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ESEA/NCLB Update #118

Educators tell Congress – ‘Save our Schools’

NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen joined thousands of educators at the Save our Schools (SOS) Rally in the nation’s capital on July 30, 2011. Eskelsen, an elementary school teacher from Utah, was joined by educator and author Jonathan Kozol, education historian Diane Ravitch, and Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond among others. In her introduction of NEA Student Program President Tommie Leaders, Eskelsen told the crowd that “against all odds we still have amazing young men and women, and they’re saying I want to change the world! I know I can do that if I can be a good teacher.” Joined by concerned citizens from across the country, the educators gathered to urge national leaders to focus on education reform that provides a high-quality education for every student.

NEA urges regulatory relief without new burdens

Responding to a presidential order requiring federal agencies to reduce unnecessary federal regulations, on July 6 the Department of Education published a preliminary plan describing regulations it plans to review in the next two years. Commenting on the plan, NEA reminded the Department of its request for regulatory relief from NCLB in light of predictions that 80 percent or more of schools may soon be labeled and punished under NCLB’s faulty measurement system. NEA also warned that using the relief process to add new, burdensome conditions for schools to follow would violate the spirit of the presidential order.

Supportive school discipline initiative launched by Duncan and Holder

In response to recent concerns on the school-to-prison pipeline, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder announced that their departments would partner with the Council of State Governments and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, among others, to launch the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI). The Initiative’s goals are to: 1) build consensus for action among federal, state and local education and justice stakeholders; 2) collaborate on research and data collection; 3) develop guidance to ensure that school discipline policies and practices comply with the nation’s civil rights laws; and 4) promote awareness and knowledge about evidence-based and promising policies and practices. The announcement came at the quarterly meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention where Secretary Duncan commented: “By teaming up with stakeholders on this issue and through the work of our offices throughout the Department, we hope to promote strategies that will engage students in learning and keep them safe.”

i3 Grant Program – Innovative or Not?

A recent report released by the Bellwether Education Partners concluded that the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) initiative has mixed results. The authors found that among other positive outcomes, the i3 initiative focused national attention on the need for innovation in education and emphasized the need to scale up innovative practices. The authors, Smith and Peterson, attempted to answer the question, “To what degree did the initial i3 program make progress toward those goals, and what can we learn from that experience to continue advancing innovation in public education for the benefit of the millions of students who rely on the public school system every day?” While there were some positive outcomes, Smith and Peterson noted that narrow eligibility requirements shut out some organizations. The analysis also concluded that the “narrow definition of acceptable evidence” might have affected the applicant pool, and that the short timeline “left little room for meaningful diligence.” Applications for the second round of the i3 grants were due on August 2, 2011.

Teachers should start out making $60,000, says Education Secretary Duncan

At the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Conference, Education Secretary Duncan stated that beginning teachers should start out earning $60,000 and salaries should rise to $150,000. In his speech to teachers with NBPTS certification, Duncan said as CEO of Chicago Public Schools he called for all teachers to consider NBPTS because “National Board Certification forces teachers to understand their strengths and weaknesses and to learn how to get better.” Duncan praised the group for their recent report, Student Learning, Student Achievement: How Do Teachers Measure Up?, which provides guidance to educators and policymakers on appropriate ways to ground teacher evaluation in student learning.

Idaho wins NCLB waiver – More states to come

In the wake of Secretary Duncan’s discussion of potential relief for states burdened by NCLB regulations, many states are not waiting for the formal process to be announced. In response to Idaho’s request for a waiver from the burdensome regulations, the Department of Education allowed Idaho to maintain their proficiency targets for the coming year. While the Department of Education approved the change to Idaho’s accountability plan, they made clear it was not a formal waiver and reiterated that the state must continue on its path towards 100 percent proficiency. Both Tennessee and Michigan requested waivers as well. Tennessee requested a waiver to use its new standards, and Michigan asked that the federal rule requiring 100 percent of students be proficient on state exams by 2014 be waived for 10 years. All three states have signed on to the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Roadmap on Next-Generation State Accountability Systems, which is working to change and improve assessment systems.

No evidence vouchers help students

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) recently released a report concluding “that vouchers have had no clear positive effect on student academic achievement, and mixed outcomes for students overall.” After reviewing research conducted over a decade, CEP found that the research was often paid for by proponents of vouchers systems. As such, the results—at the very least—require additional scrutiny. The research analyzed voucher programs in Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C., among others. Find the full report, Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A Review of Major Developments and Research on the CEP Web site.

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