Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ESEA reauthorization hearings roundup

On May 19, the House Education & Labor Committee held a hearing on successful turnaround strategies for low-performing schools. Chairman George Miller (D-CA), clearly reacting to policies implemented by the Obama Administration through the Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants programs, stated, “No Child Left Behind dictated interventions to help these schools but what we’ve learned since the law was enacted is they were too prescriptive and unrelated to the real needs of the schools. What most of these schools need is a fresh start. A fresh start doesn’t have to mean shutting down a school . . . A fresh start doesn’t mean firing all the teachers and only hiring back an arbitrary number . . . A fresh start means buy in from school leaders, teachers, parents and the community. It means a team effort to put together the tools to make that school great.”

Chu unveils new school turnaround frameworkSpeaking of turnaround strategies, in the wake of bipartisan concern over the Administration’s turnaround policies, Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) unveiled a new framework for turning around schools that focuses on collaboration, flexibility and a more holistic approach. NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen spoke favorably about the Chu framework, stating that it was time to put to rest the “one-size-fits-all” mentality in turning around struggling schools. Positive principles of the Chu framework, entitled Strengthening Our Schools (SOS), include:

• Flexibility and collaboration as keys to success
• Giving schools sufficient time to show progress
• Improve learning and instruction by building capacity
• School closure and staff firings as a last resort, not a first option

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TIF final rules released
The Department of Education has released final requirements for the $437 million Teacher Incentive Fund program, a competitive program designed for LEAs to establish performance-based compensation systems (PBCS) based on student achievement data, classroom observations and other measures of teacher performance. The TIF program has two competitions – the PBCS competition and an evaluation competition, in which selected LEAs would agree to have their compensation systems evaluated longitudinally to measure their impact. The deadline for notice of intent to apply is June 1, 2010, and the application deadline is July 6, 2010. Awardees will be notified by September 2010. Technical assistance workshops/webinars will be held in early June.

In conjunction with the release of the TIF final rules, NEA joined with the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Board Association in developing a set of guiding principles for affiliates and members who want to apply for TIF grants. The 11 Guiding Principles could be used for to foster strong collaboration at the local level and appropriately implement this federal grant program.

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Study: Parent involvement is important in elementary years
A new study by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has found that children whose parents were more involved during elementary school had fewer problem behaviors and better social skills, but that children's academics weren't affected. When parents boosted their involvement in elementary school (by increasing visits to the school and encouraging educational progress at home), children's problem behaviors (including both aggressive and disruptive behaviors as well as anxiety and depression) decreased. At the same time, their so-called pro-social skills (such as cooperation and self-control) improved.

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Common core state standards to be released on June 2
The common core state standards will be released on June 2. NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen will deliver remarks at the release event in Atlanta, Georgia. NEA publicly supported the March draft of the new standards focused on language arts and mathematics , stating that “these [draft] standards are beginning to articulate education goals that encompass high level, complex knowledge and skills.” Two states, Maryland and Kentucky, have already endorsed standards – even before the release of the final version. Starting in June, attention will then turn to adoption and implementation of the standards at the state level. Stay tuned!

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Central Falls agreement reached
In February, the Central Falls school district garnered national media attention when it announced it would fire some 90 high school teachers and support staff at the end of this school year. After months of negotiations between the Central Falls Teachers Union and the Central Falls School District, an agreement has been reached that will enable current staff to return to their former jobs without their having to reapply for them. The agreement includes a transformation plan for Central Falls High School as well as provisions for extending the school day and tutoring students outside of class. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel applauded the new plan, stating, “Congratulations to all parties involved in the collective bargaining efforts, and to the students who will surely benefit from this strenuous work.”

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Speak Up for Education & Kids Campaign
Yesterday was the start of NEA's National Speak Up for Education & Kids Campaign. With more than 80 percent of school districts planning to lay off staff, it's time to take action. Call 1-866-608-6355 to call Congress and tell your Representative to protect the future of our children by supporting funding to save education jobs in the emergency funding bill. With 300,000 education layoffs expected, our students are the ones who will suffer -- in overcrowded classrooms, with less time in school, and without the teachers and school staff needed to give them individual attention and help.

NEA has launched “Speak Up for Education & Kids” to mobilize educators and others concerned about the budget emergency facing public education. At issue is the “Education Jobs Fund,” legislation that would provide $23 billion in emergency funding for education jobs. See the 30-second television spot on the initiative. And don't forget to speak up for education and kids! Tell your elected representative that you want to be sure students' needs come first, even during a fiscal crisis!

Questions or comments?
Email ESEAinfo@nea.org.