"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, June 27, 2016

Earth to NPE: There is NOT an Opt-Out Provision in ESSA, So Stop Pretending

Appearing this morning is a hand-wringing appeal at the NPE website, urging teachers and parents to request changes in USDOE Regulations governing the implementation of ESSA.  If readers were to believe the dissembling and phony interpretations by the corporate union front groups, FairTest and NPE, the ESSA is being hijacked by Team Obama to do awful things that were not intended by the Senate's lead education privatizer, Lamar Alexander.

From NPE:
Although the intent of ESSA was to put an end to the “test and punish” regime of NCLB and give more flexibility to the states, in some ways the draft regulations are even more punitive and prescriptive than under NCLB.

For example, although ESSA permits states to pass laws allowing parents to opt their children out of taking the state tests, the draft regulations would require states to harshly punish or label as failing, schools in which more than 5% of students opt out.T
This is a false statement, pure and simple.

ESSA mandates annual testing in grades 3-8 and twice in high school, and ESSA mandates state remedies for schools scoring in the bottom 5 percent.  Which remedies?  It's left up to the states, but the ESSA offers unprecedented piles of cash to states with "failing schools" in the bottom 5 percent to expand charter chains and to start new ones based on the "no excuses" pumice-based pedagogy.  And there will always be a bottom 5 percent.

Contrary to NPE and FairTest claims, ESSA does NOT say anything about permitting "states to pass laws allowing parents to opt their children out of taking state tests."  The draft regulations requiring 95 percent participation in state tests is entirely consistent with the same ESSA that FairTest, NPE, and Ravitch supported.

Here is what the ESSA says with regard to opting out:
At the beginning of each school year, a local educational agency that receives funds under this part shall notify the parents of each student attending any school receiving funds under this part that the parents may request, and the local educational agency will provide the parents on request (and in a timely manner), information regarding any State or local educational agency policy regarding student participation in any assessments mandated by section 1111(b)(2) and by the State or local educational agency, which shall include a policy, procedure, or parental right to opt the child out of such assessment, where applicable (p. 56).

Notice that there is nothing here that "permits" states to do anything other than to report information to parents about existing state law or local policy, and there is nothing here that allows state law or local regulations to overule or take precedent over the federal law, ESSA.

NPE and FairTest are stuck with the policy they supported, which doubles down for another generation on the same loser policies that have decimated public education in the U. S. No amount of wheedling or pretending is going change that, and no amount of appealing is going to change the next Clinton's priorities if elected.


  1. I agree that to state there is a strong opt out provision in ESSA is disingenuous and entirely too optimistic on the part of NPE. I'd have to look at it myself in detail, but from the quote you provided, all I can see is that is requires (?) LEAs who receive federal funding to inform parents that they may request information on testing policies. To inform them that they may request and then receive in a timely fashion. This requires two steps on the part of parents: request information, which may or may not ultimately be accurate, and then to act on that information. As far as opt out provisions go, this is pretty lame.

    1. As you point out, there is no opt out provision in ESSA. To say there is either a gross error or a lie. In either case, the people who are making this claim cannot be trusted.