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ESEA/NCLB Update #119

Administration announces plan to provide relief from NCLB

On August 8, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education announced plans to offer regulatory “flexibility” from NCLB requirements in exchange for as-yet-undetermined reform commitments by states.  The waiver or flexibility package will be unveiled in mid-September. “With no clear path to a bipartisan bill in Congress, the President has directed us to move forward with an administrative process to provide flexibility within the law for states and districts that are willing to embrace reform," said White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes.

It remains unclear what the conditions for NCLB relief will entail.  In a press release, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel voiced concern with plans to attach preconditions to NCLB relief, stating, “What we need now is teacher-led and student-focused comprehensive reform instead of making states jump through more hoops. The Administration should be leading efforts that support all students and schools by providing real relief from parts of the law that everyone acknowledges simply don’t work.”

What is clear is that, in the absence of ESEA reauthorization or federal regulatory relief, all 50 states and D.C. are likely to miss NCLB’s unrealistic deadline of 100 percent proficiency by 2014.  Faced with this reality, several states already had submitted waiver requests even before the Administration’s formal announcement, and a few states, including Montana and Idaho, already have been granted limited forms of relief by the U.S. Department of Education.

Center on Education Policy announces tool to track regulatory relief

Trying to keep up with the rapidly unfolding dialogue between states and the Department of Education on regulatory relief and waivers? The Center on Education Policy has a solution. CEP has created an “NCLB Waiver Watch” with a state map linked to relevant statements from the Department of Education and other influential voices. CEP says it will try to update the map daily.

Has NCLB harmed children’s creativity?

NCLB may be partly responsible for a decline in children’s creativity, according to William and Mary Professor Kyung Hee Kim who documented the decline in a 2010 study. She recently told LiveScience: “I believe No Child Left Behind ... really hurt creativity. If we just focus on just No Child Left Behind — testing, testing, testing — then how can creative students survive?” Kim also suggested that TV watching may be a cause of the decline. Kim’s study reviewed 300,000 Torrance tests administered between 1968 and 2009. The Torrance test is used to predict creative achievement.

ASCD to map whole child efforts

ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, which takes a much broader view of a child’s development than NCLB, has created a map highlighting successful whole child efforts across the country. According to a release, “the map recognizes schools and communities that move beyond a narrow focus on academic achievement to take action for the whole child, developing learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling.” NEA is a partner in the Whole Child Initiative.

Duncan testifies on FY 2012 budget

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sought support for the Administration’s education budget in July 27 testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Duncan highlighted the need to close the Pell shortfall and to ensure funding for public school students most at risk. “We must continue to invest in programs like Title I and IDEA and programs that help support literacy, science and mathematics, and other subjects necessary for a well-rounded education and provide a rich offering of after-school activities,” Duncan said. The Secretary also promoted his reform programs such as Race to the Top and called for adequate funding for federal student aid.

ED to states: don’t miss that deadline

The Department of Education has written a letter to governors urging them to review their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) fund balances. The resources for FY 2009 awards were made available for obligation through the end of FY 2010 and by law remain available for obligation through the end of FY 2011—September 30, 2011.  The Department has also posted a table to alert the public of state-specific balances remaining.

GAO says SIG implementation could be improved

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the implementation of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program in six sample states found significant differences between states in implementation. Among the findings:
• Some states implemented SIG more rigorously than others, and those that awarded grants selectively “may be positioned to better student achievement outcomes.”
• Local capacity and short time frames to implement changes impacted the implementation process.
• Many officials said teacher and union buy-in facilitated reform.
• Implementation was particularly challenging in rural areas.
The report urges the Department to give districts and schools more time to plan and implement SIG reforms in the future using options such as “an earlier deadline for state applications” or “approving state applications with timelines that allow for earlier awards to districts.”

Public highly supportive of teachers

More than 70 percent of Americans say they have “trust and confidence” in teachers, according to a new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. In other evidence of the public’s high regard for teachers, the poll found that “three of four Americans support recruiting high-achieving high school students to become teachers, the same percentage would encourage the brightest person they know to become a teacher ... and two of three Americans would like a child of theirs to become a public school teacher.”

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