Friday, September 30, 2016

The Public Seems to be at Odds with the Real Decision Makers on Implementation of ESSA

I attended a forum last night in Baton Rouge on the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 sponsored by the Louisiana Association of Educators. The stated purpose of the forum was to receive input from educators, parents and other citizens on the revisions of the ESSA law.

Specifically the participants in the forum were asked to give their ideas and suggestions on how the new Federal law should be implemented so that the learning experience for all children could be improved.

For the last 14 years our public education systems have operated under mandates of the No Child Left Behind law which almost everyone agrees has failed in its mandate of producing proficiency in all children in all schools in math and English language arts. In fact there are essentially no schools in the U. S. that have achieved the proficiency mandated by the old law. So now the law has supposedly been made more flexible and more practical in its design. The general public and educators are supposed to have more "say so" in the implementation of the new plan for ESSA.

Participants in the forum were broken up into 6 groups that were each expected to come up with recommendations for improvement of our public schools and the education of all children. Near the end of the forum each group reported their recommendations.

The recommendations included ideas for improving parent participation and support for the education process, the need to boost education options for students not planning to attend colleges, incentives to attract more qualified persons into the teaching profession, and many other excellent ideas.

But there was one initiative that amazingly was not suggested by any of the 6 groups. Not a single group suggested that Louisiana should continue rating public schools using student test scores! I was amazed that no one seemed to recognize the importance of statewide testing as a basis and avenue for improving our schools and the education of children since this has been the main focus of the federal and state mandates for our schools for the last 14 years. If testing students and rating schools using test scores was so important, you would think that someone attending the LAE forum would have suggested that Louisiana continue and make full use of this process. The only discussion we heard in our forum on this subject was that Louisiana should spend less time on testing and test-prep so that teachers would have more time to spend on actual teaching.

I was also able to review some of the video tapes of the forums held by State Superintendent John White on ESSA in all parts of the state. I specifically looked for confirmation by citizens and teachers that the emphasis on state testing of students and the rating of schools and teachers using such testing was a good idea. The only comment I saw that seemed to approve of the testing was a comment by Dr. Phillip Rozeman of Shreveport who was quoted as saying that Louisiana should "stay the course on accountability", but I just did not see a groundswell of public support for continued emphasis on testing as a way of improving our schools and for implementing the Every Student Succeeds law.

Was I the only person in the state interested in education that noticed that neither the general public nor the practicing educators recommend state mandated testing as the primary way to improve our schools? Was I the only person who sees this continuing mandate as a top down commandment that comes primarily from the self appointed education reformer elites in our country and our state?

I just had a chance to scan the draft framework just recently added to the LDOE website for the implementation  of the new Every Child Succeeds Act that was developed after receiving all this input from the various stakeholders in our educational system. Amazingly, the whole new plan just seems to double down on rating schools using state and national testing. So this is how our public input on implementation of the new law is being put into action? Or is this what we may may call a disconnect between the public and the policy makers? Am I the only citizen of Louisiana who feels this way?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

No, Mike, you are not the only one. I think it is a given. ESSA and Louisiana's accountability system will still exist; we will not delete testing from it, but you are right that the framework released yesterday is overly reliant on testing as the measure of improvement in education. The ESSA non-academic factor is given a very insignificant 5% and some leading indicators that are not scored (but should be) ar given acknowledgement but John White does indeed intend to keep our accountability system more or less intact in Louisiana. It will be the duty of all of us to make sure that the framework is altered to reflect the importance of what John White calls background indicators. The background indicators are the very ones that allow children to focus on the academics. Better a child's world and we will better a child's academic performance. Also, instead of constantly expecting a child to fit our world (including accountability), more attention needs to be given to our fitting a child's world. This is the path that education follows in Finland, which I visited two weeks ago. There teachers are respected and trusted; no teacher evaluation or accountability system even exists. And children develop their own education plan for their futures. No wonder they are the third most effective educational system in the world. Debbie Meaux, President of the Louisiana Association of Educators

KimberlyDtchr said...

Thank you, Louisiana Educator, for your support of the LAE ESSA Community forums as well as your attendance of the LDOE ESSA Community Forums. Yes, we still must be accountable for the positive impacts federal title funding is awarded to produce. I think there is consensus among professional educators that a single "test" cannot provide a comprehensive accounting of a student's academic growth. So, I think the "step-back" is determining how to remain accountable for educational equity for marginalized student groups through some form of a portfolio of data that renders not only required accountability documentation but provides direction for instructional application.

I must admit a deep sense of dismay at the propping-up proposed for dual-immersion programming: According to the World Languages link, schools with these programs will be given a five-point advantage in the awarded school score. This is unethical unless the same five-point opportunity is afforded to other programs, such as arts integration, STEM, and early enrollment/dual-enrollment college coursework. I support the increased access to dual language instruction: I have actually ADVOCATED for it for English Learners given it 1) begins in prekindergarten/kindergarten, when formal literacy education begins, 2) is coupled with an equitable recruitment strategy for marginalized students / to include ELs, 3) requires a diverse teaching staff to include measure to correct the discrimination against Louisiana-certified language educators via deliberate transparency of recruitment and hiring practices that document efforts made to offer these opportunities via scholarships/university recruitment of Louisiana potential educators, and 4) the parallel creation of community schools at immersion sites so that diverse parent groups can be afforded continuing education and integration opportunities.

I DO wish to acknowledge the high-quality immersion programming that my LPSS has provided to our students and the continued improvements to equitable access that are being implemented. The Spanish Immersion Program at Alice Boucher is a model of community outreach and parental involvement, with their foreign associate educators going above and beyond to reach and educate the community with regard to the beauty and richness of the Latino/a culture.

A last note, if I may: I think that the conversation needs to be redirected away from attacking individuals or departments and instead be a channel of our energies toward achievable change. At the ESSA forum I attended, the need for immediate problem-solving as opposed to finger-pointing to assign blame was pretty evident. If we actually WANT change in policy as opposed to personalities, we need to do a course-redirect yesterday.

Jeremy said...

There is way too much money to be made by these testing companies for us to get rid of testing now. It's just not going to happen.

Plus, any teacher with a little experience knows these tests are a joke because of the data manipulation, but the general public doesn't realize it.

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As for me, it won't work well but anyway they can try. The saddest is that kids can suffer from such innovations.

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