US DOE Spells Out ‘OPT OUT’ Consequences to States

dmbtestAssistant Secretary Whalen, U.S. Department of Education, sent a letter on December 2nd, 2015 to Chief State School Officers that outlines the consequences to states for failure to administer state assessments to at least 95% of eligible students.  The letter lists possible federal actions to restrict funding for federal programs.  If fewer than 95% of students sit the state assessments for two years in a row 2014-2016, then the state may incur penalties e.g.

  • Place Title I Part A grants on high risk status.
  • Withhold Title I Part A administrative funds
  • Withhold or redirect Title VI test administrative funds

The letter provides a list of actions that states may consider to pressure districts and schools to comply with federal testing mandates for 2016.  These could include lowering school grades, counting non participants in testing as not proficient in accountability reports, withholding state aid and/or funding flexibility and labeling schools as ‘high risk’.  High risk schools may be subject to state take over.

The letter does not specify what actions schools may take to pressure parents to comply with the testing requirement.

Comparing Canada and the U.S. on Education

flag-1040547_1280A reader sent this thoughtful article by Ben Levin.  I was pleased because I too have been musing about Canada’s high ranking on the international PISA test.  Canada significantly out performs the U.S. in math, science and reading.

I looked for reasons–Canada has a strict immigration policy based on skill levels of applicants.  Canada has a lower poverty rate.  These things are true, but according to Politico, if you use scores only from white U.S. citizens, Canada still outperforms the U.S. fifteen year old students. To make it to the top of the score scale, the U.S. can only use schools with less than ten percent enrolled from families living in poverty.  Even in those schools, math scores would only be ranked 8th, but reading and science would be second to Shanghai.

Florida paid to get its own PISA scores.  The results were surprisingly low.  Our students were well below the U.S. average PISA scores in science and math and just average in reading.  As a leading proponent for school reform, this is not good news for Florida.

The U.S. has the largest income gap in the world. Depending upon how it is measured, however, basic living conditions for the poor in the U.S.  are not worse than in other developed countries.  Yet, PISA scores have gone up in many countries, ours remain stagnant.

In the following article, Ben Levin compares U.S. and Canadian educational systems and finds some similarities and four very real differences.  Perhaps we can learn from our northern neighbors.  How uneven is the funding for U.S. schools?  How uneven is the quality?  This has to be a serious concern.  There are lawsuits over equity and funding all over the U.S., and yes, in Florida.

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Tougher Florida School Grade Standards Proposed

examination-154709_1280Commissioner Stewart’s school grade proposal is calculated differently, but its results are similar to those earned last year.  Now John Padget, the Vice Chairman of the State Board of Education, is proposing tougher standards.

We need to think about this. The SBE meets January 6th to consider the school grade alternatives.   We want  students to meet proficiency standards, but the legislature needs to make it possible.  How does the public make that happen?

We need to understand what a school grade really means–and does not mean.  We have to ask if school grades motivate school districts,  teachers and staff to do more.  Good intentions are necessary but often insufficient.  What else is required to improve learning?  How do we make the system work for all children?

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