Friday, March 4, 2016

The ESSA Negotiated Rulemaking Committee - update

This afternoon, the US Department of Education announced the participants (voting and non-voting) for the ESSA Title 1 negotiated rulemaking committee. I, and presumably everyone who had provided testimony to USDOE on January 11th, was invited to apply/be nominated. I wrote about the January 11th experience here and here

The parameters for the committee participants can be found on the Federal Register here. I found it odd that they asked for parents and students, but they also required you demonstrate your representation of others. Presumably, that meant USDOE would not be interested in a parent who was not connected to any large group in some way. 

Of course, I put my name in. I approached Save Our Schools New Jersey, for whom I am a volunteer organizer and Montclair Cares About Schools, an organization for whom I have a lot of respect. Both organizations came through with tremendous support. I also sought and received support from Dr. Chris Tienken, Assistant Professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University and Dr. Mark Naison, Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University.

I was not selected for the "Parents and students, including historically underserved students" slots.  Nor for the "Civil rights community, including representatives of students with disabilities, English learners, and other historically underserved students" slots. 

Who was? Well, let's just simply say that The Gates Foundation certainly spends its money well. The two parent slots went to the Immediate Past President of PTA Ohio and to the Director of Education Policy at the South East Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC) - she also used to work for the Campaign for High School Equity Coalition project, another Gates-funded initiative. 

It's disappointing to see that the parents selected are affiliated with groups that are deeply involved with The Gates Foundation to the tune of several million dollars. That money, according to The Gates Foundation website went specifically for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation, education and training of their constituents on CCSS and the aligned testing, and for developing plans for increasing awareness of CCSS. 

In the second category, the two voting members are the Migration Policy Institute and National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). Thankfully, NDRN does not take funding from The Gates Foundation. However, one of the non-voting participants in that category does, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. They are actually the reason why I started this blog. You can read what I had to say about them here. As of the end of 2014, they had about $2.9 million in Gates grants (I wrote about that here). Unfortunately, NDRN is a member of The Leadership Conference, and they have signed press releases and letters to Congress in support of mandatory testing. 

Is it too much to ask? To have representation that actually reflects what is happening right now, on the ground, to our kids? Between SEARAC, PTA, and The Leadership Conference we are looking at a $10 million Gates investment for a seat at the table. They have the "historically underserved and disabled students" buttoned up. 

Parents, I hope you are all in for one heck of fight. 

ETA: ExxonMobil has a seat at this table too. Just a friendly reminder of what CEO Rex Tillerson thinks of your children

ETA2: Oh goodie, one of the teachers is a Teach Plus fellow and currently, an inclusion teacher. That's another $17 million in Gates grants. 

So, how do you all feel about $27 million or so of Bill's bucks at the table? Think our kids get a fair shake out of this? You know what I think. 


  1. Great blog and thank you for speaking up and being an advocate for those with limited voices. Keep up the good work and do not grow weary in doing good. The fruit of your labor combined with the other fruit of those on the ground WILL REAP A HARVEST if we do not give up! Thank you for your time, sacrifices and devotion to keep us informed and for inspiring us to get involved as well. God bless you!

  2. THANK YOU to Keeping Silent Is Not An Option. :) I tried for years to be part of the conversation in our district about how school reforms were invading and hurting our schools and was, not so surprisingly for an older, mouthy, student-protective teacher, never selected to be on any panel or committee. Those who were selected? Well, I will just repeat your comment here: the Gates Foundation certainly spends its money well...

  3. I too applied, having a background in performance assessments, computer adaptive technology, and writing state benchmark standards and standardized assessments. But I'm also active in a local group that is critical of our current standardized tests: the Community Alliance for Public Education. No surprise I wasn't chosen either.