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August 02, 2016 6 min read

| NEWS | High School and Beyond

PARCC Continues to Fade At the High School Level

Remember that testing trend we told you about? The one that showed PARCC and Smarter Balanced losing ground at the high school level? It’s expanded to include two more states.

Rhode Island is dropping the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests for 10th and 11th graders while leaving it in place for grades 3-9. Illinois has cut PARCC back to grades 3-8.

In EdWeek’s national survey of states’ 2015-16 assessments, we reported that high school territory had eroded for both the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Only six states and the District of Columbia used PARCC last year. Now, three PARCC states have opted to stop using the test above 8th or 9th grade.

In Illinois, the state board’s decision to pare back PARCC stems in part from concerns about the testing burden ashigh school juniors face Advanced Placement and college-entrance exams, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The state’s move also echoes another trend: the displacement of PARCC and Smarter Balanced by the ACT and the SAT. Illinois students will now take the SAT.

In Rhode Island, PARCC was given in grades 3-10, but 10th graders won’t have to take it anymore. Sophomores and juniors can elect to take the PSAT or SAT. Freshmen will take PARCC’s English/language arts exam and the PARCC math test that corresponds to whichever math course they’re taking.

–Catherine Gewertz

| NEWS | Charters & Choice

Link Claimed Between U.S. Charters and Turkish Coup

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is blaming a longtime political foe and cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania for being behind the recent failed military coup in Turkey.Fethullah Gulen, the founder of what is often described as a moderate Islamic movement which remains strong in Turkey, has also been linked to science- and math-focused charter schools run by Turkish educators across this country.

Most recently, local media outlets in California, Ohio, and Texas have reported on charter schools with alleged ties to Gulen, though he does not directly run any charters.

Still, the Turkish government has hired a U.S. law firm, Amsterdam & Partners, to investigate more than 100 charters founded by followers of Gulen’s movement, according to the Associated Press. Erdogan’s government has raised objections to various issues related to the schools, including the hiring of Turkish nationals to teach in them. But Gulen’s supporters say Erdogan’s interest is political.

It’s a fight the Turkish government has taken all the way down to the local district level of American politics. In recent months, for instance, the law firm filed a complaint with Texas officials accusing the Harmony charter network of taking advantage of the U.S. visa program and favoring vendors with ties to Gulen’s movement.

–Arianna Prothero

| NEWS | Politics K-12

New Group Urges State GOP Lawmakers To Stick to Conservative Guns on ESSA

A new education policy group led by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett wants to ensure that state Republican lawmakers stick to conservative principles as they implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Conservative Leaders for Education aims to promote school choice, local control, “transparent” and “timely” accountability, and “high academic standards” chosen by states as they shift to ESSA, the new federal education law passed last year. The idea behind the group is to push those principles in statehouses, but also to have state lawmakers share specific policy ideas to match.

“NCLB is dead. We urge states to seize the day. Republicans need to step up,” Bennett said in a July 26 phone interview, referring to the previous iteration of the main federal K-12 education law, the No Child Left Behind Act. “I’ve been complaining, worrying, wondering out loud, frustrated about education as a conservative. Democrats act as if they own it, and in many ways, they have owned it.”

Conservative Leaders for Education is made up of state lawmakers who chair education committees in eight states—Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, and Wisconsin—and it will seek to add new state lawmakers in the future. (All of those states, except Colorado, have Republican governors.)

Right now, Republicans control 30 state legislatures and 31 governorships, and they have unified control of 22 states. Conservative Leaders for Education will be particularly helpful for state lawmakers who have control over K-12 policy, but aren’t necessarily veterans of education policy and political battles, said Michigan GOP Rep. Amanda Price, the chairwoman of her chamber’s education panel and a member of the new group’s steering committee.

“I think it’s going to be a unique and useful resource for us,” Price, who’s been chairwoman of her chamber’s K-12 committee for about 18 months, said in a phone interview.

–Andrew Ujifusa

| NEWS | Rules For Engagement

Guidance Flags Schools’ Responsibilities In Serving Needs of Homeless Students

The number of homeless children attending U.S. schools has roughly doubled between 2006-07 and 2013-14, and schools must work to identify and support these students, says U.S. Department of Education guidance.

The revised guidance issued last week clarifies the requirements of schools under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which was reauthorized when Congress replaced the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, at the end of 2015. It includes stronger requirements for identifying homeless students, which can be a challenge for schools, and professional-development requirements for teachers.

The new federal education law includes first-time requirements related to some vulnerable student populations. For example, states will have to break out the student-achievement data and graduation rates of these homeless students, children in foster care, and children from military families just as they have done in the past by race and ethnicity. Schools also must create procedures to ensure transfer of both full and partial academic credit for homeless students, the guidance says, among other provisions.

–Evie Blad

| NEWS | Politics K-12

Leaked Democratic Emails Include Teachers’ Union Communications

By now you’ve probably heard about the trove of emails to and from the Democratic National Committee that was released by WikiLeaks, an organization that publishes leaked documents to expose what it says is corruption and malfeasance by governments and corporations. So what links do these emails reveal between the DNC and teachers’ unions in particular?

A look at some of them illustrates some lively communication between staffers at the DNC and the American Federation of Teachers on a variety of topics, from the DNC’s sensitivity over the Common Core State Standards (“a political third rail,” one DNC communications staffer said) to the messaging over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

AFT spokesman Evan Sutton said coordination between the union and the DNC is nothing out of the ordinary. “We request information and research from allies on a regular basis, including the DNC, when we believe they may have materials that can be helpful to us in promoting our goals,” Sutton wrote in an email.

And as for the common core, Sutton said that while the AFT is on record supporting its goals, the union has also expressed concerns about its rollout and its links to “high stakes” standardized testing.

–Andrew Ujifusa

A version of this article appeared in the August 03, 2016 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week