Posts Tagged ‘ESEA’

Illinois ESEA waiver request: More testing, please!!!

Monday, February 20th, 2012

As if there wasn’t enough going on, tomorrow the Illinois State Board of Education will vote on an ESEA flexibility waiver application which will do little but add more tests to an already ridiculous state assessment system.

Here are the comments I submitted to ISBE last week:

Stop teaching to the test”

 President Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union Address

In their November 22, 2011, joint letter announcing Illinois’ intent to pursue a waiver from NCLB, ISBE Chair Gery Chico and State Superintendent Christopher Koch promised a “common sense accountability system” including “smart, nuanced tools” that will “demonstrate improvement and success in differentiated, appropriate and measurable ways” using “multiple measures.”

This all sounded great until we read the waiver proposal this week.

According to testing experts,* true multiple measures are the use of multiple indicators and sources of evidence of student learning, of varying kinds, gathered at multiple points in time, within and across subject areas. Multiple measures can include classroom, school, district and state tests; extended writing samples; tasks, projects, performances, and exhibitions; and collected samples of student classroom work, such as portfolios..

It was with great disappointment, then, to read the Illinois waiver proposal and see that that you are simply planning more one-shot state standardized tests and calling them “multiple measures.”

Parents are concerned that the “flexibility” promised under the NCLB waiver has turned into just one more excuse to increase the misuse and overuse of standardized tests. We don’t trust the promise of “better tests” aligned with the Common Core standards. We have learned that merit pay and other high-stakes test-based evaluation systems don’t improve learning. Experts at the National Academy of Sciences and the Economic Policy Institute have cited the unreliability of value-added or “growth” measures in warnings about the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems.

Chicago’s schools are already test factories. This proposal will make that terrible situation worse for our children.

Instead of the test-driven strategies favored (and heavily promoted) by non-educators, we need to look towards a vision of education reform that is strongly rooted in democratic principles and supported by ample research. Our children deserve no less. We support the expansion of proven reforms, such as small classes, parent involvement, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum that connects learning to children's own lives, and evaluation systems with high-quality, multiple assessments.

Your waiver proposal offers none of that.

Specifically, regarding state assessment and accountability systems, we recommend that they:

Require that states allow parents to opt their children out of any state or local standardized test.

Specify regular public review and revision of state learning standardsand related assessments.

Locate the key accountability elements at the local school level.

Bar the use of tests for any purpose different from that for which the test was explicitly designed.

* http://fairtest.org/fact-sheet-multiple-measures-definition-and-exampl

 

Illinois needs our input on ESEA flexibility waivers NOW

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

UPDATE: ISBE says they will post Illinois’s draft proposal tomorrow, 2/10, on their web site (see link below).

Meanwhile, today the US Dept of Education approved 10 of 11 waiver requests submitted by states last December.

***

As the first round of ESEA flexibility waivers are about to be announced (Thursday, we hear), the Feb. 21 deadline for the second round – which will include Illinois – is coming up fast.

That’s a pretty short timeline for people to get a clue about something that may lead to major changes in state education policy. (I’ll try to give you the gist of it in a minute.)

In fact, if you want to have any input into our state’s waiver request, you only have until Monday, Feb. 13th, to register for one of two public hearings sponsored by the Illinois PTA, to be held on Feb. 15th in Schaumburg and Feb. 16th in Berwyn (details here and below).

The US Department of Education really wants you to be heard (they say p. 9 and elsewhere). USDE has mandated that applicants “meaningfully engage and solicit input on its request from teachers and their representatives and from other diverse communities, such as students, parents, community-based organizations, civil rights organizations, organizations representing students with disabilities and English Learners, business organizations, and Indian tribes.”

Yet I would be surprised if more than a handful of folks outside of the Illinois PTA leaders even know anything is going on. The Illinois State Board of Education web site promises information – “Details on Illinois’ proposal will be forthcoming”….”Please check back” on the web page for updates. That’s it. No updates. Remember, the deadline for submission is Feb. 21.

Do you feel meaningfully engaged or solicited? Me, either.

This lack of transparency is happening in other states, too. Parents Across America’s Wendy Lecker from Connecticut wrote this on the PAA blog last week:

So far, the “input” the (Connecticut) state Department of Education seeks consists of a web address to write to, found on a page of the DOE’s website. However, the DOE has not made any draft application available for review. It is impossible to give meaningful input on the application without knowing its contents.

In a follow-up post, Wendy reported that, after she and several other parents wrote in asking the state to make the application available and hold hearings, the State Department of Education complied.

NCLB according to Arne

So, what’s the deal with these waivers? Well, Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan in his infinite wisdom as a former pro basketball player in Australia just got darned tired of waiting for Congress to remake NCLB in the image of Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee, so he first sent forth Race to the Top, the federal bribery plan that allowed Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children to rewrite state education laws across the land. That being not enough, he then decreed that states could apply for flexibility waivers to get out of the terrible mandates of NCLB as long as they agreed to the terrible mandates of Arne Duncan: to adopt the Common Core state standards, the common core national tests, link teacher and principal evaluations to standardized test scores, and, instead of all students being  “proficient” by 2014, assure that all students will be “college ready” by 2020.

That’s my take. You can read the USDE’s version here. That link will also take you to the actual applications of the states that applied in the first round, whose fates will be announced tomorrow.

I have e-mailed the Illinois PTA ( bquinnpta@aol.com) and ISBE (nclbwaiver@isbe.net.) asking for more information. To ISBE I wrote, “I am interested in providing input on ISBE’s application for a flexibility waiver, but am unable to find a draft or any other proposal on the ISBE web site to respond to. Can you help?” I’ll let you know if I hear back.

Here’s the PTA invite:

No Child Left Behind/Elementary Secondary Education Act
STAKEHOLDERS MEETING
ON FLEXIBILITY WAIVER
7:00 to 8:30 P. M.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2012
JANE ADDAMS JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, 700 S. Springinsguth Road, Schaumburg, IL

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2012
MORTON WEST HIGH SCHOOL, 2400 S. Home Avenue, Berwyn, IL

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.  Presentation will begin promptly at 7:00 p.m.

In September, 2011, the Flexibility Waiver for the Elementary Secondary Education Act, commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind, was announced. The Illinois State Board of Education is committed to developing a strong waiver request that addresses:
 putting children first
  preparing every student for success in college or a career, and
 raising expectations by closing the achievement gap while still meeting local needs.

Who should attend:
 parents
  students
 community leaders
 school personnel
Why attend:
 to learn what the Flexibility Waiver is and is not
  to share your concerns
  to ask questions
 to provide information and feedback to the State Board of Education

To reserve space, please visit the Illinois PTA website, www.illinoispta.org, and complete the registration form.

ESEA begins another year’s journey

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Experts are predicting (also here) that the No Child Left Behind Act will not be revised in 2012. Meanwhile, Republican House education committee leaders are planning to change strategy and write a more comprehensive ESEA bill, dropping their efforts to come to agreement with Democrats on a set of issue-specific pieces and preparing a larger bill like the one passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last October.

The House committee has already passed individual bills on expanding charter schools, program consolidation, and funding flexibility. Only their charter school bill passed the full House. The Senate HELP committee bill has not moved to the full Senate.

The House ed committee is apparently now working on “accountability” (read testing) and “teacher quality” (read more testing) provisions to combine with the three bills already passed in the committee. While a final decision may not be near, this is the time when legislative language is being written. Once written, it becomes more difficult to change. That means that we should continue to contact our legislators to inform them of our concerns and ideas for the future of our children’s education. Parents Across America has a comprehensive position statement here.

Here’s a new comment on ESEA from FairTest’s Monty Neill (advertisement – don’t miss Monty here in Chicago Feb 15th!) 

Monty Neill on ESEA reauthorization posted today on National Journal education blog

The key question is, What’s the content?

The most pressing issue is not whether a NCLB reauthorization bill is partisan or not, but whether it helps improve teaching and learning.

NCLB has seriously damaged U.S. educational quality and equity. FairTest explains why in our just-released report, NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure? The combination of high-stakes testing overuse and unsound sanctions has undermined good schools, hindered and misdirected reform efforts in weaker ones, and perpetuated the dangerous illusion that schools alone can solve the problems of poverty and segregation.

Secretary Duncan’s waiver scheme does remove the boot of “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) from the necks of schools in states that accept the bad deal of judging teachers “in significant part” on the basis of student test scores. Despite rhetoric from President Obama and his education secretary about the low quality of standardized exams and the harm of teaching to them, they are intensifying the pressure on school people to narrow the curriculum and teach to the tests.

The Senate HELP bill likewise scuttles AYP. It at least limits the requirement to judge teachers by student test scores only to states that choose to use some ESEA discretionary funds to construct a teacher evaluation system. It also takes a more reasonable approach to school improvement in calling for a tailored plan based on a review of the particular school. Unfortunately, it undermines this sensible approach (strongly recommended by the Forum on Educational Accountability, FEA) by also insisting that districts pick from a menu of rigid options that closely resemble NCLB’s sanctions.

So what should the House do, hopefully as bipartisan legislation but even if Republican only? It should also drop AYP. It should not require any state to use student test scores to judge educators. And it should entirely scrap any remnants of the misguided NCLB sanctions structure.

But it should go well beyond these steps and follow the recommendations outlined in FairTest’s report (which in turn overlap with both FEA and the Broader, Bolder Approach). These include:

–          Reduce the amount of mandated testing to once each in elementary, middle and high school. No other advanced nation tests more than this. For example, top-performing Finland does not test at all for school evaluation. Over-testing in the U.S. has simply produced state test score inflation, not real gains in learning, as demonstrated by stagnant NAEP scores for almost all groups.

–          Provide serious support to enable states to work with districts to construct assessment systems rooted in ongoing student schoolwork. There are ways to do this that are unobtrusive, avoid teaching to the test and narrowing the curriculum, produce adequately reliable and strongly valid evidence of student learning, and support strengthening the capacity of the teaching force.

–          Provide serious support to states willing to build a school quality review system.

Taken together, these systems of assessment and evaluation can produce rich information to use in school improvement, as I’ve explained in an Education Week Commentary. By building on the school improvement ideas in the Senate HELP bill but jettisoning the continuing link to NCLB sanctions, the rich evidence of student learning and school strengths and weaknesses can be used to foster systemic school reform.

To succeed, these reforms will require additional funds for schools serving our most impoverished children. Even then, Congress should not perpetuate the falsehood that schools can overcome the consequences of poverty. Solving that vast problem goes well beyond an education bill, though ensuring high quality pre-school and wrap-around services are steps that Congress can take in reauthorizing ESEA.

 

PSAT for 11-29-11: Support PURE!

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

They wanted PURE to go away – but instead we went national!

It’s been a difficult few years for a scrappy, outspoken group like PURE in a city like Chicago, where it’s considered near-treason to question the emperor’s fashion sense.

Unfortunately, the Chicago “model” of high-stakes testing, teacher-bashing, failing to fund schools adequately, and attacking democratically-run local public education has gone national. Thanks to corporations looking to make profits off of our children, these policies and practices are making the already huge gap between the haves and the have-nots grow larger every day.

The Chicago policies that PURE has fought for years have become national mandates, so PURE is going after the head of the monster.

We need your help. If you appreciate PURE’s fighting spirit, 

PLEASE MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION TODAY.

Here’s what PURE is doing to protect our children.

  • A national voice and resource for parents: We co-founded Parents Across America (PAA), which is already a major national player in the fight for our public schools. PAA played a prominent role in this summer’s Save Our Schools national march on Washington. Our powerful PAA network put PURE ahead of the curve with critical information about newly-appointed CPS CEO J. C. Brizard which forced CPS and City Hall to stop making false claims about his track record.
  • A better ESEA: As chair of the PAA Legislative Committee, PURE’s executive director prepared a counter-proposal for reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was featured in the Washington Post, endorsed by the SOS March, and called “best critique of ESEA yet” by noted education expert Diane Ravitch.
  • Solidarity with public school teachers: Honoring PURE’s history as a strong parent-teacher alliance, and in recognition of the unprecedented, highly-funded attack on teachers, PURE has been out front in support of the progressive leadership of the Chicago Teachers’ Union and the teaching profession in general.

If this fight is important to you, and you believe that PURE is needed in the fight,

PLEASE MAKE A TAX_EXEMPT DONATION TODAY!

But wait – there’s more!

  • Fighting high-stakes testing: PURE speaks out against high-stakes tests on a regular basis. We testified before U. S. Department of Education officials regarding our concerns about the new “Common Core” assessments. We submitted testimony to the Illinois State Board of Education and the state legislature about the dangers of tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. CPS’s test-based student retention policy is under investigation by the USDE’s Office for Civil Rights as a result of our discrimination complaint. Meanwhile, under pressure from PURE, the number of retained students in CPS has been cut in half and the promotion policy is on hold.
  • Challenging school privatization: We continue to bust myths and expose hype and falsehoods told about Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 program by people from local charter operators on up to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. We are currently working on an expose of charter discipline policies with a national advocacy group.
  • Support for parents: We continue to work with parents here in Chicago, supporting them at special education and discipline meetings and with general advice and referrals. We offer workshops for parents and local school councils as resources allow. We recently made community presentations for the Better Government Association.

The cost of speaking out: You may have noticed that PURE is often the only group quoted in news stories about CPS/City Hall education pronouncements. Few other groups or individuals are willing to go on the record with any criticism of the new mayor or the power-brokers on the Board of Education. We have been duly punished for our outspokenness. No Chicago foundation currently funds PURE. We are therefore even more grateful to the foundations which do support us: The W.W. Kellogg Foundation, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the 21st Century Foundation, and RESIST.

And it’s for that very reason that we cherish and so greatly appreciate you, our members and friends. You are our Chicago foundation (even if you don’t live here!! )

PURE has not sent out a general appeal for funds in three years. For a while we were not all that positive that we would survive. But we have survived, and we are stronger in many ways.

If you care about public education and you think that PURE plays a critical role in supporting better public schools for every child, PLEASE MAKE A GENEROUS DONATION NOW.

You may use our secure Donate button or mail a check or money order to Parents United for Responsible Education, 11 E Adams Street, Suite 1401, Chicago IL 60603.

Thank you!

PURE testimony on teacher evaluation in Chicago

Monday, November 7th, 2011

November 7, 2011

To the Illinois Performance Evaluation Advisory Council

PURE believes that an effective assessment and accountability system is essential to an excellent public education for all children. We support assessment and accountability systems which are built on high-quality learning standards, incorporate multiple measures of student progress over time, value local assessment, respect parental rights, are transparent to the public, and demonstrably support improved teaching and learning.

Unfortunately, we are moving farther and farther away from establishing such a system. The federal No Child Left Behind Act created a massive explosion of testing in our nation, exacerbating the misuse and overemphasis on standardized tests across the U.S. Despite campaign rhetoric about reducing the amount of standardized testing, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top and Blueprint for Education Reform have actually expanded the dependence on these unreliable and unfair measures by, among other things, demanding that states use standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

While state legislatures and boards of education are leaping onto the test-based evaluation bandwagon, parents throughout the country are saying no to more testing. 

  • We don’t trust the promise of “better tests” aligned with the Common Core standards.

  • We have learned that merit pay and other high-stakes test-based evaluation systems don’t improve learning.

  • Experts at the National Academy of Sciences and the Economic Policy Institute have cited the unreliability of value-added or “growth” measures in warnings about the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems.

  • We know that standardized tests are designed for specific purposes, and that test makers warn against using them in ways for which they are not intended.

In just the last two days, we’ve learned about the disastrous Tennessee teacher evaluation program and an open letter written by New York State principals opposed to a similar process they are being forced to carry out there. A while ago, we read about the teacher evaluation system in Montgomery County, Maryland, which is highly effective without using test score data. The district refused $12 million in Race to the Top funds because accepting the money would require a change in that policy and, according to the superintendent, “We don’t believe the tests are reliable. You don’t want to turn your school into a test factory.”

Chicago’s schools are already test factories. This proposal will make that terrible situation worse for our children. Let’s learn from other states’ mistakes, save our children and their teachers from the potentially disastrous consequences of bad policy making, and choose not to waste millions or perhaps billions of dollars on another failed experiment.

Instead of the test-driven strategies favored (and heavily promoted) by non-educators, we need to look towards a vision of education reform that is strongly rooted in democratic principles and supported by ample research. Our children deserve no less. We support the expansion of proven reforms, such as small classes, parent involvement, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum that connects learning to children's own lives, and evaluation systems with high-quality, multiple assessments.

Specifically, regarding state assessment and accountability systems, we recommend that they:

Require that states allow parents to opt their children out of any state or local standardized test.

Specify regular public review and revision of state learning standardsand related assessments.

Locate the key accountability elements at the local school level.

Bar the use of tests for any purpose different from that for which the test was explicitly designed.

What happened with ESEA last week?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

The reports are in. Here’s a sample of the reaction.

Monty Neill writes that the Senate’s biggest change in ESEA will be the name:

Unfortunately, despite intra- and inter-party disagreements, inside-the-Beltway politicians appear to remain wedded to NCLB’s failed approach to improving schools — massive over-testing and overreliance on test scores to judge.

Alyson Klein details the odd pair-up behind some of the winning amendments in her Ed Week blog:

Debate over the measure has also created some strange political bedfellows.

A draft version of the measure released Oct. 11 by Sen. Harkin, would have called for states to craft teacher evaluations that took into account student achievement. But that provision was scrapped at the behest of committee Republicans, who said it would amount to a federal mandate of what should be a state and local issue.

The GOP priorities jibed with those of the National Education Association, a 3.2 million member union, which also saw the provision as a federal intrusion.

The NEA also saw eye-to-eye with the GOP on another change to the bill, which passed with bipartisan support during committee consideration. That provision, sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, would permit states to submit their own ideas to the U.S. secretary of education for turning around the lowest-performing schools.

One of only three HELP committee Republicans to vote yes on the final package, our Senator Mark Kirk may have responded to our outreach to him throughout the week!

Senate committee debate on ESEA moves ahead; hearing set for 11-8

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Update stories from Ed Week here and here on the status of ESEA in the Senate HELP committee, which has set a hearing on the proposal for November 8:

…the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the committee, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., reached an agreement with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., so that action on the bill could move forward.

…the biggest loser is the Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s plan to offer states waivers from some provisions of the current No Child Left Behind Act. Lawmakers have said they’d like to get this bill passed in the Senate before Christmas to negate the need for waivers.

These articles offer some useful insight into the members’ various approaches to the federal role in schools.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.