with the two ESEA reauthorizations is unusual in that what is being discussed in conference is not one bill that originated in one house of Congress and then was agreed to “as amended” by the other house. What we have here are two distinct bills. It seems that content of the two bills that does not differ is not up for amendment. For example, both SSA and ECAA preserve annual testing. So, it seems that the conferees will not be able to vote to rid the bills of annual testing.  However, on issues about which the two bills differ, such as Title I funding portability, conferees will be able to vote. (I am drawing my reasoning from two Library of Congress documents on House-Senate conference committees, here and here.)

But there is a lot of negotiation that will occur, not only between the two houses, but also between the houses and the White House.

To help me understand the process and the timeline, I investigated the NCLB House-Senate conference committee. (I realize that when this 2001 committee was in session, there was not yet an NCLB, but I will use this title for clarity’s sake.)

NCLB originated in the House as HR 1 for the 107th session of Congress (2001-02). On May 23, 2001, HR 1 passed in the House by a 384-45 vote.  On June 14, 2001, the Senate approved HR 1 “as amended” by a vote of 98-1. Since the Senate was in possession of HR 1, the Senate was in the official position to request the conference.

(Note: In the 2015 situation in which both House and Senate have versions of the ESEA reauthorization, both House and Senate could technically request conferences of each other. Nevertheless, they could have bypassed conference and just sent their respective bills to the other house, but given the massiveness of the ESEA reauthorization undertaking, that would have been poorly decided, no doubt.)

In 2001, the Senate voted on HR 1 “as amended,” and on July 19, 2001, the NCLB House-Senate conference committee met for the first time. That two-hour meeting is available on C-SPAN.

The second, one-hour meeting was held on August 01, 2001 and is also available on C-SPAN, as is this 14-minute, August 02, 2001, video of Senator Edward Kennedy, Representative John Boehner, and US Secretary of Education Rod Paige, following a meeting at the White House regarding the progression of the conference.

Note that the White House was also represented in the second, August 01, 2001, conference meeting.

Following the second meeting, the NCLB House-Senate conference committee adjourned until after Labor Day.

On December 13, 2001, the House voted 381-41 to pass NCLB. Five days later, on December 18, 2001, the Senate did the same by a vote of 87-10.

So, from the time that the Senate voted on HR1 “as amended”– June 2001– to the time that the resulting NCLB passed in the Senate– December 2001– six months passed.

Conferencing over ECAA and SSA will not be accomplished in short order. But thanks to C-SPAN, the public will be able to witness conference committee meetings.

Before I exit this post, let me offer readers a transcription of two of the speakers at the August 01, 2001, conference committee that produced test-and-punish NCLB, Senators Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Chris Dodd (D-CT), as well as a bit of information that came from the mouth of Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

First, an excerpt from Wellstone:

Wellstone: … So, my first point is, if all we have is a national mandate that—I’ll be done in one minute—that every kid gets tested every year—age eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen—frankly, it’s breathtaking that the federal government is telling every school district that they have to do this. I’m amazed, frankly. But if we’re going to do that, we also better have a national mandate that says every child is going to have the same opportunity to succeed and do well on those tests, and frankly, I don’t see it. I do not see it in lieu of these tax cuts. I don’t see the money there, and I think if the money isn’t there, we’re just setting up a bunch of good teachers and good kids for failure.

And my second point is on the testing. I really hope– Senator Jeffords mention the Center—a lot of the people doing the analysis of testing—including all the people in the testing field—are all saying, “Don’t confuse accountability, testing, and standardized tests as being one and the same thing. Make sure you do it the right way. Make sure you have multiple measures. Otherwise, you’ll be making a big mistake.” And I think we really need to focus on that, and several of my colleagues said the other day, we need to focus on, on what they’re (tests) supposed to be used for, which is the diagnostic purposes….

Wellstone ended up voting against NCLB.

Here is a second candid excerpt, from Senator Dodd:

Dodd: And I think, in further recognition, that some of the things we’re going to be grappling with are not the legitimate subject matter of this conference. And that is, of course, we’re expecting teachers and schools to resolve problems of children who arrive with far more serious problems, and very disparate problems, and a lot of it based on the economics and circumstances they come from. …

Less than one half of one percent of the entire federal budget goes to elementary and secondary education, public education. I think that’s scandalous in the twenty-first century, as we begin it. It’s such a tiny fraction of our national wealth is contributed to something that dominates so much of our conversation, when we start talking about the success of our nation. So someday, I might hope that we would be a better partner. We’re not going to do it in this bill.

Dodd did decide to vote in favor of NCLB.

And now, about Hillary:

The same day as the second NCLB House-Senate conference committee meeting, on August 01, 2001, President Bush gave a speech to the National Urban League in which he promoted what would become NCLB, which was based upon a supposed test score “miracle” in Texas:

Accountability is an exercise in hope. When we raise academic standards, children raise their academic sights. When children are regularly tested, teachers know where and how to improve. When scores are known to parents, parents are empowered to push for change. When accountability for our schools is real, the results for our children are real.

I know this because I’ve seen it. In Texas, when we first introduced accountability measures, only 56 percent of African Americans fourth graders could pass our State reading test. Today, 83 percent of those students pass the tests. African American eighth graders in Texas are writing better than their peers in any other State.

Our Texas State tests require and measure progress amongst every minority group. And the great news is, we’ve gotten progress amongst every group in Texas. We saw supposedly hopeless schools make major progress. We saw students who had been written off find the self-esteem of real accomplishment. We saw how determined reform can confound the cynics and the skeptics.

Now, on that same day that Bush spoke of “confounding cynics and skeptics,” here is what Clinton mentions in the House-Senate conference meeting, and obviously in reference to Bush’s speech (minute 57:45):

…There are unintended consequences to even the best laid plans…. We are seeing increases in dropouts. You know, some of the most recent data from Texas– and if there is more recent that would contradict it, then I would like to see that– that there is a problem with dropouts. That’s true in every single state that has ever tried to do what Texas and others have tried to do.

Bush promoted NCLB based upon the Texas miracle, and Clinton acknowledged that the miracle did not curb the Texas dropout rate.

Looks like the hope of a NCLB miracle had fissures even before it was NCLB, and at least one such fissure revealed itself in committee. Still, Clinton voted in favor of NCLB.

So, here we are, in 2015. Another ESEA reauthorization, but not so much talk of any miracles. Even so, even on July 21,2015, there are opportunities to learn, and those who most need to learn are those who are about to sit on that House-Senate, ECAA-SSA conference committee.

Every member of the 2015 House-Senate conference committee for ECAA and SSA ought to be required to watch the three hours of C-SPAN 2001 House-Senate conference committee footage included in this post after signing the statement, “I acknowledge that NCLB was a colossal failure.”

Perhaps doing so might curb at least a few inane ESEA-reauth decisions.


capitol closeup


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books


The Senate Debate on Lee’s Opt Out Amendment

In the House version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, the Student Success Act (SSA), parental opt-out is written into the legislation, bypassing any state positions on the issue:


(B) REQUIREMENTS.—Such assessments shall—

‘‘(xiii) be administered to not less than 95 percent of all students, and not less than 95 percent of each subgroup of students described in paragraph 18 (3)(B)(ii)(II), except that States shall allow the parent of a student to opt such student out of the assessments required under this paragraph for any reason and shall not include such students in calculating the participation rate under this clause…. (pg 31)

The Senate version of the ESEA reauthorization chaired by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015, does not have a blanket opt-out amendment as does the House’s SSA. However, Senator Mike Lee’s amendment 2162 was an attempt to include a blanket opt-out statement in ECAA.

On July 14, 2015, Lee’s amendment 2162 was rejected by a vote of 32-64.

In this post, I will present the text of the few minutes of debate allowed prior to the roll call vote on amendment 2162. Senator Lee spoke first, for about a minute; then, Senators Alexander and Murray spoke for a combined couple of minutes. The video is available here; amendment 2162 debate begins at the 06:29:27 mark.

Lee: Mr. President, my amendment (2162) would clarify that parents, not the federal government, are the primary educators of their children. It would ensure that parents may allow their children to opt out of federally-mandated tests. Now, the gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Alexander, is right that states should be free to make their own tests mandatory if they so choose. However, that is not what this bill (ECAA) allows. This bill mandates that states give these tests and requires them to get the content of such tests approved by the US secretary of education.

My amendment is silent on the question of state tests. It simply clarifies that the tests mandated by this bill– mandated by this Congress– are in fact voluntary in that parents– not politicians or bureaucrats– will have the final say in whether individual children take federal tests. It also ensures that the federal government cannot punish states by restricting federal funding for education should parents choose to opt out their children from these tests. 

Alexander: Mr. President, I urge a “no” vote. This bill (ECAA) is about reversing the trend toward a national school board. The senator from Utah’s amendment is about more of a national school board. The Alexander-Murray bill expressly says that a state may decide whether to allow parents to opt out of these tests. The senator’s amendment says Washington knows best. It will tell states what the policy should be. That’s like Common Core. Our bill says we’re eliminating the Washington mandate on Common Core. He (Lee) would reinstate a Washington mandate on opt out policy. I say to my Republican friends, do we only agree with local control when we agree with the local policy? Art Laffer says, “States have a right to be right. States have a right to be wrong.” A “no” vote is a vote for local control. A “yes” vote is a vote for a national school board.

Murray: Mr. President, I concur with the remarks from the chairman of the committee (Alexander) and urge a “no” vote.

Frankly, I would have preferred a blanket opt-out amendment to ECAA; however, I find that what Alexander says in his rebuttal to Lee complements my reading of the ECAA position on allowing states to choose to opt out of ECAA-mandated tests.

Of course, both the Senate and House need to come together in conference committee in order to form one ESEA reauthorization bill out of ECAA and SSA. (As I have more details on this, I will write about it.) If the ECAA’s opt out policy is indeed the one selected for inclusion in the resulting Senate-House-negotiated ESEA reauthorization draft, then states would do well to formally establish their opt out policies to include as part of their applications for Title I funding– with the state detailing how it will define “95 percent participation” in light of its opt-out policy.

A state could even turn the House’s SSA opt-out language into state policy and incorporate that language into its Title I funding application. Just a thought.

capital dome


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books


Both House and Senate ESEA Bills Allow for Opt-out Without Penalty

Both the House and Senate have passed proposed authorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, and both House and Senate versions have opt-out provisions that allow for states to avoid being penalized for students whose parents opt them out of federally-mandated testing.

That’s right: Both House and Senate versions of the ESEA reauthorization provide a means for students who opt out to not be counted against the “95 percent” that the state is supposed to test as a condition for receiving Title I funding.

They just go about it differently.

I realize all of this can be difficult to follow. In this post, I hope to make the issue clear.

Opt-out and ECAA

Here’s how the parental opt-out provision works in the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015:

Paragraph (2) of Title I, entitled, “Academic Assessments,” (page 36 of the ECAA draft linked above) details the ECAA requirements for annual testing, including what tests are to be given and to whom. The last section of paragraph (2) is subparagraph (K), which is the text of Isakson’s first opt-out amendment, which was approved in the Senate ed committee in April 2015 (page 52 of the ECAA draft linked above):

(K) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION ON PARENT AND GUARDIAN RIGHTS.—Nothing in this part shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent or guardian to not have the parent or guardian’s child participate in the statewide academic assessments under this paragraph.

In other words, nothing in this part, comprised of more than paragraph (2) on academic assessments and paragraph (3) that follows related to Title I, shall be seen as preventing state or local law regarding parental rights to opt out of the statewide tests that states are required to administer as part of Title I funding.

This is the parental opt-out provision in ECAA, and its inclusion as part of paragraph (2) is key. Keep that in mind.

Now, as to the “95 percent” mandated testing participation requirement as written in ECAA Paragraph (3),”State Accountability System,” subparagraph (B), clause (vi) (page 57 of the ECAA draft linked above), note the bolded text:

(B) DESCRIPTION OF SYSTEM.—Each State plan shall describe a single, statewide State accountability system that will be based on the challenging State academic standards adopted by the State to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for postsecondary remediation and at a minimum complies with the following: …

(vi) Measures the annual progress of not less than 95 percent of all students, and students in each of the categories of students, who are enrolled in the school and are required to take the assessments
under paragraph (2) and provides a clear and understandable explanation of how the State will factor this requirement into the State-designed accountability system determinations. [Emphasis added.]

Students “required to take the assessments under paragraph (2)” include those whose parents have not opted them out according to state or local law, as noted in subparagraph (K) of paragraph (2).

There it is: the opt-out provision in ECAA.

Moreover, Senator Isakson’s second opt-out amendment to ECAA, SA 2194 (approved by a vote of 98-0 on July 14, 2015), requires districts to inform parents of state or district opt-out policies:

At the beginning of each school year, a local educational agency that receives funds under this part shall notify the parents of each student attending any school receiving funds under this part that the parents may request, and the agency will provide the parents on request (and in a timely manner), information regarding any State or local educational agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year….

The ECAA opt-out provision is not stated as clearly as is the opt out provision in the House version of the ESEA reauthorization, the Student Success Act (SSA), but it is there, nonetheless. The difference is that the ECAA opt-out is left up to the states to decide– in contrast to the House version, which has already made the decision for the states.

Opt-out and SSA

Here is the House’s SSA opt-out amendment (page 31):


‘‘(B) REQUIREMENTS.—Such assessments shall—

‘‘(xiii) be administered to not less than 95 percent of all students, and not less than 95 percent of each subgroup of students described in paragraph 18 (3)(B)(ii)(II), except that States shall allow the parent of a student to opt such student out of the assessments required under this paragraph for any reason and shall not include such students in calculating the participation rate under this clause;

Again, in contrast to the Senate opt-out version, which leaves the opt-out decision up to states, the House version of its opt-out has already decided for states that they are to allow parents to opt their children out of federally-mandated testing.

The Important Takeaway

But here is the important takeaway:

There will be no federal revoking of Title I funding for states or districts that provide for parents to opt out of mandated testing under ECAA, and there will be no revoking of Title I funding for parents who opt out of mandated testing under SSA regardless of state opt-out policy.

Neither House nor Senate opt-out sets states up to have to choose between allowing students to opt out of testing and meeting the federal, “95 percent of students testing” requirement.

Important to know.




Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books




Senate ESEA Amendment “Voice Vote” Update for July 15, 2015

As the Senate debate on its version of the ESEA reauthorization, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, neared its end, there was a sort of “sudden death” round as more amendments were dealt with quickly and in the form of voice votes.

There were 21 of these voice votes on July 15, 2015.

There were also two amendments withdrawn, one of which was Senator Warren’s “disaggregated data” amendment. A quick word on that:

Senator Warren’s (D-MA) amendment 2120, “to amend section 1111(d) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 regarding the cross-tabulation of student data,” was withdrawn on July 15,2015, even as a beefier amendment, Senator Murphy’s (D-CT) amendment 2241 (which Warren co-sponsored) went up for a vote and was rejected 43-54. The 12-page text of Murphy’s SA 2241 reads more like No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with its detailed prescription for reporting on student test results, for “meaningfully differentiating among all public schools” (i.e., grading schools), including publicly identifying the lowest five percent, and, among interventions, potentially firing staff and offering students the option to transfer to other schools and using part of the budget to pay for the transportation.

One of the overriding themes for this Senate ESEA draft is to release more control to states than was afforded by NCLB and its spinoff, the NCLB waivers. So, if states want to follow the likes of Murphy’s amendment 2241, they must decide to do so on their own.

Back to the Senate ESEA voice votes:

Below is information on the 21 Senate ESEA amendments that were approved “by unanimous consent” on July 15, 2015:

Senator McCain’s (R-AZ) amendment 2111, “to express the sense of Congress that John Arthur “Jack” Johnson should receive a posthumous pardon for the racially-motivated conviction in 1913 that diminished the athletic, cultural, and historical significance of Jack Johnson and unduly tarnished his reputation.”

Senator Bennet’s (DD-CO) amendment 2141, “to provide for shared services strategies and models,” a brief amendment that appears to allow for shared services related to grants for early childhood learning and care. (The referenced page numbers in these bills are often a bust to follow, so I am resorting to keyword searches.)

Senator Ayotte’s (R-NH) amendment 2145, “to allow States to use State activity funds provided under part A of title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 for certain evidence-based mental health awareness programs.”

Senator Udall’s (D-NM) amendment 2149, “to allow the Bureau of Indian Education to apply for certain competitive grants under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.”

Senator Feinstein’s (D-CA) amendment 2150, “to allow eligible entities to use funds provided under part A of title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 for bilingual paraprofessionals and linguistically responsive materials.”

Senator Carper’s (D-DE) amendment 2151, “to amend part A of title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve preparation programs and strengthen support for principals and other school leaders.”

Senator King’s (I-ME) amendment 2154, “to authorize the Institute of Education Sciences to conduct a study on student access to digital learning resources outside of the school day.”

Senator Thune’s (R-SD) amendment 2155, “to require a report on responses to Indian student suicides.”

Senator Flake’s (R-AZ) amendment 2157, “to reserve funds for an evaluation of early learning alignment and improve grants.”

Senator Booker’s (D-NJ) amendment 2170, “to amend the early learning alignment and improvement grant program under part I of title V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that States support early childhood education programs that maintain disciplinary policies that do not include expulsion or suspension of participating children.”

Senator Coons’ (D-DE) amendment 2178, “to encourage increasing the amount of funds available for parent and family engagement.”

Senator McCain’s (R-AZ) amendment 2181, “to allow States to use funding under part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to replicate and expand successful practices from high-performing public schools.”

Senator Whitehouse’s (D-RI) amendment 2185, “to support innovation schools.” (You can read the text of this one here: SA 2185. Forgive me if I am not so enthused about yet another “opportunity” for “flexibility” and “autonomy” in the name of “innovation.” I’m too well versed in charter school fraud.)

Senator Blunt’s (R-MO) amendment 2195, “to amend section 1113(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow local educational agencies to address the needs of children in schools served by schoolwide programs by providing school-based mental health programs.” This amendment involves only the addition of the term “school based mental health programs” after the term “counseling” related to the development of schoolwide program plans.

Senator Graham’s (R-SC) amendment 2199, “to include entrepreneurship as a local educational agency allowable use of funds under title II.” This amendment is a short one, adding only the phrase, “providing educator training to increase students’ entrepreneurship skills” under Title II, “High Quality Teachers, Principals, and Other School Leaders.”

Senator Alexander’s (R-TN) amendment 2201, “to provide that State assessments not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information.”

Senator Gillibrand’s (D-NY) amendment 2216, “to require a report on cybersecurity education.”

Senator Booker’s (D-NJ) amendment 2224, “to assess and improve educator support and working conditions.” This was the amendment resulting from the BATs/AFT survey on teacher well being.

Senator Bennet’s (D-CO) amendment 2225, “to improve title I by including information about assessments in the categories of information that parents have a right to know about.” Text for this amendment can be found here: SA 2225 Included in the information that this amendment covers is the time students are to spend taking standardized tests.

Senator Cornyn’s (R-TX) amendment 2227, “to reauthorize the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999.” This amendment allows for schools that are garnering high test scores to have rules relaxed so that they might try “innovative” (there’s that word again) methods. However, if the test scores slip, no more relaxed requirements. Read the details here: SA 2227.

Senator Lee’s (R-UT) amendment 2234, “to establish a rule of construction regarding travel to and from school.” This brief amendment concerns the right of parents to allow their children to travel to school by bicycle, car, bus, or on foot, and the right of parents to determine modes of travel that are age-appropriate for their children.

As I was writing this post, the Senate passed its ESEA reauthorization. (For a great post on the issue, see Diane Ravitch’s take, posted July 16, 2015.) I will continue posting on the last of the amendment action on the Senate floor, right up to the final passage of the Senate ESEA version.

Stay tuned.

capital dome



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books



Well, the time for hearing amendments is over. The Senate passed its version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 reauthorization, known as the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

The vote was 81-17:

Let me just post the “nays.” It’s easier:

Blunt (R-MO), Booker (D-NJ), Crapo (R-ID), Cruz (R-TX), Daines (R-MT), Flake (R-AZ), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), Murphy (D-CT), Paul (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Rubio (R-FL), Sasse (R-NE), Scott (R-SC), Shelby (R-AL), Vitter (R-LA), Warren (D-MA)

Not voting:  Graham (R-SC), Nelson (D-FL)

The bill received more Democratic votes than I thought it would.

Though the vote is in, I will continue to post on the amendments that made it to the floor in these last two days.

US senate seal


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,612 other followers