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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Please help us stop John King's "test and punish" ESSA regulations

John King, now US Education Secretary, is up to his old tricks and is trying to eliminate all the flexibility that Congress intended the new law called ESSA to achieve.  He instead wants to require that states punish schools with high opt out numbers and to impose a single grade on all schools-- which NYC wisely moved away from.  Other problems with the proposed regs are below. 

Please take a minute to leave a comment on the US ED Gov site on these proposed regs by using the NPE suggestions below -- and click on the link to send a letter to your members of Congress; if you can, try to edit the letter a bit so it doesn't register as spam.   thanks! 

We urge you to take a stand against the proposed regulations drafted by U.S. Secretary of Education John King for implementing the accountability provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Although the intent of ESSA was to put an end to the “test and punish” regime of NCLB and give more flexibility to the states, in some ways the draft regulations are even more punitive and prescriptive than under NCLB.

For example, although ESSA permits states to pass laws allowing parents to opt their children out of taking the state tests, the draft regulations would require states to harshly punish or label as failing, schools in which more than 5% of students opt out.

The regulations would also require that every public school in the country receive a single grade--based primarily on test scores and other strictly academic factors -- even though the law properly leaves it up to the states to devise their own grading systems within certain limits. This would impose simplistic and damaging school grades that have already been found defective in many states and districts across the country.

In short, these proposed regulations would micro-manage the ability of states to create their own accountability systems, and take away the opportunity for parents and educators to have a real voice in their school accountability system.

It is imperative that we push back now while there is still time to change course. We need you to do two things as soon as you can:

1.     Please cut and paste the comments below the line into the area for comments on the US Department of Education website, which you will find by clicking here – or revise them according to your liking.

2.     Complete our Action Alert and send a letter to your own representatives urging them to block these destructive regulations. We make it easy to do! Just click here.

It is critically important that you take the time to try to improve these regulations, before it’s too late – and stand up for our public schools and students.

Although the comment period is open until August 1, we ask that you take action as soon as possible and preferably by Tuesday, June 29 because the Senate is questioning Sec. King on Wednesday. Thanks for your help!
Carol Burris, Executive Director of NPE
Please cut and paste the text below here, or revise if you prefer.
I oppose the following proposed regulations as contrary to the language and spirit of ESSA and because they will impose damaging and overly prescriptive mandates on our public schools.
In each case, the US Department of Education is foisting its own preferences while tying the hands of states, districts, parents, and educators to devise their own accountability systems, as ESSA was supposed to encourage. Specifically:

1. Draft regulation 200.15: This would force states to intervene aggressively and/or fail schools in which more than 5% of students chose not to take the state tests. This violates the provision in ESSA recognizing “a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the parent’s child participate in the academic assessments”

Recommendation: This regulation should be deleted. States should be able to exercise their right to determine what measures should be taken if students opt out, free of federal intrusion.

2. Draft regulation 200.13
The law requires states to create a growth score as an indicator for elementary and middle schools. Secretary King has inserted “based on the reading/language arts and mathematics assessments” into the regulation. This would prevent states from creating their own measures of student learning across the curriculum, based on factors other than standardized test scores.

Recommendation: The language “based on the reading/language arts and mathematics assessments” should be deleted from the regulation so that states have the freedom to devise their own measures of student growth.

3. Draft regulation 200.14

The law requires that there be four accountability indicators. The fourth is a school quality indicator that is not based on test scores or graduation rates. States have the freedom to include school climate data, parent engagement, or other factors related to school quality. The proposed regulation insists that such measures prove by research how they are linked to achievement or graduation rates, therefore restricting what states can include.

Recommendation: This regulation should be amended by allowing states to encourage improvements in school climate, safety, engagement, or other factors that may or may not be directly linked to academic achievement, but are important in their own right.

4. Draft regulation 200.17

Proposed 200.17 would require that the test scores and graduation rates of any subgroup (such as students with an IEP or disadvantaged students) of at least 30 students be measured for accountability purposes. Both NCLB and the ESSA leave the decision of minimum subgroup size for the states to decide. The regulations argue that group size of 30 is sufficient to provide a fair and reliable rating, but this claim has no basis in research. It should be noted that with a group size of 30, even 2 absent students will push the school below the 95% participation requirement.


The minimum group size should be decided by states, as the law requires, after consultation with researchers, given the high-stakes consequences for schools.

5. Draft regulation 200.18
This would require that each school receive a single “summative” grade or rating, derived from combining at least three of the four indicators used to assess its performance.  Yet imposing a single grade on schools has been shown in states and districts across the nation to be overly simplistic, unreliable and unfair, and is nowhere mentioned in the law. This is why it has been severely criticized in Florida, for example, and why NYC has moved away from such a system. The proposed regulations go further and forbid states from boosting a school’s rating if it has made substantial improvement on the 4th or non-academic category.

By doing so, the US Department of Education is again undermining the right of each state to determine its own rating system, and whether it chooses to provide a full or narrow picture of school performance.

 Recommendation: DoE should allow states to retain the authority given to them by ESSA to create their own rating systems, and to determine their own weighting of various factors. The federal government should be prevented from requiring that schools be labelled with a single grade, just because that happens to be its own policy preference.

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