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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 to figure out exactly

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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.

FROM THE STATES

CALIFORNIA

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.

FROM THE STATES

ALABAMA

More Than 500 Mobile County Students Transfer To Better Schools
Press Register, AL, September 26, 2011
So, Luciana became one of 542 of Mobile County’s public school students to take advantage

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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
New

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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.

FROM THE STATES

CALIFORNIA

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.

 

COLORADO

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.

ILLINOIS

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.

Charter Schools Plan Rally At UIC
Chicago Tribune, IL, September 23, 2011
Chicago’s

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Lessons for US and Our Children From 9/11

Everyone has a story about what was happening ten years ago, on that originally beautiful morning that soon turned into the nightmare we now know as September 11, 2001. I was watching live coverage of then President George W. Bush, who sat in a public school classroom in Florida, as he sought to mobilize people behind a consensus that our school crisis needed a major national initiative to ensure accountability for results at an unprecedented level.

After the tap on the shoulder from his chief of staff, the news people interrupted and the rest, as they say, is history. Weeks later, Bush would begin anew with the late Senator Edward Kennedy, House education chair John Boehner, house education ranking member George Miller and others as they forged a new consensus that money without strings, and without a requirement for student results, would no longer be the way our government conducted business.

As No Child Left Behind took hold over many contentious days and nights of negotiation, eventually, and in large part owing to the new found camaraderie that sprang out of the tragedy of 9/11, a new law was born.

Despite its many detractors and some flaws, NCLB then, as now, continues to shine sun on an outrage that should upset the American public at its core, on a regular basis. That outrage — that fewer than half of ALL of U.S. children are not proficient in basic, needed elements of education, and that children of color lag by another 30 percent — is something that we should approach not much differently than as if a foreign power was attacking us right here on our own soil.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we were reminded that generations of students lack a fundamental understanding of history. Evil acts aside, most Americans did not understand

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Lessons for US and Our Children From 9/11

Everyone has a story about what was happening ten years ago, on that originally beautiful morning that soon turned into the nightmare we now know as September 11, 2001. I was watching live coverage of then President George W. Bush, who sat in a public school classroom in Florida, as he sought to mobilize people behind a consensus that our school crisis needed a major national initiative to ensure accountability for results at an unprecedented level.

After the tap on the shoulder from his chief of staff, the news people interrupted and the rest, as they say, is history. Weeks later, Bush would begin anew with the late Senator Edward Kennedy, House education chair John Boehner, house education ranking member George Miller and others as they forged a new consensus that money without strings, and without a requirement for student results, would no longer be the way our government conducted business.

As No Child Left Behind took hold over many contentious days and nights of negotiation, eventually, and in large part owing to the new found camaraderie that sprang out of the tragedy of 9/11, a new law was born.

Despite its many detractors and some flaws, NCLB then, as now, continues to shine sun on an outrage that should upset the American public at its core, on a regular basis. That outrage — that fewer than half of ALL of U.S. children are not proficient in basic, needed elements of education, and that children of color lag by another 30 percent — is something that we should approach not much differently than as if a foreign power was attacking us right here on our own soil.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we were reminded that generations of students lack a fundamental understanding of history. Evil acts aside, most Americans did not understand

Read More …

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Creative Non-Compliance

I usually like this term. It means we might as well bend some rules, if the need justifies it, and normally, this term is associated with good deeds. But, Secretary Arne Duncan’s attempt to start creatively non-complying with NCLB may not be about good deeds, as much as he suggests it is. Throughout the weekend, news reports screamed that Duncan will be granting waivers to a law carefully and painfully put in place to guard against the kind of data abuses and lack of transparency that plagued the nation prior to NCLB’s enactment.

Sure, NCLB is not perfect, and Congress and the past president made lots of mistakes. But the fact is that without NCLB, we simply don’t have a clue how schools or students are performing. We can argue some bars are lower and some higher, that some schools that get labeled do so unfairly. For the most part, however, it works. It shines sun on the dirty little secret of even the best schools that neglect their neediest students. And it captured our attention and put the establishment on the defensive. Most important, it gave parents a tool to use as a lever for change. (more…)

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