The U.S. House Votes to cram Parental Opt Amendment down the throats of state testing systems

What is thy bidding, Master Weingarten?

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The House adopted the Salmon amendment 251-178. This means that of the 435 members of the United States House of Representatives, only 178 of them thought it would be a bad idea to completely wreck campus level comparability AND to create a federal parental opt-out for STATE testing systems.

So here in my (and Rep. Salmon’s) state of residence, Arizona, our state accountability system predates NCLB. If NCLB got rid of the federal testing mandate, we still have state statutes for state testing. So…the 251 affirmative votes basically thought it was a good idea to have the federal government mandate a parental opt-out wrecking state accountability systems past the point where private organizations like Greatschools can salvage them the way they have in Arizona.

I’ve either gone completely nuts, or a large majority of the House has failed to think about this carefully or perhaps at all. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

 

 

Advertisements

35 Responses to The U.S. House Votes to cram Parental Opt Amendment down the throats of state testing systems

  1. No your conclusion is incorrect that those who cast “…the 251 affirmative votes basically thought it was a good idea to have the federal government mandate a parental opt-out wrecking state accountability systems.”

    Rather many politicians realized that their constituents (who vote) did not like that the US Dept of Ed had been using RttT dollars to extort promises from states in return for those $$$. Testing via SBAC of CCSS was clearly extortion in WA State. Arne Duncan refused to grant WA a waiver from impossible to meet NCLB requirements in spite of WA’s fairly good NAEP performance because WA does not use Value Added Measures in the evaluation of its teachers. Yet states will substandard accomplishment were granted NCLB waivers.

    Folks are tired of being pushed around by bullies like Arne Duncan. Representatives in WA DC are finally getting the message.

    Many parents, teachers, and others, rightly or wrongly, do not see the CCSS-SBAC as improving instruction but rather impediments to children. Many would prefer that Mr. Duncan and the federal government stop dictating its education agenda to the states.

    There has been an emphasis on equal outcomes rather than improving instruction. Florida made huge instructional strides when it lowered class size and required reading competency to advance to grade 4. Florida did not need the currently mandated US. Dept of ED testing mandates to improve instruction.

  2. matthewladner says:

    First off Florida started making NAEP gains many years before the class size amendment was implemented, and a very credible formal evaluation concluded that it was a very expensive reform that had almost nothing to do with the NAEP gains.

    Second, if people are angry about standardized testing, they need to address it in a rational fashion. Having the federal government mandate testing, but do it in such a way that the data is entirely worthless does not make sense at all. You can make a much stronger case for eliminating the testing mandate entirely, eliminating federal involvement in K-12 entirely, but to mandate schools to do testing in a fashion certain to deliver completely worthless data is far beyond childish.

    • “You can make a much stronger case for eliminating the testing mandate entirely, eliminating federal involvement in K-12 entirely, but to mandate schools to do testing in a fashion certain to deliver completely worthless data is far beyond childish.”

      Yes –
      “You can make a much stronger case for eliminating the testing mandate entirely.”

      Eliminating the testing mandate entirely is exactly what should be done; but the politicians don’t have the courage for that yet.

      • matthewladner says:

        So how does wrecking state accountability systems while continuing to mandate (now worthless) testing make that any better?

    • To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

      So is there an argument that NCLB based on results should be continued in its current form? If not what should the current form take?

      Check out NAEP grade 12 results for 2013
      http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_g12_2013/#/

      In reading scores for the average of 12th graders in 2013
      — down from 1992
      — unchanged from 2009

      In math scores for the average of 12th graders in 2013
      — increased from first assessment in 2005
      — unchanged from 2009

      In 2013 Mathematics proficient scores–
      only 26% overall
      but for Black students only 7% are proficient
      for Hispanic students 12% are proficient
      for American Indians 12% are proficient

      Apparently students are not rising to the level of expectation.
      Why???

      Is it because the focus is on the bar rather than providing support and effective interventions?

      Is the US Dept of Ed is presiding over a horrible debacle?
      Is it really supporting teachers in teaching students?

      Reading results at grade 12 are particularly disturbing over time
      http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_g12_2013/#/reaching-proficient
      ======

      In looking at NAEP changes in raw score for the nation from 2007 to 2013 there is a growth in points in each category
      Math grade 4 (+2), Reading grade 4 (+1)
      Math grade 8 (+3), Reading grade 8 (+5)

      Consider the gains from 1992 to 2013
      Math grade 4 (+23), Reading grade 4 (+6)
      Math grade 8 (+17),

      from 1998 to 2013 Reading grade 8 (+5)

      NCLB went into effect in 2002 …
      In looking at gains from around 2003 to 2013

      Math grade 4 (+7), Reading grade 4 (+4)
      Math grade 8 (+7), Reading grade 8 (+5)

      Subtraction yields gains from 2003 to 2007
      Math grade 4 (+5), Reading grade 4 (+3)
      Math grade 8 (+4), Reading grade 8 (+0)

      The impact on 12th graders skills as shown by NAEP is negligible at best.

      What should be done if anything?

      • matthewladner says:

        We’d all like better results than these, and that process clearly needs to be led at the state and local level in my view. If the House can’t do any better than to mandate the gathering and collection of worthless student testing data in an effort to reauthorize a piece of legislation 8 years behind schedule, perhaps they should confess their limitations and reduce their footprint.

  3. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    Sorry, Matt. I completely disagree.

    Most parents across the country had this right (to opt out) since “forever,” either explicitly (like California) or implicitly (like any state that acknowledges parental rights to control their child’s education). Opting out has never been an issue and was not widely exercised … until the Common Core idiotic national tests. Opting out was the last resort — exit — of parents when Common Core was shoved down their throats (see here: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/06/no-exit-no-voice-the-design-of-common-core ).

    So ESEA re-autjorization tried to take even that option — exit — from parents. Do you really support this?

    If and when education testing will not be shoved down parents’ throat, the amendment will make no difference anyway. But until this happens, I am glad that it has passed.

  4. matthewladner says:

    Ze’ev-

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I believe that you are entirely wrong about this. NCLB had minimum participation requirements for a reason, and that reason was that in Texas all-too-many schools started engaging in games and tricks by encouraging low-performing students to be absent on testing day. Thus minimum participation requirements were enacted in the Texas accountability system, and carried up to Washington to become a part of NCLB.

    Given that experience, and even if we lacked it, it should be blindingly obvious at an opt out provision will create a perverse incentive for schools to nudge their low-performing students out of testing.

    Even if you hold parents had some “right” to opt out of testing under the 9th amendment, their schools would still face sanctions if they failed to get a high percentage of kids to take the tests. This amendment basically begs schools to only test their brightest kids and then boast of their 100% proficiency rates.

    Regardless of how opposed one is to CC or Arne Duncan or (fill in the blank here) I would love to hear a rational argument to have the federal government mandate testing, but to do so in a way that would produced entirely worthless data. Why not mandate that schools receiving federal funds dig a 500 foot hole in their playground every day, and then fill it back up while they are at it?

    • Ze'ev Wurman says:

      Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Opting out was not an issue under NCLB … until Common Core testing happened. Please don’t scare us with what could have happened … it did not happen.

      And please remember that schools cannot opt-out kids — it’s the parents who can opt them out. It is their right, even if some bureaucrats and data geeks want their data “perfect.”

      This is about individual rights, not about what will make testing reliable. If the system wants participation, it should accommodate parental interests rather than work against them and try to force obedience using the law.

      • matthewladner says:

        I am not scaring you with what could have happened, I am telling you what did happen in Texas, and why the participation standards were included in NCLB.

        Second, you may believe that just bureaucrats and data geeks that rely on state testing data, but millions of annual visitors to Greatschools lead me to believe otherwise.

        Even if one is completely consumed with anti-CC hatred, how does it make any sense whatsoever to mandate worthless testing in all 50 states, including the ones that have stayed out of CC? Wouldn’t it make about five million times more sense to simply remove the federal mandates for testing, and allow states to proceed how they wish with testing?

      • Chad Colby says:

        Oh Ze’ev. That’s ridiculous and you know it. Opting out didn’t start happening en masse until this Administration overstepped on teacher evaluations. That coincided with Common Core tests in many states. Parents didn’t opt out in KY where they have had Common Core tests for a couple years. Why? The test results were not tied to teacher evals.

        Matt is exactly right. Testing with union-promoting large numbers of opt outs leaves parents and taxpayers without usable information. Conservatives were duped by the unions.

      • Ze'ev Wurman says:

        Seems like we are talking past each other. The right to opt out is not new, was never an issue until the Common Core, and it has NOTHING to do with schools manipulating student participation. Opting out is a *parental* right and schools still cannot tell students to stay away. But parents can — and do — tell their kids to stay out if they are unhappy with the test. As they should.

      • Ze'ev Wurman says:

        Chad, Common Core was not the first test to be used in teacher eval. NCLB tests started it long ago, yet there was no parental push-back until the Common Core. An accident?

      • matthewladner says:

        Chad- I’m afraid that it is far worse than conservatives having been duped by the unions. It seems apparent to me that a hatred of common core has led some to becoming the willing sock-puppets of the unions. In the end there is only one Lord of the Rings and he does not share power…

  5. matthewladner says:

    Ze’ev-

    I am curious of the origin of this opt out “right.” Where does it come from, what is it based upon, and what are the limits to it?

    Do parents have the “right” to opt their children out of the study of mathematics? How about history? Can they “opt out” of testing and grading? What about speaking in class? Can they attend school and “opt out” of wearing clothes?

    Now the 9th amendment asserts that Americans have rights outside of those specified in the Constitution, but detailed no path towards sorting out what process is to be used to specify what those rights would actually be in practice. Likewise the 10th Amendment specifies powers not delegated to Congress are left to the states or to the people. Obviously it is not the place of Congress to make that decision, since they lack authority in the policy area in the first place.

    I won’t deny that opting out has occurred in the past, but any assertion that parents had a right to attend a public school and opt out of state mandated testing strikes me as nothing more than a fantasy on your part. A parent could enroll their child in a private school and assert that they have the “right” to have the state pay for it, but they won’t get very far, which is why we have an effort to establish school choice programs as a matter of law.

    • Ze'ev Wurman says:

      Opting out (of annual *state* assessment, not of classroom/district test, etc.) is explicitly permitted in a few states (e.g., California, Washington), explicitly forbidden in a few states, and the law is silent in most states. Look it up here: http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/17/68/11768.pdf . Incidentally, Delaware just passed an opt-out bill that still waits for gov’nr signature (or veto): http://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/education/item/21147-delaware-passes-bill-allowing-opt-out-of-common-core-mandated-tests

      As a rule, unless the law is explicitly mandating something, this something is permitted. Consequently, much of the “advice” given by various state departments of education prohibiting opting out is not binding — they simply want to toe the line with USED. All states mandate the *administration* of annual state assessment by school districts but just a handful mandate that *students* must take them. I believe there is a significant precedent going back to SCOTUS that parents — rather than schools — are responsible for child’s education. This seems to fall into the same bucket. Parents can exercise judgement when children stay home — illness, family trip, whatever — and as a rule school must respect those decisions.

      Please note that you confuse issues when you argue that the same way parents can’t choose that their kids may avoid being tested inside the classroom, they can’t make it for state testing either. This is incorrect. Classroom and school tests are part of the school curriculum and if one misses them, it may affect one’s grades, grade promotion, or graduation. This is NOT THE CASE in most state assessments — they do not have any impact on the student and are *not* part of the local school curriculum but only of *state* accountability. (Where situation is different — e.g., some states require the test for graduation — the implications differ).

      Incidentally, California passed the law allowing for opting out after its experience with the idiotic CLAS test in 1993-94 that asked students biased and inappropriate questions. Some of the authors of that fiasco are now toiling at the helm of SBAC … which I expect (hope?) to soon end up in the same place … the garbage bin.

      When state tests were reasonable, nobody opted out in California even as it was perfectly legal. I am surprised that you support the forced administration of the unvalidated and unreliable consortia tests. Even with 100% participation their results would be unreliable rubbish, but states and ED will use them to justify whatever they want to justify.

      • matthewladner says:

        If a couple of states have laws creating an explicit opt out, that will work for a legal basis in those states. The schools would still be subject to sanctions if they fell below 95% participation. Moreover silence in the law does not create a “right” to opt out of testing any more than it creates a right to opt out of wearing clothes. Nor does CC hatred.

        I am entirely indifferent about the consortia, it seems like fewer and fewer states are using their tests. Moreover even if their tests cured cancer there would still be alarmists out their peddling tales of how they were bringing on the apocalypse. There is only so many tales of retina scans and United Nations plots that one can hear before making a rational decision to tune out.

        Watching school officials push brown and black kids out of testing with my taxpayer dollars- I’ve seen that. CC tests turning kids into zombies, eh- color me skeptical.

      • edthinktank says:

        Winner => I am surprised that you support the forced administration of the unvalidated and unreliable consortia tests. Even with 100% participation their results would be unreliable rubbish, but states and ED will use them to justify whatever they want to justify. Thanks Ze’ev.  So TRUE.

      • Ze'ev Wurman says:

        Matt,

        “The schools would still be subject to sanctions if they fell below 95% participation.”

        Schools should be subject to sanctions defined in their own accountability (or waiver) plans. Typically all this means is to be placed on some state “nasty-list” that is mostly meaningless in times of waivers and no AMOs. No additional ED sanctions seem viable given that ED approved those plans. That’s today. Tomorrow there may be no sanctions at all if the Salmon amendment stays.

        “Moreover silence in the law does not create a “right” to opt out of testing any more than it creates a right to opt out of wearing clothes.”

        Actually, you are completely wrong, Matt. If there were no laws prohibiting “indecent” appearance in public, the silence of the law WOULD create the right to walk naked in public.

        “There is only so many tales of retina scans and United Nations plots that one can hear before making a rational decision to tune out.”

        To quote Andy Grove, even paranoids have enemies. Further, you may want to spend a bit more time analyzing the validity of the consortia assessments (rather than trusting their PR). It would also help if you were to carefully read the variety of student data collection details, biometric and demographic, that are described in various ED and its contractors proposals. Little to do with the UN, but scary nevertheless.

    • Ze'ev Wurman says:

      I mean “prohibiting” rather than “mandating” in the second paragraph above … sorry!

  6. pdexiii says:

    We are in this accountability mess because for decades Black, and then Brown children weren’t being taught much of anything but we had no accountability into that injustice; NCLB at least shone the ugly light on that, and since then that demographic of student has shown some growth.
    Black parents have for decades been wary of schools, and from my view are not the parents so enthusiastic about opting out. They want every tool possible to assess their child’s learning. I anticipate not many urban parents opting out, which will put the NEA-AFT stalwarts in an interesting bind: if the colored folks you claim to serve demand the accountability but non-urban parents choose to opt out, do you tell the urban parents they’re wrong and risk the (rightful) accusation of paternalism and soft bigotry?

    Mr. Lander, I’ve been saying for a while how curious that folks shout ‘opt-out,’ but when parents choose to ‘opt-out’ of the schools all together (choice) they resist that. I would pay to be at a cocktail party just to throw that back at an opt-out cheerleader.

    • matthewladner says:

      I’m with you pdexiii- it wasn’t the highest achieving kids that Texas school officials encouraged to absent themselves on testing day. If there is any doubt that school officials are cynical enough to do this, trust me they did far worse. Jay can tell us all about the “Texas redshirt” whereby schools required untold thousands of 9th graders to repeat 9th grade so that many of them would drop out before taking the 10th grade (exit level) TAAS test.

      • Ze'ev Wurman says:

        Matt, you keep confusing schools excluding kids from testing and parents opting them out. Every kid that is not tested AND DOES NOT HAVE PARENTAL REQUEST ON FILE REQUESTING HIM/HER TO BE EXCUSED will — and should — be counted against the district. But kids whose parents did request them to be excused will not be counted, which is as it should be.

      • matthewladner says:

        Ze’ev-

        Based on what? Are we to be ruled by random fiat by Ze’ev? What is the legal basis of this “right” and if there is one what are the limits to it?

      • matthewladner says:

        Moreover it would take an act of willful ignorance to continue to ignore the fact that school officials would have it in their power to nudge low-performing kids out of testing. It has happened in the past and it would happen in the future if opt-out were allowed to proceed.

      • Ze'ev Wurman says:

        Matt, the fact that you keep repeating “it happened in Texas 20 years back so it must be true then and forever” doesn’t make it so.

        Things have changed. Schools cannot exclude children from testing anymore. Only parents can. Big difference.

        It is, indeed, willful ignorance of reality to argue that “school officials push brown and black kids out of testing” these days.

      • matthewladner says:

        Ze’ev-

        You can believe that human nature has fundamentally changed in the last 20 years and that people will no longer do terrible things if government policy happens to create a perverse incentive if you wish. Let me know when you actually can produce some evidence that this is in fact the case, as I will be a happy camper!

      • Ze'ev Wurman says:

        Matt, I am embarrassed to even have to respond to this. Have I indicated anywhere that human nature has changed in the last 20 years? The law has changed. It is called NCLB, and it does not allow schools to exclude kids from testing. Nothing has changed in that respect.

      • pdexiii says:

        Opting out has always been a right parents have, but as a school we’ve never brought it up. When the Feds grant this to parents, as urban parents have learned, some subgroups of students will be encouraged to opt out.
        I disagree that things have changed in 20 years, because you can’t change human nature in 20 years. You can accuse the opt-outers of the same thing you can the Obamacare repeal-and-replacers: what’s your alternative? Affluent parents can opt-out, because they’ll hire tutors and SAT test prep for their children. Poor/less educated parents will have to trust the transcript, and how as that worked out for Black & Brown parents in ‘da hood?
        Sometimes I wonder if my colleagues who champion opting-out fear being exposed for not teaching a solid body of knowledge and skills, because they do everything else but that. My parents complained about them in the 60’s – 80’s, and sadly I’ve experienced the same thing.

      • edthinktank says:

        “”Sometimes I wonder if my colleagues who champion opting-out fear being exposed for not teaching a solid body of knowledge and skills,”” Oh yes and that is continuing with Common Core Math implementation. Implementing Common Core: The problem of instructional time

        |   | |   | |   |   |   |   |   | | Implementing Common Core: The problem of instructional…Tom Loveless argues that one aspect of the Common Core math standards—the treatment of standard algorithms in arithmetic—will lead some teachers to waste inst… | | | | View on http://www.brookings.edu | Preview by Yahoo | | | |   |

        Curiously, though, CCSS-M doesn’t require students to know the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction until fourth grade.  This opens the door for a lot of wasted time.

      • matthewladner says:

        Ze’ev-

        You cannot possibly be so naive as to believe that school officials would not take advantage of the Salmon amendment if it advanced their careers.

      • Ze'ev Wurman says:

        Matt,

        School officials had the exact same incentive to advance their careers with or without the Salmon amendment. Or with the NCLB as it is today in states that explicitly allow it, or implicitly tolerate it (a majority).

        If you believe that somehow now school officials will be able to convince the *parents* of weak students to allow their kids to withdraw from testing, you must believe that disadvantaged parents are stupid or they don’t care about their kids. These parents are neither. They may not know how to navigate the system, but they are as astute as anyone when it comes to their kids. In fact, they support testing more than the more affluent parents.

        Why don’t you simply put the blame where it belongs — at the feet of Common Core — rather than figure out ways to coerce and control more of the population?

      • matthewladner says:

        Ze’ev-

        You do not need to believe that parents are stupid, merely that a great many of them tend to trust what they are told by school officials.

        Jay has research that shows that states with particular sped funding systems wind up with more kids in sped. Is it because parents are stupid? Nope.

        Are some people who work in public schools terrible. Fraid so. I interviewed a parent whose district was so desperate to keep her in special education that they put her daughter in detention until she agreed to sign her daughter’s IEP renewal.

        If you can’t imagine a school official telling a trusting parent “We have a lot of experience with students like your daughter, and we’ve found that they are just a lot better off if their parents decide to opt them out of these terrible tests. Of course it is up to you, but here are the forms, and here is where you sign…” then I don’t know what to tell you.

    • pdxiii,

      Problem is in WA State Black students in grade 8 average about a 55% reading pass rate and a 34% math pass rate on State testing.

      WA State Hispanic students in grade 8 average about a 60% reading pass rate and a 40% math pass rate on State testing.

      WA State American Indian/Alaska Native students in grade 8 average about a 50% reading pass rate and a 26% math pass rate on State testing.

      The WA State Ed Bureaucrats fail to realize that enormous improvements just don’t happen in high school without extraordinary supports and programs. The idea that students will rise to the level or expectation is turning into a lot of frustrated students who are not going to graduate with “College and Career” ready performance standards.

      The State lost the McCleary lawsuit for failing to adequately fund schools and then proceeded to continue with inadequate funding.
      Currently State Supreme Court is ready to declare legislature in contempt of court, unless substantial progress is made now.

      Thanks be to God that NCLB exposed what has been happening to educationally disadvantaged learners … but correcting the problems has a long long way to go. Failure to pass state testing in math and not allowing kids to graduate is hardly a solution.

      • matthewladner says:

        DMD-

        Neither pdexii nor I have suggested that the status-quo is perfect. I think we both are pretty sure that things could be made worse if the federal government creates a perverse incentive for school officials to solicit “opt out” forms from low performing students.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s