Posts Tagged ‘ESEA’

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).

 

 

 

Every Student Succeeds Act

Sunday, December 13th, 2015
K-8 school, Lopez Island, Washington

K-8 school, Lopez Island, Washington

On December 9, 2015, fourteen years after the No Child Left Behind Act’s debacle, Congressional eyes opened. Congress voted to try again to give all students in public school education a chance for academic achievement, optimistically called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Anyone with an interest in education has an opinion on whether student achievement will succeed in the seven years until Congress debates revision again of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

What were teachers doing this Fall, waiting for Congress to get its act together?

In most states, besides planning and teaching lessons based on the new-ish Common Core State Standards (CCSS), they  hoped the legislation would reflect their long held stance that excessive testing does not lead automatically to academic proficiency in reading and math. ESSA makes CCSS voluntary. That brings a breath of relief to some states, but what now? is the question of many others as state and local entities decide on standards.

Another sigh of relief because the legislation does reduce the number of yearly standardized tests. Yearly tests are mandated, but they may be designed as the state wishes. If a state doesn’t like current assessments available, there will be another scramble to find suitable tests. From test examples on the websites, that may be good or bad.

What else are teachers talking about in the lunchroom?

A special report in the latest CTA Educator used six pages to explore the details of housing costs that outpace educator salaries. The new ESSA does not discuss salary and little about staff development that may lead to a raise in salary. That issue is resolved locally, of course, but collective bargaining that does influence teacher pay is low on ESAA’s totem pole. It’s true that NEA and AFT, the two national teachers unions, support ESSA because the focus is taken off teacher evaluation as the source of all troubles for schools, even though the legislation removes the clause in previous education legislation which protects collective bargaining.

The “Superintendent Shuffle” is another concern for teachers and school districts. For example, “Two-thirds of superintendents in the state’s (California) 30 largest districts have been in their posts for three years or less according to EdSource.” Sherry Posnick-Goodwin, Educator, November 2015, p. 33. Again, ESSA assumes states and local districts will readily resolve administrative issues. If that actually happens, superintendents should be very happy; if not, districts will be absorbed with hiring, not effective teaching.

In the 3000 schools (the 5% lowest-performing schools in the country) that will depend on Title I federal funds, staff and teachers have devoted their efforts to keep up attendance, reduce dropout rates, and from Kindergarten on prepare students to graduate high school. ESSA combines funds for special education, English Language Learners, at-risk and more into a huge Title I block grant for each state to handle. And, states must set aside funds for private/parochial school students who need help. Since there is no discussion of meaningful curriculum or disparities in school discipline and suspension, it is those 1 million students who will be subject to the arbitrary local program decisions in high-performing and low-performing school districts.

One good thing about NCLB was the transparency of data used to identify interventions and accountability. Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center and NAACP Legal Defense Fund worry that the data may be transparent, but the federal oversight of the data is the weakest link in ESSA. As David L. Kirp said in his opinion article “Left Behind No Longer” New York Times, December 10, 2015, “advocates will need to keep up the pressure for equity.”

That has ever been the educator’s responsibility since 1965 when Lyndon Johnson said ESEA was the “passport from poverty.” General enthusiasm may be the spin of the bipartisan ESSA legislation, but recall Alexander Pope’s famous line “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

 

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!

 

 

 

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.)

Preschool to High School and Tests to Finish

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Presentations on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for Girls; radio and TV programs on pre-school as a support to improve student chances to finish high school and go to college; local measures to vote for and reports on the financial needs of community colleges have hit the ears of those interested in education over the past two weeks.

Look at pre-school.

The term pre-school which can address any child from 0-5, generally refers to 4 and 5 year olds when attached to fiscal budget talk.  The programs include well-known names such as private schools Waldorf or Montessori and also federally funded Head Start.

It seems confusing when studies conclude that Head Start (a model with the same goals as most private programs) loses influence after primary grades.  So why continue funding it?  Still, pre-school is touted as a characteristic of students concluding community college and students doing well on standardized tests.  See the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for more information.  In addition, several states are including legislation for universal pre-school this election year.

This election year, at least in California and Colorado, numerous propositions and measures address community colleges, the latest savior of public higher education.  These schools would be super if funded adequately.  In this blogger’s view, the public seems to think such schools are free entitlements.  Community colleges in California depend on parcel taxes which need to be approved by 2/3 of the voters.  Very difficult to accomplish in a conservative area, despite the fact that one of the most renowned community colleges is situated in the area with students who transfer to Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz.  See the Los Altos Town Crier November 3, 2010, article by Bruce Barton, “Community College Parcel Tax Headed for Defeat.”

Last, there is a continuous stream of articles about testing, telling us that our children need to attend pre-school and find the support services in elementary, middle, and high school to graduate.  All of these services are available even in the poorest areas, but a good test is the key for accountability of a student’s achievement, of a teacher’s value.

Referring to the latest article “Correct answer is rigorous, new exams,” by Miki Litmanovitz of Teach for America, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, October 31, 2010, refers to standardized tests.  What does she mean?  In California, for example, the yearly exam is a criterion-referenced test, supposedly better because it addresses the standards taught by teachers in the state, not some norm-referenced test which standardized tests are.

Her second big issue seems to be ‘teaching to the test’.  Without going into the details of that issue, most educators hope to teach strategies for reading and math as Ms. Litmanovitz concludes, so that no matter the level of test, the student will over time use those strategies to do well.  One can work on test-taking strategies, used by all SAT preparation to raise scores, and learn the kinds of questions likely to be asked on a criterion-referenced or norm-referenced exam.

Still the mid-term elections, November 2, have played a role in the educator’s visions.  As part of Elementary and Secondary Education ACT (ESEA), will tests be changed to evaluate how students have learned to read and do math?  Will students graduate and have a community college to attend?  Will pre-school be available to all?