Inside the Beltway
What’s going on in Washington?
On August 5, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the next step in President Obama’s Testing Action Plan—a competitive grant competition to help states innovate and improve the quality of assessments; enhance communications to parents, educators, and other stakeholders; and reduce redundant and ineffective testing in states and districts. Applications for the Enhanced Assessment Grants are due September 22, and ED expects to announce grantees in January 2017.
Why should principals care?
For years, school leaders, teachers, and parents have been concerned about the amount of time students spend taking tests or participating in test prep activities. While the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) only requires assessments in math and English/language arts in grades 3–8 and once in high school, state and district requirements layered on top of those federal requirements have led to a backlash against testing and fueled the opt-out movement. NASSP supported the provision in ESSA creating the competitive grant program to provide states with funding to audit their assessment systems and reduce duplicative and unnecessary tests. Principals should urge their state leaders to apply for the Enhanced Assessment Grants before the September 22 deadline!
In the Press
ESSA: Quick Guides on Top Issues, Education Commission of the States
A new report from the Education Commission of the States provides insight into key areas of ESSA that have prompted questions and concerns from states as they prepare to implement the new law. The report outlines ESSA requirements and explores the following 10 issues: assessment flexibility, assessment participation and opt-outs, innovation assessment pilot, indicators of school quality or student success, English learners and accountability, supporting low-performing schools, teachers and school leaders, supplement not supplant, Title IV, and state plans.
Who Opts Out and Why?, Columbia University
Teachers College at Columbia University has unveiled the first national independent survey of the opt-out movement, which finds that opt-out supporters oppose the use of test scores in teacher evaluations and believe that high-stakes assessments force teachers to “teach to the test.” Supporters of the opt-out movement also report concern about school privatization.
No Time to Lose, NCSL
At its annual legislative summit in Chicago, the National Conference of State Legislatures bipartisan study group released a report with recommendations for state policymakers based on two years examining the education systems of the top-performing countries in the world.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released the first nationally representative study of U.S. lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) high school students, which finds that LGB students experience substantially higher levels of physical and sexual violence and bullying than other students.