Tuesday, December 1, 2015

BATs Respond to Every Student Succeeds Act




Dear Representative/Senator
This letter is in response to the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is due to be heard in the House this week and the Senate next week.  We have some concerns about the Act and would like to share them with you as the process of reauthorizing ESEA moves forward. 

Title 1
We have concerns that “personalized learning “ will be a vehicle for students to be placed in front of a computer screen all day or have them moved out of their public school to a school that is not housed in their community.  This school could be an online learning center and a charter school; both which have been proven not to be beneficial to a child's learning experience.    Why should children have to move out of their community school to be educated?  

We are vehemently opposed to testing children each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school.  We are the only nation that demands this of our children.  Grade span testing by random sampling will allow more time for learning and less time for testing.  

We strongly oppose the 1% cap on alternative assessments for our special needs children.

Remove Pay for Success as it is located in Title 1, Part D, Section 4108, page 485.  Social Impact Bonds favor financial investors and NOT KIDS!  In Title IV, A in the section titled "Safety and Healthy Students, page 797, Social Impact Bonds are defined as "Pay for Success."  Investors are paid off when a student IS NOT referred to special education.  The education of our most vulnerable children should NOT BE FOR SALE TO WALL STREET!  We will be watching this section very carefully and urge you to demand it be removed from the act!

 We also do not agree that our ENL/ELL populations should be subject to multiple statewide interim assessments during the academic year.  This, once again, results in more testing and less learning for our non-English speakers.  
We are opposed to computer adaptive assessments listed in the Act.  We feel that testing and technology companies put together inferior products, sell them to districts to make money and now districts are left with inferior assessments and no money.  We are also opposed to the idea of  ‘innovative assessment system', as outlined in Part B Title 1, that could be used as assessments in school districts.  As educators, we have seen technology companies and testing companies pillage the coffers of public education with products that are inferior and do not enhance teaching and learning.  This is not what America wants for its children.  We conducted a quick poll of our membership and found that in regard to technology 50.6% of the teachers surveyed enjoyed using technology where 19.9% did not.   Where our concerns lie is that when teachers were asked the question do you feel that your district has the money it needs to purchase technological systems/programs if required to by federal and state mandate?” 73% said no and 26.8 % said yes.   Furthermore when teachers were asked, do you feel that your school district is properly funded to meet the needs of technology demands required by the USDOE and your state Department of Education?” 81.9% of teachers said no and 18.1% said yes.   When polled whether parents in their districts would support Competency Based Learning/Personalized Learning/Student-Centered Learning technology systems?   72.7% said no, and 27.3% said yes.   When asked if they felt parents in their district would support Blended Learning?  33.1% said no and 66.9% said yes.  When asked if they felt parents in their district would support a movement away from traditional public education to a more online/digital learning environment? 76.2% said parents would not support that, and 23.8% said they would.  

  Finally from Part A of Title 1 we feel that allowing alternative routes to certification will only guarantee that our neediest children will get the least trained, for example, Teach for America.  We should require every teacher, in every classroom to be fully licensed and accredited from a strong college education program.  


We are happy you listened to educators by removing the federal oversight of state public education systems as many states have been held hostage by these federal mandates.   As stated in the bill  “The Secretary shall not have the authority to mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision over any of the challenging State academic standards adopted or implemented by a State.”

We are encouraged that states now have the authority to design and implement their own set of standards; assessments and those opportunities exist for multiple measures in accountability including project-based assessments and portfolios that will end reliance on bubble tests as well as ensure age appropriateness of state tests and standards.

We agree with teacher accountability and evaluations being restored to local and state control removing the damaging unreliable Value Added Measure and Test scores tied to teacher’s effectiveness.

We applaud that nothing in this legislation shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent not to have their child participate in the academic assessments.  

The bill takes care of our migratory children providing support services to those students; the USDOE will be charged with assisting states in keeping records of migratory workers and ensure they are provided the supports mandated by the law.

We are also happy to see that Title I funds will not be portable.  We believe that children should be able to attend a great public school in their community.

We applaud that the bill increases funding for key formula grant programs. The increases overall of funding by 2 percent each year in 2018-2020 is hopeful. Increases in Title I ($1.2 billion over the 4 years of the authorization), a more than a 20 percent increase. We applaud the increase in authorizations for Title III (English Language learners), Title VI, American Indian and Alaska Native programs and Impact Aid are excellent. Increases in the Mckinney Vento leave us hopeful that our homeless children will be serviced and supported.  Finally we are thrilled that ESSA increases authorization levels for Striving Readers.

Title II
We are opposed to merit pay for teachers.  This creates a competitive environment in our schools and does not make for collaboration and cooperation.  Although we appreciate that this is now subject to collective bargaining, we want to make clear that merit pay does not make great schools nor does it make for great education.  Also, teachers should not be evaluated on student test scores.  We know this will be determined at the state level but we want to make it clear that it is not research proven to elevate the quality of a child's education based on their tests scores.  The American Statistical Association (ASA) has also come out against using test scores to evaluate teachers. 

We support the legislation inspired by the BAT/AFT Quality of Work Life team to provide funding to local school districts developing feedback mechanisms to improve school working conditions.  This feedback will include periodic and publicly reporting results of educator support and working conditions feedback. We also celebrate the grant to enhance curriculum to be age appropriate, libraries, teacher residency programming that include teacher voices in the grant process. Teacher certification process too has been restored to our states as well as the option to create teacher certification portability without interference from the USDOE.

We were relieved to see the groundbreaking inclusion of collective bargaining rights as well as restored local control to public education. SEC. 2302. RULES OF CONSTRUCTION. ‘‘(a) PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL.—Nothing in this title shall be  construed to authorize the Secretary or any other officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s—  ‘‘(1) instructional content or materials, curriculum, program of instruction, academic standards, or academic assessments; ‘‘(2) teacher, principal, or other school leader evaluation system; ‘‘(3) specific definition of teacher, principal, or other school leader effectiveness; or  ‘‘(4) teacher, principal, or other school leader  professional standards, certification, or licensing. ‘‘(b) SCHOOL OR DISTRICT EMPLOYEES.—Nothing in this title shall be construed to alter or otherwise affect  the rights, remedies, and procedures afforded school or school district employees under Federal, State, or local laws (including applicable regulations or court orders) or under the terms of collective bargaining agreements, memoranda of understanding, or other agreements between such employees and their employers.

Title III
We are opposed to “entities” being involved in the education of our ESL/ENL populations.  Once again selling our children out to “partners” that do not work with them on a daily basis is detrimental.  Keep all education of our ESL/ENL students in the schools that they attend which are located in their communities.    

We are concerned that you have removed the language that says that ESL/ENL students are entitled to scientifically based research and changed that language to effective approaches.  Our ESL/ENL children, all of our children, deserve scientifically based approaches.  

Also, in Title III we are not comfortable with the digital language.  In this language it is stated that development of technology or instructional materials can be inserted into the curriculum – our concern here is the movement to full on-line learning, which we know is not successful.  Our ENL/ESL students need human language development and the ability to converse with humans NOT computers.   

We have major issues with the fact that we will be, once again, labeling our ENL/ESL students on a single standardized test or the choice of testing them all year long! They need more time for learning and less time testing. 

We are concerned that data relating to meeting State standards is disaggregated at a minimum by ELLs with a disability. We are concerned that the number and percentage of students not reclassified as English proficient within five years of initial classification as an EL and enrollment in the LEA will be reported.  We fear this because we do not want our ENL/ESL children to be set up or labeled as “failing” as we have seen done over the last several years.  We know that all research shows that it takes 5 to 7 years average to acquire proficiency; particularly in Dual Immersion programs English acquisition may take longer. 

We are once again concerned that the education of our ENL/ESL students will be sold to private entities with no relevant experience and capacity.  We must state strongly to fund ENL/ESL education, fund ENL/ESL teacher training and recruit our best and brightest into the field to help our ENL/ESL students.

Title IV
We would like to see all language and funding related to for-profit charters deleted from the Act. Research shows us that for profit charters do not perform better than public schools.  Many of them cherry pick students, have zero tolerance discipline policies, and counsel students out that don’t fit their profile.   For-profit charters should not receive federal funding! We feel that funding to charter schools should be removed from all language in this Act. The implementation of new charters, an increase in the number of charters, expansion of charters, and financial support for facilities and or renovations should all be removed, and all of this funding should be funneled into our public schools.  We agree charters that are in existence should be held to transparency and regulation, including financial audits. 

The funding set for Puerto Rico needs to be much higher than 1%. Although we know in Title 1 that they are receiving increased funding under territories, we feel that they need more funding to save and create a strong public school system for their children.  The Federal government has a responsibility to help the children of Puerto Rico attain a world class education. 

We feel that all wording related to “private entities” be stricken from this Act.  Public education has been pillaged by “private entities” who do not know how to teach our children and have attempted with very little success to run our schools like businesses.  We encourage you to leave education up to the professionals not “private entities.”

We need to make sure that educators have a strong voice in the effective use of technology in our schools. We feel a balance between technology and teacher/student driven learning is very important.  We feel any language in this document that seeks to place the teacher as a facilitator of an online learning program needs to be removed.  Once again, put money in the hands of public education not technology companies.  According to a technology survey we conducted, here is what teachers are saying about the sustainability of technology in their schools.  Is your district able to repair and replace outdated technology in a timely fashion? Yes -19.1% No - 80.6%. Do you think your school has a strong enough Wi-Fi network to support large numbers of students using technology at the same time? Yes-25% No-74%. Do you feel that your school has the personnel to attend to technology issues when they arise? Yes-18.4% No-81.4%.  Do you feel that your district has the infrastructure needed to provide a sound technology platform to all students and teachers that will allow for uninterrupted teaching/learning? Yes-13.8% No-86.2%.    

We are pleased that funding remained in for after-school programs, but concerned it is still tied directly to further instruction connected directly with state standards. Again, this takes time and money away from the other things that our student’s need and enjoy doing.  We are concerned with the “ready to learn program” and the funding that will go to it.  Once again, we are spending money on technology that many districts cannot afford or sustain.  We are also concerned that we are attempting to replace authentic learning with online learning.   We were happy to see a commitment to models of community schools as well as funding for mental health and health experts for our children.

TITLE V
We applaud the restoration of state control to transferable funding removing the ability of the USDOE to restrict how we use our taxpayer dollars to help the children in our states.

Title VIII
We do not support expanding the school day.  We do support funding so that we can reduce class size and support extra supports during the school day and in after-school programs where we can assist struggling learners. 

We applaud the removal of USDOE authority to dictate standards, curriculum, and assessments that no longer can state government officials hide behind the federal government when they fail to serve the needs of our students as prescribed by the law!! They now can be held accountable by the public that elected them to serve the best interest of our future generations.

We are optimistic about what we see in Title IX – Homeless Children, Title VII Impact Aid, Title VI Native American Education, and Title V – State Innovation and Local Flexibility 


In closing, we are asking for  thoughtful debate on this important act.  We are asking for you to listen and weigh the concerns of citizens  who will contact you.  We are hoping that you will join us in the  fight to create, fund, and support great public schools that service the needs of all children in this nation. 

8 comments:

  1. Thank-you very much for all your hard work. Your thorough work and very helpful ideas on how we can fix the ESSA give us many talking points for when we call our legislators and for when we talk to others about how to fix this mess. Thank-you!!

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  2. "Grade span testing by random sampling will allow more time for learning and less time for testing. " We already have this. It's called NAEP.

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  3. Excellent

    My post is
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/will-every-student-succee_b_8730956.html

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  4. A thousand 'mahalos' and thank you for reading this law and pointing out our next battles. We will not give up our public schools, the foundation upon which our future society depends. My granddaughter will live in a world where all U.S. schools are state-of-the-art with educators who are highly educated and specialize in child development, learning acquisition, brain research, classroom management skills, patience, diplomacy, nurturing, and heart.

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  5. Great work. I am glad I found you. Just a word more on technology use in the classroom: you are right to call for a balance, and applaud the lack of mandates in regard to its use; but your data doesn't begin to reveal why you should. Instead, your data seems only to state that the problem with technology is that we do not have enough of it, or enough support for it. From my perspective (and by my own research), the true threat of technology is in its overuse--in teachers' growing reliance on it, and in administrators' uncritical hope to "sell" their schools with it. Every discipline, every professional educator should establish and maintain a proper balance, i'll grant, but that also means we must be willing to serve as a counter-balance with all too common and unhelpful practices or habits at home. In other words, schools must learn to see themselves, in part, to one degree or another, as refuges from the ubiquitous screens, together with all the counterproductive modes they create. Meet kids where they are coming from, but help them climb out of the ruts of their incapacitation...

    Thank you again for your fine work.

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  6. BATS--thank you for everything you do for all teachers. Some may not feel confident enough to speak out, but you are our strong voice. Schools need to be helping all of our kids, and testing, as well as teacher merit pay, is NOT the way to earn achievement! I challenge any administrator to spend one day is a Title 1, poverty stricken, low achieving school. Not one of them would be able to do the job we do every day. Also, teachers need to be involved in high stakes decisions. There is no voice, other than those of non teachers.

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