Education Week - February 10, 2016 - (Page 15)

" CEOs believe that states should continue to ensure student tests and graduation rates are the predominant factors in determining whether states and districts are meeting the statedefined goals for differentiating among all public schools in the state." " We recommend that [the Education Department] clearly define terms regarding statewide accountability to ensure that schools and states appropriately measure indicators of student achievement to drive school improvement." -National PTA -Business Roundtable " [E]nsure that state and local plans serve all groups of kids. Past experience is full of examples of state and local decisionmakers deprioritizing or downright undermining the needs and potential of low-income students, students of color, English-learners, and students with disabilities." " State accountability systems must be comprehensive, robust, and aligned to challenging and high standards, must provide publicly accessible and transparent information about school and district performance, and must identify our highestneeds schools and district." -Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (CONNCAN) -The Education Trust But plenty of other commenters were on the other side of the opt-out argument. For instance, Chiefs for Change, a coalition of state and district superintendents that in the past has supported policies such as rigorous standards and online learning, urged the department not to allow for any "wiggle room" on testing participation rates. The Education Department "must remember that one size does not fit all and there is not one 'best' system or model that will serve all students and all schools," AASA wrote. ESSA keeps the NCLB law's testing schedule-requiring states to test students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. But it allows for some new flexibility. For instance, districts can let high schools use a nationally recognized test-such as the ACT or SAT-for accountability purposes. And ESSA creates an "innovative local assessment" pilot project, allowing up to seven states or consortia of states to try out new kinds of tests, such as performance assessments, with the goal of eventually taking them statewide. Treading Carefully The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an advocacy organization, was joined by three dozen civil rights and disability groups in asking the department to tread carefully in writing rules for these local tests. Any local tests, they wrote, should "meet the highest standards of validity, reliability, and comparability" and ensure that English-language learners and students in special education get the accommodations they need. The testing flexibility "should not be an excuse to provide vulnerable students with lower quality assessments or obscure disparities in student outcomes," the organizations wrote. Meanwhile, Jobs for the Future, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and the Learning Policy Institute want the department to encourage states to adopt assessments that incorporate not just math and reading, but "higher-order thinking skills," like complex problem-solving and collaboration. And those organizations-all of which work on college-readiness-want more information on how states could use portfolios or projects for accountability purposes, without running afoul of the law's requirement that all students in the same grade take the same test. The ACT, on the other hand, urged the department to use caution in approving state plans to use multiple interim assessments for accountability purposes, instead of a single, more comprehensive test. Interim tests tend to be designed differently and given under different circumstances than the single summative tests states are used to, the ACT argued. AASA's plea for local leeway extends to another provision in ESSA, which calls for states to identify schools where subgroups of students-such as English-language learners and students in special education-are "consistently underperforming." Student Subgroups Under ESSA, such schools will need to come up with a plan to combat their problems, and their progress will be monitored by the district. It's not clear from the law, however, what "consistently underperforming" means exactly. AASA wants to leave that definition entirely up to states, so that they can come up with parameters that fit the local context. But groups including the Parent Teacher Association want more guidance on what constitutes consistent underperformance. For instance, the League of United Latin American Citizens suggested the department direct states to include both the longevity of the underperformance and the severity in identifying schools to focus on. Commenters seized on other technical aspects of accountability. For instance, the Education Trust, which advocates for poor and minority students, wants the department to make it clear that states can't combine different groups of students for accountability purposes through "super-subgroups" as they did under the Obama administration's waivers from the NCLB law. But the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an education-redesign organization started by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, wants states to be able to focus on the bottom 25 percent of students in each school, as some, including Mississippi, did under NCLB waivers. BLOGS Texas High Court Revives Cheerleaders' Lawsuit Over Religious-Banner Display at School Games | THE SCHOOL LAW BLOG | The highest court in Texas has revived a lawsuit brought by cheerleaders at a Texas high school who were barred, for a time, from displaying banners with religious messages at school football games. The Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously to reinstate the suit against the Kountze Independent School District, even though the district later relented from its fall 2012 prohibition against student groups displaying religious messages at schoolsponsored events. The cheerleaders had displayed banners with messages such as, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" and "If God is for us, who can be against us?" They sued the district and its then-superintendent, who said he felt bound by U.S. Supreme Court precedent to bar the religious messages on public school grounds. As the suit proceeded, the district backed away from the policy against religious messages. A state trial court issued an order sought by the district that said "neither the establishment clause nor any other law prohibits the cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events." But that order sowed confusion about whether the cheerleaders' banners were private speech or school speech. The district then asked a state appellate court to declare the suit moot, which that court did. The state Supreme Court, ruling 8-0 with one justice not participating, rather drily held that the case was not moot. "The district has never expressed the position that it could not, and unconditionally would not, reinstate" the old policy, the court said in its Jan. 29 -MARK WALSH decision in Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District. Proposal to Launch Education Savings Accounts Begins to Gain Traction in Arizona Legislature CHARTERS & CHOICE | Legislation moving along in Arizona would greatly expand eligibility for a school choice program first enacted in that state in 2011. Versions proposed in both chambers of the legislature would allow all public school students to use state funding to switch to a private school or home school through Arizona's education savings account program. Nevada made headlines in June when it became the first state to pass an ESA program- which gives parents unprecedented control over how state education dollars are spent on their children's education-that's open to all public school students, regardless of income or disability status. However, the idea for education savings accounts originated in Arizona five years ago as a way for school choice advocates to get around a state supreme court decision that deemed traditional vouchers unconstitutional. Initially offered only to students with disabilities, Arizona's program was expanded to include several other groups such as students in foster care, on Indian reservations, with parents in the military, and in a zone with a low-performing school. This most recent bill would phase in the expansion through the 2018-19 school year, starting first with students in K-5. Additionally, it would maintain a tight cap-one-half of 1 percent of the 1.1 million public school students-on the number of students who can participate also through 2019, according to the Associated Press. Nevada's program, which had no such phase-in period, received more than 1,000 applications in the first 10 days of the application period. A judge recently put the program on hold until lawsuits challenging its constitutionality are resolved. | -ARIANNA PROTHERO Teacher Quality ESSA gives states a longer leash than they had under NCLB when it comes to teacher quality and effectiveness. But it retains the requirement that states ensure that low-performing schools have access to their fair share of effective teachers. TNTP, a teacher training advocacy organization, said that provision opens the door for the department to require states to develop evaluation systems that "meaningfully differentiate" when it comes to educator effectiveness. But some educators are clamoring for as much flexibility on teacher qualifications as possible. For instance, Alaska's Kenai Peninsula Borough School District said isolated schools need as much running room as they can get when it comes to teacher qualifications. The Department is reviewing the ESSA comments and will be tackling many of the issues raised in coming weeks and months. Top Lawyer at U.S. Department of Education Will Serve as Agency's Second-in-Command | POLITICS K-12 | James Cole Jr., the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Education, has been tapped as a senior adviser fulfilling the duties of the deputy secretary of education. The gig-the No. 2 position at the department-became available when former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan resigned and John B. King Jr., who had essentially been serving as the deputy, was tapped by President Barack Obama to oversee the agency. Cole has a long résumé, mostly serving in legal positions. Before coming to the Education Department, he was the deputy general counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation. And before that, he was a corporate lawyer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz in New York. He was a member of the board of directors of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a member of the board of Prep for Prep, a New York Citybased nonprofit that helps students of color attend-and be academically ready for-rigorous boarding and private day schools. Meanwhile, coordination of P-12 programs will shift from the deputy secretary's office to Emma Vadehra, King's chief of staff. -ALYSON KLEIN EDUCATION WEEK | February 10, 2016 | | 15

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 10, 2016

Education Week - February 10, 2016
Federal Trade Regulators Target Brain-Training Product Claims
In States Hungry for Teachers, Policy Menu Expands
PARCC Scores Lower On Computer Exams
Equipping Parents on Spec. Ed.
News in Brief
Report Roundup
In Chicago, Schools’ Financial Crisis Deepens Divisions
Advocates’ Report Hits States For Overtesting, Other Policies
Blogs of the Week
Digital Directions: Partnership Boosts Data Privacy
Kindergarten: Less Play, More Academics (infographic
‘Proficiency’ Bars on State Tests Are Seen Heading Upward
Views Clash On K-12 Law Rulemaking
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept. CIO Grilled By Oversight Panel
State of the States
America’s ‘Edu-Masochism’
I’m Tired of ‘Grit’
Why Small Steps Are Better for Small Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
In Low-Income Schools, Teachers Need Guidance

Education Week - February 10, 2016