NCLB

Ty Eberhardt and I have a new feature
article
in Education Next looking
at President Obama’s first three years in office that’s worth checking out. We
conclude:

Obama
and Duncan have been good on education reform, certainly better than any of
their Democratic predecessors. But to ignore the shortcomings of the
president’s K–12 education-reform record entirely would be a mistake, we think.
And it would also be bad for the country. The administration deserves to be
pressed on the cost-effectiveness of its education system bailouts, on the
results of its Race to the Top initiative, and on the wisdom of its approach to
federalism and separation of powers. Education may not play a major role in the
2012 election, but that doesn’t mean that Obama’s education policies should be
given a pass.

Read the whole thing here.

If the 2012
election were to be decided on the basis of federal education policy, chalk up
another significant gain for President Obama (and Secretary Duncan), as the
titans of American business come down foursquare for yesterday's reform agenda,
now promoted mainly by Democrats, and against today's live agenda, which is the
theme song of today's Republicans.

I refer to the long
letter
to House education chairman John Kline from the co-chairs of the Business Coalition for Student
Achievement
, namely Intel's Craig Barrett, Accenture's William D. Green,
and State Farm's Ed Rust, denouncing Kline's new ESEA reauthorization bills
because they deviate from the orthodoxy of No Child Left Behind. In particular,
those bills would demolish NCLB's version of a national
"accountability" system with its cascade of metrics, timelines,
labels, and interventions into schools that fail to make "adequate yearly
progress." (Judging from last week's waivers, Duncan's own version is just as prescriptive
about accountability but in different ways.)

The
number of schools "in need of improvement" has risen to the point of
laughability.

Never mind that
none of that has done any real good over the past decade. Never mind that the
number of schools "in need of improvement" has risen to the point of
laughability. Never mind that NCLB has led states to set the achievement bar
way too low. Never mind that the interventions most lauded...

In the midst of the waiver
news
last week—which set many a reformer’s teeth on edge—came a few events
and reports that provide some interesting ringtones for the current debate over
the federal role in education.

Let
the dollars follow the child
was the proposal from the Hoover Institution’s
Koret Task Force, which also makes a compelling case for the federal government’s
“central role” in our nation’s education future. Let
the feds butt out
was the message delivered by Rep. John Kline, Republican
chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, as he explained two
ESEA rewrite bills at an American Enterprise event. And Unconstitional!
was the Pioneer Institute’s conclusion about the federal government’s support
of the Common Core:

Actions taken by the Obama Administration signal an important
policy shift in the nation’s education policy, with the Department placing the
nation on the road to federal direction over elementary and secondary school
curriculum and instruction.
One wonders whether
“states’ rights” are being invoked to cover up the very inequities that NCLB was determined to remedy.

I hesitate to invoke Civil War analogies here, but there are
some troubling signs in the current dust-up that make one wonder whether
“states’ rights” are being invoked to cover up the very inequities—the “soft
bigotry of low expectations”—that No Child Left Behind was determined to remedy.
In a...

With a week to go until the February 21 February 28 deadline* for the
second round of Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Waiverpalooza, states nationwide are
studying the results of Round One to figure out what federal officials did—and
didn’t—approve. And they are asking themselves a question: Is it even worth it?
(A few states—including California
and Pennsylvania
have already decided: no.)

In the end, I suspect that most of the 28 states that have
indicated an interest in a waiver will file for one, if only because, by this
point, they’ve already sunk thousands of man-hours and tens of thousands of
dollars into the process. And some of the flexibility provided by the feds to
the first ten approved states is for real—getting rid of the “100 percent
proficient by 2014” deadline; allowing all Title I schools to spend their
dollars in a “schoolwide” manner; eliminating the ill-designed supplemental
services program; ending the “highly qualified teachers” mandate.

But what about the accountability policies at the heart of
No Child Left Behind? Just how much leeway did the Administration actually
provide? Let’s consider three big problems with current law, and whether the
waiver process fixed them.

Problem
#1: A vision of “improvement” that looks at how this year’s cohort compares to
last year’s, rather than individual student growth over time.

A few leading
...

While ESEA
waivers
grabbed the headlines this week, Fordham's bloggers offered up
commentary on all of the week’s big education stories. Here’s a recap by the
numbers:

Stay on top of all of Fordham’s commentary and analysis by
subscribing to our combined
...

President
Obama’s announcement that ten states (sorry, New Mexico!) would be freed from the requirements of No Child Left Behind was big news from coast-to-coast yesterday. As he
noted in a Gadfly Weekly editorial, Mike is skeptical, and in print,
on TV, and over the airwaves, he weighed in on what it all means.

Mike
made a brief appearance on the NBC
Nightly News
before joining Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitch
Chester and Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett on
NPR's All Things Considered. “There’s
a huge gap between what the states asked for and what they ended up with,” he
noted in the Washington Post, and he pointed out to the Associated Press that mediocre schools that aren’t failing will
probably see the biggest changes due to the waivers. In addition, Daniela
provided her insights to the Wall Street Journal-Online. Watch the NBC segment below and stay tuned for more commentary and analysis in coming days.

...

Awaiting waivers

While waiting for the ESEA waiver announcement, Mike and Janie get to look at the week’s more entertaining edu-news, from trials for tardiness to a pot problem in the Rockies. Amber talks pensions and Chris wonders if “walking it off” isn’t always the best idea.

Amber's Research Minute

Pension-Induced Rigidites in the Labor Market for School Leaders

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

Suit: Boy falls, teacher says crawl back to Skokie school

Dictionary
The feds may need to check their definition of "flexibility"
Photo by Greeblie.

As of
this writing, the Administration’s announcement on education waivers is just
hours away. The White House is gearing up for a Kumbaya moment, as state officials
gleefully accept the leeway bestowed upon them by President Obama. But as the
news settles in over the next few days, don’t expect the reactions to be entirely
positive, for it appears that the President and his education secretary have
reneged on their promise of true “flexibility” for the states. Mostly what they
seem to have done is substitute one set of rigid prescriptions for another.

This is
a big change in a short period. Through most of 2011, the Obama Administration
reaped accolades for its intention to allow states to take a new course
vis-à-vis the Elementary and Secondary Education act (a.k.a. NCLB). In
September, the President got wall-to-wall coverage
of the official announcement of his plan to offer waivers to the states
to give them “more flexibility to meet high standards.”

Keep in mind, the change we’re
making is not lowering standards; we’re saying we’re going to give you more
flexibility to meet high standards. We’re going to...

An announcement on education waivers is anticipated this
week. Don't expect the reaction to be positive, for it appears that the
President and his education secretary will renege on their promise of "flexibility" for the states.

This would be a big change in a short period. Through most
of 2011, the Obama Administration reaped accolades for its intention to allow
states to take a new course vis-à-vis the Elementary and Secondary Education
act (a.k.a. NCLB). In September, the President got wall-to-wall
coverage the official
announcement
of his plan to offer waivers to the states to give them "more
flexibility to meet high standards."

Keep in mind, the change we're
making is not lowering standards; we're saying we're going to give you more
flexibility to meet high standards. We're going to let states, schools
and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they
need to compete for the jobs of the future. Because what works in Rhode Island may not be the same thing that works in Tennessee—but every
student should have the same opportunity to learn and grow, no matter what
state they live in.
It appears that the
President and his education secretary will renege on their promise of flexibility for the states.

Set aside the debate
about the conditions he attached to those standards. Set aside the small matter
of Constitutionality and...

Everybody in Washington claims they favor more flexibility in federal education policy. They want to be “tight on results” and “loose on how to get there.” They agree that No Child Left Behind “went too far” in putting Uncle Sam in the middle of complicated and nuanced decisions.

Or so they say, until push comes to shove. And then many of the players discover that they don’t like flexibility after all. They want to change federal policy in theory but not in reality.

It’s not just the President’s bizarre State of the Union request that states raise their compulsory attendance age to 18. (Perhaps that would help to trim the dropout rate, though the studies suggesting so rely on 40-year-old data.) I’m assuming that he was merely using the bully pulpit to promote a pet idea, not suggesting a new federal mandate....

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