Archive for the ‘ESEA’ Category

Backing Away: the President’s Budget Proposal

Thursday, April 20th, 2017
diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

diverse community of parents and children at a Colorado elementary

A notice in the NEA Education Insider, April 9, 2017, reminds teachers that the President’s budget proposal  drops the “U.S. Department of Education funding by $9 billion or nearly 14 percent. The Trump/DeVos agenda calls for voucher schemes that provide billions of dollars for private schools while slashing funding for afterschool programs in public schools, Pell Grants, teacher professional development, and class size reduction.” In addition, such a budget would cut federal food programs for children and health care initiatives that keep children ready for school.

So to go along, three House of Representatives Republicans introduced bill HR 610 on January 23, 2017. It will begin the de-funding process of public schools and effectively start a school voucher system to be used by children ages 5 to 17.

The bill will do just what the president’s budget requests – revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 which is the nation’s educational law and provides equal opportunity in education. Compare the budget proposal above with the comprehensive program that covers needs for struggling learners, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs. The bill would also abolish the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day. The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE.

Moreover, to support Pell Grant defunding, on Tuesday, April 11, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and cabinet member of the current administration, withdrew an Obama administration Education Department policy that requires taking into account the past practices of college loan servicing companies before awarding contracts. It seems that Ms. DeVos is aiding the lenders to make money. There is abundant evidence that the industry doesn’t serve the college graduates and American families trying to get ahead. Rather Americans are burdened by unfair loan practices.

What’s the purpose? School “choice.”

Backing away from support for 86% of American children in public schools is to ensure money for school “choice,” especially with vouchers. Betsy DeVos has been looking at models to provide vouchers like the tax-credit model in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program which has been in effect since 2002. The program offers corporations and wealthy individuals a one-to-one credit on their taxes when they donate to one of several nonprofit “scholarship granting organizations” that have been established in the state for distributing vouchers. For example, a corporation that owes $50,000 in Florida taxes, can donate that entire amount to a scholarship program instead, depleting their tax bill to zero. Nearly 100,000 low-income students in Florida attend private, mostly religious schools, and could benefit from these vouchers. But, the voucher model also reduces state revenues by $50,000 from one corporate taxpayer (in the example), thus eliminating funding that could be used for the almost 3 million Florida public school students.

The research on improvement in student achievement by using vouchers to attend a recommended private or parochial school is not absolute, some school moves help, others don’t. However, The New York Times article by Dana Goldstein, April 12, 2017, “The Hidden Costs in Special Education School Vouchers” does expose features of vouchers that often don’t show better results. Parents must understand all the specifics of the voucher applied for. The protections for special education students from the 1975 federal civil rights law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be waived once a scholarship voucher is accepted, as in the John M. McKay voucher program in Florida and, at least, seven other states.

On top of that problem, two assistants have been hired to the USDOE. The president hired Carlos G. Muñiz as general counsel to the Education Department. He is perhaps best known for representing Florida State University in a lawsuit brought by a student who accused the former star quarterback James Winston of raping her in 2012.

Ms. DeVos hired Candice E. Jackson, to be the acting assistant secretary for civil rights. She represented one of the women who attended a news conference before a presidential debate in October to impugn Mrs. Clinton’s treatment of sexual assault victims.

Title IX civil rights must be overseen for students of all ages, pre-K through college – the people for whom the President often reminds us he wants to assure a place in a great America – and then backs away from funding public schools and hires people to back his vision.

Take Care Schools urges you to call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610).

 

 

 

Three Ways to Help a School

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Believe it or not the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted last week to bring its revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known to teachers in the 21st century as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), to the Senate floor.

Understand, only the Senate’s committee has voted for any change – not the entire Senate — and reconciliation must occur with House of Representatives legislation. ESEA has not been revised—disagreement has reigned over options and policy — since NCLB was passed and signed in 2001. The original bill was designed to be revised every seven years to address poverty and unequal education in America.

Why hasn’t complete revision yet been made? These days, why does this blogger suspect politics — not success for students — is the culprit? Look at who is the current president. Look at the mean-spirited lawmakers who run the current Congress.

It can be said that the latest is an amazing reconciliation among 22 members of the Senate committee. Committee leaders, Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), must have patiently twisted recalcitrant arms after hearing enough from the public who, I’m thinking, said “We’re not going to take it anymore!” At least I wish they had.

According to Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers, the legislation “moves away from the counterproductive focus on sanctions and high-stakes test, and ends federalized teacher evaluations and school closings.” Opinion, p.2, New York Times, Sunday, April 19, 2015.

So what will help a school succeed, if a low-performing school no longer spends the day on high-stakes tests and teacher evaluation? The country is full of foundations researching and reporting on good educational programs that succeed in low-performing neighborhood schools. One foundation study that has caught my eye is the series of reports from The Wallace Foundation relating to the need for valuable leadership in a school. Since the possible – notice, I said possible – revised ESEA legislation will support strategies for under-performing schools in impoverished neighborhoods, it behooves districts to train new principals to be those leaders. Read the reports! They emphasize the ways for a district to expand the number of quality principals. They provide tools to achieve leadership quality.

Once strong leadership is established, and once high-stakes testing is no longer the be-all and end-all of the school year, an abundance of programs can help teachers improve student behavior and academics. Articles from workshops and education magazines have shared math projects, said to improve both confident behavior and student academic success.

Have you, high school teachers, been introduced to Build, a program that leverages both reading and math literacy? Districts using this model can be found on both coasts. In a ninth grade course, students form a partnership of four and divide responsibilities to design and produce a product, design a business plan with a budget, marketing plans, and consumer services. One product I read about was a bracelet made from melted toothbrushes decorated with motivational slogans. Sweet, as kids say. Designed in 1999 for East Palo Alto schools by Suzanne McKechnie Klar, by now students even make pitches to venture advisors.

A larger project motivates middle school students in a school with math abilities from kindergarten to eighth grade levels. It’s called School of One and it’s expensive. However, it uses computers for teaching, not playing computer and video games, it does more for teachers than design, administer, and score tests. At one school, on any day, you may see four seventh grade math teachers work with 120 kids, some individually, some small group, others working on a group math project. The teachers’ computer program analyzes the quizzes from the previous day, organizes the period for the day, and students check the monitors when they enter to know what their station is. At the end of the day, they take quizzes again which tell the teachers what the student should do the next day.

Critics have said that such a model is disruptive and hard to organize. So? It’s disruptive when students are not being taught at their level. The organization is geared to improve their achievement. New Classroom Innovations Partners can support introduction and management. Again this teaching model can be found across the country.

Three strategies to implement if school boards no longer have to spend time on high-stakes tests and sanctions: good school-site leadership, and two math models to improve achievement for all the graduates in the 21st century. Cross your fingers!

 

 

 

ESEA Revision! Teacher Evaluation?

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Good news! The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has finally released its draft of a bill filled with revisions to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2002. The House Education Committee version, as stated in a previous post, is being negotiated piecemeal in hopes there will be no revision until after 2012.

The Senate legislation may pass, not only because Congress has been chastised for taking 4-5 years to make revisions. The bill takes into account the propositions made by the Obama Administration in 2009, the NCLB waivers by “executive authority” authorized by the U.S. Department of Education in September 2011, and it closely aligns with GOP proposals. Bipartisan legislation!

The main aspects to look over closely are standards, school improvement, and accountability.

preparing students to be college or career ready

preparing students to be college or career ready

We’ve heard for a long time that standards for student achievement must assure college or career readiness. But each state’s standards do not have to be aligned with the Common Core Standards, although all but six states have agreed to those standards. Also, English language Learners must have a set of standards which assure readiness to graduate.

As for accountability, the major change is that there are no longer hard and fast targets for achievement in reading and math. The states are accountable for “continuous growth.” Who keeps tabs on the growth for each state?

With growth in mind, school improvement for schools in each state must include intensive intervention for the 5% lowest-performing schools. Schools with the largest achievement gap between aggregates of the student population must implement practices to reduce the gap. Again, what entity will oversee these changes?

Critics point out that in the revisions the state determines the method for measuring the impact of programs. In the old NCLB that was the problem! The language was too vague to assure high standards for the measures used to assess student achievement. Without clear achievement targets, poor and minority students will be ignored.

The Senate draft and the House attempt does address the teacher accountability controversy, but leaves much up to the state. Each state must have four ratings for teachers and student achievement must be a factor. But, for example, how is student achievement and teacher evaluation to be made for subjects and grades not tested?

It appears that states and school districts are left to design and implement a plan. New reports to share best practices for teacher evaluation appear monthly. One of the latest is a report Peer Review: Getting Serious About Teacher Support and Evaluation by Julia E. Koppich and Daniel Humphrey. The report describes two exemplary Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) programs in California:  Poway School District near San Diego and San Juan School District near Sacramento.

Briefly, the program is geared to new teachers and experienced teachers who need to improve their instruction and classroom management. Consulting teachers take a year away from the classroom and provide well-designed accountability plans and intensive support to improve teaching. A governance board made up of administration and the teacher’s union has proven to work well to support the program, in spite of tough decisions about employment. It was apparent to the report writers that increased pressure to do better with less money was the critical factor, given that trained consulting teachers provide the most important role in the success of the program.

Back again to the same concern repeated many times. Where’s the money? This school year 37 states have cut funding for education. The American Jobs Act did not pass in the Senate as this post is being written. Since the Senate Education Committee seems to be doing some bipartisan work, maybe they will be the instigators of some spending on teachers. And police and the men and women who put out fires– before Congress lets the schools burn.

“The time has come…

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

To talk of many things”-Lewis Carroll. But talk about the lack of revision to ESEA (NCLB in its last iteration) is dominating the education world in September 2011.

rural school and district on Lopez Island, Washington

rural school and district on Lopez Island, Washington

The No Child Left Behind Act- President George W. Bush’s title for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)– was first authorized in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson and revised every 5 years until the last alteration in 2001. Since then, all calls for adjustments have hit the high Congressional wall of inaction.

Who’s talking? National teachers’ unions NEA and AFT advocate change. The Council of Chief State School Officers exhorts Congress. Members of the National Governor’s Association have been in the forefront.

All across the country non-union teacher’s groups are the biggest voices: Educators4Excellence in New York; Teacher Plus in Boston, Indianapolis, and Chicago; Center for Teaching Quality in North Carolina, Denver, and Seattle to name a few.

What did the 2001 act provide? The legislation is lengthy and detailed. The sections on which most talk centers are “Improve the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged” and “Improving Basic Programs…” which delineate the main provisions of the act. Next, qualifications for teachers and paraprofessionals led to time-consuming paperwork to assure each teacher was “highly qualified.” Also, Innovative Programs morphed into advocacy for charter schools. The section “Improving Basic Programs” outlined the actions to show “adequate yearly progress” in reading and mathematics: in brief, each state must teach to its curriculum standards and provide outcomes on benchmark exams which would lead to 100% school proficiency in reading and math by 2014.

Why is NCLB so despised? All of these mandated programs are underfunded. As has been declared in this blog many times, it was clear to most teachers and administrators from the beginning that to have every student in a state reach grade level proficiency in two subjects by 2014 was a preposterous goal. The cost of upgrading curriculum standards and providing tests that give a single score by which to judge students is a contentious argument.

The ESEA legislation should have been revised by Congress in 2005-2006. It wasn’t. President Obama laid out revisions for Congress to take up in 2009 and March 2011. No go. In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Education used a provision in the legislation to offer waivers to the 2014 proficiency benchmark. States that could show consistent improvement in the four big administration priorities for ESEA revision would be authorized to alter their programs. The administration’s priorities are 1) working state data systems; 2) turn-around plans for low-performing schools; 3) improve experienced vs. new teacher distribution in low-performing schools; 4) boost curriculum standards in the state.

To create jobs in a stricken economy and to provide a further push to Congress, President Obama in his speech on September 8, 2011, recommended $60 billion to be divided among states to save teachers’ jobs and fix the infrastructure of school property. The inference was also to finish ESEA revisions.

Representative John Kline, Education Committee, commented on the high cost and more regulation, calling the program a teacher’s union bailout. Representative George Miller and Senator Tom Harkin of their respective Education Committees were more enthusiastic. So far Congressional revisions have been offered to bolster charter schools, eliminate forty programs under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Education (like the Star Schools Distance Learning Program), and flexible shift of federal funds (like Title 1) from poverty budget lines to special education.

What to our surprise! John Kline’s House Education committee has passed a vote on the charter schools revisions yesterday, September 13, 2011. On to a full house vote.

On the other hand, teacher’s organizations look for revision in school and teacher accountability rules and evaluation; stability in curriculum standards; and testing that leads to better learning rather than a score by which to berate teachers and students when the hurdle is not vaulted even though students may have leaped higher.

The time has come….

Money Trickles In

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

After rambunctious teacher demonstrations last week from San Diego to Humboldt, California, the news has changed. Not a mere hopeful whisper, the April state tax revenues have actually been tallied in California (and many other states). School districts, at least for the 2011-2012 year, won’t see further slice and slash to their funds.

Teachers have already been notified by union negotiators that announcements will soon be made to withdraw lay-off notifications. The sigh of relief is more like a cumulative whoosh. No one was looking forward to next year and its combination of draconian cuts in services.

A brief update of why: during the first days of the 2007-2008 recession, state budgets were too optimistic about turn around in revenues. That error was soon obvious and so legislative budgets set cautious estimates, too cautious as it turns out. In California, it’s possible that $6.6 billion more revenue will be collected than last year, most of which will go to fulfill the state’s formula for funding schools.

As the demonstrations last week clamored, even while rumors made the rounds, the state still has a large imbalance to the budget. The tax legislation that will sunset this year must be extended to begin to balance the state budget over time.  But the conflict over spending cuts vs. raising revenue remains.

At the state and federal level, for whom and to where money is allocated continues to hurt the actual detailed reforms that numerous public school think tanks wish to implement. It has been a year since Congress began to fiddle with revisions to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known since 2002 as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Teachers unions want changes to testing, student achievement benchmarks, and accountability. Most conservatives in Congress want to cut various programs funded by ESEA as a way to reduce the deficit. Others feel the state and local Departments of Education should take all the responsibility for flexible dispersal of funds in a state.

The last possibility affects federal Title I monies for disadvantaged children and Title II funds for English Language Learners. How will compromise be made when the National Education Association (NEA) sees that flexible use for those monies only means disadvantaged and ELL students will be short-changed as states try to balance budgets?

Most education think tanks that want to see reform begin, advocate for fully-funded models. Any kind of evaluation is for teachers, administrators, and school boards, including tenure issues. Plans must be clearly designed to support teachers, administrators, and school board members not meeting standards.

Now, with conflicts in many states between teachers and public employees’ benefits and pensions and state legislatures effort to decrease deficits, it seems improbable to bring reforms into the public schools.

Let’s hope the increase in tax revenue isn’t ephemeral, but the forefront of an improved economy.

(See article about tax revenues in The New York Times, May 18, 2011, “For States, a Glimmer of Hope on Deficits” by Michael Cooper.)