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

Obama offers blueprint for rewriting NCLB

The blueprint goes before the House Education and Labor Committee on March 17.
The blueprint goes before the House Education and Labor Committee on March 17.

President Barack Obama on March 13 unveiled a plan to overhaul the 2002 No Child Left Behind education law championed by President George W. Bush. The plan aims to replace a system that in the last decade has tagged more than a third of schools as failing and created a hodgepodge of sometimes weak academic standards among states.

“Unless we take action—unless we step up—there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential,” Obama said during a video address. “I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America.”

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Critics: Obama’s ed policies no better than Bush’s

Critics are saying that the 'new' NCLB is nothing new at all.
A trio of education experts take on high-stakes testing and accountability in interviews with eSchool News.

When it comes to education policy, President Obama is repeating the most grievous errors of his predecessor, charge a trio of venerable education policy analysts, including one—Diane Ravitch—best known for her past support of conservative positions on testing, accountability, and choice.

As Congress begins to rewrite No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Obama administration has offered its own vision for how the revised law should look, including a focus on tougher academic standards and more flexibility for schools. But a growing chorus of critics contends that too many of the administration’s policies follow the same punitive cycle of high-stakes testing and accountability ushered in under the presidency of George W. Bush—and that these policies are actually hurting students.

Both President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have acknowledged the need for better standards and assessments to ensure that students graduate from high school ready for college or 21st-century careers. But critics of their approach toward education reform say it continues to rely on a flawed system of high-stakes exams and accountability measures that has narrowed the curriculum, fails to take into account the various social and economic factors that influence a child’s learning, and does a disservice to those students it purports to help most.…Read More

Teachers share their views on how to improve education

Teachers also said administrative support, not more money, motivate them to succeed.
Teachers say administrative support, not more money, will motivate them to succeed.

In one of the largest national surveys of public school teachers, thousands of educators agreed that today’s students aren’t college-ready when they graduate from high school. Teachers’ suggestions for solving this problem include clear, common standards; multiple measures of student performance; and greater innovation, including differentiated instruction and more use of digital resources.

The survey, titled “Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools,” was commissioned by Scholastic Inc. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by Harris Interactive. More than 40,000 public school teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade participated, and the results were released March 3.

The survey focused on the state of American education, the challenges facing students, and the tools and resources teachers need to face those challenges. Teachers gave honest opinions on issues such as student achievement, performance pay, technology use, and administrative support—and some of their answers might surprise school leaders.…Read More

Plan to stem dropout rate stirs controversy

Only about 70 percent of high school freshmen go on to graduate, the White House says.
Only about 70 percent of high school freshmen go on to graduate, the White House says.

The Obama administration is offering a $900 million carrot to the nation’s school systems to tackle what many view as an abysmal dropout rate that threatens America’s ability to compete in the new global economy. But it’s the “stick” portion of the administration’s plan that has rankled many educators.

Districts would get the money only if they agree to one of four plans to dramatically change or even shut down their worst performing schools. One of these plans involves firing the principal and at least half of the staff members at a struggling school—a turnaround plan that captured national attention when it was tried by the Central Falls, R.I., school system last week.

President Obama took aim at the nation’s school dropout epidemic in a March 1 speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. During the event—which was sponsored by the America’s Promise Alliance, a youth-oriented organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma—Obama noted the economic impact that dropouts have on America’s ability to compete.…Read More

Obama urges states to raise academic standards

In order for U.S. to be first in world education, states need to raise their academic standards.
For the U.S. to lead the world in education, states need to raise their academic standards, Obama says.

Saying America’s “primacy in the world” is at stake, President Barack Obama on Feb. 22 prodded states to raise their academic standards by using the best leverage he has: money.

Speaking to governors gathered at the White House, Obama said he won’t “accept second place for the United States of America.” He noted that it continues to lag behind other nations in critical areas, including high school math and science skills.

Obama told the governors he wants a change in the nation’s education law that would allow states to receive federal aid for poor students only if they adopt academic standards that are deemed truly to prepare children for college or careers out of high school.…Read More

Are unions blocking school reform?

The issue of school reform has been heavily debated in recent months.
The issue of school reform has been heavily debated in recent months.

In a new film called Waiting for Superman, there is a scene in which hidden-camera video shows a teacher reading a newspaper and looking at his watch while his students fool around. Another scene shows slow-motion footage of teacher union leaders giving speeches opposing school reform.

Directed by the same filmmaker who made An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary could do for public education what the latter did for global warming, some observers say: Push the issue into the national consciousness as a dire problem in need of fixing.

Superman investigates student achievement, teacher quality, and assessment as it attempts to explain why U.S. students are falling behind their peers from other industrialized countries on international benchmark exams. But in exploring the troubles of American public education, the film ends up pointing to one culprit above all others, those who have seen it say: teacher unions, which are portrayed as blocking much-needed reform.…Read More

AASA keynote: Focus on children, or risk nation’s status

We need to rethink our priorities as a nation, Canada said.
We need to rethink our priorities as a nation, Canada said.

Referring to the significant challenges facing public education today as a crisis that threatens the nation’s status as a global leader, educational trailblazer Geoffrey Canada urged school leaders to push for more funding and do “whatever it takes” to make sure all students succeed.

“I am convinced that if our country continues to treat its children the way it has, we will no longer remain a world superpower,” Canada said in a Feb. 12 keynote speech at the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education in Phoenix. “In fact, we won’t even be in the top 10.”

Canada is president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a project that the New York Times described as “one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time.”…Read More

iSchools lift hopes in NYC

A series of theme-based high schools are springing up across New York City, based on a model that has been open for only a year but already is drawing rave reviews. Called the iSchool, this model school blends innovative technology with project-based curriculum modules–and its early success could have national implications.

In an open commons area on the fifth floor of SoHo’s Chelsea High School, where the iSchool is based, students gather proudly by their projects.

“Hi, would you like to come and see what we’re doing here at our school?” says one girl, dressed in a skirt and heels for her big day.…Read More