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Hot For Education: Ed Finance Council Makes Hill Beauty List

image from thehill.com
It's not K12, and apologies to all who may be offended by such superficialities, but the Ed Finance Council's Samantha DeZur has made The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful People.  Congrats, condelences.  h/t MP

AM News: "Alt Cert" Debate Returns To Capitol Hill

House Subcommittee Examines Alternative Certification PoliticsK12:  Last week, two different coalitions sent letters up to Capitol Hill expressing totally different sentiments on whether Congress should continue to allow teachers in alternative certification to be considered "highly qualified."

Adelanto school board to hold emergency meeting Wednesday Redlands Daily Facts: The group promotes the use of the "parent trigger" law that allows parents to take control of a school if they gather signatures from at least 50 percent of the parents. The judge agreed with 25 of the signatures the district sought to reject, but ... 

Deal to Extend School Day in Chicago AP: Chicago’s public schools and the union representing teachers have reached an agreement that will give students a longer school day but will not force the teachers to work longer hours.

LAUSD must include student test scores in teacher evals by Dec.4  PassFail: L.A. Unified must comply with a judge's ruling to include student test scores in teacher evaluations by Dec. 4, a bevy of attorneys representing the district, its unions, and parents agreed in court today.

Philadelphia Charter Founder Charged With Fraud EdWeek: Dorothy June Brown was accused Tuesday by federal authorities of using her private management companies, Cynwyd and AcademicQuest, to defraud the Agora Cyber Charter School and the Planet Abacus Charter School.


Fairfax County faces two complaints about racial bias at TJ high school Washington Post: Five years ago, white students composed 52 percent of the rising freshmen admitted to TJ, while Asian students accounted for 38 percent. By this year, those numbers had flipped: Of the ninth-graders entering TJ next year, 26 percent are white and 64 percent are Asian.

Smaller U.S. budget for smallest citizens - report Reuters: Another 4 percent decline in overall spending on children is expected in 2012 as the temporary boost from stimulus funds falls by $30 billion. Without legislative action, the amount spent on children will remain unchanged over the next decade, but will shrink to 8 percent of the overall budget.

Morning Video: House Hearing On Alt. Cert. (at 10)

ScreenHunter_04 Jul. 24 09.12Here's the streaming video from the House education committee hearing on alternative certification (once it starts), and the press release touting the event.

Is this in response to the alt cert debate during last week's appropriations markup, or just a booster shot of some kind?  You may already know.  I'll try and find out. 

Continue reading "Morning Video: House Hearing On Alt. Cert. (at 10)" »

Capitol Hill: New & Old Education Groups Fight For Funding

ScreenHunter_08 Jul. 19 11.53Yesterday's Labor-HHS appropriations markup was a bit of a bloodbath for Obama education initiatives, as you may have heard -- Innovation and Improvement cut by $864.5 million, according to CEF (PDF here) -- but there are lots of additional steps in the appropriations process and there were some silver linings.  First and foremost (to me, at least) is that CEF tells me at least some of the newer national education reform groups -- Teach For America and DFER among them -- signed (or offered to sign) the FY2013 letter in support of education funding.  Coalition building is messy stuff -- lots of strange bedfellows -- but going it alone (or not weighing in at all) aren't any better alternatives.  See also the Coalition website here. I'll add other names as soon as I hear back about everyone who signed.

Quotes: Yet Another Reason Why NCLB Won't Get Revamped

Quotes2Tom Harkin can't manage the committee, doesn't understand how Republicans think, and is ineffective in every possible way.  -- Another unnamed Whiteboard Advisors insider on the chances of NCLB reauthorization

Charts: Education's Part Of "Everything Else" In Federal Spending

image from www.npr.org

Sometimes it seems sad how little money is spent on education at the federal level -- in many cases, it's not even enough for education to get its own category.  

That's the case in this chart, via NPR, in which the light green represents the "everything else" category -- which includes education, has gone down over the past 50 years from nearly 15 percent to roughly 12 percent.  

No, I don't really care (or believe) that education is or should be a state and local issue.  

To me, that argument has always seemed quaint and ideological -- powerful, to be sure -- but neither realistic nor defensible.

I'd rather have a more equitable and uniform system than the current insupportable range of excellence and dysfunction.

And you?


Hill: House Labor-HHS Appropriations Staff Moves

image from m4.licdn.com

Jennifer Gera (left) has been tapped to handle education issues for the House Labor/HHS/Education appropriations subcommittee, according to the Knowledge Alliance.  

She's replacing Susan Ross, who was promoted to clerk.   

Congrats, condolences to all.  Any other arrivals or departures of note, let me know.  

AM News: Will Duncan Risk Angering Powerful Hawaii Senator?

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Is Hawaii One Step Closer to Losing Race to Top Grant? Politics K12: With the fate of Hawaii's $75 million Race to the Top grant hanging in the balance, this is not good news for the Aloha State.

New York Teacher Ratings Renew Evaluation Debate NPR: The Obama administration is making some federal funds contingent on schools using student test scores and classroom observations to evaluate teachers. New York City recently sparked a controversy when it rated thousands of teachers with test scores alone — and then released those ratings to the public.

The Posse Foundation Comes to Houston for the 2012-13 School Year NYT:  The Posse Foundation, which sends students from large urban school districts to elite colleges, is coming to Texas in the 2012-13 academic year.

As 'Bully' Opens, the Bullied, Bullies and Bystanders Weigh In PBS: A 12-year-old is harassed on the school bus, a 16-year-old lesbian is ostracized by her community and a young girl brings a gun to school to face her bullies. Two parents speak for their late son because he committed suicide after being tormented at school. These are the subjects of the much-anticipated film "Bully" from director Lee Hirsch, out in theaters across the country on Friday.

More teachers banned from classroom in APS cheating scandal CNN: Georgia’s Professional Standards Commission (PSC) has revoked the teaching permits of 67 more educators implicated in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.  Some of the teachers were barred from the classroom for two years; others had their certificates permanently revoked, according to WSB.


Continue reading "AM News: Will Duncan Risk Angering Powerful Hawaii Senator?" »

NCLB: Special Education Teachers Worry About Super Subgroups

Titanic-04Like everyone else, special education teachers and administrators are both excited and fearful about the new NCLB waivers coming down the pike. Excited for among other things for the day when they and their kids won't be blamed for a school not making AYP. Concerned about the disappearance of a special education subgroup that "counts" the same way as it did under NCLB.  Read this new article from the Harvard Education Letter for more: With the Rise of “Super Subgroups,” Concerns for Disabled Students Mount. NCLB has become increasingly important to educators who work with students with disabilities, even though it provides no dedicated funding stream and is in many ways much weaker than IDEA.  

Supreme Court: Of Broccoli And Federal Education Mandates

image from www.bloomberg.comThis week's Supreme Court deliberations on the health care mandate is as good a chance as any to remind everyone that there are education implications embedded in the debate over whether Congress has the right to enforce things like health insurance mandates over states and individuals.  There was a long New Yorker article making the link to education last summer (here).  Justice Thomas in particular has made commerc clause arguments" By Thomas’s reading, Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act, to say nothing of Medicare and Medicaid, might all be unconstitutional," wrote Jeffrey Toobin. Challenges to federal education laws might follow (if Tea Party lawmakers don't repeal them first).

Government: The Best And Worst Of Being Lobbied


When I worked on the Hill way back in the 90's (Feinstein, then Bingaman),  I often (some would say usually) had absolutely no idea what I was doing, substantatively, or procedurally or politically. I was constantly in need of reliable information, provided quickly, tailored to my specific situation, dumbed down to my level.

And so, as you can imagine, my best experiences with lobbyists were the ones who gave me useful information when I needed it, whether or not it was something they were particularly interested in, and got it to me quickly, in a useful form (amendment language, for example, or a one-page fact sheet, or a formula run).

Read on to find out who was best and worst at the lobbying game, according to me, and about a new article that might be worth reading.

Continue reading "Government: The Best And Worst Of Being Lobbied" »

Quotes: Obama's Stealthy School Reform Success


In education reform, I think Obama has done brilliantly, largely because it’s out of the press.  -- Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) in the New Yorker via EWA's Mikhail Zinshteyn

Picture: The President Gets An Idea


As you may already know from my Twitter feed, there's rumored to be a White House education event tomorrow afternoon whose purpose is to announce that 8-10 states have been approved for NCLB waivers.  It's pure coincidence that Republican House education committee chairman John Kline is doing a big NCLB event earlier in the day.  

Money: Whatever You Do, Don't Talk About "Sequestration"


There's a lot of coverage and commentary on various NCLB reauthorization and waiver scenarios -- nothing's easier than speculation, after all -- but strangely little discussion about something much more concrete:  the possibility that federal education funding will be cut 8-9 percent (roughly $4 billion) in January 2013. 

Some reading material: Impact of the Budget Control Act's Across-the-Board Reductions NEA, School Districts Fear Slashed Budgets After Supercommittee Fails EdWeek, How the Potential Across-the-Board Cuts in the Debt Limit Deal Would Occur CBPP, Estimated Impact of Automatic Budget Enforcement Procedures CBO

 I know, I know.  It's so far off.  And funding issues are so boring.  Congress will probably figure something out at the last minute.  But Harkin-Enzi and Kline aren't going anywhere.  Waivers are going to go to a handful of states at most.  The national average is much lower but I've seen estimates as high as 20-30 percent for the federal contribution to some urban school district budgets.  That makes the looming funding cut the biggest, broadest, most immediate, most concrete issue out there.  It's certainly something that state and local education officials I talk to keep bringing up.  

Why not spend some time thinking about how states and districts would deal with a federal education cut, whether it would be a good or bad thing, and how Congress might decide to protect or target federal education programs in whatever post-election deal they concoct?

SOTU 2012: Let's Not Make To Much Of This

image from www.chicagonow.com
What to make of the education elements of the President's speech last night?  Not that much, to be honest.  For all the media attention the event generates it's just a speech -- one given during an election year; a week, a month, a year from now, the real-world impact of Obama's remarks will be minimal.  (Obama can call for states to raise the mandatory attendance age to 18 but he doesn't have a magic wand to make it happen anytime soon.) In terms of political theater, however, the event was rich and textured.  One of the valiant Chester Upland teachers who's working without pay was sitting with the First Lady.  Classroom teachers, the President has not forgotten you.  (Also sitting with the First Lady was a recently-homeless Siemens Science contest winner and a rising TFA corps member from Colorado.)  The President asserted the oft-made [but misleading, I think] claim that the Race To The Top competition resulted in changes in nearly every state's education laws for very little money.  (The spreadsheet showing the state changes illustrates the minimal, preliminary nature of many of the states' legislative changes made in hopes of winning the federal funding.  NPR's Claudio Sanchez notes that even those who won the money are struggling to make good on their promises.)  The President called for an end to teacher-bashing, which seems like a decent and politically smart thing to do, at the same time he bragged about moving responsibility for education back to the states (via NCLB waivers), which I see as a politically smart move that's problematic at a substantive level.  (I'm not alone in worrying about the NCLB waiver process -- several civil rights, disability, and minority groups are opposed to the accountability rollbacks in state waiver plans.)  I'll stop there -- what did you think, or did you not bother?

Five Best Blogs: What Obama Might Say About Education

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But Will They Help Students? TIME:  Without a program to offer iPads at discounted rates to students, teachers and schools in reality most students will still be using the same old textbooks for years to come. 

Little Kids Are Homophobic Jerks, and Teachers Don't Know How to Stop Them Jezebel: A significant number of teachers know their school is a shitty environment for kids who don't conform to traditional notions of gender, but they're not doing anything about it. Some of them may not know how. 

Review of MAKING THE GRADES Mr Teachbad:  If I tweak my inter­pre­ta­tion of a rubric in the mid­dle of grad­ing a stack of papers, it’s with kids I talk to every day. As a teacher, if I cre­ate a hor­ri­ble rubric or make a hor­ri­ble deci­sion about a rubric, I could really only mar­gin­ally affect about 200 peo­ple at a time, at most.

Report: Miami district needs to improve teacher evaluations Miami Herald / Hechinger:  Walsh called it “indefensible” that only 10 teachers — 0.05 percent of the workforce — were fired... That compares to 10 out of 2,144 teachers in Springfield, Mass., and 280 out of about 29,000 in Los Angeles, which used to have a lower rate.

Obama Should Go Big and Bold for State of Union Jonathan Alter: He wants to fund early childhood education, hold schools and teachers accountable for performance, act to reduce dropout rates, and expand Pell Grants for college. 

Bruno: Policy-Level Agreements On NCLB? So What.

This is a guest commentary from middle school science teacher Paul Bruno, who tweets at @MrPABruno: 

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com
Last week Michael Petrilli waxed optimistic about the chances for ESEA/NCLB reauthorization in the near future.  He emphasized the considerable bipartisan consensus that exists around issues like testing and school sanctions and concluded by saying that "with a little presidential leadership and goodwill from both parties, a deal could be hammered out quickly."

My sense, however, is that taking a step back and looking at the current political environment makes the case for reauthorization pessimism look much stronger. I agree that there's broad bipartisan consensus on ESEA in Washington at the moment, but it's easy to overestimate the importance of this kind of substantive policy agreement.

Continue reading "Bruno: Policy-Level Agreements On NCLB? So What. " »

NCLB: Signing Ceremony Kids - Where Are They Now?

image from georgemiller.house.govI wonder what's happened to the kids who were onstage with Bush, Miller, Boehner, etc. that day ten years ago.

Who are they, what was their experience like, how did they experience school before and after NCLB was signed into law?  Far as I know no one's ever tracked these kids down.   Maybe someone's doing that in honor of the NCLB anniversary.  

What I remember best about that time is that the ink was hardly dry before Democrats started complaining about the Bush funding levels -- an understandable but disappointing flip-flop that didn't really do much good in the 2004 campaign and heralded a regressive period in Democratic education politics.  

Quotes: Emotion Trumps Intellect Nearly Every Time

Quotes2Rather than “intellectualize ourselves into the [education reform] debate…is there a way that we can get into it at an emotional level?” -- Longtime union foe Richard Berman

Quotes: Service Providers Vs. Quality Services

Quotes2All too often in the United States we have programs that are too dominated by the interests of the service providers. -- Matt Yglesias

Quotes: Herman Cain Talks Pizza & Vegetables

Quotes2A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables. He would call that a sissy pizza. -- Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain

Quotes: The Debt Is Too Damn High

Quotes2Maybe we need to find ways to make colleges more productive places, which would mean radically changing our idea of what going to college is all about. - James Surowecki in The New Yorker


Five Best Blogs: Enzi, Weingarten, and Klein -- Oh, My

Nail-ClippersBipartisan? Not So Much Chuck Edwards: Sen. Mike Enzi announced that his earlier vote to approve the committee’s ESEA reauthorization bill did not mean he fully supported it.

Teaching With the Enemy NYT:  You simply cannot fix America’s schools by “scaling” charter schools. It won’t work. Real reform has to go beyond charters — and it has to include the unions.

NY Mag: Bloomberg pushed Klein out before he was ready to go GothamSchools:  New details tucked into a New York Magazine profile of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth seem to confirm that Bloomberg set the timeline for Klein’s departure — and suggest that Klein’s decision to head to Murdoch’s News Corporation was hastily made.
A Failure by Supercommittee Could Cost Early Education Programs CAP: The sequesters affect all mandatory and discretionary spending, both defense and non-defense, with the exception of a list of specific exemptions. The exemptions include various child nutrition and welfare programs, as well as the Pell grant program, but no early childhood education programs.

Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Enzi, Weingarten, and Klein -- Oh, My" »

Update: It's Not A Hearing -- It's A Roundtable

image from wsugradstudent.files.wordpress.comNo one's ever been particularly clear of what Tuesday's #ESEA hearing was going to be all about, considering that the bill has already passed the committee.  Basically it was a way to buy off Senator Paul, who as you may recall blocked the markup during the early part of the process.  And now it turns out that it's not even a real hearing with written testimony and all of that, but rather what the committee is calling a round table discussion.  Will Senators asks questions, or participate?  Will the sort of random assortment of witnesses all sit around a table at the same time, or be divided in some way.  What happens if Hess gets overexcited and tries to filibuster -- or worse?  (Luckily he doesn't know about the five-second delay.)  No word if Charlie Rose is going to host.

Five Best Blogs: Hearing For Nothing

SoapboxESEA Bill Poised for Hearing PoliticsK12: Senate leaders may hold off on putting the ESEA bill on the floor until and unless the House approves an overhaul of the law's accountability and teacher quality provisions. PLUS: Charles Barone on ESEA Reauthorization Connor Williams: There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with finding unlikely allies on the other side of the aisle. 

MPR’s Unfortunate Sidestepping SchoolFinance101:  They fail to explore in any depth how successful charter schools allocate resources and the cost implications of those strategies. It’s time to start taking this next step!

The Book on Rhee’s DC tenure Matthew Ladner: While the needle is moving in the right direction in DC, I believe that the Cool Kids came out of the experience sadder, wiser and undeterred. That’s for the best.

Are Teachers Overqualified? Matthew Yglesias: The issue with American teachers isn’t that they’re “overpaid” it’s that we seem to have overinvested in quantity of teachers rather than quality. 

How Bill Gates throws his money around in education Anthony Cody: Invent a host of new mechanisms to reward success as well as punish failure. As much a possible, target these interventions down to the level of the individual teacher and student, to ensure compliance. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Hearing For Nothing" »

Quotes: Now Duncan Calls Harkin-Enzi "Weak"

Quotes2#esea You don't want to have a weak bill or a bad bill at the end of the day. -- Arne Duncan

NCLB: Just Can't Stop Talking 'Bout #ESEA

Lobbyist finalAttack of the Ed Reform Killer ChimerasDFER Charlie Barone: NTEA Party. Accountability Chickenhawks. Amnesiac Historians.  Washington Knows Best States' Rights Purists. Test-Enlisting Anti-Testing Advocates. 

ESEA political scorecard: Halloween version Sherman Dorn:In the group category, I see that Education Trust, DFER, La Raza, and other civil rights groups are all wearing the Ghost of ESEA Past costume

Except For Them! Eduwonk: In his own subtle way Winerip’s work is actually a spectacular argument for No Child Left Behind-style policies requiring disaggregation, transparency, and accountability.

Night of the Living Reauthorization Thompson:  "It’s not much of a deal to offer states a choice between AYP and a test-based teacher evaluation system. Both are based on rhetoric rather than evidence of effectiveness in improving schools and neither will make a dent in the issues facing our most challenged students.” (Ellen Forte)

ESEA: Where Were *You* When NCLB Got Rewritten?

Picture 9Whatever your position on NCLB, or the Harkin-Enzi bill, or the Duncan waiver plan, there's one thing that seems really clear:  Many of those who are (or could) be major players in the debate over federal education policy have yet not come anywhere close to exerting their full influence.  This is unfortunate, given that time is short (see Alyson Klein EdWeek story here) and the logistics are complicated (see Joy Resmovits here). We could end up with current law, or waivers, or -- who knows?  Michelle Rhee seems to have been ramping up her activities on the reauthorization front, including an email (see below) from last week calling on members to oppose Harkin-Enzi in its entirety.  Several other notables (Stand For Children, 50CAN) are absent from the field of battle, insofar as press releases, priority letters, or other declarations would seem to indicate. Others (Diane Ravitch, BBA, PAA) are taking positions so far outside the debate that no one involved in crafting legislation will take them seriously. Many (TFA, the Alliance, NSVF) are focusing on narrow issues of self-interest such as the highly qualified teacher definitions, the expansion of ESEA into high schools, or the creation of a new principal leadership initiative.  It's a strategy that is understandable enough but raises issues of leadership.  What is the point of building organization capacity and political capital if not to use them? How can education advocates call on educators and administrators and politicians to look beyond their own immediate self-interests without doing so themselves? 

Continue reading "ESEA: Where Were *You* When NCLB Got Rewritten?" »

Five Best Blogs: Souvlaki For Everyone!


Just say No! EdNext: The Harkin-Enzi bill “lowers the bar,” says the Times, and “backs away from requiring states to have clear student achievement targets for all schools.” 

What Our Kids Is Doing Mother Jones:  To be honest, I'm a little surprised that TV watching is only two hours a day for 5-8 year-olds. On the other hand, I'm sort of appalled that 75% of 0-2 year-olds watch TV, and of those, the average TV-watching time has increased from 1:02 to 1:30 over the past six years. 

A primer on corporate school reform The Answer Sheet:  Instead, they went after collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and seniority.  And they went after the universal public and democratic character of public schools. 

The Gap On The Gap Eduwonk: A decade after an overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to get serious about school accountability, it’s open season on a strong federal role in education. How did we get here? 

Comment on “A Perfect Confluence” ERS:  We are in the midst of the perfect confluence, and the prospect of converting it into a new educational order for school children is exciting indeed. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Souvlaki For Everyone!" »

Five Best Blogs: Still More On The #ESEA Markup & Duncan Waivers

ScreenHunter_03 Oct. 06 11.09

What Does ESEA Re-Write Mean for Ed Reform on the State Level? Alex Johnston: In taking the fundamental outlines of federal education policy for granted, we may not have looked closely enough... at what aspects of NCLB are essential to preserve, and what’s best left alone, and what’s most in need of an upgrade. 

 The Latest GREAT News NSVF:  Should we succeed in getting GREAT included in the House legislation... we may actually create a new legislative pathway to support high-performing teacher and principal training programs. 

 Senators Playing Politics with EducationThe committee vote was a "stick out the tongue" moment by Sen. Harkin directed at President Obama, as well as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, for offering states waivers on the current NCLB law.

Harkin/Enzi ESEA Bill Would Formalize Rewards for High-Performing Schools New America: This is one of the few places where we see Congress attempting to create what are known as “communities of practice” – opportunities for schools to come together to share best practices and work together to improve student achievement. 

Arne vs. The Rules Title I Derland: One of the overlooked features of Duncan’s new ESEA waiver package is the fact that there is no new money in it. Yet state and local educational agencies are supposed to implement a host of intensive interventions in “priority” schools. 


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Still More On The #ESEA Markup & Duncan Waivers" »

NCLB: No One Needs Harkin-Enzi To Happen But Harkin

image from i2.cdn.turner.comSeveral folks including the National Journal are now -- finally! -- taking note of just how much Harkin and the Democrats gave up last week during the #ESEA markup, without much of a fight, in order to get just three Republican votes (The Saga Continues).  But was that a good call, politically and substantively?  

Education Sector notes that the Harkin strategy leaves room for further Republican demands on the Senate floor and in the House (Markup Roundup).  What else do they have to ask for? I'm sure they'll think of something.  

Title I Derland thinks that it made sense for Harkin to pull and replace his own bill over the weekend, given what happened to stall the Miller plan four years ago (The Lessons of 2007).  Well, maybe, if you think movement is absolutely necessary.  

If anything, Harkin seems to be working off the playbook of the Obama administration's first two years, during which the White House gave up tons to get its priorities done, sometimes offering concessions in advance of Republican demands.  You see, Congressional Republicans might not relish hearing the President bash them for inaction -- Politics K-12 reminds us that this is indeed the plan -- but the Duncan waivers will bail Republicans as well as Democrats out in terms of giving relief states and districts.  Republicans don't really need this reauthorization to go through, and neither does the White House.  With the waivers in its pocket and the knowledge that the President could veto a bill if it was truly awful, the Duncan team seems generally unconcerned about the shape and speed of the reauthorization.

How much more Harkin (and perhaps Miller) will give up to get a bill through when their allies are so divided over the process is unclear.  What happens if  the reauthorization plays more than a passing role in the Presidential election is another unknown. 

Senate: Random Support For Harkin-Enzi #ESEA Bill

ScreenHunter_12 Jan. 24 10.01Wondering who supports the Harkin-Enzi legislation?  Me, too.  Good thing the folks in Harkin's office put out this press release with blurbs from a variety of folks (many of whom are praising specific provisions of the bill not endorsing the whole thing).  It's a pretty random list, I have to say.  Among those listed includee Save the Children, America Forward, City Year, Alliance for Excellent Education, American Public Health Association, National Association of Charter School Authorities, Citizen Schools, Magnet Schools of America, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, Teach For America, Voices for America’s Children, First Five Years Fund, Conditions for Learning Coalition.

Continue reading "Senate: Random Support For Harkin-Enzi #ESEA Bill" »

NCLB Reauthorization: Where Was Duncan?

Er-h-TNR-color-DumbestDC3The passage of Harkin-Enzi #ESEA out of committee last night was a victory for the committee (protecting its turf against the waiver option), conservatives and teachers unions and bureaucrats (a rollback of federal oversight over school performance), and innovation-oriented moderate Republican reformers (getting Washington out of the way). Perhaps reform opponents will also consider it a victory (fewer sanctions from the meanies in Washington, the end of NCLB), too.  But is Harkin-Enzi better than current law, or even the waiver option that's waiting in the wings?  I'm not so sure.  Civil rights and disability groups certainly seemed not to think so.  And so did Arne Duncan, though there was no full court press that I saw.  Duncan expressed his disappointment in the legislation on Monday but then went off to push the $35B teachers/first responders package (which failed last night).  Was there a desperate but ultimately ineffective behind the scenes effort to improve Harkin-Enzi from the Duncan folks and the White House, or do they want any bill they can get (see Mike Petrilli here), or are they just hoping that this all falls apart on the Senate floor and in the House so that they can do the waiver thing?  Others may know better but from afar the Duncan effort to restore accountability to the reauthorization vehicle seemed lackluster and ineffective.  

#ESEA Update: Harkin-Enzi Makes It Out Of Committee


Wow.  Late on Thursday Senator Harkin sent out a press release touting the passage of the #ESEA rewrite by the Senate education committee stating that "Tonight is a victory – both for our nation’s children and for bipartisanship."  

We'll see about that.  Meantime, here are some of the early writeups:  Senate Panel Approves ESEA Overhaul EdWeek:  Harkin hopes to move the bill to the floor of the Senate before Thanksgiving, and he believes it's "possible" that Congress could approve a rewritten version of the nation's main education law before Christmas.Senate committee votes to update education law AP:  A committee forwarded to the Senate Thursday evening a bill that rewrites the education law No Child Left Behind.  ESEA mark-up: Bill moved from committee, 15-7 Ed Sector: Here’s highlights of approved amendments from the afternoon, in the order they were considered (with some fun tidbits, when applicable).

There'll be lots more coverage and analysis but meantime inside are some blog posts and commentary from Thursday afternoon (along with the full Harkin press release touting the legislation):

Continue reading "#ESEA Update: Harkin-Enzi Makes It Out Of Committee" »

Video: Bennet Gets Heated Over #ESEA Delay

"Finally, after two-and-half years, we're told that meeting for two hours is too long."

Reform: Rhee Organization Dips Toe Into #ESEA Debate

British-General-PO-PhonesThe folks at StudentsFirst sent out an email from Michelle Rhee this morning expressing concern about the teacher evaluation provisions in the Harkin-Enzi draft that was supposed to be considered earlier today: "The legislation sets up an unfair, two-tiered system where only some children would have access to teachers who receive meaningful feedback and are held accountable for their work...[and] would move us in the wrong direction." (see full text below).  There's some confusion over whether Rhee signed onto the broader accountability letter from the civil rights groups, reform chiefs, disability advocates, the Chamber, and a couple of reformy groups like TNTP and DFER (see EdWeek about that here).  She's not listed as a signatory but I'm hearing that she may have signed on at some point.  Either way, it's a good start that Rhee and her organization are getting involved rather than sitting on their hands or saying 'that's federal -- we don't do federal.' Symbolically and practically, reformers are going to have to go wherever the debate happens to be, and lead or be prepared not to be taken very seriously.  Most of the rest of the reform crowd -- TFA, KIPP, the Harlem Children's Zone, and Stand For Children -- remain AWOL.     

Continue reading "Reform: Rhee Organization Dips Toe Into #ESEA Debate" »

NCLB: Reformers Sit #ESEA Debate Out At Their Own Peril

Where have all the reformers gone? A year ago they were everywhere, pushing to revamp teacher evaluation and end LIFO.  Now when the NCLB debate is heating up it seems like they're nowhere to be found. 


A decade ago when reform-minded education organizations like KIPP and TFA stayed out of the ESEA reauthorization fight, it was curious but not really a surprise.  Nonprofits and reformers didn't really do policy back then, lobbied Congress only infrequently, and considered advocacy to be out of the question.  The outcome wasn't particularly good from a reform perspective, as you may recall.  The original version of NCLB's highly qualified teacher requirement classified TFA corps members as unqualified, which required schools to send a letter out to parents.  TFA had to get the law changed and has had to protect it every year since then against folks like Public Advocates who see the alt cert loophole as, well, a loophole.  As for KIPP, the law's weak restructuring options didn't require districts to create conditions that would have encouraged CMOs like KIPP who were interested in doing turnarounds.  (Ditto for SIG, by the way -- another missed opportunity.)

Maybe they're working behind the scenes, masterfully manipulating the process from their lakeside cabins and remote mountain lairs. Or, more likely, they've been told not to worry, that Team Duncan will take care of everything for them, and have forgotten  that the White House is currently pushing a reform-free Edujobs 2 bill and would sell school reform down the river without blinking an eye if it would look good for Obama next year.  If a bad bill goes through, reformers will spend the next year trying to work out operational fixes and the next decade having to work around it. 

Quote: NEA Denies Flip-Flopping On Harkin #ESEA Bill

Quotes2NEA continues to stand by its policy statement released earlier this year, which calls for a comprehensive overhaul for both teacher evaluation and accountability systems. We don’t, however, believe that the federal government is the right entity to be mandating teacher evaluations. ... Our educators are having much success working at the local and state levels to create teacher evaluation systems that work for all involved. -- NEA Federal Advocacy Manager Mary Kusler


Photo: Name That Staffer

image from i.huffpost.com
No one ever bothers to ID staffers in pictures that include elected officials but we all know that they do the real work, right?  That's Roberto R. sitting next to the red flag but who are the other three folks?  Extra points for seeing through Obama's head.  Pic via HuffED.

NCLB: Did The NEA "Goldilocks" Harkin?

image from 24.media.tumblr.comThere are currently two big pushes going on in Washington, neither of which it seems to me have much chance of going anywhere but nonetheless provide distraction and amusement:

The first is the ever-changing Harkin-Enzi reauthorization proposal, which went through a weekend switcheroo that seems not to have accomplished very much, substantively or politically.  Get yourself somewhat up to speed with these two articles: Teacher Evaluation Scaled Back in Senate's Revised ESEA Draft Politics K-12 and Federal Government's Role In Grading Teachers At Center Of Legislative Fight HuffED.  Enzi and the NEA may like the bill better now, which could help Harkin get the bill out of committee, but everyone else hates the thing even more than they did on Friday.    

"The NEA will always goldilocks you," [DFER policy director Charlie] Barone said. "Harkin took the evaluations statement Van Roekel made a few months ago and put it in the bill, and then didn't have his support. What they wound up with was nothing."*

The second is this White House's push to win $35B for its Teacher/First Responder proposal, which Duncan and others are going everywhere to push but seems unlikely to do anything other than give Democrats something to bash Republicans about for the next year.  It's not 2009, folks, you can't just propose stuff and have it get enacted.  For more on this: Democrats Planning Major Capitol Hill Rally To Push Obama's Jobs Bill Huffington Post: A Democratic source says that on Wednesday, the party is likely to host firefighters, cops and other first responders along with teachers who face the threat of being laid off should lawmakers not send additional funds to states.  ALSO: Democrats To Force Vote 'Very Soon' On Bill AND: Tester, Nelson unsure on teachers bill POLITICO.
*To be fair, Goldilocks did go through a reasonable decisionmaking process and eventually made a choice she could live with.  

COPPA: The Online Debate Educators Are Ignoring

image from graphics8.nytimes.comOver the weekend, Emily Bazelon updated us on the growing interest from Facebook and others in lowering the requirements for allowing children under 13 to access their site.  (Last spring as you may recall Mark Zuckergberg floated -- and then retracted -- the idea of changing COPPA.) Salon has a story about how other countries have tried to address the issue.  Online protections for kids aren't technically an education issue -- they are often discussed in terms of parental rights, Internet porn, and bullying - but they will affect the shape and growth and perhaps even the quality of online offerings that are touted as educational.  I'm not saying that the law should stay the same necessarily but that the debate should include more than just online companies and children's safety advocates.

Quotes: What Lamar Alexander Wants To Do With NCLB

Quotes2 We know what the Lamar Alexander vision of public education looks like. It’s called “the early 1990s.” - Kevin Carey of the Education Sector in TNR


Quote: Rhee Endorses Obama Jobs Proposoal

Quotes2 Crumbling and inadequate school facilities are a reality for far too many of our students, and represent an unacceptable injustice. - Michelle Rhee, head of StudentsFirst

Congress: What Health Care Reform And NCLB Have In Common

Picture 29Make it to the end of this long New Yorker article about the jurisprudence of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and you’ll see an interesting discussion of star-crossed Congressional efforts to influence what goes on in schools. As you may recall, the original version of the federal "gun-free schools" law omitted certain key statements related to the Commerce Clause, which holds that federal laws be limited to those with a substantial effect on interstate commerce. The Court overturned the gun-free statute in 1995's US v Lopez decision and Thomas argued that the current standard for Congressional involvement was much too lenient and should be revisited.  It's an argument he’s made several times since then and will almost certainly make again when the Court decides on the health care reform legislation passed during the early days of the Obama administration.  As for the gun-free law, Democratic proponents including my old boss Dianne Feinstein went back and added a bunch of findings and interstate commerce language and passed another version in 1996, which still stands.  But if the Court is moving Thomas' way, as the article argues, that kind of window dressing won't be enough. "By Thomas’s reading, Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act, to say nothing of Medicare and Medicaid, might all be unconstitutional," writes Jeffrey Toobin. Challenges to federal education laws might follow (if Tea Party lawmakers don't repeal them first).

Five Best Blogs: The Supercommittee & Education

Picture 9 Rick Perry Gives Up the Ghost on the 'Intelligent Design' Lie Gawker: Rick Perry was asked this morning if he believed in evolution, and his answer was surprising. Not because he does not, in fact believe in evolution (it's just "a theory that's out there"), but because he admitted that the alternative to teaching evolution in schools is essentially religious indoctrination. 

Bachmann and the changing Republican education agenda Slate:  It's safe to say that the political era of George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind is now officially over, even as the law's testing mandates continue to reverberate in classrooms across the country. 

Will Congress Sacrifice After School Tutoring Programs to Protect Yacht Owners? Unfinished Business:  Now that the super committee required by the recent debt deal reached in Congress is coming together, it's important to think about the choices our elected officials will have to make.

Poverty and education reform — and those caught in the middle Hechinger Report:  Increasingly, educators and experts are questioning the reformers’ tactics and asking whether the single-minded focus on schools has become an excuse to avoid the hard work of addressing poverty.  


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NCLB: AYP Minus One (Or Two, Or Three)

Good_work I'm one of a very small (but extremely wise and influential) group of people and organizations extremely worried about the Duncan administration giving in to state and local bureaucrats and gutting the accountability measures in NCLB in a cyncial deal to get states to adopt Race To The Top-style reforms (or at least promise to).  But I'm prepared to compromise on a couple of small, sensible fixes if it will help everyone feel better about themselves and get on with more important things (like checking to see how RTTT and SIG are actually being implemented).  Everyone talks about expanding the safe harbor/growth model provisions so that schools get credit for progress but what about -- this is my own crazy idea far as I know -- an "AYP minus one" system in which schools that make AYP for all but one, two, or three subgroups can still be said to have made AYP.  That would allow schools to focus on what they need to focus on but still keep the clear subgroup accountability for everyone.  Solved.  Next problem?

Chart: A Real-Time NCLB "Waiver Watch"

The Center on Education Policy has created  cool new #nclbwaivers page and map. "As of August 12 there are 4 states that have formally applied for waivers and are awaiting a response, 1 that has been granted a waiver, 1 that has been denied a waiver and 15 that have expressed interest in applying at some point in the future."

NCLB: Look At "Race" To See How Waivers Will Turn Out

Train wreck #nclb #waiver  Despite the lack of details and the fact that they made pretty much the same announcement a couple of months ago, here's a steady flow of news coverage and analysis of the Duncan waiver plan (see lots of links below the fold).  Never underestimate Team Duncan's ability to pull things out of nowhere, I guess. Still, it remains pretty unclear whether the waiver notion can go forward and if it will do any good. CEP just released a study showing that low-income kids have been making strong progress during the NCLB era.  Opponents and cautioners remain numerous and powerful (House Republicans, Jeb Bush, NEA, Ed Trust, US Chamber).  Everybody wants a waiver, sure, but not everybody wants NCLB rolled back or diluted. (Where are the reformers on this, I wonder?  I'm calling around to see what the accountability hawks and "by any means necessary" types are saying about rolling back accountability.)  And - this is perhaps most important -- we know from the RTTT process over the past two years that peer reviewing doesn't always yield strong or consistent results, that folks will promise pretty much anything to Washington whether or not they're ever going to do what they say, and that the Duncan team's ability to enforce implementation of its reforms is shaping up to be pretty weak.  RTTT timelines are slipping like mad, and some Race states aren't making much progress at all. Want to know what the waivers will look like? Look at Race implementation.  Links below.

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Five Best Blogs: Backdoor Blueprint - Or Massive Rollback?

Tumblr_lpi2ycVbYE1qczvmbo1_500Duncan's "Backdoor Blueprint" Strategy Rick Hess: In fact, the whole scheme sounds more like the framing of a back-door grant competition than anything else.

Obama Rewrites the NCLB Act  Brookings (Russ Whitehurst): The administration may well have the political clout it needs to overcome the ire of key committee chairs whose authority to legislate has been undercut.

Arne Duncan's Latest Step in the No Child Waiver Gambit RiShawn Biddle:  The footprint of mandated federal accountability [will] likely to be reduced under Duncan’s gambit from every school receiving Title 1 to just the 5,000 or so persistent failure mills. 
States Are Suddenly Redefining Expectations Richard Whitmire (USNews): Critics of these changes predict fallout from veteran teachers opting for early retirement and would-be teachers seeking other career paths.
How Much Time Have Ed. Reformers Actually Spent in the Classroom? Take Part:  How many years have today’s top reformers spent on the frontlines of America’s classrooms learning what it takes for schools to thrive? 
Confessions of a Presidential Fitness Test Underachiever The Tangential: The Presidential Fitness Test was invented by that same jerks who brought us Boy Scouts, energy drinks, and Michael Bay.  

Duncan: More Saber-Rattling Over NCLB Waivers

Tumblr_lorkd63nxJ1qe5ytdo1_500A quick roundup of the obligatory coverage of Duncan's latest pronouncements on NCLB -- still no real details (or changes in how the Hill is going to react): U.S. to grant waivers for No Child Left Behind WP:  The final decision falls to Duncan, who said he expects that successful states will receive waivers in the coming school year. States will get school testing waivers AP: State and local education officials have been begging the federal government for relief from student testing mandates in the federal No Child Left Behind law, but school starts soon and Congress still hasn't answered the call. Overriding a Key Education Law NYT:  The Secretary of Education announced he would waive rigid federal proficiency requirements for states that could prove they were taking appropriate steps to improve their schools. Obama Gives Go-Ahead for NCLB Waivers to States EdWeek:  Just what those reforms will be—and what freedoms states will gain in return—remain unclear. Those details will be made public in September, Obama administration officials said in a call to reporters.



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