Education Week - August 19, 2015 - (Page 22)

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS Accountability 3.0: What Will State Systems Look Like? Both ESEA rewrite bills give states new flexibility By Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa Whether a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act makes it over the finish line this year, the federally driven accountability system at the heart of the law seems destined to go the way of the Blockbuster video. The Obama administration has already opened the door to major flexibility by issuing waivers from the NCLB law, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And now, a pair of ESEA rewrite bills headed to conference in Congress would give states acres of new running room when it comes to setting student achievement goals, figuring out how much tests matter, evaluating teachers, and more. Even if those bills aren't finished by the time President Barack Obama leaves office, presidential candidates in both political parties have either embraced the general direction of the legislation or demanded even more flexibility for states. If states do win new freedom, what will they do with it? And will the new systems they build be better than the current ones, or will they leave poor and minority students behind? Some state chiefs are chomping at the bit for greater control, and the chance to experiment with new approaches. "You're not going to get innovation on these things unless you allow states to be laboratories of policy change," said John White, the Louisiana state superintendent of education. If the new federal law blesses a state-driven approach, White is interested in giving schools double credit for helping students with disabilities make progress, something he hasn't gotten permission to do under waivers. Others aren't so optimistic that new federal freedom will produce good results. "I don't think there's any basis to say there's going to be a lot of people choosing rigorous accountability," said Sandy Kress, who helped write the NCLB law during President George W. Bush's first term in office. The law, passed in 2002, capitalized on growing attention to accountability at the state level. But Kress doesn't see that same attention now. "It's being chosen less and less on its own, particularly without the federal pressure to do it," he said. Holding the Line The Obama administration shares those concerns, and has made it clear that it wants strong language on accountability in the final version of the ESEA update. For instance, the White House would like to see a final bill require states to single out 5 percent of their schools as low-performing and take the lead in fixing them, like waiver states must do now. But even if the administration is successful in beefing up protections for struggling students, it's unclear how much those changes will influence some emerging state systems. California, for example, is already designing a new accountability system that would give districts broad leeway in how they hold their schools accountable. The draft plan is silent on how the state would have to identify and help low-performing schools. That's a conscious choice, said Keric Ashley, the deputy superintendent. "I don't think California cares about identifying the lowest 5 percent [of schools] in our state," he said. "That's a federal rule that may continue under ESEA [reauthorization]," and the state will comply, "but that's PAGE 26 > By Andrew Ujifusa The three elections for governor this year aren't generating a lot of attention in the education world when compared with K-12 issues in the 2016 presidential race. But the policy stakes surrounding races in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are high and could have an impact on the national debate about the Common Core State Standards and other education issues. N O I That is especially T C ELE the case in Kentucky. After garnering national attention for being the first state to transition to the common core and make other notable K-12 policy changes, the state could tack in a dramatically different direction if the Republican nominee wins the November election. The three gubernatorial races this year could also set the stage for how public school policy is discussed in the more crowded 2016 election field, where 12 states will have races for governor. 2015 Standards Debate in Kentucky The race to take over for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat who is term-limited and has been in office since 2007, features state Attorney General Jack Conway as the Democratic nominee against Republican Matt Bevin, a businessman who rose to prominence when he unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat in the 2014 Republican primary. The most obvious gap between the candidates on education concerns the common core. Conway is backing the standards for the most part, and Bevin is adamantly opposed to them. "This is probably the most critical gubernatorial election that Kentucky has seen in a long time," said Stu Silberman, the executive director of the Prichard Committee, a nonprofit advocacy group and backer of the standards. Bevin has claimed the standards represent an example of the federal government's unconstitutional overreach and should be replaced. (The federal government didn't create or mandate the standards, but it did encourage their adoption through the Race to the Top grant program and waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act.) He has stressed that the standards are bad education policy, saying in a debate last month with Conway that, "If you know you're going the wrong way, take your foot off the gas." Bevin's campaign did not respond to requests for comment. Conway, meanwhile, is a commoncore supporter. He has gone after Bevin for what he calls misinformed attacks that the common core is a federal takeover of education, saying at the same July debate: "And if it needs to be tweaked, let's tweak it from the local level." In addition to being the first state to adopt the common core, Kentucky was also the first to administer tests specifically aligned to the standards in 2012. The state education department sought public input on the standards from August 2014 through last April. Silberman acknowledged that in Kentucky's case, as in other states, "sometimes in order to have that continuous improvement, you have to disrupt the system." He cited overtesting as a possible issue meriting further exploration. But in the same breath, he worried that if the state abandoned the common core and related policies, the state would backslide and lose its last half-dozen years of policy and advocacy work. 'Some Important Changes' Many Republican governors have voiced opposition to the common core 22 | EDUCATION WEEK | August 19, 2015 | PAGE 25 > Photos by Timothy D. Easley/AP-File Education Stakes Are High in Ky., La., and Miss., Governor Races FROM TOP: Kentucky GOP gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin, left, speaks with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at the Graves County Republican Party breakfast. Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway, left, shakes hands with Gov. Steve Beshear before speaking to a group of supporters last spring in Frankfort. Three states are electing governors in 2015.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 19, 2015

Education Week - August 19, 2015
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Rookie Principals’ Group Sheds Light on Early-Career Challenges
Education Week Acquires Television Production Company
Historians See AP U.S. History Revisions as ‘Evenhanded’
Handcuffing of Students Reignites Debate On Use of Restraint
Study Casts Doubt on Impact of Teacher Professional Development
Teachers Use Minecraft to Fuel Creative Ideas, Analytical Thinking
Blogs of the Week
Education Stakes Are High in Ky., La., and Miss. Governor Races
Accountability 3.0: What Will State Systems Look Like?
Budget Deadline Could Put Education Programs at Risk
Blogs of the Week
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
How Do We Help Students With Mental-Health Issues Return to School?
Lessons From Successful School Improvement Grants
2005: In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina
Do We Need Quality Assurance for Teacher Feedback?

Education Week - August 19, 2015