WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the U.S. Department of Education’s draft accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act:
“The AFT cheered the new federal education law in December because it embodied three major goals: equity for disadvantaged children, an end to test-and-punish policies to provide the flexibility to unleash the collective wisdom of educators and parents to help all children succeed, and an ability to create accountability systems that ensure all children have the opportunity for a well-rounded education that prepares them for their lives. Those goals are what the U.S. Education Department’s draft accountability regulations are intended to implement. The law also specified that the department was to create guardrails, and not be prescriptive, to help achieve this.
“The department’s proposed regulations succeed in some places—like providing good guidance to states on appropriate inclusion of English language proficiency in accountability systems—but fail in others.
“Rather than listen to the outcry by parents and educators over hypertesting, the department offers specific punitive consequences for when fewer than 95 percent of students participate in tests. This doesn’t solve the issue of the misuse of testing. It simply inflames the problem by suggesting punitive consequences for those who are so frustrated by the misuse and high-stakes nature of standardized testing that they want to opt their kids out.
“The department seeks to impose a more aggressive timeline than the new law provides for districts to implement these new accountability systems. Without enough time to put them in place, states will revert back to what they have—a test-driven accountability system. This will maintain the old test-and-punish accountability systems and an overly prescriptive federal role in schools. That is not the reset ESSA promised.
“The AFT and its members and allies will be engaging vigorously in the comment process. Getting accountability right is the heart of ESSA. The promise of this new law lies in the opportunities it offers to move away from punitive and destructive policies.
“The AFT fought hard to ensure that the federal education law created real opportunity for all children to learn. We will continue to fight to make sure this is front and center in any final regulations.”