President Obama Announces NCLB Waivers
On Friday, September 23, President Obama announced the Administration will allow greater flexibility to No Child Left Behind by allowing states to waive specific requirements under the law if they agree to address specific areas designed to improve educational outcomes for all students.
Under the agreement, states will no longer have to set targets that require all students to be proficient in math and ELA by 2013–14. They will be provided relief from the accountability requirements that over identifies too many schools as failing and instead be allowed to target the lowest performing schools, and be able to use several federal funding streams in ways that best meets their needs. To receive this flexibility, a state must agree to transition to college and career ready standards and assessments. They must establish a differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system that recognize and reward the highest-achieving schools that serve low-income students (Reward Schools), implement rigorous interventions in the bottom 5 percent of the lowest performing schools (Priority Schools) and target strategies designed to focus on students with the greatest needs in schools identified with low graduation rates, large achievement gaps, or low student subgroup performance (Focus Schools).
States that receive the ESEA flexibility must also set basic guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.
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House Passes ESEA Charter School Legislation
On September 13 the U.S House of Representatives approved the ESEA charter schools legislation with broad bi partisan support (365 to 54 votes).
The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act (HR 2218) will
- Encourage states to support the development and expansion of charter schools;
- Streamline federal Charter School Program funding to reduce administrative burdens and improve funding opportunities for the replication of successful charter models and facilities assistance;
- Support an evaluation of schools’ impact on students, families, and communities, while also encouraging sharing best practices between charters and traditional public schools; and
- Offer incentives to states that use charter schools to reach out to special populations, including at-risk students.
The charter legislation is one of several separate bills in the House to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) and the first to be approved by the House. Two other House bills—Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891) and the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act ( H.R. 2445) have been approved by the committee. The committee is currently developing legislation which will address accountability and teacher quality issues. Similar legislation has recently been introduced by Senate Republicans (see below).
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House Holds Two Hearings on ESEA School Accountability
On September 14 the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on the accountability system under No Child Left Behind. General consensus at the hearing was that a new accountability system under the ESEA had to provide more flexibility for states.
“Under NCLB’s accountability system, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, all schools that fail to meet target proficiency levels for two or more consecutive years are required to undergo the same series of prescriptive federal interventions, regardless of the unique circumstances or challenges facing each school,” said Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline. “We cannot continue to rely on a one-size-fits-all federal accountability system to gauge the performance of our schools and students.”
Rep George Miller, ranking Democrat on the House education panel said, “We need to take the next steps: balance the accountability we worked so hard to implement in NCLB with greater flexibility at the local level and less prescription at the federal level.”
The hearing included exchanges by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) on the issue of how science should fit into the future ESEA accountability system. Both Biggert and Holt mentioned the Science Accountability Resolution (H.Res. 378). Hearing witnesses spoke to the negative impacts on science as the result of the current accountability system and shared their views that science needs to fit in in a more meaningful way.
Check out the Biggert exchange at 1:41:20:
And the Holt exchange at 1:58:06:
On September 21, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held an additional hearing on the subject entitled “Education Reforms: Ensuring the Education System Is Accountable to Parents and Communities.” At this hearing the committee heard from witnesses about public school accountability, successful state and local approaches to accountability, and the appropriate federal role in the process.
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Senate Republicans Introduce ESEA Legislation
On September 14 four members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee—Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)—have introduced four education bills to ”fix No Child Left Behind.” These bills, similar to the ESEA bills under consideration in the House, address NCLB accountability systems; teacher and principal professional development programs; expanding charter schools, and consolidating federal education programs.
“These bills are about getting Washington, D.C., out of the business of deciding which schools and teachers are succeeding and which are failing. America needs better state and local report cards, not a national school board,” said Senator Alexander in a press statement.
Senator Alexander also indicated he is continuing to work with other key Senate education leaders, including Senators Enzi, Harkin, and Bingaman, to craft a bipartisan package of ESEA legislation.
A brief description taken from press materials of each bill is below. Watch for more information on this legislation when it becomes available in future issues of NSTA Express.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments Act of 2011 (S. 1571) establishes a national “college- and career-readiness” goal with accountability systems developed by states without interference by the federal government on state standards or assessments. It eliminates the Washington-based Adequate Yearly Progress system and asks states to identify their lowest-performing 5 percent of schools. It also frees to states to establish their own teacher licensure and certification requirements; maintains public reporting requirements; and dramatically simplifies the Title 1 State plans to reduce paperwork and federal interference.
The Teacher and Principal Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 1567) helps states and local school districts prepare, train, and recruit effective teachers and principals to improve student achievement. States and local school districts would be allowed to develop their own teacher and principal evaluation systems, as well as their own needs assessments to better pinpoint professional development for teachers and principals. It maintains strong reporting requirements to empower parents and the community. It authorizes the Teacher Incentive Fund to allow states and school districts to compete to find ways to pay teachers and principals more for teaching well. It reduces paperwork through simplified Title II State plans.
The Empowering Local Education Decision Making Act of 2011 (S.1569) streamlines 59 programs into two flexible foundational block grants. It puts states and local school districts in charge by allowing them the flexibility to choose the programs and initiatives that meet their unique needs. Creates the “Fund for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning” and the “Safe and Healthy Students Block Grant.”
The Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act 2011 (S.1566) modernizes the Charter School Program by encouraging the expansion of successful charter school models, streamlines the program to reduce administrative burdens and improve funding opportunities, allows successful charter school management organizations and local education agencies to apply directly to the federal government, and encourages sharing of best practices between charter schools and traditional public schools.
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NSTA Executive Director Addresses Capitol Hill Event
NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle was one of two speakers at a recent Hill luncheon event on Robotics and STEM Education, sponsored by the Congressional Robotics Caucus. Eberle joined Jon Dudas, President of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) on the podium, and provided members of Congress and Hill staffers with an update on key K–12 STEM education initiatives and why STEM education is crucial to our nation’s workforce. Robotics teams from two local schools were also on hand to demonstrate their robots and meet with participants.
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