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Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line

CER interns had the chance to tune in to a Brookings Institution webinar entitled “Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line”, and listened to former Capitol Hill staffers tackle the issue of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA).

During the webinar, the failure to reauthorize ESEA was attributed to the introduction of the No Child Left Behind waivers, while failure of HEA was attributed to an abundance of policy proposals and executive orders, like giving letter grades to college institutions.

The overall consensus of the panel was that these bills needed to be updated to currently reflect education of today and the future. Some pointed to the separation of the branches of government and the non-alignment of the political parties as the reason these laws haven’t been updated. Panelists recalled their time in the Senate when legislators only wanted to be involved with the Executive Branch if it was an election year. The fact is there is not a bill that combines both the views of the Democrats and the Republicans, so anything passing is highly unlikely.

It was clear that education has become some sort of a “political football” that will be one a large factor in the upcoming presidential campaigns. Although the Obama Administration tried to pass these education bills, they failed because “shooting at POTUS is more popular than working with him”.

The panelists then took a vote on which bills they thought could hypothetically pass, and the results were mixed: reauthorization of HEA was unlikely, ESEA was 75% maybe/yes, and a proposed standardized higher education bill was a definite no.

I believe that both the House and the Senate need to put aside political agendas and focus on what’s important: THE CHILDREN. They need

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A Reformer’s Course of Action For the Next Generation of ESEA

Defining the Needs of Substantive Education Reform in Federal Programs
By Jeanne Allen, Alison Consoletti and Kara Kerwin

Policy Perspective
July 2013

PDF version

Despite the lack of consensus on just about every other issue, both sides of the aisle of the 113th Congress seem committed to get something done to reestablish the federal role in K-12 education in the U.S.

What’s even more surprising is that two very different camps are approaching this reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) in seemingly very distinct ways, but may essentially end up at the same place.

With House action taking place in the immediate future, along with the likelihood that a new ESEA may actually get to conference subsequently, it’s time for a real education reform perspective to guide the debate.

Numerous groups and organizations have surely filled the halls of Congress over the past several years and more immediately, the past several months to celebrate and herald those Members who seem most to espouse their own programs and points of view. Most, however, seem to be viewing the ESEA debate through a narrow lens.

This paper defines the proper role of federal programs to meet the needs of all education reform strands combined – not just charter schools OR accountability OR teacher quality but ALL – while putting the interests of parents and students first and ensuring the adults around our schools have the authority and freedom to defy the status quo.

The New Course – Build on Both Versions. Five years overdue, we’re in the midst of much debate on the Republican-controlled House version, H.R.5 Student Success Act, and the Democrat-controlled Senate version, S. 1094 Strengthening America’s Schools Act. While neither version offer the right balance of incentive and consequence, its important to look to the lessons of the past

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Newswire: January 8, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 1

Happy New Year! The first half of the first month of 2013 is not even finished and already the momentum — and opposition — around education reform is building. To wit:

STATE POLICY MATTERS. Kudos to StudentsFirst for their new report card, which offers some different perspective on the issues facing policymakers and parents. If Ed Reform is a College Student, this is akin to yet another professor weighing in on his competency in particular areas. But it’s the cumulative GPA that really matters in the end. CER comments today.

UNION POWER?? It’s like Randi Weingarten was suddenly Captain Renault in Casablanca: “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here!” Her line to Mayor Bloomberg’s characterization of the union being as powerful as the NRA might as well have been: “I’m shocked, shocked that anyone thinks we have as much power as the NRA!” The union was offended and tied the remark to the recent tragedies in Newton. For shame! Whether one likes it or not, the NRA is a powerful political lobby for a cause and members, and that’s what “Hizoner” was saying when the union decided to once again stand in the way of a new teacher evaluation law from being implemented. That law got the union and the Governor of NY and Bloomberg great press TWO YEARS AGO and is STILL NOT IMPLEMENTED, and is one of those laws that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attributes to Race to the Top pressure. Ah, but as we predicted, there is more to getting policy changed than getting a law passed, and like so many places, the initial oohhs and aahhs that surround the union becoming progressive turns out to be all about the talk,

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Two NCLB Rewrite Bills Approved

The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed 2 bills, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, part of a package intended to overhaul No Child Left Behind. These 2 bills were introduced by Chairman Kline in hopes of enhancing school accountability, improving flexibility, and supporting effective teachers. The legislation awaits a vote from the full House.

So how do these bills relate to No Child Left Behind?

The Student Success Act (HR 3989) eliminates federally mandated NCLB interventions for failing schools and replaces Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) with state-determined accountability systems. It does, however, maintain that states and districts release annual report cards with disaggregated data, meaning subgroup accountability doesn’t fall by the wayside. “Maintenance of effort” requirements that stipulate that districts will forfeit federal funding if their expenditures are less than 90% of the previous year’s expenditures is also wiped out according to this act. One can only hope this means the practice of spending frivolously just to reach certain levels will slow down, if not end. Finally, HR 3989 also eliminates “highly qualified teacher” requirements. Effective teachers make a tremendous difference in students’ lives, but the means by which “highly qualified teachers” were identified and distinguished, along with mandating they appear in classrooms, is why this measure failed to live up to original expectations. Not to mention the increased scrutiny on teacher preparation programs and colleges of education for failing to prepare teachers as best they should.

Perhaps it is because of this that the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (HR 3990) shifts focus to how teachers are doing in the classroom. HR 3990 requires teacher evaluation systems to be locally developed and implemented to include student achievement, incorporate multiple factors, and include feedback from all stakeholders.

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Leaving 'No Child' law: Obama lets 10 states flee

By Ben Feller
Associated Press
February 9, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — It could be the beginning of the end for No Child Left Behind.

The goal was lofty: Get all children up to par in math and reading by 2014. But the nation isn’t getting there, and now some states are getting out.

In a sign of what’s to come, President Barack Obama on Thursday freed 10 states from some of the landmark law’s toughest requirements. Those states, which had to commit to their own, federally approved plans, will now be free, for example, to judge students with methods other than test scores. They also will be able to factor in subjects beyond reading and math.

“We can combine greater freedom with greater accountability,” Obama said from the White House. Plenty more states are bound to take him up on the offer.

While many educators and many governors celebrated, congressional Republicans accused Obama of executive overreach, and education and civil rights groups questioned if schools would be getting a pass on aggressively helping poor and minority children — the kids the 2002 law was primarily designed to help.

The first 10 states to be declared free from the education law are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The only state that applied for the flexibility and did not get it, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval.

Twenty-eight other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to flee the law in favor of their own plans.

The government’s action on Thursday was a tacit acknowledgement that the law’s main goal, getting all students up to speed in reading and math by 2014, is not within reach.

The states excused from following the law no longer have to meet that deadline. Instead, they had

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NCLB Waivers: The Ultimate Ego Trip

The move by states to secure waivers to NCLB requirements is intended to provide more flexibility to their school districts so that – as the theory goes – states and communities can respond to mounting national pressure to deliver better education.

If only it were that easy.

The reality is that these chiefs – regardless of their interests, their power and their ideological leanings – cannot do any better than those in power before NCLB was enacted unless the incentives for change — and the consequences — are no longer voluntary.

True, we have witnessed a sea change with respect to state education policy at the hands of great Governors and school chiefs over time, only to then watch helplessly as it all turned around at the conclusion of a disappointing election cycle. NCLB was intended to finally shake up a system seemingly impervious to change in all but a few pockets of the country. It wasn’t a perfect law. No law is. It relied upon people of varied interests to respond to the challenge and the consequences clearly set forth.

Because of NCLB, we have learned more each year about the dismal state of education through data that, for the first time, was publicly available and disaggregated for all to see.

For decades, student achievement was masked behind the averaged results of a school – results that really meant very little. Good schools had money. Bad schools were impoverished. That’s what the public — and the policymakers — thought. NCLB data-demands unearthed real achievement data — and helped us to throw away the excuses that created a persistent achievement gap.

But instead of responding to the challenge (as we learned more and more each year about the dismal state of education) school districts and Supers began to fight back. They claimed they were being

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Daily Headlines for September 29, 2011

Fighting the Feds: 2012 Candidates Want States to Control Education
ABC News, September 29, 2011
So when it comes to education policy debates, whether it’s the Democratic incumbent or the array of Republican challengers, all eyes – and talking points – are on two things: the federal government’s role and the overall cost.

Obama Tells Students: Discover New Passions
Washington Post, DC, September 28, 2011
For an incumbent president facing a tough reelection campaign, no public appearance is completely free of political content. But President Obama’s annual back-to-school speech to the nation’s students, delivered Wednesday at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Northwest Washington , was about as close as it gets.

No Child Waivers Make Sense For Now
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, September 29, 2011
Members of Congress railing against the Obama administration’s decision to grant waivers from the sweeping No Child Left Behind education law have little ground to stand on.

Coming Together to Dismantle Education Reform
TIME, September 29, 2011
A new consensus is emerging in education politics. But can the center hold? And would reformers even want it to? Bipartisanship is supposed to be a good thing — except for when Republicans and Democrats come together to try to paper over our education problems.

Teachers Union Launches Ad Campaign Supporting Obama Jobs Bill
The Hill, DC, September 28, 2011
The National Education Association (NEA) launched a multistate television ad campaign Wednesday in support of President Obama’s American Jobs Act.

Romney’s Race From the Top
American Spectator, September 29, 2011
The GOP field would rather ignore education altogether, even to the point of dismissing sensible, conservative ideas that could get better bang for taxpayers’ buck. This was particularly clear when Texas Gov. Rick Perry took aim at Romney for praising President Barack Obama’s school reform agenda.



Whitman Returns to Her Valley Roots

Wall Street Journal, September 29,

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Daily Headlines for September 27, 2011

Better Way to Fix No Child Left Behind
New York Times, NY, September 27, 2011
Last week President Obama, citing a failure by Congress to act, announced a procedure for handing out waivers for the federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind law. Unfortunately, these waivers come with a series of new federal rules, this time without congressional approval, and would make the secretary of education the equivalent of a national school board.

Some in GOP back Obama on NCLB
Washington Times, DC, September 26, 2011
Over objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill, President Obama is making it clear he will proceed with his blueprint education reform and an overhaul of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. And this time, Mr. Obama will have some bipartisan cover, as many Republican governors are backing his approach.

No Child Left Behind Option Meets Praise And Caution
USA Today, September 26, 2011
President Obama is offering to free public schools from many of the requirements of a controversial federal education law. But as states consider whether to take him up on it, they’re realizing the offer comes with some costs.

Lofty Goals
Topeka Capital-Journal , KS, September 26, 2011
No Child Left Behind has itself been left behind, slightly more than two years ahead of the date by which it was to meet its mandated goal of having all U.S. schoolchildren proficient in reading and mathematics.

A Larger Role for the States
Commercial Appeal, TN, September 27, 2011
Education takes a turn: Governors who wanted a larger say in the process will have a chance now to show what they can do.



More Than 500 Mobile County Students Transfer To Better Schools
Press Register, AL, September 26, 2011
So, Luciana became

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Daily Headlines for September 26, 2011

Obama Presses Education Plan
Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2011
President Barack Obama in his weekly radio address on Saturday said a strong education system is key to the nation’s economic future and touted his efforts to let schools replace key planks of the No Child Left Behind education law.

Obama Turns Some Powers of Education Back to States
New York Times, NY, September 24, 2011
With his declaration on Friday that he would waive the most contentious provisions of a federal education law, President Obama effectively rerouted the nation’s education history after a turbulent decade of overwhelming federal influence.

NCLB Flexibility For States
Washington Post, DC, September 25, 2011
JUST ABOUT EVERYONE agrees on the need to update the No Child Left Behind law. Nearly a decade of experience as well as new research underscores shortcomings that are becoming increasingly untenable for local school districts.

Improving Our Schools
The Intelligencer, WV, September 26, 2011
After a decade in which it became apparent federal school reform efforts were leaving millions of children behind, it appears Washington has given up and dumped the problem back on the states, where it belonged in the first place.

Keep the Pressure on Schools
The Oregonian, OR, September 25, 2011
No doubt Oregon will be among the first to rush to the Obama administration for one of the waivers the president offered last Friday to states eager to avoid the tough requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Race to the Top Projects Are Slow-Moving In States
Keene Sentinel, NH, September 25, 2011
But after a lengthy planning process in legislatures around the country, many states only now are implementing the changes that won them money in the program’s first two rounds, and not everyone is happy with the results.

Parent Trigger Law Gives Parents Real Power: When Schools Fail, Convert Them Into Charters

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Daily Headlines for September 23, 2011

Obama Rewrites ‘No Child’ Law
Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2011
President Barack Obama is set to replace key planks of former President George W. Bush’s signature No Child Left Behind education law, allowing many schools to escape looming punishment if their states adopt a new set of standards.

U.S. May Spare Schools From Harsh Penalties In Exchange For Reforms
Los Angeles Times, CA, September 23, 2011
The Obama administration plan would relieve school districts from requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act if they implement reforms such as linking teacher evaluations to student test scores.

Study: Single-Sex Education May Do More Harm Than Good
Washington Post, DC, September 22, 2011
The push for more single-sex instruction in public schools is based on weak, “misconstrued” scientific claims rather than solid research and may do more harm than good, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday.



Charter School Plans Move Forward In Banta
Tracy Press, CA, September 22, 2011
Plans to build a technology charter school in the Banta Elementary School District are moving forward, and on Tuesday night officials announced they hope to eventually expand it to include a four-year college.



DPS, Union To Seek Arbitrator’s Ruling On Teacher-Effectiveness Law
Denver Post, CO, September 22, 2011
Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union have announced they will go to an arbitrator to get an outside opinion on how to implement Senate Bill 191 – last year’s teacher-effectiveness bill.


Chicago Mayor Celebrates Opening Of Health Sciences Charter School At New Southwest Side Site
Chicago Tribune, IL, September 23, 2011
Chicago’s first public charter school focusing on health sciences careers has embarked on its first year in a new $24 million building on the city’s Southwest Side.

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