Home » Blog » Charles Barone

DFER's Blog - Charles Barone

The Untold Story of Statewide Student Assessments in Nebraska: What Does It Augur For ESEA Reauthorization?


·     Former Nebraska Commissioner of Education Doug Christensen was making the rounds on Capitol Hill last week (along with the National Education Association) arguing for a testing system very much like the one Nebraska had up until 2008.

·      The problem is that they told only part of the story. Much of what was untold is reminiscent of the chasm now between teachers and civil rights leaders on the issue of student testing in the debate over the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

·      Before 2008, Nebraska's "STARS" system allowed each of the state’s 288 school districts to devise their own reading and math assessments and set their own benchmarks for student performance.

·      Christensen quit his post when the state’s unicameral legislature enacted a statewide assessment system by a 2:1 vote margin.

·      Christensen quit even though the legislation that established statewide assessments allowed districts to continue to use STARS (or any other system) if they wanted for their own local purposes.

·       Part of Christensen's objection to statewide testing seems to stem from his belief that historically disadvantaged groups of students should not be held to the same high standards as their more privileged peers.

·      In comments he made to Alyson Klein of Education Week, Christensen seemed to blame former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for Nebraska’s move to statewide assessments. 

·      We decided to check the historical record. While it's clear Spellings did apply such pressure, Christensen does his fellow Cornhuskers a great disservice in attributing the vote in favor of statewide testing to the spinelessness of state legislators.

·      In reality, there was at least as much support for statewide testing coming from the ground up as from the top down. Please read on.

Continue reading "The Untold Story of Statewide Student Assessments in Nebraska: What Does It Augur For ESEA Reauthorization?"....

NCLB Failed? Whaaa? Student Progress: NCLB to Present

An overwhelming amount of research shows that students progressed faster academically in the ten years following NCLB than in the twenty years prior. Correlation does not prove causation. But the data are nonetheless compelling. See our DFER ESEA Infograph Brief #3: Student Gains Post-NCLB.

ESEA Infographic Brief.#3.pdf

Many thanks to our friends at Third Way for putting together some of the data illustrated in the infographs. To see their comprehensive report - which you do not want to miss -- click: here.

Coalition Opposes Chairman Kline's ESEA Reauthorization, The "Student Success Act"

Today, Democrats for Education Reform joined the Business Roundtable, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the Education Trust, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the National Conference of La Raza, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in opposition to House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline's ESEA reauthorization proposal the "Student Success Act." The bill is scheduled to be mark-ed up in Committee on Wednesday, February 11th. The full text of the letter is here:

ESEA Core Kline Letter.FINAL.pdf

Coalition: “Congress, Keep the Backbone of ESEA Strong!”

Democrats for Education Reform joined a coalition of business, civil rights, disabilities and advocacy groups today calling for robust assessment systems, public reporting of key education indicators, and accountability for student outcomes in a reauthorized ESEA.

The principles include:

  • Annual, statewide assessments of all students grades three to eight, and at least once in high school;
  • Public reporting of assessment results in a transparent and accessible way; and,
  • Accountability systems that expect faster improvement for the groups of children who have been traditionally underserved, and prompt action when any group of students underperforms. 

See the full statement of principles here:

ESEA Core Coalition Principles Release FINAL.pdf

DFER Infographic Brief #2 - Why NAEP Is Not A Substitute for Annual Statewide Testing

While some people are saying that the National Assessment of Educational Progress is a viable substitute for annual statewide tests, nothing could be farther from the truth. See our ESEA Infographic Brief Number #2 for more information here:

ESEA Info graphic Brief #2.pdf

Next Page