Posts Tagged ‘ESEA’

Another few hours for ESEA input?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Sen. Rand Paul has given us a few more hours to speak out on ESEA and what federal education law might look like for the next 5-8 years.

Yes, there will be time to offer input as the proposal works its way through the Senate and, if passed there, in the House, but better to move now before positions get established.

Parents Across America has posted a letter and position chart on the Senate ESEA proposal that you can use and share. Here are some of the main points:


  • We support eliminating the Adequate Yearly Progress metric and removing the mandated test score based teacher evaluation provisions;
  • We oppose continued requirements that states use a rigid list of school improvement strategies that don’t work.
  • Instead, we want parents involved from the ground up in devising school improvement solutions, and to include research-based options like class size reduction.
  • We also want a provision allowing parents to opt out of high-stakes testing, and to eliminate RTTT and the Innovation grants programs.
  • We support Senator Bernie Sanders’ amendment closing a loophole that allows  alternatively certified teachers to be considered highly qualified.
  • We also support any amendment that would allow states to opt out of required testing if the federal government does not provide funding.

Contact info is here for HELP committee members, and here for other Senators.

PSAT for 10-18-11: Strike while ESEA is hot!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

If you didn’t get a chance to call, fax or e-mail yesterday about ESEA, please do it today! Details are here.

Also, there’s a specific amendment to support (Bernie Sanders amendments) and one to stop (Bennett’s S 1250). Here’s the info passed on from Public Advocates:

Senate ESEA mark-up has been delayed until Wednesday, October 19th at 10:00 a.m. ET.  This means we have today and (tomorrow – not any more) to make calls and take action.  Please forward this action alert widely to your networks and members.  Thank you! 



The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to mark-up a bill to reauthorize ESEA (formerly known as No Child Left Behind) next Tuesday, October 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET.  At the markup, critical amendments will be offered by Senators that will have a powerful impact on the future of student access to prepared and effective teachers.

Your Senators need to hear from you today!

Please take 5 minutes to contact your U.S. Senators and members of the Senate HELP Committee concerning the following amendments:


·        These amendments will call for an end to the practice of congregating the least prepared teachers in the highest need schools by strengthening the definition of a highly qualified teacher.

·        These amendments respond to the call of 81 civil rights, parent, disability, ELL and education organizations.


·        S. 1250 would water down requirements for teacher preparation programs by creating separate and lower standards for preparation programs that prepare teachers for the neediest students. Oppose this amendment to end the practice of placing the least qualified teachers in the highest-need schools.

·        Please see this letter that was sent to Congress with concerns about S. 1250.


If you have time, please also take a few minutes to contact other key members of the Senate HELP committee, even if they don’t represent your state.  Contact info and sample script is below. 


Tom Harkin (IA) (COMMITTEE CHAIR): (202) 224-3254 (DC) (515) 284-4574 (Des Moines); web site contact site:

Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA): (866) 802-2833 (DC); (215) 405-9660 (Philadelphia);

Jeff Merkley (OR): (202) 224-3753; (503) 326-3386;

Al Franken (MN): (202) 224-5641; (651) 221-1016;

Barbara Mikulski (MD): (202) 224-4654; (410) 962- 4510;

Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): (202) 224- 2921; (401) 453- 5294

Jeff Bingaman (NM): (202) 224-5521 (DC); (505) 346-6601 (NM);

Patty Murray (WA): Phone: (202) 224-2621 (DC); (866) 481-9186 (Seattle);

Kay Hagan (NC): 202-224-6342; 919-856-4630;

Richard Blumenthal (CT): 202-224-2823; 860-258-6940


Michael B. Enzi (WY) (RANKING REPUBLICAN): (888) 250-1879; (307) 739-9507;

Mark Kirk (IL): 202-224-2854; 312-886-3506;

Orrin Hatch (UT): (202) 224-5251; (801) 524-4380;

John McCain (AZ): (202) 224-2235; (602) 952-2410;

Pat Roberts (KS): (202) 224-4774; (785) 295-2745;

Lisa Murkowski (AK): (202) 224-6665; (907) 271- 3735;

Richard Burr (NC):202-224 3154

Johnny Isakson (GA): (202) 224-3643;

Sample Phone Script or Email

My name is _________, and I’m a (student/parent/voter) from (city).
I am contacting you today to ask you to support Senator Bernie Sanders’ teacher quality and equity amendment to the ESEA reauthorization bill.  All students deserve to be taught by fully-prepared and effective teachers.  Senator Sanders’ amendment will strengthen ESEA to ensure this happens.  It will require teachers to have completed a minimum level of training on Day 1 in the classroom, and also require teachers to prove their effectiveness over time.  It will also help end the shameful practice of concentrating new, untrained teachers in schools serving low-income students, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities.

I also urge you to oppose Senator Michael Bennet’s amendment that would amend ESEA to lower standards for teacher preparation programs in a way that will particularly weaken the preparation of those teachers who teach our most high-need students.

Thank you!

Don’t wait for Tuesday! Today’s the day to contact your Senator on ESEA

Monday, October 17th, 2011

We are working on a Parents Across America summary chart and cover letter on the Senate ESEA proposal, but meanwhile this excellent set of suggestions comes from FairTest’s Monty Neill, who urges everyone to call, write or e-mail TODAY  to have an impact on ESEA:

Contact your Senator today! This one will count the most of any for a long time, because:

The draft ESEA reauth bill introduced by Harkin & Enzi will impose tens of  millions more student tests to judge teachers and principals. Their bill maintains all NCLB testing; defines “achievement” and “growth” as test scores; uses scores as the near-sole basis for many educational decisions; imposes Race to the Top’s rigid “improvement” structure on low-scoring schools.

Senate HELP committee starts work on it Weds. For talking points, contacting Senators, see below. Do it now!

And if you want more detailed information about their bill, see


FairTest suggested talking points:

When you call your Senator to ask him to help overhaul NCLB, here are five suggested talking points, which you can deliver in 2-3 minutes:

Introduce yourself, say what city or town you are from, and tell the person you want to convey a message about No Child Left Behind.

If this Senator is on the HELP Committee say, something like: “I understand that NCLB will be ‘marked up’ and voted on in Committee this week. I am very concerned about the damage caused by NCLB and want Senator [name] to vote to make major positive changes. The Harkin-Enzi reauthorization bill, however, does not improve on NCLB.” Then use the list below.

If this Senator is not on the HELP Committee, say something like: “I understand that the HELP committee will ‘mark up’ and vote on a new NCLB in a couple of weeks. I am very concerned about the damage caused by NCLB and want Senator [name] to call the committee leaders and ask them to make major positive changes.” Then you can use these talking points:

  1. Do not require any additional standardized testing; there is already far too much. The Harkin-Enzi bill will force states to administer tens of millions of new tests, mostly to use to judge teachers and principals.   (Support your argument with examples of over-testing and test misuse at schools in your community.)
  2. Do not require the use of student test scores to evaluate educators. The Harkin-Enzi bill does requires this, but the Alexander-Isakson bill does not.  Reliance on exam results, with all their inaccuracies and fluctuations, will result in many wrong decisions: Research shows teachers classified “best” based on one year’s results may be “worst” the very next year.
  3. Fund states to upgrade the quality of teacher-designed assessments. This is the best way to refocus classrooms on critical thinking and problem solving, rather than memorizing factoids and filling in multiple-choice bubbles.
  4. Hold states accountable for determining the cause of low scores at particular schools and designing/monitoring customized plans to enhance performance.  No more one-size-fits-none, top-down policies that have failed to improve educational quality or equity in the NCLB era. The Harkin-Enzi bill requires schools to use one of several models or “strategic improvements.” These should be dropped.
  5. Please read and use the recommendations of the Forum on Educational Accountability, which you can see at

New ESEA Senate bill posted

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Just received this link from Monty Neill. More on the new proposal to come.

The proposal is 860 pages long. You may want to jump in at p. 38, on assessment, on p. 111, where the school performance (i.e. improvement and intervention) section begins, or at the parent involvement piece beginning on page 149.

PSAT for 1-4-11: Tell Mark Kirk “no” on federal funds for charters

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I have not been able to respond to this survey (which was forwarded to me by a friend) but I hope that’s due to my incompatibility with all things Bill Gates, not a rejection of my views by my senator….

In the post, Mark Kirk declares that he “strongly supports charter schools.” The post is headlined with the incorrect statement that 9 of top 10 High Schools in Chicago are Charter Schools.

(Here’s the video demonstrating how some CPS high school students called candidate Rahm Emanuel out on a similar misstatement.)

But then Sen. Kirk asks what we think:

“Should Congress use its educational funds to support the expansion of Charter Schools?”

Why don’t you tell him? You can also leave a message on Sen. Kirk’s Facebook page. So far, comments are overwhelmingly against charter schools – for example, “Charter schools in many cases are run by corporations and receive little money from the government and operate in many instances under a different set of rules. We don’t need more charter schools, we need better public education funded by local government and with some help from the federal level as well. Stop pushing our tax dollars into the corporate sectors pockets just to win votes – use it locally the way you’re suppose to.”

Status of ESEA in Congress

The U. S. House recently passed HR 2218, which is essentially a charter school expansion bill. This law was opposed by Parents Across America (our position paper here). My Congressman, Bobby Rush, and Congressional Black Caucus Education Chair, Danny Davis, voted NO. I spent quite a bit of time with Cong. Davis’s education point person on this bill when I was in Washington for the SOS March last July, and I believe it was time well spent despite the outcome.

The House’s approach to ESEA reauthorization has been to break up various aspects of the existing No Child Left Behind law into several small bills, most of which they have passed and sent on to the Senate. Now the Senate is beginning to consider their own version, which is more likely to be an all-inclusive bill, and is not likely to go anywhere this year, according to our sources.

Still, the Senate language is already being crafted and will form the groundwork for whatever the Senate eventually does on ESEA, so now is the time to be heard.

If you aren’t from Illinois and are not represented by Senator Kirk, it’s still a good idea to share your thoughts with your Senator on expanding charter schools, test-score-based teacher evaluations, national standardized tests, school closures and turnarounds, and other “reform” strategies that most people involved with schools don’t want and most educators/researchers say don’t work.

You can make it easy by sending them the PAA position paper on ESEA reauthorization, which is summarized here:

Parents Across America opposes:

  • Policies that use standardized test scores as the most important accountability measure for schools, teachers or students, and/or expand the use of standardized testing in our schools.
  • Competition for federal funds; a quality education is not a race but a right.
  • “Parent trigger” laws, vouchers, charter takeovers or other forms of school privatization that take resources from the schools attended by most students and put them into private hands, with less oversight.
  • Limiting federally-mandated school improvement models to a narrow set of strategies, including charter schools and privatization, which are favored by corporate reformers but which have had little verified success.

A new ESEA/NCLB must include:

  • Sufficient and equitable resources in all public schools, so that every child receives a high-quality education.
  • Improving schools rather than closing them, by means of evidence-based solutions backed by parents and other stakeholders.
  • Less standardized testing and more reliable accountability and assessment practices.
  • Programs that encourage the retention of professional, experienced teachers.
  • A full range of parent involvement opportunities including a stronger parent voice in decision making at the school, district, state, and national levels.
  • The right of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

Arne answers @pureparents – gets an incomplete

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Just noticed that one of my questions is the first mentioned in today’s report on yesterday’s #Ask Arne Twitter Town Hall:

Many Twitter users asked Arne about testing, and whether students are taking too many tests at school.

@pureparents: #AskArne: What specifically will you do to decrease the amount of and emphasis on standardized testing in the US?

Secretary Duncan answered:

@usedgov: Where you have too many tests, or are spending too much time on test prep, that doesn’t lead to good results. #AskArne

@usedgov: Fill-in-the-bubble tests should be a tiny % of what we’re doing. I’m a big fan of formative assessments–more helpful to teachers. #AskArne

Too bad these are just more Arne twitterdumb comments, like the ones I picked on yesterday.

When he says “formative assessment,” he simply means regular practice exams – interim standardized tests using exactly the same kinds of questions related to a small set of narrow skills.

And isn’t it disturbing that he essentially answers “none of the above” to what was a higher-order thinking essay question? He doesn’t seem to understand accountability. He acknowledges the problem but not his own role in making the problem worse, and he simply dodges the question about what he will do to fix the problem.

You can watch the full town hall program here.

Duncan on testing: twitterdum?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I had to leave in the middle of the Arne Duncan Twitter Town Hall to do an interview about Rahm’s Trojan Horse (watch it on CBS-2 this evening and read more here) but I did hear our Fed Ed Head talk out of both sides of his mouth (as usual) about testing.

Here’s a brief report from about Fed Ed Head Duncan’s interchange with host John Merrow on the subject:

While Duncan was adamant that testing is critical to measure reading levels and annual improvements, he did admit that “the law is too punitive” and schools need to be granted “more flexibility and autonomy.”

“Students shouldn’t even be tested 10 days out of the year. It is too much,” Duncan said.

“Growth and gain need to be evaluated,” Duncan continued,” but that doesn’t mean excessive testing.”

Duncan noted that good teachers need to be rewarded for their hard work and bad teachers need to improve. He even suggested implementing a reward system with higher pay for schools with higher performance. He maintained, however, that the only way to measure this is through testing.


Duncan’s rhetoric about testing is a slippery as his charter school dodge (“I only support good charter schools”).

Duncan’s “growth and gain” only mean one thing – year-to-year changes in scores on one-shot standardized tests. Duncan’s ‘better tests” are simply expanded, computerized standardized tests.

In other words, more of the same.

Just because you call a pig “better” or “more flexible” or “value-added” doesn’t mean it isn’t still a pig.

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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.