December 2009 Archives

Maryland Officials Squabble Over Race to the Top

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat from Maryland, and the state's long-time schools chief, Nancy Grasmick, have never been close confidantes. The latest flare-up? O'Malley wants the state to go after a slice of the $4 billion Race to the Top fund, which rewards states for making progress on a set of education redesign-oriented assurances, and Grasmick is not quite so keen. Her reason? Maryland was one of the states that got turned down for one of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's grants-to-get-a-grant, in part because of its teacher-tenure law. Grasmick thinks that means the state probably doesn't stand a strong ...


Former NEA Lobbyist to Push for Increased Ed Money

That headline may sound very "dog bites man." But those folks who are hoping for more money for Title I, special education, and other federal programs have a new, energetic advocate on their team. Joel Packer, who until recently was the chief No Child Left Behind Act lobbyist for the National Education Association, a 3.2 million-member union, has stepped into the job of executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a non-partisan coalition of 80 education groups that advocates for ... you guessed it, more money for education. Packer is now a principal (code for lobbyist) at the Raben ...


Race to the Top Hopefuls: Clear the Week of March 15

If you're a finalist for a Race to the Top grant in Round 1 of the competition, then the week of March 15 is when your state team will have to come to Washington, D.C. and make your in-person pitch to the peer reviewers. This nugget of information, plus more on the Race to the Top timeline, is contained in a new FAQs document released by the U.S. Department of Education today. Those who are finalists will be notified around March 1, which leaves about two weeks for states to prepare their Olympic-sized sales pitches. It's unclear if ...


Friday Reading List: Snowbound Edition

So we're supposed to get hit with quite the winter storm here on the East Coast. Once you've stocked up on milk and toilet paper and are cuddled up with your hot chocolate, check out these good reads: At Flypaper, Andy Smarick dissects (in great detail) a trio of speeches by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. And while you're catching up with those Fordham folks, check out Mike Petrilli's Wall Street Journal op-ed on "Whole Foods" Republicans. Over at Teacher Beat, Stephen Sawchuk notes the Florida Education Association isn't too wild about this whole Race to the Top competition. Alexander ...


Creative Race to the Top Lawmaking

Will states change laws in hopes of winning a Race to the Top grant, but make those legal changes contingent on actually winning a grant?


14 States Fail Gates' Race to the Top Test

With the Race to the Top deadline just around the corner, education policy wonks are already sizing up the competition to figure out who's already in the lead, and who isn't. Vegas odds probably aren't favoring these 14 states, which didn't meet the Gates Foundation's litmus test for qualifying for RttT technical assistance: Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Vermont. After hearing grumbles from state officials, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation opened up its technical assistance planning grants to all states. Twenty-four applied, and 10 won these Gates-funded ...


New Jobs Bill Would Include Money for Facilities, Edujobs

New measure would include $23 billion to help save and create education jobs, on top of the economic-stimulus package which is already pouring more than twice that much state coffers for that purpose.


Is Race to the Top an Urban Game?

Some state officials have a sneaking suspicion that Race to the Top is an urban state's game and that has made some question whether they should apply, at least in Round 1. For instance, Vermont had originally planned to apply for Round 1 of the competition, but is now going to hold off for Round 2, Rae Ann Knopf, the deputy commissioner of education transformation and innovation, told me. That's why you won't see Vermont's name on the U.S. Department of Education's list of states planning to apply in the first round. The state decided to sit out the ...


List of Race to the Top Contenders Continues to Grow

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 36 states that plan to apply for Race to the Top Fund grants in Round 1. I blogged about this, making clear that the department's list wasn't necessarily the final word on Round 1 applicants for the economic-stimulus money. And, indeed, it's becoming clear that several states that did not file their letters of intent do plan on applying in Round 1. Thanks to those who left comments, or called me, to fill me in on their states' plans. Informally, it seems that North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Michigan ...


UPDATE: 37 States Plan to Apply for Race to the Top, Round 1

The U.S. Department of Education has posted a list of 36 states that have signaled they plan to apply for a $4 billion Race to the Top grant in Round 1. To figure out how many peer reviewers they need, the Department apparently asked states to send them a letter if they intend to apply in Round 1. This doesn't mean these states will apply, nor does it mean states that aren't on this list won't necessarily apply, but it certainly is a good indication. Round 1 applications are due January 19; Round 2 will be due June 1. ...


Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2010 Budget

Congress has now given final approval to the long-delayed education spending bill for fiscal year 2010. If you leave out the stimulus, there was basically flat funding for most education programs, plus a huge boost for some Obama administration priorities. (School districts that want to try out merit pay will be especially psyched about a huge increase for the Teacher Incentive Fund, bringing the program to $400 million, up from just under $100 million last year). But most of the major work, including huge increases for Title I and students in special education, was taken care of in the stimulus. ...


Race to the Top Insights: Part 2

After listening to the second half of the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top technical seminar, it's clear that there are many, many state-specific circumstances for which state teams want answers. South Dakota asked if Indian-chartered schools count as charter schools. Hawaii officials had a few questions about how the application applies to them since they have a single state-run school district. New Hampshire wanted to know if its existing New England consortium on common standards counts as much in earning points toward a grant as the larger Common Core effort. Such are the challenges for Race ...


Race to the Top Insights: Part 1

I spent the morning in a U.S. Department of Education technical-assistance planning seminar on Race to the Top, and have picked up a lot of interesting tidbits. Many states are in attendance—including Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Tennessee (including education commissioner Tim Webb), just to name a few. Interestingly, Texas is also in attendance, I'm told. The seminar will continue well into the afternoon, but so far, here are the insights I've picked up about this $4 billion competition: Race to the Top Director Joanne Weiss emphasized that there will be a lot of losers in Phase...


House and Senate Budget Would Boost TIF, Charters

Remember that long-delayed fiscal year 2010 spending bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives, and by the Senate Appropriations Committee, both in July? The measure was never considered by the full Senate, but December is crunch time, so a House and Senate conference committee decided to skip that step last night and approved a compromise version of the bill. Now the measure is expected to be voted on by the full House and full Senate so it can go to President Obama for his signature. If you've been following our coverage, you probably know that one of the ...


More Money for Cash-Strapped Schools From Washington?

I'm sure you've heard by now that many states are still having to lay off teachers and cut programs, despite $48.6 billion in aid to help shore up state budgets in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Well, there may be more federal relief coming down the pike. Congressional leaders and the Obama administration are considering increasing aid to states and localities to prevent layoffs as part of a new "jobs package". (They're not using the term "second stimulus," but it sounds kinda like that to me.) Obama laid out the plan in a speech today. He also highlighted ...


Sean Cavanagh Leaves EdWeek

He only wrote once for Politics K-12 that I can dig up, but Sean Cavanagh's departure from Education Week is a big loss. He may have been the newspaper's specialist in covering math and science, and its prolific Curriculum Matters blogger, but he had a knack for politics, too. After all, who could argue that there aren't politics involved in the common-standards movement, which Sean has been faithfully tracking. Think squabbles between education advocacy groups, and questions about the openness of the process. That's not even factoring in the politics involved in states' own standards setting process. Think of Texas ...


Republicans Miffed About 'Race to Top' Common Standards Push

Earlier this year, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on the common standards effort being led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, during which members from both parties basically agreed that: a) common academic standards could be a good thing for students and U.S. competitiveness, and b) the feds should stay out of the way and let states lead the effort. That was, of course, before the final regulations for the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund came out. Based on the scoring system, it is ...


Questioning the Ed. Dept.'s Turnaround Strategy

Are the methods to use to try to improve low-achieving schools driven more by hunches than research?


Skeptics of Standardized Tests Weigh In on ESEA

As January approaches, education organizations in Washington are starting to lay the groundwork for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose current version is the No Child Left Behind law. And that includes the contingent of Democrats who are skeptical of standardized testing. One of the groups on that side of the debate is the Forum for Education and Democracy, which held an event on Capitol Hill this morning to draw policymakers' attention to schools that have embraced project-based learning and other methods that proponents say help develop higher-order thinking skills, like the ability to research, analyze, and ...


Them's Fightin' Words

Texas Education Commission Robert Scott, who objects to the common standards effort, accuses the U.S. Department of Education of 'coercion' and a 'federal takeover' of schools.


Lots of Smack in Final School Improvement Regs

The U.S. Department of Education put out the final version of the regulations on the School Improvement Grants. And even though there were 180 comments filed on the draft regulations, not much has changed, or at least not substantially. If you'll remember, the draft regulations, released back in August, provided a lot specificity on what had been a pretty loosey-goosey program. The School Improvement Grants got $3 billion under the stimulus and another $546 million in the fiscal year 2009 budget, making it a pretty hefty program by Department of Education budget standards. The regulations offered four possible models ...


Dodd and Duncan Stump on ESEA in Connecticut

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will up in the Nutmeg State this week talking about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—and hanging out with Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who has a top spot on the Senate education committee. (He actually passed up a chance to become chairman earlier this year.) Education—and ESEA, in particular—is a hot-button issue for Connecticut. This is, after all, the state that filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the current version of the ESEA, known as the No Child Left Behind Act. Of course, Duncan has brought members...


Transcript: An Hour With Arne Duncan

Who said: "If you're going to do something, do it." "I think there's a lot of scientific evidence that the status quo doesn't work." "I just want to make this clear. We've never said charter schools are the magic answer." "Frankly in education we're better at doing more things than we are stopping doing things." That would be U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in his hour-long interview with EdWeek reporters. The transcript is now online, so check it out. If you just want the highlights, then read Alyson's story on the role incentives will play in No Child ...


Department Circulates ESEA PowerPoint on the Hill

The U.S. Department of Education is shopping this Elementary and Secondary Education Act PowerPoint presentation to congressional aides this week, meant to lay out broad principles for renewing the law, now known as the No Child Left Behind Act. (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a good preview of his ideas when he dropped by Edweek earlier this week). And if you take a look at the presentation, the broad principles are, well, pretty broad. There doesn't seem to be much in there that folks who are following Race to the Top Fund and other major Obama administration initiatives ...


Whatever Happened to that Student Loan Bill?

Remember that student lending bill that Congress was supposed to get right on this year? You know, the one that, in the House version at least, provided all kinds of extra resources for early-childhood education, school facilities, and community colleges? Well, it's officially December, time is running out on the legislative clock ... and we haven't heard a peep from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on the lending bill. The House passed its version back in September. The reason? The health care overhaul bill, which is sucking up every ounce of the Senate's time and energy. It's tough ...


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