Legislators Send Letter to US Secretary of Ed John King about ESSA Mandated Testing
On April 04, 2016, nineteen legislators sent a letter regarding the USDOE’s expressed intent to enforce the federal 95 percent testing mandate to US Secretary of Education John King. (See letter below).
Regarding the language in the newly reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) version, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the legislators have some info correct and some incorrect as concerns exactly what ESSA states regarding the 95 percent participation in ESSA’s federally mandated tests tied to Title I funding.
The legislators rightly point out that ESSA allows states to determine how, exactly, to factor the 95 percent of required testing into school accountability plans. However, the ESSA language is clear in the federal expectation that states will indeed factor that 95 percent into their accountability systems. On page 36 of the ESSA 391-page final version, one reads that states are to “provide a clear and understandable explanation of how the state will factor [the 95 percent of federally mandated testing associated with Title I] into the statewide accountability system.”
In their letter, the legislators also point out the ESSA disclaimer that ‘‘nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the parent’s child participate in the academic
assessments under this paragraph” (page 32). However, what they miss is that ESSA plays a game by requiring states to guarantee the 95 percent of test takers even as it declares that ESSA is not responsible for influencing state laws regarding opting out of the mandated testing.
The key is in ESSA language added in the behind-the-scenes Fall 2015 conference– language that was in neither the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) nor the Student Success Act (SSA)– the two ESEA revisions approved by Senate and House, respectively, in July 2015.
The added language regards the denominator of calculations regarding the 95 percent. ESSA specifies that any related achievement-measurement calculations must be equal to or greater than 95 percent of all enrolled students:
Below is the entire section, as taken from ESSA page 36:
(E) ANNUAL MEASUREMENT OF ACHIEVEMENT.—
(i) Annually measure the achievement of not less than 95 percent of all students, and 95 percent of all students in each subgroup of students, who are enrolled in public schools on the assessments described under subsection (b)(2)(v)(I).
(ii) For the purpose of measuring, calculating, and reporting on the indicator described in subparagraph (B)(i),
include in the denominator the greater of—
(I) 95 percent of all such students, or 95 percent of all such students in the subgroup, as the case may
(II) the number of students participating in the assessments.
(iii) Provide a clear and understandable explanation of how the State will factor the requirement of clause (i) of this subparagraph into the statewide accountability system.
Thus, even though these 19 legislators are troubled by ESSA, they missed the chance to protest the rapid speed at which the final bill was presented to them by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and Representative John Kline.
I documented the speedy, no-time-to-read-ESSA Race to Obama’s Desk in this December 09, 2016, post:
On November 30, 2015, the public first saw the 1,061-page final draft of the next Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, now named the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
On December 02, 2015, the House passed ESSA by a vote of 359-64.
On December 09,2015, the Senate passed ESSA by a vote of 85-12.
ESSA is not officially law until President Obama signs the bill.
That is scheduled to happen in short order, on the morning of December 10, 2015. (Which it did.)
So now, we have this letter from well-intentioned members of Congress to a man (John King) who will use the “gotcha” testing language in ESSA to his full advantage. (In their letter, the members of Congress refer to a letter from Ann Whalen. That letter can be accessed here.)
The legislators end their letter by stating that “No Child Left Behind created federally-mandated highs stakes testing…. ESSA ends this federally-mandated high stakes testing….”
ESSA tries to lock states into the same 95 percent testing requirement as NCLB, but ESSA tries to deflect any responsibility for doing so. Neither ECAA nor SSA– the two documents that entered the House-Senate conference on ESEA reauthroization– has the same opt-out-choking language as does the ESSA that emerged from that conference.
Congress should have insisted on time to actually read post-conference ESSA.
Good luck wrestling power from the likes of John King.
Coming June 2016 from TC Press:
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?.
Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.