June 2009 Archives

From guest blogger Lesli A. Maxwell So, there's less than 12 hours to go before New York City's mayoral control law expires, and the New York Senate remains in utter chaos, with few signs that sanity will prevail fast enough for members to settle on who is in charge of that chamber and to actually hold a vote on anything. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been using some pretty over the top rhetoric in recent days, said in a news conference earlier today that if the law that gave him authority over the city's public schools is allowed to lapse, "the...


If you think Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his staff don't read the comments on their ed.gov blog, then think again. As part of Duncan's Listening and Learning Tour, which will take him to at least 15 states in town-hall style meetings on education reform, the department has launched an online conversation asking for comments. A comment about raising academic standards from a high school world history teacher in Princeton, Texas—Kyle Brenner—must have resonated with the education secretary. Enough so that Mr. Duncan called Brenner today to talk about his post. So if you leave a comment, ...


Texas and Wyoming are among the eight states that still haven't submitted their stabilization fund applications.


Another stimulus package could very possibly be Coming Soon to a Congress Near You, at least if Warren Buffett has his way.


The brand-new top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, said this morning that he's not wedded to the idea that states should test their students in reading and math once a year in grades 3-8. In fact, he thinks that states should get to decide how often to test kids and in what grades. Obviously, that would be a "bombshell" change to the No Child Left Behind Act, since those tests are at the center of its accountability system. Kline wasn't in Congress when the law was passed, back in 2001. He said ...


Moderate Senate Democrats are embracing Obama's education reform agenda. Are "status quo" members of Congress not?


In a head-to-head match-up, Arne Duncan's student-aid announcement loses to the South Carolina governor's announcement of his South American escapade.


From guest blogger Erik Robelen: As careful readers of this blog will recall, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today was going to roll out the administration’s plans to simplify the federal college-aid application process during the White House press briefing. He did so this afternoon, and was joined by IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. “The debate about how to simplify FAFSA [the Free Application for Federal Student Aid], I think, has been going on for over 20 years. So this change is long, long overdue,”said Mr. Duncan. Some of the changes are already in place, while others will be ...


Tomorrow, the U.S. Department of Education will announce plans to help simplify the process for applying for federal student aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It may not sound like a particularly sexy issue, but a lot of experts think the FAFSA has been a major barrier to student access. In fact, 40 percent of college kids never even file the form, even though most of them are eligible for some form of student aid. (The Chronicle of Higher Education has some excellent background here). Duncan's plan has three main elements. It would: 1) Rework the ...


The White House Office of Management and Budget last night released guidance for states on how to calculate the impact of stimulus dollars, including how recovery dollars are being spent and how many jobs have been saved. You can read the guidance for yourself here. One state official I talked to said she finds the guidance confusing, as least as it applies to education. Betsy Carpentier, deputy superintendent of innovation and support in South Carolina, called the reporting requirements confusing and "pie in the sky". One of her chief complaints? The OMB doesn't explain how to calculate jobs saved that ...


The symbol of the Bush administration's signature school reform law has been dismantled, signaling the end of an era.


Steve Barr says he'll be talking with Chancellor Michelle Rhee about bringing his model for small high schools to the District of Columbia.


Education Secretary Arne Duncan challenged charter school operators to play a hands-on role in turning around the nation's 5,000 lowest-performing schools.


Duncan's speech on turning around low-performing schools kicks off the national charter schools conference on Monday.


It's going to be story-hour at 400 Maryland Ave. - all summer long. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is planning to read to kids on the lawn of the U.S. Department of Education on a regular basis throughout the summer. (Suggest your favorite children's classics in the comments section). He may even be joined by other cabinet secretaries from time to time. The program is part of the White House's Summer of Service initiative, "United We Serve" which kicks off on Monday, and runs through Sept. 11. Duncan's cabinet colleagues are getting in on the act too. For instance, ...


The AP's Libby Quaid has an interesting story about how Education Secretary Arne Duncan has put in writing a threat we've heard before: that if states play shell games with the economic-stimulus money intended to help stabilize their budgets, they may be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes time to award the $5 billion in competitive stimulus grants under his control. Pennsylvania is considering cutting K-12 education, using stimulus money to fill in the resulting gap, while leaving its "rainy day" fund largely intact. Read Duncan's letter here. And listen to him talk about the larger issue in this ...


Texas Democrats are fighting what's perhaps a noble, albeit losing, battle over State Fiscal Stabilization Fund money that's designed to help prop up states' K-12 education budgets. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and fellow Republicans have figured out, like a lot of other states, that even if you don't really need to cut education, you can cut K-12 anyway and fill the cuts with federal stimulus money, thereby freeing up money for other government programs that would have been spent on education. In one case, Democrats fought a valiant and creative fight as members of the Texas congressional delegation threatened to ...


Rep. John Kline of Minnesota is the new top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. Kline wasn't in Congress back in 2001, when lawmakers approved the No Child Left Behind Act, so it's unclear whether he would have supported the legislation. But, unlike Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California, who held the ranking member position until he became the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Kline is a co-sponsor of this bill, put forth by Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Commonly called the A-plus Act, the legislation would allow states to "opt-out" of NCLB's accountability ...


AFT President Randi Weingarten has written about the need for national academic standards and testified about it on Capitol Hill. But, in a wide-ranging interview with Edweek reporters yesterday, she was less than enthusiastic about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's proposal to use a portion of the Race to the Top fund to help states develop more uniform, rigorous assessments. I asked her if she supported the idea, and she said the "short answer is yes" but that the "devil is in the details", a Washington response if there ever was one. Weingarten isn't known for her brevity, particularly in ...


The Republican singles out a Rhode Island school's new skate park, a Wisconsin district's school lunch equipment, and Detroit Public Schools in general for questionable stimulus spending.


But she doesn't mention Education Secretary Arne Duncan by name.


Applications from states will be due in December and June.


The Race to the Top Fund is now down to $4 billion for states.


Not content with prodding California to tear down its data fire wall, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is apparently throwing his weight around the fight over whether, and how, to continue mayoral control of New York City's schools. And, over at Flypaper, Mike Petrilli takes the temperature of Duncan's tenure so far: It's a "warm" on the blog's trademark Reform-o-meter. Which, sadly, won't be a regular feature anymore, Mike says. At Swift & Change Able, Charlie Barone has an interesting update on the implementation of growth models and No Child Left Behind. And if you were wondering why there hasn't been ...


What's up with certain conservatives linking sex and kindergarten?


As we mentioned yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is talking tough about the need for state data systems to include some sort of indicator that can be used to tie teachers to their students' performance. Who knows whether it will happen in California, Duncan's new poster child for the issue. But the situation in Arizona may be promising for proponents of the idea, at least according to the state schools chief, Tom Horne. I asked Horne last week (while reporting this story) whether he thought the state would actually be able to squeeze some reform out of the stimulus ...


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has added more tough talk to his stump speech. Just yesterday, he urged states to strike down laws that prohibit them from using data systems to link individual teachers to student outcomes. Today he hit that theme again, singling out California's law, which he said makes it impossible to figure out which of the state's educators and practices are effective. At a breakfast with reporters in Washington, he called the Golden State law a "fire wall. ... This thing is a huge, huge barrier. ... We've got to tear down this fire wall." Not being able to ...


In case you were wondering whether that $25 million or so that the Gates and Broad Foundations invested in ED in '08 paid off, Strong American Schools, which managed the program, is here to tell you that the campaign "has helped turn the need for education reform from a low-priority campaign issue into one of the Obama administration's top policy priorities." Take that Mr. Mouthing Platitudes! You can read all about it in a new report on the effort, released today. ED in '08's biggest road block, according to the report? Teachers' unions. And also the media....


Inside Baseball Alert: Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., is going to be the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, replacing Rep. John McHugh of New York, who is going to work in the Obama administration. That means McKeon won't be the ranking member on the House Education and Labor Committee anymore, because lawmakers typically don't hold that slot on two different committees. (For more on McKeon, check out this interview at the GOP convention.) Republicans will get to choose a replacement for McKeon, and the pick could have major implications for No Child Left Behind Act reauthorization ...


The Education Department gets a "most improved" from Politics K-12 for finally putting the initial applications for state fiscal stabilization funding online—and living up to the transparency standards President Obama has set for spending stimulus money. I've been making the case for this for weeks now (here and here), and other folks have joined in a call for more transparency as well. (UPDATE: To clarify, the Education Department has always posted online the final applications once they were approved, but at issue were the initial applications states submitted—before any changes were made.) This is more than just a ...


So, now that the original Reading First program is officially dead, Congress and the administration are scrambling to create a new program that would retain the federal government's investment in literacy, without all the unfortunate conflict-of-interest issues and effectiveness questions. It's up for debate whether there is a consensus out in Literacy Land as to how best to teach reading. But lawmakers are starting to put together reading legislation. My colleague, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo told you about a bill being crafted by the Senate. But over in the House, lawmakers are also working on the issue. Freshman Rep. Jared Polis, ...


Here's how the Education Department estimated the jobs impact of the stimulus.


The Education Secretary is warning once again that states' hostility to charter schools could put them at a "competitive disadvantage" in securing Race to the Top money.


The cover letter to Gov. Sanford's application for stabilization funds, signed "under duress," is worth a read.


The Education Secretary took states to task for enacting laws barring student test scores from being used in teacher-evaluation decisions.


The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday, in grand fashion, (meaning not just through a press release, but a site visit as well), that it was granting New Jersey's application for state fiscal stabilization funds. This comes despite the protests of advocacy groups, which have numerous problems with the application itself, and the education department's whole stimulus process. Apparently, their arguments didn't work....


The blogsphere reacts with a healthy dose of skepticism and realism to the news that 46 states want to adopt the same set of academic standards.


It’s official. South Carolina can now get a boatload of federal aid. The state Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that Republican Gov. Mark Sanford must apply for the money, some $700 million, largely designated for education under the economic-stimulus law.


The colorful charter school founder offered members of Congress some unconventional notions about how the feds can help the cause.


As part of the Obama administration's larger effort to help communities affected by the near-collapse of the U.S. auto industry, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is doing his part. He announced today in Milwaukee a new competitive grant program to help develop more community college programs to help people, especially those hurt by the auto industry's decline. Don't expect this new program to have a big impact though—the total funding is only $7 million. Grants are likely to range from $300,000 to $700,000. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the some $100 billion in education ...


A key House lawmaker voiced concern about proposed shifts in Title I funding and a big boost to the Teacher Incentive Fund.


A key senator told U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this morning that he’s not a fan of the Obama administration’s proposal to shift $1 billion out of Title I grants for districts into the separate Title I school improvement program.


The U.S. Secretary of Education is briefing congressional appropriations committees on the Obama administration's spending plan.


Several education advocacy organizations are riled up—as they probably should be—about a gap in the "transparency" of stimulus funds that I pointed out weeks ago. The U.S. Department of Education is refusing to make available the applications states submit for the state stabilization fund part of the stimulus package. The department only makes them public once they're approved. This does not permit the public to see beforehand what a state promised to do with its stimulus money, so that it can be compared with what a state ended up agreeing to do after any negotiations with the ...


From guest blogger Erik Robelen: Apparently, a Democratic lawmaker in Texas didn’t get the talking points from Education Secretary Arne Duncan about expanding the charter schools sector. A bill that would have allowed more charters to open in Texas was killed on the floor of the state's House of Representatives last night by a point of order raised by Democratic Rep. Lon Burnam, of Fort Worth, according to the Quorum Report, an independent newsletter on Texas politics. Some charter critics couch their language diplomatically, but Rep. Burnam didn't mince words. “This is a massive charter school expansion bill,” the ...


All is not well in Stimulus Land: California made a $2.3 billion accounting error, relating to K-12 education spending, on its state stabilization fund application, ProPublica keenly notes. (Although this may be one of those bank errors in your favor, because this error looks like it will help California with its maintenance of effort requirements.) And speaking of the stabilization fund, Pennsylvania's situation illustrates why some states haven't turned in their applications yet. Seems like the U.S. Department of Education is starting to think about a contingency plan in case all states can't—or don't—make the July ...


Forty-six states have signed onto the National Governors Association/Council of Chief State School Officers effort to pursue common academic standards, Michele reports today. Of the four states not on the list, two have Republican governors who are widely rumored to be mulling a 2012 presidential run: Alaska (Gov. Sarah Palin) and South Carolina (Gov. Mark Sanford) aka Gov. Take-This-Stimulus-Check-And-Shove-It. That's interesting because, generally speaking, the state-led common standards movement has largely gained bipartisan support. In fact, South Carolina schools chief, Jim Rex, a Democrat, signed onto the compact. But since Sanford said no, the state can't be counted among ...


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