Home > Uncategorized > ESSA’s Passage Means Education Will Not Be a Campaign Issue, Testing Will Continue Ad Infinitum

ESSA’s Passage Means Education Will Not Be a Campaign Issue, Testing Will Continue Ad Infinitum

December 3, 2015

The headline in the NYTimes article by Emmarie Huetteman and Mokoto Rich reads “House Restores Local Education Control in Revising No Child Left Behind” but it could just as accurately read “high Stakes Testing Will Continue Indefinitely”. In their synopsis of the 1,000+ page bill Huetteman and Rich chose this paragraph as the primary focus of their article:

The overhaul passed by the House on Wednesday, 359 to 64, jettisons No Child’s prescribed goals and punishments, and allows states and school districts to set their own goals and to decide how to rate schools and what to do with those that underperform. 

When I read the article (I am doing consulting work now and don’t have time to pore over 1,000+ pages) two sections jumped out:

The bill passed Wednesday retains the annual testing requirements in math and reading. Schools must also continue to report the results by students’ race, income and disability status…States are required to use test scores and other academic measures to rate schools but can also include other components like student surveys.

The high stakes test-and-punish regimen will continue… the development of the tests and consequences for low test scores will just be delegated to states. This is not even a pyrrhic victory: it is a disastrous defeat.

Some said they were uneasy about whether the new law could exacerbate uneven schooling across the country.

Some SHOULD be uneasy about the effects of uneven schooling across the country. How will a child in Texas who reads nothing about climate change or a child in Kansas who reads nothing about evolution have a sold grounding in science? How will a student in a state with an ambitious governor who tinkers with cut scores to make it appear that schools improved during his or her tenure have the same schooling as one in a state that keeps the scoring rubrics consistent? And last, but surely not least, what evidence is there that States care about equitable opportunities for students when 42 of them have been sued by low wealth districts over their funding formulas?

In the end, I remain convinced that doing nothing is better than continuing the testing regimen and a LOT better than delegating the testing to States. By passing ESSA the whole issue of testing will be “solved” in a “bi-partisan” fashion and any hope of giving a new President a chance to undo the test-and-punish regimen will be gone.

Public education policy has been missing from any debates so far and with the passage of ESSA the issue will be taken off the table completely and students will be taking high stakes tests for another decade or more. By that time, after 20+ years of high stakes tests, the test-and-punish regimen will be standard operating procedure in schools— the “way we do things”— and the teachers who remember the days before testing will be few and far between.

Some teachers, though, will not be affected by the new law: the ones who work in affluent districts where high achieving students pass the mandated tests with flying colors. Yet another reason why those who “were uneasy about whether the new law could exacerbate uneven schooling across the country”  should be very troubled by the passage of this law. The divide will widen with the housing values between schools that ignore tests and those that live-or-die by the test results. ESSA will be leaving lots of children behind.

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