Nov 26

Fresh from the Arne Duncan


On November 24, 2014, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the U.S. DOE will “…phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments… to satisfy ….” This statement is offensive on legal grounds. Though States have permitted federal intrusion in order to access funding, the law clearly reserves control over public education to the states.

The landmark case of Brown v. Board of Ed. of Topeka, Kansas, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) recognized that students have to have equal access to school where states have guaranteed them a right to an education. It happens that all of the states in this country recognize a right to a public education. The Supreme Court reiterated this principle in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) 20 U.S.C. Section 6501, et. seq. provides funding for educational programs. 20 U.S.C. Section 6575 of the ESEA specifically says that “(n)othing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific … academic achievement standards and assessments….”

Should the Federal government be responsible for determining achievement standards and assessments? Maybe yes, maybe no, but current law holds that states retain control over determining academic and assessment standards. Under the current state of the law, Mr. Duncan’s pronouncement can only be characterized as over-reaching.

Thank you, advocate Pat Howey, for alerting the community to this announcement.

  1. Dave 18 May 2015 | reply

    It seems to me that there are contradictory nitoons regarding regulations and who should be bound by regulations. Businesses want fewer regulations so that they can accomplish what they need to accomplish to create jobs. Why doesn’t this apply to education, who some say should be run like businesses? Administrators and educators cope daily with pages and pages of both federal and state mandates, ie. regulations. The truth is schools are not businesses, nor can they be run effectively on a military model. Neither businesses nor the military accept every applicant or recruit that comes through their doors, however public schools accept every child. And from what I observe teachers greet every child in a welcoming way day after day, year after year. I agree that schools in Maine should be highly effective in delivering education. I agree that teachers should be highly trained professionals. I agree that administrators should be highly trained professionals. Therefore, they should be regarded as professionals. Professionals are afforded the opportunity to make decisions in consult with others. As Mr. Burrows so eloquently stated, there are many variables to student achievement and not all of them are under the direct control of the classroom teacher, not under administrative control. Not mentioned is how a local community chooses to fund its schools. There are wide funding variations across the state and the EPS model is as flawed as the NCLB. Very difficult choices are made every year by school boards about what to fund and what not to fund in order to balance the need for excellence in education for students and affordable tax rates for citizens. The diversity among communities across our state and also within each community also impacts each child’s readiness to learn as they enter the classroom each day. Some children bring baggage they need help sorting through and others bring a rich supportive background provided by highly motivated parents. Yes, there is a parental component to school effectiveness. And yes, for older students, there is a motivational factor to school effectiveness. Recognizing, balancing and addressing these various variables to student achievement is a monumental task and best left to the professionals within each school. And let’s remember what exists today may not exist tomorrow. These variables constantly shift. Funding isn’t the same each year, for better or not. Families’s situations change, for better or not. Children’s environmental situations change, for better or not. Therefore, I do not support the state nor federal government mandating evaluation systems for administrators and teachers. Nor do I support using student achievement as any part of an individual administrator’s or teacher’s performance evaluation. Evaluations should be left to the appropriate professionals at the local level. As far as the NCLB waivers are concerned, I support them. NCLB has serious flaws that are undermining the state of education today. However, I am concerned the way the chance for being granted a waiver is being dangled in front of the public is inappropriate. It feels like schools are being blackmailed. It feels like educators will not win whatever the outcome. It feels like the current process is collecting many opinions from the public, who may or may not truly understand what is happening in schools today, to prove the public supports something. There are disadvantages to survey research! I don’t believe the state of Maine should risk getting mired in another flawed experiment (adopting state wide evaluation systems) by being willing to give up another flawed experiment (AYP of NCLB). Brenda CloughBrunswick School Board member

  2. Good post. I absolutely love this site. Keep writing!

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