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ESEA/NCLB Update #138

Nineteen and counting

Secretary Duncan  last week announced that the number of states approved for NCLB waivers has climbed to 19 with the addition of 8 new states (Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island). The states have agreed to work on three major points:

  • Support effective teaching and leadership
  • Design and implement plans to prepare all students for college and career, and
  • Focus aid on the neediest students.

Last February NEA President Dennis Van Roekel commented "We're encouraged by President Obama's and Secretary Duncan's efforts to provide NCLB waivers for relief. 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."

Eight additional states' applications are still under review. NEA continues to work with Congress on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and has submitted extensive specifications for rewriting and improving the ACT.

Additional information on waiver requirements can be found at the ED website.

Labor-Management collaboration leads to reform

At the 2012 Labor Management Conference in Cincinnati, eight national education leaders met to lay out a shared vision for transforming the teaching profession. The annual conference brings together educators and administrators to discuss how they can best partner to improve student achievement. At the joint labor management conference joint sponsors National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, National School Boards Association Executive Director Anne L. Bryant, American Association of School Administrators Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech, Council of Chief State School Officers Executive Director Gene Wilhoit, Council of the Great City Schools Executive Director Michael Casserly, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service official outlined seven core elements of a transformed teaching profession:

  • Culture of shared responsibility and leadership;  
  • Recruiting top talent into schools prepared for success; 
  • Continuous growth and professional development;
  • Effective teachers and principals;  
  • A professional career continuum with competitive compensation; 
  • Conditions that support successful teaching and learning; and  
  • Engaged communities

 President Van Roekel summed up the experience, "We come from different backgrounds and perspectives, but we share the goal of working to benefit our students. This conference allows us to share our strengths and resources to address issues relative to teacher and staff quality and effectiveness, school culture, and family and community engagement in all schools."

Standardized tests shortchange students

The Wall Street Journal reports that the use of standardized testing in schools nationwide is "triggering pockets of rebellion across the country" from school leadership, educators and parents. Complaints from educators and parents cite the "narrowing of the curriculum" as a major concern The tests often focus on basic skills, "critics say, that shortchanges students who could be spending time learning more advanced material". A resolution, "The National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing" initially circulated by major school board groups in Texas, broke the 8000 individual signature level earlier this month. The resolution calls on Congress and the Administration to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or No Child Left Behind, in a way that reduces the requirement for standardized tests, promotes multiple forms of evidence that students are learning, and does not mandate that student test scores be used to evaluate educators in any particular way or to provide merit pay.

Yesterday in New York City, parents and students protested "excessive standardized testing." The Huffington Post reports that the group is working to bring awareness to how the overuse of standardized testing is affecting education.

High school students working harder

Citing the latest Condition of Education taken by the The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, ED Week is reporting that today's high school students seem more focused on academics then students a generation ago. A congressionally mandated annual report, The Condition of Education (COE), summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available statistics. One change that has taken place inside U.S. high schools is in course taking. The report noted that the percentage of high school graduates who took mathematics and science courses has generally increased. Twenty years ago 7 percent of graduates had taken calculus and 1 percent had taken statistics. By 2009, 16 percent of graduates had taken calculus and 11 percent had taken statistics. Similarly, 49 percent of 1990 graduates had taken chemistry, compared to 70 percent in 2009.

Teachers or Technology: Neither, it's both

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education summed up the Atlantics" Second annual Technologies in Education forum — "But, it (technology) will never change the definition of and need for great teaching." The forum which featured among others, James Shelton Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement US Department of Education, Tom Kalil Deputy Director White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Sandra Calvert Director Children's Digital Media Center, and Joel Levin Owner and Education Director TeacherGaming LLC explored what public policies are necessary to bring new technologies into classrooms, how educational video games are changing the way students learn, and how new technologies can be used to improve vital intellectual skills. In the end the participants noted that the "debate about great technology vs. great teachers is unnecessary. Instead, the conversation needs to be about technology and teaching."

ED announces 2012 TIF competition

Today the Department of Education announced the final application period for the $285 million dollar 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) competition. The 2012 TIF will focus on supporting district-wide evaluation systems, incentives for effective teachers and principals, and priorities for STEM, and rural districts. New applicants will have preference in the 2012 TIF. The application is available at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/teacherincentive/applicant.html. Around 30 grants will be awarded ranging from $500 thousand to $12 million.  TIF ED resources can be found here.

Take Action: Tell Congress not to slash education and supports

The House of Representatives has approved the NEA-opposed Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act that places the burden for the nation's financial crisis squarely on the shoulders of the middle class and the poor, while failing to ask anything of those most able to contribute toward economic recovery. Congress will continue to debate these issues, as deep cuts scheduled to go into effect in January 2013 approach. We need to tell Congress that balancing the budget should not be done by slashing education and programs that serve our most vulnerable. Tell Congress that we need a balanced approach that asks those most able to do so to pay their fair share. Tell Congress to make the right choice for America-s future — protect children, working families, and seniors and ensure everyone pays his or her fair share.

(Published June 8, 2012)

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