Korsmo’s news roundup: Money matters and relief from NCLB

This week started in Dallas with the Association of Community College Trustees looking for answers to student achievement. It was a meeting at once inspiring and overwhelming. Here were hundreds of volunteers committed to the education system that has done more to uplift and sustain the middle class than anyone ever acknowledges. They’re struggling with the thorny issues around student achievement and their responsibility in improving student outcomes and degree attainment. And it’s clear that while the President wants to “double the number” of students getting degrees or certificates, there’s no national playbook for how to get there.

Waiving the (NCLB) White Flag: Yesterday was the deadline for states to let the Department of Ed know they intend to file for waivers of requirements under the No Child Left Behind act. Including the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, 41 “states” pinged Ed’s bow indicating their intent to seek NCLB relief. The waiver seekers also gave Ed the time frames under which they would apply, November 14th, the first deadline or mid-February. Washington was one of the those sending intent to apply in mid-February of next year. While states have a lot of latitude in what they can seek to waive – including the requirement to provide tutors to students in schools that fail to meet their goals for two or more years – they must have adopted college and career ready standards and assessments. Notice I didn’t say the “common core” standards and assessments – signed on to by 44 states and the District. It’s not required. In lieu, the state’s higher education system can certify that the state assessments are rigorous enough that passing them equals college ready. Washington is participating in the common core – which is a good thing since no one in higher ed could say with a straight face that our state assessments mean a heck of a lot when it comes to college readiness.

Meanwhile back in the other Washington, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced a bill to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA = NCLB) which has something for everyone to not love. It removes requirements for making Average Yearly Progress (AYP), codifies Race to the Top, directs states to develop college and career ready standards and that’s just the first 150 pages.  The biggest and most troublesome change from NCLB to ESEA JR. is the elimination of federal requirements for student achievement. States will set their own goals. It’s all back to the future up in here. While NCLB was far from perfect, it laid bare the disparities in achievement among ethnic and demographic groups. In other words, states could run but they couldn’t hide from their dismal performance in serving kids of color and low income children. That was the central feature of the law, establishing baselines and raising expectations. Regression politics at their worst.

Money Matters: The past few weeks we’ve spotlighted significant challenges in the state and national budget crisis and the impact on education funding. A report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities  shows that 37 states are putting less money into education this school year than last and that 30 are putting less money in this year than they were four years ago. Texas has cut so far to the bone the state is being sued by a group of education stakeholders.  (We have our own lawsuit here in Washington.) Meanwhile, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has taken action to allow CC’s and TC’s to declare financial emergencies that allow them to waive some contractual agreements in making staff layoffs.  While most two year colleges rely heavily on part time teachers, one school, Bates, has a different model employing about 90% of their faculty full time.  Making them something of a bellwether – read canary in the coal mine – on staff reductions at our community and technical colleges. For more on the implications of Washington’s budget woes and investments in education, check out our edCored series.

What the ELL?: If you’re looking for reasons to support having federal student achievement goals and reporting on it that is disaggregated by subgroup,  take a quick gander at what’s happening with ELL students in NYC and the federal lawsuit that was just settled in L.A. If you can hide the fact that only 7% of your English Language learners graduate from high school on time and ready for college or work, there are no consequences. And clearly, with results like that, consequences matter.

Local Flavor:

  • UW’s Dean of Education, Tom Stritikus writes about the importance of teacher effectiveness to our state’s economy. (Reading the comments makes me long for the day of the printed version of the paper where every idea or opinion wasn’t actually considered equal and deserving of space. Because well, they’re not.)
  • Puyallup Schools moves to standards based grading. Sun comes up next morning. Gravity continues to work in the ways we are familiar. Miami Dolphins still stink.
  • Bellingham Herald covers the national report on disparities in school discipline. Fordham’s take on the report is worth reading.
  • Apparently some states have figured out how to buy their assessments at big box stores while Washington is all upscale.

That’s all she wrote this week, folks. Thanks for checking in.

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