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AAE Federal Update February 28, 2012
posted by: Alix | February 28, 2012, 03:00 PM   

Department of Education Unveils RESPECT Initiative

Included in the Obama administration's 2013 proposed budget is a new $5 billion competitive program to challenge states and school districts to work with various stakeholders in an effort to comprehensively reform the field of teaching. Entitled RESPECT, the proposal seeks to touch on every aspect of teaching from training and tenure to compensation and career opportunities.

RESPECT is an acronym that stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching. The program builds on President Obama's State of the Union plans of reforming education and teacher preparation. 

"Our goal is to work with teachers and principals in rebuilding their profession and to elevate the teacher voice in federal, state and local education policy. Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America's most important profession, but also America's most respected profession," Secretary Duncan said in promoting the program.

Details of the program will be developed through budget negotiations with Congress and the competition process itself.

Click here to view Secretary Duncan's speech on RESPECT.

School Crime and Safety News

Last week, a new report issued jointly by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics examining crimes occurring in schools was released to the public.  Entitled, "Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2011," the report covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fighting, weapons, and availability and student use of drugs and alcohol.

According to the report, the number of violent deaths declined to 33 during the 2009-10 school year. While this number may seem high, it is the lowest number on record since the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice began collecting data in 1992. According to the data, during the previous school year, there were 38 deaths linked to public school violence. Similarly, major thefts and nonfatal violent crimes declined from 1.2 million in 2008 to 828,000 in 2010.

Overall while violent crimes in the nation's schools have declined in recent years, cyber bulling and youth suicides have risen. Experts contend the data gives a false sense of security, as many of the "crimes" have shifted to the web in a new age in technology.

Click here to review the full report.

Department of Education Supports New STEM Initiative

In celebration of National Engineering Week, and to highlight the Obama administrations call for highly skilled science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched a new public-private partnership with the 100Kin10 organization last week. The 100Kin10 initiative is both a privately and publically funded organization working to help meet President Obama's goal of recruiting and training 100,000 world-class STEM teachers within 10 years.

Duncan pointed out at the launch that there is a chronic shortage of highly skilled STEM teachers in our schools, particularly in hard to staff schools like rural and poor urban areas. The problem is said to only get worse as half of our nation's teachers are set to retire in the next ten years.

Secretary Duncan noted that the 100Kin10 initiative is "a public/private partnership at its best." Currently, the project 2013 budget flags more than $2.5 billion in competitive funds designed to prepare highly-qualified STEM teachers.

Click here for more information about the Department of Education's STEM efforts.

2013 Budget Resources

Earlier this month, President Obama unveiled his 2013 budget which increased Department of Education discretionary spending by nearly $2 billion. Among the President's education plans, the budget includes new education investments designed to give "U.S. students and workers the education and training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow."

To better understand the 2013 budget relating to federal education spending, the Department issued the following resources:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama have been traveling throughout the country in support of the new budget. While Secretary Duncan has been arguing for bold reforms, he also called for increased investment. "In these tough budget times, the Obama administration is making a clear statement that high-quality education is absolutely critical to rebuilding our economy," Secretary Duncan claimed in support of the new budget.

Committee Supports House K-12 Proposed Legislation

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Congressman John Kline (R-MN), last week held a legislative hearing on the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990). The two pieces of legislation represent the next chapter in Republican efforts to rewrite elementary and secondary education law and are the House's version of a No Child Left Behind overhaul.

Among the many provisions, the bills focus on fostering innovation on the state and local levels. Clearly with more than 30 states considering education reform laws last year, flexibility and encouragement are needed on the state level. Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna called the reforms happening at this level an "education renaissance" in his testimony supporting the legislation.

The Student Success Act will also call on each state to implement their own accountability system that considers the challenges and opportunities facing local schools and more accurately measures student achievement. In supporting this provision, Colorado State Board of Education Chairman Bob Schaffer said that states should be trusted to create their own systems.  Each "level of accountability and the immediacy of response is far quicker, greater, and more meaningful when we move authority away from Washington and back to the neighborhood."

Finally, in promoting teacher effectiveness, the bills plan to direct states and school districts to develop and implement their own teacher evaluation systems based on student learning, rather than a system based on seniority and tenure.

Click here
for video testimony and bill summaries.

Reaction: 10 States Receive NCLB Waivers

Last year, after several failed attempts to reform the No Child Left Behind law, the Department of Education introduced a waiver system that would allow states to apply for regulatory waivers to bypass NCLB provisions in favor of education reforms backed by the administration. Hailed as a compromise by education reformers, 38 states have applied for the waivers so far, with 10 states receiving special waivers earlier this month.

While many states have seen the waiver process as beneficial, congressional leaders have claimed the policy circumvents congressional approval and is another top-down effort to promote President Obama's education agenda.

In a recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Congressman John Kline (R-MN) said, "Leaders of all political persuasions agree the status quo is unacceptable. Secretary [of Education] Arne Duncan... acknowledges that No Child Left Behind has significant flaws... but rather than work with us to get it changed, he and the president have decided to issue waivers in exchange for states adopting the policies he wants them to have... The idea that Congress is an impediment to be bypassed I find very troubling in many ways."

Despite the criticism, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the waivers plan as needed solution.  "Rather than dictating educational decisions from Washington, we want state and local educators to decide how to best meet the individual needs of students."

Regardless of the controversy, states across the country are applying weekly for waivers and instituting their own plans for reform.

Click here for more information on the waiver plans and to track progress by state.

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