• Author, Joanne Yatvin

Another Disappointment from the Department of Education

Reposted here with the permission of the author.

The purpose of 'The Treasure Hunter' is to highlight the good things now happening or possible in public education. Although I will write pieces as often as I can, I welcome contributions from others who are aware of positive happenings in schools or have good ideas for change. My hope is that this blog will become the loudest voice in support of our schools, teachers, and students.

Today’s post was driven by an article that appeared in “The New York Times” earlier this month: “DeVos’s Hard Line on New Education Law Surprises States” by Erica L. Green. At this point it is hard for me to believe that public education will improve under ESSA, the new federal law.

Over the past six months I have written twice about ESSA (Every Students Succeeds Act) that has supplanted NCLB (No Child Left Behind). The first time I was disappointed by the law’s emphasis on “tightening the screws” on students and teachers rather than making education more meaningful and appealing for both groups. The second time, I was irritated by the large amount of data that was being required, much of it unrelated to student success. Now, as the final blow (?) the Department of Education’s has sent strongly critical feedback to several states that submitted their ESSA plans early. The most shocking criticism was given to the state of Delaware, telling it that its student achievement goals were not sufficiently “ambitious.”

As you read ESSA the message that comes through is that the control of education should be returned to the states because those who are closest to the schools, students, and the culture of a place are best equipped to understand its needs and how to meet them. How can people removed from all the realities of a state know the proper goals for its schools? Yet, that is exactly what DeVos and her staff members appear to be doing. Their excuse is that they are bound to a strict interpretation of existing national statutes, rather than the total freedom implied by ESSA.

T​​he feedback given to five other states: Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon and Tennessee did not include any demands for more ambitious goals, but it did criticize them on other grounds. For instance, Tennessee was told that it had neglected to identify languages other than English spoken by many students p because it considers itself “an English-only state.” And Connecticut was criticized for choosing its own system of measuring academic performance instead of the “proficiency” measurements required by law.

To many state leaders the criticism already given to a few states makes clear that they will not be allowed the freedom promised by ESSA, and I agree. The Department of Education and its supporters in Congress still believe that our system of education is far inferior to those in foreign countries. What they want retained in our schools are the impossible demands of “A Nation at Risk”, the “Common Core State Standards”, and NCLB. I can’t help wondering, as the old song asks, “When will they Ever Learn?”


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