Friday, November 21, 2008

ESEA & NCLB Post Election 2008 News for Teachers to Use

Visit the NEA ESEA/NCLB Query Master to check out the most current discussion and research about this impactful legislation on our schools.

Read more about ESEA/NCLB at the national level
  • How will the financial crisis affect local education budgets?
  • Report questions spending of federal teacher quality funds
  • ED report finds Reading First does not improve comprehension
  • Darling-Hammond heads education policy team for Obama transition
  • CEP holds 2 more forums on federal role in education
  • ED issues more details on Title I regulations
  • No Child…' play shows struggles by students, staff to meet NCLB goals
Read more about ESEA/NCLB in the states
  • Some WV schools ask for time out on NCLB
  • NC raises standards; more schools miss AYP targets
  • Voice from the classroom:Michigan City, Indiana
How will the financial crisis affect local education budgets?

The deepening financial crisis on Wall Street is already starting to play out at the school district level. School superintendents across the country say the struggling economy is threatening to reverse progress they have made in closing historic achievement gaps. Districts are facing budget cutbacks now -- and the outlook for next fall is certainly dim.

A study by the American Association of School Administrators finds superintendents already have begun instituting belt-tightening measures in response to shrinking budgets. Nearly half of those surveyed are reducing hiring and cutting back on supplies, while 20 percent already have laid off staff. Another 31 percent are considering layoffs as well as other measures.

So what happens if/when the next Congress passes a stimulus bill? How is education likely to fare? If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd have their way, education will definitely get a boost.

The new stimulus bill unveiled this week is a $100 billion package that includes $2.5 billion for school construction repairs, as well as $600 million for youth training and dislocated workers, $200 million for the Community Services Block Grant, and $36 million for homeless education. Job training funds would provide 160,000 dislocated workers and youth with education, training, counseling, and job search assistance.

It also includes other funding important to NEA: $37.8 billion to reduce the states' share of Medicaid costs by increasing the federal share by 8 percent. That directly helps reduce the strain on states' budgets from increasing Medicaid costs.

Unfortunately, opposition by President Bush and Senate Republican leaders prevented consideration by this week's lame duck session of Congress, so that means any stimulus bill will not be acted on until President-elect Barack Obama takes office. At that point, the stimulus package would likely be even larger.

A footnote: The House in September passed a smaller package of $63 billion which included $3 billion for school construction.

Report questions spending of federal teacher quality funds

Under NCLB, the federal government spends some $3 billion each year on Title II teacher quality programs under NCLB, but a report released this week concludes that no one really knows if the funds are making a difference.

The program generally "is not especially aligned with leading-edge [teacher-quality] efforts, and it's the federal government's big entry in this sweepstakes," says Andrew Rotherham, the co-director of Education Sector who authored the report. He argues that Congress and the Obama administration have a chance to reshape federal policy to better support leading-edge human capital reforms in education.

"…public school systems continue to approach the teacher workforce as they did a generation ago," he writes. "Teachers enjoy little opportunity for professional growth or advancement without leaving the classroom, creating a disincentive for those who want to take on additional skills and responsibilities. And there is little sensitivity to teacher talent or effectiveness: From recruitment and training to compensation, low-performers and high-fliers are treated much the same, and poor and minority students are less likely to get the most effective teachers. While American society and what's expected of public schools has changed a great deal, our approaches to human capital in education have not."

Title II is the federal government's second-largest K-12 investment, after the Title I grants for disadvantaged students.

Rothertham also recently offered advice to President-elect Obama -- Education needs to be on the to-do list -- as part of NPR's "Dear President-Elect" series.

NEA notes that Title II also funds class size reduction programs. NEA is advocating that the ESEA reauthorization include a separate funding stream for class size reduction efforts, and that it also provide increased investments for high quality mentoring programs for new teachers and job-related professional development for all teachers.

We would oppose any provisions that require the use of student test scores in determining teacher compensation.

ED report finds Reading First does not improve comprehension

A new Department of Education report on Reading First finds that students enrolled in the $6 billion program on average made no more progress in reading comprehension than their peers in first, second, and third grade outside the program.

This congressionally mandated report, a follow-up to April's interim study, presents an additional year of data (from 2006-07) on student reading comprehension and classroom instruction in 248 schools (125 Reading First schools and 123 non-Reading First schools) and information on the impact of the program on first-grade students' decoding skills. While the report found no statistically significant difference in reading comprehension, the program did have a significant impact on students' decoding skills, one of the basic components for reading.

"It is a program that needs to be improved," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, director of department's research branch, who is quoted in a Washington Post article. "I don't think anyone should be celebrating that the federal government has spent $6 billion on a reading program that has had no impact on reading comprehension."

While the report is somewhat more positive than a much-criticized interim version of the findings, it is not expected to sway Congress, where two panels have recommended eliminating funding for the program.

Darling-Hammond heads education policy team for Obama transition

Some good news for the education community: Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond -- highly regarded for her work on school reform, teaching quality, and educational equity -- is heading up President-elect Barack Obama's transition team at the Education Department. She is expected to make policy recommendations to the new administration on a host of issues, including ESEA/NCLB reauthorization. Education Week's K-12 blog, among others, reports the news.

Curious about what Darling-Hammond has said about NCLB? You can check out her May 2007 article in The Nation as well as her testimony to Congress (September 2007).

The other members of Obama's transition education team are:

Joan Baratz-Snowden, former Director of Educational Issues for the AFT;
Maria Blanco, Executive Director of The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California at Berkeley;
Juliet Garcia, President of the University of Texas at Brownsville;
Eugene Garcia, Vice President for Education Partnerships, Arizona State University;
Goodwin Liu, co-director of the same Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity;
Ann O'Leary, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Executive Director of the newly founded Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security (CHEFS) located at University of California-Berkeley School of Law;
John Polidori, Director of Legislation & Political Organizing for the Delaware State Education Association;
Jonathan Schnur, founder and Chief Executive Officer of New Leaders for New Schools; and
Jon Weintraub, director of the Office of Policy Analysis for the Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

CEP holds 2 more forums on federal role in education

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) has held two more forums on rethinking the federal role in education. One of the topics addressed at yesterday's event was the federal role in standards-based reform.

Dr. Brian Stecher and Dr. Laura Hamilton, both with the RAND Corporation, say research shows that the effectiveness of standard-based reform is inconsistent, particularly given the difficulty in determining the validity of test scores. They said that when a punishment or reward is attached to a specific outcome, such as meeting AYP, the behavior of teachers does change. They also recommended that "Accountability should include non-test outcome measures, including a blended indicator system (some outcomes measured annually and some less frequently, and some outcomes measured at the student level and others measured at the classroom or district level)."

The November 20 forum also included a presentation on educational assessments by Dr. W. James Popham. The November 19 forum highlighted the work of Dr. Heather Weiss of the Harvard Family Research Project and Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan of Columbia University. The Weiss paper addressed the federal role in out of school learning, while Kagan's paper focused on early childhood education.

The papers from all of the forums eventually will be posted on the CEP Web site.

ED issues more details on Title I regulations

On November 13, ED hosted a Technical Review National Teleconference to discuss the Title I regulations announced on October 28, 2008. The PowerPoint used is available on the ED's Web site.

'No Child…' play shows struggles by students, staff to meet NCLB goals

A former New York City visiting artist working in a tough school in the Bronx has written a play called "No Child…" that has won the hearts of educators and others. Nilaja Sun, who wrote and performed her award-winning one-woman show, says the play is based on her own experiences as a drama teacher. She plays 16 distinctive characters -- students, teachers, administrators, and a visiting teaching artist very much like herself -- and through them tells a story that we know only too well about the foibles and pitfalls of NCLB.

She created the play as a snapshot from the trenches -- "something entertaining and provocative that'll get people talking about the state of our public schools."

If you've seen or heard about the off-Broadway hit, you may be happy to hear that it has been licensed to run in eight places around the country next year. If you haven't heard about Sun's successful run in New York, Boston, and other places, listen to the recent NPR piece where she discusses the inspiration behind the project.

Some WV schools ask for time out on NCLB

The superintendent of Marion County, West Virginia, has asked federal education officials for a year's reprieve from federal accountability standards while students and teachers adjust to a new and more rigorous standardized test and curriculum. And the Charleston Daily Mail reports Superintendent James Phares is urging his counterparts across the state to make the same request.

Phares says counties should have a year or two to adjust to a new statewide test of student achievement, the WESTEST 2 so that schools do not end up getting penalized for raising standards.

NC raises standards; more schools miss AYP targets

Members of North Carolina's State Board of Education say they fully expected more schools would miss performance targets under NCLB when they decided to raise standards for the state's students. And that's exactly what happened. Nearly half of North Carolina's students failed both the reading and math exams they took last spring, and more schools and districts are facing sanctions because of poor performance. But Gov. Mike Easley and state officials are praising the higher standards and largely ignoring the fact that many students failed to meet them. The News & Observer sums it up succinctly: Push for higher levels stings.

According to NEA's latest analysis of state AYP data, more schools in 35 states failed AYP this year.

Voice from the classroom: Michigan City, Indiana

"I am a Title I assistant in an elementary school. I assist in giving NWEA testing to special needs children. (NWEA tests are computerized tests that assess language, reading, and math skills of students in grades three to five.) My observation is that it truly frustrates these children who can't even read the test questions but who are so brilliant in other ways. Please stop standardized testing with these children and test them in other ways, if necessary!"

Robin Endris, Paraeducator
Michigan City, Indiana