"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Does the Key To Correcting Common Core Lie in the Proposed Student Success Act

Representative John Kline of Minnesota, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, has provided his solution to the overreach of the US Department of Education that has given us Common Core and a host of other education accountability programs that have robbed our states of their sovereignty over education. The Student Success Act, if passed, would empower local control of education, returning choices for what is best for our children to the closest possible authority: parents, teachers, districts, and state government.

From an Ed Week article on SSA,
There are currently more than 80 distinct federal programs that are supposed to promote student achievement. The Student Success Act would eliminate more than 70 of those programs and replace them with grant funding that states and school districts would have the flexibility to use to tailor programs to their local needs.

Instead of Washington bureaucrats making decisions, the legislation would allow superintendents, school leaders, and local officials to make funding decisions based on what they know will help improve student learning. In addition, the Student Success Act would require the U.S. secretary of education to identify and eliminate positions associated with those programs.

The Student Success Act would repeal the onerous No Child Left Behind requirement that districts employ teachers deemed “highly qualified.” This mandate has valued a teacher’s credentials over his or her effectiveness in the classroom. Instead, the Student Success Act would support state- and locally driven teacher-evaluation systems that provide states and school districts with the tools necessary to measure an educator’s influence on student achievement

These changes are consistent with the message being delivered by the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core. Accountability is all well and good, but it is important to be accountable to the right source for the things that are most important to the people actually paying the dollars. Our current system, and the one we will have going forward, moves that accountability further and further away from the local district and the local taxpayers.  We send our money to Washington and then have to do the dance they want to get a portion of it back (through IDEA, Title I and the other 75 programs.) Lesson plans and curriculums are designed around the goals of people far removed from the state. Even the goals of "college and career ready" laid out by CCSSI are not necessarily the goals of all school districts for all children. Yet 100% of the school's focus will now be those goals. With the average district getting on 7% of its funding from the feds (some as low as 2% and the high only being around 15%), it is absurd how much control the US Department of Education has over local school districts.

MCACC has pointed out repeatedly the existing federal laws that limit the authority of the USDoEd that are not being followed.
--> Department of Education Organization Act (1979) Sec. 103 (a) “It is the intention of the Congress . . . to protect the rights of State and local governments and public and private educational institutions in the areas of educational policies and administration of programs and to strengthen and improve the control of such governments and institutions over their own educational programs and policies . . . (b) no provision of a program administered by the Secretary [of Education] or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.
--> No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (reauthorization of ESEA) Section 9529 “PROHIBITION ON FEDERALLY SPONSORED TESTING.(a) GENERAL PROHIBITION.-Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law and except as provided in subsection (b), no funds provided under this Act to the Secretary or to the recipient of any award may be used to develop, pilot test, field test, implement, administer, or distribute any federally sponsored national test in reading, mathematics, or any other subject, unless specifically and explicitly authorized by law.” 
If it takes yet another congressional act to to force the USDoEd to adhere to the restrictions placed on it, then so be it. In the end it does not seem likely that DC will voluntarily back off. It will be up to the states and the local districts to stand up and assert the rights they already have, to say "We do not see the benefit to us in supplying you with all the reporting your program requires," "The seed money you want to dangle in front of us is pitiful compared to the lifetime cost of running this program.  Regardless of the benefits you claim the program will have, we will not establish and then accustom our taxpayers to a program we cannot afford to keep running." To the extent that Congress can cut off the funding of the people who would threaten to cut off the return of our money to us to keep us dancing their dance, we applaud the efforts of the House Education Committee. SSA will not completely stop that process. The department will still be doling out funds in the form of grants. SSA will only remove DoEd's ability to dictate the exact conditions to be met to receive the money. Beyond that, the solution lies in reclaiming our legal and rightful local control.

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