The federal government’s involvement in student testing and school accountability would be greatly curtailed under draft legislation U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is circulating, reports Michael Collins. He says it’s a starting point for fixing the Bush-era No Child Left Behind school-reform law.
States would be required to set high standards to measure student achievement, but the federal government could not dictate what those standards would be or require states to submit their standards for review or approval.
Public schools would no longer have to conform to a federal mandate of yearly progress, but states would have to establish accountability systems to measure whether schools are meeting prescribed standards.
The goal of the bill, to be called the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act, is to put more decisions about schools back in the hands of state and local communities, said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who is the new chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“We’ve had a trend toward a national school board, and we need to reverse that trend and put responsibility back to states and local school districts,” Alexander said Tuesday in a speech from the Senate floor.
Alexander has made fixing the landmark No Child Left Behind law his top priority as the committee chairman. To drive home that point, the committee’s first hearing under his leadership will be next Wednesday and will focus on school testing and accountability.
News release from U.S. Department of Education:
The Obama Administration announced today that the District of Columbia and Tennessee have received a one-year extension for flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
“America’s schools and classrooms are undergoing some of the largest changes in decades—changes that will help prepare our students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that tomorrow’s economy will require,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “This extension will allow the states to continue the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they developed to improve achievement for all students.”
ESEA has been due for Congressional reauthorization since 2007. In the absence of reauthorization, President Obama announced in September 2011 that the administration would grant waivers from parts of the law to qualified states, in exchange for state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction. The one-year extension of ESEA flexibility allows the states to continue moving forward on the ambitious work they began with their initial flexibility requests. Continue reading →
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
Governor Bill Haslam doesn’t use the same rhetoric to describe the federal Department of Education as Republicans running for President, according to WPLN’s report on his Monday appearance on a MSNBC education discussion. Ten governors sat on a stage in New York City. The three Republicans were asked if they identify with the GOP presidential contenders, whose proposals range from hollowing out the Department of Education to abolishing it altogether.
Governor Haslam, who has made multiple appearances with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, says he does want less control from Washington.
“I’ll say this to make it real easy. I think we want a federal Department of Education that all of us see as a resource and not a regulator.”
The department has been both in recent years. Tennessee benefited from half a billion dollars in grant money from Secretary Duncan’s Race to the Top program. And the state expects to receive a waiver under No Child Left Behind standards.
For Secretary Duncan’s part, when asked what he thinks of GOP Presidential hopefuls debating whether to abolish his department, Duncan said he does not watch Republican debates.
Governor Haslam was also asked about No Child Left Behind waivers and his recent cooperation with the White House.
Changing No Child Left Behind is one initiative where Haslam says he and the Obama Administration see eye to eye.
“We had set an unattainable target for schools, which was de-motivating to teachers. I believe we should link student performance to teacher evaluations, but if the evaluation standard is unrealistic, then we’re not achieving our goal.”
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.”