Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 21
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
States, Districts Eyeing Chance to Craft Innovative Tests
Pilot under new K-12 law
includes plenty of strings
By Alyson Klein
States and districts that want to "test-drive"
the next generation of assessments will have
the chance, thanks to one of the most buzzedabout pieces of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
But as the state officials who have crammed
conference rooms to hear about ESSA's "Innovative Assessment" pilot are learning, trying out a new testing system in a handful of
districts isn't for the faint of heart.
The law allows a small handful of states to
accept local tests in lieu of the state exam, as
long as the districts using them are trying out
a system that will eventually go statewide.
And ESSA places a number of stringent
conditions on the pilot, what the law's architects like to call "guardrails." These guardrails are aimed at making sure such new
tests are of high quality, and that all kinds of
students-including English-language learners and students in special education-have
access to them.
Pointing the Way
Those conditions can challenge everything
from a state's technical know-how to its approach to professional development-all
without additional federal funding, at least
for now. The U.S. Department of Education
released its proposed regulations on the pilot
program July 6, and is taking public comments for 60 days.
Experts say the pilot has the potential to
help point the way to brand-new methods
of measuring student learning, both for the
states and districts that decide to give it a
shot, and those that don't.
"We see this as a bridge," said Lillian Pace,
the senior director of national policy at KnowledgeWorks, a nonprofit that works to better
personalize learning for students. Pace has
studied the pilot and its implications closely.
When lawmakers sat down to write ESSA,
the field wasn't ready, she said, to "paint
the picture of the next generation of assessments"-the kinds of tests that can give teachers a fuller, real-time picture of what their
students know while still helping states and
districts improve schools.
"While states may not be successful on the
first try, we expect this to be a learning process for all," Pace said. "The goal is for participating states to build and refine a system over
time that really transforms student learning."
What's more, the pilot also presents challenges for the Education Department, which
will have to strike a balance between ensuring that the necessary quality and equity
measures are in place, while giving states and
districts room to experiment.
The pilot was inspired, in large part, by New
Hampshire, which got permission under the
No Child Left Behind Act to begin experimenting with locally developed performance assessments in a handful of districts, with the idea of
eventually taking the system statewide.
States and districts can try out performance
tasks, like the Granite State is doing, or experiment with competency-based tests, which
measure students' mastery of particular skills,
or other new types of assessments.
Initially, the pilot participation will be limited to seven states, either working alone,
PAGE 26 >
U.S. Supreme Court's
Illustrations by Art Lien
The high court's recently concluded
term had the potential to be more
momentous for education than it
turned out to be-the Feb. 13 death
of Justice Antonin Scalia at age
79 dominated the second half and
resulted in deadlocks for two major
cases of importance to educators,
one involving teachers' union fees
and the other, undocumented
immigrant parents of U.S. citizen
children. Still, the court issued
important rulings on affirmative
action, public employees, and
In McDonnell v. United States, the court
unanimously threw out the "honest services"
fraud conviction of former Virginia
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and thus made
it more difficult for federal prosecutors to
win corruption convictions against state
and local officials. The court said the case
was governed by its decision in a 1999 case,
United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of
California, in which Scalia had cited-as the
type of official act that would not violate the
federal fraud statute-a token gift to the U.S.
secretary of education during a school visit.
When the court heard arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in
January, it appeared that five justices were prepared to overrule the 1977 precedent of
Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which authorized public-employee unions to collect
services fees from nonmembers. Instead, with Scalia's death, the justices deadlocked 4-4 in
the case. The tie vote set no national precedent, but it preserved the status quo-keeping
Abood in place and giving teachers' unions a huge practical victory.
In a 6-2 ruling in Heffernan v. City of
Paterson, the court held that a New Jersey
police officer who was demoted because of
his superiors' misimpression that he was
backing a political rival to the incumbent
mayor could challenge the demotion as a
violation of his First Amendment rights of
free speech and association. The case has
implications for teachers and other public
employees as well as law-enforcement
officers. The court held that even though the
officer wasn't seeking to engage in speech on
a matter of public concern, he was harmed
by the city's retaliatory demotion.
In a challenge brought by numerous religious schools and colleges to the contraceptive-care
mandate stemming from the federal Affordable Care Act, the eight-member court sought
to play mediator. In an unsigned opinion in Zubik v. Burwell, the court suggested that
the religious groups and the federal government both agreed it would be "feasible" for the
contraceptive care to be provided by the organizations' insurance companies without the
religious groups having to provide notice to the government that they object on religious
grounds to providing the coverage themselves.
The justices ruled unanimously in Evenwel
v. Abbott that states and local jurisdictions,
including school districts, may use total
population to draw their electoral districts.
The court rejected an argument that the
"one-person, one-vote" principle required
jurisdictions instead to draw lines based
on the citizen-voting-age population. That
method would tend to boost the electoral
power of rural voters and diminish that of
urban areas, especially in state legislatures
where children's interests are often at
stake. The principles also apply to elected
school boards that have single-member
Lawyer Michael A. Carvin, right, presents arguments for the non-union teachers Jan. 11 as the U.S. Supreme Court
hears the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case involving unions' ability to collect fees from nonmembers.
The court upheld the race-conscious
admissions program at the University of
Texas at Austin, holding 4-3 that the white
applicant who challenged the plan was
not denied equal protection of the law. The
majority in Fisher v. University of Texas at
Austin said that "considerable deference"
is owed to a university in defining the
intangible characteristics, such as studentbody diversity, that are central to its identity
and educational mission. The court stressed
that a university must continually scrutinize
its admissions program to assess whether
changing demographics have undermined
the need for a race-conscious policy.
B. Verrilli Jr. is
Chief Justice John
United States v.
Texas on April 18.
A 4-4 deadlock came in United States v. Texas, a case about the Obama administration's program
of deportation relief for undocumented immigrant parents of children who are U.S. citizens
(as well as an expansion of an older program for undocumented immigrants who arrived as
children). The case was watched in education as schools cope with a range of implications of the
immigration debate. The court's tie vote in this case effectively ended the Deferred Action for
Parents of Americans program during President Barack Obama's time in office, because it upheld
a nationwide injunction blocking the program issued by a federal district judge in Texas.
SOURCE: Education Week
EDUCATION WEEK | July 20, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 21
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - July 20, 2016
Education Week - July 20, 2016
First-Generation College-Goers Try Campus Life
Dose of Empathy Found To Cut Suspension Rates
Vouchers Put Some Parents in Squeeze on Spec. Ed. Rights
Data Loom Large in Quest for New School-Quality Indicator
Detroit District Splits To Shore Up Schools
News in Brief
Common Core Poses Logistical Challenges In Writing Instruction
Longtime Leader in Education Journalism Passes the Baton
Schools Prepare to Confront Questions on Race, Policing
Blogs of the Week
Landmark Equity Study Turns 50
A Persistent Divide
Digital Device Choice Has Noticeable Impact On Test Performance
Will FAFSA Changes Speed Up Aid Awards?
U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015-16 Term
States, Districts Eyeing Chance to Craft Innovative Tests
K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand
Setting the Education Department’s Direction
Blogs of the Week
ALICE JOHNSON CAIN: ESSA Could Leave Vulnerable Students in Limbo
ERICA FRANKENBERG & LILIANA M. GARCES: What Fisher v. University of Texas Means for K-12 Districts
SAUL DREVITCH: The Wisdom of an 8th Grader
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
ADAM KIRK EDGERTON: K-12 Schools: We Have Our Own ‘Brexit’ Problem
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Detroit District Splits To Shore Up Schools
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 2
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 3
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Common Core Poses Logistical Challenges In Writing Instruction
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Longtime Leader in Education Journalism Passes the Baton
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Schools Prepare to Confront Questions on Race, Policing
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 9
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Landmark Equity Study Turns 50
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 11
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - A Persistent Divide
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Digital Device Choice Has Noticeable Impact On Test Performance
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Will FAFSA Changes Speed Up Aid Awards?
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 15
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 16
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 17
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 18
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 19
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 20
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - States, Districts Eyeing Chance to Craft Innovative Tests
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 23
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Setting the Education Department’s Direction
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Blogs of the Week
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 26
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 27
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - ERICA FRANKENBERG & LILIANA M. GARCES: What Fisher v. University of Texas Means for K-12 Districts
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - SAUL DREVITCH: The Wisdom of an 8th Grader
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 31
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 32
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 34
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 35
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - ADAM KIRK EDGERTON: K-12 Schools: We Have Our Own ‘Brexit’ Problem
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT1
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT2
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT3
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT4