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ESEA/NCLB Update #120

California asks for relief from NCLB

California joined a growing list of states asking for relief from NCLB’s system of labeling and punishing schools. In an August 23 letter to the Department of Education (ED), California notes that NCLB labels schools as failures “regardless of the reasons for the failure or whether the school fell short by a little or a lot.” The state predicts that, as a result, nearly 80 percent of schools receiving Title I funds will be in “improvement” status in the 2011-2012 year. With even more schools likely to fail in the next few years, the state concludes that “the federally-imposed labels cease to provide any meaningful information to stakeholders” and asks that California be permitted to “freeze sanctions and mandatory identification required under NCLB Section 1116 at the 2010–11 level.” According to a summary of state requests for relief by the Center on Education Policy, four states have pending requests for relief as of September 1, four have been granted relief, and two have been turned down.

Duncan to visit states on an “Education and the Economy”' back-to-school bus tour

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and senior Department of Education officials will meet with education stakeholders in several Great Lakes states during an “Education and the Economy” back-to-school bus tour scheduled from September 7-9. The tour will begin in Pennsylvania before heading to Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. “No other issue is more critical to our economy and our way of life than education,” said Duncan in a release providing details about the tour. “While visiting cities across the Midwest, I want to take the opportunity to promote the valuable work teachers, parents, and administrators do every day to change students’ lives and ultimately, invest in our nation’s future.”

Early Learning Challenge competition begins

ED and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that applications for the $500 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) competition are now available. According to the Departments, the goal of RTT-ELC is to improve the quality of early learning and development and close achievement gaps for children with high needs. The competition will focus on supporting states' efforts to: (1) increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group (birth to kindergarten entry) enrolled in high-quality early learning and development programs; and (2) design and implement high-quality, integrated systems of early learning and development.

The Departments will hold a Technical Assistance Planning workshop for potential applicants on September 13, 2011. Details on these and any other technical assistance events will be on the Race to the Top-Early Learning (RTT-ELC) Web site. The deadline for submitting grant applications is October 19, 2011.

SIG transformation schools may have more time to develop teacher evaluation systems

Education Week reports that ED may give some districts and schools using the School Improvement Grant (SIG) transformation model more time to develop teacher and principal evaluation systems. The article cites an August 12 Department letter inviting states to apply for waivers that would allow them to give some eligible districts more time to implement evaluation systems. The letter addresses schools in the first two SIG cohorts, which began implementation of the transformation model in school years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.

Department of Education maps state education and accountability data

ED launched a new version of its education data Web site which provides state-by-state data on state assessment results, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, graduation rates, and school accountability information. The new site provides a state mapping feature, a trend line tool, and a tool which “allows users to view one data element based on conditions set by another data element.”

College faculty gives common standards favorable review

The Education Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) released a report on a survey of 1,897 college faculty who rated the applicability and importance of Common Core State Standards in relation to the courses they teach. The courses involved in the survey included 14 “commonly associated with general education requirements for a bachelor’s degree” and 11 considered career oriented. According to a summary of the findings, the survey revealed that:

  • Most Common Core standards received high ratings for applicability and importance.
  • ELA and literacy standards with highest ratings include those at higher levels of scope and breadth.
  • Mathematics standards with highest ratings include those with an emphasis on thinking, reasoning, and problem solving.
  • 96% of respondents agree that the Common Core State Standards sufficiently challenge students to engage higher-level cognitive skills.

The report concludes that “students who are generally proficient in the Common Core standards will likely be ready for a wide range of postsecondary courses” but cautions against assuming that this means that students who learn the Common Core standards are fully ready for college and careers. “Other important dimensions of readiness exist, upon which the Common Core standards are necessarily silent.”

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