BALCONY - Business and Labor Coalition of New York
July 20th, 2016

By Keshia Clukey

ALBANY – Federal regulations tied to the new Every Student Succeeds Act are a “top-down, federally driven” approach, not a “real partnership,” as was intended, the state’s largest teachers union says.

On Tuesday, New York State United Teachers submitted comments to the U.S. Education Department on the draft regulations in the hope that the department will make changes. The submission deadline is Aug. 1.

ESSA, passed in December, replaced the broad federal No Child Left Behind Act and was initially seen as providing states more flexibility regarding assessments and accountability.

Regulations which the federal education department have proposed in conjunction with the law have come under fire, with stakeholders questioning whether they hampered the flexibility the law gave to states. NYSUT and U.S. education secretary John King have a particularly acrimonious relationship going back to his days as education commissioner in New York. The union called for his removal in New York and protested his appointment as U.S. education secretary.

The union and advocacy groups in New York are particularly concerned about participation rate requirements. The law still requires 95 percent participation rate on state standardized tests, but under the regulations, schools and the state could essentially be rated lower if they don’t meet the requirements and potentially face penalties.

That would be an issue in New York, because the state in 2015 had one of the highest test refusals in the nation, with 20 percent of students opting out of state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and English language arts exams. Spring 2016 numbers have not yet been released.

The union suggested deleting the section in the regulations.

The union also expressed concern over the implementation timeline, which requires states to begin identifying schools under their new accountability plans by 2017-18. The timeline limits the ability of states to develop “thoughtful” systems, according to the letter.

“The draft rules as highlighted do not reflect ESSA and the promise of the law,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said in the letter. “Unfortunately, in several areas the draft rules embrace a test, rank, and punish system of school accountability.”

Read the full letter here:

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