Test prep costs more than any lost aid from low testing numbers

Many people talk of ‘lost aid’ if too many parents REFUSE the state tests.  Retired superintendent Kenneth Mitchell is more concerned about another loss.

Any “fiscal consequence” will be less costly than the wasted resources of time, money and quality learning that districts have expended for test prep. There will be costs, but to children whose school experience has been ruined by a test prep culture and eventually to the districts whose legal funds will be exhausted when they must defend a legally indefensible and research-poor accountability system that New York’s leaders have recklessly imposed upon the system.

View:  False threats feed opt-out movement  lohud The Journal News April 23, 2015

He also challenges the talk of ‘lost aid’ because it assumes the aid WILL be lost if 95% of students do not participate, however, this is not true.

On the matter of “real” fiscal implications for failing to make a 95 percent test participation rate because of student test refusals, the New York State Council of School Superintendents issued a statement that included the following:

• There are no provisions in law that would lead to a loss of state aid due to low test participation, unless district officials refused to administer the tests or actively promoted non-participation.

• Districts failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress for a single year, including due to falling short of 95 percent participation, lose eligibility for “Reward School” Grants. These are grants paid for by federal aid and awarded to districts with schools that either have high achievement or have made the most progress in the state and do not have significant gaps in student achievement between subgroups. Only 31 schools were eligible for these grants in 2014-15.

• Schools that fail to make the participation rate target for three consecutive years can be required by the State Education Department to develop a Local Assistance Plan to address low participation.

• The state’s federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waiver eliminated the requirement that districts with schools failing to make adequate yearly progress for multiple years set aside Title I funds for specific purposes, such as professional development, extra academic help, or public school choice. Set-aside requirements remain for schools designated as Focus and Priority Schools under the state’s accountability system. Failing to make 95 percent participation this year would not lead to designation as a Focus or Priority School.

• If the state as a whole drops below 95 percent participation in the grades 3-8 assessments required by the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Education Department could impose sanctions on the state, including financial penalties that could filter down to school districts. However, there are no fixed rules to predict what penalties, if any, would be imposed. A consideration could be the extent to which the state acted to promote participation. According to NYSED, “The US Department of Education has made clear that when a district fails to ensure that students participate in required state assessments, the state education agency is expected to consider imposing sanctions on that district, including – in the most egregious cases – withholding programmatic funds. What sanctions to impose must be decided on a case by case basis, taking into account the degree and length of time the district has failed to meet participation rate requirements and the reasons for such failure.”

Kenneth Mitchell is a retired superintendent of the South Orangetown district and wrote about concerns associated with testing and other aspects of Race to the Top in a paper published back in the fall of 2012 as well – Federal Mandates on Local Education:  Costs and Consequences – Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction?  Such a shame that New York State didn’t heed his warning in 2012!