FedED Threatens Opt Out Movement: New Dog, Same Old Tricks

John B. King Jr., who has been appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama to succeed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, s
John B. King Jr., who has been appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama to succeed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington October 2, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Just when the current crop of presidential candidates was making Barack Obama look good, John King, the new "dog" at the federal Department of Education (FedED), pulls an Arne Duncan and attacks the opt-out movement with the same old set of tricks.

FedED claims the purpose of the proposals is to give states "the clarity they need" to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). But in the proposals, King and FedED aim right at the heart of the opt-out movement. They list punitive steps states must take to ensure 95% of their students take the tests or else face a cut-off of federal funds. States must assign a "comprehensive, summative rating for each school to provide a clear picture of its overall standing," report on an individual school's performance on each indicator, and take "robust action" against schools that do not test 95% of their students.

A summary of the proposed regulations is online.

My support for the opt-out movement and opposition to ESSA, Common Core, and Common Core aligned high-stakes testing is laid-out in a number of my Huffington Post blogs.

Ironically, the real educational issues are totally ignored by ESSA, FedED, and King.
ESSA left most educational policymaking power with the states. As long as states drill and test 95% of their students, they can use whatever tests they want, grade them as they wish, provide inadequate curriculum, systematically underfund education, and bankrupt public school systems to support cronies operating for-profit charter school networks. States are supposed to intervene to improve consistently underperforming schools, but there are no guidelines or requirements for action. The only thing FedED and King seem committed to ensuring is the end of the opt-out movement.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, after reviewing the proposals, issued a statement that she was disappointed with key parts of the regulations. According to Weingarten, "Rather than listen to the outcry by parents and educators over hypertesting, the department offers specific punitive consequences for when fewer than 95 percent of students participate in tests. This doesn't solve the issue of the misuse of testing. It simply inflames the problem by suggesting punitive consequences for those who are so frustrated by the misuse and high-stakes nature of standardized testing that they want to opt their kids out."

Bob Schaeffer, the public education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, accused Secretary of Education King of continuing to "promote the kind of federal overreach that led to widespread rejection of No Child Left Behind.'"

According to FedED, they are "interested in hearing even more from stakeholders" and there will be a sixty-day "public comment period" starting May 31 and ending July 31, 2016. King et al claim, "We are taking these comments very seriously, understanding that our final regulations will be stronger because of that input." As far as I can tell, responses to the regulations should be submitted on the U.S. Department of Education blog website called Homeroom.

I will respond on the blog site and opt-out parents should flood it with their comments. Let them know that ESSA and the new proposal will not work because parents, teachers, and their supporters will not tolerate the high-stakes testing regime. Unfortunately, based on King and Duncan's track record of ignoring parent complaints and disparaging legitimate concerns, I do not believe they will be responsive.

But there is a way to fight against the attempt to silence parental opposition to high-stakes testing. We need to flood Hillary Clinton's email, twitter, phone (646-854-1432), and website with our views. You can also write her at Hillary for America, PO Box 5256, New York, NY 10185-5256

This is a Presidential election year and Hillary needs to know how we feel. Keep messaging Hillary until she calls her friend Barack Obama in the White House and demands to know why he is ignoring her constituency and antagonizing her potential voters.

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