Sunday, March 14, 2010
Obama to Change Education
The President has been in office a little more than a year. During that time he has accomplished so much for what would be a progressive agenda. You would not realize the extent of his accomplishments by listening to and/or watching the tube. Fox News, followed by its imitators, presents a very negative picture of the President. The health care debate has robbed politics of an integrity -- opposition lies are now treated as respectable talking points. In a related discussion when it comes to this president, "Enhanced interrogation techniques" (e.g., water boarding) are not torture. He is making us less safe. They have no shame. Whatever!! In addition to bringing the nation back from the brink of economic disaster, he has a long list of accomplishments for his first year.
While saving us from economic disaster, taking on the heavy lifting of health care reform that has taken over 70 years to get passed, needing to address the high unemployment rates in the nation but twice the going rate in the black community with a program of jobs, jobs, jobs, the President is now taking on the schools. This is a bold move and likely to be successful since there's an earnestness as opposed to a cynicism that provides the impetus. Central city school have been educational wastelands. This president is determined to do something about it. Institutionalized failure is to be attacked at its core. Ineffective teachers will be weeded out, as will administrators who are just collecting a pay check. Accountability is to be the new order of the day. RGN
March 13, 2010
Obama Calls for Major Change in Education Law
By SAM DILLON
The Obama administration on Saturday called for a broad overhaul of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, proposing to reshape divisive provisions that encouraged instructors to teach to tests, narrowed the curriculum, and labeled one in three American schools as failing.
By announcing that he would send his education blueprint to Congress on Monday, President Obama returned to a campaign promise to repair the sprawling federal law, which affects each of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools. His plan strikes a careful balance, retaining some key features of the Bush-era law, including its requirement for annual reading and math tests, while proposing far-reaching changes.
The administration would replace the law’s pass-fail school grading system with one that would measure individual students’ academic growth and judge schools based not on test scores alone but also on indicators like pupil attendance, graduation rates and learning climate. And while the proposal calls for more vigorous interventions in failing schools, it would also reward top performers and lessen federal interference in tens of thousands of reasonably well-run schools in the middle.
In addition, President Obama would replace the law’s requirement that every American child reach proficiency in reading and math, which administration officials have called utopian, with a new national target that could prove equally elusive: that all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.
“Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded,” the president said in his weekly radio address, “and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down.”
Administration officials said their plan would urge the states to achieve the college-ready goal by 2020.
The No Child law, passed in 2001 by bipartisan majorities, focused the nation’s attention on closing achievement gaps between minorities and whites, but it included many provisions that created what Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Friday called “perverse incentives.”
In an effort to meet the law’s requirements for passing grades, many states began dumbing down standards, and teachers began focusing on test preparation rather than on engaging class work.
“We’ve got to get accountability right this time,” Mr. Duncan told reporters Friday. “For the mass of schools, we want to get rid of prescriptive interventions. We’ll leave it up to them to figure out how to make progress.”
The administration’s turn toward education signaled that the president hoped to get beyond health care and broaden the agenda before the midterm elections make progress on legislative issues more difficult.
Mr. Duncan has been working behind the scenes on rewriting the No Child law with a bipartisan group of senior lawmakers in both chambers, and administration officials say they hope to complete work on a new bill by August, when the elections will dominate the Congressional agenda. Many skeptics question that timetable.
And while leading Congressional Democrats praised the plan, the nation’s two major teachers unions did not. “We are disappointed,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said of the proposal, “From everything that we’ve seen, this blueprint places 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers and gives them zero percent of the authority.”
Christopher Edley Jr., a former Clinton administration official who is dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on civil rights law, said a briefing document he read had left him concerned about the administration’s direction.
“I worry about retreating from the notion of quality education as a civil right,” Mr. Edley said. “N.C.L.B. had some good sticks in it to compel equity. I’m alarmed by the frequent references to ‘incentives,’ and the apparent intention to reduce the federal role in forcing compliance.”
Representative John Kline of Minnesota, the top Republican on the House education committee, was also skeptical. “From 30,000 feet, the blueprint seems to set a lot of right goals,” Mr. Kline said. “Yet when we drill down to the details, we are looking at a heavier federal hand than many of us wish to see.”
But Susan Traiman, a director at the Business Roundtable, a group that represents corporate executives, called the proposals a “really positive step forward.” The business community especially liked the proposed new goal of helping all students graduate from high school ready for college and career, Ms. Traiman said.
Administration officials laid out their blueprint in briefings Friday and Saturday with governors, lawmakers, education organizations and journalists. Officials said they intended to leave the drafting of a bill up to Congress.
Mr. Duncan was scheduled to tour Iowa schools on Sunday with Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is the new chairman of the Senate education committee. In a statement, Mr. Harkin called the proposals a “bold vision” that could help “fix the problems with the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said, “This blueprint lays the right markers to help us reset the bar for our students and the nation.”
Under the current law, testing focuses on measuring the number of students who are proficient at each grade level. The administration instead wants to measure each student’s academic growth, regardless of the performance level at which they start.
The complete article