President Bush used his State of the Union address to once again call on Congress to reauthorize NCLB. But the one concrete idea he proposed in the speech—$300 million school choice program open to private schools—won't generate much enthusiasm from Democratic leaders in Congress. Democratic leaders plan to move forward on their own terms. Still, they hope to work with the president. "I hope this is a turn [of events] that he will be a positive force," Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, told me last night. "But the track record...


A coalition of civil rights groups is working to upgrade the importance of graduation rates under NCLB. The groups want it to be a mandatory part of the accountability decisions (states now have the option of using it). They want states to use a standard way to calculate the rates (states now can set their own methods, with U.S. Department of Education's approval). And they want graduation rates to be disaggregated by various subgroups of students. (Read all about it in the Campaign for High School Equity's report outlining its priorities and its press release describing its event on ...


NewTalk, an online discussion tool, has a discussion on education that has quickly evolved into a conversation about the issues that are at the heart of NCLB: testing and accountability. Some of the participants have their own outlets where they regularly air their opinions. It's no surprise that Checker Finn believes in national standards. He writes about that regularly in the Education Gadfly. Diane Ravitch wants to scale back the federal role to standard setting and data collection. She espoused the same idea in The New York Times and her Bridging Differences blog. The fresh voices in the NewTalk conversation ...


In most conversations about the future of NCLB, policy wonks and politicians point to growth models as the fix for what ails the law's accountability system. But researcher Helen F. Ladd suggests that growth models probably aren't enough. In a commentary in the current issue of Education Week, Ladd writes: "Test-based accountability has not generated the significant gains in student achievement that proponents—however they perceived the problem to be solved—intended." Instead, she proposes that accountability systems should assess students in core subjects—not just reading and mathematics, as NCLB does. Schools would be judged against "realistically...


After two prime-time references to NCLB in December, I haven't seen another TV reference to the law. But on a stage in Washington this week, an actress will portray life in a New York City high school during the NCLB era. The one-woman show—called "No Child ... "—is a fictionalized story of the performer's experience working in a Bronx high school. The 70-minute show centers around a teacher trying to direct a play. But it raises questions about who should be held accountable for students' learning. You can watch an excerpt below. Buy your tickets here. Meanwhile, education wonks are...


Even though a federal appeals court believes NCLB is an unfunded mandate, state and local officials should spend their money to comply with the law, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings says. In a letter sent to state education chiefs today, Spellings writes that last week's 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit doesn't settle the thorny question of whether states and districts must spend their own money on NCLB requirements. Spellings is "exploring all legal remedies to overturn the decision," she writes. Meanwhile, school officials should plan on meeting all of ...


It's easy to collect anecdotes of teachers and parents saying instruction has been dumbed down since NCLB became law in 2002. But now one professor is saying she has the research to prove those stories reflect what's actually happening in schools. In a Q&A published by the University of Maryland, Associate Professor Linda Valli said that test-prep pressures have significantly changed teachers' instruction. They aren't spending as much time on higher-order thinking skills or assigning as many projects that require critical thinking, said Valli, who started tracking classroom instruction in 2000. "Because of NCLB," Vallli says, "teachers are now ...


As I pointed out earlier this week, the National Education Association is using a tactic from the Republican playbook in its legal fight against NCLB. Some of its key allies aren't playing along. The American Federation of Teachers decided to stay on the sidelines when the NEA filed its lawsuit claiming that NCLB is an unfunded mandate. "We took a different tack," Ed McElroy, the AFT's president, told me this week. "We said: 'Let's try to fix it at the congressional level' because we felt we had a decent shot at doing that." McElroy said he remains confident that he ...


While Title I and other NCLB programs did well under the fiscal 2008 budget, Reading First took a gigantic cut. The budget bill, which President Bush signed Dec. 26, reduced funding for the program from nearly $1 billion to $393 million. The Education Gadfly called the cut "the Christmas massacre." State officials clearly are unhappy about the cut, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo reports in this story in the current issue of Education Week. But they're optimistic that the program's practices will stay in place, even if the money dries up in some schools. The Department of Education is promising to help ...


In this comment on a previous post, a mom says that the goal of 100 percent proficiency is possible. Using the real-life example of her dyslexic son, she says that students can make dramatic progress. But can they all reach proficiency? That question would be a lot easier to answer if everyone knew what proficiency means. As I reported last year, nobody can agree on the definition. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings says that it means students achieving at grade level, as she repeated again at the National Press Club last week. But does everybody believe that? In its statement ...


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