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ESEA/NCLB Update #125

NLCB/ESEA subject of Senate post-markup roundtable

On Tuesday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), convened a committee roundtable with education stakeholders to discuss ways to move toward an ESEA designed for the 21st century. Harkin said the bipartisan bill recently approved by the committee took important steps in that direction by:

  • substituting a goal of being college and career ready for a goal of proficiency
  • closing the comparability loophole
  • incentivizing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems
  • providing a “laser-like focus on turning around the bottom five percent of schools and our nation’s ‘dropout factories.’

Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) said that the bill reported out of committee “attempts to remove NCLB’s over-sized federal footprint and return it to states where it belongs and is most effectively implemented.” Enzi said he would continue to push for bill changes that would provide “a lessened federal role in schools, fewer federal programs, and greater transparency to parents through reporting on their child’s performance.”

In a letter to the Committee, NEA said that a new ESEA law must ensure equal educational opportunity and continue to hold school districts accountable for improving results for all students. NEA noted there is broad consensus that NCLB’s undue emphasis on narrow tests led to mislabeling and sanctioning schools, resulting in inadequate funding and inappropriate one-size-fits-all solutions. NEA said that a reauthorized ESEA should have a more workable system to identify achievement gaps and focus federal resources and interventions on schools with the lowest achievement and greatest needs, as provided in the Committee’s construct.

NEA applauded several changes in the bill since it first emerged, including an amendment to provide additional flexibility in helping turnaround struggling schools, a change that recognized the federal government’s limited role in teacher evaluations, and an amendment prohibiting school districts from forced teacher transfers to meet “comparability” goals. The NEA letter added that there is still much work to be done to improve the bill, however, and enclosed a list of pros and cons regarding individual provisions of the legislation.

Department of Education announces 23 i3 winners

The Department of Education (ED) announced that 23 applicants had won a share in the $150 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition, subject to obtaining partial private matching grants. The i3 competition was created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The winners are: Aspire Public Schools, Baltimore City Public Schools, Berea College, Boston Public Schools, The College Board, Del Norte Unified School District, Fresno County Office of Education, Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, KnowledgeWorks, The Metropolitan Education Commission, National Math and Science Initiative, New York City Board of Education, New York Hall of Science, New Visions For Public Schools, Inc, North Carolina New Schools Project, Oakland Unified School District, Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Success for All Foundation, Temple University, Texas Tech University, University of Minnesota, University of Alaska Statewide Office of K-12 Outreach. Individual project titles, type of grant, and priorities can be found at this ED link.

California officials highlight cost of NCLB waiver

The Los Angeles Times reports that California state officials gave the state board of education a bleak report on the costs of meeting the requirements of ED’s waiver package, saying it would cost the state at least $2 billion dollars to meets its requirements. An earlier report in the Orange County Register put the cost of meeting the requirements, including new teacher evaluation systems, at $3.1 billion. It is unclear whether California will seek a waiver given the state's own cost estimate.

More time needed to evaluate SIG program

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) has released the results of a survey of sample school districts earlier this year this year concerning their experiences in implementing School Improvement Grants (SIG). Among the key findings:

  • In the early months of 2011, half of the districts receiving ARRA SIG funds said it was too soon to tell about the results of implementing the transformation, turnaround, or restart models.
  • ARRA SIG-eligible and ineligible districts differed in their views about the effectiveness of key program requirements.
  • Half of the ARRA SIG-eligible districts believe that more than three years may be necessary to improve the lowest-achieving schools.
  • Among all the nation’s districts, there is no clear consensus about the effectiveness of current ARRA SIG requirements.

The study can be found on the CEP Web site.

Department of Education proposes early learning office

Citing the importance of early education, Secretary Duncan announced a proposal to create an Office of Early Learning. Duncan gave the nod to Senior Advisor for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones to head the new office, which will be responsible for overseeing the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants and coordinating early learning programs. The office will be housed in the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE).  

Take Action: Voice your concerns about the reauthorization

The Senate HELP committee has approved an ESEA reauthorization bill, and the House is moving ESEA-related legislation in smaller pieces. Tell Congress that a final bill should move from a focus on testing to a focus on a well-rounded education and provide equal educational opportunity for all students. 



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Tell Congress to get ESEA Reauthorization right

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