March 2008 Archives

First growth models, then differentiated accountability. It appears as if Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' next target is graduation rates. Spellings will appear at an event tomorrow sponsored by the America's Promise Alliance. The group will release a new report analyzing dropout data and will announce it will sponsor "dropout summits" in 50 states and 50 cities. In her speech, Spellings will announce she believes there's "a need for a more comprehensive and precise definition of graduation rate," says Department of Education news release promoting the event. On a more important (and personal note), if I get a chance to ...


"Troublemaker" Checker Finn, at right, believes that NCLB's reauthorization is stalled because of five fallacies. He says it's a myth that the law is underfunded, and he questions whether it has led to teaching to the test. "If the test is an honest measure of a solid curriculum," he writes in Sunday's Washington Post, "then teaching kids the skills and knowledge they need to pass it is honorable work." Whether you agree with him on those points, I'd be interested to hear reaction to his succinct summary of the problems with the law's standards. Compromises needed to pass NCLB left ...


Back in 2000, Republican presidential candidates courted foreign policy expert Condoleezza Rice, right, to advise them. One thing that appealed to the Russia expert about George Bush was his proposal to give "equal opportunity to black and white students" under NCLB. That's what the secretary of state tells The Washington Times in an interview published today. (Note: Rice's remarks about NCLB are on the jump of the story. They aren't included in the video that goes with the story.)...


In my first entry of 2008, I wrote that state legislators were going to put NCLB in their sights. Virginia already has passed a bill that would require the state board to consider opting out of the law, though I predicted that board members would find more than 400 million reasons (aka dollars) to stay with the law. Now, anti-NCLB bills are moving in Minnesota and Arizona. In Arizona yesterday, the House passed a bill that would require the state to leave NCLB by July 1, 2010. Rep. David Schapira, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, estimates that the state ...


Yesterday, I reported that the Department of Education had approved 29 states' standards and assessment plans. I based that on my reading of decision letters on the department's Web site. Since then, I've gotten clarification on where states stand. All told, 31 states have received the Department of Education's "full approval" or "approval with recommendations," Chad Colby, a department spokesman, told me in an e-mail. All of them will qualify to participate in the pilot project on "differential accountability." Colby wrote that four states and the District of Columbia are in the "approval expected" category. They probably will have their ...


In a new report, the Government Accountability Office says that states are allocating their own money to help schools failing to make AYP under NCLB. The GAO estimates that since 2002 states used $2.6 billion of their own money for school improvement efforts. That's double the $1.3 billion that states are required to set aside for school improvement from NCLB's Title I. States also are using money from federal programs other than Title I to aid those schools. GAO also that not all states can document how their schools are spending their Title I money for school improvement. ...


Last week, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings traveled to St. Paul, Minn., to announce that she would offer up to 10 states the chance to "differentiate accountability" under NCLB. She didn't mention in her speech that Minnesota wouldn't qualify. The state hasn't won the feds' approval for its testing system—one of four criteria participating states must meet. In her speech, though, Spellings said she would give preference to states that have been "pioneers for reform." She lauded Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, and South Dakota for their accountability systems and Massachusetts for its standards. But two of those states—Louisiana...


The response to the "differentiated accountability" project shows one truth about NCLB: It's hard to please everybody. Looking at reaction from the left and the right on Capitol Hill, you see tepid endorsements for the plan, followed by criticism of the law itself. From the right, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the pilot project "a good step forward," but added that it doesn't go far enough. In his statement, Cornyn touted his bill, S. 893, that would give states "maximum freedom" to design their own initiatives in five-year performance contracts. The bill has the support of conservative senators—but not ...


Yesterday, I pointed out that people as diverse as Margaret Spellings and Randi Weingarten are floating ideas that will inform NCLB's reauthorization. Today, I can report that some old hands in Washington are thinking of way to do the same thing. At a panel discussion organized by Education Sector, Jack Jennings said that his Center on Education Policy is organizing a group that will recommend new directions for federal K-12 policy. "We're going to fundamentally rethink the federal role in education," said Jennings, who worked for House Democrats from 1967 through 1994 and has been the Center on Education Policy's ...


With NCLB reauthorization looking less likely each week, the debate over the future of the law's key tenets has begun. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said she wants her new pilot project on "differentiated accountability" to offer Congress a model of how to rework interventions in schools. And don't overlook the accountability proposal that Randi Weingarten, president of New York City's United Federation of Teachers, released last week. Weingarten's plan would add new ingredients to the accountability mix. (One quick note: Her ideas are about accountability in general but could be applied to NCLB.) In addition to test scores, schools ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings traveled to St. Paul, Minn., to announce today that she's inviting states to experiment with "differential accountability." In her speech, she didn't mention one important detail: Minnesota doesn't qualify. Minnesota's testing system hasn't been approved by the federal Education Department—one of four criteria states must meet to win approval under the pilot project. (The other three are: a teacher-quality plan approved by the feds; clean federal monitoring reports; and what the department calls "timely and transparent" AYP reports. It's all spelled out in the department's fact sheet.) What's more, the program will give priority...


Ten states will get the opportunity to restructure their intervention in schools that aren't making AYP under the "differentiated accountability" proposal Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced this morning in St. Paul, Minn. The Department of Education will set up a peer review process to evaluate states' proposals to provide consequences based on how close they are to making their AYP goals, with schools that are farthest away getting the most dramatic interventions. Spelling said the process will be "very similar" to the one in which the department evaluated the growth model pilot program. In her speech, Spellings said the ...


At the Council of the Great City Schools meeting in Washington this morning, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, right, said she plans to "make this law work as well as possible." She touted her effort to approve states' proposals to use growth models in accountability. She listed other areas she's exploring, such as differentiating consequences for schools and districts based on how far away they are from their achievement goals; improving data on dropout rates; and ensuring students have access to tutoring. When asked about differentiated consequences, she had this to say: "One of the things that is important to ...


Comedian Al Franken is running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota. His position on NCLB is that the law needs to be "dramatically reformed or scrapped altogether." Franken, a Democrat, sounds a like a cross between John Edwards and Bill Richardson. His opponent, Sen. Norm Coleman, is a co-sponsor of a bipartisan NCLB bill that would keep much of the law intact, but give it a new name. Find out more over from Alyson Klein's latest cameo at Campaign K-12....


When Congress convened last year, prominent Democrats introduced plans that would nationalize standards. Most would reward states for linking their standards to the achievement level of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The goal would be to entice states to increase the rigor of their standards. (See Standards Get Boost on the Hill.) Even though those bills haven't made any progress, state groups are examining ways to beef up their standards, Michele McNeil (aka MM of Campaign K-12) reports in Benchmarks Momentum on Increase. The groups are considering a variety of efforts to upgrade their expectations, mostly by comparing individual ...


The Virginia General Assembly has passed a bill that would give the state's board of education the option of leaving NCLB behind. Virginia's been down this road before. In 2004, it passed a Republican-backed resolution saying it didn't have the money to comply with the law, prompting this statement from then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Virginia stuck with the law. This year, Republicans raised the issue again. Throughout the legislative session, the House pushed a bill that would have required the state board to create a plan to withdraw from NCLB by 2009. Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, opposed it, ...


At the Center for American Progress today, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., suggested that he has an expansive vision for the next version of NCLB. At an event discussing a new report from New Leaders for New Schools, Miller, at right, talked about how the federal government could assist principals. His goal would be to help them create plans for improvement that address the needs of their communities, based on the abilities of their staffs and parents and using resources in creative ways to accomplish the learning goals. "This is all doable," the chairman of the House Education Committee told an ...


Over at Campaign K-12, Mark Walsh reports on Monday's panel discussion on presidential politics at the American Enterprise Institute. Near the bottom, he includes this quote from William A. Galston: "I don't think that NCLB will survive in anything like its current form" if a Democrat become president. Galston, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, worked in the domestic policy shop in the Clinton White House and had a hand in designing the 1994 version of the Elementary and Secondary Act. He predicts that a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress would create something that looks more like ...


NCLB's reauthorization will involve fights over big issues (such as testing, AYP, and school choice) and a whole bunch of small ones. In U.S. Position on Research Seen in Flux, my colleague Debra Viadero explains that the definition of "scientifically valid research" will be one of those small ones. Last fall, the House education committee's discussion draft would have expanded the definition to include studies that don't have control groups. "We can't be constrained solely by quasi-experimental and random-assignment studies in education," Roberto Rodriguez, a senior adviser to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said at a Feb. 21 panel ...


NCLB's prospects for 2008 appear to be fading. Even Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has her doubts the law will be reauthorized this year. "I hope that it will get done. I don't know. But I certainly am not going to put all my eggs in that basket," Spellings said last week during her visit to Austin, Texas. Spellings joins Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., in questioning whether NCLB will pass this year. He said last week the situation "doesn't look very favorable." Back in January, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., told people he was working on a bill ...


On the question of whether NCLB is narrowing schools' curriculum, put Sen. Barack Obama in the yes column. In a Feb. 28 appearance in Beaumont, Texas, the Illinois Democrat is emphatic on the point. (Below, watch the video his campaign posted on YouTube.) "Since the only thing that's being tested is math and reading, we're not teaching children a broad range of things," he said at a rally in Beaumont, Texas, on Feb. 28. "I want kids to learn art and music and history and civics and a whole host of other things." Broadening the curriculum will yield dividends, he ...


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