February 15, 2012
Ten States Escape Key NCLB Provisions
Ten states will no longer be expected to show that all of their students have reached proficiency in reading and math by the end of the 2013–14 school year. These states—Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—recently received waivers from the Obama administration that excuse them from this and other onerous provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
In exchange, the 10 states must raise standards, improve accountability, promote teacher effectiveness, and reduce paperwork burdens. Federal officials will continue to work with New Mexico, the only other state to apply for waivers in the first round, to improve its application so that it also qualifies for a waiver.
The U.S. Department of Education was quick to point out that the waivers do not water down accountability or remove protections for vulnerable students. States with waivers are still expected to maintain ambitious progress targets for each NCLB subgroup, but they’re allowed to set those targets and build differentiated accountability systems that take into account their unique contexts.
Some education pundits are questioning how much flexibility states are actually getting. After reviewing the changes the initial 10 state applicants were expected to make to their waiver plans to receive final approval, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s Mike Petrilli commented in a blog post, "it appears that the President and his education secretary have reneged on their promise of true 'flexibility' for the states. Mostly what they seem to have done is substitute one set of rigid prescriptions for another."
But department officials emphasized that there is no single pathway to Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility. They’ve cited diverse and innovative ideas from the 10 states, including Colorado’s website that will allow teachers and parents to see details on student progress, Kentucky’s plan to rate schools on the strength of their programs across subject areas (including the arts and humanities, writing, and world languages), and New Jersey’s early warning system to reduce the number of dropouts.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia intend to submit second-round waiver applications, which are due by the end of the month. Other states will be allowed to apply throughout the rest of the year. States that don’t receive waivers will be expected to continue to comply with NCLB’s requirements.
Check out the department’s ESEA flexibility webpage, which includes the final waiver applications, approval letters, and peer review notes for each state.
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House Education Chairman Introduces ESEA Reform Bills; Slams Waivers as Quick Fix
House Education Chairman John Kline (R-MN) formally introduced two bills late last week to overhaul ESEA. During a speech about Congress’s ESEA reauthorization efforts, he commented, "The proliferation of federal requirements and investment has yielded little evidence of improved outcomes for our children. . . . You don’t need the Secretary of Education and U.S. Congress telling you what to do because it simply won't work in some places."
That viewpoint is reflected in Kline's legislation, which dramatically scales back the federal role in education and isn’t much different from draft ESEA legislation Kline put forth last month.
The bills’ key provisions would
- Maintain current reading and math testing requirements and continue to disaggregate those test data by student subgroup;
- Scrap adequately yearly progress, giving states the authority to develop their own accountability systems and improvement interventions;
- Eliminate all maintenance of effort requirements for states and districts, which currently require states and school districts to keep their own education funding at a certain level to access federal funds;
- Remove the highly qualified teacher requirements and instead require states and districts to develop local teacher evaluation systems; and
- Limit the U.S. secretary of education's authority.
Changes to the legislation since last month include additional "fences" around Title I funding to help ensure those funds are directed to the students who need it most, shortening the timeframe for states to implement their own accountability systems from six to two years, and clarifying that districts must develop and implement their teacher evaluation systems within three years.
Kline announced that his committee will hold a hearing on the bills this Thursday, February 16, and that a markup is likely within the next couple weeks. He also lamented that the administration's NCLB waivers have taken some of the urgency out of calls for ESEA reauthorization, but he cautioned that the waivers provide only temporary relief and should not be viewed as a replacement for comprehensive fixes to the nation’s main federal education law.
Stay tuned for Capitol Connection's continuing coverage of the House’s ESEA reauthorization efforts, including highlights from this week’s hearing.
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President Showcases Education in FY13 Budget
President Obama released his official FY13 budget request Monday at Northern Virginia Community College in a nod to the importance of education within the budget. The president described his request as an effort to keep the nation’s economic recovery on track—a view that is reflected in the budget’s education proposals, which include funding to retain and hire teachers, implement job training initiatives at community colleges, and provide incentives to make college more affordable.
Overall, the president wants to increase education spending to $69.8 billion in 2013, which is 2.5 percent more than the current budget of $68.1 billion.
He proposes keeping funding for the big formula grant programs at current levels, which means Title I grants would receive $14.5 billion, special education would receive $11.6 billion, Head Start would receive $8 billion, and School Improvement Grants would receive $534 million.
The president’s FY13 request also includes
- Emergency funding in the form of $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 schools and $25 billion to help states and districts retain and hire educators.
- Increases for his prized education competitions, including an additional $300 million for Race to the Top (for a total of $850 million) and an additional $40 million for Promise Neighborhoods (for a total of $100 million). The Investing in Innovation Program would be funded at the current amount of $150 million.
- A plan to provide $2.5 billion to an overhauled Improving Teacher Quality State Grants program that would set aside 25 percent of the funding to build evidence on ways to best recruit, prepare, and support effective teachers and principals.
- New higher-education proposals, including $8 billion to help community colleges train workers for jobs in fields where employers are having trouble finding skilled labor and $1 billion for a new Race to the Top competition that would provide incentives for states and colleges to control college costs.
- A proposal to consolidate 38 ESEA programs addressing well-rounded education and teacher effectiveness—many of which have already been defunded by Congress—into 11 new initiatives.
Read ASCD Public Policy Director David Griffith’s take on how the president’s budget request threatens well-rounded education.
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Tell Washington to Take the Long View
We need your help! You know it’s crucial to prepare students for long-term success rather than short-term achievement. Send this message to Washington, D.C., by asking the White House to create a President's Council on the Whole Child.
The era of short-term fixes, an overreliance on standardized test scores, a narrowing of the curriculum, and minimal support for educators needs to end. It’s time our nation’s politicians understand that we need a new vision for education that meets students’ comprehensive needs. Only then will our students be fully prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.
We only have until February 18 to petition the White House to take action, so sign the petition today. Every voice—like every child—counts, so please forward this message to your friends and colleagues.
Thank you for your support and persistence.
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