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ESEA/NCLB Update #218

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Untitled Document

Issue #218--August 27, 2015


American public says too much emphasis on standardized tests

The 2014 PDK/Gallup Poll on public education was released this week, revealing a public that is strongly opposed to the excessive focus on standardized testing that accelerated under No Child Left Behind. Some key findings of the poll, issued at a moment when the House and Senate ESEA reauthorization bills are about to be considered in a conference committee:

          •  64% of the representative sample of Americans says that there is too much
             emphasis on testing in their community.
          •  Only 16% said that standardized test scores provide the most accurate picture
             of a student's academic progress, with grades, teacher observations, and examples
             of student work receiving greater approval.
          •  Only 14% said that standardized tests scores were very important in measuring
             school effectiveness, with engagement in classwork, hope for the future, graduation
             rates, and ability to find jobs rated higher.
          •  41% said parents should be able to opt their children out of standardized testing.

Commenting on the poll findings, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García stated that: "All students, regardless of their ZIP code, deserve a great public school education.  But the high stakes obsession of test and punish has only served to widen the gap between the schools in the wealthiest districts and those in the poorest."  NEA has been advocating for multiple measures of school quality during the ESEA reauthorization rather than a narrow focus on tests, including an Opportunity Dashboard that would measure student access to critical school resources such as advanced coursework, school counselors and nurses, and modern facilities.

More waiver renewals issued, vary in length

The Department of Education (ED) granted NCLB waiver renewals to six more states, bringing the number of states granted renewal to 37, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  The waivers continued to vary in duration, with Michigan and Maine granted three year renewals, while Florida, Idaho, Ohio and South Dakota each received one-year renewals.  South Dakota's renewal letter also placed the state on high risk related to ED concerns about its teacher and principal evaluation systems.

ED eliminates "2 percent rule" on alternative assessments

ED issued new regulations eliminating the so-called "2 percent rule" which allowed states to develop alternate assessments aligned to modified academic achievement standards for some students with disabilities and to use the results for accountability purposes.  Under the "2 percent rule," states were able to count as proficient scores for up to 2 percent of students in the grades assessed using the alternate assessments.  The new regulations do not affect a current rule covering the assessment of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, known as the "1 percent rule."  

ED will not punish New York districts over test opt outs

The New York Times reports that ED will not impose financial penalties on the New York school districts where many students did not take state standardized tests this year.  In some districts, a majority of the students did not take the tests.  According to the story, ED left the decision over any penalties to the state.  The state has also decided not to financially penalize districts because it will harm students, the Times reported.   

California criticizes waiver denial

California's education department issued a statement criticizing ED for denying its request for a waiver from NCLB's requirements on the use of supplemental educational services (SES), which in some cases cost districts 20% of their Title I funds.  According to the statement, California spent $507 million on the SES program during three school years "with little evidence to show improved academic performance by students who participated."  California noted that 43 states have a waiver from the requirement, and that both the House and Senate ESEA reauthorization bills would drop the 20% set aside.

$16.2 million in school leadership grants awarded

ED awarded more than $16.2 million to eight grantees under the Turnaround School Leaders Program (TSLP).  The funds will be used to recruit, train, support and retain school leaders at schools that receive SIG funds.  The recipients are: Duval County Public Schools (FL); Fort Wayne Community Schools (IN); Jefferson County Board of Education (KY); Buffalo Board of Education (NY); Louisiana Department of Education; William Patterson University of New Jersey; The New Teacher Project; and the Intercultural Development Research Association.

Take Action

Congress is at home until September 8, creating opportunities for in-person meetings on ESEA, funding and other key issues.  For more information, visit NEA's Legislative Action Center.    


Questions or comments?
Contact the Education Policy and Practice Department at



(c) Copyright 2002 - 2015  National Education Association
1201 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC  20036-3290 


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