95-participation

There is no federal or state law that requires financial penalties to schools’ Title I funds if parents refuse to allow their children to take the PARCC tests. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law did include a mandate that required schools to have a 95 percent participation rate on state tests or face sanctions. The intent of that law was to prevent schools from hiding subgroups of students from the accountability structure and was not aimed at preventing parents from refusing to have their children tested.

The parents in the states of New York and New Jersey have been fighting back against the Common Core Standards for the last year and the corresponding  PARCC battery of tests which is our SBAC set of tests in Washington State.

But let’s start at the beginning.

It is illegal for the Federal Government to specify a national curriculum or national test.

From my post High Stake Testing: A little history:

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into Federal law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as part of the “War on Poverty” program. This bill ensured that children in poverty would receive additional funding for their school programs. The funding allocated was to include the professional development of teachers, class materials, and support for parent involvement. This federal money is referred to as “Title 1″ funding. (Note: Part of the original ESEA agreement ensured there would not be a national curriculum decided by the Federal government, but rather that each state would determine its own curriculum.)  ESEA was to continue for five years, but Congress has reauthorized the bill every five years and each time it is reauthorized, members of Congress, along with the President, have made changes to the bill.

Any standardized curriculum can only be legally developed at the state or district level. Arne Duncan and his backers, particularly Bill Gates, really, really wanted a standardized curriculum throughout the fifty states. Conundrum. What to do? Have a private entity, led by Achieve Inc., create the curriculum and tests and make it sound like the states had determined the standards, thus the name “Common Core State Standards”. Thing is, no one at the state level in any state ever had anything to do with creating the standards and in fact, the Common Core Standards had not been completed when the state legislators across the country voted to have them implemented in their states. It took some slick lobbying to pull that off.

Now everyone is in a kerfuffle because parents, teachers and students don’t think much of the standards or the emphasis on testing,  so lots of parents, teachers and students are opting out of the SBAC/PARCC testing regime. What to do? Threaten the masses. Tell parents “Your school is not going to get any money” and “It’s against the law”. Actually what’s against the law is what the US Department of Education is doing under the cover of Achieve Inc.

So let’s get real.

These are the facts.

Folks in New Jersey did their homework and came up with the following. To be clear, what is happening in New Jersey is happening here. The only difference is in New Jersey, they have the PARCC battery of tests and we have the SBAC drill and kill testing. Same test, different name.

Please share the following information far and wide because I am getting reports from around the state that there are threats being made by the State Superintendent Randy Dorn (who has bought into the Common Core Standards (CCS) and in fact sits on the board of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) which is a private entity and has received more than $50 million from Bill Gates to promote Common Core Standards, SBAC and charter schools and is part of the unholy trinity of Achieve Inc. and the National Governors Association (NGA), another private entity, who pulled off this CCS charade), district superintendents, our own Nyland in Seattle sent out a nasty gram this week but I wouldn’t expect anything different from him, (remember we were not allowed to vet him) and Principals who want to keep their jobs.

It’s up to parents to protect their children from what is basically child abuse with anywhere from 10 to 30 hours of standardized testing slated for this semester for each student. (Get your student’s testing schedule from your principal and add up the hours yourself.)

Before I get too much father afield, to follow is the information you need to know:

NJ Legislators Need to Stand up for Our Children

By Christopher Tienken, Ed.D. and Julia Sass Rubin, Ph.D.

The first administration of the experimental new PARCC (same as the SBAC) high-stakes standardized tests is only weeks away and parents are increasingly concerned. Hundreds of families have notified their school districts that their children will not be taking the PARCC tests.

Approximately one-fifth of all New Jersey school districts have responded by assuring parents who refuse the test that their children will be provided with an alternative location, or at least the ability to read in class, while their classmates take the test.

Other districts, however, have taken a much more punitive approach, threatening to force children as young as eight to remain in the testing room with no other activities except sitting and staring for the two-week duration of the test. Some districts have even threatened students whose parents refuse the test with disciplinary actions.
In response, parents are asking the New Jersey legislature to intervene and pass A4165/S2767. This legislation requires all districts and charter schools to provide consistent, humane treatment for children whose parents refuse standardized tests.

As growing numbers of legislators indicate their support for A4165/S2767, officials within the New Jersey Department of Education have apparently initiated a campaign to block its passage by claiming that the proposed legislation would cost districts precious dollars. Specifically, the NJDOE is arguing that the US Department of Education would use powers it has under the No Child Left Behind law to cut Title I funding for any schools that fall below 95 percent student participation levels on the PARCC.

Keep in the mind that the proposed legislation does not direct parents to have their children opt-out or refuse the state mandated tests. The proposed legislation simply asks for a consistent statewide policy of humane treatment for children whose parents choose to refuse the testing. As more school administrators decide to make students needlessly “sit and stare” for two weeks of testing, plus up to two additional weeks of make-up testing, it is imperative that the legislature act to protect children from such treatment.

So will the US Department of Education take your school’s Title 1 funds if this legislation becomes law?

The answer is NO, and here are some reasons why.

1. There is no federal or state law that requires financial penalties to schools’ Title I funds if parents refuse to allow their children to take the PARCC tests. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law did include a mandate that required schools to have a 95 percent participation rate on state tests or face sanctions. The intent of that law was to prevent schools from hiding subgroups of students from the accountability structure and was not aimed at preventing parents from refusing to have their children tested.

However, since 2012, NJ has had a waiver to NCLB that replaces those sanctions with a new accountability system.
Under the waiver, only schools designated “priority” or “focus” schools face direct intervention for missing state targets. New Jersey’s 250 priority and focus schools can have up to 30 percent of their federal Title I funds re-directed by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) for specific “interventions,” but even these funds are supposed to be used for school improvement, not taken away. And the NJDOE already has the ability to redirect a part of the Title I allocations received by priority and focus schools.

2. No federal financial penalties related to Title I instructional funds have been imposed on any New Jersey school for missing the 95 percent participation rate.

And missing the 95 percent participation rate at the school level is not unusual in New Jersey.

According to NJDOE data, last spring, nine schools in seven New Jersey districts had overall school-wide NJ ASK participation rates below 95 percent; 175 schools in 104 districts had participation rates below 95 percent for at least one of the student subgroups (e.g., special needs, Limited English Proficient, economically disadvantaged, etc.,).[i]

None of those schools experienced any federal financial repercussions to Title I funds.  In fact, no school has ever lost Title I funds due to punishment by the federal government for missing the 95 percent participation rate.

3. Other states have laws that protect parents’ right to opt their children out or refuse high-stakes standardized testing and no federal financial penalties of any sort have been imposed on schools in those states as a result of these laws.

For example, in Wisconsin “Upon the request of a pupil’s parent or guardian, the school board shall excuse the pupil from taking an examination administered under sub. (1m).”[ii]

In California, a “parent or guardian may submit to the school a written request to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of any test provided pursuant to Ed Code Section 60640.”[iii]

4. The US Congress is rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – the federal legislation that mandates annual standardized testing. A reauthorized ESEA may completely eliminate the federal interventions that are in the current version of ESEA and is likely to give individual states much more decision-making authority when it comes to accountability and testing mandates.

So the NJDOE’s threat of Title I funding cuts at local schools seems premature at best given the past practice of the United States Department of Education to not sanction NJ schools’ Title I Funds for missing the 95 percent participation rate. The moral imperative for the NJDOE, the NJ Legislature and for individual school districts should be to act in the best interests of New Jersey children, and that means treating students humanely if their parents choose to participate in the democratic tradition of dissent.

Christopher Tienken is an Associate Professor of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy at the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University.
Julia Sass Rubin is an Associate Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and one of the founding members of the all-volunteer pro-public education group Save Our Schools NJ.

[i] http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/index.html
[ii] http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/118/30
[iii] Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, Division 1, Chapter 2, Subchapter 3.75.