Last week bipartisan grassroots Americans saw a miracle.
That wolf in sheep’s clothing, the (supposed) shoo-in bill called federal HR5 or The Student Success Act, which was to reauthorize No Child Left Behind/ESEA, was thrown aside by Congress instead of becoming law. Thanks to a bipartisan effort by grassroots citizens and vigilant Congressmen who studied the language inside the bill’s 600+ pages –not just buying Speaker Boehner’s gilded talking points— the dangers of HR5 surfaced into Congressional consciousness.
A whirlwind of amendment-writing began on both sides of the aisle. By the time Congress gave up on trying to pass HR5 last week, there were so many amendments from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress that everybody seemed to dislike the bill and Obama was threatening to veto.
That was a very unexpected turn of events. –But proper! Emmett McGroarty of American Principles in Action summarized the problems of NCLB and HR5: “HR5 demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution and our constitutional structure. Although it relieves the states from some NCLB burdens, it then adds others and overall sets the stage for an expanded federal footprint in our lives.”
Additionally, a powerful open letter from a bipartisan group of over 2,000 educational researchers (See letter here) last month informed Congress that “testing should not be driving reform.”
The 2000 educational researchers who signed last month’s letter saw as harmful the federal aim “to use students’ test scores as a lever to drive educational improvement.” They explained: “This use of testing is ill-advised because… it has demonstrably failed to achieve its intended goal and has potent negative, unintended consequences.” Under No Child Left Behind/ESEA, they said, the federal government had trusted “an unproven but ambitious belief that if we test children and hold educators responsible for improving test scores we would have almost everyone scoring as “proficient” by 2014.” The researchers said: “there is no evidence that any test score increases represent the broader learning increases… While testing advocates proclaim that testing drives student learning, they resist evidence-based explanations for why, after two decades of test-driven accountability, these reforms have yielded such unimpressive results.”
For many, the bottom line problem with both ESEA and HR5 was the ongoing, evidence-less promotion of student high-stakes testing as the solution for education problems. For others, the bottom line problem (in HR5) was language implying conditionality of parental rights, possible waiving of states’ rights, and federal/state intrusion into private schools, particularly into private schools’ free exercise of religious freedom.
With so many heavy, bipartisan issues rolled into ESEA, we can expect that the upcoming bipartisan version of the bill will be plagued with the same struggles we saw in last week’s HR5. These must be identified and fought:
#1 Clarity problems: deliberately lengthy language that scatters definitions across hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages and convoluted language that confuses most readers;
#2 A continued push for testing and data mining that pushes away from local (school or district) accountability toward centralized power; multi-state alignment (de facto national) high stakes testing and data collection that enriches corporations partnered with or funded by Bill Gates/Microsoft and Pearson.
#3 A push for centralization of power –with the elites comprised of corporate and governmental partnerships to exclude voters, teachers, parents and duly elected representatives;
#4 No privacy protections beyond the lame and wilted FERPA for our children; instead, increased data collecting powers to corporate-governmental partnerships;
#5 A continued push for more unelected boards to have increased control of greater numbers of schools via charter school expansions;
#6 A continued push for federal-corporate intrusion into private schools;
#7 A continued bartering for parental and states’ rights in trade for federal money;
#8 An assumption of federal-corporate “research” authority –devoid of parental consent and devoid of evidence-based, peer-reviewed validity;
#9 Expansion of centralized authority over specified groups, such as “migratory students” or “Alaskan Natives”; in sum:
#10 A continued disregard for Constitutional rights.
Please watch not only the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization, but also the S.227 SETRA bill. They go hand in hand.
Federal SETRA hurts student data privacy, allows emotional testing in increased student data mining, and reassigns grant-making (funding) control to REL regions, not states. Read SETRA bill text here.
It appeared to me that HR5 got away with its marketing (saying it was restoring local control) because it transmitted federally-desired, test-driven reforms and other expansions to state authority and to state enforcement, perhaps to appease local control activists. But this was just passing the abuse baton. I imagine the corporate-regional power grabbers singing the “Na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo” song: “You don’t get the steering wheel. Constitution Constasmooshen. Who’s got your taxes?”
These power-reassignments are not appealing to those who want true local control.
Pray that our Congressmen find time, energy and wisdom to see through it all and that they will have the courage to protect children’s rights, teacher’s rights, voters’ rights, and parent’s rights.