Bombshell: Duncan breaks law – NAEP Now High Stakes Test

In a nutshell: Secretary Arne Duncan violated federal law seeking to punish state school disability programs, got caught big time, and a federal Dept. of Education official is here in Utah on a “routine” visit. Time for a protest.

What you are about to read should result in congressional hearings and Arne Duncan probably being fired as the US Secretary of Education.

Federal law sets forth certain things that can be done under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). No one may circumvent those laws. Only Congress can change laws, but because of the current Executive Branch’s agenda to bring states under federal control, grant-based regulations and mandates have increasingly been created by Secretary Duncan, in violation of the Constitution.

On June 24, 2014, Secretary Duncan circumvented congress and issued mandates for changes in the way state special education programs are evaluated. (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-accountability-framework-raises-bar-state-special-education-programs)

“To improve the educational outcomes of America’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education today announced a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs.”

He then went on to explain what changes he is mandating.

Eight U.S. senators prepared a letter explaining the violations of law involved in Duncan’s action and asked the Secretary a number of very pointed questions. Evidently, Senator Hatch from Utah walked that letter into a meeting, interrupting it, to deliver it to Secretary Duncan. The senators’ letter is embedded at the bottom of this article.

In essence, the mandate changes the way the school funding game is played by suddenly announcing that historical NAEP test score data will be used retroactively to evaluate federal funding on schools that have children with disabilities. As the senators’ letter points out this is a very clear violation of the law.

Duncan calls this new framework, “Results-Driven Accountability.” It’s simply unconstitutional and illegal. The press release states:

“Last year, when the Department considered only compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements. This year, however, when the Department includes data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.”

Why are they so eager to tell states they aren’t meeting requirements? So they can enact more requirements. It’s the way things work for those in power. Tell schools they aren’t performing and then punish them with additional requirements.

Utah happens to be coming up short and is on the list of states that “need assistance.” The USDOE continues, “If a state needs assistance for two years in a row, IDEA requires the Department to take actions such as requiring the state to obtain technical assistance or identifying the state as a high-risk grant recipient.”

So Utah is at risk of losing federal funds due to the feds moving the goal post and mandating, against the rules of the game, that teams retroactively enact the new rules. Suddenly the score that was 14-0, is 0-0.

Now I’m no fan of federal funding in any respect and I’d love to see it abolished, but until we are able to accomplish that, this is an egregious violation of the law and should result in Duncan and maybe others being short-timers on the hill for their actions.

NAEP was supposed to be for a common set of data between the states and was mandated to never be used for high stakes testing determination.

So what kind of “technical assistance” does the USDOE have in mind?

“As part of the move to RDA, OSERS [Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services] will fund a new $50 million technical assistance center – the Center on Systemic Improvement – to help states leverage the $11.5 billion in federal special education funds which they currently receive to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. In addition, OSERS will be working with each state to support them in developing comprehensive plans designed to improve results for children with disabilities.”

Because so many states were suddenly deemed to be below threshold (without knowing that’s how they would be evaluated), we’re going to see a new federal “assistance” center because obviously the states aren’t capable of educating children with disabilities. We “need” that federal help…  (Oh, and Common Core isn’t being pushed by the feds either, of course.)

Interestingly, Gregory Corr, the Director of Monitoring and State Improvement Planning at OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs), is coming to Utah *right now* to do some type of investigation. This is beyond normal. Directors don’t go to states on “routine” visits.  I understand he will be at the State Office of Education on Thursday.

Please come to the protest on Thursday at 11:00 – 12:30 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 West 200 South. The parking lot is shared with the US post office. Help tell the the feds to stop violating the law, stop violating Utah’s sovereignty, and stop messing with children with disabilities. It’s OUR education system. Lets give Greg a “warm” welcome. Bring your signs.

 

Secretary Arne Duncan Busted

13 thoughts on “Bombshell: Duncan breaks law – NAEP Now High Stakes Test”

  1. I don’t know the ins/outs of what is being proposed but as a mom to two special needs kids who have received services in 3 school districts and had to file Due Process Hearings (lawsuits) against Utah’s newest school district 3x in 3 years because of Special Ed failures I can tell you the system is broken. Yes there are many hard working wonderful special educators in the trenches every day doing all they can to help kids that may or may not be able to do more. In our situation key things were missed/denied etc. With one child we were told the spring before 1st grade not to expect much/she could only handle being mainstreamed for 20 minutes per day due to becoming overwhelmed. We had asked repeatedly for auditory training through various programs including The Listening Program (available in the District) but these were denied (granted to some but not us). In August we started TLP at home, within the first 2 weeks of school we got a phone call saying how well our child was doing and asking if she could spend more time in the mainstream classroom. Within the first 4-6 weeks of school she was mainstreamed full time and has been successfully ever since (now a teenager). The school/district claimed that she had just made dramatic progress for some unknown reason but we knew otherwise. She finally had her auditory needs met through our efforts because the school/district refused to address them even though they had the resources available to do so. It was life changing for our child. With another child – progress was extremely slow with Early Intervention services and despite all of the teachers/therapists that worked with her from the school system no one ever mentioned a concern about her staring spells. Finally we saw a news story about seizures being common in kids with Autism and so we saw a Neurologist and had testing done. Sure enough she was having multiple seizures every day during those staring spells. We got her on medication and her progress went through the roof. She was 4 when she started talking despite starting Early Intervention services with speech and other things at 18 months. Again the school system said just some magical growth spurt when she started talking but we know otherwise. This child has some other challenges and is still trying to catch up years later but if we had just followed the lead of the school people she’d still probably be staring off/not making progress and be in a special ed class forever. She is now homeschooled because of all of her needs and the damage that was done with not doing what was needed in those important early years. Since these experiences I have been a strong advocate for my kids. I watched both attend a special charter school for kids with disabilities – it failed them both. My oldest was bored out of her mind, they wouldn’t give her work at the higher level that she could do and she ended up on medical leave for depression because of it (she never returned and is thriving at a different school now). My youngest was finally accepted at the charter and had “friends” but extensive private testing showed she was falling significantly behind (anywhere from 1-3 grade levels) and the charter claimed she was at grade level. We began to question what grade level? We were then the bad guy. This child has always hated math – she is now homeschooled and using a math program that she loves. She asks every morning if she can use it, I never thought I’d see this.

    It’s important to recognize peoples limitations but it’s also important to recognize their strengths. Our Final Due Process filing resulted in a 4 day hearing with Attorneys/Expert Witnesses etc. A teacher admitted to Physically reprimanding our child, a school district argued that there may have been some regression but as long as they provided something they provided what was required. The Hearing Officer ruled that regression was ok as long as the child made progress somewhere (implied that natural progress ok). This is not ok – schools need to do more/better. Yes there are situations where kids are the best they will ever be but there are also kids like mine that have important things missed and are capable of more but the status quo seems ok. I’m not ok with that.

  2. The bottom line for me is that when Utah education leaders and legislators allow the federal government to step on our Constitutional right to control education locally (because of money bribes) we lose the power to effectively run and care for our own schools and the children in them. We have to say to the federal department of education that the buck has stopped. No more. Don’t Tread On Me. Our children can’t push back– this is OUR responsiblity! Please show up at tomorrow’s protest, and bring friends.

    1. Christel:
      It needs to be the bottom line for all Americans. When the Constitution is seen as an offering of suggestions we become a nation lost.
      Keep up the good work and hello from Vegas!

  3. Christel I believe we should have local control but as with anything if we accept federal money then they are going to be involved. Sad but true

  4. Yes, Melissa. One answer might be to scale back or eliminate the State Office of Education. We need to be independent of federal monies and somewhere, we have to cut back spending if we are to cut ties with the feds, as we should (constitutionally). Utah law allows for a State School Board, but the enormous State Offices and salaries are a growth we never created by law– they have evolved seemingly on their own. They suck up an enormous amount of education funding and those “leaders” there cannot be voted out because they are government employees, not elected officials. I’d like to know exactly how many tax dollars go there in comparison to how many tax dollars go to actual teachers and books and desks and chairs.

  5. Things are far from perfect in our local districts, but if you think it is difficult to affect change for your kids education at the disrict and state level, can you imagine your chances with direct control from a federal bureaucracy?

  6. So frustrated with special ed. Three years of intervention limbo for one child. Consequently he is 19 and still attending an alternative high school. I served on my school’s LCMT team last year. There was a child that I brought to LCMT five years ago still doing interventions to qualify for special education services. This is outrageous! Something is wrong and our new high stakes testing mantra is making it harder for these children and their teachers. I cannot attend at that time but I would love to give them all a piece of my mind!

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