#FedEd Tyranny Alert! Arne Duncan Threatening States Allowing Too Many Opt Outs

April, 2015

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reminded everyone that there is nothing "voluntary" and "state-led" about the Common Core state tests as he threatened federal intervention if states had too many students that opted out of the federally mandated assessments.  It is also crystal clear evidence that both HR 5, the Student Success Act, and the Senate Every Child Achieves Act to rewrite No Child Left Behind must be changed to remove the federal testing mandate or voted down. According to Chalkbeat New York and the Daily Caller

"We think most states will do that [test 95% of their students]," Duncan told an Education Writers Association conference in Chicago, according to Chalkbeat New York. "If states don't do that, then we [the federal government] have an obligation to step in."
Duncan did not detail what that intervention would look like, but:

A federal education department spokeswoman said last week that the agency could withhold funding from states if some of their districts have too few students take the exams, but that it has not yet done so because states have addressed the issue on their own.

The US Department of Education just today rejected a waiver request from Colorado to hold districts harmless if students choose to opt out:

Colorado districts with large numbers of students refusing to take state standardized tests could face federal sanctions, after the U.S. Education Department Friday rejected a request from Colorado education officials to hold school districts harmless for high rates of opt-outs.
Federal officials said in a letter to Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond that not holding districts accountable for students who have opted out of tests will hinder efforts to improve schools and reduce inequities.
Districts are required by law to test all students in grades three to eight each year and all students in high school at least once. Federal officials have said districts could face sanctions, including the potential loss of federal funds, if fewer than 95 percent of students participate.

This rejection of the Colorado waiver seems to be tied to the early retirement annoiuncement of Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond.

This kind of Constitution shredding speech is not new for the secretary. As we reported, he said in November of last year  in new regulations regarding alternative testing for special education students that the plan was to "phase out the authority of the states to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments."

He may threaten, but he will have a hard time as opt out numbers grow across the country:
Colorado has large opt out numbers - In Boulder, for instance, district officials estimate that 47 percent of high schoolers, 14 percent of middle schoolers, 9 percent of students in K-8 schools, and 6 percent of elementary schoolers did not participate in the first round of spring tests.

New York State has 175,000 students opting out, which is higher than the 5% threshold set in federal law.

And in one Washington district, not a single junior student showed up to take the SBAC Common Core test at a Seattle area high school.

Currently, both the US House and Senate have rewrites of No Child Left Behind that continue this unconstitutional testing mandate. However, the rebellion both against the tests and against these onerous laws is reaching fever pitch and affecting supportive political candidates like Jeb Bush while helping the fortunes of oppnents like Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio and Governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal.  Congress would be foolish to ignore this wave of afury at these ridiculous tests based on terrible standards.This anger is one reason why the House bill HR 5 has been pulled from consideration on the House floor.  Let us hope for the sake of our children that these justifiably angry parents and teachers prevail in protecting sutdents and the art of teaching instead of being forced to learn and teach to such invalid tests..

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