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All the cool kids--that is, educators paying attention to the rapid pace at which the common assessments and overreliance on tests in teacher and school evaluation are detracting from the proper focus on student learning--are calling for a moratorium on testing.
It started more than a year ago, and included a call by Montgomery County Public School Superintendent Josh Starr. AASA issued a public note of appreciate on the blog yesterday.
AASA's recent letter to the Senate HELP committee echoed a similar sentiment: Slow down, take the time to get it right.
AFT President Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on the stakes associated with high-stakes testing because the new assessments aligned to Common Core are being given to student before teachers have had time to process and create curriculum to support the standards.
WhiteBoard Policy Advisors latest Education Insiders poll found that while only 18% of those polled think USED would implement a moratorium on the stakes associated with Common Core, 63% think that states will implement such a policy.
Even Secretary Duncan and USED haven't ruled out the possibility of calling for a 'hold' on the Common Core stakes.
Before you read the funding update, some numbers to put it all in perspective. When talking about budget and appropriations, its good to keep the top line (overall budget authority) in mind. The following numbers are the budget authority for the LHHS appropriation (which includes education):
That means the House FY14 proposal for LHHS is 18% BELOW FY13 post-sequester levels and 26% below what President Obama proposed for the same fiscal year.
FY13 Funding: The final charts for FY13 (post-sequester) state allocations are available for Title I and IDEA. These charts are crucial, especially since some states have been counseling cuts that are deeper than will be reality. Use these charts in conversations with your SEA. You can also see final program funding levels for all USED programs.
This post comes from AASA Associate Executive Director for Advocacy & Communications, Bruce Hunter.
Several months ago Josh Starr, superintendent in Montgomery County Maryland, made a bold proposal. Starr proposed a three year moratorium on the testing regime required by NCLB. While the Common Core Standards and the new tests from the Smarter Balance and PARCC testing consortia are being rolled out. The moratorium would support complete implementation and alignment between the new standards and assessments. Dr Starr rightfully recognized that using test results from the period of misalignment creates a major debacle where students are victims. Of course improperly evaluated teachers and principals would also be victims. In short, haste makes waste.
Dr. Starr was vilified and mocked by the education reform crowd and staff in Congress and at the US Department of education. To hear it from them, Starr’s proposal was tantamount to asking that student outcomes no longer be considered. In their view, the proposal was a way for public school people (perceived as incompetent and/or racist) to short shrift low -income and minority students.
It turns out that the people doing the actual work of implementing the standards are now beginning to see what Josh Starr recognized a year ago. Randi Weingarten, President of AFT, had a great editorial about making sure the work was done before proceeding. Severe public school critic Katie Haycock said in a blog for Huffington Post that we needed to go slow to go fast.
Last week, AASA Executive Director, Dan Domenech joined with executive directors from 15 other national organizations serving public school educators in the concluding that a transition period was needed to deal with the period of misalignment.
AASA members tell us that the new standards will be implemented over the next 1-3 years, depending on the state level of progress. Similarly the new tests will be completed, implemented and ready for administration over the next two years. School districts, however, still need to work out the inevitable bugs associated with the complex digital technology and infrastructure (including bandwidth) needed to administer the tests online as they were designed.
During the period of misalignment, the US Education Department is requiring states to use test results to evaluate teachers, principals, schools and districts. Under the USED proposal, during misalignment, states are presented with poor options:. States can use new standards and the old tests aligned to former standards or old standards unaligned to the new tests. In either case the results would be seriously flawed.
Josh Starr was right: we need a transition period. Had someone not stood and made the proposal, federal policy would have driven the states to make a serious error. This blog post is a simple thank you and recognition to someone was not only smart enough to see the issue for what it is, but also courageous enough to stand and say’ let’s think this over and do it right’. Thank you, again, for your leadership on this issue.
I am receiving an increasing number of inquiries related to final allocations for FY13, especially in the context of sequestration. A previous post detailed the IDEA allocations. I am now adding the Title I allocations.
A handful of members had reached out detailing bizarre advice from state agencies detailing the depth of the cut. This chart should put to rest the question of what the state allocation is; local allocations are not yet available.
AASA joined 50 other organizations--including the Association of Education Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition--in signing a letter opposing the elimination of Impact Aid Federal Properties (Section 8002) funding in the Administration’s FY 2014 budget request.
Read the letter.
As mentioned on the blog last week, AASA sent an ESEA reauthorization priority letter to Senator Tom Harkin.
Diane Ravitch caught wind of the letter and featured it on her blog, in a post titled Outstanding Proposal About ESEA/NCLB by AASA. She writes:
The School Superintendents Association wrote a strong letter to Senator Tom Harkin about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the basic federal legislation for elementary and secondary education, which is currently known as No Child Left Behind.
NCLB is generally recognized to be a disaster. The best evidence of its failure is the ever louder cries for “reform.” If NCLB had worked, why would we need more and more reforming, using the same failed methods?
AASA does not have kind words for Race to the Top and urges Congress not to codify it into law.
The AASA clears away the legislative debris, recognizes the over-reach of the federal Department of Education, recommends the removal of the claptrap associated with NCLB, and urges the restoration of a healthy federalism, with a balance of powers among federal, state, and local authorities.
A welcome dose of reality.
This weekend the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, the “bible” doctors and mental health professionals consult when determining diagnoses for students with disabilities, will be published with new definitions that could dramatically increase the number of students diagnosed as having a disability. Special education legal experts and psychiatrists are predicting that districts are going to see a large influx of parents seeking IEPs and Section 504 plans due to some of the changes related to autism, ADHD, bi-polar disorder, and PTSD diagnoses found in the new DSM guide.
Specifically, the DSM-5 is expected to stop recognizing Asperger’s as a unique diagnosis and instead stop differentiating between students with more mild autism and students with more moderate and sever autism. Some predict this change could result in students who may not have qualified for services before because they were at the very high-functioning end of the spectrum may now qualify for services with a mild case under the ASD umbrella. However, others say that it will have little impact because if a child with mild autism no longer qualifies as ASD, their disability can be classified as “other health impairment.” It’s possible that changes in the criteria will mean students with Aspergers, whose “autistic-ness” included mostly problems with communication without the presence of repetitive behaviors, may be reevaluated and perhaps receive a diagnosis of a communication disorder instead of an autism spectrum disorder. It’s important to remember that there is a big difference between a medical diagnosis of autism and an educational definition of autism. Even if a child loses their medical diagnosis of autism that does not mean they lose their IEP or even that they can’t still use the disability category of autism in their IEP. IDEA has a federal definition of autism and each State has an even more specific definition of Autism built into their education code and it is much easier to meet the definition of a child with autism in the educational setting then in the medical setting.
In the case of ADHD, the new criteria allow children to receive the diagnosis if they show signs of the disorder before age 12 — instead of the previous age of 7 which is an expansion of the definition of ADHD. The change means students have more time to demonstrate their ADHD symptoms than in the past. In response to concerns about the overdiagnosis of bipolar disorder in young children, the DSM-5 is expected to feature the new diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. This would apply to kids ages 6-18 who three or more times a week have temper tantrums that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to their situation. The new definition could lead to more students qualifying for disruptive mood dyregulation disorderd. Finally, a change in how stress related to bereavement is classified could mean a student who is experiencing normal grief over the death of a parent could now be diagnosed with PTSD.
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