This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.
First, the ESSA still mandates annual testing. Even without the Obama guidelines, students will still be tested in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
Second, Alexander says the law still requires each state to hold its public schools accountable. Each state must submit a plan detailing how it intends to do that by September of 2017. There is plenty of latitude on exactly how states will do this, but whatever they decide, this new accountability system must be implemented by next school year (2017-2018).
Moreover, he says, states have to identify and provide support to at least the lowest performing 5% of their schools. This must be done by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
They also must use academic and English language proficiency indicators in their accountability systems. Which indicators? Standardized testing? Maybe – maybe not.
Many accountability provisions, such as the requirement that educators measure reading scores, math scores, and graduation rates, are specifically mentioned in the ESSA.
Still, many questions remain.
For instance: if the Department of Education isn’t allowed to tell states what to do, how is it supposed to help them comply with the law?
Alexander cites “Non-regulatory guidance; Dear Colleague letters; Frequently-Asked-Questions documents; Webinars, phone calls, and in-person conferences.”
Alexander stresses that repealing the Obama regulations does not open to door for the Department of Education to mandate a nationwide school voucher plan – unfortunately.
He writes, “A school choice program cannot be unilaterally created by the Department of Education. Only Congress could create a voucher program, and, unfortunately, Congress has rejected doing that.”
This change was less controversial. Eight Democrats joined Republicans in voting to repeal the teacher preparation regulations. By comparison, no Democrats voted to dismantle the accountability rules and one Republican joined them in opposition.
The main point of contention was the requirement that states develop a rating system aimed at evaluating the success of their teacher preparation programs. This would have included how programs’ teachers perform based on a measure of student academic achievement. Though the final version gained some flexibility with how to determine student academic success beyond just test scores, it remained a hot mess.
Any programs that didn’t perform well on the state’s rating system would have lost access to federal grants aimed at supporting teachers who work in high-need certification areas and in low-income schools (or TEACH grants). In effect, it would have pushed for a new generation of teachers dedicated to test prep and Common Core.
I hope I’m wrong, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Perhaps the standardized testing industry has consolidated so much support at the various Republican controlled state legislatures that it no longer needs support in Washington. Perhaps our ridiculously gerrymandered state legislative districts will make any resistance even more difficult. Perhaps a completely toothless Department of Education will embolden the most racist state legislators to dramatically increase segregation and civil rights abuses for the poor and minorities.