September 1, 2017

DACA Threatened, Uncertainty Around ESSA & Testing

Process and Protest: To advance educational excellence and equity, we must prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable students and communities. To accomplish this goal, we need clear processes for the deliberation and development of policy, and we need to take opposition to current and proposed policies and practices – protest – into account as a healthy part of those processes. This Newsbrief gives our sense of important and timely federal educational news within this process and protest context.

In This Newsbrief:

  • DACA Program Under Threat
  • Challenges to ESSA’s Testing Requirements

 

DACA Program Under Threat

The Issue:

In 2012, President Obama established “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA), allowing some individuals, who had come to the U.S. as undocumented immigrant children, to stay legally, work, and go to school. These individuals, known colloquially as “DREAMers,” had to register with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To date, approximately 800,000 people have registered and many have renewed their status multiple times.

Currently, the executive order that created the DACA program is still in effect, but President Trump stated repeatedly on the campaign trail that he planned to end the program. Now, sources within the White House are claiming that the end of DACA is imminent—perhaps as soon as today.

The Process:

Texas and nine other states have threatened to sue the federal government if it does not begin to phase out DACA by September 5. A suit would not end DACA immediately: the lower federal court would hear the case and issue a decision, which would likely be appealed to higher federal courts and/or the U.S. Supreme Court, a process that could take years.

Meanwhile, Senate leaders are working on a bipartisan bill to create a path to legal residency for undocumented youth. Similar bills have failed to gain traction in the past.

President Trump may announce plans to end DACA as soon as this afternoon—even though top Republican Senators have urged him against it. An end to the program would throw DACA registrants into a state of uncertainty and concern, heightened by the fact that they have registered extensive personal information, including their home address, with the U.S. government.

Learn More:

Be a Part of the Process:

  • Get Informed: Read the Migration Policy Institute’s analysis of different legislative scenarios for undocumented youthRead the text of the Senate bill here.
  • Make Your Voice Heard: Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-2311 to speak with your Congressional member about the Senate “DREAMers” bill and the companion bill in the House of Representatives, as well as about protections for undocumented students in the United States.
  • Take Local Action: Contact your state educational agency (SEA) and local school board about the future of undocumented students where you live.

Challenges to ESSA’s Testing Requirements

The Issue:

The language of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) struck a significant bipartisan compromise on testing: while each state would need to use a set of common, standardized tests to measure the academic performance of all public school students, each state would get to decide for themselves which assessments to use and how to use their results to measure and improve school performance. Test results would be comparable across the state because different schools would not be permitted to use tests of differing quality and/or difficulty. States would still maintain state authority over assessments and standards.

The Process:

Several states are now actively challenging this statutory requirement. Current laws in Arizona and New Hampshire allow individual school districts to choose for themselves what tests to administer, potentially creating a situation where these states will be out of compliance with the requirements of ESSA.

Additionally, New JerseyKentucky, and Florida have asked the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) for waivers from some of ESSA’s requirements on testing – including around administering assessments in languages other than English, assessments for students with disabilities, and course-specific assessments. It is unclear how US ED will respond to these challenges to ESSA’s legal requirements or to requests for state flexibility.

Learn More:

Be a Part of the Process: