Articles tagged with U.S. Department of Education

The week in blogs: High school reports spark more discussion

Two reports on high school rigor, which came out within hours of each other last week, have sparked an online discussion about the need to make secondary school more relevant for all students. 

“Are Disparities Creating an Educational Caste System?” the provocative title of Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted reports on the status of high school from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and NSBA’s Center for Public Education. Among the more striking statistics from the government report — 3,000 high schools serving almost 500,000 students don’t offer algebra II – a gateway course to college and career success.

“Without algebra II, you probably don’t go to college,” Center director Patte Barth told Downey and other reporters. “If you go, you are probably going to end up in remediation. Without it, you don’t become an auto mechanic. You don’t get into one of the growing service jobs in growing fields like communications.”

The Center’s report notes that a rigorous math curricula, Advanced Placement courses, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all enhance the curricula of American high schools.

Moving on, we turn to a blog we missed last week but is too important to let slide: Diane Ravitch, who recently addressed the Louisiana School Boards Association, speaking on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s truly draconian plan to privatize education.

And lastly, concerning the latest skirmishes in the parenting wars, we’ve written about “Tiger Mothers” and the new homeschooling trend among progressives (or is that “mini-trend?”). Now it’s time to consider the French. The French? Well, do they do parenting any better over there? Apparently not, writes blogger Joanne Jacobs, who links to a new commentary in the Atlantic magazine.

 

Lawrence Hardy|March 16th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, High Schools, Privatization, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

New Center report looks at ways to boost high school rigor

Advanced Placement courses, rigorous math curriculum, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all increase the rigor of America’s secondary schools, according to Is High School Tough Enough?, a new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

While the report noted that more in-depth research is needed, it said that school boards interested in applying these four strategies need to consider issues such as funding, data collection, and increasing access for low-income and minority students.

“In today’s education landscape, many are beginning to re-think the high school experience,” said Patte Barth, Director of the Center.  “From Advanced Placement courses to dual enrollment, early college high schools, and even high-level math, the aim is to expose students to concepts, curricula, and ideas that will help them succeed in college or lead to a productive career.”

Barth said this emphasis is reflected in many policy trends, including an increasing “PreK-16” perspective as well as the recently developed Common Core State Standards in math and language arts, which most states have adopted in order to help produce college-ready and career-ready high school graduates.

Still, there is wide variation in secondary school rigor across the country, the report noted. It said that — while the term “rigor” is not easily defined — “many low-income schools lack access to a rigorous high school curriculum by any definition.” For example, according to a 2011 report by U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) 3,000 high schools serving nearly 500,000 students offer no classes in Algebra II, a gateway to higher math, college, and career readiness.

In a survey issued Tuesday, OCR expanded on that issue, noting, among other things, only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55 percent of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment. In addition, the report found that teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less than teachers in low minority schools in the same district. It also noted that African American students, particularly males, were far more likely to be expelled or suspended from school than their peers.

“The power of the data is not only in the numbers themselves, but in the impact it can have when married with the courage and the will to change,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.  It is our collective duty to change that.”

Exposure to advanced courses can have a big impact on the educational success of low-income and minority students, the Center for Public Education report said.  

“For example, Hispanic students who passed an AP exam were nearly seven times more likely to graduate from college than their non-participating counterparts,” the Center’s report said. “Such findings buttress the argument that exposure to higher-level courses can translate into long-term gains for underrepresented students.”

Moreover, the Center report said that taking AP courses can improve students’ chances for success even if they don’t pass the AP exam. It said that only 10 percent of African-American students who did not take an AP course graduated within five years, compared with 37 percent who took an AP course and did not pass the exam, and 53 percent who took an AP course and passed.

 

Lawrence Hardy|March 7th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Curriculum, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Educational Research, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , |

The week in blogs: Obama’s education budget (abridged)

Want to get the high points of President Obama’s K12 budget — that is, without sifting through all the numbers and the fine print? Read the Quick and the Ed post by Rikesh Nana on the “three key takeaways” from the Administration’s proposal. It’s an excellent synopsis of what the president is proposing and what it all means.

So what are those takeaways? In order: consolidation of Department of Education programs (something that’s been tried in past budgets but never adopted): continued funding of Race to the Top and other competitive grant programs; and — in the absence of congressional action — an administration-sponsored overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

OK, sports fans, this next column is not about Jeremy Lin. (But if we find one on the New York Knicks sensation that has to do with K12 education, we promise to include it next week.) Instead, Eduwonk’s Andrew Rotherham looks at the firing — and quick rehiring by another team — of NHL hockey coach Bruce Boudreau and what that says about the importance of professional “fit.” Hint: It applies to teaching as well as big-time sports.

Been to Cleveland recently? Even if you haven’t, or have no plans to do so, you’ll want to check out another interesting Quick and the Ed blog on the city’s “portfolio” system of managing schools. Schools would operate with greater or lesser autonomy depending on their performance. “Charter schools as well as district-operated ones would participate,” says the blog by Richard Lee Colvin, “with the goal of giving families a real choice among several good options in every neighborhood.”

Lastly, check out Mark Bauerlein of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the attitudes and academic habits of college freshman. Here’s an interesting paradox (actually a bunch of paradoxes): more than 70 percent of students placed their academic ability in the “highest 10 percent” or “above average,” but only 45 percent felt that confident about their math ability, and just 46 percent believed they were that stellar in writing.

Lawrence Hardy|February 17th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Budgeting, Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|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: , , |

Turning America’s schools “green”

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that 33 states and the District of Columbia have submitted intents to nominate schools for the new Green Ribbon Schools awards program launched this past September. Schools nominated by state education agencies are eligible to receive the award.

Participating states, as well as the District of Columbia, to date are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Department also received intent to nominate from the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Education school district.

The program asks states to nominate schools in their jurisdiction that come closest to achieving the high bar that Green Ribbon sets: net zero environmental impact of facilities, net positive health impact on students and staff, and 100% environmentally literate graduates.

Participating states are currently posting applications for schools in their jurisdictions, and will submit nominees to the Department by March 22, 2012. The Department will announce winners in April, 2012 and will host the first national U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools ceremony in Washington, D.C., in late May 2012. The national ceremony will be followed by local ceremonies at each of the winning schools in fall 2012.

BoardBuzz likes this and is proud that the National School Boards Association is part of the executive committee of the Coalition for Green Schools. To learn more about greening your school district, check out the resources from the Center for Green Schools.

Alexis Rice|December 8th, 2011|Categories: Environmental Issues, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Buildings|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Depending on your point of view — and your experiences with high-stakes testing — No Child Left Behind was either a critical first step toward school accountability, a good idea with some major flaws, or a colossal flop. (And there’s probably a myriad views in between.) Will the Common Core State Standards Initiative be any better? As you might expect, the views expressed by a number of experts on the National Journal’s education blog are all well-reasoned — and all over the map. Nobody said this was going to be easy.

Alberta has one of the best school systems in the world, writes the provocatively-named blog Dangerously Irrelevant, and it doesn’t look too kindly on what’s happening to its south. Thanks to This Week in Education for pointing out this eye-opening critique of why Canada seems to be getting things right in school reform – and much of the U.S. is getting it wrong.

Another must-read is the review of a new Department of Education report on school inequity from Raegen Miller of the Center for American Progress.  Then, on the same site, see Robert Pianta’s proposals for improving teacher development.

Finally, a non-education story, strictly speaking, but one that says a lot about what it takes to be an effective leader – including a leader in a school district. Yes, it’s a sports column (by the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins) and yes it deals with recent coaching changes on two of Washington’s pro teams, which, most of you I would imagine do not care a whole lot about. ( I live here, and even I don’t care that much.) But — trust me here — Jenkins’ message about the kind of leaders people follow goes beyond mere games.

 

Lawrence Hardy|December 2nd, 2011|Categories: Board governance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Governance, Leadership, National Standards, Professional Development, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

The week in blogs

Pundits made a big deal about Rick Perry forgetting the name of one of the three federal departments he plans to eliminate if elected president– for the record, it was the Department of Energy — but blogger Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute is more concerned about just what the Texas governor means when he says the Department of Education would also be “gone.”

“It isn’t clear that abolishing the Department would itself end any federal education programs (since they can migrate elsewhere),” Hess wrote. “So, specifically, which programs and activities will you eliminate?”

Then – wouldn’t you know it? – it gets complicated.

Would Perry try to eliminate federal funding for special education? Hess asked. How about Pell grants or Title 1?

“Many will think there are obvious right and wrong answers to these questions,” Hess writes after posing a few other queries “But I do want to know what the GOP candidate’s bold promises really mean.”

Remember nearly 10 years ago when Connecticut went to court over No Child Left Behind, claiming it would cost millions in unfunded mandates? Well, just look at what it could cost California in required “reforms” in order to be granted an NCLB waiver by the Obama Administration, writes This Week in Education’s John Thompson, and Connecticut’s decade-old legal gambit doesn’t seem that out of line.

Lastly, we turn to two timely blogs from NSBA’s Center for Public Education.  In one Mandy Newport, a former teacher, Center intern, and graduate student at George Washington University, takes the Heritage Foundation to task for it’s ill-conceived idea that paying teachers less will result in education improvements.

Then there is Research Analyst Jim Hull’s blog on Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system, the title of which I absolutely love:

“Using research to inform policy without understanding the research.”

Sort of like, “Vowing to eliminate the Department of Education without understanding what the Department of Education does?”

Lawrence Hardy|November 19th, 2011|Categories: Center for Public Education, Educational Research, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, 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: , , , , , , , |

White House reinvigorates Digital Promise

On Friday, the White House unveiled a new national center aimed at finding, developing, and supporting technology’s power to transform teaching and learning. Called Digital Promise, the independent non-profit organization is an extension and a bolstering of the  same-named legislation written into the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act.

 

 

Naomi Dillon|September 19th, 2011|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology|Tags: , |
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