Obama budget threatens popular STEM education initiatives

Ayah Idris, 14, spent two weeks of her summer isolating strawberry DNA at a Seattle cancer research center, watching heart cells pulse in a dish and learning about ethical guidelines for animal research, Yahoo! News reports. This type of inspiring dive into the rigors and rewards of a career in science would seem to be a perfect antidote to the national hand-wringing over the slipping state of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in the U.S. In addition to offering the kinds of inquiry-based experiences that have been shown to best promote science learning, programs such as the Summer Fellows bring kids in contact with the latest scientific advances that have yet to be published in textbooks. Now, the funds that bolster these programs are in danger…

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Obama’s big second-term education problem

President Obama has a big problem in his second term in terms of education policy: his first term, the Washington Post reports. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, pushed hard in their first term to have a major impact on changing public schools with a larger-than-ever federal role in school policy issues that affected every single classroom in the country. And they did, with rare bipartisan support. They borrowed tactics from the corporate world, setting up the competitive Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for federal funds by promising to implement specific reforms. Those included new accountability systems that linked teacher evaluation to student standardized test scores, new standards that became known as the Common Core initiative, and an expansion of charter schools…

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Obama education agenda is racist, civil rights leaders say

The standards-based education reform movement calls school change “the civil rights issue of our time,” the Huffington Post reports. But about 220 mostly African American community organizers, parents and students from 21 cities from New York to Oakland, Calif., converged on Washington Tuesday to tell U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan he’s getting it backwards on school closures. Members of the group, a patchwork of community organizations called the Journey for Justice Movement, have filed several Title VI civil rights complaints with the Education Department Office of Civil Rights, claiming that school districts that shut schools are hurting minority students. While most school closures are decided locally, the Education Department’s School Improvement Grant gives underperforming school districts money for shakeups or turnarounds, including closures…

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Loose ends to drive second term education agenda

Lawmakers from both parties may be more timid next term about embracing Common Core.

Loose ends and thorny partisan issues that have long dogged attempts to move forward on education await the next Congress as President Barack Obama’s second term begins.

Soaring campaign-year aspirations to close the achievement gap and boost college graduation rates to the highest in the world may have to fall back to earth — at least temporarily — as lawmakers and Obama tackle a number of gritty funding-related issues that just can’t wait.

First up is sequestration, the automatic, government-wide spending cuts set to knock out 8.2 percent of the funding to almost all of the Education Department’s programs — unless Congress acts before the end of the year to avert the cuts.…Read More

Obama meets ATT, Time Warner Cable CEOs on education

President Barack Obama held a roundtable discussion with business leaders including Time Warner Cable Inc. Chief Executive Officer Glenn Britt, AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson, and AOL Inc. co-founder Steve Case, to discuss how industry-led partnerships can help improve the U.S. education system, Bloomberg reports.

“Our children are the future,” said Alma Powell, who started the youth-advocacy group America’s Promise Alliance with her husband, former Secretary of State Colin Powell. “If they are not prepared for the future, there is no future for this country,” she said…

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No education agenda left behind becomes Obama hurdle as congress deadlocks

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he pledged to “fix” the No Child Left Behind federal education law and to promote rigorous standards, merit pay and policies that made it easier to remove low-performing teachers, Bloomberg reports. As Obama–who sold himself as a politician who could forge bipartisan compromise–seeks re-election next year, Congressional gridlock has halted his plan to change No Child Left Behind. While more than 40 states have signed onto parts of the rest of his agenda, state budget cuts threaten to undermine districts’ efforts to carry it out…

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Obama says too much testing makes education boring

Obama said schools should be judged on criteria other than test scores, including attendance rate.

President Barack Obama said Monday that students should take fewer standardized tests and school performance should be measured in other ways than just exam results. Too much testing makes education boring for kids, he said.

“Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.

Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that “everybody agrees makes sense” and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.…Read More

Obama to GOP: Don’t cut education spending

Obama says education spending critical to nation's success

Placing a limit on his own willingness to slice spending, President Barack Obama issued a not-too-veiled warning at Republican budget cutters Tuesday and characterized any reductions in money for education as irresponsible and harmful to the long-term health of the nation’s economy.

In his most vigorous defense yet of his education spending proposals, Obama conceded that after years of deficits, the government needed to embrace fiscal discipline. And in a restrained speech to Democratic donors, he cautioned the partisan crowd not to equate compromise with failure.

“Not everything is a fight, not everything has to be a battle to the death,” he said to top-dollar contributors as they ate, surrounded by Renaissance paintings in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.…Read More

Trouble lurking ahead for Obama’s education focus

Troubled times are on the horizon for Obama's education plan.

Signs of trouble are arising for President Barack Obama’s plan to put education overhaul at the forefront of his agenda as he adjusts to the new reality of a divided government.

Giving students and teachers more flexibility is an idea with bipartisan support. Yet the debate about the overdue renewal of the nation’s chief education law, known as No Child Left Behind, is complicated by political pressures from the coming 2012 presidential campaign and disputes over timing, money and scope of the update.

While education might offer the best chance for the White House to work with newly empowered Republicans, any consensus could fade in the pitiless political crosscurrents, leaving the debate for another day, perhaps even another presidency.…Read More

New challenges for Obama’s education agenda in the face of a G.O.P.-led House

For two years, backed by a friendly Congress and flush with federal stimulus money, President Obama’s administration enjoyed a relatively obstacle-free path for its education agenda, the focus of which is the $4 billion Race to the Top grant program. But with Republican deficit hawks taking control of the House next month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will no longer have billions of dollars to use at his discretion, reports the New York Times. The administration is also having to recalibrate its goals for working with Congress to overhaul the main federal law on public schools. Fortunately for the administration, its ambitions for the law, the Bush-era No Child Left Behind effort, are shared by Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who will be the chairman of the House education committee.

“It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to–everybody has complaints about N.C.L.B.,” said Mr. Kline, who would oversee any revision of the law by the House. “So we’d love to fix it.”

Mr. Kline and Mr. Duncan said in separate interviews that they had a good working relationship, and they appeared to agree on some major changes to the law, like overhauling its school accountability system. Because it requires every student to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, the system has already labeled thousands of schools as failing, often because disabled students or recent immigrants have been unable to pass state tests.…Read More