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AAE Federal Update September 4, 2012
posted by: Alix | September 04, 2012, 10:41 PM   

Secretary Duncan Speaks to Teachers about New School Year

As students and teachers begin a new school year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently told a group of more than 800 teachers that "teaching is hard work." In setting the tone for the 2012-2013 academic year, Secretary Duncan challenged educators and commented that teaching has become more difficult as education reforms take hold in classrooms across the country.

Duncan spoke frankly about the changes that teachers will face as states implement rigorous academic standards and introduce new evaluation systems. These changes are necessary, he noted, because nearly 25% of America's youth don't graduate from high school, and about half of all students who go to community college need remedial education.

The Secretary explained how the Obama administration has promoted flexibility in states in exchange for raising standards, setting performance targets, and designing local interventions that focus closely on the neediest children through No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers. "We won't change those numbers without high standards and high expectations," Duncan said.

Secretary Duncan also spoke about the ongoing conversation about teacher evaluation that now includes a full range of issues including teacher preparation, professional development, career ladders, tenure, and compensation.

Click here to watch the full video of the speech.

GOP Convention Highlights K-12 Education as a 2012 Election Issue

With the Republican National Convention (RNC) in full swing last week, high-profile Republican leaders turned their attention to the growing education crisis in the United States. Never before have we seen this kind of attention given to education on a national stage. This renewed focus has signaled that education reform will be an emerging campaign issue in the months ahead. In fiery speeches, GOP leaders spoke about K-12 education by battering President Obama and teachers unions-as they called for a new direction in American education reform.

By far the sharpest attacks in several long nights of speeches at the RNC came from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose Tuesday night keynote speech attacked the educational establishment, especially national and state teacher unions. Christie said that in New Jersey, he defied naysayers by successfully taking on "the third rail of politics" to overhaul the public employee health and benefit system as well reform teacher tenure.

Additional heated remarks came from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who argued that education is a key part of staying out of poverty. He stated, "A solid education should be [a key rung] on the ladder to success, but the system is failing. Obama's solution has been to deny parents choice, attack private schools, and nationalize curriculum and student loans." Senator Santorum stressed local control and called Governor Romney the right choice for President. "Mitt Romney believes that parents and the local community must be put in charge-not the Department of Education."

Moving forward, it will be telling to see how President Obama will address education reform during the Democratic National Convention this week. Both candidates expect to discuss education during future presidential debates.

Nearly 900 School Districts Set to Compete for New Race to Top Competitive Grants

Last week, the Department of Education announced that 893 potential local school district applicants have submitted their intent to apply for the 2012 Race to the Top-District program, which will provide close to $400 million in competitive grants to support local education reforms. The response follows the launch of the competition earlier this month.

"I believe the best ideas come from leaders at the local level, and the enthusiastic response to the Race to the Top-District competition highlights the excitement that districts have to engage in locally designed reforms that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The Race to the Top-District competition invites applicants to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students via local-level education reform programs. These 4-year awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan. The Department is expecting to make 15-25 awards. Applications are due October 30, with awards being announced no later than December 31, 2012.

Click here
to view the districts that have applied.


Click here for more information about the program.

AAE, Education Reform Coalition Pen Letter Asking Administration to Hold Teacher Preparation Programs Accountable

In order to bring our colleges of education into a new era of success, AAE has joined with Democrats for Education Reform and other stakeholders to pen a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urging the administration to hold teacher preparation programs accountable.

AAE members agree that our teacher preparation system needs to be reformed for the sake of the profession and for our students. In addition to supporting alternative certification programs for degreed professionals and intense training programs like Teach For America, AAE members are eager to see changes in how our new teachers are trained. Ninety-four percent agree with a report by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education that recommends improving teacher education via mentorships programs akin to those at medical schools. Survey respondents overwhelmingly agree with focusing less on in-classroom lessons and more on training in the field, much like a medical residency.

Moving forward, education experts know that effective teachers make a fundamental difference in the lives of our nation's students. Yet for decades, little attention has been paid to how teachers are prepared to succeed in the classroom. While education reform often highlights the need for policy changes inside the classroom, it's time to focus on building better teachers from the very beginning.

Click here to view the full letter and list of co-signers.

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