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ESEA/NCLB Update #129

Duncan slams NCLB

In a recent Washington Post op-ed piece, Secretary Duncan applauded No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for highlighting achievement gaps, but then offered a strong critique of the law:

"NCLB) created an artificial goal of proficiency that encouraged states to set low standards to make it easier for students to meet the goal.  The act’s emphasis on test scores as the primary measure of school performance has narrowed the curriculum, and the one-size-fits-all accountability system has mislabeled schools as failures even if their students are demonstrating real academic growth.  The law is overly prescriptive and doesn’t allow districts to create improvement plans based on their unique needs."  

Duncan commended state efforts to move forward with the Common Core State Standards and other education initiatives, and noted that ED’s NCLB waiver program will also require “real reform.”  Duncan then called upon Congress to reauthorize NCLB in a bipartisan way.  “One way or another, NCLB needs significant changes,” Duncan said.  “Our states and schools deserve flexibility from its teach-to-the-test culture and one-size-fits-all accountability system.”

Department of Education critiques Race to the Top progress

The Department of Education (ED) has released individual reports analyzing the progress of the first 12 Race to the Top (RTTT) grantees.  The report describes the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s progress in RTTT goal areas such as student outcomes and college- and career- ready standards and assessments.  The individual state reports can be found at this link

Education leaders weigh in on NCLB in EdWeek special

EdWeek asked 17 ideologically diverse experts to weigh in on NCLB for a special story on the 10th anniversary of the law, including Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.  Bell told EdWeek that NCLB fell flat with “its simplistic approach to measuring a school's success or failure” and called for multiple measures of school and student success beyond bubble tests. “Measures that point to logical improvements in practice and in addressing the real needs of students will be more likely to produce lasting change because they seek to understand rather than blame,” Bell explained.  Mulgrew said that under cover of NCLB, New York’s mayor and chancellor had turned schools into test preparation factories, created disincentives to teach poor children, and “sucked the life out of teaching.” 

Goldstein: NCLB narrowed curriculum, sidelined discussions of integration

Education writer Dana Goldstein recently reviewed NCLB’s record 10 years after enactment and found little to like.  NCLB put a useful spotlight on achievement gaps, she writes in her Ladywonk blog, but “there has been very little acknowledgement of the fact that gaps in academic outcomes have multiple causes—some of which are located within schools, but the vast majority of which can be attributed to the socioeconomic characteristics of students’ families and neighborhoods.”  The law increased testing, Goldstein adds, “which led to a narrowing of the curriculum as science, computing, the arts, and physical education were cut from the schedule in many high-poverty schools—those under the most pressure to demonstrate test score gains in basic skills.”  Moreover, the law “sidelined” conversations about racial and socioeconomic integration: “Public policy can help diversify classrooms by providing money for nearby poor and affluent schools and districts to work together, but NCLB did not do so.”  

Goldstein also notes that NCLB has created a rhetoric of failure about public education, an expansion of charters, and “upper-middle-class resentment” toward the federal school reform agenda.

House Republicans pitch ESEA bills

The Republican-controlled House Education and the Workforce Committee posted a series of articles promoting their two ESEA reauthorization bill drafts, arguing that their legislation strikes an appropriate balance between federal oversight and state flexibility.  However, Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) says that the bill goes too far in reducing federal oversight.  Features of the drafts include dismantling the AYP system, retaining disaggregation of student data to help monitor the closing of achievement gaps, creating far-reaching flexibility to move money designed for special populations between programs, eliminating maintenance of effort provisions that would lead to states and school districts moving resources out of public education to other priorities, mandating teacher evaluation systems and prescribing certain elements, and dramatically expanding private authority over and private entities’ access to public education funds. Finding a bipartisan vision on the federal role in education is clearly a key hurdle facing the reauthorization, in addition to any differences on individual programs and funding.

State progress implementing common core varies

A new survey of state implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) shows uneven progress among states in implementing the new standards.  The study, by Editorial Projects in Education and the consulting firm Education First, examined teacher professional development, curriculum, and teacher evaluation plans.  Among the findings:

  • All but one of the 47 common core states have a common core implementation plan.
  • Every common core state except New Hampshire “has a fully developed plan to provide teacher professional development aligned with the CCSS (20 states) or is in the process of developing such a plan (25 states).”
  • “Seventeen states have fully developed plans for providing CCSS-aligned instructional materials to teachers, and another 18 states are developing a plan. Eleven states report no progress toward developing a plan.”
  • All but eight of the common core states “say they are at least working on a plan for their teacher-evaluation systems that will include holding teachers accountable for students’ mastery of the new standards.”
  • While seven states have fully developed plans for professional development, curriculum and teacher evaluation, 18 states lack fully developed plans in all three areas.

Additional information about the Common Core State Standards can be found on NEA’s website. 

Ravitch highlights NCLB’s sad role in school closures

Diane Ravitch highlighted the irrational school closures caused by NCLB in a recent EdWeek blog on the harms caused by NCLB.  Ravitch reported that she had been approached after speeches by teachers and parents all over the country who are concerned about school closures, including 20 young teachers from Fremont High School in Los Angeles who were working hard to improve the school but ultimately faced school closure anyway.  Ravitch said she wished she had better answers for the teachers and parents about what to do, but that “as long as NCLB stays on the books, there is no stopping the destruction of local community institutions.”  Ravitch concluded by encouraging Congress to realize that NCLB has failed and cannot be fixed, and to abandon test-based accountability in favor of new and innovative ways to support schools.

ED releases nine-point plan to promote civic engagement

America has throughout its history recognized that an important purpose of public education is to protect and strengthen democracy, yet civic learning and engagement is being pushed to the side in schools and college, according to a new ED report that provides a road map and call to action to promote civic engagement.  “Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and giving them a strong foundation in civic values is critical to the vitality of America’s democracy and economy in the 21st century,” Secretary Duncan said in a statement.  The road map includes nine steps ED will take to advance civic learning and engagement, including: convening schools and postsecondary institutions to increase civic learning, identifying additional civics indicators, identifying best practices, leveraging public-private partnerships, encouraging community-based work-study placements and public service careers, and supporting civic learning in the K—12 curriculum.

Take Action: Say yes to what works for students

As ESEA reauthorization language is debated in the House and Senate, now is the time to make sure policymakers hear and understand the experiences of educators working with students every day.  Speak up for the students who deserve quality early education programs and access to a full range of coursework including the fine arts and physical education.  Tell Congress to craft an ESEA reauthorization bill that will work for students, educators, and schools.


 

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