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ESEA/NCLB Update #134

International Summit—What works around the world

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined his counterparts from around the globe at the 2nd International Teaching Summit whose theme was Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders. The Summit was co hosted for the second year by the U.S. Department of Education, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Education International (EI). Partner organizations include the National Education Association (NEA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Asia Society and public television station WNET. Throughout the Summit, leaders pushed the idea that government and unions must work together if effective reform is to be sustained and embedded in schools. Van Roekel summed up the conversations in part by stating, “When you look at these nations, you see one major common denominator—collaboration. Also, teachers in these nations command professional respect and have a voice in education policy. They use their experience and expertise, and they work in concert with administrators and their unions to develop programs and practices to help their students thrive in the global economy.” Prior to the Summit, a background paper was released, Preparing Teachers and School Leaders for the 21st Century: Lessons From Around the World. The paper provides an international overview of various methods and programs for recruiting, preparing, and developing teachers and leaders. It states that “…kind of teaching needed today requires teachers to be high-level knowledge workers who constantly advance their own professional knowledge as well as that of their profession.”

Duncan says—Don’t publish teacher ratings

With states and districts across the country rushing to publish teacher ratings, Secretary of Education Duncan has raised concerns. Education Week reported Duncan’s comments, “Do you need to publish every single teacher's rating in the paper? I don't think you do," he said. "There's not much of an upside there, and there's a tremendous downside for teachers. We're at a time where morale is at a record low. ...We need to be strengthening teachers, and elevating them, and supporting them." Both the Las Angeles Times and the New York Times, among others have published teacher ratings linked to student achievement data. Others have questioned the practice and Philanthropist Bill Gates published an op-ed in The New York Times, proclaiming that “Shame is Not the Solution” to improving schools.

Standardized testing “strangling” education

Texas State Education officials, educators, and parents are criticizing and questioning the mandated testing of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – No Child Left Behind. The Texas Tribune reports that Robert Scott, the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, addressed a crowd of over 4,000 educators and described the current student testing in the state as a “perversion of its original intent” and that he looked forward to “reeling it back” in the future. At the same time, a Washington Post blog reports that over a 100 Texas School Districts have passed resolutions asking the state to change direction when it comes to assessing student learning. NEA has long pushed for equitable and fair assessments with President Van Roekel stating in January, 2012, “When we use shoddy, fill-in-the bubble tests as the basis for an accountability system—tests that frequently aren't aligned with what's being taught in classrooms—so-called accountability systems lose all credibility. It doesn’t make sense to students, educators, parents, or credible testing experts, and now they’re fighting back. Well-designed assessment systems do have a critical role in student success. We should use assessments to help students evaluate their own strengths and needs, and help teachers improve their practice and provide extra help to the students who need it.”

Budget 2013—Duncan pushes for making college affordable and “RESPECT”ing teachers

This past week, Secretary Duncan testified before the House Committee on Appropriations as part of the annual federal budget process. He stated that the education budget request supports the “Administrations commitment to reduce spending, make government more efficient and invest to secure our future.” Duncan highlighted several aspects of the education budget request, among them the RESPECT program that seeks to elevate the Teaching Profession and providing billions of dollars a year in aid to college students through Pell grants. Several weeks ago, when President Obama released the budget, NEA President Van Roekel praised the budget. “The president wants what every parent, student and the NEA want—qualified, caring and committed adults in every school in America to provide the support and programs needed for students of all ages to succeed,” said Van Roekel. “One of the Administration’s goals is to work with educators, school and district leaders, associations and unions, and state and national education organizations to spark a dialogue to transform the teaching profession and to establish teaching as a respected profession on a par with medicine, law and engineering.”

Districts, not just states may be able to apply for ESEA waivers

In February 2012, President Obama and Secretary Duncan announced that 11 states had been granted ESEA waivers in the first round. Another 26 states and the District of Columbia have applied in the second round. The third round, likely to come at the start of the 2012-2013 school year, may include districts whose states have not elected to apply. Education Week reports that Michael Yudin, the acting assistant secretary in the department's office of elementary and secondary education, said the Department was “sympathetic” to districts that were in states that have said they would not seek a waiver. This is likely to help districts in states like Texas that have signaled that they will not be seeking waivers.

Nine states get funds to turnaround schools

Secretary Duncan announced late today that 9 states will share in the newest round of School Improvement Grants (SIG). Sharing in the nearly $77 million are Arkansas ($5.7), Colorado ($5.7), Delaware ($1.5), Illinois ($23.6), Indiana ($9.3), Massachusetts ($7.8), Nebraska ($2.4), North Dakota ($1.2), and Pennsylvania ($19.6). Authorized as part of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) SIG grants support raising the achievement of students in schools with the most need. All states and the District of Columbia have shared in the nearly $3.5 billion in SIG funds distributed since 2009.

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