September 2007 Archives

Don't overlook middle schools in NCLB reauthorization, some members of Congress are saying. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Az., is pointing to findings buried in a recent report that show a disproportionate number of middle schools are failing to make AYP. Although 15 percent of schools in the Title I program serve the middle grades, a third of the schools in restructuring or corrective action are middle schools, the Government Accountability Office says in this report. Rep. Grijalva is pointing to the figures as a reason to address middle schools' problems in NCLB reauthorization. He has sponsored a middle school bill, ...


We've heard all about testing and teacher pay since the House education committee released its discussion drafts on NCLB. Beware of another potential headache: paperwork. That's what the American Association of School Administrators says. In two separate documents (here and here), AASA lists the new red tape the House proposal would add. Committees would need to form, studies would have to be published, and new reports would need to be filed. Under the Title I proposal, districts would be overwhelmed trying to comply with everything the draft would require in their improvement plans, AASA says. Under Title II, districts would ...


President Bush today joined the chorus of NCLB supporters who say the law is the reason for the positive results on the National Assessment of Education Progress. "What all this means is No Child Left Behind Act is working for all kinds of children in all kinds of schools in every part of the country," the president said in New York City this morning. But critics aren't convinced. FairTest has released its formal response, saying that NAEP increases were "significantly greater" before NCLB (from 2000 to 2003) than after. "That deflates the administration’s claims that federal law is driving ...


Last week lacked the breaking news on the NCLB beat common in recent months. But the stories in this week's issue of Education Week dig below the surface of some significant developments. Throw in a couple of commentaries, and this issue has a lot to offer on the NCLB front. In Law's Timeline on Proficiency Under Debate, I explain where key lawmakers and leading lobbyists stand on the deadline for universal proficiency by 2014. The goal once appeared sacrosanct, but it may not be now. Although I didn't have a fresh quote on this topic from Secretary of Education Margaret ...


NCLB supporters are bragging today that the law's focus on student achievement is the main reason for the rise in reading and mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Here's this press release from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings: “No Child Left Behind is working. It’s doable, reasonable, and necessary. Any efforts to weaken accountability would fly in the face of rising achievement." Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., says the scores show that NCLB should be reauthorized with its key ingredients in place. "They are also a stark reminder that we cannot and must not back ...


This morning, NEA President Reg Weaver and other NEA staff members explained the union's stance on NCLB reauthorization to a dozen or so education writers. They outlined what the union doesn't like about growth models, teacher-pay provisions, and other issues addressed in the House education committee's discussion draft. Much of the policy discussion had been covered in documents previously released by the NEA. (See here, here, and here.) But the political discussion was news to me. At the end, Weaver was asked whether the NEA would bend in its opposition to merit pay and pay for performance linked to students' ...


John Edwards' presidential campaign said today that the former senator would "totally overhaul" NCLB. "No Child Left Behind used cheap standardized tests to measure our children's learning, failed to accurately identify struggling schools, and mandated unproven cookie-cutter solutions for our schools' problems," the campaign said in a paper outlining Mr. Edwards' education platform. Edwards would create a School Success Fund, which would sent teams of experienced educators into low-performing schools. He also weighs in on the teacher pay debate, offering to pad the salaries of teachers in high-poverty schools. The teachers would get an extra $15,000 if their students ...


All month, key lawmakers have said they would take significant legislative action on NCLB in September. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has said he wants to get a bill out of the Education and Labor Committee, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chamber's education chairman, has been promising to introduce an NCLB bill. Since Monday is the beginning of the last full week of September, Alyson Klein and I asked around about what might happen next week. The House Education and Labor Committee will not mark up a NCLB bill next week. Sen. Kennedy may introduce his NCLB bill or ...


I—and just about everyone else—missed this Sept. 10 letter from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, to the leaders of the House education committee. In his "Dear George and Buck" letter, Rep. Boehner praises the bipartisan process that produced the House's NCLB discussion draft. Then he criticizes many key sections of it. In summary, Rep. Boehner says the draft would fail to give students the option of choosing private schools, would cut back tutoring and other supplemental services, wouldn't support enough pay-for-performance and merit-pay plans for teachers, and would create new loopholes in the accountability system. He also ...


Last week, NEA announced its opposition to the House's NCLB discussion draft. Its California chapter launched an online advertising campaign against the draft. This week, it's clear they haven't changed their minds. Yesterday, NEA sent out this "action alert" urging members to contact their members of Congress about the bill. The overall message is to tell Congress to "slow down," the alert says. It concludes: "Instead of rushing to pass legislation that will offer more bureaucracy, more mandates, and less help for students and educators, Congress should take the time to craft a bill that will truly help ensure great ...


Last week was full of NCLB news, and you can read it in the current issue of Education Week. For Unions Assail Teacher Ideas in NCLB Draft, Alyson Klein and I give the highlights of the Sept. 10 hearing and the fallout from it. (Much of that was covered in the blog here, here, and here.) Take note of comments from Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon's spokeswoman and from Amanda L. Farris at the Department of Education. They both want pay-for-performance projects included in the reauthorized NCLB. In Draft Proposal Seeks to Equalize School Resources, Bess Keller explains how one ...


Democrats for Education Reform marked its Washington debut on Monday night. The New York-based PAC says it wants to be a player in the NCLB debate. Elizabeth Rich, an online editor for the section of edweek.org serving teachers, attended and filed this report: With a perfect view of the Washington and Jefferson Monuments and the sun setting behind the White House, the Democrats for Education Reform held their organization launch. DFER is angling to get party support behind education issues--as they see them. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., spoke, but left early; DC Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, spoke ...


Enough single-issue items for now. It's time to look at the big picture. Today at noon I'll be moderating a discussion at the Cato Institute. The focus of the event is a new book by Neal P. McCluskey, a Cato policy analyst. As you might expect from a libertarian, McCluskey argues against NCLB and any other significant federal involvement in K-12 education. The title of his book sums up his position: Feds in the Classroom: How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples, and Compromises American Education. "It is clear that 40 years of expensive federal intervention in our schools has been a ...


I closed my last post asking if testing and accountability would be the issues of the week. The next moment, my colleague, Alyson Klein, sends me a copy of this release. I guess the answer is yes. Today, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the Improving Student Testing Act of 2007. The bill would dramatically scale back the amount of testing and the types of assessments given under NCLB. "There are a number of other issues that we need to address in the NCLB reauthorization," Sen. Feingold said in his statement when introducing the bill in ...


Last week, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., decried existing loopholes in the NCLB accountability rules, blaming Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for letting states off the hook. Now, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., comes to the secretary's defense. More importantly, the senior Republican on the education committee hints he's not committed to several key elements of the Title I discussion draft that he and Chairman Miller released last month. "Rather than blaming the U.S. secretary of education, I believe our time would be better spent focusing on the future of the law, not its past implementation," Rep. McKeon writes ...


A few things to note as I clean out my inbox and notebook at the end of the week: 1.) I've neglected to mention the extent of NEA's presence at the House hearing on Monday. The union had at least one of its members from every congressional district represented on the Education and Labor Committee. The union brigade stood out with their red-and-white stickers that said: "A Child is More Than a Test Score." I saw them talking to several members of the committee in the hallway. You can read Joe Williams' take on it at his blog for Democrats ...


Last week, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said the House NCLB draft would create "big loopholes" in the law's accountability rules. This week, Rep. George Miller responds, saying that the secretary has diluted the power of existing rules with her administrative decisions. In this commentary published on edweek.org today, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee says that the secretary has approved statistical games that make accountability easier for schools. He points out the department has let states use 'n' sizes of up to 200 students. That means a school that has less than 200 students in ...


If you search the House education committee's NCLB draft, you won't find the phrase "persistently dangerous schools." The current law requires states to identify any school that fits their definition of persistently dangerous. Districts must allow students to transfer out of those schools. For the most part, states have avoided implementing this section. In 2003, states labeled a total of 54 schools as persistently dangerous. Under the draft, the "persistently dangerous" section would morph into a new "challenge schools" grant. A challenge school would be one "that is determined not to have a safe climate for academic achievement," the draft ...


The NCLB stories in the current issue of Education Week focus on the news of last week in Washington, but a couple of others will give you a glimpse of issues out in the field. When the House Education and Labor Committee posted discussion drafts of Title II and other sections of NCLB at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, several of us collaborated to get the news out before the paper went to press at noon on Friday. We didn't have time to find reaction to the draft itself. I dug through the NEA Web site to find Reg ...


Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has responded to the California Teachers Association's Web ad proclaiming the current draft of NCLB "imposes new federal mandates that undermine local control and employee rights." In a statement e-mailed to me by the press secretary of the House Education and Labor Committee, the chairman says the teachers union got it wrong. Here's an extended excerpt: "The CTA claimed today that the legislation would judge teachers’ performance solely on the basis of their students’ achievement gains, even though the organization knows this isn’t true. Contrary to the CTA’s assertions, the legislation would consider achievement ...


Just after I posted this item on a teacher union's opposition to the House's NCLB draft, the subject of merit pay and performance pay came up in today's marathon House Education and Labor Committee hearing. Toward the end of the almost seven-hour session, NEA President Reg Weaver and AFT Executive Vice President Antonia Cortese objected to proposed alternative pay programs for teachers, which are included in the section addressing teacher quality. In the Q&A that followed, Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., reminded the union reps that that the pay proposals came from the Teacher Excellence for All Children Act, which ...


The House Education and Labor Committee invited more than 40 people to speak at today's hearing on their draft bill to reauthorize NCLB. But today's most important NCLB statement may be on this Web page. In it, the California Teachers Association says: "NCLB is again now up for reauthorization. And the proposal by California Congressman George Miller and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does nothing to improve the law. California teachers are calling on Congress to vote NO on the Miller/Pelosi NCLB reauthorization plan." The CTA doesn't like many proposals in the drafts (see here, here, and here) issued by ...


As we wrap up this week where people are debating NCLB's future, I'd like to ask you to think about the past. In "No Child Left Behind: What Would Al Say?" published in the Sept. 5 Education Week, Richard D. Kahlenberg draws on his research for his new biography of Albert Shanker. He suggests that the late president of the American Federation of Teachers wouldn't have liked several elements of NCLB. Even though Shanker was one of the biggest proponents of standards-based reforms in the 1990s, he had a different vision than what emerged from Congress in 2002.The four ...


For those of you interested what the House committee is proposing in the rest of NCLB, you can read a summary and legislative language at the House Education and Labor Committee's Web site....


While I wait for the House education committee to post the next installment of its NCLB proposal, I've had the chance to review what groups are saying about the Title I draft. Here's a quick summary of a few responses sent to the House Education and Labor Committee: Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings writes that she is "deeply troubled" by many of the draft's accountability proposals. (But if you heard her speech yesterday, you already knew that.) "We could easily lose simple transparency about whether schools are teaching students to read and do math on grade level, and obscure what's ...


In his remarks this morning, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said he was working closely with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on NCLB reauthorization. But in his conference call with reporters this afternoon, he made it clear that they don't see eye-to-eye on some key sections of the bill. Twice, he referred to the secretary's assertion last year that the law is "99.9 percent pure." "There's no evidence on the street that that's the case," he said. The chairman of the House education committee also responded to Secretary Spellings' speech today, in which she criticized the several elements of the ...


In her speech this morning, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings made it clear she doesn't like the House committee's NCLB draft. In her prepared remarks and comments to reporters afterword, she focused her criticism on accountability and supplemental services. The proposal to add alternative measures to the accountability system would complicate it and could "water down" the focus on reading and mathematics, she said. According to her estimates, there would be a 75 percent reduction in the number of Utah schools identified as failing to make adequate yearly progress. And the section creating a two-tiered accountability system would make 250,000...


By noon tomorrow, we'll know more about the future of the House education committee's NCLB draft . By then, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will have delivered a speech entitled "No Child Left Behind: Moving Forward." I'm betting she'll outline her position on multiple measures, differentiated interventions, and other issues in the draft. After Spellings speaks, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., are scheduled to give responses. I hope we'll get a sense of how committed they are to the details in their "work in progress." A special education advocate and a local superintendent will appear ...


Now that the Labor Day weekend is over, get ready to hear from education groups about where they stand on the House committee's NCLB draft. Next in line at this blog is the Education Industry Association. In a statement released last week, Executive Director Steven Pines says says that thousands of students would lose their eligibility for tutoring and other services under the draft. EIA doesn't like the two-tiered accountability system. Only students in high-priority schools would have access to tutoring. That would deny such help to students in priority schools (i.e. those schools that miss AYP in a ...


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