Thinking back about the lobbying appointments that we attended in D.C. it is hard to differentiate between what one person from another. There seemed to be an overall theme to everyone's conversations that I have outlined below.
Lobbying Notes – New Jersey
Senator Robert Menendez – contact: W. Kirby Mayo (soon to be leaving)
Senator Corey Booker – contact: Ashley Eden (previous education legislative assistant experience but fairly new to Senator Booker's office)
Congressman Christopher Smith – contact: Katherine Talalas
Identified that the new rewrites roll back a lot of what Race to the Top had set into motion.
It ends the high stakes nature of the testing. There will be no more scores tied to evaluations. Education will be renewed with the purpose of civil rights.
However, testing is a reality that still has to exist but it will now be one of 5 tools used for measurement.
Each state will be able to apply for a grant to assist them in analyzing the amount of testing that currently occurs in schools and find ways to reduce that amount.
A new state accountability system will come in. No more AYP (Annual Yearly Progress)
Schools will be required to identify low performing subgroups to target and address. There will not be a mandated approach to the remedy.
More flexibility will be called to for testing windows.
There will be more flexibility with CCSS.
Test will not be dictated. States will be able to write their own tests.
Role of corporations in education
They have a role as a partner in ways to benefit students through providing career training and internships. Mentioned Booker's amendment to facilitate such a partnership. Information about Senator Bookers belief in Career Technical Education (CTE) specific schools as well as high schools coordinating with colleges for transition.
Menendez - A firm statement that the Senator is on the side of the public workers. He once voted against a Federal budget that tried to strip pensions.
Civil Rights and Testing
Mention given to NAACP as the leading force behind lobbying for annual testing. A lot of effort, time and money had been spent for their campaign. We had to question where that money came from, but legislative aides did not seem to see the connections.
Conversations included what the original purpose of charter schools were, according to Al Shanker's vision, as a place for education to grow and develop outside of the confines of state regulations. Slight agreement that perhaps this purpose has been forgotten.
Only office that seemed concerned with special needs students was Congressman Smith's office. Discussion surrounding issues of blanket push-out and denial of services. All parties agreed on the need for early intervention and transition services.
Our talking points that were not really addressed.
The actual validity of testing itself. This conversation was skirted around. There is still the unshakable belief that standardized testing is necessary to hold schools accountable.
How will we hold schools accountable for spending available funding in ways that will actually help students and not to consultants etc? No real answers were given. The federal government does not have that power.
How do we hold the states accountable when private interests permeate the decision making that is done for our schools?
Reflections: Testing seemed to be the overall focus of everyone's conversations. When attempts were made to steer the conversation in other directions, not much discussion followed. Legislative assistants seemed to be working from an outlined set of talking points to address the ECAA amendments.