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In This Issue
Newest Race to the Top Focuses on Districts That Personalize Education
The U.S. Department of Education has announced another round of its now three-year-old competitive grant program to spur innovation and reform in the nation's elementary and secondary schools. Unlike previous rounds that focused on state-level reform, the 2012 Race to the Top competition will target districts that personalize education to meet the individual learning needs of their students. At this initial stage, the public is invited to weigh in on the draft criteria for the district competition, which will be available for comment on the department's website until June 8.
Later this year, $400 million will be distributed among 15 to 20 winning districts that serve at least 2,500 students. That does not mean, however, that smaller—and in particular rural—districts need not apply. The new competition will allow districts to submit applications on their own or as part of a consortium with neighboring districts that can even cross state lines. In addition, the eligible districts or consortia will have the option to focus on specific schools, grade levels, or select subjects provided that 40 percent or more of the students served by their proposed strategies qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
As in previous years, a key consideration in the latest Race to the Top will be how the applicants prepare students for college and careers, but now the department will also look specifically at how the district plans move beyond one-size-fits-all models of schooling. According to the draft regulations, districts in this competition will have to "provide the information, tools, and supports that enable teachers to truly differentiate instruction and meet the needs of each child," as well as, "allow students significantly more freedom to study and advance at their own pace—both in and out of school." Districts will also be required to engage teachers, parents, and other groups in the formulation of their plans and will receive preference if they can form public and private partnerships with outside organizations to sustain their work.
After reviewing the public's comments on its district-level Race to the Top, the Department of Education will prepare the final requirements for the competition and then invite districts to apply for the grants later this summer. Funding for the selected applicants will be distributed by the end of the year in amounts ranging from $15 million to $25 million based on the number of students to be served.
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ASCD Leads Coalition in Support of College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness
To be fully prepared for college, careers, and citizenship, students need equal access to a comprehensive education that includes instruction in all disciplines as well as access to student support services that strengthen social and emotional health. ASCD is leading a diverse group of education organizations to ensure these priorities are recognized as Congress makes FY13 funding decisions and ponders the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Recent congressionally approved funding levels have hampered the ability of schools to prepare students for college, careers, and citizenship. Many programs that support the whole child have been significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. For example,
Teaching American History
Foreign Language Assistance Program
Arts in Education
Reducing or eliminating funding for these disciplines signals to the public that national decision makers believe they are not important to student success. ASCD and its advocacy partners are meeting with members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to educate them on the effect of not funding these worthy programs and to seek continued and restored funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to meet to make these decisions for FY13 in early June.
Educators Must Speak Out on Sequestration
An education crisis is looming with the potential to disrupt services to 7.5 million students and threaten 90,000 educator jobs. In his latest "Is It Good for the Kids?" column, ASCD Executive Director Gene R. Carter describes the cause—sequestration—as a "ticking time bomb" and calls on education leaders to demand that Congress replace the measure with a sensible solution that protects funding for crucial education programs.
For those unfamiliar with sequestration, Carter offers a detailed explanation of the fiscal policy procedure and outlines the congressional budget impasse last fall that triggered it, setting in motion automatic, across-the-board cuts to education and other federal programs that will take effect in January 2013. In addition, Carter illustrates that the cuts to programs like Title I (-$1.2 billion), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (-$1 billion), and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (-$146 million) will come at an especially bad time for students and schools. Stimulus money to states and districts has run out and major education programs have not seen funding increases in years. Yet even worse, according to Carter, is the challenge educators will face in accurately planning their upcoming school budgets amid the uncertainty of whether or not the cuts will actually occur midway through the 2012–13 school year.
To avoid this "weapon of fiscal destruction," Carter takes aim at the lawmakers who brought about sequestration and asks educators to join him in demanding a responsible solution to the crisis. He says,
Congress must repeal the sequestration mandate before it is too late. But it won’t be easy. Brinkmanship is quickly replacing negotiation and compromise as Congress's preferred legislative tactic. In a time and situation like this, education leaders must step forward and appeal to legislators in both parties to craft a sensible, long-term fiscal plan for the nation that avoids short-term and haphazard budget cuts that imperil investments in education.
You can speak out on this crucial issue. Use and share the resources ASCD has created to tell Congress to stop sequestration now!
The Intersection of the Common Core and the Whole Child
A new webinar about how the Common Core State Standards Initiative is a step toward ensuring a whole child approach to education is now available online. David Griffith, ASCD public policy director, and Efrain Mercado, lead strategist for Common Core State Standards, shared how the Common Core standards can fit within the framework of the whole child and still challenge students with higher expectations. They also communicated to participants the importance of not allowing the standards to supplant the things that we know provide children with a well-rounded education. The session was part of the 2012 Whole Child Virtual Conference that was held earlier this month.
Archived session recordings and presenter handouts from the 2012 Whole Child Virtual Conference are being posted as they become available. The event featured presenters from around the country and the world who shared their expertise on developing and sustaining a whole child approach to education. The conference’s free online sessions addressed the full breadth and depth of a whole child approach across curriculum and instruction, school climate and culture, family and community engagement, assessment, and leadership.
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