What could actually change in federal education policy this year? States will much more authority. The last legislation was passed in 2007. It is time for a change, but are these the right ones for children or for politicians? We can only hope that Congress will strengthen, not weaken our public schools.
Here’s a quick checklist of the Senate bill.
- Annual testing remains, but states decide what and how to test.
- Common Core standards are not required.
- Test data must be reported by race/ethnic and economic groups. Since tests are different, state results will not be comparable.
- States determine the weight of test scores in teacher evaluations. This could be a great improvement if states create better systems.
- Title I money for low income students stays with the district. Adequate yearly progress reports are not required.
- No federal mandate for students to take assessments. States determine their own opt out policy.
- Charter school expansion is supported.
The House bill is similar, but it does include a provision to let Title I money move with the student. This could be a ploy to let federal money go to private schools if students leave public schools.
One concern expressed by the Brookings Institute is that the bill has little funding for evaluation and innovation. School accountability is decentralized in this bill. States do not have to submit plans to the federal government. How states will incentivize schools to be more innovative is not addressed. The current system of using competition through charter schools and private schools has not been effective in raising achievement. Decentralized annual testing is no more likely to improve instruction than national or state assessments have.
Parents could mobilize and derail the massive testing industry. If they choose to do so, they must also be equally insistent that schools be responsive to the needs of all students.