National Alliance Urges Congress to Stand Firm on Annual Testing in ESEA

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WASHINGTON, D.C. On Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released a 400-page draft bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The discussion draft includes the Charter Schools Program reauthorization language that was introduced in the Senate in 2014.

Nina Rees, president and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, issued the following statement:

"We appreciate that the Chairman has given us an opportunity to comment on this draft.

"The National Alliance is pleased that the bill includes our recommendations to expand and improve the Charter Schools Program. The provisions in this bill would modernize the Charter Schools Program, enabling many more children to attend high quality schools. We support new provisions that reflect the significant increase in the number of children educated in charter schools since the enactment of No Child Left Behind.

"We strongly support annual tests in reading and math as they provide parents with information necessary to choose a high-quality school for their children. Without annual assessments, a schools performance is less clear and a students year-over-year achievement is more difficult to report.

"We urge Congress to maintain its commitment to our nations students through annual tests in reading and math in grades 3 through 8, as well as high school."

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools offers these principles for ESEA reauthorization, as first outlined in our comprehensive reauthorization proposal, Free to Succeed: Public Charter Schools and the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act:

1. Annual Assessments and Accountability for Student Achievement

  • Measure student achievement with annual reading and math assessments in grades 3-8. In order to ensure that parents throughout the country have access to clear, comprehensive data about school performance when choosing a school for their child, it is critical to have annual assessments in grades 3-8 (in addition to one assessment in high school).
  • Hold all schools accountable for improving student achievement of all students, as well as all groups of students. States should be required to hold schools accountable for helping all students (including members of key subgroups) meet high standards using status and growth measures of student achievement in, at a minimum, reading and math.
  • Close failing charter schools. An underlying premise of a public charter school is that if it doesnt produce results, it should close or be taken over by a new educational service provider.
  • Provide parents with clear indicators of school quality. States should provide parents with a rating system for schools that translates complex achievement data and other measures into an easily understandable framework.
  • Calculate adjusted cohort graduation rates. States should be required to continue to calculate and report four-year and extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rates that are comparable across all schools in a state.

2. Protect Autonomy and Encourage Innovation

  • Permit school-level funding flexibility. In order to use federal funds, particularly Title I, in a manner that enables the school to meet the needs of its students, schools should have flexibility in how they demonstrate compliance with the supplement not supplant requirement.
  • Expand eligibility for competitive grants. Networks of charter schools and charter management organizations should be able to apply for federal competitive grant programs that are open to local educational agencies.
  • Ensure that charters are free to design personnel systems and hire personnel that meet the unique needs of their school. A reauthorized ESEA should clarify that states are not required by federal statute (in either Title I or Title II) to include charters in state teacher evaluation systems, and should encourage states not to do so.
  • Encourage innovation through competitive grants to improve the effectiveness of teachers and principals. Allocating a portion of funds under Title II through competitive grants instead of by formula would foster innovation in the recruitment, selection, preparation, and retention of effective charter school teachers and principals serving high-need students. The competitive portion of Title II should include the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program (currently created through appropriations language), which makes grants to organizations that are providing innovative training to develop teachers and leaders for high-quality charter schools.
  • Reduce paperwork. Under current law, a state may consolidate the local application for all of the federal formula grant programs into one consolidated application for its LEAs. However, a single consolidated application can still be especially burdensome for single-school LEAs if it requires a school to do planning that is more appropriate for LEAs. The statute should clarify that states do not have to require an annual application. It should require states to exempt those schools from application requirements that do not makes sense for a single school LEA.

3. Improve and Expand the Charter Schools Grant Program

About Public Charter Schools

Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many independent research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at