December 22, 2011
Kline Abandons Miller Time
According to ASCD sources on the House Education Committee, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) will introduce bills to revise No Child Left Behind's (NCLB) accountability and teacher effectiveness components in February 2012. The two bills will complete Kline's five-piece set of legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provides a targeted approach to revamping the existing K–12 education law. Though the bills are just starting to be drafted and details are yet to be known, it appears Kline will forgo input from committee Democrats and introduce bills firmly in line with Republican reform principles that favor fewer federal requirements, more flexibility, greater reliance on state decision making, and increased parental engagement.
The House Education Committee has passed three bills that reauthorize parts of ESEA:
Eliminating "duplicative" and "ineffective" programs within ESEA
Promoting more rigorous charter schools
Block granting K–12 funds to states and districts
Only the charter school bill has passed the full House, which it did on a bipartisan vote. The other two bills await House approval and are expected to pass with only Republican votes. NCLB’s accountability and teacher-quality provisions are the most problematic aspects of the law. They have also proven to be the most difficult to reach consensus on the specific fixes needed to address the inherent flaws of the AYP calculations and the ever increasing number of schools identified as needing improvement.
Indeed, a new study of state assessment data indicates that 49 percent of all public schools in the country did not make AYP in the 2010–11 school year, a dramatic increase from the 39 percent that missed the mark the previous year. In a bizarre twist, the news was greeted with some relief and vindication because the figure was significantly lower than the 82 percent projected by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier in the year.
Congressional Democrats cautioned that only a bipartisan approach to reauthorizing ESEA would ultimately succeed. Top House committee Democrat George Miller (D-CA) declared that "partisanship means the end to NCLB reform in this Congress," while Senate Education Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), whose committee approved a comprehensive ESEA rewrite in October, said that "without a bipartisan bill coming out of the House, I believe it would be difficult to find a path forward that will draw the support we need from both sides of the aisle to be able to send a final bill to the president."
And yet despite all of the acclaim for bipartisanship, the legislative process requires both the House and Senate to pass respective bills in order to establish a conference committee to hash out a final House-Senate bill that could be enacted. In other words, House partisanship may be just what is needed to move the process along and realize an eventual bipartisan deal later on.
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FY12 "Megabus" Slashes Well-Rounded Funding
Congress approved its “megabus” FY12 spending package, which funds education programs at slightly lower levels than last year. Title I receives $14.5 billion in funding and special education receives $11.6 billion, which represent extremely small increases of $60 million and $100 million respectively; those increases are unlikely to make a measurable difference for districts and schools.
Smaller programs designed to provide students with a well-rounded education bear the brunt of the bill's spending cuts. The bill completely eliminates funding for history, civics, economics, foreign languages, and technology. Physical education, arts in education, 21st century learning centers, and school counseling receive funding similar to FY11 levels.
Meanwhile, the megabus maintains the Obama administration's prized Race to the Top grant program, but funds it at $550 million, which is a $150 million cut from last year. Investing in Innovation and School Improvement Grants, two other administration priorities, are funded at the same levels as FY11: $150 million and $535 million. But the Promise Neighborhoods program, which is designed to help distressed communities boost learning through wraparound services, gets double the funding it received last year for a total of $60 million.
Other winners include Head Start, which sees a nearly $425 million jump in funding to $8 billion, and literacy, which was dramatically cut last year but receives $160 million in new money this year.
The bill has been forwarded to President Obama, who is expected to sign it and complete action on the FY12 budget three months after the start of the fiscal year.
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Education Department Plays Santa
As 2011 draws to a close, the U.S. Department of Education has announced the winners of several of its high-profile grant competitions.
Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge
Nine states—California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington—will receive grants from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, a competitive grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.
Thirty-five states applied for grants, and the winners were chosen based on the strength of their plans to develop a public rating system to help families select the best early learning programs for their children, align and improve program standards, enhance training and support for the early learning workforce, and use data to improve early learning instruction and services and assess kindergarten readiness.
Grant awards will range from $50 million to $100 million, depending on state populations and proposed plans.
View all state applications and their scores.
Five organizations—Westminster Foundation (Buffalo, N.Y.), Northside Achievement Zone (Minneapolis, Minn.), Berea College (Clay, Jackson, and Owsley Counties, Ky.), United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County, Inc. (San Antonio, Texas), and California State University, East Bay (Hayward, Calif.)—will receive the first round of Promise Neighborhoods implementation grants. The winners will be awarded a first-year grant of up to $6 million, totaling up to $30 million across the life of the grant, to support cradle-to-career services that improve the educational achievement and healthy development of children in underserved neighborhoods.
Another 15 organizations will receive $500,000 in planning grants to help determine how they can transform their communities through aligned services.
More than 200 organizations from 45 states applied for 2011 Promise Neighborhoods planning and implementation grants.
Investing in Innovation
The department has announced that all 23 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant finalists successfully secured a total of $18 million in private donations, ensuring that they have met the competition's matching requirement and qualifying them to receive $150 million in federal funding from the i3 program.
The winners, which include districts, groups of districts, and nonprofits in partnership with districts or a group of schools, will use their awards to implement innovative approaches that significantly improve student achievement.
Coming Soon: Race to the Top Round Three Winners
Seven states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) that just missed winning grants in Race to the Top's second round are now competing for much smaller awards in the $200 million Race to the Top Round Three (RTTT3) competition. As part of their applications, the states had to demonstrate a continued commitment to the four key reform areas emphasized in the previous Race to the Top competitions—establishing college- and career-ready standards and assessments, building data systems that measure student growth, improving educator effectiveness, and turning around low-performing schools.
The department will announce the RTTT3 awards in the coming days.
Be sure to look for the ASCD policy team's take on what's "in" and what’s "out" in 2012 next week. In the meantime, we wish you happy holidays and a wonderful new year!
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