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ESEA/NCLB Update #132

Republican ESEA reauthorization bills approved in committee

Two Republican ESEA reauthorization bills were approved along party lines this week during a House Education and the Workforce Committee markup. The Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) focuses to a large degree on providing states more flexibility to establish their own standards, assessments, and accountability systems, to consolidate critical programs, and to transfer funds among federal education programs designed to support special populations. The Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990) would impose a requirement to implement teacher evaluation systems based on a set of federally developed criteria.

NEA sent a letter to the committee before the vote opposing the bills, but commenting favorably on the legislation's attempt to get away from NCLB's unfair Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) system of labeling and punishing schools. NEA's opposition stemmed from the bills giving too much discretion to the states and undermining the federal role in ensuring equity for all students. Specific areas of concern cited in the NEA letter included: the lack of a plan to ensure equitable access and close achievement gaps; the elimination of Maintenance of Effort (maintaining spending levels as a condition for receiving federal funds); the ability to transfer money away from a special population; continued annual standardized testing; limits on class size reduction; federal involvement in state and local teacher evaluation; and removal of existing protections for an educator voice through collective bargaining.

In a statement on the legislation, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said: "Chairman John Kline's (R-Minn.) bills miss the mark of the original intent of the 1965 ESEA law to ensure equity of opportunity and access to public education for all students. In the name of ensuring flexibility, these bills undermine the critical federal role of ensuring equity for all students, regardless of where they are born or their family's financial situation."

Democrats criticized the Republican bills and offered two substitute bills—one mandated an assertive federal role in ensuring states developed school accountability systems and the other proposed development of teacher and principal evaluation systems with educators. Those bills failed along party-line votes. 

Twenty-six more states and D.C. seek NCLB waivers

Twenty-six more states and the District of Columbia have joined an earlier group of 11 approved states in asking the Department for a reprieve from NCLB's multiple mandates. The 27 applicants are: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The Department plans to notify these applicants whether they will receive waivers later this spring. Still more states may try to meet a September 6 deadline for a third round of waivers.

The 11 states that have already received waivers are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Copies of their requests and approval letters can be found at http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests.

Details on ED's overall flexibility program can be found on ED's main flexibility page and state support page. The state support page contains a short summary of peer review comments on the main issues addressed during the first round of applicants, which Ed Week aptly described as a "cheat sheet" on the waiver process. Another helpful resource on waivers is the Center on Education Policy's "Waiver Watch" page, which includes an interactive state map. 

Duncan celebrates launch of "100Kin10"

During National Engineering Week (Feb. 19—25), Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped celebrate the launch of the new public-private partnership—100Kin10— at Google Inc.'s Washington, DC offices. President Obama recently announced the 100Kin10 Initiative to meet his goal of recruiting and training 100,000 world-class Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) teachers within 10 years.

To learn more about 100Kin10 and how various stakeholders are looking at their unique resources and assets and applying them creatively and strategically to address the nation's shortage of STEM teachers and to improve STEM learning for all students, check out http://100kin10.org/. The Administration's 2013 ED budget proposal includes $2.5 billion for a competitive fund that will prepare these highly-qualified STEM teachers. 

Administration announces new effort to improve priority schools

The Obama administration has announced a new initiative—Together for Tomorrow—to highlight and promote community involvement in transforming low-performing schools. Secretary Duncan announced the initiative along with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and elected and community leaders. "Community and family involvement can be the make or break factor in successfully turning around low-performing schools," said Duncan. "Together for Tomorrow will provide real-life examples of how to effectively transform our struggling schools, and build a community-to-community support system that can help take this critical work to scale."

Simplified application process now available for i3 development grants

ED announced that it has created a simplified pre-application process for the 2012 Investing in Innovation (i3) development grant competition. Development grants, which support promising strategies that need further study, have historically been the most popular of the three i3 grant types: scale-up, validation, and development. Applicants for development grants may now file a notice of intent to apply by March 15 and transmit a pre-application by April 9. After review, the highest rated applicants will be asked to send in a complete application.

"We have made efforts to improve the i3 competition each year, and simplifying the application process is part of ongoing efforts to make the Department's programs work better for potential grantees and have greater impact for students," said Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement. This year's applicants will split roughly $150 million in the three grant categories: individual scale-up grants of up to $25 million; individual validation grants of up to $15 million, and the $3 million development grants. The applications for scale-up and validation grants will be published soon, ED said.

Take Action: Visit the Legislative Action Center

NEA's Legislative Action Center contains up-to-date information on NEA's positions on ESEA and other major legislation and provides opportunities to quickly write Congress about breaking developments. Visit the Legislative Action Center often to find out how you can support public education.

(Published March 2, 2012)

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