Connecticut remains committed to unfair SBAC Testing Scam in new federal plan

Earlier this month, with no legislative oversight and limited public input, the Connecticut State Department of Education become one of a handful of states to submit its proposed action plan under the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

Although the Trump administration has postponed the date states must submit plans until September 2017, the Malloy administration decided – for reasons that remain unclear – to jump the gun and submit a plan that fails to adequately utilize much of the flexibility contained in the new federal law.

One of the most noticeable and absurd aspects of Connecticut’s new ESSA plan is despite proposing record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, the Malloy administration claims that it will ensure that 100 percent of all students will be proficient on the state’s standardized tests by 2029-2030.

The truth is that while the Every Student Succeeds Act continues much of the test and punish elements of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Race to the Top Program, the federal law does provide states with greater flexibility when it comes to how it relies on the use of unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate standardized testing schemes.

However, Connecticut, one of only 12 states to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education, informed federal officials that it remains committed to the use of the poorly constructed and blatantly unfair Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scam.

In a recent new report, Education Week Explains;

Under ESSA, states are required to pick both long-term and interim goals for student achievement and graduation rates.


States are supposed to give separate, “substantial weight” to student achievement, graduation rates, English-language proficiency and another academic indicator, as well as an indicator of school quality or student success. Academic indicators—like test scores and graduation rates—are supposed to weigh “much more” as a group than the indicator of school quality or student success.

Education Week goes on to note that;

Connecticut hasn’t set student achievement goals, although it has set growth goals for elementary and middle schools. The state considers its targets as setting “growth to proficiency.” 


Connecticut is still working on its English-language proficiency indicator, which it plans to attach to student growth, rather than consider separately. Peer reviewers may question the fact that the state won’t be measuring English-language proficiency right from the start, and the fact that ELP won’t be a standalone indicator.

In addition to 100 percent achievement by 2029-30, the Connecticut plan claims that it will reach 94 percent graduation rates for all students, and all subgroups of students. In 2014-15, the graduation rate in Connecticut was 87.2 percent.

It is a sad commentary that the Malloy administration and his political appointees on the State Board of Education remain unnecessarily and inappropriately committed to the unfair SBAC testing system.

You can read more about Connecticut’s plan in Education Week via –

Please Read this Penetrating Indictment of the Every Student Succeeds Act by Jan Resseger

Fellow public education advocate and education blogger Jan Resseger posted an important article today about the problems associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act.  ESSA, as it is called, replaced the ill-fated No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top federal initiatives. Both NCLB and RttT institutionalized the destructive corporate education reform policies that are turning our public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories dedicated to “test prep” around a narrow curriculum, rather than a broad-based, comprehensive education the ensures every child is provided with the knowledge and skills they will need to live more fulfilling lives,

As we are now learning, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues these failed policies and, in some ways, is even worse than its predecessors.

Jan Resseger is absolutely right, please do read this Penetrating Indictment of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Participating earlier this week in one of the Ohio Department of Education’s stakeholder meetings about the plan Ohio will be developing to submit to the U.S. Department of Education to comply with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I watched as many people tried valiantly to frame their objections to the test-and-punish policies that have dominated federal and state education policy for more than a generation. Most people have a clear sense that something is very wrong, but framing their objections in specific policy terms is much harder. On Monday, Valerie Strauss published among the most lucid explanations I have read of what’s wrong, how the new law reproduces much of the same policy as the old No Child Left Behind, and what those of us who value our nation’s system of public education ought to be saying as we respond to these policies.

In Monday’s column, Bill Mathis and Tina Trujillo are promoting the new book they have editedLearning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act. (This blog has covered that book here and here.) The book was published by the National Education Policy Center, where Mathis is the managing director. Please read Mathis and Trujillo’s column carefully and then plan to consult the academic research collected in this important book.

In this week’s column, Mathis and Trujillo set the context for the new Every Student Succeeds Act: “Washington was euphoric. In a barren time for bi-partisan cooperation late in 2015, both Democrats and Republicans were happy to get rid of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The K-12 education law was almost universally excoriated as being a failure—particularly in that most important goal of closing the achievement gap. Looking at long-term trends from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, gains were seen in some areas but the achievement gap was stuck. NCLB provided no upward blips on the charts. Thus, it is stunning that the successor law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed by Congress last December, is basically an extension of NCLB. Fundamentally, ESSA maintains the same philosophy and direction. It is still a standardized test-driven system that is punitive in nature. The main difference is that states are now responsible for designing the enforcement systems—which must be approved by the federal government. But states will not likely make many fundamental changes. They have invested heavily in their systems, as have local schools and districts. Test-based accountability has been the law of the land for the past 30 years—which means that it is the only system that many educators have experienced. Furthermore, vendors, textbook manufacturers, testing companies, consultants and the like have a strong bias toward protecting their investment—even while acknowledging that it didn’t work.”

What are the specific problems with No Child Left Behind-style school policy?  “First, children who are hungry, suffering from malnutrition and live in substandard conditions are highly unlikely to score well on tests. We will never close the achievement gap until we close the opportunity gap… While giving considerable lip service to the plight of poor children and children of color, we have not backed-up our rhetoric with our actions… The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (of which NCLB and ESSA are the latest versions) has always been intended to address these disparities, but it has never been adequately funded.”

“Second, test-based accountability does not improve learning.  Psychologist B.F. Skinner taught us more than 60 years ago that negative reinforcement has unpredictable and undesirable consequences. Yet, we embarked on a path of test and punishment whose inevitable outcome was sadly predictable.” Mathis and Trujillo add that third, the various punishments including the prescribed school turnarounds failed. These included firing teachers, closing schools, and changing public schools into charter schools. Fourth, “The invisible hand of the market was to be the solution primarily through charters and privatizing schools… A growing body of literature shows that charter schools do not perform better than traditional public schools and they segregate schools by race and by socio-economic status.”

What about the underlying assumption of the whole scheme—that we have the capacity accurately to measure school quality?  There is a big debate going on right now about whether states should provide a single summative “grade” for the state’s schools and school districts. Here is Mathis and Trujillo’s analysis: “The problem is in defining what should be measured, how it should be tallied, and how multiple scores can be combined into one… The challenge is that schools have many purposes and each would lend itself to a different way of measuring and weighing… The companion difficulty is trying to validly represent an important feature with an imperfect measure….  What is a valid combination and weighting of… measures?  Or does one exist?  Should the math scores be double the ELA (English Language Arts) scores?  Should they be divided by the attendance rate?  Such decisions are central but are not empirical. They are based on our underlying values.” And, “We learned that evaluating teacher and preparation programs creates a false scientism by placing too much trust in too weak a measure.”

Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms is a collection of peer-reviewed academic studies and is organized conceptually into sections. In this week’s column, Mathis and Trujillo summarize the conclusions of the academic research in each section of the new book.  I believe the first is the most important: “The Opportunity Gap—The primary finding was that students must have opportunities, funding, and resources sufficient to meet what the state requires of them. There have been some 70 or so state adequacy studies and with very few exceptions, they have indicated we are not meeting the needs of students.”

Mathis and Trujillo’s conclusions are sobering, and they reflect much of what I heard earlier this week at my round-table discussion at the Ohio ESSA stakeholder meeting I attended.  I wonder if the people collecting the comments from all the table-by-table conversations will tease out this message, even though I heard it reinforced in dozens of ways throughout the evening:

“The greatest conceptual and most damaging mistake of test-based accountability systems has been the pretense that poorly supported schools could systemically overcome the effects of concentrated poverty and racial segregation by rigorous instruction and testing. This system has inadequately supported teachers and students, has imposed astronomically high goals, and has inflicted punishment on those for whom it has demanded impossible achievements.” “This diverse nation and our common good require all students to be well educated. Yet, we have embarked on economic and educational paths that systematically privilege only a small percentage of the population. In education, we invest less on children of color and poor families. At the same time, we support a testing regime that measures wealth rather than providing a rich kaleidoscope of experience and knowledge to all. And we do not hold ourselves responsible for the basic denial of equal opportunities.”

I urge you to read and then re-read Mathis and Trujillo’s commentary published on Monday by Valerie Strauss.  It is a discerning indictment of the public school policy that now pervades our society.

You can read Jan Resseger’s outstanding blog at –

Washington – First mandate annual testing, then allocate $9 Million to reduce the “Assessment Burden.”

Call it the American Way!

President Obama and a bi-partisan coalition of Republican and Democratic members of Congress used the Every Child Succeeds Act to mandated that no child go untested each and every year, despite the overwhelming evidence that the Common Core standardized testing scheme is unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory, not to mention a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

But now, in a yet another blatant effort to be as two-faced as possible, the Obama administration has announced a new $9 million “Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program” to assist states in efforts to “reduce the assessment burden.”

Mandate everyone gets tested, then allocate a few dollars to promote alternatives…

The school technology publication called, The Journal, reports that,

The Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program is the next step in the president’s action plan to improve the quality of academic assessments.”

The article adds;

The grant program builds on President Obama’s Testing Action Plan released last year. The plan aims to reform redundant standardized tests that are administered too frequently and fail to effectively measure student outcomes. As the next step in the plan, the Enhanced Assessment Instruments grant program, also called the Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) program, offers financial support for states to develop and use more effective assessments.

“The President’s Testing Action Plan encourages thoughtful approaches to assessments that will help to restore the balance on testing in America’s classrooms by reducing unnecessary assessments while promoting equity and innovation,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a news release. “This grant competition is the next step as part of that plan, and will help states and districts improve tests to allow for better depiction of student and school progress so that parents, teachers and communities have the vital information they need on academic achievement.”

The press release goes on to inform State education agencies and state education consortiums that;

Applicants that address these program objectives “by producing significant research methodologies products or tools, regarding assessment systems, or assessments,” will be chosen to receive funding for their projects, according to the department’s website.

Applications are available on Aug. 8. Applicants must submit proposals for the EAG competition by Sept. 22 and winners will be announced in January.

Chauk one more up for the greed and deceptiveness of the education testing industry and their corporate education reform allies in and of government.

Pelto Slams Every Student Succeeds Act – Calls on Obama and Congress to postpone adoption of ESSA Regulations

Jonathan Pelto, Green Party candidate for Congress in Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District, is calling on President Obama and Congress to postpone adoption of the Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Regulations until the new President and Congress take office in January, 2017.

“Limiting a parents’ fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory standardized testing scheme and mandating that every child must take a standardized test ever year are just two of the damaging provisions of the ESSA draft regulations being proposed by the Obama Administration,” Pelto said.  “As presently written, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations continue many of the failed education policies of the federal government.  The President and Congress should, at the very least, postpone action on those regulations until the new president and new congress take office in 2017.”

Pelto condemned the legislation and new regulations explaining;

  • The ESSA regulations inappropriately require that ALL students take a standardized test every year. The most successful public education systems in the world DO NOT utilize mandatory annual testing.  Requiring such a practice is a huge waste of scarce public funds and valuable student instructional time.
  • The ESSA regulations do not provide clear concise language guaranteeing a parent’s’ fundamental and inalienable right to opt their child or children out of the annual standardized testing program. Failure to recognize a parents opt out right is a fatal flaw in the regulations and this issue must be corrected before any meaningful statute and regulation can move forward.
  • The ESSA regulations require that standardized assessments be focused exclusively on Math and English, thereby narrowing the curriculum and failing to provide the framework for the type of comprehensive education that all students need to compete and proposer in the 21st

As the Vermont State Board of Education noted in their recent testimony in opposition to the regulations;

‘By requiring that test scores in two subjects and graduation rates be given preferential weight, [the regulations] discourage schools from supporting truly broad opportunities to learn and the skills necessary for a healthy society.  In a world where violence and terrorism command the news, the education of our youth to participate in a strong civic life in a democracy is a fundamental skill. Similarly, we must equip students with the capabilities to address critical imperatives like global warming, environmental degradation and growing global inequality.’

  • The ESSA regulations require that states develop a single letter grade to rank order all schools. This is a false, inaccurate and invalid mechanism to inform students, parents, teachers and the public about an individual school or school system’s strengths and weaknesses.  Children, teachers and schools cannot be properly evaluated when complex factors are reduced to a single number.
  • The ESSA regulations maintain the federal government’s commitment to the privatization of public schools by requiring that states must implement programs to turn the “bottom 5%” of schools over to privately owned and operated charter schools or instituted an alternative type of privatization or turnaround program. This arbitrary system to turnover public schools to private interests limits the rights of state and local elected officials.”

According to the federal government’s ESSA regulation process, the public only has until August 1, 2016 to submit testimony and the regulations are presently scheduled to be adopted prior to or soon after the 2016 election.

“The ESSA regulations will serve to guide public education policy for an entire generation.  President Obama and Congress must halt the adoption of these harmful regulations until the next President and Congress have the opportunity to review and revise the ESSA law and its associated regulations,” Pelto concluded.

Background Footnote:  Senate Bill S. 1177 – The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) – was passed Congress and signed into law by the President.  As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Congressman Joe Courtney voted for the legislation in committee and in the House of Representatives. The Obama Administration is presenting working to adopt the regulations to implement the Act.

Tell our United States Senators to vote no on the Common Core Testing Mania

United States Senators need to stand up and protect our students and teachers!

From Connecticut educator and fellow education blogger Poetic Justice comes the following post,

Please Sign This United Opt Out petition to stop the Senate from passing the very flawed ESEA

Here is what United Opt Out has written in their petition to the US Senate.

“Since 2002 when No Child Left Behind became law, students, parents, and teachers have been subjected to a national education policy written to benefit the education testing industry and politicians out to privatize public education in America. As a result, schools have been turned into testing factories and thousands of low-scoring public schools that serve the poorest students have been closed and replaced by corporate charter schools that, on average, perform no better than the underfunded schools they replace. Those charters with high test scores most often exclude low-scoring and problem students, while subjecting their students to punishing discipline systems that middle class parents would never allow for their own children.

Next week the U. S. Senate will vote on a rewrite of No Child Left Behind that greatly expands the “No Excuses” charter school system that has gone from a few hundred to almost 7,000 schools during the past decade. If the new legislation becomes law, annual high stakes standardized testing in grades 3-12 will continue unabated, and the expansion of publicly funded and intensely segregated reform charter schools will intensify without the benefit of public oversight.

By signing the petition, you can let the U. S. Senate know to say NO to an ESEA reauthorization plan that, if passed, will set education policy back by over 50 years.

We can do better, and Congress must take the time to hear from parents, students, and teachers, whose voices have been silenced by organizations pretending to represent their interests.

Here is the link to the VOTE NO ON ESSA PETITION.

Tell the Senate that we say NO to a vision of 21st Century teaching and learning that treats our children like test scores and our teachers as automatons

‪#‎DoNoHarm ‪#‎ESEA

Again, here is the PETITION.

Congress Fails – Again – This time on the re-write of National Education Policy

The George W. Bush/Barack Obama legacy of destroying public education in the United States will continue thanks to the “bi-partisan” re-write of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Republican and Democratic leaders, along with the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the leadership of the teachers’ unions are heralding the new system which continues the effort to privatize public education, turn schools into little more than testing factories and undermine teachers and the teaching profession.

The most substantive difference is that rather than the federal government “mandating” these dangerous and damaging policies, the federal government will “mandate” that the states do the dirty work in their own name.

Both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate will be voting on the Every Student Succeeds Act in the coming days.  The President will certainly sign the legislation since it ensure the education reform industry continues to drain off billions of dollars in scarce public funds.

The following are links to some of the latest articles on the bill;

Warning! ESSA Threatens Special Education  (From Diane Ravitch)

How schools would be judged under ‘Every Student Succeeds,’ the new No Child Left Behind (From Washington Post)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): More Observations (From Mercedes Schneider)

ESEA Reauthorization – Ramming Through a Bad Deal for America’s Children (From Truth in American Education)

BATs Respond to Every Student Succeeds Act (Report from the BATs organization)

Numerous questions about the impact of the new law remain but on the opt-out issue it appears that Congress will require states to notify parents about the Common Core Testing scheme but will continue to require that states mandate that 95% of students participate in the destructive tests — “or else.”

The “or else” may be left to the states, but as we know from the experience in Connecticut, pro-education reform governors like Dannel Malloy have no problem lying and misleading parents into believing that they lack the fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests.

Look Out — Congress is about to replace the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (NCLB will now be ESEA)

Who could possibly be against a law that mandates “Every Student Succeeds!”

The United States Congress is in the process of re-writing the historic (and destructive) No Child Left Behind Act.

The public relations geniuses have even renamed the law, to the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The United States House of Representatives may vote as early as tomorrow.

Of course, using standard operating procedure, a “final” draft of the bill was only issued yesterday which means few legislators will even know what they are voting on in the 1,000 page bill.

Fellow education blogger, Mercedes Schneider is not only one of the nation’s most important voices for public education, but she has probably been following the development of this new law closely.

Schneider, the author of “Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.” And “Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?” has posted numerous articles about the legislation which can be found on her blog –

In her post yesterday Schneider writes,

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization that has flown through conference committee and continues on its speedy trek to the House for an expected vote on December 02, 2015.

The document is 1,061 pages long. The public was able to see it for the first time on November 30, 2015.

Zoom, zoom.

I read much of it and skimmed the rest for particular issues of interest. This post includes my notes on my rapid reading of the ESSA document. (Rapid in this case is several hours, but it was a quick read given the document length.)

Here we go.

Pages 7 and 8 declare Duncan’s NCLB waivers “null and void and to have no legal effect on or after August 1, 2016.”

Page 47 notes that for states to be eligible for Title I funds, they must have “challenging academic content standards” that have corresponding, “aligned academic achievement standards” that have at least three levels of achievement. Also, states must demonstrate that their standards are “aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the State and relevant State career and technical education standards.”

ESSA states that nothing in the Act is to be taken as meaning that institutes of higher education are to determine a state’s standards.

States can develop a set of alternative academic content standards for students with the most severe disabilities (page 49).

The US Secretary may not control the state-level standards setting process (page 51):

(i) STANDARDS REVIEW OR APPROVAL.—A State shall not be required to submit any standards developed under this subsection to the Secretary for review or approval.
(ii) FEDERAL CONTROL.—The Secretary shall not have the authority to mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision over any of the challenging State academic standards adopted or implemented by a State.

On page 130, the Secretary is not allowed to promote the Common Core:

VOLUNTARY PARTNERSHIPS.—A State retains the right to enter into a voluntary partnership with another State to develop and implement the challenging State academic standards and assessments required under
this section, except that the Secretary shall not attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce State—
(1) adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or assessments tied to such standards; or
(2) participation in such partnerships.

And now, for assessments (page 52):

The state is to administer math, reading/ELA and science assessments to all students in the state, and these assessments are to be the same assessments for all students except for those with the most severe cognitive disabilities (these students are limited to one percent of all students in the state, but the limit can be waived if necessary– see pages 61 and 65).

It’s the same grade 3 thru 8 admin for ELA and math and once in grades 9 thru 12 (page 54).

Assessments “may be partially delivered in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended performance tasks” (page 54).

The assessments are to “be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable” (page 52)– which logically would rule out measuring teachers using student test scores. I have yet to see a testing company offer empirical research or any other guarantee backing the use of student achievement tests for measuring teacher effectiveness.

The tests are to “be tests that do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information” (page 52).

The tests are supposed to be accompanied by reports that allow parents, teachers, principals, and other school leaders to understand and address the specific academic needs of students and that are provided to parents, teachers, and school leaders, as soon as is practicable after the assessment is given, in an understandable and uniform format, and to the extent practicable, in a language that parents can understand” (page 57).

Results are to be reported by group (e.g., racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, disability, ELL) (page 58).

Regarding the rights of parents, ESSA includes a “rule of construction,” or a statement about how the ESSA assessment requirement is to be taken, or “construed” (page 76):

(K) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION ON PARENT RIGHTS.—Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the parent’s child participate in the academic assessments under this paragraph.

Then, there is this “testing transparency” requirement connected to Title I on page 144-145:

(A) IN GENERAL.—At the beginning of each school year, a local educational agency that receives funds under this part shall notify the parents of each student attending any school receiving funds under this part that the
parents may request, and the local educational agency will provide the parents on request (and in a timely manner), information regarding any State or local educational agency policy regarding student participation in any assessments mandated by section 1111(b)(2) and by the State or local educational agency, which shall
include a policy, procedure, or parental right to opt the child out of such assessment, where applicable.

The “rule of construction” and testing transparency” sections are sections that I see as leading to future lawsuits. Some will take the rule of construction statement as the federal government saying, “Don’t blame us” for a state or local laws regarding opting out. In order to meet federal requirements for Title I money, some states and localities can logically be expected to not formally provide for parental rights to opt out for fear of losing federal funds. However, the big question is whether the federal government would win in court if community groups challenged the federal government’s attempting to bypass the reality of its influence over state and local opt out laws via this rule of construction disclaimer. Of course the question remains regarding what the federal government would actually do in the face of state and local opt out laws. Will it refuse Title I funding to such states? Will it penalize states for sending Title I funds to districts with parental opt out procedures in place?

If states and localities pass parental opt out provisions and the federal government threatens Title I funding, the states or localities have leverage to sue the federal government by virtue of the fact that ESSA includes the rule of construction. In other words, by including the rule of construction, the federal government is acknowledging the leverage it holds over state and local opt out policy by virtue of the fact that it holds the Title I purse strings.

The requirement that a state “annually measure the achievement of not less than 95 percent of all students… who are enrolled in public schools” (page 88) on the annual assessments is still in place. The federal government is trying to force the testing without taking responsibility for forcing the testing. Now, there is the creative option for parents (or districts) to un-enroll their children during testing and re-enroll once testing is over.

With the continued testing mandate in this ESSA, the federal government should anticipate an opt-out showdown.

Page 80 begins a section on “statewide accountability systems.” There is no direct mention of grading teachers using student test scores, nor is there any direct mention of using letter grades to label schools. The annual tests must be used in state accountability; four-year adjusted cohort graduation rates are to be used, and extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rates may also be used. Improvement for subgroups of students who are behind must also be incorporated (hence, the ersatz gap-closing).

Page 87 refers to states using their accountability systems to identify 1) at least the lowest five percent of all Title I schools and 2) all public high schools with graduation rates below 33 percent, for “comprehensive support and improvement” beginning in 2017-18 and at least once every three school years thereafter.”  The comprehensive support is not automatically as punitive as under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), though a state could make it just like NCLB (firing staff; closing schools; replacing with charter schools). This ESSA “comprehensive support” will never end given that some schools must always be in the lowest five percent on the statewide assessments.

I performed a keyword search for “opt out” and read on page 847 that parents have the right to opt out of having student information provided to military and higher ed recruiters.

Regarding Title II and teacher prep (starting on page 298), there are grants available for alternative certification that read friendly to Teach for America (i.e., alternative certification for high-achieving college grads in other fields). Nonprofits are listed among the organizations that might train teachers. Too, there is encouragement to develop teacher evaluation systems that include student achievement, which means tying teacher effectiveness to student test scores.  There are also hints of merit pay for teachers and principals in high-need areas (page 320) and in general (page 348-350, 358).

Regarding student mental health services under Title IV (21st century Schools) (page 447), no mental health services will be delivered without “prior written, informed consent from the parent of each child who is under 18 years of age.” There are some exceptions, such as situations of immediate emergency and those in which the parent does not respond to written notice (see page 448).

As to ESSA’s promoting charter schools (page 518): Nothing new here. The federal government wants to expand charters and continue to assure them a “high degree of autonomy” (page 539). There is no evidence that the federal government acknowledges the proliferation of charter school scandal and mismanagement. Peppering this section with the word “quality” appears to be the best assurance of quality that the feds are willing to offer.

In closing, it seems that the incredibly fast creation and movement of ESSA bespeaks the numerous behind-the-scenes political arrangements that likely already guarantee ESSA passage. The document continues the trend of NCLB test-heaviness. ESSA is not as punitive as NCLB, but its worn-out test-centrism will accomplish little as it prompts states to seek creative ways to retain Title I money in the face of an increasing public resistance to the very testing on which corporate reform depends.

A lot more information will be coming out about the legislation in the days ahead.