Posts Tagged ‘ESEA waiver’

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.



PSAT for 2-14-12: Call Brizard again! Plan to come see Monty! Waivers!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

For Public Schools Action Tuesday (PSAT) today,

1) Parents 4 Teachers is asking you to help keep the pressure on CPS CEO Brizard about school closings and turnarounds. Call today 773-553-1500. I plan to fax my message to him at 773-553-1501. Some points to mention are below.

2) Plan to come to the forum, “Winning the Testing Battle/ Overhauling NCLB/ESEA” at UIC with FairTest’s Monty Neill tomorrow, Wednesday Feb. 15, at 6 pm. in the Cardinal Room at UIC’s Student Center East (701 S. Halsted at Polk, public parking in structure across Halsted).

3) Consider providing testimony  to ISBE on the ESEA waiver request they propose to submit to the US Department of Education. They never give us much time to do this – the proposal has only been posted for a couple of days here but the public hearings are tomorrow, Wednesday, 2/15, in Schaumburg and Thursday, 2/16, in Berwyn. Details here. Written input can be submitted (see previous link for e-mail address) but it has to be in by 5 pm Friday Feb.17. The proposal itself is due Feb. 21.

ISBE is supposed to give evidence to the feds that it has listened and adjusted its proposal in response to public input, so it’s not a complete shot in the dark.I have not had time to prepare anything yet but I’ve taken a quick look. True to past behavior, ISBE is pledging more standardized testing including making the 8th/9th grade EXPLORE test and 10th grade PLAN test mandatory.

4) It’s Valentine’s Day! Hug a teacher – or any other real education advocate!!!


Re: your call to Brizard on school closings and turnarounds, you might mention some of the following points (sources are here):

  • New Consortium research shows that the positive effect of turnarounds in elementary schools is very small, and there is negligible improvement in the high school turnarounds.
  • One expert said of the turnarounds, “Shifting students and changing labels is not a legitimate way to improve a school.”
  • The numbers of experienced African-American teachers like you are plummeting in the turnarounds while the numbers of inexperienced white teachers is climbing.
  • The 10 AUSL schools also had an overall enrollment decline in special education students of 14.9% between 2006 and 2010. The district wide decline during the same time period was 3.9%.
  • Meanwhile, turnarounds are very costly. While all reform models have been implemented with additional money, turnaround efforts require the largest investment from the district. For example, AUSL elementary schools receive $1.5 million more than their neighborhood counterparts during the first five years of turnaround and an additional $420 per pupil each year. For high schools, AUSL receives $2.4 million more than their neighborhood counterparts over the course of five years and an additional $500 per pupil each year. Aren’t you supposed to be trying to save money?

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 ( and ISBE ( 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
7:00 to 8:30 P. M.

JANE ADDAMS JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, 700 S. Springinsguth Road, Schaumburg, IL

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,, and complete the registration form.

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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.