April 2008 Archives

Not everyone likes the NCLB rules that the Department of Education proposed last week. The chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee objects to the way the package has become a "slapdash" substitute for legislative actions. Representatives of school groups are balking at the quick timeline from proposal to implementation. You can read about that in my story in the latest issue of Education Week. But you don't have to give Washington insiders all of the power in this debate. Whether you're the mother of a special education student in Massachusetts or a school administrator in Kansas, you can ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has won the latest round in the legal battle over NCLB. A federal judge ruled in favor of the federal government yesterday in all counts in Connecticut's lawsuit seeking flexibility under NCLB and to have it declared an unfunded mandate. Judge Mark R. Kravitz said that the U.S. Department of Education hadn't overstepped its authority when it rejected the state's application to implement the law. Because the state hadn't exercised its administrative appeals of those decisions, the judge refused to rule whether NCLB was an unfunded mandate. "It is truly unfortunate that the court ...


The secretary of education and others have praised Massachusetts for the rigor of its academic standards. But the state's standards aren't challenging enough to prepare high school students for college, according to a new study. Thirty-seven percent of college freshmen took a remedial course in the fall of 2005. See the Boston Globe story on the study. The study highlights "the fundamental dilemma" with NCLB, says openeducation.net. If Massachusetts sets its standards any higher, it would turn low-performing kids into dropouts, writes Thomas J. Hanson, the superintendent-turned-blogger who runs the site. What such kids actually need are viable educational ...


One intriguing idea in the Forum for Education and Democracy's report is the proposal for a "continuous progress index." NCLB takes a variety of measurements—test scores in reading and math, test participation rates, and other indicators such as science scores, attendance rates, etc. If a school fails to meet their goal in any of them, it fails AYP. The Forum report calls the NCLB method a "confusing statistical gauntlet" that is unfair to schools. It should be replaced by a single measurement that combines the results of various factors, such as scores on tests measuring "higher-order thinking and understanding,"...


In my story about one of the many reports pegged to the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, I quote two experts suggesting that that federal policy is not about to undergo dramatic changes in the next few years. Congress only makes dramatic shifts infrequently and the time probably isn't right, Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy told me. Kati Haycock of the Education Trust predicted that changes to NCLB would be "evolutionary, rather than revolutionary." That may end up being correct. But one VIP may be out to prove them wrong. Yesterday at an event by ...


The leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee agree that their attempt to reauthorize NCLB is at a standstill. But they disagree about who is to blame for that. Here's the take of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the committee: "Congress offered the president an opportunity to resuscitate his legacy by working in a bipartisan way on comprehensive reforms to the No Child Left Behind law, and he rejected it." And here's the perspective of Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., the senior GOP member of the committee: “Unfortunately, more than a year into their congressional majority, ...


If you want to spend your day reading 26,000 words of federal rules, this link's for you. You won't find the word "bulldozer" in it. That kind of rhetoric is saved for speeches. For a concise summary of the Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' latest effort to revise NCLB, try the Department of Education's short summary of the rules. Or maybe you'd prefer the extended one. And don't overlook the story I wrote with Lynn Olson story for edweek.org. More to come on this....


As promised earlier this month, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is set to propose rules today requiring a uniform high school graduation rate. But her proposal goes far beyond graduation rates, according to information provided to me. It would require states and school districts to take steps to ensure that students have access to choice and supplementary educational services and give them several new reporting and monitoring responsibilities. Here's a quick summary: Choice and SES Districts would need to take action to expand participation in choice and SES before they can use the money reserved for those services for general ...


On Earth Day tomorrow, members of the House's K-12 subcommittee will be working at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge in Laurel, Md. They'll be at a hearing on the No Child Left Inside Act, which would authorize $100 million a year for states to develop curriculum to address environmental issues. For background, see this post from July. The bill would increase student achievement in core subjects, improve the health of children, and develop a skill critical for the 21st Century workforce, says the coalition of almost 200 environmental groups supporting the legislation. "We'll be passing on complicated environmental problems to ...


Richard Simmons is at it again. The fitness icon has been a frequent diversion from my dispatches on fascinating (but not necessarily popular) topics such as growth models and graduation rates. Simmons hit the morning airwaves this week to promote bills to insert physical education into NCLB. He's also calling on viewers to contact presidential candidates and ask them to address the issue. Here are links to appearances on Today and Good Day New York. But he's not in this alone. The American Heart Association also is on board. Its Web site includes background on the FIT Kids Act, which ...


In June, you'll be able to see what life is like at Baltimore's Frederick Douglass High in an HBO documentary. After 30 minutes of searching the Web, here's the school's story in numbers: All of the school's 1,185 students are African-Americans. Of the enrollment, 460 are freshman, 240 are sophomores, 284 are juniors, and 201 are seniors. Its attendance rate is 68.9 percent. It has never made AYP. Every year, it has missed its AYP goals in reading. Special education students met the AYP goal in mathematics in 2002-03. That's the only year a subgroup has met its ...


Last month, I channeled Andy Warhol and predicted that in the future, everyone would be blogging. The folks at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation are making me look prophetic. This week, they launched "Flypaper." In one of the early posts, Fordham VP of Just About Everything Michael J. Petrilli parses a paragraph from my story about the American Federation of Teachers' campaign efforts on behalf of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. I paraphrased a comment from AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch, saying that he believes the New York senator is “more emphatic about overhauling” NCLB than Sen. Barack Obama. Petrilli points ...


In the April issue of Governing, Donald F. Kettl, right, says that "[President] Bush's original version of NCLB seems doomed." Kettl recounts the ironies of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision that NCLB is an unfunded mandate. The court relied on language originally inserted by Republicans to side with the liberal National Education Association. I made similar points when the court issued its opinion back in January. Kettl concludes that the court's decision presents a dilemma for both Republicans and Democrats. The right may have to pony up a lot more cash to keep faith with the unfunded mandate ...


When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Washington, his presence will put the spotlight on the plight of Catholic schools. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute put out "Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools?" It also notes that Catholic schools are more popular than the pope himself. “At the very time when all of us are struggling with how to create new good schools in the inner city, we have good schools in the inner city that are closing down,” Fordham's Michael J. Petrilli tells my colleague Erik Robelen in this Education Week story. Over at Swift & Changable, Charlie Barone gives ...


With minor fanfare last week, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that she would require states to use a uniform method of calculating graduation rates. By the end of the week, the Department of Education's inspector general released a report saying states would be closer to that goal if the department hadn't cut them slack on graduation rates. "If the department had been more assertive in requiring states to implement a longitudinal student-tracking system shortly after the enactment of NCLB, all states now could have four years of student data," the report says. "Instead, less than a quarter of the ...


The Arizona Senate has put up a roadblock to the proposal to opt out of NCLB. Last week, the Senate K-12 education committee essentially tabled an opt-out of NCLB bill in a tie vote. The bill's House sponsor hopes the committee will pass the proposal when absent committee members attend the next committee meeting, according to this brief in the current issue of Education Week. But, as I've written before, it's unlikely that any state is going to leave NCLB. Even if one chamber in a legislature agrees to leave NCLB behind, that doesn't guarantee the other will go along, ...


Bigswifty has posted all the numbers on supplemental educational services and public school choice. You have everything you need to solve the math problem I posed last week. The issue of participation in these services is about more than math. One potential reason for the participation rates (17 percent in SES and 1 percent in choice) is that districts are doing a poor job of informing parents that their children qualify for SES and choice. That's what advocates for those services say. Research in last week's reports suggest that they may be right. Fewer than a third of districts notified ...


“They’d rather stick with what they’ve got than deal with some wholesale retrenchment" on NCLB, Kevin Carey of Education Sector told me yesterday when we discussed Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' graduation-rate announcement. It may be a good strategy. As I wrote back in January, the law is permanently authorized. If Congress doesn't revise it this year, it might not get to it next year, given that the next president is unlikely to take on K-12 issues as his or her first priority. This law could stay in place without big changes until 2010. But is that a ...


Consider this word problem: The number of students using free tutoring and school choice under NCLB increased dramatically between 2002-03 and 2003-04. But the percentage of students choosing those options didn't change. Explain how that could that be. You can see the answer in this new report released today by the Department of Education. (Click here for the summary.)...


In a post earlier this week, I raised two unanswered questions about the education secretary's proposed policy regarding high school graduation rates: Which formula will the Department of Education propose requiring states to use? Will the department require schools and districts to meet graduation-rate targets for every subgroup of students to make AYP? This morning, I talked with Bethany Little of the Alliance for Excellent Education, and she added one more: Will the department require states to set goals to increase high schools' graduation rates? Under NCLB, the department approved state plans to calculate graduation rates using some of the ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings disappointed policy wonks by not answering my queries about the details of her plans for a uniform graduation rate. No one e-mailed asking if I might have any nuggets on the grad-rate issue in my notebook that I didn't share on the blog. I don't. But one e-mailer took me to task for failing to answer a question on a more important topic: Is the education secretary a potential source for sweet seats behind a dugout at Nationals Park? Sadly, the answer is no. After Spellings deflected my grad-rate questions, I asked her if she ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings says she will soon propose rules that would require all states to use the same formula to calculate high schools' graduation rates. She said she would require schools to disaggregate data by socioeconomic status, race, and other categories—just as schools are required to do for test scores under NCLB. She announced the plan in a speech she delivered at an event kicking off a series of summits on drop outs sponsored by America's Promise Alliance. But she left many questions unanswered. What formula will she propose that states use, I asked her after her ...


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