October 2007 Archives

The demand for supplemental educational services hasn't kept pace with the growth of federal dollars to pay for them, according to a new analysis from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Even though the number of districts required to offer SES under NCLB has grown in recent years, the percentage of students signing up for the free tutoring has declined, the 19-page paper says. These numbers are similar to national numbers that I collected from the U.S. Department of Education for this story three weeks ago. "What is striking is that the increase in the number of eligible students ...


For the first time in months, the current issue of Education Week doesn't have an story describing the incremental progress (or lack thereof) on NCLB legislation. But the Education Week staff still managed to find several NCLB treats to share with you. Christina A. Samuels delivers a front-page report on efforts to require "universal design for learning" in NCLB ('Universal Design' Concept Pushed for Education). A coalition of education groups wants states to create lesson plans that address a variety of learning styles. The language is in the discussion draft circulated by House members and in a bipartisan Senate bill (see...


Don't bother clicking on any of my links to the House's discussion draft over the past two months. The House Education and Labor Committee has taken down the documents it posted on Aug. 28 and Sept. 6. Now all you get is this friendly message: "The committee has received many helpful comments regarding its NCLB discussion draft and is currently in the process of reviewing them." The panel pulled the documents because "elements of the draft were growing outdated," Tom Kiley, a committee spokesman, told me in an e-mail. He didn't mention which parts of the proposal are no longer ...


The next version to NCLB will almost certainly use growth models to measure adequate yearly progress. The idea is in the House's discussion draft and just about every set of recommendations to improve the law (see here, here, and here). A new report out today suggests the law should allow new forms of assessing students, too. The report from a Delaware-based group says that NCLB should let states use computer-adaptive tests instead of grade-level tests, which are usually given with pencil and paper. Grade-level tests, the groups says, are unable to measure progress of students who start the year either ...


What does the namesake of a civil-rights leader from the South Side of Chicago have in common with a Caucasian Republican from Alaska who lives seven miles north of the Arctic Circle? They agree on how to fix No Child Left Behind. Boardbuzz—the official blog of the National School Boards Association—announced in this item that Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill., has endorsed the association's NCLB bill. The bill, H.R. 648, is sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, a former teacher. This alliance shows how mixed up the politics of NCLB can be. Jackson's action is another...


Since I last talked to Richard Simmons, his effort to insert physical education into the NCLB debate hasn't made much progress. The House's NCLB draft excluded the FIT Kids Act, which would require states to guarantee students have access to physical education. And the draft's list of potential multiple measures wouldn't include physical education. Both are things Simmons is lobbying for. But he isn't giving up. The fitness star's Web site has a long entry explaining that he's excited about the progress of his proposal to add physical education requirements to NCLB. The biggest positive sign, he says, is that ...


Advocates for environmental education are continuing to push their cause. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., has signed up to be the Senate's sponsor of the No Child Left Inside Act. “The No Child Left Inside Act will help reconnect more kids with nature and restore environmental education in America’s classrooms,” Reed says in a press release from the coalition of environmental and education groups pushing the bill. On the coalition's Web site, you'll see that it has been partially successful in its lobbying, at least in the House. In its comments on the Title I section of the House's ...


Even though lawmakers aren't making news about the future of NCLB, the current issue of Education Week includes stories that touch on the hallmarks of the law: accountability, improving reading skills of the lowest-performing students, and rewarding teachers for improving students' test scores. Throw in a commentary about narrowing the curriculum, and you've got a full plate of NCLB in front of you. As for the news, Alyson Klein writes about the looming budget faceoff between Democrats and President Bush (Bush, Democrats Face Education Spending Showdown). I've already blogged about the story here, mentioning that it is too soon to ...


The California Teachers Association continues its assault on NCLB. To supplement its Web ads, it has turned to YouTube and radio ads. The YouTube video tears at heartstrings and predicts that NCLB will lead to the end of public education as we know it. The radio ad includes standard union criticism of the law. "Students should be judged by more than a standardized test score," CTA President David Sanchez says. Performance pay "means more teaching to the test and will make it harder to attract teachers into lower-performing schools," he adds. The ad is available in English and Spanish. You ...


Here's a quick followup on the New York City merit-pay plan announced last week. The United Federation of Teachers' blog says the union-endorsed NYC plan sends a signal to Congress that this is the best way to do performance pay. "New York City is sending a clear message to the members of Congress considering the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind: the way to improve schools does not lie down the road of setting teacher against teacher, but of bringing teachers together in common cause and effort on behalf of their students," the UFT's blog—EdWize—says in this post....


While the NCLB reauthorization debate is almost exclusively behind closed doors right now, the fight over its funding is out in the public. Alyson Klein's story for the next issue of Education Week (which was posted on www.edweek.org today) suggests that it's too soon to predict what might happen. More than 140 House Republicans signed a letter to the president in May saying that they would support the president if he vetoes spending bills. But some of them turned around to vote for the House's bill that appropriates money for education, labor, and other domestic programs—a bill...


Lots of talk in the education blogosphere about New York City's merit-pay deal. (See here, here, and here.) The Swift & Change Able Charles Barone suggests that this announcement could be a turning point on the NCLB debate over teacher pay. I see one key element in the New York City plan that could be a congressional roadblock: Union approval. In New York City's case, the United Federation of Teachers' approval was central to getting the deal done. Unions will certainly point to UFT's support as the reason why teachers are willing to experiment with merit pay. I'm hearing House Democrats ...


Senate aides last night circulated a discussion draft of sections of NCLB. The draft addresses issues that aren't controversial, avoiding topics such accountability and teacher pay. Both Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., the panel's senior Republican, endorsed the draft. Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for the HELP Committee, e-mailed this response to my query about the process: "Chairman Kennedy is pleased that progress has been made, working with committee members, on many issues related to this reauthorization. The draft legislative language released yesterday includes ...


In response to one member's "strong concerns" about the House's NCLB draft, two members of the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday said that they like much of the proposal. They add that the caucus—known by its acronym, CBC—hasn't taken a position on the bill. "While a quality education for all children is certainly a priority for all members of the CBC, we respect the right of each CBC member to evaluate the specific legislation as it moves through the legislative process and to take whatever final position he or she sees fit," Reps. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Va., and...


With congressional leaders and staff working behind the scenes to hammer out differences on NCLB, the current issue of Education Week looks at some little-noticed issues in the debate over law's future. For 'Scientific' Label in Law Stirs Debate, Debra Viadero reports on the "quiet debate" over the definition of "scientifically based research." The phrase, which appears more than 100 times in the law, currently favors randomized or experimental studies. The House's draft would allow other types of studies to fall under that definition, so long as they aim to determine whether educational interventions are effective. The Department of Education's ...


The panelists at the American Enterprise Institute today touched on accountability, national standards, and the universal proficiency goal. All of that was to be expected; the panelists were discussing on a new book addressing those issues. But the most telling comments came when the panelists mentioned the House's draft to reauthorize NCLB. In talking about the draft's proposal to turn around low-performing schools, Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, said that the proposal incorporates some of his group's ideas. But those ideas have been combined with so many others that he's not sure ...


President Bush today said that he would veto a version of NCLB that he doesn't like. It's the first time he's used the threat. "Any effort to weaken No Child Left Behind Act will get a presidential veto," he said at a town hall meeting in Rogers, Ark. "I believe this piece of legislation is important, and I believe it's hopeful, and I believe it's necessary to make sure we got a educated group of students who can compete in the global economy when they get older." Later at the event, he said he would veto appropriations bills this year. ...


Chester E. Finn Jr. and Frederick M. Hess (aka Checker and Rick) keep saying that NCLB, as as its currently constructed, won't result in better schools. Their first point is always that the goal of universal proficiency needs to change. The current goal is "noble but determinedly unrealistic," as Hess writes with Rosemary Kendrick in this Education Week commentary. In this piece for The Education Gadfly, Hess and Finn call the goal "noble yet naïve." "The inevitable result is cynicism and frustration among educators and a 'compliance' mentality among state and local officials," they write. The best course, they ...


Yesterday, Republicans signaled through this news story that they don't like the House draft. Today, I found a Democrat who has his own complaints. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, D-Md., wrote the chairman of the House education committee last week to "express my strong concerns regarding the direction we appear to be heading" in NCLB reauthorization. (Sorry, no link. The letter is not online.) Here are a few choice quotes: "I am deeply concerned that the draft continues to rely so heavily on measuring schools based on standardized test results .... We cannot get a true picture of student and school achievement ...


You'll need a subscription to read this Roll Call story, but the headline tells the tale: Talks Stall on No Child Left Behind. The principals on the House Education and Labor Committee aren't making any progress on the issues separating them, the story says. It mentions merit pay for teachers as a roadblock, but doesn't name others. Judging from past statements, the list includes multiple measures, choice and supplemental educational services, local assessments, and maybe some smaller details. The story concludes noting that the clock is ticking. We're in mid-October, and there are two months at most left before Congress ...


Thanks to Alyson Klein for blogging about yesterday's NCLB meeting at the White House. Some of you know that I have a weekly appointment with a bunch of 5th grade boys on a soccer field on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. That made it hard to blog yesterday afternoon. I wanted to follow up with a couple thoughts. 1.) The presidential bully pulpit works. A former aide to Secretary of Education Richard Riley once told me that Riley could hammer away on an issue for weeks and make little progress. But if President Clinton highlighted the issue in one speech, ...


If you want to see how NCLB dominates the K-12 landscape, look at the front page of this week's issue of Education Week. Three of the four stories on the front page are directly related to the law. The other one mentions NCLB in the fourth paragraph. In Federal Rule Yields Hope for Science, Sean Cavanagh reminds us that states must assess students in science starting in the current school year. Note that the Department of Education has approved just five states' science tests. Also see that six states will use their science scores as the "other academic indicator" in ...


From Alyson Klein President Bush and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings met Tuesday with civil rights leaders at the White House to “strategize” on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Bush said that recent results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress demonstrate that the law is helping to close the achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their more advantaged peers. “Our goal is to have every child reading and doing math at grade level by 2014," the president said. "That seems reasonable to me. Seems like a reasonable ...


Two prominent think tankers agreed to discuss their new book on turning around low-performing schools under NCLB in this edweek.org chat. But most questions centered around standards. "Why is it obvious to just about everyone EXCEPT the people that make policy that national standards are needed?" one principal asked. "This is SUCH a no-brainer, it boggles my mind." Chatter Chester E. Finn, Jr., agreed. But he responded that the failed efforts to establish national standards and tests in the 1990s have left members of Congress "quite allergic to this idea." Later, in response to a question about a national ...


With help from their union brothers to the west, Nevada teachers are getting exercised about the pay-for-performance proposals in NCLB. The Nevada State Education Association held a rally in Reno on Saturday to announce their opposition to proposals in the House's NCLB draft that would experiment with paying teachers based on their students' achievement. The California Teachers Association's president helped lead the rally, according to this CTA press release. Some of the Nevada leaders plan to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this week, according to this television report. Earlier this year, Reid called NCLB "vastly underfunded" and "too ...


As we start another week of waiting for legislative action, let's pause and note where NCLB fits in the larger world of presidential politics. In the field, two candidates have called for the elimination of NCLB. (See here and here.) One is a Democrat; the other a Republican. One is a governor and a former House member; the other is a former senator who voted for NCLB in 2001. At first blush, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the Democrat, and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, the Republican, appear to be strange bedfellows. But when you align them with the the ...


The New America Foundation has a new brief on the looming budget showdown between Congress and President Bush. It says NCLB may play a central role in resolving the stalemate. Democrats are pushing appropriations bills that would make "the most significant change to federal education funding in the last decade," writes Heather Rieman, a policy analyst at the think tank. But the president has threatened to veto the Democratic increases in education and other domestic spending. Rieman foresees three scenarios: 1.) Democrats send the president a huge appropriations bill and dare him to veto it and cause the government to ...


I'm a little late to comment on The Proficiency Illusion, released yesterday by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Most of the media coverage (see here, here, and here) and blog comments (see here and here) have focused on the wide variation in states' definition of proficiency. That's something that has been evident for a while. But there's one other significant finding in the report that has been overlooked: Proficiency appears to be significantly easier to attain in the early grades than in middle school and high school. That may be one of the reasons why Title I middle schools are ...


Several Capitol Hill aides appeared on a panel at the Alliance for Excellent Education's conference in Washington this morning. Nothing they said had stop-the-presses news in it. But they did give a few tidbits of note. That's what blogs are good for. A member of the audience asked whether NCLB would be reauthorized in the current Congress. "The answer is a resounding yes," responded Roberto Rodriguez, a staffer for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate's education committee. "Both chambers are working tediously toward that goal." Yes, he said "tediously." I guess diligently goes without saying. On ...


Diane Ravitch, one of the nation's most influential education writers, gets prime real estate on today's New York Times op-ed page to argue for dramatic changes to NCLB. She calls the law "fundamentally flawed" and declares its goal of universal proficiency is "simply unattainable." The law "has unleashed an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing that has reduced the time available for teaching other important subjects," she writes. The solution, she concludes, is to have the federal government and states trade jobs. The feds would collect data that tell states how well their schools are doing; the states would use the ...


You can read all about the meaning of the latest round of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in this week's issue of Education Week. President Bush says the mostly positive results mean Congress should get to work and reauthorize NCLB, I write in Bush Pushes NCLB as Renewal Percolates. But I didn't have much to report on lawmakers' progress when I wrote the story. (And I still don't have much to report. Anybody out there want to clue me in? Here's my e-mail.) In an important NCLB-related story, Lynn Olson reports in Teacher-Pay Experiments Mounting Amid Debate ...


As I've mentioned before, the road to NCLB's reauthorization in the House goes through California. Both the chairman and senior Republican on the education committee and the Speaker of the House all represent the Golden State. Throw in the other 50 House members representing California's interests, and you have to pay attention to the politics there. To that end, take note of Assembly Joint Resolution 23 that passed both chambers of the California legislature last month. It includes common complaints about the law. Not flexible enough. Inadequately funded. Too dependent on reading and math scores. But it also introduces a ...


The inclusion of performance pay may make NCLB a "deal breaker" for the NEA. But its absence would disappoint some Democrats. The Center for American Progress—led by John Podesta, a former chief of staff in the Clinton White House—says that the proposed grant programs supporting new performance-pay projects should stay in the House's NCLB draft. "This is an important initiative that deserves support on both sides of the aisle—especially from progressives who believe in strengthening public education for low-income students," CAP says in a brief for media. The fact sheet then counters many of NEA's talking...


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