A representative of the National Conference of State Legislatures says although the new “Every Student Succeeds Act” is a lot more flexible than the “No Child Left Behind” program, there are still some requirements local schools will have to meet.
And the federal affairs counsel of the NCSL said state legislators will have to be involved, as the federal rules are written.
Lee Posey told the Legislature’s Interim Education Committee, Congress kept the concept of statewide assessments first outlined by No Child Left Behind.
"In other words, assessing every child in reading and in math, every year in 3rd through 8th grade," Posey said. "Then, once the student is in high school, testing in science."
Posey said the standardized tests were very controversial – and led to a number of parents having their children opt-out of the tests. But she says Congress believes assessments are critical.
"They were hopeful that, with some of the new flexibility provided around some of the assessments, they would be able to do some different things, and the conversation might change a little bit," Posey said. "We'll have to see if that happens."
Posey said the law still requires a 95 percent participation rate by students in those assessments – and if parents choose an opt-out option, those students are still counted among those who did not participate.
Some committee members were worried about what punishment might result from a less than a 95 percent participation rate. Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck) said there has been an “opt-out” movement – and rural schools could get hit hard, because it doesn’t take many students opting-out to get below that 95 percent threshold.
"Is there a recourse for these schools, that go to the feds and say, 'Hey, here's the situation. We had nothing to do with it. It's a movement,'" Nathe said. "Why do the rural schools and small schools get punished for something they have nothing to do with?"
Posey said that issue bears watching, as the federal Department of Education writes the rules to implement the bill.