July 2008 Archives

Which students are improving fastest in the NCLB era: those at the top or the bottom of the achievement ladder? The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation issued a report last month suggesting that the test scores of those in the bottom 10 percent of achievement are rising faster than those in the top 10 percent. The study cited scores from the state version of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. When the report came out, I asked: Doesn't this mean NCLB is working as intended? But the Think Tank Review Project—made up of self-appointed gadflies in their own right—asked...


With NCLB on the back burner until next year, Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., has introduced a bill that could be the starting point for discussion in 2009. The bill includes lots of ideas from the bipartisan discussion draft that leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee released last year, according to this press release issued jointly by Castle and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif. They are the most important Republicans on the education committee. According to a summary on Castle's Web site, the bill would: 1.) Require states to rewrite their standards to make them compatible with ...


Time is reporting that NCLB is on track for a quick reauthorization in the next Congress. The Democratic Congress has done the background work for NCLB and children's health insurance. If the Dems add to their majority, as expected, they should be able to move both issues through the legislative process, the article says. The article assumes that congressional Democrats will be united on NCLB issues. But in the past two months, it's become clear that Democratic interest groups disagree on the law's most important details. See the dueling statements from the "Broader, Bolder" and Klein/Sharpton crowds. And look ...


NEA President Reg Weaver defends the Graves-Walz bill to freeze accountability in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. In a letter to the editor, Weaver writes the bill is a "common-sense, moderate approach to NCLB's current system of snapshot, multiple-choice tests." He adds that NEA is working with education, civil rights, and other organizations to change NCLB. He's referring to the Forum on Educational Accountability. Yes, some civil rights groups are part of the forum. But many more—including the biggest ones—came out against the Graves-Walz bill. Take a look at the following paragraph from the June 18 letter circulated...


Laura Bush defends NCLB in USA Today. Sorry I didn't get to this earlier. I was doing something else. Don't believe me: I'm in the background early in this video....


I know you all want to know about Richard Simmons on the Hill today. Let's get the wonkery out of the way. The FIT Kids Act has a chance of getting through the House this year, Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., one of its sponsors, said today. Kind and Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., agreed to drop sections of the bill that would make physical education one of multiple measures to be considered under NCLB's accountability system. Without that, the bill still would require states to report on the amount and quality of PE offered in their schools, as well as effort ...


Richard Simmons is coming to Washington tomorrow. And the media frenzy has already started. He appeared on local news this morning, joking around but sounding serious when he talked about his mission to save PE. USA Today reports that the "fitness fireball" promises to be a combination of "Norma Rae and Johnny Appleseed" when he touts the FIT Kids Act to the House Education and Labor Committee tomorrow. On Monday's edition of NPR's "Tell Me More," Simmons talks about fighting obesity as a child and describes how he's always been "a clown and court jester." He promises to be funny ...


As the political season heats up, Campaign K-12 is becoming increasingly indispensable. Today, Michele McNeil reports from New Orleans that state legislators believe NCLB's accountability systems are "coercive." And I summarize what one of Sen. Barack Obama's campaign advisers has to say about NCLB, the Democratic presidential candidate's "comprehensive" education plan, and Sen. John McCain's speech last week....


With the goal of dramatically improving student achievement, many people are asking: What can schools do? Offer extra time, some say. Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released two reports on the topic. In one, Elana Rocha gives a sample of what more than 300 districts have done to expand learning time. In the other, Marguerite Roza and Karen Hawley Miles explain how districts can pay for such projects. At a session discussing the reports, a key aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said on Monday that there may be federal help on the way. This week, Sen. Kennedy plans ...


I spoke (via Skype) to a class for future teachers at the University of Tennessee. My main point was that the federal government has gradually increased the amount of testing and prescription over the past 20 years. In 1988, the ESEA mandated testingrequired districts for the first time to define the test scores they expected of Chapter 1 (now Title I) students, but didn't prescribe interventions. In 1994, the law required states to assess all students three times (once in elementary, once in middle, and once in high school) and to measure schools were making adequate yearly progress toward Title ...


Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., invited two mayors and the leaders of four urban districts to testify about the success their cities have had in improving student achievement.(Here's a link to the committee's page about the hearing.) Over the course of the three-hour hearing, the leaders gave the chairman and the rest of the Education and Labor Committee three ideas for changing NCLB: 1.) Create national standards: Right now, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly L. Hall said the only way for districts to measure their students' performance against the rest of the country is participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress' ...


In yesterday's big education speech, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., neglected to say the four words that have defined federal K-12 policy for the past six years. Asked why, his advisers didn't utter them either. (Hint: the first starts with an 'N,' the second starts with a 'C,' ... I think you know where this is going.) Michele McNeil has more at Campaign K-12....


What do the NEA, the AFT, and the Texas Republican Party have in common? They all want to get rid of NCLB. Anyone reading my blog or Vaishali Honawar's knew where the teachers' unions stand. But if you read this item on the Dallas ISD blog (link via Russo), you'll learn that the Texas GOP believes that NCLB is "a massive failure [that] should be abolished." One Texan is still a true believer, though. At a Business Roundtable event yesterday, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings gave a vigorous defense of the law. "We're going to hear a lot of wolf-in-sheep's-clothing ...


Proposals to change the way teachers are compensated brought down last year's attempt to reauthorize NCLB. Whoever is president next year will try again. Read more over at Campaign K-12....


On Saturday, a teacher asked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a softball question: "What would you do to correct President Bush's 'every child left behind' policy?" The audience cheered. All Obama had to do was say "Get rid of it," listen for the applause, and move on. But he didn't, according to Scott Elliott of the Dayton Daily News. Reporting for EWA's Education Election blog, Elliott transcribes Obama's extended answer. Here are two quotes almost short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, but they summarize where Obama stands: "The basic concept of No Child Left Behind was a good one." "The...


It sounds as if the AFT has gone from "Let's Get It Right" to "Let's Get Rid of It." At the union's convention, outgoing President Ed McElroy promised that AFT will work with the next administration to "create a new law," Vaishali Honawar reports from Chicago. Incoming President Randi Weingarten believes the law “is too badly broken to be fixed,” according to Sam Dillon of The New York Times, who got a preview of Weingarten's acceptance speech. AFT's about-face happened because its leadership is changing and because NCLB has become a punching bag for everyone from George Will to the ...


If you've ever wanted to meet Richard Simmons (or would like the chance to make a second first impression), be at the House Education and Labor Committee's hearing room on July 24. The exercise mogul will be there talking about the lack of PE in schools and the FIT Kids Act. (For background, read this post, and this one, and this one. I'd offer more, but that would provide fodder for those at Ed Week who think I've written too much about Simmons.) Simmons' Web site has most of the details, including inside information that Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., wants ...


The pilot projects for growth models and differentiated accountability have gotten a lot of notice since Margaret Spellings became secretary in 2005. But Spellings also has been granting waivers regarding public school choice and supplemental educational services. She has given several districts permission to reverse the timetable for implementing those changes, allowing them to offer the SES one year before choice. Last month, she said she'd consider applications from all states. Alabama is seeking a waiver to do that. A Birmingham school advocate and national civil rights organizations are teaming up in opposition.Citizens for Better Schools in Birmingham, with ...


Sen Barack Obama wasn't shy about taking on the National Education Association in his speech on Saturday. As in 2007, he endorsed performance pay to reward teachers who "consistently excel in the classroom." A few of the 10,000 NEA members booed, but most were silent, Vaishali Honawar reports in her blog on the convention. But Obama did give a nod to NEA's desire to increase federal K-12 funding. In the litany of things he would change about NCLB, increasing funding for the law was at the top. "Forcing out educators to accomplish all of [the law's goals] without the ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings loves Reading First. She says educators do, too. Here's what she told Greg Toppo of USA Today: "If I had a nickel for every person who said, 'Thank God for Reading First,' I'd be a millionaire." Let's do the math on that. At 20 nickels to a dollar, that would mean 20 million people would be singing the program's praises for Spellings to become a millionaire. The program is 6 1/2 years old. That's 2,373 days. To get a million dollars, every day, 8,428 people would have told Spellings about Reading ...


MM has assigned me the task of making sense of the National Education Association's new "Great Public Schools for Every Student by 2020." I read two pieces of NEA's six-point plan, and I saw dollar signs jumping off the page. The NEA wants Congress to guarantee full funding for NCLB's Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (In federal budget terms, that would make those programs entitlements, meaning they wouldn't be subjected to the cap on discretionary spending.) That would more than double the $26 billion currently spent on those programs. The new federal money would be small ...


Why did only six states win approval to participate in the "differentiated accountability" pilot project? After all, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said she would let up to 10 states into the program. The answer comes in the Word document summarizing peer reviewers' perspectives on the proposals. The methods appeared largely to be based on methods of convenience rather than a focus on the underlying causes of schools inability to meet AYP. The boldface is in the original. That's like getting a D- on the paper you stayed up all night to write. Never a good day when that happens. ...


Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced that six states won her approval to participate in the differentiated accountability pilot project. The lucky states are Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio. Here's the department's press release. "The plans these states submitted speak to the fact that many were among the first to embrace data-based decision making and accountability," Spellings said, according to remarks prepared for her to give at the Education Commission of the States' conference in Austin, Texas. You can read all of the state applications at the Department of Education's Web site or Chad Aldeman's summary of ...


Reauthorize, don't re-regulate. That's the message state education officials sent the Department of Education in reaction to the rules Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings unveiled as her alternative to NCLB reauthorization two months ago. In their formal reaction to the rules proposal, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of State Boards of Education said that it's the wrong time to issue new rules that will give their members a long list of things to do. "This investment in time and money may be worthwhile were these regulations to be in place for more than a ...


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