Against Proposed DoE Regulations on ESSA

This is from Monty Neill:


Dear Friends,

The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) has drafted regulations for
implementing the accountability provisions of the Every Student Succeeds
Act (ESSA). The DOE proposals would continue test-and-punish practices
imposed by the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The draft
over-emphasizes standardized exam scores, mandates punitive
interventions not required in law, and extends federal micro-management.
The draft regulations would also require states to punish schools in
which larger numbers of parents refuse to let their children be tested.
When DoE makes decisions that should have been set locally in
partnership with educators, parents, and students, it takes away local
voices that ESSA tried to restore.

You can help push back against these dangerous proposals in two ways:

First, tell DoE it must drop harmful proposed regulations. You can
simply cut and paste the Comment below into DoE’s website at!submitComment;D=ED-2016-OESE-0032-0001
or adapt it into your own words. (The text below is part of FairTest’s
submission.) You could emphasize that the draft regulations steal the
opportunity ESSA provides for states and districts to control
accountability and thereby silences the voice of educators, parents,
students and others.

Second, urge Congress to monitor the regulations. Many Members have
expressed concern that DoE is trying to rewrite the new law, not draft
appropriate regulations to implement it. Here’s a letter you can easily
send to your Senators and Representative asking them to tell leaders of
Congress’ education committees to block DoE’s proposals:

Together, we can stop DoE’s efforts to extend NLCB policies that the
American people and Congress have rejected.


Note: DoE website has a character limit; if you add your own comments,
you likely will need to cut some of the text below:

*/You can cut and paste this text into the DoE website:/*

I support the Comments submitted by FairTest on June 15 (Comment #).
Here is a slightly edited version:

While the accountability provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act
(ESSA) are superior to those in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the
Department of Education’s (DoE) draft regulations intensify ESSA’s worst
aspects and will perpetuate many of NCLB’s most harmful practices. The
draft regulations over-emphasize testing, mandate punishments not
required in law, and continue federal micro-management. When DoE makes
decisions that should be set at the state and local level in partnership
with local educators, parents, and students, it takes away local voices
that ESSA restores. All this will make it harder for states, districts
and schools to recover from the educational damage caused by NLCB – the
very damage that led Congress to fundamentally overhaul NCLB’s
accountability structure and return authority to the states.

The DoE must remove or thoroughly revise five draft regulations:

_DoE draft regulation 200.15_ would require states to lower the ranking
of any school that does not test 95% of its students or to identify it
as needing “targeted support.” No such mandate exists in ESSA. This
provision violates statutory language that ESSA does not override “a
State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the
parent’s child participate in the academic assessments.” This regulation
appears designed primarily to undermine resistance to the overuse and
misuse of standardized exams.

_Recommendation:_ DoE should simply restate ESSA language allowing the
right to opt out as well as its requirements that states test 95% of
students in identified grades and factor low participation rates into
their accountability systems. Alternatively, DoE could write no
regulation at all. In either case, states should decide how to implement
this provision.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ transforms ESSA’s requirement for
“meaningful differentiation” among schools into a mandate that states
create “at least three distinct levels of school performance” for each
indicator. ESSA requires states to identify their lowest performing five
percent of schools as well as those in which “subgroups” of students are
doing particularly poorly. Neither provision necessitates creation of
three or more levels. This proposal serves no educationally useful
purpose. Several states have indicated they oppose this provision
because it obscures rather than enhances their ability to precisely
identify problems and misleads the public. This draft regulation would
pressure schools to focus on tests to avoid being placed in a lower
level. Performance levels are also another way to attack schools in
which large numbers of parents opt out, as discussed above.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ also mandates that states combine multiple
indicators into a single “summative” score for each school. As Rep. John
Kline, chair of the House Education Committee, pointed out, ESSA
includes no such requirement. Summative scores are simplistically
reductive and opaque. They encourage the flawed school grading schemes
promoted by diehard NCLB defenders.

_Recommendation:_ DoE should drop this draft regulation. It should allow
states to decide how to use their indicators to identify schools and
whether to report a single score. Even better, the DoE should encourage
states to drop their use of levels.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ further proposes that a state’s academic
indicators together carry “much greater” weight than its “school
quality” (non-academic) indicators. Members of Congress differ as to the
intent of the relevant ESSA passage. Some say it simply means more than
50%, while others claim it implies much more than 50%. The phrase “much
greater” is likely to push states to minimize the weight of non-academic
factors in order to win plan approval from DOE, especially since the
overall tone of the draft regulations emphasizes testing.

_Recommendation: _The regulations should state that the academic
indicators must count for more than 50% of the weighting in how a state
identifies schools needing support.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ also exceeds limits ESSA placed on DoE
actions regarding state accountability plans.

_DoE draft regulation 200.19_ would require states to use 2016-17 data
to select schools for “support and improvement” in 2017-18. This leaves
states barely a year for implementation, too little time to overhaul
accountability systems. It will have the harmful consequence of
encouraging states to keep using a narrow set of test-based indicators
and to select only one additional “non-academic” indicator.

_Recommendation:_ The regulations should allow states to use 2017-18
data to identify schools for 2018-19. This change is entirely consistent
with ESSA’s language.

Lastly, we are concerned that an additional effect of these unwarranted
regulations will be to unhelpfully constrain states that choose to
participate in ESSA’s “innovative assessment” program.

Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204,
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-477-9792;; Donate
to FairTest:

Authors of Books for Children are Alarmed at CCSS & RTTT and Testing


National Center for Fair & Open Testing

for further information:

Dr. Monty Neill  (617) 477-9792

Bob Schaeffer  (239) 395-6773

for immediate release — Tuesday, October 22, 2013





        More than 120 leading authors and illustrators of books for children, including several national award winners, are calling on President Obama to “change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature.”

        Their letter delivered to the White House today stated, “Our public schools spend far too much time preparing for reading tests and too little time curling up with books that fire their imaginations.”

         “All children must have the freedom to grow, to evolve, to develop,” explained acclaimed poet Maya Angelou, who spoke at President Obama’s inauguration. “We parents, authors, illustrators are standing up for our children. We desperately need you and your administration to stand with us.”
         The authors’ and illustrators’ letter continued, “We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.”

         Signers of a “Public Letter on Standardized Testing from Authors and Illustrators of Books for Children and Youth” include such other notables as Alma Flor Ada, Judy Blume, Jules Feiffer, and Donald Crews, as well as National Book Award winners Kathryn Erskine and Phillip Hoose.

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) coordinated signature gathering for the letter. The assessment reform organization’s executive director, Dr. Monty Neill, explained, “The authors and illustrators recognize the damage done to young children by testing overkill. The new Common Core assessments will not reverse the damage. In fact, they will mandate more standardized exams in more grades.  It is time for an indefinite moratorium on high-stakes exams.”


– – 3 0 – –


– The letter to President Obama with a complete signers’ list of children’s authors and illustrators is online at:


– A fact sheet on Common Core assessments is at:

Another Weekly News Roundup from Monty Neill of FairTest

Writes Monty:

Even with the holiday season well underway, the pace of assessment reform news has not slackened. In fact, important new voices, including educational leaders, business officials, and students are joining the ever-growing chorus pushing back against high-stakes testing overkill.
Montgomery County School Chief Seeks Three-Year Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing

Political Leaders, Chamber of Commerce Endorses Anti-High-Stakes-Testing Resolution

State Ed. Board Chair Questions Need for Testing This Year

Get Ready for America’s Next “Education Crisis”

Students Voice Opposition to New Testing Requirement

More Selective Colleges Drop SAT/ACT Testing Requirements — A Model for K-12 Education

Excellent ‘Toon:  “Do Any of You Want to Teach?”

The Terrible Cost of High-Stakes Testing — sponsoring a local forum on the issue is a great initial organizing tool

Student Testing Gets an “F” From Teachers

Too Much Testing Hurts Kids Who Most Need Help — a teacher speaks out

What Real School Reform Looks Like

Tests Confuse “Achievement” with “Aptitude” — Lead to Bad Education

Trying to Revive Arts Education After NCLB

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
cell- (239) 699-0468

Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-477-9792;; Donate to FairTest:


Published in: on December 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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