AFT weighing in on rules for new law

Talk centers on funding, flexibility and curriculum

AFTER YEARS of taking a test-and-punish approach to education under the No Child Left Behind Act, the revamped version of that law, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides a critical new window of opportunity to reset local, state and federal education policy.

The key to success, as always, will be implementation of this law.

In a development that’s causing concern, the U.S. Department of Education is pushing changes under a part of the law known as “supplement-not-supplant,” the idea being that federal education funding for needy students should always be used in addition to, not instead of, state and local dollars.

Concerns about this requirement surfaced in April when a committee of education stakeholders met in Washington, D.C., to review the department’s draft regulations.

AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker represented the AFT at the table. She and other committee members argued that the draft must be revised to keep the kind of flexibility in school staffing needed at the state and local levels.

“We don’t want to hurt one school to help another school. We have to help all schools,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “If you know other kids are going to get hurt by this, why would you do it?”

The good news coming out of this process is that stakeholders—including paraprofessionals, teachers and school administrators—are making their voices heard.

In a new development as PSRP Reporter went to press, the Education Department has released draft guidelines on ESSA accountability provisions that would be a mixed bag for schools, Weingarten says.

The language is strong on issues such as appropriate inclusion of English language proficiency in accountability systems, but weak in other areas. Schools would face unwarranted consequences when fewer than 95 percent of students participate in tests, for example, and districts wouldn’t get the time they need to implement new accountability systems.

“Without enough time,” Weingarten says, “states will revert to what they have—a test-driven accountability system.”

PSRP Reporter, Summer 2016 Download PDF (1.41 MB)
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