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AAE Federal Update June 4, 2012
posted by: Larisa | June 04, 2012, 06:22 PM   

Eight More States Receive NCLB Waivers

Last week, at an event in Connecticut with Governor Dan Malloy and local, state, and federal officials, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that eight additional states- Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island - will receive flexibility waivers from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

In exchange for this new flexibility, the states have agreed to raise academic standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to boost teacher effectiveness.  "These eight states are getting more flexibility with federal funds and relief from NCLB's one-size-fits-all federal mandates, in order to develop locally tailored solutions to meet their unique educational challenges," stated Secretary Duncan.

The announcement brings the number of states with waivers to 19.  Eighteen other applications are still under review.  The Department expects additional states to request NCLB flexibility by September 6, 2012.

Click here
for more information on the status of your state's NCLB waiver.

Education Reform Becomes Presidential Campaign Issue

Two weeks ago, both President Obama and Governor Romney turned their attention to the growing education crisis in the United States, signaling a new focus on education reform and school choice as emerging campaign issues. The Obama administration announced a new round of Race to the Top competitive grants, and in several high-profile speeches, Governor Mitt Romney outlined his potential education plans to the electorate with a strong focus on school choice and charter schools.

President Obama is now proposing that his flagship Race to the Top program aim federal funds at schools districts rather than the states. Considered a step in the right direction for local control, the program will earmark nearly $400 million in new grants and invite school districts to create plans for individualized classroom instruction. 

In a speech in Washington, D.C., Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his education agenda via a 35-page white paper. Overall, Governor Romney's national plan would grant students who receive federal education assistance the ability to choose from among any school in their district, including expanding public charter schools. He said he would push for states to offer enough options so that the choice would be meaningful to students who are stuck in failing schools.

Reacting to the renewed spotlight on education, AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner called for both candidates to consider real teacher feedback when discussing policy. "It's important to note that while policymakers champion new and innovative ideas in education, it's critical that real educators' opinions and experiences are taken into account as these reforms are considered and implemented," he stressed.

Click here
to read Mr. Beckner's full statement.

New Report Issued on School Restraint and Seclusion Best Practices

Last week, the Department of Education issued a publication that outlines principles for educators, parents, and stakeholders to consider when developing or refining policies and procedures to support positive behavioral interventions and avoid the use of restraint and seclusion.

The goal of this resource document is to help ensure that public schools are safe and healthy environments where all students can learn, develop, and participate in instructional programs that promote high levels of academic achievement.  "Ultimately, the standard for educators should be the same standard that parents use for their own children," stressed Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  "There is a difference between a brief time out in the corner of a classroom to help a child calm down and locking a child in an isolated room for hours.  This really comes down to common sense."

The fifteen principles that frame the document highlight how school-wide behavioral interventions can significantly reduce or eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion.  The principles offer states, districts, and leaders a framework for revising appropriate policies related to restraint and seclusion to safeguard children and adults.

The document also provides a synopsis of efforts by federal agencies to address national concerns about using restraint and seclusion in schools and includes links to state restraint and seclusion policies and procedures.

Click here
to view the full report.

NAEP Science Scores Released

According to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation's eighth-grade students have posted modest gains in performance in science and narrowed some racial and ethnic achievement gaps since 2009.  The average score increased by just two points, from 150 to 152 (out of 300).

The 2011 exam administered by the U.S. Department of Education, showed that 32% of students were proficient in science, compared with 30% the first time the new version of the science exam was administered in 2009.

Scores rose among public school students in 16 of the 47 states that participated in both 2009 and 2011, and no state showed a decline in science scores.  Further, the five-point gain by Hispanic students and the three-point gain by African-American students from 2009 to 2011 was greater than the one point gain among white students.  By contrast, the gender gap remained essentially unchanged. Male students scored four points higher than female students in 2011.

Reacting to the report, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the Obama administration is committed to forging partnerships to improve the use and understanding of science and technology in education. "We are calling on states to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate this subject in our schools," he stressed. "We will continue the push to prepare 100,000 effective math and science teachers over the next decade, and support initiatives to increase pay for teachers in high-need subjects like science."

Click here
to view the full results of the report.

House Committee Holds Congressional Hearing on Choice Options

In light of the rise of public charter schools and the growing popularity of parent-trigger laws and tuition tax credits across the country, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a congressional hearing last month to examine state and local efforts to increase parental engagement and school choice options.

According to the panel, one of the greatest ways to increase engagement is to offer parents choices about their children's education. While certain choice initiatives are considered controversial, specific policies such as the parent-trigger law and public charter schools have received strong bipartisan support.

With regard to public charter schools, after a busy 2012 legislative session more than 40 states are now embracing charter schools as another way to provide education options to students, parents, and teachers. As National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' Vice President for State Advocacy and Support Todd Ziebarth explained, "Charters partner with parents in other unique ways, most notably by involving them in the decision-making and governance of the school."

Still, despite the groundswell of support for certain choice options, the panel debated the merits of certain voucher and tuition tax credit policies. Congressman Dale Kildee (D-MI) questioned whether the policies were scalable. The programs are "not guaranteed to result in stronger parent engagement or increased student outcomes," he stated.

The hearing showcasing state and local initiatives reflects a growing trend among House leaders who see state-based efforts as viable solutions to reforming education. "The fight to improve our nation's education system cannot happen in Washington, D.C. alone," concluded Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA). "It is critical states continue to lead the charge by engaging parents and providing options in the local education system."

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