How ESSA will boost ed-tech funding

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes block grants intended for technology, among other uses. It also opens the door to new state testing systems

essa-ed-techEight years after the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to expire, Congress finally passed a bill to replace it—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—that gives states more latitude in deciding how to close achievement gaps. The legislation also includes a sizeable state block-grant program intended for technology, among other uses.

Although it’s not the program that ed-tech advocates had hoped for, many expressed cautious optimism that a section of ESSA under Title IV (“21st Century Schools”) could help schools use technology tools to transform teaching and learning.

“We’re pleased that the federal government has renewed its commitment to funding educational technology,” said Lan Neugent, interim executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, in an interview. “It’s great to see that become a priority again.”…Read More

Every Student Succeeds Act shifts more power to states

Much-anticipated bill attempts to satisfy all stakeholder groups as it moves away from NCLB mandates

every-student-succeedsWhile a “new and improved” version of the hotly-debated No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) would still require reading and math testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school, states would have much more leeway when it comes to defining teaching and learning objectives and outlining accountability measures.

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the power to determine their own academic goals and measure progress toward those goals–a departure from NCLB, which aimed for 100 percent math and reading proficiency by 2014.

States or districts will be in charge of determining how to improve persistently underperforming schools. Previously, NCLB gave the federal government a strong voice in what happened to those schools. Now, under Every Student Succeeds, schools requiring much intervention would be among the lowest-performing 5 percent in the state.…Read More

More than half of students struggle with reading, report says

New report examines literacy development and urges Congress to do the same as NCLB rewrites progress

reading-literacyNearly half of minority students and students from low-income families enter the fifth grade without basic reading skills, according to a new report urging Congress to focus on students’ literacy development beginning in early childhood.

Noting that 60 percent of both fourth and eighth graders currently struggle with reading, the report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) notes that Congress should put an emphasis on students’ literacy development from the early years and up through grade twelve as it works to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The report, The Next Chapter: Supporting Literacy Within ESEA, is based on the 2013 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. According to the report, 50 percent of African Americans, 47 percent of Latinos, and 47 percent of students from low-income families read below NAEP’s basic level.…Read More

Education Department tries to ease testing worries

Education Sec. Duncan: States can delay the use of high-stakes exams in their teacher evaluation systems

education-testingEducation Secretary Arne Duncan on Aug. 21 said that states can apply for extra time before they use student test scores to judge teachers’ performance.

Duncan’s decision is an acknowledgement of the concerns by teachers’ unions and others that it’s too early to make teacher personnel decisions based on how well students do on new assessments developed under the Common Core standards that will be used in much of the country this school year.

The move affects the more than 40 states and the District of Columbia that have a waiver around stringent parts of the No Left Behind education law. One condition the Obama administration put on obtaining a waiver was the development of a meaningful teacher evaluation system.…Read More

Lawmakers at odds over NCLB’s successor

Harkin’s proposal also includes protections from bullying for gay students.

The one-size-fits-all national requirements of No Child Left Behind would give way to standards that states write for themselves under legislation introduced by senators of both parties last week, with one key difference: The Republican version of the bill would eliminate the Education Department’s role in overseeing the standards and give governors the final say.

In stark contrast, the Democrats’ version would mirror the NCLB waiver process already in place. As of press time, 37 states have received waivers to NCLB’s requirements in exchange for customized school improvement plans.

Introduced June 4, a 1,150-page proposal from Senate education committee chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would require some of those states to tinker with their improvement plans and force the other remaining states to develop their own reform efforts. Education Secretary Arne Duncan still would have final say over those improvement plans, and schools still would have to measure students’ achievements.…Read More

NCLB waivers weaken accountability, study says

Only a few states are fully complying with the federal graduation accountability requirements, the study found.

Many states granted waivers from the No Child Left Behind law are relaxing or ignoring federal regulations designed to hold schools accountable for the number of students who graduate from high school on time, according to a new study released Feb. 12.

When No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2002, states used so many different ways to calculate graduation rates that it was almost impossible to know how many students in the U.S. finished high school with a regular diploma in four years.

The U.S. Department of Education tried to fix that in 2008 when it established federal requirements for reporting and holding schools accountable for how many students graduate. But now, with 34 states and the District of Columbia granted waivers from No Child Left Behind, some are relaxing or ignoring some of those requirements, potentially allowing low-performing students to fall through the cracks once again.…Read More

Newspaper: Test security inconsistent among states

No Child Left Behind made standardized testing the cornerstone of national education policy—but it offered little direction on test security.

The federal government has no standards to protect the integrity of the achievement tests it requires in tens of thousands of public schools, and test security among the states is so inconsistent that Americans can’t be sure those all-important test scores are legitimate, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The newspaper surveyed the 50 state education departments and found that many states do not use basic test security measures designed to prevent cheating. And nearly half the states, the newspaper found, make almost no attempt to screen test results for irregularities.

That kind of lax oversight contributed to the cheating scandal that swept Atlanta schools in 2009, the newspaper said in a story that appeared online Sept. 29. Evidence of widespread cheating is now emerging in Philadelphia, Columbus, Ohio, El Paso, Texas, and other cities around the country. The Journal-Constitution reported earlier this year that it had found patterns of suspicious changes in test scores in nearly 200 school districts nationwide.…Read More

Strike highlights division on teacher evaluation

Critics note there is little, if any, evidence that basing evaluations on test scores will improve student achievement, and they argue it is being implemented at a large scale too quickly.

One of the key disagreements driving Chicago teachers to the picket lines this week is also a central component of President Barack Obama’s education policy: evaluating instructors in part on how much their students improve.

Through its $4 billion Race to the Top competition and No Child Left Behind waivers, the Obama administration has encouraged states to change how teachers are assessed and include data on student growth as a component. That policy has hit a nerve in the education community, and not just among the unions.

Critics note there is little, if any, evidence that basing evaluations on test scores will improve student achievement, and they argue it is being implemented at a large scale too quickly. Those in support of the revamped evaluations argue that far too many teachers are retained and given above-average reviews without any real assessment.…Read More

Duncan discusses education reform, back-to-school changes

Duncan said making sure children in disadvantaged communities have access to technology will be critical. (Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com)

A more well-rounded curriculum with less focus on a single test. Higher academic standards and more difficult classwork. Continued cuts to extracurricular and other activities because of the tough economy: Education Secretary Arne Duncan says these are some of the changes and challenges that children could notice as they start the new school year.

Several significant reforms have taken place over the past three years. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading. Thirty-two states and D.C. have been granted waivers from important parts of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. Billions in federal dollars have gone out to improve low-performing schools, tie teacher evaluations to student growth, and encourage states to expand the number of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Duncan said he believes students will see the concrete effects of those changes when they head back to class this school year.…Read More

Could NCLB waivers offer a roadmap to reauthorization?

Congress could come up with a great plan for reauthorizing NCLB by adopting the best ideas from the states’ waiver applications, Duncan said at a July 6 news conference.

Although more than half the states are now exempt from the toughest requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” education law, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said his goal remains to help Congress fix the law, not to sidestep the stalled overhaul effort.

Still, allowing waivers has brought a level of creativity to education reform that was unexpected when Duncan and President Barack Obama opened the waiver process nearly a year ago.

The Obama administration’s July 6 announcement that Washington and Wisconsin have been granted waivers from the education law brought to 26 the number of states now free from many of its requirements.…Read More