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AAE Federal Update January 11, 2011
posted by: Alix | January 11, 2011, 05:00 AM   

Secretary Duncan Pens Op-Ed

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan penned an op-ed in the Washington Post last week as a means to energize the new Congress and rally support for the education challenges faced this legislative session.

Duncan highlighted that both sides of the aisle will be working toward rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). "Few areas are more suited for bipartisan action than education reform," Duncan noted.

Duncan praised the transparency of NCLB but stressed the one-size-fits-all approach to standards was not working.

"Most people dislike NCLB's one-size-fits-all mandates, which apply even if a community has better local solutions than federally dictated tutoring or school-transfer options. Providing more flexibility to schools, districts and states - while also holding them accountable - is the goal of many people in both parties," Duncan stressed.

Duncan mentioned the "teach-to-the-test" mentality and the limited means to effectively evaluate teachers as issues that need to be addressed in reauthorization.

"These issues are at the heart of the Obama administration's blueprint for reauthorizing ESEA: more flexibility and fairness in our accountability system, a bigger investment in teachers and principals, and a sharper focus on schools and students most at risk."

The full text can be read here.

Teaching Ambassador Fellowship Program

The Department of Education's 2011-12 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program is wrapping up admissions for the year. The program is designed to improve education for students by involving teachers in the development and implementation of national education policy. The fellowship seeks to:

  • Create a community of teacher leaders who share expertise and collaborate with policymakers and leaders in the federal government on national education issues.
  • Involve teachers in developing policies that affect the classroom.
  • Expand teachers' leadership in policy at the national, state, and local levels.
Selected applicants will either work for the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. or part time in their home states through sharing classroom expertise and expanding their knowledge of the national dialogue relating to education.

The program is competitive. The deadline is January 17, 2011.

More information regarding the program and application process can be found here.

Labor-Management Conference Slated for February

School districts and labor leaders from across the country have been invited to attend a federally sponsored conference on February 16 and 17 in Denver, Colorado.

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the National School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Funding to support the conference is being provided by the Ford Foundation.

The meeting and agenda are being heavily guarded, including the guest list. Two thousand invitations were sent out from the Department to school systems that have been granted recent federal funding. The Department pledges to compile their guest list randomly but to also have all areas of the country represented.

In order to attend the conference, the board president, superintendent and teacher union or teacher association leader must all agree to attend the conference.

The event comes on the heels of recent media coverage centered around the teachers' unions losing clout around the country as the call for school reform gains steam. Many have speculated that the conference is a means for the unions to save face with their members and the public as being open to education reform despite strong efforts to resist change.

The press release announcing the event can be found here.

DoEd Backs English-Proficiency Tests for Common Standards

According to a notice for proposed grant priorities published in the Federal Register on Friday, the Department of Education plans to pay for states to work collaboratively to create English-language-proficiency tests for the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The plan calls for a minimum of 15 states to join together to create an English-proficiency test, prompting some observers to speculate that federal officials favor the idea of having a very limited number of such English tests, if not one national test.

"It's going to start looking like a single national assessment for English-language proficiency, which it should," said Robert Linquanti, a senior research associate for WestEd, a San Francisco-based education research firm. "To the extent we have common standards and a common definition for [English-language learners], it's only going to help."

Currently states are allowed to choose any number of tests approved through No Child Left Behind. Some states even have their own individual tests.

Experts assert that bringing continuity to these tests will ensure that children are not bounced around through different states when it comes to E.S.L courses as one system is enacted to test for English proficiency.

The federal government has strongly encouraged states to standardize their definitions for criteria for such students to exit special programs within states since 2008, but it's new for federal officials to push for such uniformity among states. Grants for the English-proficiency tests based on the common-core standards would likely total about $10.3 million.

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