I wrote to the DOE on this question of what they said publicly. Here's their statement(note my highlights):
Here is what we’ve said publicly on this issue, which would apply to any state where districts or schools fall below 95% participation rate:
I wrote to OSPI, asking them whether they had this information about the feds tossing the ball on "punishment" back into the states' court.“It is the responsibility of states to ensure that all students are assessed annually because it gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations like low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities and English language learners. The Department has not had to withhold money - yet - over this requirement because states have either complied or have appropriately addressed the issue with schools or districts that assessed less than 95 percent of students."
Here's what I asked:
1) DOE is saying they stated the first paragraph publicly and it seems (I stress "seems") to say that the states will be the ones to try to convince parents to not opt out again.
(It seems more a carrot than a stick approach but if teachers/administrators got panicky, they might push too hard on parents.)
Did the DOE give any guidance on "appropriately addressed the issue" to Washington State OSPI?
3) If the Superintendent saw the DOE's statement on this issue, what is his interpretation? Because I read it as if they WANT the states to work on the issue but that they MAY still do something. (See that "yet" in there; seems ominous to me.)
Here's is what I heard back from OSPI:
1. We have been talking to the DOE but have yet to receive any firm guidance yet on this issue.
2. Yes. Any punishment(s) will come from the feds, not the state.
3. Randy hasn't seen the DOE's statement so I can't say what his interpretation is.
So I take all this to mean that:
1) The Feds are being coy on if they will bring down the financial hammer.
2) Washington State, at least, is not going to bring on any sanctions.
End of update
The NY Times has devoted much coverage to the issue of how the state/feds would deal with the massive number of students who opted out of their state testing (about 20%). Naturally that number of opt-outs caused NY state to fall way below the feds' required participation rate of 95% under NCLB. That below-the-mandated rate meant possible financial sanctions to states (likely withholding of some Title One dollars).
I missed this but on August 20th, the Times reported this:
As recently as last week, the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, said that she was not sure if the federal Education Department would withhold money from districts with high opt-out rates. She declined to rule out the possibility that the state would do so on its own.
But on Thursday, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, said that the federal Education Department informed the state’s Education Department “a couple of weeks ago” that it was leaving any decision about financial penalties to the state. And Ms. Tisch, whose board oversees the state agency and appoints the commissioner, said the state did not plan to withhold money from districts.
But, the Washington Post reports that Ms. Elia also said this:
“I think opt-out is something that is not reasonable. I am absolutely shocked if, and I don’t know that this happened, but if any educators supported and encouraged opt-outs, I think it’s unethical.”
Again, from the Times' story:
School officials need to know, Ms. Tisch said, that “they have to be responsible to work with parents to explain why the testing system is so important to the district and to the school.”
What about parents?
Asked about opt-outs on Thursday, the governor, a Democrat, sounded almost resigned about the issue. “At the end of the day, parents are in charge and parents make the decisions,” he said.
Loy Gross, co-founder of a test refusal group called United to Counter the Core, said this:
“I think parents who are most informed and educated about the nature of the tests are the very parents who are opting out,” she said. “So she can direct the superintendents to say anything they want to — I don’t think it’s going to have an impact on the opt-out rate.”
I have a call into the Department of Education because this will be quite interesting if the feds have punted the ball back to the states. As I reported in the second in my series on Washington State SBAC testing, Superintendent Dorn said he wasn't going to punish anybody and that it was up to the feds.
So if the feds are letting NY state off the hook, it may be true for other states (that's my question to the feds).
I think that the shift is not to punish schools - because, after all, that will hurt kids - but to put the thumb screws on teachers/administrators who support/remain neutral/look the other way on opt-outs in their schools/districts. That's fine if state superintendents send out that kind of directive except that I have found that you get some zealots who swing way the other way. Meaning, you can get teachers and administrators who say things to parents and students about not taking the test that are categorically not true ("you won't graduate" "you won't be eligible for any scholarships").
Many ed reform organizations as well as states are going fairly batshit crazy to stop the opt-out movement from growing. To my great surprise, both the NY Times and the Washington Post had editorials - coincidentally(?). both in the last week or so, against opting out. This demands a much longer thread on this topic and I'll get to that soon.