Education Week Releases List of “Notable Comments” made by House and Senate Education Committee members on ESSA

Education Week Releases List of “Notable Comments” made by House and Senate Education Committee members on ESSA

July 5, 2016

Education Week has released a list of notable comments made by both House and Senate Education Committee members on ESSA. They concluded that “top Democrats have praised [Secretary] King generally” for the Dept. of Education’s approach to drafting ESSA’s accountability rules. Over the course of several hearings, Secretary King addressed numerous concerns:

  • Along with State K-12 Leaders, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) “worried the proposed ESSA rules [on identifying schools needing improvement] would make the transition to the law too fast.” Sen. Alexander said pushing the implementation date to the 2018-2019 school year would be preferred.
  • The Summative Rating requirement, which would no longer allow a pass/fail grade to be given to schools, drew critical feedback from Senators Alexander and Susan Collins (R-ME), who informed Secretary King that the requirements would “violate the spirit of innovation” ESSA is meant to foster. King maintained that the Dept. of Education was not forcing states to use any particular rating system.
  • When establishing guidelines for assessments, Senators Alexander and Pat Roberts (R-KS) accused the Department of “trying to impose their will on states’ decisions about standards.” Secretary King pointed out that other states would be reviewing the tests, not the Dept. of Education.
  • ESSA will require states to detail consequences for schools who have less than 95 percent of their students taking standardized tests. While consequences have not been specified, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI-7) voiced concern that “the department might take a heavy-handed approach to opt-out through these rules.” Secretary King stressed that states would have plenty of flexibility on how to deal with low participation rates.
  • The definition of “Consistently Underperforming” has been an issue of concern for both Senator Murray and Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL-1). Senator Murray claims it is “too loosely” defined and could mislabel certain student groups. Rep. Byrne claimed the opposite, saying the Dept. of Education was “improperly foisting definitions of the term onto states.” Secretary King disagreed, stating that the Department was not overstepping its legal bounds.