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Dist. U-46 continues to discuss report card data


The second story in a series reflecting on the District U-46 ISBE report card data.
By Seth Hancock
  How much control does a local school district still have in education?
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 was presented with its report card data from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) at its Oct. 29 meeting. The board spent time discussing federal and state involvement in education.
  The report card data showed that U-46’s academic scores are trending downward while spending is trending upwards beyond the rate of inflation.
  The current legislation governing the federal involvement in education is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed into law by former President Barack Obama (D) in 2015 which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act signed by former President George W. Bush (R) in 2002.
  Beyond the federal legislation the Common Core State Standards, which was started in 2010, was raised. Aligned to Common Core is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized test which forged common ground between board members Sue Kerr, Melissa Owens and Jeanette Ward who all expressed issues with the tests.
  According to the ISBE, “federal law requires schools to have a 95 [percent] participation rate” in order to receive federal taxpayer dollars.
  The report card data showed 99 percent participation in English and math assessments (98 percent in the state). Both U-46 and the state saw 95 percent participation in the science assessment.
  PARCC has created controversy in the states that adopted the test which included 23 states plus the District of Columbia in 2010, but now only seven continue to use the exam with one, New Jersey, planning to withdraw. In 2016, the ISBE approved continuing PARCC for third through eighth graders while the high school assessment is now the SAT.
  U-46 officials said the goals outlined in ESSA is for 90 percent proficiency among several categories (third graders at reading level, freshmen on track for graduation, fifth graders meeting or exceeding expectations in math, graduates ready for college or career) but puts a focus on student growth.
  Both Owens and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders suggested ESSA “feels very much like No Child Left Behind” on the proficiency side at least.
  Regarding growth, Owens said it may be good to look at but some schools have more room to grow than others. Sanders said “yes, but we should still expect students to grow every year,” and Kerr noted schools will be “compared to peers.”
  The report card showed that U-46 has seen declines across PARCC and SAT scores and continually lag behind the state. The most significant decline has come in English on both tests with the district dropping 10 points (36 to 26 percent) in students meeting or exceeding standards since 2015 on PARCC and dropping 32 to 29 percent on the SAT from last year, the first year of the exam.
  Ward said that Common Core, and with it PARCC, has been in place for several years now.
  “I think we’re seeing the results of that, and it doesn’t work,” Ward said.
  Sanders responded: “We’ve always had standards in education…. The standards are really just speaking to what students should know and be able to do by grade level…. Actually having standards that kids aim for and that we aim to educate kids to meet I think is an important thing for us to do.”
  Ward later replied: “I just want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting we don’t have standards. Standards are a good thing, but Common Core Standards have resulted in a de facto national curriculum that has failed our students. And that’s not anyone’s fault here, but that is a national problem.”
  School districts in states that have adopted Common Core are limited on the resources they can use based on their alignment to the national standards, and in 2009 the Obama administration created what could be viewed as a bribe through Race to the Top grants for Common Core states.
  Legally, the federal government is prohibited from developing a national curriculum through the Department of Education Organization Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the General Education Provisions Act.
  Furthermore, education is not an enumerated power of the federal government under the United States Constitution meaning sole power should be with the state governments or the people according to the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
  Ward reiterated to The Examiner that Common Core is a “de facto nationalized curriculum.”
    “They’ve tried to get around the laws and the effect is a nationalized curriculum without it actually being that,” said Ward who added: “They try to get around saying that that’s what it is, but that is what it is. Your state doesn’t get the money unless you implement Common Core.”

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