Congress Passes Bill Scrapping Teacher Preparation and Accountability Regulations, Ignores Civil Rights Concerns

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A bill aiming to dismantle Obama-era regulations on accountability and teacher preparation has squeaked through Congress and been presented to President Trump.

The joint resolution targets two rules in the Every Student Succeeds Act that define how States must implement the provisions that “require them to have an accountability system based on multiple measures, including school quality or student success, to ensure that States and districts focus on improving outcomes and measuring student progress”.

A press release for the bill, H.J. Res. 57,  argues that the ESSA regulations “dictate prescriptive accountability requirements and violate prohibitions on the Secretary of Education’s authority.”

Before the bill passed senate by the slimmest of margins (50-49, along party lines), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent an advocacy letter to U.S. Senators asking them to continue the implementation of the ESSA regulations and reject H.J. Res. 57.

“These regulations will help states, districts, and schools to faithfully implement the law and meet their legal obligations to historically marginalized groups of students including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are English learners, immigrants, girls, Native American, LGBTQ or low-income.”

Instead of fully implementing the ESSA regulations around accountability, the Betsy DeVos led Department of Education has already released new, watered-down “guidelines”. EdWeek notes that the biggest difference between the templates is around the requirement of outreach. In the Obama template, the language dictated states must engage in “meaningful consultation” with stakeholders who “reflect the geographic diversity of the state”. The Trump template: “if you feel like it, go for it”.

While comments from the Trump administration line up with the Republican talking point of “federal overreach”, the Leadership Conference and the 45 co-signing Civil Rights and education organizations note that the regulations came about as a result of the bipartisan crafting of ESSA and that federal oversight is necessary for state cooperation in advancing equity.

But, in the new administration, one thing is clear: ‘state rights’ Trump civil rights.



You only have a few days to give input on the most important piece of federal education law

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Schools just don’t listen to parents. Especially parents of America’s under-resourced students. So often grassroots communities say “stop making policy about us, without us,” and with good reason.

Many of us have felt the sense that we are alienated from decision-making tables and we are not always afforded real opportunity to engage with people in power who determine the course for the major institutions that govern our lives.

The pain is real, but there is also a question about when and how we show up. At almost every level of government there are opportunities for us to make a difference but those opportunities are either shielded from view, obstructed by complex processes, or unappealing for one reason or another.

All that said, I write to you today to tell you about one opportunity to speak up that you should not pass up. Did you know that you have a mere few days to weigh in on the single most important piece of federal education law aimed at defending the civil rights of your children?

Neither did I.

Here it is: The Every Students Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is that piece of legislation and it contains provisions meant to protect the rights of your students to an education. That includes provisions that inform states on expectations for parent engagement, accountability, and the equitable use of resources.

A large coalition of civil rights groups fought hard in the last Congress for inclusion of principles that hold states accountable for supporting students to do their best in school, and to be transparent when schools fail to do so.

Now the Department of Education is fielding input from the public about the rules they’ve drafted to guide states in how to fulfill the spirit of the law. There’s one catch: you only have until August 1, 2016 to be heard.

According to The Leadership Council, which is made up of civil rights groups, “the Department of Education will take into account the comments and suggestions submitted by individuals like you” before finalizing their rules.

“In order for students to have greater educational opportunity and a more level playing field, we must see accountability for the achievement of all students, parent and family engagement, easily accessible and user-friendly data, and resource equity in the final regulations…we must act fast to advocate for equity and ensure opportunities for progress for low-income students, girls and boys of color, students with disabilities, English learners, and Native American students,” they say.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and look over the principles that members of The Leadership Council developed, and then speak up on behalf of students. Even if you don’t feel like a writer, or a speaker, or even an activist, you can do your duty as a citizen by following instruction here.

The Education Inequality Struggle

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by Marian Wright Edelman

This has been a hard year for poor children and children of color in a gridlocked and cantankerous Congress. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replacing the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted after gutting a strong federal role in education policy designed to protect these children and jeopardizing their opportunity for a fair and adequate education to prepare them for work in our globalizing economy.

Over the past 50 years, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, too many states violated their responsibility to serve their poor and non-White children equitably, did not comply with the law and misused huge amounts of the funds intended for poor children for other purposes. With the loss of federal accountability in the new Act, I hope we will not see the mistakes of the past repeated and poor children fall further behind.

In 1969, the Children’s Defense Fund’s parent body, the Washington Research Project and the Legal Defense Fund, conducted a thorough study of how funds from Title I of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act were being spent through on-the-ground monitoring and examination of federal audit reports from states.

In our report, Title I ESEA: Is It Helping Poor Children?, we answered a resounding “no” as states widely used federal money as general state aid for all their children without targeting it to eligible children most in need, sometimes to maintain still segregated and unequal schools, and squandered money intended to lift achievement levels of poor children on things like swimming pools in suburban White schools.

Massive and continuing state and local violations of accountability and poor achievement levels for the neediest children resulted in passage during the George W. Bush Administration of the No Child Left Behind Act with bipartisan support including Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman George Miller — which attempted to build in a much needed stronger federal accountability role.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act begins a new era but without needed federal accountability and relying on hopes that all states will fulfill their crucial responsibility to educate all their children fairly and prepare them for work and life. To ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, all of us — every parent, child and community advocate who cares about our nation’s future — will have to work very, very hard.

It is a national threat when we look at how our children in public schools are performing in the fourth and eighth grades in 2015 and see more than 75 percent of lower income children, more than 80 percent of Black children and more than 73 percent of Latino children cannot read or compute at grade level. What is a child going to do in a competitive globalizing world if he cannot read and compute at very basic levels, is unable to graduate from high school, or is shunted into a Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ accelerated by unjust zero tolerance school discipline and misdirected special education policies?


Read the whole story at Huffington Post.

Black children won’t succeed with less accountability in public education

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America’s first black president has signed the Every Student Succeeds Act legislation that many see as a partial retreat on his strong support for school reform. The new law diminishes the Federal role in education and gives the states more authority on how they assess students, meet goals, evaluate teachers, and address failing schools.

While people from wildly different camps can claim some victory and some loss in this “bipartisan” overhaul of No Child Left Behind, I mourn its passing and fear what it signals.

After years defined by intense school reform efforts that rightfully sought to amplify the needs of America’s forgotten children, and to remake education so that it would do better by the least of them, it looks like the equity party is over. Opposition was simmering for years and now has boiled over. The drive to make schools accountable pissed off basically everyone with a material interest in the system remaining as is. The reform insurgency couldn’t last forever.

State and district education leaders hated accountability because it put a spotlight on their inability to produce under pressure. Their systems are big, inefficient labyrinths that are saddled by collective bargaining restraints, and are more positioned to repel talented human capital rather than attract it.

Teachers complained endlessly through their unions that holding them accountable for outcomes with students who have an unfortunate lack of affluent college educated white parents is unfair. Their biggest fear in life is being evaluated properly and having student outcomes be a part of their evaluations. Teaching is easier if student learning isn’t a factor.

Suburban parents with well off children have mobilized around an accusation that all this achievement gap fever overtook their tony public schools. Reform focused too much on needy kids who are behind academically, and too little on those who are economically, genetically, and racially gifted. All these intrusive attempts to raise the floor of education has lowered its ceiling, trapping their precious little ones in joyless test mills that won’t prepare them for lives as rulers of an unequal universe. Nothing kills a project faster than the idea it won’t re-privilege America’s white children.

Republicans and other varieties of liberty loving conservatives enamored with Ayn Randian social darwinism finally realized we can’t hold education accountable for their $600 billion in government funding if it means we expect them to defeat Charles Murray’s famous Bell Curve. Yes, we must make sure government is responsible for every dollar we give it, but let’s be reasonable about the low potential of minorities – right?

All of these actors – state officials, teachers and their unions, privileged parents, and racial republicans – taken together have merged into the perfect revolt in defense of the old education blot. It’s a remarkable leaderless resistance that is something akin to an institutional Norton Antivirus. It prevents education’s geek squad from installing new software to change the operating system and rid it of old programs like racism, inequity, and inefficiency. It does wild things like inspire white liberals to make a ‘states rights’ argument for education, and radical republicans to support a money-for-nothing scheme in government social programs.

And thus, we are perpetually stuck with Windows XP lamenting the issues of Y2K.

The one group that should be watching this most – the civil rights community – is in the game, but not enough. Major civil rights organizations have been solid in their support for maintaining the critical provisions of NCLB like annual testing and the expectation that states intervene when schools are disasters. They have written public letters, made public announcements, and lobbied hard for elected leaders to keep their religion on school reform and social justice. No group better understands the implications of a nation where less than 1 in 5 black students is proficient in reading or math.

Give them credit for fighting for forward progress. Their efforts are laudable, but they fall short; partially because they are outmanned and overwhelmed by the white backlash against educational justice, and partially because their efforts are too little, too late, without enough organization or muscle. Ask yourself, who is the most visible black or brown leader openly supporting school reform with an open throat and straight back?

Get back to me on that one.

Given this new environment where white resistance to accountability for results in education, specifically for children left behind, I think the NAACP is right to say “in order for the ESSA to truly be a civil rights law, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the Administration uses its remaining authority to issue timely and strong regulations and guidance to help states implement the law.”

We have to be “vigilant” and then some. The fight to make schools better for our kids is always fragile and can be rolled back at anytime. We better dig in and be ready to defend policies that tell us when the system is failing to deliver for our kids, and to demand action when that failure persists too long. And we better push our leaders to be much stronger, more visible, and far louder than they have been this last time around.

Stay woke people.