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November 2007 Archives

Spend Unused NCLB's Tutoring Funds on PreK, Mead Says

Yesterday at the New America Foundation, Sara Mead released a list of 10 ways NCLB could be tweaked to bolster prekindergarten programs. In a panel discussion, which I moderated, she highlighted three items: 1.) Require districts to use their unspent money for tutoring and choice on preK in schools that are in need of improvement; 2.) Allow schools required to restructure to transform into "early education academies" serving preK-3; and 3.) Expand Reading First so districts can use the money for preK literacy. The ideas aren't meant to be a comprehensive preK agenda, Mead said. They can be "a bridge ...


Times Offers Latest National Test Proposal for Congress to Ignore

During the 1990s, two presidents proposed national tests. Congress rejected both. A Republican Congress brushed back a proposal by a Democratic president, just as a Democratic Congress killed a plan by a Republican president. Neither plan ever had much chance of passing. (Read this and this in the Education Week archives.) That's the main reason why NCLB gave states the authority to set their own definitions of proficiency based on the tests they design. If President Bush or the law's congressional sponsors tried to nationalize testing, the idea would have flopped, which would have endangered the bill. Now momentum appears ...


Education Week Roundup, November 28, 2007

With Congress putting NCLB reauthorization on hold, it has turned to Head Start, higher education, and appropriations. Those subjects fill the Washington section in the current issue of Education Week. NCLB's influence does appear in a story reporting urban districts' scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (Students in Urban Districts Inching Forward on NAEP). Kathleen Kennedy Manzo and Sean Cavanagh quote an expert who attributes the gradual gains, in part, to the districts' use of data collected under NCLB. "From a systemic point of view, urban districts have been taking advantage of this data and direction to better ...


NCLB Remains Candidates' Punching Bag

NCLB isn't playing well in the early primary states. Yesterday, former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., said the law is the product people "inside the Beltway in Washington" who believe "they know everything." "Well, I got news for them: There's a lot of good, smart common sense out here in the real world," he said in Bow, N.H., town meeting where he played up his credentials as a trial lawyer who fought against big corporations. "That crowd who thinks they know everything, those are the ones who said No Child Left Behind was going to be a wonderful, great ...


House Members Endorse NEA's Favorite Bills

At the beginning of November, the National Education Association sent a letter to members of Congress, telling them they would earn favorable grades for co-sponsoring bills the union supports. By the Nov. 16 deadline, several members obliged, according to the Congressional Record. The five NEA-backed bills that would make the most dramatic changes to NCLB received 47 new co-sponsors before the NEA's deadline. (For a complete list of bills that the NEA supports, see this list.) More Democrats than Republicans jumped on the union's bandwagon. Of the Republicans, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, was most notable. He added his name to ...


NCLB Sound Bites Hit Campaign Trail

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has unveiled his $18 billion education plan. Over at the Campaign K-12 blog, Alyson Klein explains where the candidate stands on NCLB and Michele McNeil covers his proposals on teacher pay. Sen. Obama's proposal set off a sound-bite debate over NCLB. He chastised his principle opponents for voting in favor of NCLB without fully funding it. The campaigns of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., shot back. Spokeswomen for both campaigns noted that Sen. Obama voted as a state senator to require Illinois to implement the law even though ...


Ravitch Reports: Dems Don't Want Big Changes to NCLB

Toward the end of her latest entry on the Building Bridges blog, Diane Ravitch reports on her inside knowledge about how much Democrats want to change NCLB. The answer is: Not much. "The law will no doubt get a new name, but the basic structure will not be abandoned," Ravitch writes after her meeting with a "very smart" Democratic congressman, whom she doesn't name. She concludes: "One wonders, if the people who have to do the implementation say that it is not working, why would Congress push ahead? But apparently they are. It is time to realize that this law, ...


IG Recommends New Definitions of 'Persistently Dangerous'

The Washington Post is the latest to point out that states are hiding "persistently dangerous schools" by not reporting them as required under NCLB. My colleague, Erik Robelen, first noted this four years ago. By focusing on the small number of schools being identified as "persistently dangerous," the Post story overlooked substantive recommendations from the Department of Education's inspector general in this report. To fix the problem, the IG recommends the following: "1) All violent incidents, according to state code, are factored into the [persistently dangerous schools] determination, without the use of disciplinary action qualifiers; "2) Benchmarks for determining [persistently ...


Signs of NCLB's Success May Be Fickle

When the NAEP scores released this week showed that achievement inched up in big cities, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a statement that they showed that "NCLB is working." She said the same thing—word for word—when state-by-state results came out in September. Then and now, critics have questioned her use of the data. The point-counterpoint has been going on for two years. Spellings’ strategy is probably a good one, even if it is a bit repetitive. But will it hold in the long run? Let’s say two years from now NAEP scores go down or ...


Hawkins Leaves Legacy on Accountability

In the 20th Century, Congress was more likely to name a law after a couple of its members than a campaign slogan. In 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed the Augustus F. Hawkins-Robert T. Stafford Elementary and Secondary Schools Improvement Act. Hawkins, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee at the time, died this week at the age of 100. The obituaries I've read (see here and here) highlight Hawkins' work on labor and civil rights. But he played a significant role in requiring schools to prove that their students are improving academically. The 1988 law that ...


Education Week Roundup, Nov. 14

The legislative work to reauthorize NCLB has stalled in recent weeks. But the issues that the law has raised won't be going away, judging from the current issue of Education Week. In this week's paper, you'll find stories on improving low-performing schools and addressing the educational needs of children in poverty, as well as an essay on testing and accountability. On the front page, Catherine Gerwertz writes up a new report calling for the creation of "turnaround specialists" to lead local efforts to improve districts' worst-performing schools ('Turnaround' Work Needs Rethinking, New Report Says). The report's authors acknowledge that such ...


Spellings Looks to Change Rules on Graduation Rate

Former White House aide Karl Rove suggested in August that the administration would use executive power to change NCLB if Congress failed to reauthorize the law. As prospects for an NCLB bill dimmed last week, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said that she wants to standardize graduation rates across states. "I think we need some truth in advertising," Spellings told the Associated Press. In the nearly three years since Spellings took her current job, she has moved aggressively to change NCLB policies. She has created a pilot program for states to use growth models, rewritten rules for assessing special education ...


Numbers Game: Ed Sector Says States Make AYP Easy

Several studies have documented how states have set low expectations to make it easier for their schools and districts to make AYP. The latest one is here. But Education Sector's Kevin Carey digs a little deeper in this report, explaining the statistical sleights of hand states use to avoid declaring their schools and districts in need of improvement. Here's a quick list based on Carey's research: Delay the pain: Set long-term goals that postpone large portions of the achievement gains until the deadline for universal proficiency looms. Several states hold schools accountable for making a third of the progress toward ...


Bush, Obey Diverge on NCLB Policy and Spending

The number of ironies in the NCLB debate never ceases to amaze me. The latest comes in the fight over education spending. On one side, there's President Bush. He's been praising NCLB in speech after speech after speech. He proposed a $1.1 billion increase for law's Title I. You'd think that he'd be happy if Congress lavished more money on his favorite program. Think again. He's says the money he proposed is enough. The $1.5 billion increase Congress would give Title I is too much, the White House says in this statement threatening to veto an appropriations bill ...


Why You Should Take Richard Simmons Seriously

Kevin Carey at the Quick and the Ed is the latest blogger to fall under Richard Simmons' spell. After an entertaining and frivolous post about heading to a mall to meet Simmons, Carey follows up with an interview of the TV fitness instructor. The transcript starts out light-hearted, but then Carey starts to take Simmons' ideas about physical education seriously. The next day, he posts about how Simmons' ideas have merit. The messenger in his sequined tank top and tight shorts may be easy to dismiss based on his appearance. That persona is "frivolity with a purpose," Carey writes. Simmons ...


White House, Miller Exchange Words Over Funding

The fight over funding has begun in earnest, and NCLB's fate is caught up in it. The White House yesterday issued a "statement of administration policy" saying the president would veto Congress' bill to finance education and other domestic programs. "It includes an irresponsible and excessive level of spending," the statement says. The bill, which the House has passed and is awaiting a Senate vote, would increase funding for Title I—NCLB's largest program—by $402 million more than the president's budget. It also would provide more money than the president proposed for several smaller programs, such as the Safe...


New Bill Offers Flexibility, Demands Rigor

Even though NCLB is stalled in the House and Senate, its supporters aren't giving up. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced a bill yesterday that would make a deal with up to 12 states. In exchange for increasing the rigor of their standards, they could bypass many of NCLB's prescriptions. The states' standards would have to be aligned with the states' definition of college readiness or international or national benchmarks. But states would get complete control over how to determine whether schools are making AYP and how they will fix the schools that don't reach their achievement goals. "In other words, ...


Education Week Roundup, Nov. 7, 2007

The current issue of Education Week gives updates on NCLB's future in the short and long term. As a bonus, it offers four commentaries suggesting changes to the law. In my news story, I report that the current effort to reauthorize the law is "mired in backroom negotiations" that are unlikely to yield progress in the legislative process this year (2007 NCLB Prospects Are Fading). The story went to press with a quote from a Senate spokeswoman saying that chamber's education committee expected a NCLB bill to clear that chamber this year. That timetable has changed (see here and here). ...


The Washington Post Nails Story on NCLB Horse Trading

Eduwonk has a long list of complaints about yesterday's Washington Post NCLB story. Eduwonk's criticisms are valid on policy grounds. But he glosses over that the story has two basic ingredients of excellent journalism. 1.) Peter Baker prods important people to say things publicly that they have said privately. He digs up telling quotes from meetings that happened in January and last week. (My favorite is from Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., on the president's promises for NCLB funding: "I bought a horse from that man once. I'm not going to buy another horse from him.") He reports on a conversation ...


NCLB's Prospects in Senate Fade for 2007

Last week, a spokesman for the House Education and Labor Committee told me NCLB probably wouldn't clear the House in 2007. Now, the prospects in the Senate are fading as well. On Friday, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., issued a statement saying that he and Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., agreed they should continue working on the bill rather than push one through to meet an "arbitrary deadline," according to this Associated Press story. Also last week, Sen. Kennedy told the Washington Post that NCLB won't reach the Senate floor until 2008. The Post story also covers a lot of ground ...


Teachers Continues NCLB Protest in Classroom

Madison, Wis., teacher David Wasserman, right, continued to protest NCLB's testing policies yesterday. Instead of proctoring a state test, he sat at his desk while colleagues handed out exams, read directions, and made sure students didn't cheat. "I was able to stick to my morals. I did not have to touch a single test booklet. I didn't have to read a single direction," he told the Associated Press. "I sat there quietly while the students were working really hard on this really unnatural assessment that they are not used to." He said he expects to receive a letter of reprimand ...


NEA Gives Young a 'D' in 2006

I want to add something to last night's post on the NEA's letter to members of Congress. Alert readers noted that I changed my item minutes after posting. I cut a reference to the 'D' NEA gave Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska., for the 109th Congress. In preparing the item, I had read that on NEA's site and written it in my notebook. But I pulled that sentence after the link in the item went to the wrong page. On that page, which was for NEA's 2005 report card, Young was not graded. After checking with NEA, I can confirm what ...


Sen. Kennedy: Expanded Learning Time Expands Curriculum

One way to stop narrowing of the curriculum is to expand learning time in schools, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., says. In the next version of NCLB, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee wants to include grants to increase the number of days in the school year or to extend the school day. That would curtail schools' focus on improving reading and mathematics scores at the expense of other subjects, he told an audience yesterday. Kennedy said his bill also would require states to track the amount of time students study music and the arts. "We...


NEA Threatens Members With Bad Grades

Joe Williams at Democrats for Education Reform has the scoop on the NEA's latest lobbying tactics. The union sent a letter today to members of Congress telling them that it will grade them based, in part, on the bills they co-sponsor. The union included a list of 17 NCLB bills that would earn members of Congress credit on NEA's report card for 2007. (I've confirmed the veracity of the letter with a Capitol Hill source and the NEA.) Even before today's developments, a House Education and Labor Committee spokesman told me that the prospects for NCLB clearing the House in ...


Teacher Protests NCLB by Boycotting Tests

On Tuesday, Madison, Wis., teacher David Wasserman refused to give state tests, saying he had moral objections to NCLB's testing requirements. He sat in the teachers' lounge while a colleague proctored the test for him, according to this Associated Press account. Wasserman planned to halt his protest today after the district superintendent threatened to fire him. "I can't jeopardize health insurance for my family," Wasserman, 36, told the AP. "I want to still hold by my morals, which I feel very strongly about. But I have a family to think about." This is a small and isolated story. But it ...


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