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AAE Federal Update September 28, 2011
posted by: Alix | September 28, 2011, 02:05 PM   

Obama Administration Releases NCLB Waiver Proposal  

With reauthorization of No Child Left Behind taking much longer than expected, President Obama announced on Friday that his administration will begin to allow targeted waivers to individual states to provide regulatory relief under the current federal system with caveats to include levels of accountability.

"Congress hasn't been able to do it, so I will," Mr. Obama said in a speech at the White House attending by several state school chiefs. "Starting today, we'll be giving states more flexibility to meet high standards."

Under the plan outlined by the White House, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will invite states that agree to overhaul low-performing schools and adopt more rigorous teacher evaluation systems to apply for regulatory relief from the decade-old law's 2014 deadline and other unrealistic provisions. States that qualify for the waivers would be allowed to design their own school accountability systems backed by the administration.

As part of the proposal the Department of Education and the White House released resources and FAQs for states to familiarize themselves with the proposal. Click here to view the complete list of resources.

AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner cautiously supported the proposal, releasing a statement on Friday. "Clearly as evidenced by the last decade, a one-size-fits-all system does not work. While we support this plan as a critically-needed solution for schools, circumventing the Congress is no substitution for a full-scale congressional reauthorization to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This proposal is an important first step, but we encourage continued progress in both the House and Senate on a bipartisan reauthorization."

Click here to read his full remarks.

Department of Education Study Sheds Light on New Teacher Workforce

One thing on which everyone in the education community can agree is the fact that effective teachers are the key to the overall success of our school system. In light of this consensus, the Department of Education has spent the past several years studying the behavior of new teachers and their career paths, of which the findings were released last week in an ongoing study. In an effort to understand the typical career journey of a new educator, the study tracks 2,000 teachers as they begin their teaching careers and follows their behavior patterns as they continue in both elementary and secondary settings.

NCES' Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study reflects the first three years of data among the 2,000 participants, which will continue for a minimum of five years. One of the many purposes of the study is to provide a better understanding of the impact that different life events have on teaching careers, including getting married, moving, or starting a family. It will also help to track patterns on how school or district policies affect teacher satisfaction and how teachers respond to transitions in their lives and careers.

Among the interesting findings:

  • Nearly 10% of teachers followed in the study left teaching after their first year.
  • After the first year, three-quarters of new teachers stayed in the same school in their second year of teaching, but the others moved on to another school or district.
  • Of those new teachers who were assigned a mentor by their school, 8% were not teaching in the following year, compared with 16% of those who were not assigned a mentor of any kind.
  • A slightly higher proportion of teachers with salaries of $40,000 or more were still teaching two years later, compared to those with salaries below that benchmark.

While the study is not yet complete, the most noteworthy statistic is the attrition rate of new teachers. In a climate where half our teaching workforce will be retiring in the next ten years, keeping effective teachers should be a focus among schools and districts. Whether it is through higher pay scales or quality mentorship programs, attracting and retaining our best and brightest to a career in teaching will be the goal for years to come.

House Education Committee Examines the Federal Role in Public School Accountability in Congressional Hearing

Last week, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing entitled "Education Reforms: Examining the Federal Role in Public School Accountability" to examine the appropriate federal role in accountability.

In his opening statement, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) outlined the challenges facing states and school districts struggling to meet accountability standards under current elementary and secondary education law. While no one agrees that a one-size-fits-all approach to accountability is the answer, the hearing brought together leaders from New Mexico, Maryland, Florida, and Pennsylvania to discuss innovative state and local approaches to hold schools accountable for student achievement.

Opportunities to Learn, which successfully used student data to develop a more rigorous curriculum that helped improve achievement levels. Dr. Sichel said, "Local school districts, such as Abington, are moving in ways that improve academic outcomes for all children for we are accountable to our students, our parents, our community, our local school board, and our state. All too often successful models rarely receive attention and recognition. Please give us the benefit of the doubt and stop focusing on the punitive accountability measures prescribed by NCLB. This disheartens students, parents, teachers, and administrators and undermines the success of public education in this country."Among the many notable initiatives, Dr. Amy Sichel, the Superintendent of Schools for Pennsylvania's Abington School District, discussed a program she developed called

The hearing is part of a continued effort by House Republicans to issue a series of bills aimed at addressing the problems under NCLB. The committee is in the process of developing legislation to address accountability and teacher quality issues, and expects the full package of education reform bills to be considered this year.

Click here to watch the hearing in its entirety.

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