Education Week - February 10, 2016 - (Page 15)
that states should
continue to ensure
student tests and
are the predominant
factors in determining
and districts are
meeting the statedefined goals for
all public schools in
that [the Education
clearly define terms
to ensure that
schools and states
measure indicators of
to drive school
state and local plans
serve all groups of
kids. Past experience
is full of examples
of state and local
needs and potential of
students of color,
and students with
systems must be
robust, and aligned to
challenging and high
standards, must provide
publicly accessible and
about school and district
performance, and must
identify our highestneeds schools and
for Achievement Now
-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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
EDUCATION WEEK | February 10, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 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
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
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