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....
California Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State address last week got the anti-reform crowd all atwitter (and a-Twitter) when he called for scaling back testing and reducing the federal and state roles in California education. Diane Ravitch swooned, writing in a blog post that Brown and his Sunshine State compatriots “may provide the spark that ignites a national revolt against the current tide of bad ideas.” In one respect, both Brown and Ravitch have it right: Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top and conditional NCLB waivers mark a high-water mark for federal intrusion in K-12 education and it is understandable for governors to chafe at such strong-arming from Washington. But California is hardly the place to look for good ideas. Its student achievement results trail other states’ by a mile, and its poor and minority students are doing terribly compared to their peers in other, more reform-minded states. (Texas and Florida come to mind.) We have no qualms with mid-course adjustments to the reform agenda (getting test results back in an expedited manner, for example—something Brown championed). But let’s not just toss all school reform efforts into the Sacramento River, either.
A Virginia state legislator is proposing that any parent have the right to observe his or her child’s classroom, given reasonable notice. Gadfly objects…to having to give reasonable notice. Let’s welcome parental involvement in education, not lock the school doors.
Chicago’s longer school day has only been implemented in a few schools, but is already stressing the district budget. Meanwhile, the teacher union has submitted demands for its new contract, including rejecting Emanuel’s proposed 2 percent raise for the longer hours. Budgets may get tight in the Windy City, but this is a cause worth finding the cash for..
President Obama threw a curveball Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech when he called on states to raise the compulsory education age to eighteen. Reducing dropout rates sounds great but the White House has no tools (other than jawbones) by which to make it happen. With ESEA reauthorization stalled and Race to the Top struggling, another sweeping mandate is the last thing the President needs.
Fresh off his South American adventure (seriously!), Rick reunites with Mike to catch up on what he missed: NCLB reauthorization, tough talk in New York, and the fall of Tim Tebow. Amber explains why the latest value-added study really is a big deal and Chris describes a teacher scandal that really will leave you asking, “What’s up with that?”
In the discussion about ESEA reauthorization, people on both sides of the aisle have recognized the importance of setting rigorous standards aligned to college- and career-readiness expectations. The Obama Administration has, for instance, required that states adopt college- and career-ready standards as part of its ESEA waiver process. Similarly, Republican-sponsored ESEA reauthorization proposals (which Mike wrote about in a post yesterday) also ask states to set college- and career-readiness standards for students.
While this focus on setting clear and sufficiently rigorous standards is important, it is also insufficient. After all, if we’ve learned anything from 10 years of NCLB implementation, it’s that the act of setting standards doesn’t translate to increased student achievement unless those standards are meaningfully implemented in the classroom. And, one of the most important things for states to do to ensure strong implementation is to hold students accountable for actually learning the content laid out in the standards.
While the focus on setting clear and sufficiently rigorous standards is important, it is also insufficient.
Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, too many states—even those with reasonably rigorous standards—have asked very little of students on statewide assessments. In fact, Fordham’s 2007 “Proficiency Illusion” report found that “the central flaw in NCLB is that it allows each state to set its own definition of what constitutes ‘proficiency.’” And so, as we look towards...
Ten years ago, George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, the law that has dominated U.S. education—and the education policy debate—for the entire decade. While lawmakers are struggling to update that measure, experts across the political spectrum are struggling to make sense of its impact and legacy. Did NCLB, and the consequential accountability movement it embodied, succeed? And with near-stagnant national test scores of late, is there reason to think that this approach to school reform is exhausted? If not "consequential accountability," what could take the U.S. to the next level of student achievement?
Join three leading experts as they wrestle with these questions. Panelists include Hoover Institute economist Eric Hanushek, DFER's Charles Barone, and former NCES commissioner Mark Schneider, author of a forthcoming Fordham analysis of the effects of consequential accountability. NCLB drafter Sandy Kress, previously identified as a panelist, was unable to attend.
Democrats across and beyond the nation’s capital—in the Administration, on Capitol Hill, in advocacy groups, and in think tanks—are up in arms about the ESEA reauthorization proposals released by House GOP leaders on Friday. Or at least they are pretending to be. While they contained a few surprises, the House bills were pretty much as one would expect: significantly to the right of both the Senate Harkin-Enzi bill and the package put forward by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and his colleagues. In the parlance that we’ve been using at Fordham for three years now, the House GOP embodies the views of the Local Controllers, Senator Alexander embraced Reform Realism, and Harkin-Enzi represents a mishmash of ideas from the Army of the Potomac and the System Defenders.
But while there are significant differences among the players, a clear path toward a workable, maybe even bipartisan, package is still visible. In short: all roads lead to Lamar. Not only does the Alexander package represent smart policy, it also serves as a sort of mid-point between the Senate bill that passed out of committee and the House GOP bill that is likely to do the same. Let’s tackle the five big issues:
Requirements for standards and tests. The Administration and the Senate (including supporters of both the Harkin-Enzi and Alexander measures) want states
House Republicans have released two more bills in their effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act piece by piece. The draft legislation proposed last week seeks to provide superintendents and state departments of education with more flexibility about how to spend federal dollars, dramatically remaking the American school finance system in the process.
The first gift the committee wants to give districts is increased flexibility to transfer categorical funds aimed at one underserved population into Title I. (You may recall that Mike called for something very similar more than a year ago.) This could wind up being a huge plus for children in these programs, enabling the funding of whole-school programs to address the needs of underprivileged youngsters without the mountains of red tape that currently accompany these dollars.
Second, the proposed law would repeal the so-called "maintenance of effort" requirement, which makes certain federal grant funds contingent on states and localities continuing to spend the same amount of their own money on education. This is becoming increasingly difficult to do in light of other budget pressures, including rising health care costs (both in Medicaid and on public worker payrolls).
On a whole, the House committee's proposals seem like a step towards more sensible school finance system.
Maintenance of effort requirements also hold federal grant-giving hostage to the fallacy that education simply costs what it costs, year in...
Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act, and Fordham’s redesigned website offered plenty of commentary and analysis this week to help make sense of the NCLB decade:
Mike broke down the highlights—and lowlights—of NCLB here on Flypaper, before offering his thoughts on the next stage of federal involvement in education.
At Common Core Watch, Kathleen explained why the constantly evolving iPod offers important insights into where NCLB went wrong.
On Thursday, Fordham hosted Mark Schneider, Eric Hanushek, and Charles Barone for a discussion of the legacy and future of the accountability movement. Get caught up by watching the replay of “Has the Accountability Movement Run Its Course?” in its entirety and reading Schneider’s recent analysis of math performance in the era of accountability-based reform.
In other news…
Kathleen accepted Diane Ravitch’s challenge to take a standardized test and publish the results, reflecting on why testing is valuable.
Chris made the case for granting principals greater flexibility in setting their teachers’ pay on the Stretching the School Dollar blog, while Peter lauded D.C.’s trailblazing merit pay program on Board’s Eye View.
Two months ago, Apple celebrated the 10th anniversary of the release of the iPod. Sunday, we will “celebrate” the 10th birthday of NCLB.
The iPod is universally seen as a game changer—something that not only transformed the way we listen to music, but that changed the music industry itself.
Few would say the same about the transformative power of NCLB.
Yet, what if the iPod hadn’t evolved in the ten years since its initial release? What if, after Steve Jobs released the 2001 version—the first-generation iPod—the different divisions at Apple couldn’t come to agreement about how it should evolve?
[The iPod] debuted in the fall of 2001 as a Mac-only, FireWire-only $399 digital audio player with a tiny black-and-white display and 5 GB hard disk. The iTunes Store didn’t exist until April 2003. The Windows version of iTunes didn’t appear until October 2003—two years after the iPod debuted! Two years before it truly supported Windows! Think about that. If Apple released an iPod today that sold only as many units as the iPod sold in 2002, that product would be considered an enormous flop.
The transformative power of the iPod was unleashed not by its...