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NEA on the Department’s Guidance on Waiver Renewals

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García: We expected more

WASHINGTON - November 13, 2014 -

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Department's guidance on waiver renewals today at the Council of Chief State School Officers' (CCSSO) annual conference.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García was expecting more from the guidance issued today:

“We were looking for the Department of Education to provide common-sense flexibility from more of NCLB’s mandates that do not support student learning. Today’s guidance could have provided hope for educators and students who want to focus primarily on teaching and learning rather than high-stakes standardized tests. We are deeply committed to student success and opportunity for all kids and we know that testing is a part of the process, but it should not be the primary focus.

"We commend the Department’s focus in the guidance on the need to strengthen districts’ ability to help schools improve. However, if we’re serious about every child’s future, let’s get serious about doing what works. We still need thoughtful and decisive action to reduce the sheer volume of standardized tests many students endure, such as a return to grade-span testing. We need a renewed focus on doing what really works to help English language learners, students with disabilities, and all other students. Testing students more does not solve problems; the results may tell you that you have a problem.

“The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity. Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.

"There is still a lot we need to do to ensure our students have what they need to succeed. We need to continue to work on closing achievement, opportunity, and skills gaps for all students. We need to provide the necessary resources where they are needed most. We need to help those students who need our support, regardless of their zip code.

"What we do know is that the lessons learned from the waiver process should inform ESEA reauthorization efforts. We need to move away from a test-stressed system towards a balanced approach that keeps students at the center, provides them the one-on-one instruction they deserve with time for creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking.

“The NEA and its members have called for an end to the high stakes testing consequences for students and educators for some time. We need to ensure our students stay in school, are inspired, achieve, and succeed. We must get it right."

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 262-0589,