Wednesday, December 23, 2015

U.S. Department of Ed puts Massachusetts on "high risk"

h/t to EdWeek for catching the federal government's reaction to the Mass Board of Ed's vote on testing last month: they're putting our Title I, Part A (that's the part that goes to the state, not districts) on "high risk" because we aren't doing a single test. EdWeek has the full letter here.
That isn't entirely a surprise, as you might recall that last year's waiver was only conditional on our adopting a single test for this coming spring...which we didn't do. The fed already wasn't happy that we hadn't made up our mind, already, for this past spring; no surprise their patience is out with a lack of a decision for this one.
Somewhat surprisingly, this did not come up at the Board of Ed meeting, either as part of the presentation, nor through Board member questions.
And, yes, waivers are still the operating principal until August, under ESSA's passage. 
The open question I saw circulating yesterday was: didn't the Commissioner check this with U.S. DoE prior to proposing it to the Board? And, was this all a ploy to make the federal government the bad guys and have everyone in the state take PARCC? The Globe has the beginnings of an answer to the second question this morning:
“I do not believe that the US Department of Education putting us on ‘high risk’ status is sufficient reason for us to change our plans to offer districts a choice between assessments in spring 2016 and to create a new, next-generation assessment for spring 2017,” he said in a statement.
 Chester said state education officials value their collaboration with the federal government, but “there are times when partners will disagree.”
 “When that happens, our first and foremost obligation is to do what is right for Massachusetts,” he said in the statement. “We will submit a request for reconsideration, but regardless of the outcome, we will implement the thoughtful plan on which our board voted.”
You can take our money, but you'll never take our...right. Maybe that's only round one, and someone starts yelling about the lack of DESE services if they lose that kind of money; we'll see.

Per Jackie Reis, DESE receives about $2.1 million a year through Title I, Part A.
I'll update if I hear more.

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