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.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today delivered remarks in the East Room of the White House highlighting the state’s role as a national leader in education reform.
Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and educators from across the country at the event where President Barack Obama released criteria for states to receive a waiver to the No Child Left Behind legislation.
In July, Haslam and Huffman said Tennessee would pursue a waiver to No Child Left Behind.
The text of his remarks today is below: Let me begin this morning by thanking Secretary Arne Duncan. We are grateful for your commitment to higher standards, for setting the expectation that every child can learn, and to shrinking the achievement gap. We in Tennessee appreciate the working relationship we have with you and the Department of Education.
As a Republican Governor, I may not always agree with this administration on policy issues or the proper role of the federal government. But I do believe that when there are things we can work on together, we should.
In Tennessee, we have raised our standards, linked teacher evaluation to student performance, and we are holding ourselves accountable. We believe we are most qualified to make our own decisions about how to continue our progress in making certain every child has an opportunity to learn.
I look forward to the federal government narrowing its role in education and allowing Tennessee the flexibility to abide by its own rigorous standards. Education decisions are best made at the state and local levels.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the President of the United States.
News release from Sen. Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) Thursdayspoke on the Senate floor about the No Child Left Behind law, the Obama Administration’s plan to announce a waiver plan for states seeking relief from the law’s outdated provisions, and the introduction last week of five Senate Republican bills to fix the law.
Alexander asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to “show restraint” with respect to his waiver-granting power, saying, “Just because the Secretary has every state over a barrel doesn’t mean he should be tempted to use this opportunity to become a national school board.”
Alexander continued: “Step back. Look at the applications for waivers. If they enhance student achievement, say, ‘Yes.’ If they don’t, say, ‘No.’
“Some might say, and they’d be exactly right, that the real reason the Secretary is granting waivers is that Congress hasn’t done its job. We’re in our ninth year of No Child Left Behind and we should have fixed it four years ago when the law expired,” Alexander said. Congress has instead extended it every year without fixing it.
He went on to say that there is “substantial agreement here in the Senate, except for these accountability provisions, these differences over whether we’re creating a national school board. We should come to a conclusion about this. We should get a result. We shouldn’t create a situation where every governor has to come to Washington to get a waiver from standards that don’t work anymore. That’s our job.
“The Secretary has the power to grant waivers, but he should do it in a limited way and Congress should get to work fixing No Child Left Behind so there is no need for waivers. I call on our Democratic colleagues, with whom we’ve met dozens of times, to redouble our joint effort to get a result.
“This is not a case where we don’t want President Obama to succeed, as some have suggested. We want him to succeed, because if the President succeeds on K-12 education, the country succeeds. ”
Gov. Bill Haslam’s push for the federal government to let states seek an exemption from performance standards under the No Child Left Behind school reform law has earned him a supporting role at the White House, reports Michael Collins. Haslam will introduce President Barack Obama today at a White House briefing in which the president will offer states guidance on how they can get around some provisions of the decade-old law, a White House official said Thursday.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in August the administration would allow states to seek a waiver under the law. The Obama administration will spell out today the terms that states must meet to qualify for such an exemption.
Haslam announced in July that Tennessee had become the first state in the nation to ask for a waiver under the law, which was enacted under former President George W. Bush. The reforms sought to hold schools more accountable for student performance and get better-qualified teachers in classrooms.
But states have argued the standards are too punitive and don’t adequately measure student achievement. About half of schools in Tennessee currently fall short of meeting the standards under the law, according to the “annual yearly progress” reports for Tennessee schools.
As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects — based on state-administered tests — plus a 90 percent graduation rate. Most Tennessee schools are expected to fall short of those standards next year.
Tennessee’s waiver request basically asks the U.S. Department of Education to drop the federal standards for schools and substitute Tennessee standards.
On Monday, Memphis school board members will vote on spending more than $9 million in state funds on private tutors for Memphis City Schools students this year as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to The Commercial Appeal. The tutoring kicks in when a student is assigned to a failing school for a third year.
But evidence that the tutoring increases state test scores is so sketchy or nonexistent that state Department of Education officials asked for a waiver from the requirement in July, saying the tens of millions of dollars it is forced to set aside for private tutors would be better spent on longer school days.
The department made the request because “because there is no hard evidence that the services have been effective in raising student achievement,” said spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier.
In Memphis, the recruiting is in full force. Each of the city’s 53 failing schools is holding mandatory tutoring fairs so parents can make their choices.
“The state advised us that we are to proceed with services this year because we don’t know when the waiver will be reviewed,” said Marjorie Douglas, executive director of federal programs, grants and compliance in Memphis, where 27,473 students are eligible for tutoring.
Memphis budgeted $1,444 per student, enough to give the 20 to 25 percent of students who sign up about 30 hours with a private tutor, starting Nov. 1.
News release from Alexander, other senators:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)–all members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee–today announced they are introducing a series of education bills to “fix” No Child Left Behind.
The senators said that for the nation’s 100,000 public schools, the legislation would end the federal mandates through which Washington, D.C., decides which schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.
According to the senators, much has happened over the last ten years and it is time to transfer responsibility back to states and communities. Since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2002, 44 states have adopted common core academic standards, two groups of states are developing common tests for those standards, and more than 40 states are developing common principles for holding schools accountable for student achievement.
The senators said their legislation would maintain No Child Left Behind requirements for reporting student performance in reading, math, and science.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Education is launching a nationwide search to replace two testing officials.
Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier said Monday that the executive service appointments of Dan Long and Stan Curtis ended last week.
She said an interim director has been appointed “to ensure the ongoing success of the department’s work in data and assessments.”
Long headed the Assessment, Evaluation and Research Division, which administers the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP, achievement tests, and Curtis served as assistant director.
The departures come less than a month after the state asked the federal government for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, saying its revamped education standards should be appropriate for measuring schools.
Recent results show only about half of Tennessee’s schools have met the federal law’s standards. UPDATE: Department officials wouldn’t tell Andrea Zelinski why the two men departed, but did say what the reason was n’t. Or something like that. The state Department of Education says the resignation of two testing division officials is “completely separate” from a mistake the department made in downgrading two school districts four years ago.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today cited Tennessee as an example of a state that has “done a great job” in setting education standards and deserving of a waiver from No Child Left Behind.
Duncan’s comments came in a telephone news conference with reports around the nation to outline his general plans for granting waivers to NCLB. Specifics will be provided next month, he said, and the process of granting approvals will begin shortly thereafter.
While he stopped short of specifically saying Tennessee would be granted a waiver, Duncan came pretty close.
“We look forward to partnering with Tennessee,” the secretary said, adding that he had ” talked with Gov. Bill Haslam, recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan.
Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said last week that Tennessee had become the first state in the nation to apply for a waiver from NCLB standards, established under a federal law enacted at the urging of former President George Bush.
About half of Tennessee’s schools failed to meet current NCLB standards under testing results, also announced last week. Under NCLB, those standards are scheduled to continue rising. As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects plus a 90 percent graduation rate.
Duncan said President Obama has pushed for federal legislation to change NCLB, but has directed him to proceed with a waiver program because Congress has made little or no progress on the legislative front. He said the president remains committed to addressing NCLB changes at the federal level.
Duncan said Tennessee had “dumbed down” its state=level standards in the past and had declared 91 percent of the state’s students proficient in math. Subsequently, he said Tennessee raised standards – a move initiated under former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration – and now shows just 34 percent proficiency in math.
“Tennessee like many states (had been) dumbing down standards to make it seem like students are doing wel,” Duncan saidl. “They were telling their state that 91 percent of their children were proficient in math.
“Tennessee, like about 44 other states, recently raised standards, and when they raised standards, they went from saying they were 91 percent proficient in math to 34 percent proficient in math.
“That’s a very tough message. But guess what? It’s the truth. And we need to reward those states that are showing courage there and give them the room to move.”
At another point, he was asked about Tennessee’s prospect for getting a waiver.
“I think Tennessee has done an amazing job of really making tough calls and showing courage, so we’re very, very hopeful,” he said “I actually talked to your governor this weekend – he had just returned from Afghanistan – and we will review all of the waivers at the same time.
“Once we put out the final package, in early to mid-September, we’ll look at Tennessee’s and everyone else’s. But Tennessee has done a great job, … and we look forward to partnering with Tennessee moving forward as part of this process.” Note: A U.S. Department of Education news release on NCLB is HERE.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s request for a waiver to use its reformed education standards to measure schools instead of those mandated by No Child Left Behind is falling in line with a plan by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Duncan says he will announce a new waiver system Monday to give schools a break from student testing mandates in the federal law.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced his request last month. State officials said at the time they didn’t know what the response would be.
Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if No Child Left Behind is not changed. Education experts have questioned that estimate, but state officials report a growing number of schools facing sanctions under the law.
Duncan is scheduled to be in Nashville this week for a round table discussion with school administrators in rural counties.
Joint news release from Tennessee Congressional Delegation:
WASHINGTON – Members of the Tennessee U.S. congressional delegation announced today that they have sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan supporting Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s request for a waiver of the provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind.
The full text of the letter, dated July 29, 2011, and signed by Senators Alexander and Corker and Representatives Roe, Duncan, Fleischmann, DesJarlais, Cooper, Black, Blackburn, Fincher and Cohen, follows.