July 28, 2016
Take Action to Prevent Fed Ed Regulations from Promoting Common Core!
Andrew Mullins, Deputy Director
HSLDA Federal Relations
The U.S. Department of Education is once again trying to bypass Congress to continue meddling in local education.
This time the federal department is trying to use its regulatory power to force states to adopt the Common Core and promote standardized testing—despite legislation intended to prevent such coercion.
Last year, Congress passed the Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) with bipartisan majorities agreeing that the federal government needed to give states more flexibility on education decisions and retreat from the intrusive mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act.
ESSA was imperfect, but represented several significant steps in the right direction. Like many major pieces of legislation, ESSA left numerous implementation decisions to the U.S. Department of Education. And unsurprisingly, the Department of Education’s new proposed regulations exploits this opportunity to pressure unwilling states into adopting Common Core.
As highlighted in a June 29, 2016 Senate HELP Committee hearing chaired by ESSA author Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), the law specifically prohibited the federal government from imposing Common Core on the states. As also noted in the hearing, ESSA mandates that each state must “assure” the Department of Education that it has adopted some type of curriculum standards.
And now the Department of Education is using these “state assurances” as an excuse that federal bureaucrats can employ to reject a state’s curriculum standards for failure to conform to the Common Core.
While this is the most glaring requirement hidden in the 190-plus page document, the proposed regulation imposes numerous additional federal mandates on the states. In this way it deliberately ignores the intent of the ESSA in order to maintain federal controls on local public schools.
For example, despite widespread opposition to testing mandates, the proposed regulation requires states to take “robust action” against schools which do not reach 95% participation in standardized tests.Take Action Now:
The Department of Education is hoping to sneak this proposed regulation through giving an unusually short period for the public to read and comment on the 190-plus pages of rules and mandates. Please submit your public comment before the August 1 deadline.
You can read the proposed regulation and submit public comments here.
Here are some suggested comments that you can use by copying and pasting them into the comment windows in the two links above. Please feel free to put them into your own words:
Last year, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate, reflecting a consensus that the federal government should end the mandates of the No Child Left Behind law and give states more flexibility. While imperfect, the ESSA sought to move in the right direction. Like most laws, however, the ESSA left a significant amount of implementation decisions to the administrative state, in this case the Department of Education. Senator Alexander, one of the main authors of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has identified four major areas where the proposed regulation from the Department of Education is in need of correction:
1. The proposed regulation allows the federal government to re-impose Common Core. ESSA makes it clear that each state must “assure” the Department of Education that it has adopted curriculum standards. However, Section 299.16 of the proposed regulation would require each state to “provide evidence” of adopted curriculum standards. As Senator Alexander has noted, this seemingly minor language alteration leaves a potentially gaping hole: under these regulations federal bureaucrats could reject a state’s curriculum standards for insufficient evidence and keep rejecting any curriculum that does not conform to the federal government’s preferred Common Core guidelines.
2. The proposed regulation creates what is described as a “summative rating system.” This would require each state to come up with a single rating system for its schools based primarily on scores on federally mandated tests. Nowhere in the ESSA is the Department directed to take this action. The bureaucrats have simply made it up.
3. The proposed regulation would result in the return of federal testing mandates. Senator Alexander has noted that “The heart of the new law is the end of federal test-based accountability.” But the proposed regulation ignores that intent, effectively making federal tests and standards the yardstick for any school found to be “needing improvement.” Despite widespread opposition to testing mandates, the proposed regulation seeks to require states to take “robust action” against schools which do not reach the arbitrary threshold of 95% participation in standardized tests. The Department of Education is effectively seeking to punish parents who choose to opt out of high-stakes testing, treating their judgement as worthless.
4. The timeline for implementation is far too short, with states expected to begin complying with the proposed regulation by the 2017-18 school year. However, this timeline is so compressed that it makes it practically impossible for states to develop their own new accountability systems, which is the main stated purpose of the ESSA.