Posts Tagged ‘No Child Left Behind’

Polis leads congressional effort to reform No Child Left Behind

Posted on: February 9th, 2012 by The American Independent 5 Comments

On the heels of news that the Obama administration has granted Colorado and 10 other states a waiver from the controversial requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind education law, Colorado Democratic Congressman Jared Polis introduced a House version of the Growth to Excellence Act (H.R. 3845) written by Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall. The bill would rework No Child Left Behind by granting greater authority to the states to develop student achievement and school accountability policies. (more…)

Romney’s education agenda based on standardized tests, school choice

Posted on: January 5th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate who edged out an eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, has a long track record on education that includes standardized testing and accountability, charter schools and school vouchers.


Harkin on education bill: entering new era of partnership between states, fed

Posted on: November 14th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments


DES MOINES — A bill approved by the U.S. Senate’s education committee will replace No Child Left Behind with legislation that’s less “prescriptive and punitive” and allows school districts more freedom in deciding how best to educate and evaluate children, says U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Cumming).

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, presented the bill to educators and members of the press at the Downtown School in Des Moines on Friday. The Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 2011 is the first such reauthorization since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001.

Tom Harkin

“We are entering a new era of a partnership between the federal government, the state and local school districts,” Harkin said.

NCLB did some good things, Harkin said, like disaggragating data and focusing on achievement of subgroups. But overall it “tried to do too many things,” while this bill aims to do fewer things and do them better.

“Rather than covering all schools we have left it back to the states within certain parameters to set up their accountability systems and performance targets, and yes, to set up teacher and principal evaluation systems,” Harkin said.

Nancy Sebring, the superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, praised NCLB for improving schools’ focus on under-served children. But she also said the law has had other consequences “that were not very productive for schools.”

“There were punitive measures that were embedded in the act that in some cases demoralized our teachers, in some cases inappropriately punished our schools and the people in them and the children in them for not being successful,” Sebring said. “We know that that kind of aspect of the law has been somewhat damaging to public schools.”

Under the bill, the federal government will focus on helping the bottom 5 percent of schools in each state and addressing achievement gaps. It also eliminates “adequate yearly progress” requirements and federal sanctions that create pressure to teach to tests.

Harkin said the bill also puts more power into the hands of states and school districts to prepare students for college and a career, and promotes arts, music and physical education.

“There’s no one specific way of teaching kids that’s better than every other possible way,” Harkin said. “It varies, and we learn new things as we experiment and try different things. So we want local school districts to have the freedom to try different methodologies of teaching, to give them the freedom to do that.”

Harkin said the bill is unlikely to be debated by the full Senate until next year, but he’s hopeful it will pass the Senate and the U.S. House will come up with a similar effort. The Senate’s version passed out of committee with bipartisan support.

Harkin says GOP calls for ending Department of Education are ‘nonsense’

Posted on: November 11th, 2011 by The American Independent 3 Comments

DES MOINES — U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Cumming) calls it “nonsense” for politicians to suggest doing away with the U.S. Department of Education, saying “that flies in the face of 200 years of U.S. history.” (more…)

Senate hearing discusses limits of federal government involvement in local education

Posted on: November 8th, 2011 by Mikhail Zinshteyn 16 Comments

Screen Caption of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) during ESEA hearing on HELP Committee

Though expected by Senate watchers to be a sideshow and forum for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to voice his criticism of the nation’s top education bill, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing today instead crystallized key provisions of the legislation meant to replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

That the hearing was held at all is unusual, since the bill up for discussion was voted out of committee  in October by a vote of 15-7. But an agreement was struck between Paul and committee chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to allow the Kentucky senator to learn more about the language of the bill under the condition he drop over 70 amendments proposed in an attempt to slow down its passage.

And while the co-writers of replacement bill, known as Harkin-Enzi, voted to push it out of committee in a bi-partisan fashion, both would like to see more added.

“This bill is not Mr. Enzi’s bill, and it ain’t mine either,” said Harkin. While Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) told the audience, “It is important to note that I do not support 100 percent of the bill we reported out.  I would have supported a much smaller federal role and far fewer federal programs.”

Witnesses were invited to participate in the round table discussion without prepared remarks, a more informal hearing than is typical of Senate meetings. Senators were also invited to ask questions, with much of the dialogue focusing on tracking teachers and their pay, improving student performance, and addressing high-needs pupils like those with disabilities and limited language skills.

Tom Luna, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the current bill “has kept the good parts of No Child Left Behind.” He likened the 2002 law to the film The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, – with the emphasis on data-collection showing the good, while the federal government prescribing benchmarks and end goals representing the ugly.

He stressed a state’s right to set up its own education accountability measures was a 10th Amendment issue, and in moving away from NCLB, Idaho is “more than willing and ready to hold ourselves to higher level of accountability.”

Still, with many state budgets squeezed, federal largesse helps programs targeting high-needs students stay afloat. But with that financial support comes expectations states will live up to standards articulated at the federal level. That reality prompted Charles Seaton, a teacher at Memphis City Schools in Tennessee, to tell the senators, “We need your money.”

Harkin-Enzi disavows most of the performance targets schools were forced to meet under NCLB mandates, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or face consequences, and instead focuses on the worst five percent of schools per district.

Pam Geisselhardt, a gifted and talented coordinator at Adair County Schools in Kentucky, welcomes the increased state control of monitoring student output. “The term NCLB is demoralizing for us at this point…testing, testing, testing…we have no time to teach.”

But accessing a rich data set on student learning is important, the other panelists said. “Everyone says we assess too much,” quipped Amanda Danks, a lead teacher in Baltimore who works with special education students. “We assess ineffectively too much.”

Danks’ comment was reiterated by a few of the national thinkers on the panel.

Rick Hess, an education policy analyst at American Enterprise Institute, said, “It is not useful to try to prescribe models” unless they pertain to the lowest five percent of schools. And Luna, a critic of federal involvement in local education, said he would not oppose federally mandated teacher evaluations but would see a problem if the “federal government tries to define it or regulate it.”

Special education took up a significant portion of the two and a half hour hearing, but was limited to matters of assessment, as well, with some senators and panelists arguing allowing more students with disabilities to receive alternative assessments would demoralize the students.

Harkin-Enzi puts a cap on the number of students who could qualify for alternative assessments as one percent — a point of frustration for low-performing schools with many high-needs students whose test scores would factor into the school’s overall performance.

Perhaps the bill’s harshest critic on the panel is Wade Henderson, President and CEO of  The Leadership Conference. “We must look at our history: states have achieved what they have because of the federal role, not in spite of it,” he said. Countering Sen. Paul’s assessment of the hearing, Henderson argued federal involvement is not a philosophical question, but a “practical debate affecting real-live students.”

Groups as politically divided as The National Council of La Raza and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce side with Henderson. In a letter released today, nearly 30 organizations that seek greater accountability standards for students and teachers said they do not support Harkin-Enzi.

From the statement:

Federal funding must be attached to firm, ambitious and unequivocal demands for higher achievement, high school graduation rates and gap closing. We know that states, school districts, and schools needed a more modern and focused law. However, we respectfully believe that the bill goes too far in providing flexibility by marginalizing the focus on the achievement of disadvantaged students.

Last month, President Obama unveiled his plan to grant states waivers from No Child Left Behind, putting pressure on congress to come up with a reauthorization of the 2002 law, which has been due for overhaul since 2007. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the chair of the House education committee, has stated he prefers to augment the nation’s top K-12 law with smaller bills.

Iowa Gov. Branstad says ‘states school feds on standards’ in op-ed

Posted on: November 2nd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and former North Carolina Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt say states haven’t been able to wait on Washington, D.C. and are pushing forward with their own education reforms. (more…)

New Mexico schools prepare for move to A-F grading system

Posted on: November 1st, 2011 by Mikhail Zinshteyn 2 Comments

A public hearing to take place tomorrow in the Alamogordo Public Schools Board of Education Meeting Room will give residents another chance to learn more about the state’s newly formed school letter-grading system.


After-school programs add some stability in lives of low-income students

Posted on: October 31st, 2011 by Mikhail Zinshteyn 4 Comments

Of the 13 sixth-grade girls asked to explain why they want to take part in an Alexandria, Virginia-based after-school program called SOHO, Katherine Ivette Cuellar Moreno was the only one who typed her response. The rest were hand-written, and one was submitted in pencil.