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ESEA/NCLB Update #131

Administration promotes RESPECT for teachers

The Department of Education (ED) has initiated a national dialogue on ways to advance the teaching profession under the banner of RESPECT: Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching. "Our goal is to work with teachers and principals in rebuilding their profession and to elevate the teacher voice in federal, state and local education policy,” said Secretary Arne Duncan in a press release announcing the program. “Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America's most important profession, but also America's most respected profession."

The Obama administration's proposal builds on an emphasis on teaching in the President's State of the Union address and a proposed $5 billion competitive grant program in the 2013 budget. The program would focus on six areas:

  • Attracting top-tier talent into education and preparing them for success
  • Creating a professional career continuum with competitive compensation
  • Creating conditions for success
  • Evaluating and supporting the development and success of teachers and leaders
  • Getting the best educators to the students who need them most
  • Sustaining a new and improved system

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel commented favorably on the RESPECT plan, which overlaps key portions of NEA’s own transformative agenda—Leading the Profession: NEA’s Three Point Plan for Reform. “Recruiting talented candidates and providing substantive, high-quality preparation is essential in ensuring quality schools,” said Van Roekel. “This proposal represents a critical first-step in ensuring that all students have access to a range of high-quality resources, including qualified and licensed teachers who are empowered to innovate and inspired to take on ever-growing challenges.”

ED grants NCLB waivers to all first-round applicants

All 11 states that applied for waivers from NCLB’s increasingly irrational system of school labels and punishments have received letters of approval from ED. The states are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. “We’re encouraged by President Obama’s and Secretary Duncan’s efforts to provide NCLB waivers for relief,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “These states have committed to working with teachers, parents, and other community stakeholders to implement changes designed to better support students. Our members look forward to being part of a true partnership with school and community leaders to think creatively about how to help all students thrive with this new flexibility.”

The waiver approval letters, along with the state applications and earlier feedback from ED, can be found on ED’s state request page. Twenty-eight more states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have said they are likely to apply for waivers by February 28. ED continues to provide guidance for states filing applicants, including links to webinars and FAQs, on its flexibility page.

Kline formally introduces major ESEA reauthorization bills

Representative John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced two major ESEA reauthorization bills: the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989), and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990). Drafts of the two bills had been released earlier, and several changes to the bill were made. The revisions include a shortened two-year deadline for any new state accountability systems and a three-year deadline for required state teacher evaluation systems.

At a hearing on the bill this week, Kline noted that the Student Success Act “will restore each state’s authority and responsibility to meet the needs of its students and schools. Instead of a one-size-fits-all federal accountability system, our bill directs each state to develop its own system that takes into account the unique needs of students and communities, with the flexibility to use multiple measures of student achievement.” Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) challenged this view of the bill, saying that while the law should be updated and flexibility could be increased, “we cannot abandon the principles of equity and accountability if we want to uphold the promise of Brown v. the Board of Education, the first ESEA and its most recent iteration.” NEA’s detailed analysis of the pros and cons of the bills, including concerns about equity, can be found on NEA’s NCLB page on nea.org. 

Obama FY13 budget plan highlights education

President Obama’s proposed FY13 budget reflects a strong commitment to education and received immediate backing from NEA. “President Obama continues to make clear his commitment to students, especially the most disadvantaged, by advocating a deep investment in education and college affordability,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The president pushes both immediate support through grants and for innovative changes designed to improve access to higher education.”

The Obama plan includes $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 schools and $30 billion to help states and localities retain and hire first responders and educators, as well as support the teaching profession. The plan also calls for maintaining the maximum Pell Grants award, increasing the Perkins Loan Program, and includes support for community colleges, and support for teacher education programs at minority-serving institutions.

ASCD: It’s time for a Council on the Whole Child

Education leadership organization ASCD called for greater emphasis on a whole child approach to education and for the creation of the President’s Council on the Whole Child, similar to the Council of Economic Advisors and the Council on Women and Girls. “A whole child approach to education enhances learning by addressing each student’s social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through the shared contributions of schools, families, communities, and policymakers,” wrote Sean Slade, director of ASCD’s Healthy School Communities program, in a Washington Post blog. “It is a move away from education policy that far too narrowly focuses on student standardized test scores as the key school accountability measure and that has resulted in the narrowing of curriculum as well as rigid teaching and learning environments.” Slade said ASCD is asking the public to sign its petition for a Council on the Whole Child, which it has placed on the White House petition site. 

Public needs to make a civic investment in education

Wendy D. Puriefoy, leader of the Public Education Network (PEN), is calling for a drastic increase in civic investment in public education at a time when school needs are high and education budgets are under pressure. Writing in a Baltimore Sun op-ed piece, Puriefoy explains what civic investment means in practice:

"Begin by being well-informed about what public education is — and is not — doing for our young people and our country. Citizens should learn what contributes to, and what hinders, a high-quality public education. They should carefully scrutinize candidates and education ballot initiatives and vote for ones that support and promote quality public schools. Civic investment means attending school board meetings and education budget hearings, and peppering elected officials . . . with key questions: How do you plan to provide adequate funding for public schools? How do you support the goal of college-and career-readiness for every student? What do you think are the best ways to evaluate school and student performance?"

Civic engagement is the opposite “public passivity,” concludes Puriefoy. “If we recognize that educational opportunity and success are foundations for a strong democracy and a thriving economy, we need to be engaged trustees of that most American of institutions: our public schools.” 

ED announced National Education Startup Challenge

ED is inviting students to take on an education challenge as innovators and entrepreneurs. Under the National Education Startup Challenge, students will until May 1 “to submit a business plan and a video pitch for a for-profit or non-profit startup that includes an innovative strategy, product or service designed to address one of these four topics”:

  • Middle Grades Matter: Helping middle school students transition to high school and stay on track to graduate.
  • Skills, Skills, Skills: Providing students in rural, urban, and/or high-poverty communities with opportunities for internships or other work- and community-based learning experiences that help them develop skills for success.
  • Education Pays: Making it easier for students and families to find and select high-quality, affordable postsecondary programs …that provide good value.
  • Finishing Faster: Increasing the likelihood that postsecondary students complete their degrees, and decreasing the time it takes them to finish, such as by improving and speeding up remedial education.

Details on the competition can be found at http://nesc.challenge.gov/.

Take Action:  Share your views with Congress

As ESEA reauthorization language is debated in the House, now is the time to make sure policymakers hear and understand the experiences of educators working with students every day. Tell Congress to craft an ESEA reauthorization bill that will work for students, educators, and schools.

(Published February 17, 2012)

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