Step-by-step Privatization and Profit: ESSA Delivers Schools to Wall Street with a Bow on Top

Reposted with permission from Educationalchemy.


ESSA was designed to open the flood gates for neoliberal profiteers to not only profit from public educations services (I,e. tests or curriculum) but to completely own it…

Social impact bond projects are very definitely privatisation. PFI/PPP projects have effectively privatised the design, finance, construction and maintenance of much public infrastructure. Now social impact bond projects potentially privatise the design, finance, service delivery, management, monitoring and evaluation of early intervention and prevention policies.”

Step One- Curriculum: Common Core standards created one set of standards (modules) (originating from a global agenda circa 1985) For a full history of support for this outline click the link.

According to a promotional flyer created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

“Education leaders have long talked about setting rigorous standards and allowing students more or less time as needed to demonstrate mastery of subjects and skills. This has been more a promise than a reality, but we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences.” 

So that…

Step Two-Testing: There can be one consistent numerical metric by which to measure student outcomes (PARCC)

So that…

Step Three- We can have modularized Competency Based Assessment: Instruction and ongoing testing can be delivered via technology ….

Competency-based education has been part of Achieve’s strategic plan for a few years, … states and national organizations that have made this topic a priority: Nellie Mae Education Foundation, iNACOL, Digital Learning Now, CCSSO and NGA.”

Pearson. “With competency-based education, institutions can help students complete credentials in less time, at lower cost.”

So that…

Step Four– We can have Pay for Success (or) Social Impact Bonds (evaluated for their “success” via the competency/outcomes based model) replace the funding infrastructure of public schools….

CTAC, the Boston-based Institute for Compensation Reform and Student Learning at the Community Training and Assistance Center partners with departments of education to develop and promote student learning outcomes (SLO’s). William Slotnik is executive director of CTAC. He advocates for VAM and merit pay schemes. “William Slotnik,… has argued that performance-based compensation tied directly to the educational mission of a school district can be a lever to transform schools.”

According the National Governors Association (NGA): “CBE can be a way for states to pay for the outcomes they want if supported by a funding formula that allocates dollars based on student learning, not simply time spent in a classroom or full-time equivalency”

ESSA was designed to open the flood gates for neoliberal profiteers to not only profit from public educations services (I,e. tests or curriculum) but to completely own it. See Fred Klonsky who concurs with Mercedes Schneider that “these bonds are an open door for the exploitation of children who do not score well on tests.” Social Impact Bonds have been criticized as a central piece of ESSA as noted by BATS: “‘Pay for Success’ from Every Student Succeeds Act as it is located in Title 1, Part D, Section 4108, page 485. Social Impact Bonds favor financial investors and NOT KIDS! In Title IV, A in the section titled Safety and Healthy Students, page 797, Social Impact Bonds are defined as ‘Pay for Success.’ Investors are paid off when a student IS NOT referred to special education. ”

The entire system of reforms over the last three decades have been a step by step sequence of actions designed to privatize public education as a for- profit enterprise of Wall Street investments.

Social impact bonds are a development in the mutation of privatization … The new emphasis on financialising and personalising services to create new pathways for the mutation of privatisation recognised that health, education and social services could not be sold off in the same way as state owned corporations. It ensured marketisation and privatisation were permanent and not dependent on outsourcing, which could be reversed by terminating or not renewing contracts (Whitfield, 2012a and 2012b).”

Again, the NGA: “In addition, leadership, promotion, and pay structures might look different in a CBE system that asks educators to take on new, specialized roles. Underpinning many current policies are labor contracts, which specify the educator’s role based on specified amounts of class time. Such policies would not only be unnecessary in a CBE system but would significantly impede the adoption of such a system.”

You dismantle labor unions on a global scale, which was, the goal of ALEC and the World Bank back when they began devising these policies. The following is an outline from the World Bank link on Global Education Reform,  summarizing what they think are key issues:

  1. Decentralization & School-Based Management Resource Kit
    Directions in Development: Decentralization Series

Financing Reform

  1. Vouchers
  2. Contracting
  3. Private Sector
  4. Charter Schools
  5. Privatization
  6. Private Delivery of Services

Teacher Reform

  1. On-line resources related to teacher career development
  2. Teacher Evaluation as part of Quality Assurance

Curriculum Reform

  1. Country Examples of Curriculum Reforms
  2. Accountability in Education
  3. Standard in Education

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

One report I found by Pauline Lipman (2012)  summarizes all of this quite nicely:

 “Under the Global Agreement on Trade in Services, all aspects of education and education services are subject to global trade. The result is the global marketing of schooling from primary school through higher education. Schools, education management organizations, tutoring services, teacher training, tests, curricula online classes, and franchises of branded universities are now part of a global education marketEducation markets are one facet of the neoliberal strategy to manage the structural crisis of capitalism by opening the public sector to capital accumulation. The roughly $2.5 trillion global market in education is a rich new arena for capital investment …and testing is a prominent mechanism to steer curriculum and instruction to meet these goals efficiently and effectively.”

The 2011 ALEC Annual Conference Substantive Agenda on Education shows their current interests:

“…the Task Force voted on several proposed bills and resolutions, with topics including: digital learning, the Common Core State Standards, charter schools, curriculum on free enterprise, taxpayers’ savings grants, amendments to the existing model legislation on higher education accountability, and a comprehensive bill that incorporates many components of the landmark school reforms Indiana passed this legislative session. Attendees will hear a presentation on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ initiative to grow great schools, as well as one on innovations in higher education.”

According to one European white paper: “Philanthrocapitalism is the embedding of neoliberalism into the activities of foundations and trusts. It is a means of marketising and privatising social development aid in the global south. It has also been described as Philanthropic Colonialism … It’s what I would call ‘conscience laundering’ — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity. But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The replacement of public finance and grants from public/foundations/trusts to community organisations, voluntary organisations and social enterprises with ‘social investment’, requiring a return on investment, means that all activities must be profitable. This will have a profound impact on the ability to regenerate to meet social and community needs. The merging of PPPs, impacting investing and philanthrocapitalism would be complete!”

-Morna McDermott


An Open Letter to the Mukilteo School Board: Sometimes Doing the Right Thing Means Breaking the Rules and Allowing Kids to Walk in Graduation with Their Peers.


Dear Mukilteo School Board members,

Over the two weeks before our district graduations, I wrote and implored you to allow students who have not yet met standards via these tests to be allowed at graduation. This was not the first time this issue has been placed before you and as you have previously chosen to do, you neglected to do what was right by kids.

You used the last opportunity that you had to shame them. You should be ashamed of your inability to see beyond the board policy you quoted me. You should be ashamed that you failed the kids in this district that we have all worked to educate and to support.

You knew their stories: a young foster child who had been in nearly 30 homes in four years, or a recent immigrant with a GPA over 3.0. Students who have met every credit requirement, who have shown the ability to persevere, to grow, to engage in their school community, to become young adults ready to take the next step of their lives.

You have stolen their rite of passage.

We advocated for them. We explained to you that this would happen. We showed you the evidence of this impending legislation. We reminded you that you have done this before.

You choose to remain unmoved. You chose to be callous rather than to show compassion. You showed these young adults that, in the end, the education system does not care for them as people.

You should be ashamed.

But I know you’re not.


On the Road with the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016:‬ Coast to Coast Free Books for Kids Tour


Editor’s note: Susan and Shawn Dufresne are social justice and education activists. A brief introduction:

Susan DuFresne – Integrated Kindergarten Teacher with General Education and Special Education endorsements – 7 years in the Renton School District, Teacher of Professional Conscience, Co-Owner of the Opt Out Bus, Social Equality Educator, Artist, progressive and social justice education activist, unionist, mother and grandmother – The views I express are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer. #FreeSpeech

Shawn DuFresne – HVAC Technician, Co-Owner of the Opt Out Bus, progressive social justice and education activist, father, grandfather “I love giving free books to children who need them and allowing them to choose which book they’d like to read!”

My favorite part of the Opt Out Bus travel log are the personal stories Susan documents. They’re raw, honest, and sometimes heartbreaking. I hope you enjoy them as well and consider supporting the Opt Out Bus. -coeditor, Carolyn Leith


Shawn and I are on the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016‬ Coast to Coast Free Books for Kids Tour.

We’re looking forward to meeting new families, giving books to kids along the way, sharing the #OptOut message, and getting together with fellow activists in cities hit hardest by corporate education reform.

Like the #OptOut movement- good things take time – and though we all want high stakes testing to be gone already, we accomplish more through standing strong together and living with each other through the process.

*You can follow their itinerary on the All aboard the Opt Out Bus Facebook page.

Day One


We stopped in Spokane, Washington to visit a dear friend, who is a fellow teacher, and her two beautiful, brilliant, kind, and loving daughters.

They all added to the bus with their ideas, including Lacy – Mary’s 3 year old who was able to phonetically spell and write “Lion” after she drew one and had asked, “Can someone write on the bus?”

Briyana – a 5th grader – wrote two messages. “Don’t make school boring.” and “Multi-age rocks!”

Mary wrote, “I teach children, not test-takers.”

Mary has embraced Project Based Learning for several years now, and although she teaches 5th grade and I teach kindergarten – we are able to collaborate across the state. I’m looking forward to dipping into PBL more this year with my kinders!

Shawn visited with several people about high stakes testing and why it is important to have the freedom to ‪#‎OptOut‬. A retired teacher told him about her experiences teaching in both public and parochial schools. In parochial school she reported they only tested kids one time in 4th grade to see what they were missing. Imagine – one short test – no high stakes.

Day Two

We met a young man who had graduated from high school in Utah. He didn’t want his picture taken, but he agreed with our ‪#‎OptOut‬ protest because even though he was great at passing the tests, he had many friends who were not. These friends had been successful in their school work – but were denied graduation for missing a few questions on a stinking test. He felt all students should take art to learn about culture. He also thought kids needed more freedom in their schooling.

A 5th grade teacher stopped by to take photos of the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016‬ with some students. Even though she teaches full-time, she still needs to teach driver’s education in the summer to make ends meet.

“What do you think of the tests?”I asked…

She laughed and said, “That’s a tricky question. They’re mandatory. I taught 6th grade too… Always a testing grade.” 😞

“Check out .”, I said.

She took several more photos of the bus as her student drivers kept reading the bus and smiling as they read each note.

Later, we drove all day and into the night through Montana to reach Medora, North Dakota located in the Badlands of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Teddy liked freedom too. The west drew people who liked freedom to it, but as they came, we took away the freedom of many tribes of indigenous peoples – more than that – their lives, their language, their identity, their cultures.

Day Three

Shawn and I pulled into Medora late last night after driving through Montana state. The campground was beautiful. Just a mile away we had enjoyed a stunning sunset – so I was surprised to see there was still enough light to take a short walk down to a stream running by some cliffs that served as the backdrop of the campground.

As I watched a child playing along the stream bank, I thought of how corporate reformers are sucking the lifeblood out of our public schools. Just like the mosquitos and ticks.

Campgrounds across America are so quiet at night, as a rule. Crowded, often filled to capacity in the summer -full of children and teenagers – no police or patrols threatening anyone to submit – yet everyone settles in to quiet in the early evening. How does this happen, I wonder? People clean up after themselves and leave the campground spots as they found them. People get along, are respectful, and friendly to folks from all over the world in these campgrounds. Some come in RV’s – some fancy – some decrepit, some sleep in tents, some sleep in cabins – thus campgrounds provide spaces for different socioeconomic classes. And still – we get along.

Day Four


Today the ‪#‎OptOutBus2016‬ met up with a wrestling team. It started out with stares. Then they’re reading the bus. Next come the smiles, the nods of agreement, and the comments about testing. They break out their cameras. They take pictures of the bus and spread them on social media.

“Are you a teacher?”, they ask. “Yes, I teach kindergarten.” “Right on!”

“Do you want to write that on the bus?”, I ask. A wall of boys moves towards the bus. Their hands go up in the air. I break out the Sharpies.

My questions:

“What do you like about school?”

“I hear you agree, but what don’t you like about testing?”

“What would you like to see more of in school?”

“What would you like to change about school?”

Their answers:

“The testing takes too long. I’d rather be learning. I like math.”

“I want outdoor school.”

“More sports, less testing!”

“[Testing] makes me cry and hurt.”

“[Testing] makes my grades bad.”

Just prior to the time we needed to get packing for the #OptOutBus2016 Coast to Coast Free Books for Kids Tour, our nation was brought to its knees [again] by the back-to-back shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Then another tragedy in Dallas. Once again, the country’s focus turned to racism.

I was torn. Do we go forward with the tour? I seriously considered painting the‪#‎OptOutBus‬ and creating a ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ Bus. As I was packing, I looked at all the messages on the bus – the most recent being written predominantly by black and brown students and parents at Garfield High School.

I paused to reflect on 12 year old Asean Johnson’s speech at the Save Our Schools and ‪#‎PeoplesMarch16‬ in DC…on Jesse Hagopian’s speech there, Reverend Barber’s speech, Jitu Brown’s, Yohuru Williams’, and Julian Vasquez-Helig’s, to name a few.

Jesse said, ‘For black lives to matter, black ‪#‎education‬ has to matter.’ [link:…/for-black-lives-to-matter…/ ]

Reverend Barber said, “Let the children see us trying.”

Like I’ve said before, we aren’t expecting the #OptOutBus to suddenly end high stakes testing. But as you can see – #BlackLivesMatter and corporate education reform are connected deeply. There was no need to start over on the bus, we simply needed to add on.

As a result of Philando Castile’s life mattering to so many children – to so many public school colleagues of his, to so many in his community – it felt important to visit St. Paul, MN. Today was the day.

I worried about stepping into a sacred circle, as an outsider to be honest. We weren’t coming as white saviors, but to demonstrate our compassion through a small act of kindness. How do I navigate this attempt – to what I know is to make a small gesture – towards demonstrating that black lives do matter to some of us whites? We wanted to “let the children see us trying”…

A stop at Subway enroute to Philando’s school brought us to Jen.

Jen was very receptive to our thoughts of giving books to the children from this neighborhood. She knew someone closely connected to Philando and immediately made a phone call. She said we had 3 options: 1) Philando’s family was having a picnic at the neighborhood park and we could give books to children there 2) We could go to his school where he worked and see if kids were at the playground, and 3) There was an ongoing protest at the Governor’s mansion and maybe some kids would be there.

Jen wrote out directions, we thanked her, and headed to the park. Turning into a parking lot we saw a small family picnic in action. I tend to be shy and wanted to be respectful. I approached, but not too closely – and chose to speak to what appeared to be the parent of the group of kids. I smiled and asked if I could ask her a question. She smiled and approached. I let her come closer to me. I told her we were on a cross country trip from Seattle and that we were looking for Philando’s family picnic to give children books as is small token of our caring.

She said she was a teacher too – Special Ed for St. Paul Public Schools – and that she had seen a large group of people wearing R.I.P. tee shirts across Horton. She told me her name is Mary.

I listened intently as she told me how she was a block and 1/2 away from the incident, watching Diamond’s narrative of Philando’s murder unfold live on Facebook, as a friend of hers had been tagged by Diamond in the original post.

Mary said her husband too, is often pulled over for no reason and how he and her 7 year old very politically aware son said – “No, we are all Philando. This killed a little bit in all of us today.”

We began talking about the bus and the connections of corporate reform to racism. As a teacher and a parent, she wholeheartedly agrees with the refusal of the state tests. She said, “My kids don’t take the tests and neither do my principals’, and you know, she’s a black principal.”

She talked about how she looks forward to looking up and how she hates having to comply with giving her students with special needs the computerized standardized tests, but she does it and follows the rules required of her.

Her three beautiful children each chose a book and began writing messages on the bus. Without a word – Black Lives Matter became part of the messages written by Mary’s children.

“Black Lives Matter”

“Love everyone.”


“Be nice no matter WHAT.”

“I Love YOU.”

“Stop Bullying!”

“I love you, peeps!”

“Have a great education!”

“Love from St. Paul, MN.”, they wrote.

She asked more about our trip and she talked about how upset her 7 year old son gets when he hears anything about Trump. We told her that during this trip we’d be at the DNC protesting.

Mary and her children thanked us for the books and our work for both black lives and the ‪#‎optout‬ work.

What’s next:


This is just the beginning or our journey.


You can join our protest and continue on with the Opt Out Bus by liking All Aboard the Opt Out Bus (#OptOutBus2016) on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @OptOutBus (#OptOut).

If you really want to help share a little ‪#‎OptOutLOVE‬, there’s two more ways to assist:

Number one, you can donate money to our books fund. This money will be used to purchase books at local, independent book stores and will be given to children in need. Each book will include a handwritten personal ‪#‎optout‬ note and the message.

The second, donate money for gas to keep the Opt Out Bus rolling.



Thank you in advance for donating and sharing!


-Susan DuFresne



OSPI Candidate Ron Higgins’  Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC


In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Ron Higgins:

I fully support Seattle Public School’s request, as stated in the Seattle School Board Directors’ resolution passed during the May 18th board meeting, to establish a system to utilize alternative, locally selected assessments and use such assessments as an alternative to standard statewide assessments to measure achievement and student growth.  I am a big believer in local control, and as State Superintendent, I would take any and all action necessary to allow the Seattle Public Schools, or any school district, to use an alternative assessment in place of the standard statewide assessment. 

Article I, Section 8, of the US Constitution, enumerates the activities over which the federal government has jurisdiction, and education is not one of those activities.  The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  I’m glad that Congress  “authorizes states to establish a system that allows districts to utilize alternative, locally selected assessments,” but Congress and the federal government have no jurisdiction over education, so their authorization is meaningless.  I believe that Washington State should allow local school districts significant autonomy to determine the testing requirements to ensure that students have mastered the essential knowledge prior to high school graduation, whether Congress approves or not.  I do not trust the competence, integrity, or agenda of the bureaucrats in the US Department of Education, and I would not depend upon them to select an appropriate test.

I have read numerous articles questioning the validity of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, that it does not accurately measure the student’s knowledge of the subject, whether English or Math; that the Assessment is not objective.  I am therefore strongly opposed to the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a graduation requirement.   

Ron Higgins, Candidate for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Certificated Math Teacher in Washington; Credentialed Math Teacher in California; Former School Bus Driver

Ron Higgins for Superintendent of Public Instruction

OSPI Candidate Chris Reykdal’s Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC


In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Chris Reykdal.

The Seattle School Board appropriately interprets intent language in the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) regarding alternative summative assessment options.  Sadly, the U.S. Dept. of Education is still tinkering with punitive rules.  I support the Seattle School District Resolution and their interest in local-option summative assessments.

Local districts should have greater flexibility in adopting summative assessments.  However, even with local options we are still left with a powerful policy question; what is the real purpose of a summative assessment?  Is it to measure state, district, or school progress?  If this is the purpose, then sampling, as is used in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test is an appropriate technique that would provide us with statistically significant results about system performance without the massive sacrifice of resources and instructional time currently dedicated to standardized testing.

However, if you believe the purpose of summative assessments is to make a determination of grade promotion, graduation, or other student-specific purposes, then the Smarter Balanced Assessment and most locally determined alternatives summative assessments will come up very short.  That’s not what they were designed to do!  So we can save time and money with better summative assessments, but nothing replaces the critical diagnostic role of teachers and formative assessments along the teaching and learning process.

If Seattle School District believes the purpose of a new locally determined alternative summative assessment is to decide whether students graduate, then they run the risk of simply replacing one instrument for another but missing a larger opportunity.  I believe standardized assessments should only be used to measure system progress – not individual student determination.  If Seattle School District or others want to use a summative assessment for individual student determination, I believe two critical options should be embedded in their policy:

1) That any parent has a legal opt out right without sanction to the student; and

2) Whether a student takes the summative assessment and scores below proficient or chooses not to take the assessment, that the alternative is not another standardized test, but rather a course or set of courses aligned to standards.  Pass the course(s), meet the standard, graduate on-time!  This empowers educators, allows for multiple measures throughout the course, and undoubtedly allows for work ethic and determination to influence the result.  The latter is not to be discounted in what employers really want.  Few employers ask applicants about their test scores, but they all want to know about persistence, work ethic, and determination.

I hope the Seattle School District will adopt a second resolution making it clear that every student has a pathway to on-time graduation via a series of standards-aligned courses (not simply state tests or locally determined tests).  This policy expression will honor the alignment work of K-12 and higher education to mutually agree on standards-based courses, that when passed, will ensure that students do not take expensive remedial courses once in college.  It’s time to trust teachers and quality courses over standardized tests!

-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

David Spring’s Statement on the Seattle School Board’s  Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC


In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by David Spring.

The Seattle School Board Resolution asks to replace the unfair SBAC test with a fairer locally determined alternative and calls on the State Superintendent to “take all actions necessary to allow Seattle Public Schools to move forward with the use of an alternative assessment.”  This is the 500 word version of my Statement supporting the Seattle resolution. A more detailed Statement is on our website SpringForBetterSchools.


I fully support the Seattle School Board Resolution. In fact, I worked with members of the Seattle School Board for the past several months drafting this resolution. I provided the school board with numerous reports detailing the legal framework for the resolution and educational research on the benefits of alternatives to the SBAC test. A summary of the legal framework and educational benefits is provided in my more detailed statement.

I oppose the SBAC test because it is not fair or age appropriate.


In February 2015, I started Opt Out Washington to provide parents with information on why they should opt their kids out of the SBAC test.


In December 2015, I read the entire 391-page ESSA which permits use of local alternative assessments. I then met with members of the Seattle School Board to address their questions about how to replace the SBAC test.


As Superintendent, I will end the draconian SBAC test as a graduation requirement my first day in office. While other candidates claim they support the Seattle School Board Resolution and oppose to the SBAC test, there are reasons to conclude they will not assist the Seattle School Board in actually getting an alternative assessment. Nor will they end the SBAC test as a graduation requirement.


First, let’s look at Chris Reykdal’s record. While Chris claims to be opposed to the SBAC test as a Graduation Requirement, he voted to bring the SBAC test to our state and make it a graduation requirement in 2013. He has repeatedly voted to keep it a graduation requirement every year since 2013. In fact, Chris is the prime sponsor of House Bill 2214 which not only continues the SBAC test as a graduation requirement but punishes any student who opts out by forcing them to take an additional math course during their senior year that is harder than any previous math course they have ever taken. So if they passed Precalculus during their Junior Year, they would have to pass Calculus during their Senior Year in order to graduation. Chris’s bill would force on students in our state the most draconian graduation requirements in the nation!


Sadly, none of the other candidates would help Seattle Schools get an alternative assessment either – because none of them support my assertion that Article 3, Section  22 and Article 2, Section 28 of our State Constitution prohibit the legislature from imposing  unfunded mandates like the SBAC test on our schools. If I am not elected State Superintendent, students will be forced to endure four more years of the SBAC test as a graduation requirement. For the detailed version of this article, visit Why I Support the Seattle School Board Resolution to Replace the SBAC Test. 


David Spring M. ED.

Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Spring for Better

Erin Jones’ Statement on the Seattle School Board’s Request to Pursue Alternative to the SBAC


In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Erin Jones:

I am in complete agreement with this resolution. In my first meeting with one of the new board members we discussed this very issue. I have been very skeptical of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA); however, I am encouraged that a board member from the largest district in our state is interested in having serious conversations about an alternative to our current assessment system. I am eager to walk with Seattle as they pilot a new model, and believe the conversations had in this district can provide a model for larger systemic change.

My campaign is built on four pillars that I believe must be addressed to transform education in our state: 1. Full-funding of Basic Education (McCleary), 2. Assessment reform to eliminate intrusive testing practices and place the locus of control for assessments back in the hands of classroom teachers, 3. Closing of opportunity gaps, and 4. Promotion of innovative school models (alternative learning environments funded and overseen by local dollars and local school boards) that will meet the diverse needs of our diverse student populations.

In my opinion, the Seattle school board resolution speaks directly to 3 of my 4 platform items in the following ways:

1.      FUNDING: The SBA has been incredibly expensive to create, to administer, to grade, and to share results. I would add that the SBA has also requires FTE, both at district and building levels to manage the complicated process and security issues. Let’s add to that the significant instructional time that is spent by classroom teachers to prepare students for the process – time that could be spent on teaching and learning.

2.      ASSESSMENT: This resolution supports my desire to create a less intrusive, more informative testing mechanism. Seattle has the opportunity to be a front-runner in the state and learn from other states that have already shifted to other models.

3.      CLOSE OPPORTUNITY GAPS: No Child Left Behind asserted that through testing, we would be able to hold schools and systems accountable to serve ALL children at high levels. However, the results and responses of the state/Feds served to further disenfranchise schools and communities that already felt “left behind.” One test, given purely in written/computerized format will always disadvantage those with less access to academic English and up-to-date technology. If Seattle is able to find a tool that can more successfully assess and provide strategies to better support students, this could be a huge win for the state of Washington! In the end, whatever we do must provide us with the information necessary to better address and meet the needs of students of color, ELL students, students with special needs, and students from low income communities.

As state superintendent, I welcome this opportunity to work with a district towards finding a more effective solution to our “assessment problem.” It is my hope that the current ESSA work groups will arrive at the conclusion that the Seattle school board resolution represents a legitimate option for the state of Washington.

Erin Jones

Candidate for Washington State Superintendent, 2016

Study shows the Common Core PARCC test does not determine college readiness

Is the SBAC any different?

The PARCC tests have been criticized for being administered in high-stakes circumstances before they were validated. PARCC’s rejoinder is they had content validity, meaning that the test was built according to their committee reviewed specifications. But what is missing is predictive validity. That is, does the test validly measure the much vaunted touchstone criteria of “College and Career Ready?” After all, that is the entire rationale for the testing emphasis in schools.

The following is an article posted in Wait! What? that breaks down the study.


The Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure

By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto

The entire premise behind the Common Core and the related Common Core PARCC and SBAC testing programs was that it would provide a clear cut assessment of whether children were “college and career ready.”

In the most significant academic study to date, the answer appears to be that the PARCC version the massive and expensive test is that it is an utter failure.

William Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and member of the Vermont State Board of Education, has just published an astonishing piece in the Washington Post. (Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? In it, Mathis demonstrates that the PARCC test, one of two national common core tests (the other being the SBAC), cannot predict college readiness; and that a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education demonstrated the PARCC’s lack of validity.

This revelation is huge and needs to be repeated. PARCC, the common core standardized test sold as predicting college-readiness, cannot predict college readiness. The foundation upon which the Common Core and its standardized tests were imposed on this nation has just been revealed to be an artifice.

As Mathis wrote, the Massachusetts study found the following: the correlations between PARCC ELA tests and freshman GPA ranges from 0.13-0.26, and for PARCC Math tests, the range is between 0.37 and 0.40. Mathis explains that the correlation coefficients “run from zero (no relationship) to 1.0 (perfect relationship). How much one measure predicts another is the square of the correlation coefficient. For instance, taking the highest coefficient (0.40), and squaring it gives us .16. “

This means the variance in PARCC test scores, at their best, predicts only 16% of the variance in first year college GPA.  SIXTEEN PERCENT!  And that was the most highly correlated aspect of PARCC.  PARCC’s ELA tests have a correlation coefficient of 0.17, which squared is .02. This number means that the variance in PARCC ELA scores can predict only 2% of the variance in freshman GPA!

Dr. Mathis notes that the PARCC test-takers in this study were college freshman, not high school students. As he observes, the correlations for high school students taking the test would no doubt be even lower. (Dr. Mathis’ entire piece is a must-read. Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid?)

Dr. Mathis is not an anti-testing advocate. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the state of New Jersey, Director of its Educational Assessment program, a design consultant for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and for six states.   As managing director for NEPC, Dr. Mathis produces and reviews research on a wide variety of educational policy issues. Previously, he was Vermont Superintendent of the Year and a National Superintendent of the Year finalist before being appointed to the state board of education. He brings expertise to the topic.

As Mathis points out, these invalid tests have human costs:

“With such low predictability, you have huge numbers of false positives and false negatives. When connected to consequences, these misses have a human price. This goes further than being a validity question. It misleads young adults, wastes resources and misjudges schools.  It’s not just a technical issue, it is a moral question. Until proven to be valid for the intended purpose, using these tests in a high stakes context should not be done.”

PARCC is used in  New Jersey, Maryland and other states, not Connecticut. So why write about this here, where we use the SBAC?

The SBAC has yet to be subjected to a similar validity study.  This raises several questions.  First and most important, why has the SBAC not be subjected to a similar study? Why are our children being told to take an unvalidated test?

Second, do we have any doubt that the correlations between SBAC and freshman college GPA will be similarly low?  No- it is more than likely that the SBAC is also a poor predictor of college readiness.

How do we know this? The authors of the PARCC study shrugged off the almost non-existent correlation between PARCC and college GPA by saying the literature shows that most standardized tests have low predictive validity.

This also bears repeating: it is common knowledge that most standardized tests cannot predict academic performance in college.  Why , then, is our nation spending billions developing and administering new tests, replacing curricula, buying technology, text books and test materials, retraining teachers and administrators, and misleading the public by claiming that these changes will assure us that we are preparing our children for college?

And where is the accountability of these test makers, who have been raking in billions, knowing all the while that their “product” would never deliver what they promised, because they knew ahead of time that the tests would not be able to predict college-readiness?

When then-Secretary Arne Duncan was pushing the Common Core State Standards and their tests on the American public, he maligned our public schools by declaring: “For far too long,” our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities. They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” He proclaimed that with Common Core and the accompanying standardized tests, “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable to giving our children a true college and career-ready education.”

Mr. Duncan made this accusation even though there was a mountain of evidence proving that the best predictor of college success, before the Common Core, was an American high school GPA.  In other words, high schools were already preparing kids for college quite well.

With the revelations in this PARCC study and the admissions of its authors, we know now that it was Mr. Duncan and his administration who were lying to parents, educators, children and taxpayers. Politicians shoved the Common Core down the throat of public schools with the false claim that this regime would improve education.  They forced teachers and schools to be judged and punished based on these tests.  They told millions of children they were academically unfit based on these tests. And now we have proof positive that these standardized tests are just as weak as their predecessors, and cannot in any way measure whether our children are “college-ready.”

The time is now for policymakers to stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of school hours, on a useless standardized testing scheme;   and to instead invest our scarce public dollars in programs that actually ensure that public schools are have the capacity to support and prepare students to have more fulfilling and successful lives.


We’re asking the OSPI State Superintendent candidates their position on Seattle Public Schools pursing alternative assessment frameworks under the Every Student Succeeds Act.


The following letter was sent to each candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Their responses will be published on June 5th. -editor.

Hello Candidates,

My name is Carolyn Leith and am co-editor of the blog Seattle Education. I’m asking each candidate for their thoughts regarding Seattle Public School’s request to pursue alternative assessments under the ESSA.

During the May 18th board meeting, Seattle School Board Directors voted 5-1 to seek, under the newly authorized ESSA, a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.  From the resolution:

School Board Resolution

I’m asking each candidate if they will honor this resolution. In addition, please include your thoughts on using the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a graduation requirement.

Statement will be:

  • no more than 500 words in length
  • published, unedited, in a separate blog post – so all candidates will receive equal attention
  • (please include campaign photo )

The deadline for submission is 10 PM on June 4th. Statements will be published on June 5th.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response.

-Carolyn Leith

Background information below:

SPS Resolution 2015/16-15

YouTube: School Board Meeting Date: May 18, 2016 Part 2 Minutes 0-49:50

Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Seattle Public Schools logo


In a five to one vote with Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

This is the wording of the request:

School Board Resolution

To follow is a video of the discussion regarding the resolution before the vote was taken:

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

In the background info about diversity of the school district, the total percentage of students of color should read 54.4% not 38.5%.

Chris Reykdal’s Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

OSPI Superintendent candidate Chris Reykdal

Opting your child out of a standardized test is a parent’s right.  Parents have always had the right to opt their child out of particular courses or content areas.  It is not the role of the federal or state government to question the motivations of parents; they are parents and a standardized test mandate does not supersede a parental rights.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is better than No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but a few glaring faults remain.  The contradiction of a 95% test requirement while simultaneously acknowledging a parent’s right to opt out their child is still the cause of great confusion.  States are now assigned the task of compliance to 95%, and the sanctions, if any, for districts that don’t comply.  And yet the U.S. Department of Education still claims the power to withhold certain funds from states. This is where our State has to take a stand!

To address this contradiction of policy we must do five things:

1) Delink standardized tests as a high school graduation requirement;

2) Defend the right of parents to opt out their child;

3) Clearly define alternatives for students to show proficiency if they chose not to participate in federally-mandated testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

4) Do not require a student to test and fail first before utlizing alternative demonstrations of proficiency; and

5) Use assessment results to create intentional strategies to improve districts, schools, and where applicable, targeted interventions for students.

I believe very few parents would opt their child out of assessments if they believed the tests would be used to help their child improve AND they were confident the test would be used for  system accountability only and not to penalize or stigmatize.

Professional educators should determine a student’s grade promotion and ultimate graduation – not a test.  Incredibly, the research continues to tell us that high school GPA in combination with transcript evaluation is the better predictor of college success – not standardized tests.  Colleges and universities across the country, and the world, are reducing the weight of SAT and ACT in college admissions; for some they don’t require any tests as part of admissions.  Instead, they are seeking multiple measures – GPA, course evaluations, writing samples, community engagement, and so many other factors that are far more predictive of student persistence and success.  Clearly,  48 diverse teacher grades (4 years X 2 semesters X 6 classes per semester) are more  valid and reliable than one single measure in time.

Standardized assessments do have a role to play– to measure state, district, and when statistically significant, school building progress toward closing the achievement gaps.  But, no single test should ever be used as a high stakes factor in grade promotion or graduation and they should never be used as a hammer. 

Ultimately, educators should decide the best diagnostic tools to propel students to greater cognitive and social/emotional growth. It’s time to put the teaching and learning process back in the hands of educators!

-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Chris Reykdal for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Erin Jones’ Statement on Opting Out

We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.

Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.

OSPI Candidate Erin Jones

The bullying tactic being used by OSPI regarding SBA is unacceptable. Parents are the primary educators of their children and should be allowed to opt their children from testing. The fact that so many families have decided to opt children out should be a clear message to the state about the impact of testing. Until this year, opting out did not have consequences, beyond the occasional angry interaction with an administrator claiming that avoiding the test could put the school or district in danger of losing Title I funds (not yet happened). This year, however, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is a graduation requirement. Parents of elementary and middle school students may have to endure the ire of an administrator or classroom teacher, but do not believe the lie that your student will not move to the next grade level if s/he does not take the test.

Far too much pressure is involved in the current testing process. Creating better and broader tests does not improve learning. My husband, who is a teacher, uses this analogy about testing -” we are just weighing the same pig with a different scale, without consideration for how and what we are feeding the pig.” We must focus our attentions for students, particularly those who have been most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, on meeting social-emotional and physical needs, on student learning and support – feeding the pig – not on testing.

There is value in assessing students throughout the year to determine where they are growing and where they need additional supports. Although there are still requirements at the federal level for statewide testing, most assessment decisions must be made locally, with a focus on moderation and allowing educators to do most assessment in their own classrooms. We must provide teachers with smaller classes, so they can make effective daily decisions about student growth. With regard to state testing, we should be partnering with educators (including ELL and SPED teachers) and community-based organizations (including those who serve families), as well as testing experts, untied to a particular test company, to determine a better process that will help us garner the kinds of results and experiences that will lead to increased learning for students.

As we enter the “test season,” there will be thousands of families considering whether or not to opt out a child, carefully weighing the impact of the consequences and whether they are willing to advocate at the state level for a child whose graduation is called into question. Other families, often those whose students are most negatively impacted by high-stakes testing, will not even know opting out is possible or will not have the same ability to advocate for their child’s needs. As state superintendent, I will not be strong-armed by the federal government but will advocate for a better, more effective assessment process that considers the needs of ALL students and educators, that puts instruction and student support at the center of public education once again.

Erin Jones, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

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