Report: ESEA reauthorization could be trouble for waiver states

A reauthorized ESEA should consider that federal waivers created a wide range of accountability systems.

A new report surveying states that have applied for and received No Child Left Behind waivers finds they are worried that reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) could hinder progress painstakingly made in school reform over the past year.

The report, released by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), notes that last year Education Secretary Arne Duncan began to grant states waivers on key NCLB accountability requirements. The waiver guidelines let states depart from some of NCLB’s more strict requirements, such as judging school performance against a goal of 100 percent of students reaching reading and math “proficiency” by 2014, and implementing specific interventions in schools that fall short of performance targets.

However, states with approved waiver applications must meet several new requirements that relate to standards and assessments, accountability systems, teacher and principal evaluation, and reductions in administrative burden.…Read More

Schools need relief from onerous regulation

The National School Boards Association and AASA have launched a petition to the Education Department and Congress asking for regulatory relief.

Learning Leadership column, July/August edition of eSchool NewsThe Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), renamed under its last reiteration as No Child Left Behind, was due for reauthorization three years ago. NCLB, as it is popularly referred to, brought a new level of federal intrusion into local school district affairs. A surprising development, given that the law was spearheaded by a conservative Republican administration that, in previous years, had threatened to dissolve the U.S. Department of Education and take the federal government out of the business of education.

In the 10 years that NCLB has been in place, the law has been praised and cursed. It was originally praised for its intent to leave no child behind—to close the widening achievement gap that exists between the haves and have-nots. Whereas in the past, school systems reported their performance using the statistical mean, NCLB required districts to disaggregate their data and report the performance of categories of students by race, poverty level, language dominance, and special needs. This uncovered a very different performance profile. Districts that in the past prided themselves on the mean performance of all of their students found themselves apologizing for the poor performance of sub-categories previously hidden in the averages. That was a good thing.

Unfortunately, the makers of the law got carried away with their metrics as they further developed the concept of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Under that rubric, school districts had to specify increasing levels of academic achievement that eventually would lead to all children meeting their state’s level of required performance by 2014. Furthermore, each year, each sub-category of students in each school would be required to meet the established performance benchmark or be labeled as having failed to achieve AYP. If one sub-category in one school failed to achieve AYP, the entire school would be deemed to have failed AYP. If a school in a district failed to achieve AYP, the entire district was deemed to have failed AYP.…Read More

Readers: Here’s how we’d change ESEA

"Even Diane Ravitch, one of NCLB's greatest champions, has reconsidered her position," said a reader.

With Education Secretary Arne Duncan warning Congress that he’ll take matters into his own hands if lawmakers this year fail to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, eSchool News recently asked readers: “What’s one change/revision/addition you’d like to see in ESEA?”

The nation’s education law is long overdue for a revision, and Duncan has called its current tangle of strict accountability measures “a slow-motion train wreck for schools,” noting that as many as 80 percent of schools could be labeled failures next year if the law isn’t changed.

Holding up the process in Congress is broad disagreement over how to revise ESEA in a way that is fair to schools, while still holding them accountable for student success. Here are the eight best suggestions we received from readers who are on the front lines of these issues, edited for brevity and presented in no particular order:…Read More

Viewpoint: School leaders need more help, and not red tape, to transform education

AASA advocates ‘to ensure that no additional harm is done by well-meaning legislators who do not realize the potential havoc their actions will wreak upon an already overburdened [education
(Editor’s note: This article appeared in the “Learning Leadership” section of the March 2011 edition of eSchool News.)

The American Association of School Administrators’ mission has evolved into an advocacy role. As the oldest and largest organization representing school superintendents and other school system leaders, AASA now sees its primary function as the voice of school administrators in the nation’s capital. In fulfillment of that function, AASA’s Executive Committee and Governing Board met at the National Conference on Education in Denver last month to approve the association’s legislative agenda.

Advocating on behalf of public education is critical at a time when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is due to be reauthorized, and our public system of education seems to be under constant attack from the media and self-appointed “reformers.” Regardless of the opinion those outside of education might hold, it is those of us who have long worked within the system who know it best and can bring about the changes that will lead to a high-quality education for all of our children.…Read More

Viewpoint: How we should improve on NCLB

AASA hopes educators and school reformers will work together to improve NCLB.

(Editor’s note: This article marks the debut of a new monthly column from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech on school leadership. It appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of eSchool News.)

From Feb. 17-19, the “Great Education Conversation” will take place in Denver as part of the American Association of School Administrators’ national conference. It will be a dialogue between traditional educators and those the media has branded as reformers.

Though we all share the same goal—providing our children with the best education possible—we differ as to the means to achieve that goal. AASA’s thinking is that we might be better off working together than at odds with each other. In line with that theme, the conference will be preceded by two days of “conversations” between superintendents, school board presidents, and labor union presidents, intent on advancing student achievement through improved labor-management relations. The event is being jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, AASA, the National School Boards Association, the Council of Great City Schools, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association; the Ford Foundation is underwriting this invitation-only event.…Read More

Panel: How to improve special ed


About 6.6 million students with disabilities are learning alongside their peers at a neighborhood school, up from 1.7 million in 1975.


As the push for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) increases, leaders in the field of special education recently debated whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) should be reworked to further align with ESEA, and how else the law might be improved to better meet the needs of students with disabilities.…Read More

Critics say administration’s blueprint is too similar to NCLB

Critics say the blueprint does not go far enough in changing NCLB.
Critics say the administration's blueprint for rewriting the nation's education law does not go far enough in changing NCLB.

As the Obama administration seeks support for its plan to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), many education policy analysts worry that the new blueprint’s guidelines are too reminiscent of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)—most notably by continuing to place too much focus on high-stakes testing.

In the proposed dismantling of NCLB, education officials would move away from punishing schools that don’t meet benchmarks and focus on rewarding schools for progress, particularly with poor and minority students. (See “Obama offers blueprint for rewriting NCLB.”)

The proposed changes call for states to adopt standards that ensure students are ready for college or a career, rather than grade-level proficiency—the focus of the current law.…Read More