April 2010 Archives

Department Spells Out Rules for Promise Neighborhoods

Looking to create a version of the Harlem Children's Zone in your own backyard? Well, you're in luck—if your backyard happens to be a rural, urban, or tribal community. The U.S. Department of Education just released the rules for the new Promise Neighborhood program, which is meant to help communities create schools that offer a range of support services, from health assistance for new moms all the way up to college counseling. Some lawmakers are seeking to make sure the newly revamped version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes increased support services, but they are scratching...


What Congress Didn't Say About Standards

A hearing by the Senate education committee is notable for not talking about the administration's proposal to tie Title I aid to states' adoption of college- and career-ready standards.


Advocates Seek to Tweak EduJobs Bill

You may remember that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, just released a bill aimed at helping states and districts avert a tidal wave of layoffs and programmatic cuts. Education advocates are eager to see passage of the bill, which would include $23 billion in new state stabilization dollars. The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved similar legislation. Rumor has it the Senate bill could hitch a ride on an emergency spending measure aimed at military spending. But folks have some ideas for changes that they say would keep ...


Duncan on Race to Top: Bold Reform More Crucial Than Buy-In

After staying out of the Race to the Top round-two fray for weeks, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is finally starting to take the gloves off and wade into the middle of a big debate over just how important "buy-in" is in a state's application. Today, in a routine conference call with the business community (he does this sort of outreach regularly), he declared: "At the end of the day we're going to [fund] the strongest proposals whether they have tremendous buy-in or not." (The department invited me to listen in on the call, which was to encourage ...


Where in the World Is Arne?

Politics K-12 wants to know, as does Rick "Straight Up" Hess. Race to the Top started out as a new, exciting adventure with the promise of billions of dollars in prize money to help the nation's students. And now, reality is setting in—and the adults are fighting. In the run-up to the first round of the competition, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was a dominating presence, not hesitating to praise the well-behaving and model states (think Louisiana, and all the kudos he gave them for its teacher-education and student data linkage). And he also didn't hesitate to shake...


Ed. Dept.'s 'Soviet Judges' Review of Race to Top Scores

There's been a lot of talk about how fair the scoring was in the first round of Race to the Top. Did reviewers follow the guidance and always award the correct number of points? Did a few outliers skew the results? Did some states get the luck of the draw and benefit from a bunch of easy graders, or did others draw the short end of stick and get all of the hard graders? The Education Department, as part of its technical assistance seminar in Minneapolis yesterday for state applicants, said it did its own statistical analysis to examine these ...


What Really Annoyed the Race to Top Peer Reviewers

Education Department officials gave some insight into what Race to the Top peer reviewers liked and didn't in states' applications.


How Much Could Your State Gain From Edujobs Bill?

Want to know how much money your state could get from the education jobs legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, last week, or similar legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year? Check out this chart from the Education Commission of the States. Or this one from the National Education Association, which also compares the potential boost to the size of potential grants made available under Race to the Top competition....


Checking in on Race to Top Landscape

The application deadline for the second round of Race to the Top isn't until June 1, but we've got one good gauge of which states may be applying, and which may be sitting the competition out. Today, in Minneapolis, the U.S. Department of Education is holding an all-day technical assistance seminar for potential round two applicants. (People can also participate via conference call.) Forty-twoForty-three states plus D.C. are attending, or tuning in remotely. The states that, for whatever reason, are not participating, are: Alaska, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming. UPDATE: Michigan is apparently ...


Who Plans to Apply for i3? Look Online Now

The U.S. Department of Education has posted a spreadsheet listing the more than 2,000 districts, schools, and nonprofits that plan to apply for the $650 million Investing in Innovation grant. If the thought of opening an Excel spreadsheet intimidates you, there's also a convenient summary of the intents-to-apply. This list is a compilation of those who told the department, by April 1, that they plan to apply for these competitive grants. This was more of a courtesy for the department so officials could figure out what kind of workload is in store for them and the peer reviewers. ...


Congress Scores Race to the Top Scoring System

So now that the first round of winners have been announced, powerful members of Congress are starting to question the scoring system for the Race to the Top program. During a hearing of today of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education spending, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., went off on the Race to the Top's 500-point scoring system. (Remember, Louisiana was a finalist and widely viewed as a front-runner, but then came in 11th.) Some folks said that Louisiana's plan was bolder than the two winners, Delaware and Tennessee. But those states had near universal support from districts and unions. ...


Duncan Calls on Congress to Pass Edu-Jobs Aid

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today officially called on Congress to pass a second round of funding to help states thwart layoffs and programmatic cuts. This is a big deal because, up to now, the administration hadn't officially asked for more education jobs money, even though the House passed this bill last year. So far, the Senate has been the holdout. But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel that oversees education funding, is set to introduce a bill that would provide $23 billion in education jobs aid. Duncan testified before Harkin's panel this morning. I ...


Harkin Proposes Job Aid for Cash-Strapped Schools

More money for schools contemplating layoffs, furloughs, and other cuts? It could happen if a bill set to be introduced this week by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, gains traction. Harkin, who is the chairman of both the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education spending, is set to release a bill that would provide $23 billion to help schools keep teachers and other staff on the payroll, once funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dry up (the so-called "funding cliff" you've heard so much about). The measure's $23 billion Education ...


Controversial Court Pick Attracts Bipartisan Edu-Fan Club

Goodwin H. Liu, a prominent constitutional scholar from the University of California-Berkeley who's an expert in educational equity issues such as desegregation, has a fight on his hands as he faces a confirmation hearing Friday for a post on the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But a bipartisan group of education policy experts, from Stanford's Linda Darling-Hammond to AEI's Rick Hess, are rallying to his defense. This Washington Post story story explains why Liu is so controversial, energizing the left and outraging the right as he supports traditionally liberal issues such as same-sex marriage and affirmative action. His appellate ...


Some Hints on Who's Applying for i3

The list of those who say they intend to apply for the $650 million Investing in Innovation grants isn't online yet, but the U.S. Department of Education has offered a glimpse into the future of i3. UPDATED: This document has mysteriously disappeared from the education department's web site. I'll try to find out what happened to it and why. In the meantime, we're still waiting for the department to post the full list of those who intend to apply, as they did in Race to the Top. First, every state plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had ...


Friday Reading List: Grab Your Popcorn

No big plans this weekend? Well, the U.S. Department of Education has you covered. Grab the popcorn and the Junior Mints and invite your friends over for a Race to the Top presentation movie marathon. Yes, the department has posted the videos of every finalist's presentation so you can avoid the crowded multiplex and savor this true Clash of the Titans. Sorry, action figures of the panel of judges aren't available yet. Here's a quick hit review from Lesli Maxwell over at the State EdWatch blog. And when you're done with your viewing party, head on over to the ...


$350 Million 'Race to the Common Test' Starts Now

The U.S. Department of Education has given the green light to the $350 million Race to the Top assessment competition, which will award grants to groups of states to create rigorous common tests to complement the common standards effort already underway. UPDATED: Read Catherine Gewertz's comprehensive story here. The $350 million is part of the larger $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund grant program. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced in June 2009 he wanted to peel off $350 million to help states create the "next generation of assessments." According to the final regulations out today, a ...


Time Is Already Running Out for ESEA

It's only early April, but time is already running very short if lawmakers are going to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year. Lawmakers are back in their districts this week. When Congress returns later this month, they'll have less than four months of work time before the August recess. Not much, besides budget bills, happens in Washington after July, especially in an election year. Four months may seem like lots and lots of time to folks outside of Washington, but Congress tends to run on a very different schedule. You know that saying, " it would take an ...


Competition Will Be Fierce for 'i3' Grants

About 2,490 districts and nonprofits have indicated they are going to throw their hats into the ring in hopes of nabbing part of the $650 million Investing in Innovation grant program. That is going to require a lot of peer reviewers. Yesterday was the deadline for applicants interested in the i3 program to file an optional notice of intent to apply with the U.S. Department of Education. This wasn't required, nor is filing a notice binding. An applicant can later decide not to apply, and those who didn't notify the department can still apply (think Michigan and Race ...


Scoring Outliers' Effect on Race to Top

Louisiana officials are complaining that one Race to the Top judge sank their entire application. Well, you can judge for yourself, but our own quick analysis shows Louisiana was affected more than any other finalist state by scoring outliers. With the help of Stephen Sawchuk of Teacher Beat fame, we cobbled together our own scoring spreadsheet, throwing out the lowest and the highest score for each state, and averaging the remaining three scores. This means that a really hard grader, or a really easy grader, can't unduly influence the scores. We'll call this the McNeil-Sawchuk scoring system, inspired by the ...


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