Friday, November 7, 2008


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
  • Obama presidency a victory for students and educators
  • ED releases sweeping Title I regs
  • NEA objects to piecemeal approach to dropout issue
  • You can offer advice on education to the new president
  • Rothstein book offers new route for improving education accountability

Read more about ESEA/NCLB in the states
  • ED continues its review of states' standards, assessments, and accountability plans
  • Voice from the classroom: Delta Junction, Alaska
Obama presidency a victory for students and educators

November 4, 2008, was a great day for public education in America. The election of Senator Barack Obama as the next President of the United States is a major victory for students and educators, said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

"Obama has said that a cornerstone of any long-term economic plan must be an investment in quality public schools," Van Roekel said in a public statement. "His education plan, focusing on early childhood education, professional pay for educators, and college affordability, could not have been more different than Sen. John McCain's vision and plan.

"This is a major victory for students and educators.... This is an incredible opportunity to begin to correct the failed education policies of the Bush administration and prepare our students to compete in a 21st century economy. It's a new chapter in American history, and an exciting and unprecedented time for educating the next generation of American leaders."

The inspiring victory of Barack Obama was accompanied by key victories in congressional and gubernatorial races across the country that will mean positive changes for both students and educators.

ED releases sweeping Title I regs
The Department of Education last week issued the long-awaited final regulations on Title I of NCLB. These sweeping regulations make significant changes to several areas of NCLB: graduation rates and adequate yearly progress (AYP), Supplemental Education Services (SES) and school choice, reporting of NAEP data, school restructuring, growth models, multiple measures, and more.

But despite the complexity and length of the new regs, they still adhere to the test-punish-label framework established by the federal law when it was passed nearly seven years ago. And the law remains woefully underfunded - to the tune of $15 billion this year alone. To make matters worse, says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, the regulations effectively impose additional mandates on states and schools already struggling to stay financially afloat or avoiding laying off staff in this time of budget cutbacks.

"These changes will force states and school districts - which are in the middle of carrying out their plans for the 2008-2009 school year - to scramble to revise major procedures and systems two school years in a row," Van Roekel says. "They deserve better than that unwelcome early holiday gift the Bush administration is leaving behind."

After Education Secretary Margaret Spellings issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in April, NEA submitted detailed comments in June, opposing the regulations and urging that they be withdrawn, arguing that Title I regulations will have to be changed again when the law is revised and reauthorized, probably next year.

The final regulations do make several changes to the NPRM, in some cases providing a bit more flexibility, such as pushing back by a year when the new graduation rate goals go into effect for accountability purposes, though the new mandates contained in the regs remain largely unchanged. (Note: The final regulations include a summary of the changes between the proposed
NEA objects to piecemeal approach to dropout issue

One of the requirements spelled out in the new regulations is that states use a uniform calculation for determining every high school's graduation rate. While NEA agrees that states should use uniform methodology to calculate graduation rates, NEA President Van Roekel says the new regulations deal with the dropout problem in a piecemeal fashion.

In an opinion piece in USA Today, he wrote, "They offer no resources or programs to keep kids in school, and they place more unfunded mandates on local school systems at a time when they're already struggling to make ends meet. The Education Department has acknowledged that it will cost state and local governments $30 million just to meet these new reporting requirements."

Despite the length and complexity of the regulations, Van Roekel adds, "they fail to answer many important questions, such as how to count students who graduate in five years. The rules are so confusing that the Education Department has already said it will issue more documents by the end of the year, just to explain them."

Additional materials about the regulations, including a summary, fact sheets and Secretary Margaret Spellings' remarks in releasing the regs, are available on the Education Department

You can offer advice on education to the new president
Our country has voted for change and elected a new leader. Come January 20th, President-elect Obama will have to do something about education, from pre-K to higher education, but what? What should he do? What can he do?

Since September, a version of that question has been put to educators, students, parents and policy makers in a "Education Advice to the Next American President" podcast series. So far the site has recorded the advice of Margaret Spellings, Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier, NEA Executive Director John Wilson, and dozens of others. (To listen to Wilson's post, click on the "Hear education advice" link at the top of the page and scroll down to his entry on September 17.) In addition, the site now accepts written comments.

The project is produced by Learning Matters, a production company founded by veteran education reporter John Merrow. The site contains lots of comments about NCLB sprinkled throughout - so feel free to submit your advice too!

Rothstein book offers new route for improving education accountability
Education policy expert Richard Rothstein's new book takes aim at the failures of accountability under NCLB. So in Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right, he proposes a new kind of accountability plan for public education that relies on both higher-quality testing and professional evaluation.

"No Child Left Behind has backfired on the very children and schools we set out to help," Rothstein says in a press statement promoting the book. "Its most important shortcoming is that it forces schools to focus almost exclusively on just one goal, basic skills in math and reading, while abandoning other equally important goals that are essential for a good education. A high-quality education system must include a workable accountability component. But NCLB is so fundamentally flawed that it is unfixable. It is time to admit our mistakes and go back to the drawing boards to create an accountability system that will support, not undermine student achievement."

In the introduction to the book, Rothstein explains one of the fatal flaws in NCLB: "One reason, perhaps the most important, why No Child Left Behind and similar testing systems in the states got accountability so wrong is that we've wanted to do accountability on the cheap. Standardized tests that assess only low-level skills and that can be scored electronically cost very little to administer - although their hidden costs are enormous in the lost opportunities to develop young people's broader knowledge, traits, and skills. A successful accountability system, such as this book proposes, will initially be more expensive, requiring a sophisticated national assessment of a broad range of outcomes, and a corps of professional evaluators in each state that can devote the time necessary to determine if schools and other institutions of youth development - early childhood programs, health and social service clinics, for example - are following practices likely to lead to adult success. But while such accountability will be expensive, it is not prohibitively so. Sophisticated school accountability could cost up to 1% of what we now spend on elementary and secondary education. If we want to do accountability right, and we should, this level of spending is worthwhile.

"In the long run, accountability is cost-effective. We now waste billions of dollars by continuing to operate low-quality schools, because narrow test-based accountability can neither accurately identify them nor guide those it identifies to improve. And we waste billions by forcing good schools to abandon high-quality programs to comply with the government's test obsession. We cannot know how much money could be saved by more intelligent accountability, but it is probably considerable."

NOTE: In researching this book, Rothstein asked NEA for names of teachers he could talk to about their views of NCLB, and we shared information from our Voices From the Classroom project. This book has an appendix, "Teacher accounts of goal distortion," that uses stories from seven teachers in the Voices publication.

ED continues review of states' standards, assessments, and accountability plans
The 2007-08 school year was the first year in which all states are required by NCLB to test students in at least three grades in science (though the results of the science tests do not count toward determining schools or districts AYP standing). ED had required states to submit evidence that their science standards and assessments meet the NCLB requirements, and has been issuing its determinations on a state-by-state basis. Each state was required to: "(1) have approved content standards in science; (2) administer a regular and alternate science assessment in each of three grade spans; (3) include all students in those assessments; and (4) report the results of the regular and alternate science assessments on state, district, and school report cards."

ED recently issued decision letters for nine states (AL, AK, CT, DC, ID, MA, NJ, ND, and WA) and determined that all but Washington had not yet met all the statutory and regulatory requirements. Washington received approval of its overall system of standards and assessments. ED also gave final approval to South Dakota's overall system of standards and assessments.

Voice from the classroom: Delta Junction, Alaska
"As an elementary school physical educator, I know that physical education is the most important subject in school. A healthy body is key to a healthy mind. Unfortunately, NCLB's unintended consequences are the lack of time and importance placed on physical education in our schools. Our country is already witnessing an increase in childhood illnesses, such as juvenile diabetes and childhood obesity.

"With the emphasis on high-stakes testing in reading, math, writing, and (soon) science, schools have been forced to cut programs that ensure the health of our nation's future to create more time to study for the tests. This is a crime.

"We owe our children a healthy future. We owe our great country a healthy future. Please revise NCLB to accomplish this. Thank you."

Cindy Lou Aillaud, elementary physical education teacher
Delta Junction, Alaska

Read more Voices from the Classroom stories on NEA's Web site.

Take action: Savor the victories!
Take a moment to enjoy the sweeping victories for pro-public education candidates elected Tuesday night, starting with President-elect Obama, many new Senators and Representatives, and state legislators. Check out NEA's Web site for all the details on our victories and the reaction from NEA President Van Roekel.