February 2008 Archives

Can the nation meet NCLB's goal of universal proficiency? Yes, says Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond J. Simon. No, say Michael Rebell and Jessica Wolff of the Campaign for Educational Equity. In a speech this week to the British Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce, Simon said that he's visited schools that already have achieved 100 percent proficiency. "These schools believe that their students can achieve to high standards. These standards, and the expected behavior to reach them, are clearly communicated to the students and their parents. Highly qualified, effective teachers use data to guide instruction daily ...


Regular readers may have noticed that I haven't reported anything about the House's progress on an NCLB bill. That's because there's not much to report, according to Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. Rep. McKeon, at right, hasn't had a substantive conversation about NCLB with Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the committee's chairman, since October. "We're in a climate where it doesn't look very favorable to get the reauthorization done," McKeon told the Education Industry Association at a breakfast this morning in Washington. The prospects don't look much better in the ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings might be best known for her assertion that NCLB is 99.9 percent pure. (That, and her collection of eyeglasses.) She later backtracked, saying she meant the goals and structure of the law are close to perfect, even if some of its details need fixing. Last week in Kansas, Spellings acknowledged that the requirement that states identify "persistently dangerous schools" isn't working. State officials have been reluctant to label schools as such, she said. The secretary's position lines up with a Department of Education advisory group and the views of Democrats who have tried to ...


The debate over whether NCLB has narrowed schools' curricula has a new player—a group called Common Core. "Everyone’s children deserve to receive a comprehensive, content-rich education in the liberal arts and sciences," Lynne Munson, the group's executive director, writes in the introduction of a report released by the group today. "Of course they must be able to read and compute. But they must also possess real knowledge about important things, knowledge of civics, biology, geography, art history, languages—the full range of subjects that comprise a complete education." Among the group's trustees are Antonia Cortese, an executive...


As I noted earlier, several of the National Education Association's allies don't like the union's legal position in its suit against Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Michael Rebell, a successful school finance litigator, suggested in his blog that states could use the union's unfunded mandate claims as reasons to cut spending. Now, a coalition of civil rights groups is trying to make a similar argument to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which is considering the federal government's appeal in Pontiac v. Spellings. "The panel opinion invites states that are struggling with their budgets to try ...


How would NCLB change if a Democrat were in the Oval Office next year? The Democratic candidates say they would continue holding schools accountable, but they would radically change the types of tests used to measure schools' success, according to the rhetoric of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. Sen. Obama wants tests that "track student progress for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner," his campaign Web site says. Sen. Clinton believes that tests should provide "individualized accountability based on how [individual] students do," she said at a ...


Some advocates have been lobbying to make high school graduation rates part of NCLB's accountability system. The current emphasis on test scores gives high schools the incentive to shove low-scoring students out instead of addressing their achievement issues, they assert. A new study out of Texas bolsters their case. The Rice University Center for Education tracked 271,000 students in one unnamed Texas city and found "strong association between high-stakes accountability and dropping out," according to this summary. "This study has serious implications for the nation’s schools under the NCLB law," the summary concludes. "It finds that the higher ...


Over the past month, the wonkish education bloggers have been debating whether NCLB has had the effect of narrowing school curriculum. (See Sherman Dorn's excellent analytic summary, and eduwonk's recent postscript.) The debate hinged, in part, on the interpretation of one piece of data: 44 percent of districts have increased the amount of time spent on reading and mathematics at the expense of other subjects. The Center on Education Policy—the source of that data—is out with what it calls "a deeper analysis" of its survey. Here's a quick snapshot: Some districts are finding time for additional reading ...


With the financial markets closed for Presidents Day, the "Nightly Business Report" on PBS aired a special report on "The New Business of Education." The reports covered the growth in the testing and tutoring industries in the NCLB era. It includes an interview of me, answering questions on the prospects for national standards and how NCLB is playing on the presidential campaign trail. On the program's Web site, you can find a portal for the issue with the video of my interview and the other reports in the program....


I trolled through the Internet and dialed up a bunch of Arizona sources to find out as much as I could about Sen. John McCain's background on K-12 education. Read what I found at McCain Emphasizes School Choice, Accountability, But Lacks Specifics. You have to dig through the Republican front-runner's campaign site to find his ideas on education. Even though the site doesn't explain exactly what McCain would do as president, it's clear that McCain believes in choice and accountability. McCain tried for years to get a national pilot program for private school choice. In 2004, Congress created one such ...


Mike Petrilli suggests that Sen. John McCain has "zero interest in education." That may be true. But the Republican senator from Arizona does have an informed opinion about NCLB. In the YouTube video at the bottom of this post, he calls NCLB "a good beginning" that has "some things that badly need fixing." Not a very detailed policy position. Watch it and you'll see that McCain understands the law and has some ideas about how to change it. MM, does that mean McCain's grade is still "incomplete?" Speaking of MM, she has an important post on vouchers. Sen. Barack Obama, ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, at right, is barnstorming states trying to improve NCLB's image. The press coverage of her stops so far has been rather favorable, leaving out some of the voices of the law's most strident critics. See, for example, this story in the San Diego Union-Tribune. But when the secretary stopped in her hometown of Houston last week, commenters on this Houston Chronicle story weren't buying her message. One pointed out the logical inconsistency of all students reaching grade level if that term is defined as the 50th percentile. Another calls her a name that my sons (ages...


After President Bush released his budget last week, Democrats in Congress treated it as if it were dead on arrival. The budget is "completely irresponsible" and "will soon be forgotten," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Sen. Harkin has some control over the Department of Education purse strings as the chairman of the subcommittee that appropriates money for education and other social programs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he'd be willing to let President Bush leave office without signing another appropriations bill for education. One reason why: The president is "not living up to what he said he would ...


Like him or not, Chester E. "Checker" Finn Jr. has been a major player in the biggest education policy debates of the past 40 years. In roles at the White House, Capitol Hill, academia, and think tanks, Finn has helped push charter schools into the mainstream and has been a stalwart supporter of private school choice. Both have expanded dramatically over the past 15 years. He explains his role in those and other education debates in "Troublemaker," published this month by Princeton University Press. The book is "a personal history of school reform since Sputnik," according to the subtitle.(The ...


Are the testing requirements under NCLB and federal special education law in conflict? That's a question that two school districts and four families asked a federal appeals court. Read the School Law Blog to find out the judges' answer....


In the seven-year life of NCLB, the Center on Education Policy has been digging up numbers that are fueling debates about the law. Just last week, the Bush administration relied on the Washington-based think tank's research to justify getting rid of the "hold harmless" on Title I grants so that states can put additional money into school restructuring. The center also is the source of the survey data saying 44 percent of districts have decreased the amount of time given to social studies, the arts, and other subjects so they can emphasize reading and mathematics. That has set off a ...


Nilaja Sun's one-woman show "No Child ... " is not about the No Child Left Behind Act. But the law's cameo near the conclusion draws derisive cheers. At the end of the show, the main character—named for the actress—informs the audience what happens to the show's main characters. Among them, a boy is killed the next week in gang violence, a girl becomes mayor of New York, and the main character marries Denzel Washington and moves to the nation's capital to rewrite NCLB. The line drew cheers when I saw the show in Washington on Feb. 2. In an interview...


Rep. Thomas E. Petri, R-Wis., one of the most senior members of the House Education and Labor Committee, suggests that he and his colleagues should set aside politics and practice common sense in this online commentary. "It’s time to set the heated rhetoric of special interests aside and pass a set of pragmatic changes this year," he writes. Those "pragmatic changes" should be: 1. Create growth models for accountability. 2. Change interventions in schools to target "resources on the schools that need them most, without wasting taxpayers’ money on schools that are otherwise on target, save for a small ...


School improvement efforts would get a big boost under the budget proposal President Bush unveiled yesterday. By changing some administrative rules, the budget would guarantee $570 million would be spent on turning around schools struggling to meet their goals under NCLB. That would be in addition to the $491 million currently being spent on such schools through a grant program. In the explanatory notes along with the budget, the Department of Education proposes that all states reserve 4 percent of their Title I grants for districts to intervene in struggling schools. That would total $570 million under the department's $14.3...


President Clinton's "train wreck" comments last week set off a discussion among the wonkish edubloggers. Phyllis McClure e-mailed me an several others that Clinton has amnesia. He forgets that he signed a 1994 law that had many of NCLB's key elements and that his administration didn't enforce it. Charlie Barone writes in two different items (here and here) that NCLB was the natural outgrowth of that 1994 law. Leo Casey suggests that Clinton's statement validates his theory that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., traded his endorsement for the NCLB vote of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. But Sherman Dorn sees nothing ...


The Department of Education has posted its fiscal 2009 budget proposal on its Web site. It looks as if the spreadsheet that made the rounds in recent weeks had the right figures. The budget would provide nominal increases for Title I and special education. It would restore the Reading First program back to the fiscal 2007 level of $1 billion. And it would eliminate programs for career and technical education, tech-prep, and educational technology. The budget also proposes a significant change in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The Bush administration wants to eliminate the grants for after-school programs ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is going to appeal a federal court decision that revived a lawsuit claiming that NCLB is an unfunded mandate. Read all about it at The School Law Blog....


Over at Campaign K-12, my colleague Michele McNeil asks a good question: Is Bill Clinton using NCLB to get back at a certain Massachusetts senator for endorsing Barack Obama?...


Maybe the hidden budget data are right. The mysterious spreadsheet with a covert column listing FY09 numbers suggested that President Bush would propose $1 billion for the Reading First program. It's no surprise that the president would want to rescue one of his prized NCLB programs. Congress whacked it down to $393 million for fiscal 2008. Today in Alabama, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings confirmed that the president's budget proposal would restore Reading First's funding to $1 billion in fiscal 2009. "The president is going to work hard and ask for that billion dollars and get the Congress to restore ...


The Aspen Institute organized a session on Capitol Hill yesterday with the main purpose of prodding Congress to act on NCLB—and soon. "Maybe today we can start the surge on NCLB," said Tommy G. Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor and Cabinet secretary under President Bush and a co-chairman of the Aspen's Commission on No Child Left Behind. The most useful part of the morning for me was to hear from four Capitol Hill aides representing the members who lead the House and Senate education committees. None of them said anything newsworthy, but their comments summarized what the key players...


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