Mary Scott Hunter to Betsy DeVos: Keep your promises to the states

Mary Scott Hunter and Betsy DeVos

Despite being one of President Donald Trump‘s most controversial nominees, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had the “qualified” support of Alabama State Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter from the jump. Now Hunter is putting her support of DeVos to the test.

On Friday, she sent a letter to DeVos asking for standardized testing flexibility as the state seeks to drop the ACT Aspire test for its students in favor of alternative tests.

Earlier this year, the DeVos called for states and local school districts to have greater say in education standards and issues, citing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as the way to allow more local control. However, when Sentenace followed the ESSA approval process and submitted the state’s education plans to the federal government, the U.S. Department of Education rejected it.

But Hunter is not taking “no” for an answer.

Earlier this month, Alabama Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance requested flexibility from using ACT Aspire testing while we develop an Alabama test that is right for us.

Over the last several years we have worked hard to implement rigorous standards that will best prepare our children and youths for living and working in the 21st century. We have shaped these standards with Alabama’s values in mind while keeping our eyes on what today’s students will need to thrive in the decades to come.

At this point our best option is to receive a waiver for next year’s standardized test,” the letter continued. “This would allow us time to develop a test that aligns to our Alabama standards, is rigorous, and properly informs instruction. Alternately, we could use existing formative assessments to determine student growth.

If your Department does not grant the waiver there is a strong likelihood we will administer three different summative tests in three years, Aspire this past year, a different test next year, and yet another test the year after next. Obviously this is very undesirable for both our students and teachers.

Standardized testing is extraordinarily difficult. Getting it right has implications for Alabama for decades to come. We need time to do that.

At the time of publishing, the U.S. Department of Education has yet to grant a waiver to Alabama.

Read Hunter’s full letter below: