House GOP Betrayed Parents Passing the Student Success Act

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

The Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives has worked a tremendous disservice on its members and the American children, parents, and taxpayers.  Yesterday, after heavy wrangling by Republican leadership, the House of Representatives passed HR5, the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

By failing to eliminate or even curb the federal testing mandates, the bill instead serves the testing industry rather than the people.  Under NCLB, that industry has grown to a $2 billion per year industry. As reported by PR Watch:

School testing corporations have spent at least $20 million on lobbying along with wining and dining—or even hiring—policymakers in pursuit of big revenues from federal and state testing mandates under “No Child Left Behind” measures and the Common Core curriculum, according to new analysis detailed in this Reporters’ Guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

Sadly, standardized tests provide very little instructional value, take up an enormous amount of true instructional time, and cost the states enormous amounts of money.

Furthermore, HR5 amounts to an assault of child privacy interests.  It removes protection against socioemotional profiling in the statewide assessments (eliminating NCLB’s prohibition against including assessment items that “evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes”). Not only does it fail to protect against psychological data-gathering, it actually dictates the type of Brave New World assessments that operate by compiling and analyzing psychological profiles on children.  Unlike NCLB, HR5 also requires assessment on behavioral/skills-based standards rather than solely academic standards.

HR5 also grants the US Department of Education power that it had appropriated for itself to advance its Race to the Top and NCLB waiver processes. There, the Department used grants and waivers to usher the states into the Common Core.  Those mechanisms were not guaranteed, as Texas never surrendered, but they were highly coercive and effective against just about every other state.  Under HR5, money is tied to the Department’s approval of a state education plan.  The state plan must include an accountability structure based upon the adopted standards and assessments to ensure “that all public school students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.”  The Department used this same language to define alignment with the Common Core Standards and required it for approval of NCLB waivers and grants. (HR5 reinforces this alignment criteria by including that language again in its Statement of Purpose.)  The use of this language in HR5 gives the federal government a powerful tool to push states to keep Common Core or, just as happened to Indiana, “re-branded” standards similar to Common Core.

Leadership points to language in the bill prohibiting federal overreach.  However, that language replicates existing prohibitions  –prohibitions that did not stop the federal government from driving Common Core into the states.  There is a central problem with these prohibitions:  they lack an enforcement mechanism for the states and leave the Department as the judge and jury of its own actions.

It is appalling that the Republican House of Representatives passed this 800-page bill – one of the most far-reaching pieces of domestic legislation – without holding many, if any, townhall meetings. Certainly, the effort that leadership spent arm-twisting its membership would have been better spent encouraging its members to meet with their constituents and giving them time in which to do so.

Is institutional arrogance rife across all three branches of the federal government?