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

Friday, March 10, 2017

What Ending Regulations on ESSA Will Mean

Yesterday, Diane Ravitch had this bit of news at her blog:

. . . .The Senate also voted to roll back an Obama administration rule to “hold schools accountable,” which passed by only 50-49, over vociferous Democratic opposition. Frankly, I don’t know which rule this is. If it was the Obama-Duncan-King test-based accountability, then I think its repeal or elimination is a step forward. As we saw again and again over the past eight years, the Obama Department of Education had an obsessive devotion to test-based accountability that harmed students, teachers, and schools. If this is what the Senate knocked down, count me in. Even the znational Academy of Sciences issued a report critical of test-based accountability, but Duncan was as smitten with standardized testing as DeVos is smitten with vouchers.

Now we all know that Diane is busy, but is she too busy to find out that the squeaker bill resulted from a joint resolution introduced by Ravitch's close friend and former boss, Lamar Alexander.  

Is she too busy to find out before posting at her blog that this bill has nothing to do with ending test-based accountability? Did she not do her due diligence to find out the facts, or was she too much in a hurry to use opportunity to bash Obama, while ignoring the potential for this dangerous Congressional action by her chum, Lamar?

Whatever the reason for her shabby reporting, later yesterday she posted this:

The U.S. Department of Education may pull this off its website.

Download it now. These are John King’s accountability regulations, based on FLORIDA accountability, including A-F ratings for every school!

The Senate voted to revoke them by 50-49.

Farewell and good riddance!

Apparently, someone tipped off Diane to the fact that Alexander's resolution, which passed both Houses and is now headed to Trump for his signature, is to discard the guidance in the USED Regulations for implementing ESSA.  

ESSA stays intact, with all the requirements for annual testing and required shuttering of the lowest 5 percent of schools, along with gargantuan charter school grants, relaxed oversight for charters, and all the huge new incentives for more screen-based schooling for kids.

Also staying intact, too, in the ESSA are requirements for school rating systems, even though they may not be “A-F.”

As she waves a “farewell and good riddance” to the guidance contained the Regulations, Ravitch does not tell her readers that ESSA remains entirely intact, which is to say, it is the same piece of dreck that she and her pal Lamar pushed through in late 2015.

In fact, there is reason to believe that that the removal of federal regulations could escalate the move to state voucher programs that hand over cheap vouchers to the poorest children to “choose” a charter school or a below-average private school.  States will be free to make it up as they along, as long as they stay true to privatization intent and methodology within ESSA.

There is also reason to believe to that the removal of federal guidance for ESSA may result in more special needs children and ELL students going unidentified and unserved.

In fact, there are some former Obama officials who point out a host of things that will be lost by losing the federal guidance.  

No doubt I and everyone else will find some elements of the trashed guidance as awful as the ESSA itself, but I would argue that some guidance is better than none, especially when you have Trumpists ready to burn down all public institutions, without forethought of consequence.  

Here's a few aspects of the trashed guidance that might have helped provide consistency, transparency, or clarity:

States must develop a uniform procedure for reporting per-pupil expenditure data, ensuring uniformity in how this new information is conveyed across all districts in the state. Similarly, each must develop a common way for reporting of new educator data, defining terms like “inexperienced” and “out of field” teachers.

Each state’s accountability system must be statewide—in other words, a single system used throughout the state, with a uniform methodology for differentiating and identifying schools for improvement.

Any state choosing to include former English learners and/or students with disabilities in its accountability system cannot cherry pick which students to include; all former students in those subgroups must be captured.

States must identify all schools with a subgroup performing similarly to the lowest-performing 5 percent of the Title I schools for “additional targeted support” in 2018–19, but states do not have to begin annual identification of schools with consistently underperforming subgroups of students for targeted support until 2019–20—clarifying the two distinct kinds of targeted support schools, with different identification and exit criteria.

States must make their exit criteria for identified schools transparent and publicly available, just as districts must ensure that school improvement plans are publicly posted to build awareness and understanding among the local community
States that permit students in comprehensive support schools to transfer to another school must ensure that the receiving school is higher-performing—that is, that it is not (1) among the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state or (1) a high school with graduation rates below 67 percent.

States must identify low-graduation-rate high schools using the four-year adjusted cohort rate; the statute is silent on the graduation rate measure that should be used here even though the four-year rate must be used for goal-setting under the law.

In addition to identifying the local education agency for each charter school on its district report cards, report cards must also indicate the relevant charter authorizer for the school to provide greater transparency in states with multiple authorizers.

States must communicate with parents and other stakeholders in a manner that is accessible, including by providing written information in languages that parents can understand and, where practicable, by providing information in alternate formats for parents with disabilities.

States must develop their state ESSA plans by conducting meaningful stakeholder engagement with a broad array of groups (beyond those listed in the statute) and take into account feedback at all phases of the process—planning, drafting, implementation, and revision (which the rules clarify must occur at least once every four years). Furthermore, many of these principles also apply to the collaborative process districts and schools must use to develop school improvement plans in partnership with their local communities. 
And here are a few flexibilities that will no longer be afforded, as Diane “waves farewell and good riddance” to ESSA regulations:

States can stagger their implementation timelines so that they use indicators based on the 2017–18 school year to identify their first cohort of low-performing schools in 2018–19. States may also have a planning year so that interventions in these schools must fully kick in by the 2019–20 school year.

States can use the Academic Achievement indicator to give schools partial or extra credit, via an achievement index, for students that are either approaching or exceeding proficiency.

States may develop varying methodologies to differentiate and identify low-performing schools in order to include special kinds of schools in their statewide system (such as newly opened schools, very small schools, schools with non-traditional grade configurations, schools without tested grades, and schools designed to serve unique populations like newcomer schools).

States may use graduation rate data for accountability purposes (especially identification of low-graduation-rate high schools) that lag a year behind other accountability data to account for summer graduates.
States can use a hyperlink to another part of their state website to provide parents and other users with a full description of their school accountability system on district and school report cards, enabling states to reduce the length of their report cards and preventing duplicative information.

States must ensure that at least one intervention in identified schools will be evidence-based, but all activities in the school’s improvement plans do not need to be supported by evidence (as defined in ESSA).

States may provide school improvement funds under section 1003 funds to any school identified for comprehensive or targeted support and improvement, even if the identified school is not a Title I school.

States may create lists of evidence-based interventions to better support school improvement plans developed by districts and schools; use of the list may be optional or required, depending on the state’s policy preference.

While comprehensive support plans must be approved by the state, district, and schools, the regulations provide states the final authority to ensure these plans pass muster, are completed, and can be implemented, particularly if districts or schools disagree on elements of the plan and are at an impasse.

States can tailor their English language proficiency (ELP) goals for different groups of English learners, rather than setting a single timeline for achieving ELP that all students must meet; the timeline applied to a particular group of English learners can vary depending on the characteristics of those students.

States can include the test scores of former students with disabilities in subgroup data for up to two years for accountability purposes.

States can include both former English learners and students with disabilities in the respective subgroups for any indicator that is based on state test scores, rather than only the Academic Achievement indicator.
States may include both former English learners and students with disabilities in calculating graduation rates if they were part of the subgroup at any point during high school, even if the student exited during high school.

States can take advantage of both statutory exemptions for including recently arrived English learners in accountability systems, using student-level characteristics to determine which exception is appropriate for which students.

States may use a composite score within their accountability systems in order to include English learners with disabilities in cases where students cannot be tested on all four ELP domains.

States may count recently arrived English learners in participation rate calculations if that student is included in the accountability system by using an exception where they take the state’s ELP test instead of its English language arts assessment.


  1. Anonymous7:18 PM

    The Trump Era does not bode well for immigrants and their English Language Learner progeny. If my school may serve as an example, the trend is to increase the number of students served by each ESL teacher in order to ascertain the breaking point, whereby attention to individual student needs will be reduced to a bare minimum with the concomitant decrease in student growth.

    Abigail Shure

  2. How about a movement to get state legislatures to draft their own accountability rules, indicating how their public schools will be accountable to parents, local school boards, local taxpayers, and state taxpayers? About 90% of costs of public K-12 education are paid for by non-federal sources. State legislatures can work out own accountabiity rules and don't need federal approval to do so.

    1. If everyone lived in states like MA rather than in states like AL, I would agree with you entirely. Unfortunately, there's a whole lot more Alabama than Massachusetts.

    2. Anonymous8:29 PM


      Take a look at how fast Michigan went down the tubes with the DeVos brand of accountability.

      Abigail Shure