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ESEA/NCLB Update #140

Van Roekel to RA Delegates: Educators have the power to influence policy debate

National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel told thousands of cheering delegates at the NEA Representative Assembly (RA) that educators have the power to influence education policy and must lead the profession in educating the next generation of students.  In his keynote address, Van Roekel said that the alternative to leading was letting those outside the profession unfairly blame teachers, seek profits, and advance ideas like privatization, unregulated charters, and vouchers.    One of the key policy issues highlighted by Van Roekel was No Child Left Behind.  “No Child Left Behind with its emphasis on standardized tests,” he said, “has distorted public education by narrowing the curriculum and eliminating programs.  We spend endless time getting students ready for and taking standardized tests, all at the expense of literature that inspires students or history that helps them understand, or the arts that allow them to express themselves.” During the RA, delegates from NEA state and local affiliates gather to set policy and chart the direction of NEA business.

Number of states with NCLB waivers approaches 50% mark

The Department of Education (ED) has granted five more states waivers from NCLB’s major requirements, bringing the total number of states granted waivers to twenty-four.  The five states that just received waivers are: Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.   (Iowa was granted a one year freeze on its proficiency standards instead of a full waiver).  Thirteen applications remain under review.     The Department approval process involves a dialogue between ED and the states based on a peer review analysis of a state’s substitute accountability system.  Once an application is approved, this dialogue and the approved plan are published online on ED’s state resource page.

1,100 professors: High- stakes testing in New York harms high-need students

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has released a letter sent from 1,100 professors to the New York State Regents stating that high-stakes standardized testing harms students, teachers and schools, especially high-need students and those who serve them.  “The strategy currently employed by New York City Department of Education and the State Education Department is not working for students, teachers or schools,” said Pedro Noguera, executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University in an NYCLU  press release. “High-stakes standardized tests are being used to rank and measure students and teachers, and to punish schools, rather than as tools to diagnose learning needs and inform instruction.”    The letter also notes that the experts from across the state are standing with “the 1400 [New York] principals who signed a petition against teacher evaluations based on high-stakes testing” and offers to help the Regents create just policies to transform public schools.

Administration proposes rules for $133 million Early Learning Challenge competition

The Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed new rules governing the second round of the Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge grant competition (RTTT-ELC).  The Departments will allow five states to apply -- New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Illinois, and Wisconsin — in a process called “funding down the slate.”  These states had strong applications in the first round, receiving 75% or more of the total scoring points, but did not receive any funds.  This time, these states will be allowed to apply for up to 50% of their original request, with a total of $133 million available. The proposed rules allow states to narrow the activities described in their original applications in light of the reduced funding.  Comments on the proposed rules are due July 20, 2012.

National Report Card critiques state funding of schools

A  National Report Card on public school funding, Is School Funding Fair?, concludes that many states are failing to fund schools in a fair and equitable manner.  The report, written by David Sciarra of the Education Law Center (ELC), Bruce Baker of Rutgers University Graduate School of Education and Danielle Farrie, ELC Research Director, evaluated state data from 2006-2009 using four fairness indicators: funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage.  Describing the study’s general findings, the executive summary states:

  • Six states are positioned relatively well on all four measures. Four states remain in the top in the 2012 report: Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont. Kansas — which began implementing remedies to address the inequity exposed in a successful school finance case — and New Mexico have joined the top states.
  • Most states have at least one area in which to improve, and many do poorly on the most important indicators from a state policy perspective: state effort and funding distribution.
  • Three states receive below-average ratings in each of the four indicators: Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina. Florida is new to this group after seeing a substantial decline in state effort and funding level.

“Most states continue to neglect growing student poverty by failing to direct resources to the students and schools most in need,” said Sciarra in a statement about the report. “In some states and regions, the shortfalls in school funding are reaching crisis levels.”  To read about NEA’s approach to Tax, Economic development, and Funding for schools (TEF) policies go to http://www.nea.org/home/36580.htm.

ED invites 124 to apply for i3 development grants

The Department of Education has invited 124 out of 650 pre-applicants to put in more detailed applications for Investing in Innovation (i3) development grants.  ED launched the new pre-application process this year to allow a broad group to apply and get feedback without having to complete the full application.  Development grants, one of three i3 grant categories, provide up to $3 million to applicants working on high potential practices meriting further exploration and research.  According to a Department statement, the 124 applicants would like to focus in the following areas: teacher and principal effectiveness (23); Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education (39); parent and family engagement (32), school turnarounds (20); and rural education (10).  A list of applicants can be found in the i3 web page. The i3 grants began as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

Take Action: Tell Congress equity matters

Let your representative know that equity for students most in need is a priority in the reauthorization of NCLB, along with reducing the focus on high-stakes testing. To send a message click here.

(Published July 5, 2012)

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