Articles in the Educational Legislation category

A time to suspend NCLB’s sanctions?

Idaho’s State Board of Education has asked the U.S. Department of Education to allow the state to restart the NCLB sanctions timeline because student achievement was measured with “an invalid and unreliable tool,” said Mike Rush, state board executive director, in this article in the Idaho Statesman.

At issue is the state’s “poorly written education standards” and the misalignment between the statewide assessments and what teachers are expected to teach, the article said.

It is doubtful that the Department would give the state a fresh start for hundreds of public schools now facing sanctions under the law. Ironically, the feds actually approved Idaho’s standards and assessment system a couple of years ago, see here.

Regardless of whether Idaho will be successful in its request, the message here is clear: given Congress’ inaction to reauthorize and improve the law this year, something needs to happen to prevent NCLB’s misguided sanctions from wrongly ensnaring even more schools. If a committee bill is not ready later this year, NSBA believes it will be time for Congress to suspend the implementation of severe sanctions against schools until reauthorization is completed. And when might that be? Check out Eduwonk’s and Ed Week’s David Hoff’s forecasts.

Erin Walsh|May 30th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Senate gets it right, will the House?

Last week we previewed important pre-Memorial Day-recess votes in the Senate. The good news? The Senate by a wide margin approved H.R. 2642, the supplemental appropriations bill, with 2 crucial pro-education provisions supported by NSBA included: $400 million in additional funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, and an extension of the current moratorium to allow districts to receive school-based Medicaid reimbursement. The inclusion of these important domestic issues was by no means a sure thing and is testament to the outreach of local board members and other public school supporters.

Additional details on those programs are available in NSBA’s Advocacy Office Weekly Highlights.

When Congress returns next week, the House is expected to vote on the supplemental. NSBA is urging that those two provisions remain in the bill.

Erin Walsh|May 30th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Colleges dropping the SAT

No more SAT? Well, not quite. BoardBuzz was interested to learn in this Associated Press (AP) article that Wake Forest University has joined the list of mostly small liberal arts colleges that will no longer require applicants to take the SAT or its fellow college admissions test the ACT. For years high school students with dreams of going to college fretted over taking such tests. Many feared that their four years of high school performance would be wiped out with one bad performance on one test.

Students applying to Wake Forest University and a number of other small liberal arts college across the country, fear no more. These schools believe that the SAT is not a good predictor of college success. Instead they will rely more heavily on each applicant’s high school transcript, personal interview, and extracurricular activities.

But does this spell the end for the SAT and ACT? Not likely. Many schools, especially large schools that receive thousands of applications a year, are unlikely to stop requiring the SAT or ACT any time soon. Although a student’s academic performance in high school is the most important factor in getting accepted into college, college admission’s tests do play an important role in the college admissions process.

As independent college admissions consultant Steven Roy Goodman stated in the AP article:

“… it’s very difficult to assess the quality of courses in high schools around the country and around the world, and to reconcile the different grading systems, and to take into account the grade inflation that we’ve seen in many schools throughout the United States.”

Just as schools should not be judged purely on one test, neither should students. College admissions tests like the SAT and ACT are just one tool in determining how well a student will succeed in college. The same way that state test scores are just one tool in judging our local schools.

To find out what other tools can be used to evaluate your local schools check out the Center for Public Education’s Good Measures for Good Schools.

Erin Walsh|May 27th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Not so smokin’ anymore

USA Today recently reported on cigarette sales in retail chains, including pharmacies. Officials in San Francisco, New York, New Hampshire, Illinois and Tennessee are proposing bans selling tobacco products in drug stores, including cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco. The sale of tobacco, which is both addictive and deadly when used as the manufacturer intends, has long been seen as incongruous with the health-promoting mission of pharmacies and drug stores. The New York Times reported on the controversy back in 1994, when some pharmacy students suggested replacing cigarette sales with cessation clinics in pharmacies!

Hard to believe that this hasn’t been resolved more than 14 years later? Perhaps – but it’s also hard to believe that tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and that more than 20 percent of the adult population still smokes. Nearly 90 percent of smokers started smoking before the age of 18, so we’re talking about sparing kids a lifetime of addiction and disease. Chains like Wegmans grocery stores are setting a great example, voluntarily taking cigs off their shelves – if all the chains did that, perhaps state and local government wouldn’t need to step in!

Erin Walsh|May 21st, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

School board pushes for fiscal transparency

Our friends at the Associated School Boards of South Dakota passed along this newsworthy story from Open Forum. It’s a splendid idea to help lawmakers, policymakers and the public better understand the costs and consequences of mandates that are not fully funded. The letter from Rapid City school board members to the South Dakota Board of Education comes on the heels of budget cuts.

Rapid City Area Schools recently cut $2.3 million from their operating budget – a move that forced board members to choose compliance with mandates over music and library programs.

The school district, which is an NSBA National Affiliate, outlined the cuts and the reasons behind them for its community.

Their suggestion reminds us of action taken a few years back by a New Hampshire school board.

Erin Walsh|May 20th, 2008|Categories: Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Time’s a ticking

There’s nothing like an upcoming one-week recess (pardon us, “district work period”) to prod Congress to complete work on important legislation. Such a week is upon us, as lawmakers eye the Memorial Day break (ahem, “WORK PERIOD”) that’s fast approaching.

Before they leave town though, chances are at least reasonably good that they finish a few tasks. NSBA’s weekly legislative highlights provides the details, but action may occur on a budget resolution (better late than never) and a supplemental appropriations bill that includes a moratorium until April 2009 on an administration rule that would end reimbursements to school districts for services provided to Medicaid-eligible children with disabilities. NSBA strongly supports the moratorium.

Erin Walsh|May 19th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Is Preschool the Next Hot Topic in Election?

If education ever surfaces as a serious topic in this election, the stars appear lined up for pre-K to be the issue of choice, according to some panelists who spoke at the ED 08 Blog Summit last week. It’s no surprise since pre-K is less controversial than K-12 and the two democratic candidates have each outlined some details of their early childhood education plans. Not to mention that pre-K legislation is likely to move forward in Congress this year independent of NCLB, see here.

But it won’t be long before the new administration and new Congress have to deal with the elephant in the room – NCLB. More school labeling and sanctions next year will likely stir dissatisfaction at the state and local levels.

Erin Walsh|May 19th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Preschool Education|

Gifted students need support too

BoardBuzz was browsing through the Center for Public Education’s website (it’s one of our favorites) and came across the headline Are Gifted Students Getting Left Out. The headline came from an L.A. Times article on the Center’s News Across the Nation page, which pools important educational articles from news organizations from around the country. BoardBuzz highly recommends you check it out regularly.

The article put the spotlight on 15 year-old Latino high school junior Dalton Sargent from Altadena, California. Dalton is so bright that he is considered Gifted and Talented — but like many Gifted and Talented students, he struggles through school while scoring high on most standardized tests. His struggles are not due to a lack of intelligence, far from it, but from a lack of motivation. He finds most of his classes unchallenging.

Many school districts provide programs to better support gifted students by tailoring instruction to their unique needs. However, there are no federal programs to help students like Dalton and many cash-strapped states do not provide the financial support necessary for districts to meet the needs of all their gifted students.

In this era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that focuses on students with low test scores, many students like Dalton fall through the gaps by scoring high on their state tests while struggling with their everyday course work. BoardBuzz was shocked to see that some studies have shown that up to 20 percent of gifted students eventually drop out of high school. If we are really to leave no child behind, districts need the support to meet the needs of all their students, including the gifted ones.

For more articles on important educational issues of the day check out the Center for Public Education’s News Across the Nation.

Erin Walsh|May 15th, 2008|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

As NCLB sanctions pile up, what next?

Will more of this beget more of this?

As BoardBuzz has been saying for months, failure by Congress to dramatically change the No Child Left Behind / ESEA law simply means more and more schools and districts facing severe sanctions because of an inaccurate but uncorrected federal accountability framework.

But as the Associated Press article notes, the number of districts facing severe sanctions under NCLB has topped 400 and covers more than half the states. And like the rain swollen creeks in BoardBuzz’s neck of the woods, it will keep rising. So what now? Without any substantive fixes on the legislative horizon, how many more schools and districts will face interventions like state takeovers in the next year(s)? Do state departments of education even have the capacity to take over districts and lead improvements? Don’t all jump up at once to answer that question.

So…where is Congress? Letting the Administration, which has refused to adequately fund NCLB, call the shots on changes is not the kind of help school districts need.

Erin Walsh|May 12th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Pre-K Act a downpayment on kids’ futures

Board Buzz hasn’t seen this kind of excitement around new early education initiatives in Congress since we don’t know when. Aside from the federal Head Start program, Congress has done little to help states expand and improve their own preschool programs. But pre-K advocates could be in for a treat this month. The House Education and Labor Committee is expected to take up a pre-K bill introduced by Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-HI.

NSBA sent this letter to Hirono and members of the education committee to express support for the “Pre-K Act (HR 3289).” The bill would provide federal grants to states to expand and improve their voluntary, publicly funded pre-K programs. More importantly, it would expand the focus of NCLB to include preschool education. Stay tune for more information on a possible markup on the bill. Meanwhile, check out NSBA‘s pre-K committee Web site at www.nsba.org/prekcommittee and the Center for Public Education’s information on pre-K.

Erin Walsh|May 12th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Preschool Education, Student Achievement|
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