Repost: PARCC Test Exposed


The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

Posted by Leonie Haimson at 5/14/2016 05:20:00 PM ShareThis

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Labels: 4th grade exam, Celia Oyler, censorship, PARCC, twitter

Freedom or Donald Trump: America’s Choice in 2016

Dr. Malcolm L. Rigsby's Weblog

I can’t believe what Donald Trump is at least indirectly if not directly advocating in his Charleston, South Carolina Rally held February 19, 2016. Or yes I can! Donald Trump is advocating … Listen beginning at 33 minutes into the following video coutesy of YouTube.

As a lawyer folks, speech that advocates imminent serious bodily injury or death is not protected under the US Constitution as Free Speech. This is the same hate Mongering that Adolph Hitler gradually employed in his campaign of restoring German Nationalism. It is a dangerous pivot point for the US. We are in a time of potential demise of Democracy and beginning of either autocracy or plutocracy, I am unsure which because of the blending of forms I am seeing in Trump’s campaign. I know he wants an autocracy, but it may require a power structure that includes other power figures than just he alone…

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The New SAT: All Pomp?

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 2.33.29 AM
 The College Board plans to release its redesigned SAT on March 5, 2016.
With the backlash against high-stakes standardized tests growing, more colleges and universities are discarding the SAT as a requirement. In that vein, Fairtest has been keeping a great list of SAT optional schools here and its been growing by leaps and bounds.
Whether the SAT is an accurate predictor of college success is one main reason. Colleges also cite efforts to draw diverse and more well rounded applicants, among other reasons as the basis for doing away with SAT admission requirements altogether.

Built to ferret out talent, the tests have become, for some students at least, barriers to higher education.


Harvard law professor and civil rights scholar Lani Guinier explains that the SAT is fundamentally flawed.”Scores are highly correlated with family income,” she posits. Dr. Guinier refers to the SAT as a “wealth test.” See here.


In Lani Guinier’s controversial new book, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America (Beacon Press, 2015) she describes how higher education has drifted from a mission-driven to an admission-driven system, focused almost exclusively on the predictive value of the SAT-type tests for success in the first-year of college. In fact, as she notes, the SAT only has a modest correlation with freshman-year grades, whereas grades in the four years of high school are a much stronger predictor of academic success. Guinier asserts that the SAT’s most reliable value is as a proxy for wealth in its norming to white, upper-middle class performance, as shown by the average SAT test scores based on ethnicity.


Alluding to the “Volvo effect” in Andrew Ferguson’s book, Crazy U Professor Guinier refers to the inordinate amount of funding and effort placed by wealthy parents on preparing their children for college entrance exams. As she explains, “Aptitude tests do not predict leadership, emotional intelligence, or the capacity to work with others to contribute to society” (p. 26).


Professor Guinier calls for a “culture shift” in terms of how we evaluate merit in terms of “democratic values” rather than “testocratic machinery.” (credit).


College Board Prez – and the man most notably and nefariously known as “common core architect” David Coleman  – claims that the redesigned SAT is easier and will “help remove barriers to college.”

Not all share Coleman’s enthusiasm.


Some believe the new SAT will actually be harder than its predecessor.
See here and here, for example.

Whether students can overcome inherent obstacles of the SAT exam and whether the new” SAT “removes barriers to learning,” as Coleman purports it will do, remains yet to be seen.  The reality is that there are persistent  obstacles that tend to challenge disadvantaged youth from entering higher learning arenas, such as poverty, and this has to be acknowledged, addressed and resolved in order for us to truly and genuinely achieve  equity in public education.

To my knowledge, Coleman and his reformer ilk have no such plan to actually tackle the issue of poverty they seem, at least to me, more interested in exploiting students that serve as guinea pigs for private business and investors in the public education and higher learning markets. But, I digress.



The new version of the SAT is slated to be released in just a few days.
In the meantime, leave it to David Coleman to craft a highbrow statement to introduce his latest common-core-testocratic-brainchild.
Coleman’s Press Release is an interesting read:
The College Board Elegizes Anachronistic Verbiage with Recondite Panegyric; Celebrates Final Administration of the Extant SAT® on Jan. 23
New York — Throughout its 100-year history, the abstruse vocabulary words of the SAT® have engendered prodigious vexation in millions of examinees annually. On Saturday, Jan. 23, students across the country participated in the terminal transpiration of the SAT in its habituated gestalt.
To adumbrate the changes to be manifest in future administrations of the assessment: The new SAT will be more trenchant and pellucid, and the format will no longer pertinaciously reward students who punctiliously engage in the antediluvian praxis of committing idiosyncratic words to memory.
College Board President David Coleman promulgated, “Your invectives and maledictions have been heard. Clemency has been granted.”
Many within the College Board and the academic community expressed a paucity of maudlin or mawkish emotion in response to the announcement.
“This is a new beginning for the SAT. Gone are obscure vocabulary words and tricky logic questions that are disconnected from the work students do every day,” said Stacy Caldwell, vice president of the SAT Program at the College Board. “Moving forward, students will encounter a test that focuses on the few things that matter most for college, work, and life. We believe these changes will benefit students and educators alike.”
The redesigned SAT will debut on March 5, 2016.
Gee, Im impressed with Coleman’s torrent of verbiage.
You  may have needed to look one or more of those fancy shmancy words up. I know I did.  A link to Merriam Webster Dictionary is here for your convenience.
So, will the new SAT truly “remove barriers to college” and are we embarking on a culture shift or is all the hullabaloo nothing but “pomp” with very little circumstance?
The new SAT will be released March 5, 2016.

In he meantime, here is a  list of SAT optional schools courtesy of Fairtest:


Name City State
Academy College3 Minneapolis MN
Academy of Art University San Francisco CA
Academy of Couture Art West Hollywood CA
Adventist University of Health Sciences1 Orlando FL
Agnes Scott College Decatur GA
AIB College of Business3 Des Moines IA
Albright College Reading PA
Alcorn State University1, 3 Alcorn MS
Allen University Columbia SC
Alliant International University San Diego CA
Amberton University Garland TX
Ambridge University Online
American Academy of Art Chicago IL
American Baptist College Nashville TN
American Indian College of the Assemblies of God Phoenix AZ
American InterContinental University Multiple Sites
American Jewish University Los Angeles CA
American Military University Charles Town WV
American National University Multiple Locations
American Public University System Online
American Sentinel University Online
American University Washington DC
Amridge University Online
Andrew University Online
Angelo State University3 Angelo TX
Anna Maria College 4 Paxton MA
Anthem College Online
Antioch University – Midwest Yellow Springs OH
Apex School of Theology Durham NC
Argosy University Multiple Sites
Arizona State University3 Tempe AZ
Arkansas Baptist College Little Rock AR
Arlington Baptist College1 Arlington TX
Art Institute of Atlanta Atlanta GA
Art Institute of California Multiple Sites CA
Art Institute of Charlotte Charlotte NC
Art Institute of Colorado Denver CO
Art Institute of Dallas Dallas TX
Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale Ft. Lauderdale FL
Art Institute of Houston Houston TX
Art Institute of Las Vegas Las Vegas NV
Art Institute of Michigan Novi MI
Art Institute of Philadelphia Philadelphia PA
Art Institute of Phoenix Phoenix AZ
Art Institute of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA
Art Institute of Portland Portland OR
Art Institute of Seattle Seattle WA
Art Institute of Tucson Tucson AZ
Art Institute of Washington Arlington VA
Art Institutes International Minnesota Minneapolis MN
Ashford University Online
Aspen University Online
Assumption College Worcester MA
Atlantic University College Guaynabo PR
Augustana College Rock Island IL
Baker College Multiple Sites MI
Baldwin-Wallace University Berea OH
Baptist Bible College Springfield MO
Baptist Missionary Ass’n Theological Seminary Jacksonville TX
Baptist University of the Americas San Antonio TX
Barber-Scotia1 Concord NC
Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson NY
Bard College at Simon’s Rock Great Barrington MA
Bates College Lewiston ME
Bay Path University Longmeadow MA
Bay State College Boston MA MA
Bayamon Central University Bayamon PR
Beacon College Leesburg FL
Beckfield College Florence KY
Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid Far Rockaway NY
Bellevue College Bellevue WA
Bellevue University Omaha NE
Belmont Abbey College3 Belmont NC
Beloit College Beloit WI
Bemidji State University1, 3 Bemidji MN
Benedict College3 Columbia SC
Benedictine College3 Atchison KS
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology Boston MA
Bennett College Greensboro NC
Bennington College Bennington VT
Berkeley College Multiple Locations NY
Berklee College of Music Boston MA
Beth HaMedrahs Shaarei Yosher Brooklyn NY
Beth HaTalmud Rabbinical College Brooklyn NY
Beth Medrash Govoha Lakewood NJ
Bethesda University of California Anaheim CA
Beulah Heights University Atlanta GA
Black Hills State University3 Spearfish SD
Bluefield State College3 Bluefield WV
Boricua College New York NY
Boston Architectural College Boston MA
Bowdoin College Brunswick ME
Brandeis University Waltham MA
Brandman University Online
Brazosport College Lake Jackson TX
Brevard College Brevard NC
Broadview University Orem UT
Brooks Institute Santa Barbara CA
Brown College Mendota Heights MN
Brown Mackie College Multiple Sites
Bryant & Stratton College Multiple Sites
Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr PA
Burlington College Burlington VT
Cabrini College 4 Radnor PA
California Christian College Fresno CA
California Coast University Online
California College4 Multiple Sites CA
California College of the Arts San Francisco CA
California Institute of Integral Studies San Francisco CA
California Institute of the Arts Valencia CA
California Intercontinental University Online
California Maritime Academy3 Vallejo CA
California Miramar University San Diego CA
California National University for Advanced Studies Northridge CA
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 3 Pomona CA
California University of Management and Sciences Anaheim CA
Calumet College of St. Joseph Hammond IN
Cambridge College Cambridge MA
Cameron University Lawton OK
Capella University Minneapolis MN
Caribbean University Bayamon PR
Carlos Albizu University Miami FL
Carolina Christian College Winston-Salem NC
Carrington College Online
Carver College Atlanta GA
Catawba College Salisbury NC
Catholic University of America, The Washington DC
Cazenovia College Cazenovia NY
Central Penn College 4 Summerdale PA
Central Pennsylvania College Summerdale PA
Central Washington University3 Ellensburg WA
Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim-Lebavitch Brooklyn NY
Chadron State College1 Chadron NE
Chamberlain College of Nursing Multiple Sites
Chaparral College Tucson AZ
Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science Los Angeles CA
Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary Charlotte NC
Charter College Anchorage AK
Charter Oak State College Newington CT
Chatham University Pittsburgh PA
Chipola College Marianna FL
Christopher Newport University3 Newport News VA
Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science Cincinnati OH
City College Ft. Lauderdale FL
City University Multiple Sites WA
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College Pineville KY
Cleveland Institute of Music4 Cleveland OH
Cogswell Polytechnical College Sunnyvale CA
Colby College5 Waterville ME
Colby-Sawyer College New London NH
Coleman University San Diego CA
College America Multiple Sites
College of Biblical Studies Houston TX
College of Health Sciences Roanoke VA
College of New Rochelle: School of New Resources New Rochelle NY
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas NV
College of St. Joseph in Vermont Rutland VT
College of St. Mary Magdalen Warner NH
College of the Atlantic Bar Harbor ME
College of the Humanities and Sciences Tempe AZ
Collins College Tempe AZ
Colorado College5 Colorado Springs CO
Colorado Heights University 3 Denver CO
Colorado Technical University Colorado Springs CO
Columbia Centro Universitario Caguas PR
Columbia College Multiple Sites MO
Columbia College Hollywood Tarzana CA
Columbia Southern University Orange Beach AL
Columbus College of Art & Design Columbus OH
Concordia College Selma AL
Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico San Juan PR
Cornell College Mount Vernon IA
Cornish College of the Arts Seattle WA
Cox College 6 Springfield MO
Creative Center Omaha NE
Crossroads Bible College Indianapolis IN
CSU Bakersfield3 Bakersfield CA
CSU Channel Islands 3 Camarillo CA
CSU Chico3 Chico CA
CSU Dominguez Hills3 Dominguez Hills CA
CSU East Bay3 Hayward CA
CSU Fresno3 Fresno CA
CSU Fullerton3 Fullerton CA
CSU Long Beach3 Long Beach CA
CSU Los Angeles3 Los Angeles CA
CSU Monterey Bay3 Seaside CA
CSU Northridge3 Northridge CA
CSU Sacramento3 Sacramento CA
CSU San Bernardino3 San Bernardino CA
CSU San Marcos3 San Marcos CA
CSU Stanislaus3 Stanislaus CA
Culinary Institute of America Multiple Sites
Curtis Institute of Music 1 Philadelphia PA
Daemen College Amherst NY
Dakota State University1, 3 Madison SD
Daniel Webster College Nashua NH
Darkei Noam Rabbinical College Brooklyn NY
Davenport University Multiple Sites
Daytona State College Daytona Beach FL
Dean College Franklin MA
Denison University Granville OH
Denver School of Nursing Denver CO
Design Institute of San Diego San Diego CA
DeVry University3 Multiple Sites
Dickinson State University1, 4 Dickinson ND
Digital Media Arts College Boca Raton FL
Divine Word College Epworth IA
Dixie State College Saint George UT
Donnelly College Kansas City KS
Drake University 3 Des Moines IA
Drew University Madison NJ
Dunlap-Stone University Online
Dunwoody College of Technology Minneapolis MN
Duquesne University3, 4 Pittsburgh PA
Earlham College Richmond IN
East Central University3 Ada OK
East Tennessee State University3 Johnson City TN
East Texas Baptist University 3 Marshall TX
East-West University Chicago IL
Eastern Connecticut State University3, 4 Windham CT
Eastern Oregon University 1, 3 LaGrande OR
Eastern Washington University3 Cheney WA
ECPI University Multiple Sites
EDP University of Puerto Rico Multiple Sites PR
Elizabethtown College 3 Elizabethtown PA
Ellis University Chicago IL
Elmira College Elmira NY
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Multiple Sites
Emporia State University2, 3 Emporia KS
Endicott College4 Beverly MA
Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico San Juan PR
Evangel University Springfield MO
Everglades University Fort Lauderdale FL
Ex’pression College6 Emeryville CA
Excelsior College Albany NY
Fairfield University Fairfield CT
Fairmont State College Fairmont WV
Faith Evangelical College & Seminary Tacoma WA
Family of Faith College Shawnee OK
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Los Angeles CA
Fashion Institute of Technology New York NY
Ferris State University3 Grand Rapids MI
Finlandia University Hancock MI
Florida Career College Multiple Sites FL
Florida Memorial University 1 Miami Gardens FL
Florida National University Multiple Sites FL
Florida SouthWestern State College Fort Myers FL
Florida State College Jacksonville FL
Florida Tech Online
Fort Hays State University1 Hays KS
Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster PA
Franklin Pierce University Rindge NH
Franklin University Columbus OH
Fremont College Online
Friends University Wichita KS
Friends World Program of Long Island University Brooklyn NY
Full Sail University Winter Park FL
Furman University Greenville SC
George Mason University3 Fairfax VA
George Washington Universirty Washington DC
Georgia Gwinnett College 6 Lawrenceville GA
Gettysburg College Gettysburg PA
Glenville State College3 Glenville WV
Global University Springfield MO
Globe Institute of Technology New York NY
Globe University Multiple Sites
God’s Bible School and College1 Cincinnati OH
Goddard College Plainfield VT
Golden Gate University San Francisco CA
Goldfarb School of Nursing St. Louis MO
Goodwin College East Hartford CT
Goucher College Baltimore MD
Grace Bible College1 Grand Rapids MI
Grambling State University1 Grambling LA
Grand Canyon University3 Phoenix AZ
Granite State College Concord NH
Grantham University Online
Gratz College Melrose Park PA
Great Basin College Elko NV
Green Mountain College Poultney VT
Guilford College Greensboro NC
Hamilton College5 Clinton NY
Hamilton Technical College Davenport IA
Hampshire College Amherst MA
Hampton University3 Hampton VA
Harrington College of Design Chicago IL
Harris-Stowe State University 1 St. Louis MO
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Harrisburg PA
Harrison Middleton University Online
Hartwick College Oneonta NY
Haskell Indian Nations University3 Lawrence KS
Heritage Christian University Florence AL
Heritage University Toppenish WA
Herzing University Multiple Sites
Hickey College St. Louis MO
Hilbert College Hamburg NY
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Geneva NY
Hobe Sound Bible College1 Hobe Sound FL
Hodges University Naples FL
Hofstra University4 Hempstead NY
Holy Apostles College and Seminary3 Cromwell CT
Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary Jordanville NY
Hood College3 Frederick MD
Horizon University San Diego CA
Humboldt State University (CSU)3 Arcata CA
Humphreys College Stockton CA
Huntington College of Health Sciences Online
Huntsville Bible College Huntsville AL
Hussian School of Art Philadelphia PA
Illinois College Jacksonville IL
Illinois Institute of Art Multiple Sites IL
Independence University Online
Indian River State College Fort Pierce FL
INSTE Bible College Online
Institute of American Indian Arts 6 Santa Fe NM
Institute of Computer Technology Los Angeles CA
Inter American University of Puerto Rico Multiple Sites PR
Interior Designers Institute Newport Beach CA
International Academy of Design and Technology Multiple Sites
International Baptist College Chandler AZ
International Business College Fort Wayne IN
Ithaca College Ithaca NY
ITT Technical Institute Multiple Sites
Jamestown College Jamestown ND
John F. Kennedy University Multiple Sites CA
John Paul the Great Catholic University 3 Escondido CA
Johnson & Wales University Multiple Sites
Johnson State College Johnson VT
Jones College Jacksonville FL
Jose Maria Vargas University Pembroke Pines FL
Juilliard School New York NY
Juniata College Huntington PA
Kalamazoo College Kalamazoo MI
Kansas State University2 Manhattan KS
Kaplan University Multiple Sites IA
Kehilath Yakov Rabbinical Seminary Brooklyn NY
Keiser University Fort Lauderdale FL
Kendall College3 Chicago IL
Keuka College Keuka Park NY
King’s College Wilkes-Barre PA
King’s University, The Van Nuys CA
Knoxville College1 Knoxville TN
La Sierra University3 Riverside CA
Laguna College of Art and Design Laguna Beach CA
Lake Erie College Painesville OH
Lake Forest College Lake Forest IL
Lake-Sumter State College Leesburg FL
Lamar University1, 3 Beaumont TX
Landmark College Putney VT
Langston University3 Langston OK
Laurel University High Point NC
Le Moyne College Syracuse NY
Lebanon Valley College Annville PA
Lees-McRae College Banner Elk NC
Lester L. Cox College of Nursing and Health Science Springfield MO
Life Pacific College5 San Dimas CA
Lincoln College of New England Multiple Sites CT
Lincoln University1 Jefferson City MO
Lincoln University, Oakland Oakland CA
Lindsey Wilson College1 Columbia KY
Logan University Chesterfield MO
Loma Linda University Loma Linda CA
Long Island University 4 Brooklyn NY
Longy School of Music Cambridge MA
Louisiana State University1, 3, 4 Shreveport LA
Louisiana State University — Alexandria Alexandria LA
Lourdes University Sylvania OH
Loyola University Maryland Baltimore MD
Luther Rice University Lithonia GA
Lycoming College 3 Williamsport PA
Lynn University Boca Raton FL
Machzikei Hadath Rabbinical College Brooklyn NY
Maharishi University of Management Fairfield IA
Maine College of Art Portland ME
Manhattan Christian College3 Manhattan KS
Manhattan School of Music New York NY
Manthano Christian College Westland MI
Marist College Poughkeepsie NY
Marlboro College Marlboro VT
Martin Methodist College3 Pulaski TN
Martin University Indianapolis IN
Marylhurst University Marylhurst OR
Marymount California University Rancho Palos Verdes CA
Marymount University 3 Arlington VA
Mayville State University1 Mayville ND
McDaniel College (Western MD College)3 Westminster MD
McNally Smith College of Music St. Paul MN
McNeese State University Lake Charles LA
Medgar Evers College (CUNY)4 Brooklyn NY
Mercy College Dobbs Ferry NY
Mercy College of Ohio 4 Toledo OH
Mercyhurst University Erie PA
Merrimack College North Andover MA
Mesivta of Eastern Pkwy Rabbinical Seminary Brooklyn NY
Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem of America New York NY
Mesivta Torah Vodaath Seminary Brooklyn NY
Metropolitan College of New York New York NY
Metropolitan State College of Denver3 Denver CO
Metropolitan State University3 St. Paul MN
Miami International University of Art & Design Miami FL
Miami International University of Art and Design Miami FL
Miami-Dade College Miami FL
Michigan Jewish Institute Oak Park MI
Mid-America Christian University1 Oklahoma City OK
Middle Tennessee State University1, 3 Murfreesboro TN
Middlebury College5 Middlebury VT
Midland University3 Fremont NE
Midstate College Peoria IL
Midwestern State University3 Wichita Falls TX
Miles College1 Fairfield AL
Miller-Motte College Multiple Sites
Mills College Oakland CA
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design Milwaukee WI
Minerva Schools at KGI San Francisco CA
Minnesota Bible College1 Rochester MN
Minnesota School of Business Multiple Sites MN
Minnesota State University1, 3 Mankato MN
Minot State University1 Minot ND
Mirrer Yeshiva Brooklyn NY
Mississippi University for Women1, 3 Columbus MS
Mississippi Valley State University1, 3 Itta Bena MS
Missouri Southern State University Joplin MO
Missouri Tech6 St. Charles MO
Missouri Western State University3 St. Joseph MO
Mitchell College New London CT
Monroe College New York NY
Montana State University: Billings1, 3 Billings MT
Montana State University: Bozeman1, 3 Bozeman MT
Montana State University: Northern1, 3 Havre MT
Montclair State University Montclair NJ
Montserrat College of Art Beverly MA
Moore College of Art & Design Philadelphia PA
Moorehead State University3 Moorhead MN
Morris College Sumter SC
Mount Angel Seminary St. Benedict OR
Mount Holyoke College South Hadley MA
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John Sheffield for New York Board of Regents


Below is a guest post by Yvonne Gasperino, co-founder of Stop Common Core in New York State. Gasperino composed this post, an effort to feature John Sheffield, candidate for the New York Board of regents, at my request.


When it comes to the education of children in the state of New York, the Board of Regents holds a lot of influence, power and control. They supervise all educational activities within the state and preside over the State University New York (SUNY) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).  Board members and chairs are appointed by the Regents chancellor, also, Regents includes 17 members elected by the state legislature for five-year terms: one from each of the State’s 13 judicial districts and four members that serve at large.

New York State (NYS) legislators (most of whom are not educators) dictate the election process. However, a very few were former educators, for instance…

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John Thompson: Opt Out is Frightening the Politicians 

Diane Ravitch's blog

John Thompson, historian and teacher, writes that parents have shaken up the education landscape:

“February has always been a time when blizzards keep blowing across the nation but, too often, it now marks the end of meaningful learning in our classrooms. Long before Spring arrives, the test prep season begins, followed by the annual testing ordeal. During the last few years, however, the grassroots Opt Out movement has risen to the occasion, and fought to restore authentic teaching and meaningful learning to public schools.

The refusal of parents and students to participate in the test, sort, reward, and punish season has knocked the corporate reform movement back on its heels. It has undermined the imposition of Common Core and value-added evaluations, which were top-down mandates enforced by High Stakes Testing. The assertion of families’ democratic rights to choose engaging and respectful instruction, and reject soul-killing teach-to-the-test, has predictably prompted some…

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NY Times: 8 Experts Censure Moskowitz SA Methods

Diane Ravitch's blog

The New York Times asked eight education experts to review and evaluate the video of a teacher at Success Academy charter school humiliating/chastising a first-grade child. All of them agreed that the teacher’s actions were inappropriate. The child had not misbehaved. She gave a wrong answer. The teacher ripped her paper and sent her away to sit in a “calming” corner. The child was not agitated and in need of calming; the teacher was.

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Review of Withholding Penalty History Confirms Threats Are Punitive And Improper: USDOE Is All Bark. No Bite.

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USDOE Is All Bark. No Bite.

In response to escalation of the opt out movement in New York State, now-former U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Secretary Arne Duncan and others at the USDOE have advanced a litany of threats, warning that they will withhold Title 1 funding from states if they fail to comply with federal testing mandates, with the States, in turn, threatening to withhold Title 1 aid from school districts with high opt out numbers.

In the 2014-15 school year, about 20% of eligible New York students refused the grades 3-8 State math and ELA assessments being administered by public school districts across the State. In total, about 200,000 students refused the assessments, with some districts experiencing opt-out rates well above 50%.

MaryEllen Elia is the new Commissioner of the New York State Education Department (NYSED or SED).  Despite her various statements that acknowledge a parent’s right to opt out (refuse) the grades 3-8 State assessments (see video at minutes 02:00 to 02:25, and 10:55 to 11:14); despite her statements that teachers CAN speak to parents (under certain circumstances) about the state  assessments and whether to refuse them (see video at minutes 02:25 to 04:50); and despite her statements that NYSED does NOT have any unilateral legal authority to withhold Title 1 funding from schools with high opt out rates (see video at minutes 04:50 to 06:55); she nevertheless has been vigorous in her efforts to intimidate school districts and discourage test refusals. “Let me say this very clearly: I think opt-out is something that is not reasonable. I understand that it came about as a result of people wanting to become involved in what they thought was the political way to approach it. If any educator supported or encouraged opt-outs, I think it’s unethical” she said here

As American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently pointed out here, USDOE’s threats fly in the face of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and penalties for opting out are beyond USDOE’s reach.

Yet, Commissioner Elia has shown no interest in pushing back against USDOE’s tyranny, notwithstanding that she has an army of well-informed, brave parents and even the law behind her. In fact, Elia warned that while there would be no penalties for districts with large opt-out numbers in 2014-15, such as the withholding of federal funding, for the 2015-16 year – she warns districts could be sanctioned if the movement continues.

The department created a “tool kit,” to discourage opt outs which included rhetoric filled presentations, fact sheets and even social media tag lines and strategies, for district superintendents to use to “communicate” more effectively with parents.

The federal government did not sanction New York State for its high 2015 opt out rates, and some believe that USDOE left that decision up to the State. Given the barrage of threats now coming down from USDOE and Commissioner Elia’s response, many worry New York State may not be so lucky in 2016 – that Title 1 funding loss could be a possibility.

Despite several threats from USDOE, it is still not clear what legal “range of enforcement actions,” if any, the USDOE has at its disposal vis-a-vis the opt out rates, nor has plenary authority to withhold Title 1 funds been adequately explained by State and/or federal officials.

A review of USDOE withholding penalty cases confirms what opt out parents already know: USDOE is all bark, no legal bite, when it comes to low participation rates based on high opt out numbers. USDOE’s threats to stymie opt outs are punitive and improper.

Withholding Penalty

Procedurally-speaking, under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the USDOE has the power to conduct withholding hearings in the event a state fails to comply with federal requirements.

Although states that do not substantially comply with NCLB (and ESSA) may be subject to enforcement actions, USDOE’s case history shows that they have rarely exercised this option and, in the rare instances that they have done so, the cases are no slam dunk.

The USDOE  has sent opt out warning letters to New York and 12 other states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin. To read each states warning letter, see here. States on USDOE’s opt out warning list must demonstrate what efforts they are taking to comply with NCLB. USDOE has asked, and NYSED has reported to USODE personnel, demonstrating how and that NYS has “substantially” complied with federal testing statutes.

For example, on page 9 of an April 2015 memo to the New York State Board of Regents, NYSED explained the importance of “full participation” in the State assessments. 

Meanwhile, USDOE has been relentless in hounding NYS in order to stymie test refusals. In a letter dated December 22, 2015, USDOE’s Ann Whalen (previously employed at Peter Cunningham’s “Education Post,” a nefarious reformer rag) advised states to penalize their school districts if the districts fail to deliver 95% participation during the Spring 2016 assessments. 

On December 22, 2015, Commissioner Elia sent a letter to USDOE in which she outlined the steps that she planned to take to promote the 95% participation rate and impede test refusals state-wide. Commissioner Elia’s December 22, 2015 letter is not directed to USDOE’s Ann Whalen; rather, it is directed to Acting Director of State Support Patrick Rooney, in reply to USDOE’s Monique Chism’s October 19, 2015 letter — which apparently was also threatening.

From Monique Chism’s October 19, 2015 letter to Commissioner Elia:

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Commissioner Elia’s letter in reply to Chism provides “information about how New York is addressing deficits in meeting the participation rate requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.” 

According to Ann Whalen and other USDOE employees, states must deliver scores and ensure that all students take the grades 3-8 assessments; USDOE ignores the reality that many well-informed New York State parents object to such assessments, and will not allow their children to be forced to take federally-mandated assessments.

In fact, parent advocates denounce USDOE’s tactics and have assured the USDOE that parents will not be swayed by idle threats and will continue to opt out en masse in order to protect their children from governmental harm.

Withholding Penalty Cases

In a 2014 letter to the Colorado Education Department, USDOE claims to have withheld Title 1 funds from several states for failure to comply with the assessment requirements. Interestingly, the statute cited by USDOE in support of the penalty was NOT the section from NCLB that addresses the 95% participation rate.  Note, also, that administrative funds — not program funds — were at issue in that withholding case:

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After researching USDOE’s case history, I was not able to find evidence that USDOE had withheld funds from several states as they claimed.  Although it is possible that other cases may exist in another arena, research of USDOE’s records yield only two instances in which USDOE filed and adjudicated a case that resulted in a withholding penalty against a state.

According to USDOE’s website Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA), the OHA “provides an independent forum for the fair, impartial, equitable, and timely resolution of disputes involving the U.S. Department of Education and recipients of Federal Education Funds.” The website publishes decisions issued by OHA and by the USDOE Secretary, in searchable form.

In a 1995 case, USDOE threatened to withhold funds from the State of Virginia based on a violation of the IDEA. In that case, Virginia’s regulations, as implemented, did not comply with the IDEA.  In other words, there was malfeasance on the part of the State of Virginia.  The USDOE Secretary ruled to withhold IDEA funds from Virginia. However, the decision clearly stated that the ruling was stayed pending appeal; the reality was that Virginia had access to its IDEA money for a time despite the ruling.

The Department urges the Secretary to uphold the Initial Decision and to order that Part funding to Virginia be withheld until such time as Virginia complies with the IDEA noting that although Virginia argues it is harmed by a withholding decision, Virginia continued to have access to its FY 1994 funding and will, as the Assistant Secretary has recommended in this matter, have access to its FY 1995 funding pending any appeal of my decision in this matter. Thus, I will not disturb the Hearing Officer’s ruling that the withholding of unobligated FY 1995 IDEA PartB funds and any future funding under IDEA-B is the appropriate remedy in this matter, but that such ruling be stayed pending any appeal of this matter. “

It is not clear what happened in Virginia after said ruling was issued.

With regard to withholding proceedings regarding education matters/assessments, there is a very interesting 2008 withholding penalty case in which the USDOE threatened to withhold $1 million in Title 1 administrative fees from the State of California based on the allegation that the State of California had decided to administer allegedly inappropriate assessments to some of its students — in other words, again based on alleged malfeasance on the part of the State.  In the legal papers there is much discussion about the withholding penalty, Congressional intent, and the Secretary of Education’s penalty powers. But, complications ensued with the USDOE’s case, leading to the petitioner, USDOE, being lambasted by an Administrative Law Judge and USDOE’s action blocked for bending the law, impropriety, and other bad conduct.

The Assistant Secretary had issued an Order to Show Cause letter informing the State of California that USDOE sought to withhold $1 million, and alleging that California failed to comply with various requirements of NCLB and ESEA. 

An Assistant USDOE Secretary hit the State of California with a withholding penalty notice without an opportunity to be heard on the matter. California requested a violation of due process hearing before an Administrative Law Judge who found that the USDOE conduct was “without legal authorization.” The Administrative Law Judge sharply criticized USDOE’s handling of the California case and found that the Assistant Secretary had acted improperly by attempting to prosecute the case while adjudicating as trier of fact.

in that case, the Administrative Law Judge scolded USDOE:

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Notwithstanding USDOE’s hanky panky, the Administrative Law Judge in the case made it clear that Congress intended for the States to have due process — fair notice and an opportunity to be heard — before a withholding penalty could be issued and imposed… a requirement that USDOE tried to skirt. 

To be clear, the funds at issue in the California withholding penalty case were Title I Part A Administrative funds (as opposed to actual Title 1 Program funds). 

At the end of the day, the case was remanded to the USDOE and former Secretary Duncan adjudicated the case to a resolution, but it was not the outcome USDOE wanted. Of import, in his decision Secretary Duncan declined to approve the Assistant Secretary’s application for $1 million in  withholding and instead reduced the penalty amount to a “mere” $50,000. 

The reasons behind that decision are very compelling.

In ruling to reduce the withholding penalty, former Secretary Duncan opined that the Assistant Secretary had erred in setting the amount at $1 million.  Beyond that, Duncan conceded that there were mitigating circumstances that warranted a penalty reduction with $1 million wildly excessive as such a penalty would greatly prejudice the state’s ability to close achievement gaps and also harm the economy, among other things:

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Remember —  the $50,000 ordered withheld from the State of California was drawn from its Title I, Part A allocation for administrative activities, and it was due to conduct specifically attributable to the State.

It goes without saying that withholding penalty cases are very rare.  It also seems that in the case of opt outs, a withholding penalty is indefensible by the government.  First, USDOE must prove that the state failed to substantially comply with the statute; in this case, tens of thousands of NYS parents chose to refuse the test despite the State’s efforts to achieve a 95% participation rate.  Second, there are many mitigating factors that would make a large withholding penalty egregiously improper if not prejudicial.

Mitigating Factors

Title 1 money is automatically granted based on the number of impoverished and/or at-risk children in a given school district.  The entire intent, spirit, and purpose behind NCLB Title 1 funding is to raise the achievement of, and bridge the achievement gap between, these low-income and at-risk students, and the rest of the student population.  Based on this formulation, USDOE provides the supplemental funding to states that, in turn, disburse that money to its local school districts to meet the needs of their respective at-risk and/or low-income students.   The basic principles of Title 1 state that schools with low-income and/or at-risk students will receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting students’ educational goals.  Low-income students are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program.

This policy is committed to closing the achievement gap between low-income and/or at-risk students and other students and its purpose “is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments”, per USDOE website

Title 1 funds typically support supplemental instruction in reading and math and the funds can be used in many ways to provide help and support to impoverished and at-risk children.

Indeed, balancing equity, parent engagement, and involvement is the cornerstone of Title 1.  This then begs the question, what better way to participate in your child’s education than by making a well-informed decision to refuse to allow your child to participate in state-sanctioned abusive testing practices?

Beyond that, as is evident from the OHA California case discussed above, then-Secretary Duncan clearly recognized that withholding $1 million was unreasonable and would greatly prejudice students and the State of California.

According to the Congressional Equity and Excellence Commission report of 2014 ,   Title I, the centerpiece of the original 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was designed as Lyndon Johnson’s compensatory education program and intended to help equalize resources for school districts the rationale being that school districts with children living in poverty also tend to lack local property wealth that can be taxed.  

As to Title 1, the Commission members opined that:

“The common situation in America is that schools in poor communities spend less per pupil—and often many thousands of dollars less per pupil—than schools in nearby affluent communities, meaning poor schools can’t compete for the best teaching and principal talent in a local labor market and can’t implement the high-end technology and rigorous academic and enrichment programs needed to enhance student performance. This is arguably the most important equity-related variable in American schooling today.  Let’s be honest: We are also an outlier in how many of our children are growing up in poverty… We are also an outlier in how we concentrate those children, isolating them in certain schools—often resource-starved schools—which only magnifies poverty’s impact and makes high achievement that much harder.” 

Interestingly, acting USDOE Secretary Jon King (formerly NYSED Commissioner) served on the Congressional Equity and Excellence Commission. The nefarious and former Commissioner King is well known for playing the “equity” card in support of flawed reforms. One has to wonder how it is possible for Acting Secretary King to advance “equity” when USDOE is threatening to withhold funds from disadvantaged students who desperately need said funding the most?

It cannot be disputed that school funding formulas tend to ignore inequality in the capacities of local school districts to raise revenue hence the need for Title 1 funds.  Wealthy districts (which tend to be suburbs) provide the latest in offerings and equipment and staff-student ratios, while impoverished districts (that tend to be urban/city and rural areas)cannot afford to augment their services or provide a sound basic education.  Title 1 is the one federal law that was intended by its 1965 sponsors to help level the playing field in order to close the gap in disparity for that very purpose: equity in education.

Acting USDOE Secretary King and his ilk throw around the term “equity” but then idly and callously threaten to withhold the very same funds that were dispersed to support that very need. Threats by USDOE to withhold such funds from the neediest of districts due to opt outs flies in the face of the statute’s intent and purpose not to mention it is incredibly punitive.

Moreover, I would argue that in making a decision as to how much money should be withheld, if any, the trier of fact must consider mitigating circumstances and elevate the needs of impoverished and vulnerable students above federal “policy” interests in order to comply themselves with the spirit and intent of federal laws.

The state is already derelict in failing to provide adequate funding to public school students, as lawsuits aptly show.  Thanks to the trifecta of Gap Elimination Aid, frozen Foundation Aid and the Real Property Tax Cap and a reform based privatization agenda, New York public school children have been consistently denied their Constitutional right to a sound basic education. 

To add insult to injury,  USDOEs threats continue to confuse  –  after the New York State Governor and Commissioner of Education have already agreed that the existing Common Core and testing regimen is fatally flawed and parents making informed and difficult decisions are in the best position to decide what is best for their children.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia concedes, “Parents can choose whether or not to take the test…if parents understand [our rationale for testing] and they still want their child to opt out, that certainly is their right.”

Likewise, Governor Andrew Cuomo admits, “At the end of the day, parents are in charge and parents make the decisions.”

It stands to reason, parents should not have the added burden of coercion or intimidation by school personnel or the state when it comes to subjecting children to the draconian high stakes nature of the Common Core tests.

In New York State, officials have acknowledged that parents have the right to refuse the test.

Threatening to withhold Title 1 money from New York’s disadvantaged students due to high opt outs is a misrepresentation of the facts, a miscarriage of justice and has got to be one of the most egregious, ill-conceived threats ever against public school children. Consider this as well: impoverished and at-risk children did not comprise the majority of the children opting out yet the withholding penalty will strike them hardest.

Compounding an already dire problem, unfunded mandates such as Common Core add to the burden that already weighs heavily on school district taxpaying parents at the expense of public school children.

State and federal officials must not intrude when parents seek to make choices about what is best for their own children. There are aspects of the NYS Testing program that parents may find questionable and objectionable for educational, political, social, ethical and/or religious reasons. The decision to refuse the test does not come lightly. It is a family decision that is simply beyond the control of administrators and teachers.

The law provides penalties when 95% participation is not met due to systematic exclusion, but USDOE has no legal bite when public school children refuse in an act of civil disobedience.  Attaching “penalties” to opt out  is not only  beyond the USDOE’s reach, but is incredibly punitive and improper.

USDOE Is All Bark.

No Bite.


This blog post was researched and written by Anna Shah for informational purposes and should be construed as opinion, not legal advice. Special thanks to Deborah Brooks for contributing to this piece.