On Saturday, March 13, 2010, the Obama Administration released its blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind.
According to the New York Times, the Obama plan “strikes a careful balance, retaining some key features of the Bush-era law, including its requirement for annual reading and math tests, while proposing far-reaching changes … The administration would replace the law’s pass-fail school grading system with one that would measure individual students’ academic growth and judge schools based not on test scores alone but also on indicators like pupil attendance, graduation rates and learning climate. And while the proposal calls for more vigorous interventions in failing schools, it would also reward top performers and lessen federal interference in tens of thousands of reasonably well-run schools in the middle.”
The Administration will rely on Congress to develop legislative language to reauthorize ESEA. Both the NEA and the AFT were critical of the plan. Said NEA president Dennis Van Roekel “We are disappointed by this first effort by the Administration to rectify the considerable problems in the current federal education law …. We were expecting to see a much broader effort to truly transform public education for kids. Instead, the accountability system of this ‘blueprint’ still relies on standardized tests to identify winners and losers.
AFT President Randi Weingarten stated, “This blueprint places 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers and gives them zero percent authority. For a law affecting millions of schoolchildren and their teachers, it just doesn’t make sense to have teachers—and teachers alone—bear the responsibility for school and student success.” Both unions pledged to share the plan with members to garner further feedback.
Here are some key highlights of the Obama blueprint to revise ESEA. To read the entire 45-page document, go to www.ed.gov. To read the New York Times article, go to www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/education/14child.html.
The blueprint builds on the reforms made in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, also known as the Stimulus Bill)1. improving teacher and principal effectiveness 2. providing information to families to help them evaluate and improve their childrens schools and educators to help them improve student learning; 3. implementing college and career ready standards and developing improved assessments aligned with those standards and 4. improving student learning and achievement in Americas lowest performing schools by providing intensive support and effective interventions.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM): Competitive grants to support the transition to higher standards by assisting states in strengthening their STEM programs and by providing substantial support to high-need districts in implementing high-quality instruction in at least mathematics or science and may also include technology or engineering. States will be required to develop comprehensive, evidence-based plans and to align federal, state, and local funds to provide high-quality STEM instruction. States may carry out strategies to improve STEM instruction statewide, such as partnering with statewide Race to the Top partnerships, supporting districts in identifying effective instructional materials, and improving teachers’ knowledge and skills in effective STEM instruction for all students, including English Learners and students with disabilities.
Priority will be given to states that have adopted common, state-developed, college- and career-ready standards. Priority may also be given to states that use technology to address student learning challenges, which may include the principles of universal design for learning; cooperate with outside partners with STEM expertise; or propose to prepare more students, including students from underrepresented groups, for advanced study and careers in STEM.
States will award competitive subgrants to high-need districts to support comprehensive STEM instruction in the grades and schools with the greatest local need. Programs must provide effective professional development for teachers and school leaders; high-quality state- or locally-determined curricula, instructional materials, and assessments; and interventions that ensure that all students are served appropriately. Subgrantees may use program funds to integrate evidence-based, effective mathematics or science programs into the teaching of other core academic subjects and for technology-based strategies to improve STEM education.
Priority will be given to districts that propose to align other local, state, and federal resources with their plan to improve instruction in STEM subjects; propose to implement programs that have the strongest available evidence; propose to implement activities in the schools with the greatest need; or have a plan for sustaining the strategy
College and Career Ready students: All states will be urged to adopt state-developed standards in English language arts and mathematics that build toward college- and career-readiness (CCR) by the time students graduate from high school, and high-quality statewide assessments aligned with these CCR standards.
Wants all students to graduating or on track to graduate from high school ready for college and a career by 2020. “Performance targets, based on whole school and subgroup achievement and growth, and graduation rates, will guide improvement toward that ambitious goal and those that are meeting all of their performance targets will be recognized and rewarded. States, districts and schools will look not just at absolute performance and proficiency, but at individual student growth and school progress over time, and the additional data to guide local improvement and support strategies for schools.”
States must have data systems in place to gather information that is critical to determining how schools and districts are progressing in preparing students to graduate from high school college- and career-ready. States and districts will collect and make public data relating to student academic achievement and growth in English language arts and mathematics, student academic achievement in science, and if states choose, student academic achievement and growth in other subjects, such as history. At the high school level, this data will also include graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and rates of college enrollment without need for remediation. All of these data must be disaggregated by race, gender, ethnicity, disability status, English Learner status, and family income. States and districts also will collect other key information about teaching and learning conditions, including information on school climate such as student, teacher and school leader attendance; disciplinary incidents; or student, parent, or school staff surveys about their school experience.
State accountability systems will be asked to recognize progress and growth and reward success, rather than only identify failure.
States will receive formula funds to implement high quality assessments aligned with CCR standards in LA and Math. Beginning in 2015,formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on CCR standards common to significant number of states. The program will also support grants to consortia of states, and to other entities working in partnership with states, for research on, or development and improvement of, additional high quality assessments to be used by multiple states in such areas as science, history, or foreign languages.
States will continue to implement statewide science standards and aligned assessments in specific gradespans, and may include such assessments, as well as statewide assessments in other subjects such as history, in their accountability system.
Reward Schools, Districts and States successful in reaching performance targets, significantly increasing student performance for all students, closing achievement gaps, or turning around lowest performing schools. Receive funds to design innovate programs to reward high poverty reward schools and reward districts. Rewards may include financial rewards for staff and students, development of and participation in communities of practice, flexibility in the use of ESEA funds, and competitive preference in federal grant competitions.
Challenge states, districts and school: States will identify challenge schools. First category is lowest performing five percent of schools in each state based on student achievement, student growth, and graduation rates. In these schools states and districts will be required to implement one of four school turnaround models. The next percent of low performing schools will be identified in a warning category, and states and districts will implement strategies to help them improve.
School Turnaround Grants:
Transformation Model: replace the principal, strengthen staffing, implement a research based instructional program, provide extended learning time, and implement new governance and flexibility
Turnaround model: Replace the principal and re hire no more than 50 percent of the school staff, implement a research based instructional program, provide extended learning time, implement new governance structure.
Restart model: Convert or close and reopen the school under the management of an effective charter operator, charter management organization, or education management organization.
School closure model: close the school and enroll the students who attended in other, higher performing schools in the district.
Three year awards to fully and effectively implement one of these intervention models, eligible for two additional years of funding to support ongoing improvement if school is showing progress.
Effective Teachers and Leaders: States must define effective teacher, effective principal, highly effective teacher and highly effective principal. Definitions ceveloped in collaboration with teachers and leaders, based in significant part on student growth and other measures such as classroom observations of practice.
States must develop state level data systems that link information on teacher and principal preparation programs to job placement, student growth, and retention outcomes of graduates
District level evaluation systems that 1. meaningfully differentiate teachers and principals by effectiveness across at least three performance levels 2. are consistent with their states definition of effective teacher and highly effective teacher and principal and 3. provide meaningful feedback to teachers and principals to iprove their practice and inform professional development and 4. are developed in collaboration with teachers, principals, and other ed stakeholders
Teachers and Leader Innovation Fund: competitive grants to implement “ambitious reforms to better identify, recruit, prepare, develop, retain, reward, and advance effective teachers principals, and school leadership teams in high need schools. May use funds to provide differentiated compensation and career advancement opportunities to teachers who are effectine in increasing student achievement, who take on additional roles and respons, who teach in high needs schools, subjects, areas and fields.
Teacher and Leader Pathways: competitive grants to improve strengthen the recruitment and preparation of effective teachers.
College Pathways and Accelerated Learning: Competitive grants to states, districts, and nonprofit partners to increase access to accelerated learning opportunities for students. At the high school level, these opportunities will include college-level work. At the elementary and middle school levels, these opportunities will include access to gifted and talented education programs.
Promise Neighborhoods : New, competitive grants to support the development and implementation of a continuum of effective community services, strong family supports, and comprehensive education reforms to improve the educational and life outcomes for children and youths in high-need communities, from birth through college and into careers.
21st Century Community Learning Centers
Competitive grants for states, school districts, nonprofit organizations, and partnerships to implement in school and out of school strategies that provide students and, where appropriate, teachers and family members, with additional time and supports to succeed.
Successful, Safe and Healthy Students: Competitive grants to support states, school districts, and their partners in providing learning environments that ensure that students are successful, safe, and healthy. To better measure school climate and identify local needs, grantees will be required to develop and implement a state- or district-wide school climate needs assessment to evaluate school engagement, school safety (addressing drug, alcohol, and violence issues), and school environment, and publicly report this information.
Race to the Top: Modeled after the Race to the Top program authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, competitive grants to states and school districts to take on ambitious and comprehensive reforms, and to encourage the broad identification, dissemination, adoption, and use of effective policies and practices. State and school district grantees will be required to develop and implement comprehensive plans, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to dramatically improve student outcomes, including focusing on rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments; providing better information to families to help them evaluate and improve their children’s schools, and to educators to help them improve their students’ learning; supporting effective teachers and school leaders; turning around persistently low-performing schools; and supporting innovative models for reform.
States and school districts that receive grants may spend funds flexibly in a manner aligned with their plans, but states must award at least 50 percent of their grant funds to school districts that participate in the state plan.
Supporting Effective Charter Schools. Competitive grants to states, charter school authorizers, charter management organizations, districts, and nonprofit organizations, to start or expand high-performing public charter schools and other high-performing autonomous public schools, with a priority for applicants proposing to start or expand high-performing public charter schools
Promoting Public School Choice. Competitive grants to districts, consortia of districts, and states in partnership with districts to expand high-quality public school educational options for students, especially students in low-performing schools, and ensure that students and families are aware of these options. Grantees will use funds to implement programs that increase high-quality public school options for students, especially students in low-performing schools, through creating or expanding inter- and intradistrict choice programs, theme-based schools, high-quality online learning programs, or academic pathways.