Articles tagged with Arne Duncan

NSBA comments on Race to the Top early education grants

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has weighed in on a new $250 million federal Race to the Top (RTT) grant program for early childhood care and education, saying it shares the U.S. Department of Education’s commitment to ensuring that all children arrive at school ready to learn. But NSBA is also urging the education department and its partner in the grant, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to “require significant local education agency (LEA) involvement” in state applications for the competition.

In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Kathleen Sebelius, director of HHS, which is also participating in the grant, NSBA Interim Associate Executive Director Reginald M. Felton noted that local school districts “are essential in the P-3 continuum of education and care, and the success of the RTT- preschool program will be improved by integrating the perspective of local schools boards.”

Underscoring the critical importance of school district involvement, Felton urged the education department to require that at least 80 percent of competitive grants awarded by the program “be disseminated to local eligible entities as subgrants.”

Duncan described the program as “a major new competition to build, develop and expand high-quality preschool programs, working with local communities and with states,” including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. He said the program is distinct from the RTT – Early Learning Challenge, which is designed to help the 20 state recipients increase the low-income number children, from birth to age 5, who are ready for kindergarten. By contrast, the new grant focuses specifically on preschool for 4-year-olds.

Felton noted, in the NSBA letter, the importance of maintaining local control for school districts receiving grants. Noting that school district capacity “has been overwhelmed with requirements” for other RTT state grants, he urged the education department “to support capacity building for local eligible entities, not just states.”And he said the department should not make receipt of the funds conditional on the development of new-nationally recognized standards.

In his announcement of the new competition, Duncan said any new program should include “comprehensive services and family engagement” and use RTT preschool grant funds to help programs meet “nationally recognized standards in those areas.”

According to an NSBA issue brief on early childhood education, NSBA said that federal legislation must: be voluntary; support the school district’s role in early learning; be adequately funded so as not to require a redirection of federal, state, or local resources for current K-12 programs; and support and permit maximum flexibility in the use of federal funds. In addition, NSBA said, this legislation must “respect local school board authority in school district matters such as personnel and workforce issues.”

Lawrence Hardy|February 28th, 2014|Categories: Preschool Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Secretary Duncan addresses school board members at NSBA meeting

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged school board members Monday at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., to “stay the course” through a tumultuous time in public education, predicting that in a few years the nation will see big results from programs such as Race to the Top (RTTT) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

“The implementation of Common Core is really difficult,” Duncan said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I really urge you to stay the course.”

However, he added: “I think the back-end of all this – three or four years from now – the country’s going to be in a radically different place.”

Duncan spoke briefly, but quickly and emphatically. He praised school board members for their dedication, and gave out his email address, saying he wanted to hear their concerns. In a short question and answer period, skeptical board members raised concerns about the proliferation of charter schools; unfunded federal mandates; competitions for funding, such as RTTT (the questioner said dedicated funding made more sense); and what many saw as an erosion of local control.

“This is a tough crowd,” the education secretary quipped at one point.

One requirement for states receiving funds has been a lifting of state caps on the number of charter schools. But Duncan said he didn’t favor charters over regular public schools.

“I’m just a big proponent of high-quality public schools,” Duncan said. “That’s traditional schools. That’s magnet schools. And that may be charter schools.”

Speaking of the achievement gap, Duncan said, “In some places we’re seeing real progress, but in other places these gaps are extraordinarily large.”

But Melinda Bernard, a board member for the St. Charles Parish Public Schools in Louisiana, said the problems of public school are being exaggerated.

“I think you will agree, public education’s being denigrated by the media recently,” Bernard told Duncan. “Especially our teachers.”

Duncan touted some of the Obama administration’s accomplishments, including an additional $600 million for early childhood education and an increase in the number of Pell Grants from 6 million in 2008 to 10 million last year. He said the $4 billion in competitive grants for RTTT may seem like a large number, but is less than 1 percent of the department’s $650 billion budget. He said that competition has spurred states to make major innovations regarding the common core, teacher evaluation, and other challenges.

Speaking of the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Duncan said the Obama administration has “huge support for the Second Amendment,” but added, “I do feel that if we don’t act now as a country, we will never act.”

A former school superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan said he was acquainted with the problem of violence, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods.

“We lost one child every two weeks due to the gang problem,” Duncan said. “It was a staggering loss.”

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National Standards, Preschool Education, School Security|Tags: , , , , |

Ravitch wants school boards to speak up for their rights

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Education researcher Diane Ravitch has posted in a recent blog some provocative questions for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other federal officials when they speak at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Federal Relations Network conference later today. Ravitch, who will be a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 73rd Annual Conference in San Diego in April, wants to query the leaders about their stands on local governance and school boards. She writes:

In the last few years, there has been an all-out attack on local control. Most of the attack comes from the privatization movement, which thinks that school boards debate too much, listen too much, move too slowly. The privatizers prefer mayoral control in cities to get fast action. And they push laws and constitutional amendments allowing the governor to create a commission to override local school boards that reject charters. This is the ALEC agenda.

Happily, leading members of NSBA will have a chance to ask Arne Duncan why he pushes mayoral control, which has done so little for Cleveland and Chicago–and is now approved in NYC by only 18 percent of the public.

And they can ask Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia what he thinks about that state’s recent drive to strip local school boards of control of their districts. They might also ask him what he thinks of the re segregation that charters are promoting.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the federal leaders’ speeches at the 2013 FRN Conference, taking place Jan. 27 to 29 in Washington.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |

The week in blogs: MIT tries turning down the pressure

Greetings, prospective MIT freshman. Ready for your first essay question?

“What do you do for fun?”

If you think that’s a trick question on the application of the ultra-selective Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stuart Schmill, MIT’s Dean of Admission, assures you on Inside Higher ED  that it is not.

“The truth is that we’re looking for balance,” the application says.

Then, look at this: In the spaces where MIT asks applicants to list their AP, IB, or Cambridge classes, there are all of three spaces (although students can click a button to add more if they want.) The point is that MIT is trying, in one small way, to send the message that it’s not all about loading up on AP classes or signing up for every activity. Try telling that to some students at highly competitive high schools, who routinely enroll in five or more AP classes in a typical senior year.

MIT is on the right track. Question is, with most highly selective colleges looking at strength of program (that is, how may advanced classes a student takes) as a measure of student accomplishment, is MIT really going to give no edge to those with more college-level classes?

Speaking of trying to lay off the pressure, read Bill Gates in the New York Times on why public release of individual teacher performance assessments is not a good idea. And, also in the Times, see the insightful editorial “Shuttering Bad Charter Schools.”

Finally, in what can only be called The Best Twisting Left-Handed Over-the-Shoulder Pass in a Celebrity All-Star Game by a U.S. Secretary of Education, see the UTube video of Arne Duncan – former Harvard and Australian pro league basketball player — in a warm up to Sunday’s NBA All Star Game

Lawrence Hardy|February 26th, 2012|Categories: Curriculum, High Schools, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

NCLB regulatory relief is on the way

Last year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan predicted that as many as 82 percent of schools could be labeled failing under the flawed accountability measures of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The number didn’t materialize—it turned out to be just over 50 percent—but that threat and the realization that Congress could not complete a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) t in time for the 2011-12 school year provoked the U.S. Department of Education to offer regulatory relief for states for portions of NCLB.

Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, led attendees at Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Monday through some of the details of the regulatory relief. States are required to apply and must implement four reform principles to be eligible for the waivers. (Not all states have chosen to apply.)

Districts can receive up to 10 waivers from some of the most burdensome provisions of NCLB, including the mandate that all students and subgroups must be 100 percent proficient by the 2013-14 school year and would replace the demand for adequate yearly progress (AYP) with an annual measurable objective (AMO) system that allows schools to show a measure of progress toward specific goals. For qualifying states and school districts the Education Department would also waive identifications and interventions in Title I schools that don’t make AYP for two years; waive the requirement for highly qualified teachers and related restrictions on local uses of federal funding in professional development; and allow states and districts to transfer money from teacher and technology programs into Title I, among other waivers.

The four principles include: Implementing college and career-ready standards, either the Common Core Standards or standards certified by state network of public higher education institutions in language arts/math; developing differentiated recognition, accountability and support, which means that a state would set new AMOs; supporting effective leadership and instruction; and removing burdensome and duplicative reporting requirements that have little or no impact on student success.

While the law needs a comprehensive overhaul, some details of the relief have been incorporated into the Senate legislation and could be considered a good start to the process, Resnick added. “To use a Washington phrase, it does kick the can down the road.”

Resnick gave the participants a list of issues to consider if their states have applied for relief:

# How will the Education Department’s final approval of your state’s accountability plan impact your school district’s budget and program plans for next year?

# What requirements in your state plan will you have to implement next year or plan for?

# What budgetary and staffing changes and concerns will be involved?

# How will the state plan impact your school board’s oversight/governance function?

# How will the reauthorization of ESEA impact your state plan?

FRN participants are pushing for a quick reauthorization of the bill this year, and in response to a question, Resnick said that bills in the House and Senate would need to be passed and moved to a conference committee quickly this spring to have a chance at passage this year.

Joetta Sack-Min|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |

Ten years into NCLB’s backlash

It has been ten years since President George W. Bush was signed into law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an opinion piece in The Washington Post where he noted:

Unfortunately, the law is unintentionally creating barriers for these reforms. States that have chosen to raise standards will soon need to explain why student scores are dropping. Instead, they should be able to highlight students’ academic growth. School districts are stuck using NCLB’s definition of a highly qualified teacher based solely on paper credentials, without taking into account the teacher’s ability to improve student learning. And the law continues to encourage schools to narrow curriculum at the expense of important subjects such as history, civics, science, the arts and physical education. After 10 years of these flawed policies, our nation’s teachers and students deserve better.

NCLB has created a measurement framework that bases its assessment of school quality on a student’s performance on a single assessment and mandates a series of overbroad sanctions not always targeted to the students needing services, and, to date, has not yet proven to have a significant impact on improving student performance and school performance.

After ten years of enactment of the federal law, local school districts continue to struggle to comply with the language of the law at a time when the unintended consequences of this complex law are imposing far more dysfunctional and illogical implementation problems than had been anticipated by the sponsors of the legislation. Additionally, federal and state lawmakers have become increasingly aware that successful attainment of the desired national goals is very much dependent upon the capacity of the state departments of education and the capacity of local school districts.

In September 2011, the National School Boards Association was encouraged by the Obama administration’s announcement to waive problematic and burdensome regulatory requirements of NCLB but cautioning that the waiver process should not be viewed as an acceptable substitute for Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

Let us know what you think about NCLB. Speak out by submitting a comment.

Alexis Rice|January 10th, 2012|Categories: Assessment, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, High Schools, Legislative advocacy, Middle Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: Center report on time in school elicits big response

Public education, like any discipline, has accumulated a lot of truisms over the years, most of which are, well … true.

Who can challenge statements like: Parents are the first teachers. School boards should set policy, not run the district. Next to home influences, teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education.

Pretty self-evident stuff.

And then there’s this: U. S. students don’t do as well as their international counterparts because they spend less time in school. True? Well, plausible enough (and certainly repeated enough) that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a reference to it recently, saying that students in India and China “are going to school 25 to 30 percent longer than we are,” and adding, “Our students, I think, are at a competitive disadvantage.”

Such a deficit might indeed be a competitive disadvantage —  if it were true.  But NSBA’s Center for Public Education examined the claim and, using the best available evidence, concluded that it was not.

For the report Time in School: How does the U.S. Compare? Senior Research Analyst Jim Hull compared the hours required in school by several nations that compete with the United States with the those required from five of the more populous states. (States were used because they set minimum hour requirements.)

His conclusion? U.S. students attend about the same number of hours as students in most of these other countries, with some variations. (Less than in Italy, for example; more than in Finland.) Moreover, Hull said, a big issue for schools is often not how much time they require, but what they do with the time they’ve got.

The report took off in the blogosphere, being featured in Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet column in the Washington Post and several other places.

“Many modern school reformers have unfortunately maintained a narrow focus about the conditions that lead to academic success, including the notion that more time is necessarily better,” Strauss said.

In an EDifier blog, Hull said he appreciated the Posts citation, but he emphasized that “while simply adding more instructional time will not automatically improve student achievement. What gets lost is that adding time can be an effective tool to improve student achievement especially for students from low-income families.”

As they always say  — truism alert! – the devil is in the details.

The study was also picked up byThe Denver Post and U.S. News & World Report.

Lawrence Hardy|December 17th, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs

Just in time for Halloween, a “giant wrecking ball” is on the loose, reckless and insatiable, “doing incalculable harm” to the nation’s public schools.

Dracula? Frankenstein?  The Teacher from the Black Lagoon? No, it’s Diane Ravitch’s description of No Child Left Behind, which, for now at least, remains horribly undead (and un-reauthorized).

“Is there any other national legislative body in the world that has ever passed a law that caused almost every one of its schools to be labeled a failure?” writes Ravitch, the education historian and former George H.W. Bush and Clinton administration official, in the National Journal’s Education blog. “NCLB is a giant wrecking ball, setting up public schools for failure, incentivizing cheating, and encouraging states to game the system by lowering their passing marks, lowering their standards or other strategies.”

The occasion of Ravitch’s fusillade is, of course, the flurry activity on Capitol Hill, which has resulted in the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee threatening to drive a stake through the very heart of the accountability and enforcement measures of the Bush II-era law.

That’s fine by Ravitch, but not so good with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said regarding the proposed bill: “America cannot retreat from reform.”

Others have reacted more cautiously to the changes, including Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. He says AASA is “cautiously optimistic” that the Senate will come up with a supportable bill. Domenech is pleased with the bill’s proposed elimination of “the utopian NCLB goals of 100 percent of students meeting proficiency on state tests by 2014” and an Adequate Yearly Progress system “designed to ensure that eventually all schools would be failing.” But he’s concerned about complex new federal mandates tied to the spending of state and federal dollars and a more expansive federal role in defining school discipline.

For NSBA’s position on the Harkin bill, see the recent letter to the Senate committee from Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick. Like Domenech, Resnick sees many positives in the bill, but he’s concerned about other provisions, including new data collection mandates that could be seen as micromanaging from Washington and expensive for school districts to follow in these tough economic times.

Among the other interesting writings this week: The American Prospect on the latest bonanza for education firms — teacher evaluations. (Thanks to This Week in Education for that one.)

And finally, for all you parents out there wondering whether you should let your kids keep all the candy they get trick-or-treating (the Rosseauian model) or confiscate it in the name of optimal health (the Hobbesian approach) Joanne Jacobs cites groundbreaking research in The Onion, which concludes …… it doesn’t make any difference.

“Every style of parenting produces disturbed, miserable adults, ” notes the satirical review, citing research that, yes, it made up.

Lawrence Hardy|October 29th, 2011|Categories: Discipline, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Governance, Teachers, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Reauthorizing the federal education bill has been a little like the reverse of that old saying:  “hurry up and wait.” No, when it comes to renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — something that was supposed to happen, oh, four years ago — it’s been more like: “wait — now hurry up.”

The hurry-up happened Thursday, when the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, voted 15 to 7 to approve a bill that greatly reduces the federal role by dispensing with a complicated and flawed accountability system for determining which schools need “improvement” and which do not.

That, and many other provisions of the bill, were welcomed by NSBA, state school boards associations, and school districts that had been laboring under the strictures of ESEA’s latest iteration: No Child Left Behind. But while NSBA was happy about that — and pleased that, after waiting so long, the Senate was finally addressing these issues — it cautioned against moving too fast in committee on a bill that still has a lot of bugs.

“The bill also contains many operationally unrealistic features that will need to be addressed,” NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick wrote in a letter to the committee this week. “For example, it contains extensive data collection and reporting requirements, as well as overbearing specificity in several key programs areas that cross well into the micro-management of our schools.”

 NSBA didn’t get the delay in the mark-up it wanted, but the committee did accede to a call from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, to hold a hearing on the bill on Nov. 8.

The blogosphere has been all over the map on this process, and, rather than try to make sense of it myself, I’m going to just give you the links and … .well, you can tell me what it all means. For starters, there was the unusual agreement between Paul, a Tea Party favorite, and liberal blogger Susan Ohanian, about the need for more time.

Then there was the Progressive Policy Institute – from the so-called reformist camp – charging that the law, as currently revised, “guts school accountability.”

Alexander Russo, of This Week in Education, asked “where was [Arne] Duncan?” He said the education secretary didn’t press the committee for a bill with a more robust federal role. Meanwhile, at the Fordham Institute, Mike Petrilli said much the opposite, asserting that Duncan’s influence helped make it all happen (so far). Petrilli also called the bill an improvement over the current law.

So reaction was indeed divided, which is not surprising given the complexity of the issues and the laborious process itself. But will there be a finished product soon, and will it pass?

Not likely, Education Sector’s Anne Hyslop told the Christian Science Monitor. With this divided and sometimes sclerotic Congress, she doesn’t see a bill passing the House until well after the 2012 campaign.

Lawrence Hardy|October 21st, 2011|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Reform, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Analysis: NBC learned its lesson with this Education Nation

Glenn Cook, American School Board Journal’s editor-in-chief, attended NBC’s Education Nation summit in New York for the second straight year. Here are his observations.

You can’t blame traditional public school advocates if they were filled with dread when NBC announced that Education Nation would return this fall. Last year the network bought into the hype surrounding the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” inexplicably tying the event to a flawed film that exhorted charters as the pancea for public education’s ills.

Thankfully, NBC has learned its lesson. This year’s event took pains to correct past wrongs as it recognized the complexities school leaders face in managing a public system that is open to all.

Starting with a screening of “American Teacher,” a documentary that helped erase some of the “bad teachers” taste left by “Superman,” and ending with an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Education Nation featured a strong balance of heavy hitters from education, philanthropy, and politics.

You also had a touch of celebrity — basketball player Lebron James, actress Jennifer Garner, and what amounted to a family reunion with former Gov. Jeb Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participating in sessions — but in this case, it fit the overall tone.

The key word here is balance. Last year’s programming was flawed because it exhorted simple antidotes to complex problems. This year, silver bullets were nowhere to be found, but calls for more effective teaching and improvements to early education were.

You can watch many of the sessions online at www.educationnation.com, but here is my list of highlights:

• Start with “Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters,” a fascinating hour-long session featuring Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, and three university professors. Held on Monday morning, it was the best, most concise presentation I’ve seen yet on why we need to reach children much, much earlier than we do.

• The dramatic rise in poverty rates was a focus throughout, especially in the session “What’s in a Zip Code?” moderated by Brian Williams. Poverty is reality for many people in today’s economy — Clinton was eloquent on this topic in the closing session — and communities must come together to do more.

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan was everywhere this year, participating in interviews with Tom Brokaw and responding to questions during various panels (a nice touch).

• We saw an entertaining back and forth between Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Diane Ravitch, author and professor of education at New York University. Their approaches are so different, but both made excellent points. Canada and Sal Khan, another Education Nation speaker, are scheduled to keynote NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference.

• Teacher and student accountability, as you might expect, was a recurring theme. Michelle Shearer, the current National Teacher of the Year from Maryland’s Urbana High School, said teachers “want to be evaluated on things that really matter.”

“There are all sorts of different ways of looking at student growth,” she said. “Whatever evaluation looks like in the end, it has to be a system of multiple measures, because often what’s most important are those intangibles … that are tough to put on a check list.”

• At the same session, Khaatim El, a former member of the Atlanta school board, addressed the cheating scandal that has plagued the district he served for almost a decade. “We wanted to be the hype,” he said of the allegations, which are based on the state assessments. “We wanted to be the first to get it right so bad.”

But El noted the district also made huge gains in NAEP scores during that time, an achievement untouched but overshadowed by the scandal. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the hard work that many educators put in,” he said. “We focused on the basics. Literacy instruction in elementary school. Autonomy for principals. We invested in professional development. Those things were overshadowed by the cheating scandal. And they were good things for kids.”

The setting for Education Nation was not perfect — the big tent in Rockefeller Plaza is a good idea in theory, but the humidity and poor audio were ever-present distractions. And while this year’s session was far more substantive, future years should stop belaboring the problems and focus instead on how to solve them. Panels featuring districts that have been successful at “what works,” with ideas and content that are easily imitated and replicated, would be a valuable start.

Chances are good that will happen. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) had a strong presence in the planning and execution of the meeting. Anne L. Bryant, our executive director, met with NBC officials about the content and answered audience questions in a video Q&A format prior to the event. Mary Broderick, NSBA’s president, was featured in a panel session with the mayors of Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Newark.

“What we’ve heard from the last two days of this conference is that we need to come together around a sense of urgency,” Broderick said during her session, noting that it takes a shared vision between the school board, the mayor’s office, and the community. “The vision needs to be of excellence. If that cohesive message can be carried through our schools … there’s nothing off the table.”

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