Sunday, October 3, 2010

ESEA Reauthorization & ESEA Update

Promise Neighborhoods placed on the map
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced this week that 21 nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education will receive Promise Neighborhood planning grants of up to $500,000. The one-year grants are designed to help recipients create plans to provide services that support the whole child and support the healthy development of students. The Center for Community Schools, a coalition NEA participates in, applauded the inclusion of seven members of its network that embrace community schools strategies.
Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) awardees announced
The Department of Education has awarded sixty-two entities with $442 million in TIF grants. The Department designed this program to boost student achievement and foster performance-based compensation systems (PBCSs) using educator evaluations based in part on measures of growth in student achievement. The awards will supply only the first two years of an anticipated five years of funding; future funding will be conditioned on the congressional appropriations process. A useful reference for those facing TIF implementation issues is the Guiding Principles for Teacher Incentive Fund Grants paper jointly developed by NEA, the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Boards Association.

Investing in Innovation grantees show ED the money
All 49 highest-rated Investing in Innovation (i3) proposals have secured the 20 percent private-sector match required by the Department of Education and will receive their awards by September 30. The department has posted a list of awardees along with more detailed summaries. The "i3" fund is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and was designed to promote research-based innovative programs that close gaps and improve outcomes for high-need students.

NEPC says Administration's blueprint lacks foundation in research
A new book from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder finds that research cited by the Department of Education does not provide a solid basis for its ESEA reauthorization proposals. The book, The Obama Education Blueprint: Researchers Examine the Evidence, provides research reviews from top scholars on a range of reauthorization topics. "When No Child Left Behind was signed into law nearly a decade ago, it was a triumph of rhetoric over sound research," said NEPC's William J. Mathis. "With ESEA now up for renewal, our children and our nation require we not make the same mistakes again."
Study says merit pay has no real impact on student performance
Bonuses based on student achievement do not lead to overall improvement in student test scores, according to a seminal scientific study by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt. The conclusion was based on a three-year experiment where educators were rewarded with $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 bonuses based on student achievement. Commenting on the study, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said that he was not surprised by the findings. "Good teachers are good every day, not just on payday. This study indicates what we've known all along: that teachers are giving their very best, regardless of whether they may get a bonus."
100 percent proficiency goal could mean 100 percent failure
The Boston Globe reports that schools in the Boston area's top-rated districts, including those in Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Newton, Wayland, and Wellesley, are failing AYP as the 2014 goal of 100 percent proficiency looms. "You're left with the impression that you've got a failing school," Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash told the Globe. "When you're already at the ninety-eighth, ninety-ninth percentile, you have to make a certain amount of growth above that level, and it's just not possible."

Educators help transform 4,100 student high school
At a time when small high schools have received a great deal of attention and support, Massachusetts's largest high school, Brockton High School, has undergone a remarkable transformation and growth in achievement as a result of a teacher-led effort focused on literacy. The changes at the 4,100 student high school were the focus of a New York Times story. According to the report, a major reason for success is that reading, writing, speaking and reasoning are emphasized school wide by all educators.

Growing chorus critiques 'Waiting for Superman'
Joining an increasing number of education advocates who describe the movie Waiting for Superman as a one-sided and unfair picture of public education, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued a statement criticizing the film. "The producers . . . missed an opportunity to engage in a constructive and collaborative dialogue with educators about how to truly transform public education," Van Roekel said. "Instead, the film demonizes public education, teachers unions, and, unfortunately, teachers." Educators are working with other stakeholders to transform schools across the country, and NEA is continuing its long-term commitment to improve struggling, priority schools with its Priority Schools Campaign. For more information visit

Obama calls for 10,000 new STEM teachers
President Obama released a statement on September 27 calling for the recruitment of 10,000 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teachers over the next two years. The statement follows a September 16 announcement by the President that the federal government will be moving boldly to promote STEM achievement by America's students. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who joined the President at the White House for the September 16 announcement, released a statement applauding the administration's efforts in this area. The new program, Change the Equation, joins the President's signature STEM program Educate to Innovate.

Ninth Circuit interprets "highly qualified teacher" regulation
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling challenging a Department of Education regulation that permits certain teachers who are participating in alternative-route teacher training programs, but have not yet obtained full State certification, to be characterized as "highly qualified teachers" under NCLB. The court concluded in the case of Renee v. Duncan that "the Secretary's regulation impermissibly expanded the definition of 'highly qualified teacher' . . . by including in that definition an alternative-route teacher who merely 'demonstrates satisfactory progress toward' the requisite 'full State certification.'" The court said that "the difference between having obtained something and merely making satisfactory progress toward that thing is patent." The practical impact of the decision is unclear.

Take the One Nation Working Together pledge
On Saturday tens of thousands of Americans are expected to converge on the national mall for the One Nation Working Together march. The march, organized by a broad coalition of more than 170 civil rights, labor and education groups will center its advocacy on jobs, justice and education. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel will address the crowd, talking about the basic human right of a great public education for all students. Sign the pledge to commit your support to a great public education for every student and let NEA know if you plan on taking part in any One Nation activities.