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MSPnet Blog: “ESSA: Ravitch asks some questions”

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posted January 26, 2016 – by Brian Drayton

Diane Ravitch has performed a service to everyone interested in making sense of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). She has engaged in a series of Q&A exchanges with David Cleary, who’s on the staff of Sen. Lamar Alexander, the lead author of the new ESEA authorization bill. She’s posted 8 exchanges (there will be 9 total), and the answers (each has a short and a long version) are very interesting. Here is a sort of ToC — the questions posed in each post, plus a link to it.  When the last is posted, I’ll add to this list.

Note:  If anyone would like to write a guest post on any of these (or other topics, of course), please contact me to discuss the idea, format, and timing!
1.1. How will ESSA affect testing? Most educators and parents believe that there is too much testing and they want less of it. What does ESSA do to reduce testing and the high stakes attached to it?  Read the answers here.

2. The stakes attached to testing: will teachers be evaluated by test scores, as Duncan demanded and as the American Statistical Association rejected? Will teachers be fired because of ratings based on test scores?  Answer here.

3. What about the bottom 5% of schools by test scores? There is always a bottom 5%. Close them and another group will be the bottom 5%. What does the law say about the way these schools are treated? Answer here.

4. What does the law say about parent opt outs from testing? Are states allowed to withhold funding from schools where the participation rate is less than 95%? Answer here.

5. How does the law affect the testing of students with disabilities? I have heard that there is a limit of 1% of students who may be given alternative assessments due to their disabilities, but far more than 1% of students have IEPs. What does the law say?  Answer here.

6. How will teacher education be affected by ESSA? Does the law enable non-traditional institutions to award degrees to teachers, i.e., “graduate” schools that have no faculty with advanced degrees, like Match and Relay? Does it encourage alternative routes like Teach for America? What happened to the idea that all students should have “highly qualified teachers”? Answer here.

7. Does the law impose any requirements on charter schools regarding funding, selection of students, financial transparency, or accountability? Answer here.

8. What is the role of the federal Department of Education and the Secretary in the new ESSA? Answer here.

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Ravitch has her own say

posted by: Brian Drayton on 2/2/2016 9:29 am

Diane Ravitch has now posted her own commentary on ESSA what strengths she sees,what downsides,and what she would have done differently if she were writing new legislation. d-and-the-ugly/

Her summary statement at the end:
"The outlook is that, as a result of ESSA, the states in a downward spirallike Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, Kansas, and many morewill continue in that direction until there is a rebellion among the citizenry. ESSA gives people a chance to take action. But thats about all it does. Im grateful that AYP is gone; I am grateful that the timetable is gone; I am grateful that the Secretary of Education can no longer boss everyone around. I am glad that Race to the Top is gone. Otherwise, it is NCLB handed over to the states to tinker with. After 15 years of nonstop testing and accountability, we need a new vision. ESSA is not it."