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Articles tagged with American Enterprise Institute

Get your legislators’ attention, school board members told

With legislative debates looming in Congress over sequestration, the federal debt ceiling, immigration reform, gun control, and more, school board members looking to influence federal education policy have their work cut out for them.

That’s the assessment of Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a respected observer of the national political scene.

“You’re going to need every talent you can muster when you go to [Capitol] Hill,” he told school leaders planning to visit federal lawmakers as part of NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. He spoke at the meeting on Sunday. “Be sure that you get your legislators’ attention.”

Members of Congress are distracted by more than just the legislative challenges that lie ahead, he said. Among Republicans, the re-election of President Obama has some party members questioning the GOP’s hard-line stance on some issues—a stance that some believe has hurt the party’s support among the young, minorities, and other constituency groups whose support will be needed to win future elections.

These questions are all the more unsettling to Republicans because, in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign, some party leaders were convinced GOP candidate Mitt Romney had pulled ahead of the president in the polls—and thus his defeat was all the more shocking.

Amidst their soul-searching, some Republicans are questioning whether it’s time to show the American people some legislative accomplishments, even if it means some compromise with Democrats. It’s a position that has support among some older, influential members of the Senate who are looking to their legacy as legislative leaders.

One possible sign of this new attitude was the end-of-year compromise that put off across-the-board federal budget cuts—the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Ornstein says. In the Senate, 89 senators approved the deal, even though its passage led to an increase in some taxes. At the same time, a small group of senators from both parties is working on immigration policy reform.

“We have a very interesting dynamic at work,” he said.

None of this suggests that a new bipartisan attitude is taking hold in Congress, he warned. Partisan divisions still run deep, and lawmakers face formidable political pressure to hold to the party line. Among House Republicans, in particular, he said, the threat of a primary challenge from unhappy conservatives back home is potent.

What it does mean is that Congress may be stirring from its legislative gridlock and that school board members may face a challenge focusing lawmakers on education issues.

“To get the attention of legislators, to get them to focus on the long overdue need for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act … to make sure we continue to expand our ability to educate and prepare the next generation for our workforce … it is no easy task.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Governance, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Federal Advocacy, Public Advocacy, 2012 Presidential race, FRN Conference 2013|Tags: , , |

How to get the teachers you want

Imagine you have a complex medical condition that requires the work of a top surgeon. Fortunately, you’re able to get an initial appointment, but arranging a date for surgery is more problematic.

“No, not Tuesday,” the scheduler tells you. “Dr. Welby does physicals on Tuesdays. And Wednesday he fills out insurance forms.”

No well-run medical practice would squander its most valuable asset — its physicians’ expertise — like that. But that’s what schools do all the time with their most valuable assets, according to a recent article by Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

 Two weeks ago, I told you about a report by The New Teacher Project called The Widget Effect (Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher effectiveness) , which says that most teacher evaluation systems fail in distinguishing between average (and often, below average) teachers and exceptional ones.

Hess’s article in the summer issue of Education Next is called How to Get the Teachers We Want, but it might easily be called The Widget Effect, Part II, because, he says, schools do the same thing in failing to differentiate between most teachers and those with expertise in critical areas such as reading and mentoring at-risk youth.

“…Schools and school systems casually waste scarce talent by operating on the implicit assumption that most teachers will be similarly adept at everything.” Hess writes. “In a routine day, a terrific 4th grade reading teacher might give lessons in reading for  just one hour, while spending another five hours teaching other subjects in which she is less effective, filling out paperwork, and so on.”

Naomi Dillon|June 23rd, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |
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