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On the End of NCLB in Tennessee

State officials have officially changed the way schools are held accountable by doing away with the legal strings that tied Tennessee to the federal No Child Left Behind program, according to Andrea Zelinski.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law provisions that allow the state to grade schools on a different rubric following the U.S. Department of Education’s call to allow Tennessee to opt out of what critics say is an outdated program.
“I want to be real clear, we are not lowering standards. We are just making certain that we’re measuring improvement and having appropriate standards that recognize when achievement is happening and rewarding that,” Haslam told reporters after signing HB2346 at Brick Church Middle School in Nashville Thursday.
Changes to the law include doing away with “adequate yearly progress,” a standard the NCLB program used to determine whether a school was considered passing or failing. Those standards would have labeled 80 percent of Tennessee schools as failing this year, officials say, despite having made academic gains.
“We were in a world last year where 800 some schools failed AYP,” said said Kevin Huffman, the state’s education commissioner. “And yet, hundreds of those schools had made significant progress during the very year where they moved from passing to failed status. So something was wrong with the picture.”
In its place, the law creates a new system aimed at measuring student growth in core subjects and reducing the achievement gap between student subgroups. The new law also gives more tools to the state Achievement School District to turn around the bottom 5 percent of schools.

Gov Inks School Accountability Standards Bill

Governor Bill Haslam signed off Thursday on changes to Tennessee’s education standards under a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, reports WPLN’s Daniel Potter.
Many Tennessee schools would’ve failed under the federal benchmarks, unless they made double-digit gains in math and reading each year. Instead, the state will now require a more realistic 3 to 5 percent improvement.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says the changes were badly needed, because the old system was labeling hundreds of schools ‘failing’ even as many got better.
“So something was wrong with the picture. We’d created a world in which more than a thousand schools headed into this year knowing that almost no matter how much they improved this year they were likely to fail AYP. That doesn’t do honor or service to the people working in those buildings.”

Note: The Haslam press release is below.

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Haslam Hails Grant of NCLB Waiver

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today lauded the approval by U.S. Department of Education officials of Tennessee’s waiver request from certain portions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Tennessee was the first state to request a waiver and was one of only 10 recipients of the first round of waivers. The Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability model under NCLB has been an ongoing obstacle for schools and districts because it does not fully account for schools’ growth.
“Tennessee schools have continued to make progress over the past decade that NCLB has been law, but the rigid and unrealistic AYP accountability model labeled some of these schools as failures despite meaningful improvement,” Haslam said. “We’ve implemented rigorous standards in Tennessee, and Tennessee received this waiver because of our commitment to improving education for all of our students.”
Under the waiver, Tennessee proposes to raise overall achievement by 3 to 5 percent each year and to cut achievement gaps in half over an 8-year period.
To track progress, the U.S. Department of Education required Tennessee to identify three groups of schools:
· Reward schools: 10 percent of schools throughout the state with the highest achievement or overall growth.
· Focus schools: 10 percent of Tennessee’s schools with the largest achievement gaps.
· Priority schools: The bottom 5 percent of the state’s schools in terms of academic performance.
“It’s just not helpful or realistic to label schools and districts as failing, especially when they are making significant academic gains,” Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said. “This waiver is all about approving achievement for all students while closing persistent achievement gaps.”
Tennessee’s approved waiver can be found at the Tennessee Department of Education’s website: www.tn.gov/education, and for more information, contact Kelli Gauthier with the department at (615) 532-7817 or Kelli.Gauthier@tn.gov.

Transcript of Obama’s Remarks on NCLB Waiver

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
_________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release February 9, 2012
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND FLEXIBILITY
East Room
1:57 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Please have a seat, have a seat. Thank you so much. Well, hello, everybody, and welcome to the White House.
I want to start by thanking all the chief state school officers who have made the trip from all over the country. Why don’t you all stand up just so we can see you all, right here. (Applause.) It’s a great group, right here. Thank you. And I want to recognize someone who is doing a pretty good job right here in Washington, D.C., and that is my Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Love Arne. (Applause.)

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Tennessee, Nine Other States Get NCLB Waivers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday will free 10 states from the strict and sweeping requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law in exchange for promises to improve the way schools teach and evaluate students.
The move is a tacit acknowledgement that the law’s main goal, getting all students up to par in reading and math by 2014, is not within reach.
The first 10 states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee, the White House said. The only state that applied for the flexibility and did not get it, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval.
Obama said he was acting because Congress had failed to update the law despite widespread agreement it needs to be fixed.
“If we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone,” Obama said in a statement, released before the official announcement later Thursday. “Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”
A total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to seek waivers — a sign of just how vast the law’s burdens have become as the big deadline nears.

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State Modifies NCLB Waiver Request

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Education is making some changes to a waiver that would allow the state to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law.
President Barack Obama announced in September that he’s giving states the option. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of schools in the country could be labeled failures next year if the law is not changed.
To get a waiver, states must agree to education reforms the White House favors — from tougher evaluation systems for teachers and principals to programs helping minority students.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters in a conference call Monday that the state’s waiver application requires more specificity and some new requirements, such as dividing schools into categories with targeted interventions or rewards for each group.
For instance, schools will be recognized for their high performance and rapid growth; then there will be those singled out for low proficiency and large achievement gaps between subgroups of students defined by race, economic status, disability and English proficiency.
Huffman said there will be an opportunity for those schools that are successful to share what they’re doing with struggling schools, which will be given the necessary resources by the state to improve.
“This will be challenging work, but our districts believe they can do this,” he said.
Huffman cited Memphis’ Booker T. Washington as a high school that has improved drastically.
Graduation rates at the school, which is in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood, have risen impressively in just three years. The school won a national competition to secure Obama as its commencement speaker in May by demonstrating how it overcame challenges through innovations such as separate freshman academies for boys and girls.
“Booker T. Washington High School is no longer a story about what’s gone wrong in education,” the president said in a weekly radio and Internet address a few days after the commencement. “It’s a story about how we can set it right. We need to encourage this kind of change all across America.”
Huffman agreed.
“Those are the types of schools that I believe we can learn a lot from,” he said.
In July, preliminary results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program showed math scores in third- through eighth-grade improved by 7 percent this year over last year. Reading scores improved by 3.7 percent.
In 18 school systems, student scores improved by 20 percent or more.
Still, under current No Child Left Behind guidelines, the state is only 41 percent proficient in math for those grades, and 48.5 percent in reading.
Tennessee was to submit its waiver application late Monday.
Education Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier has said that waivers are to be submitted by November so that they can be approved or denied by the end of the year.
Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged the waiver process has taken longer than he expected, but believes it is “really important to Tennessee, both in principle that the state should be able to decide, but in reality, we have enough going on right now without schools abiding by some policies that they know they can’t make.”

Deal Struck on NCLB, Then Put on Hold

WASHINGTON (AP) — A rare show of bipartisanship in a divided Congress produced a deal to fix an education law long considered flawed, until a single senator stalled progress Wednesday.
The delay would be short and would not deter the committee working on one of the most significant overhauls of the No Child Left Behind law since it was passed in 2002, the chairman said.
A little more than an hour into the hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Rand Paul used a procedural maneuver to put the brakes on the discussion.
The renewed focus in Washington on education comes as the 2012 campaign begins to unfold.
President Barack Obama has chiding Congress for not acting to revise the law and has told states they can seek waivers from some unpopular requirements. He also has made saving teachers’ jobs an essential part of his $447 billion jobs plan.
The Senate committee chairman, Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, and the top Republican, Wyoming’s Mike Enzi, announced a bipartisan bill on Monday that seeks to give more control over education to states and local districts.

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Lamar Does a NY Times Piece on NCLB

Sen. Lamar Alexander has written an op-ed piece in the New York Times on No Child Left Behind Legislation. Link HERE. He’s also emailing it to other media and here it is:
A Better Way to Fix No Child Left Behind
By LAMAR ALEXANDER
EVERYONE knows that today every American’s job is on the line, and that better schools mean better jobs. Schools and jobs are alike in this sense: Washington can’t create good jobs, and Washington can’t create good schools. What Washington can do, though, is shape an environment in which businesses and entrepreneurs can create jobs.
It can do the same thing in education, by creating an environment in which teachers, parents and communities can build better schools. Last week President Obama, citing a failure by Congress to act, announced a procedure for handing out waivers for the federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind law. Unfortunately, these waivers come with a series of new federal rules, this time without congressional approval, and would make the secretary of education the equivalent of a national school board.
However, there is another way. Earlier this month, several senators and I introduced a set of five bills that would fix the problems with this important federal law.

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Why Barack Invited Bill to the White House

At a news conference in Nashville this afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam said he thought there were at least three reasons President Obama invited him to attend an announcement on the president’s plans for No Child Left Behind waivers.
“Number one, I think it’s a recognition of what Tennessee is doing. Number two, I think they do want some states they can give waivers to – hopefully quickly – and say, ‘This is a state that’s on the right path’.”
“And I think obviously, politically, it doesn’t hurt anything to have a Republican governor up there with him, to be truthful about it,” Haslam said.
Asked whether he received any indication whether Tennessee’s request for a waiver would be approved, The governor said that, when invited to attend the event, “I said up at the front end, ‘Please don’t ask us up there if you’re going to embarrass us down the road.”
Haslam said he has had already had “several” conversations with Duncan about Tennessee’s waiver and is optimistic about approval because “all the key things the president talked about are the the things that we’re doing in Tennessee.”
“They obviously can’t guarantee that, but I think they feel really good about what we’ve submitted to them and what we’re doing in Tennessee,” he said. “So I don’t have any final word, but I feel real good about our position.”

Text of President Obama’s NCLB Remarks (including a ‘thank you’ to Bill Haslam)

Text from the White House press office:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I see a whole bunch of people who are interested in education, and we are grateful for all the work that you do each and every day.
I want to recognize the person to my right, somebody who I think will end up being considered one of the finest Secretaries of Education we’ve ever had — Arne Duncan. (Applause.) In addition to his passion, probably the finest basketball player ever in the Cabinet. (Laughter.)
I also want to thank Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee for taking the time to be here today, and the great work that he’s doing in Tennessee. I’m especially appreciative because I found that his daughter is getting married, and he is doing the ceremony tomorrow, so we’ve got to get him back on time. (Laughter and applause.) But we really appreciate his presence. Thank you.

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