March 14, 2012
ESEA Reauthorization: The Never-Ending Story
What will happen if our nation's leaders fail to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year, and current law continues to operate on autopilot? ASCD’s spring edition of Policy Priorities examines this question, drawing on insight from education leaders from across the political spectrum and across job responsibilities.
The policy newsletter succinctly captures the No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) deep, structural flaws; outlines the House and Senate’s current efforts to overhaul the federal education law; describes the Obama administration’s attempts to circumvent the trickiest parts of the law by offering states NCLB waivers with strings attached; and summarizes transition challenges states are likely to face as they implement Common Core State Standards within NCLB’s outdated framework.
The issue also includes
- Insights from practitioners, including how a superintendent of the Cross County School District in Arkansas is encouraging his teachers to provide students with a well-rounded education despite NCLB’s emphasis on reading and math test scores.
- An audio interview with a special-education teacher from Iowa about the challenges teachers and students must deal with while the uncertainty surrounding ESEA reauthorization continues.
- An infographic examining the 46 years of ESEA that demonstrates how the federal role in education has grown tremendously.
Read the full issue.
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Report Roundup: Teacher Job Satisfaction Plummets and Minority Students Face Deep Inequities
MetLife Survey of the American Teacher
Data from the just-released 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher (PDF) now confirm what the education community has suspected: teachers are less satisfied with their jobs than they have been in decades.
The 28th annual report, based on a survey of public school teachers, parents, and students during the current school year, finds that teacher job satisfaction has fallen 15 percentage points in just two years. In addition, significantly more teachers report they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation (17 percent in 2009 vs. 29 percent today). Teachers are also more than four times as likely now (34 percent) than they were five years ago (8 percent) to say that they do not feel their job is secure.
The report suggests this decreased job satisfaction can be attributed in large part to the downturn in the economy and education budget cuts. Two-thirds of teachers reported their schools laid off teachers, staff, and parent/community liaisons last year, and 76 percent of teachers have experienced budget cuts in their schools in the last 12 months. Teachers say these cuts are occurring at the same time students and their families are demonstrating increased needs. Twenty-eight percent of teachers indicate their schools have reduced or eliminated health or social service programs, 64 percent report an increase in the number of students and families requiring health and social support services, and 35 percent say the number of students coming to school hungry has grown.
But in addition to revealing these disturbing trends, the data shed light on how policymakers and education leaders might respond. Teachers with higher job satisfaction are more likely to have experienced adequate opportunities for professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers, and more preparation and support for engaging parents effectively.
Civil Rights Data Collection
Minority students across the country face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous coursework, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less-experienced teachers, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
A national survey of more than 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the nation’s students illuminates gaping discrepancies among student groups related to college and career readiness, discipline, school finance, student retention, and teacher quality.
The key findings include the following:
- Black students, particularly boys, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers. Black students represent 18 percent of the students in the survey sample, but constitute 35 percent of the students suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended multiple times, and 39 percent of those expelled.
- Sixty-five percent of high-minority high schools offer Algebra II, compared to 82 percent of high schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment. Similarly, only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offer Calculus, compared to 55 percent of low-minority schools.
- Although black and Hispanic students make up 44 percent of the student population in districts offering gifted and talented programs, they represent only 26 percent of the students enrolled in those programs.
- Black students represent 16 percent of middle school students, but 42 percent of students in those grades who are held back a year.
- Teachers in high-minority schools are paid on average $2,251 less per year than their colleagues teaching in low-minority schools in the same district.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the findings are a wake-up call for educators at every level and called for a collective response to eliminate education inequities.
The next OCR data collection, which will focus on the current school year, will be even more ambitious and include every school district in the country.
Access detailed data for individual districts and schools.
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Occupy the DOE
United Opt Out National, a group devoted to eliminating high-stakes testing in public education, and Save Our Schools, a grassroots movement that opposes federal education reforms like NCLB and Race to the Top, have planned a series of events called Occupy the DOE (Department of Education). Running from March 30 to April 2, 2012, the effort includes rallies at the U.S. Department of Education; marches to Capitol Hill and the White House; a screening of the documentary TEACH, Teachers Are Talking, Is the Nation Listening?; and a slate of education activist speakers.
United Opt Out National has compiled a list of demands that will serve as the organizing principles for its activities. The demands include calling for an end to high-stakes testing that labels schools, punishes students, and evaluates teachers; corporate interventions in public education; and economically and racially segregated school communities.
The Occupy the DOE events reflect educators’ mounting frustrations with education policy and practice that doesn’t appear to take their views and expertise into account (see the Report Roundup in this issue for more on teachers’ increasing job dissatisfaction).
Learn more about Occupy the DOE.
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SEED Grants Give Teacher Programs a New Chance to Grow
After their federal funding was eliminated when Congress banned earmarks last year, Teach for America (TFA) and the National Writing Project (NWP) will receive new federal funding as big winners of the U.S. Department of Education’s $24.6 million Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) competitive grant program.
NWP will use its $11.3 million grant to train 3,000 K–12 teacher leaders how to best teach writing, who will then conduct professional development for teachers in local schools and districts in all 50 states. NWP will also provide professional development in writing instruction for teachers serving high-need students in 100 schools and districts across the country. Although the $11.3 million reward makes NWP the biggest SEED winner, the amount falls far short of the almost $26 million the organization previously received as a federal earmark.
TFA will use its $8.3 million award (down from its previous $18 million earmark) to support more than 9,000 teachers in high-need schools during the current school year, and recruit, select, train, and place up to 5,800 new teachers for the 2012–13 school year.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which lost almost $11 million in federal funding during the FY11 budget negotiations, also applied for a SEED grant but didn’t receive an award. However, the New Teacher Center won $4.98 million to support novice teachers and principals in Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools by providing them with mentor coaches.
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U.S. DOE Opens Third Round of i3
The U.S. Department of Education has opened the third round of its $140 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition for districts, groups of schools, and nonprofit organizations to improve student results through innovative practices.
Interested applicants must address one of the competition’s five absolute priorities: parent and family engagement; teachers and principals; science, technology, engineering, and math education; low-performing schools; and improving rural achievement. Applicants for development grants (awards up to $3 million) may submit an optional intent to apply by March 15, 2012. All pre-applications for the development grant competition are due April 9, 2012. Pre-applications will be reviewed in spring 2012, and applicants who submitted the highest-rated pre-applications will be notified in late spring or early summer 2012. Applications for the larger validation grants and scale-up grants will be announced in separate notices in the coming weeks.
Access a recorded webinar that explains the development competition’s priorities, selection criteria, and process.
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