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AAE Federal Update March 22, 2011
posted by: Alix | March 22, 2011, 09:10 PM   

International Summit on Teaching Profession Convenes in New York

Last week, the Department of Education hosted a two-day conference focusing on best practices in building a world-class teaching force. Held in New York City, the conference brought American teachers and administrators together with several foreign high-performing countries.

Belgium, Brazil, Canada, The People's Republic of China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Slovenia and the United Kingdom joined the United States in holding collaborative sessions focused on Teacher Recruitment and Preparation; Development, Support, and Retention of Teachers; Teacher Evaluation and Compensation; and Teacher Engagement in Education Reform.

"It's clear that no two countries are the same but that doesn't mean we don't face common challenges," commented U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The International Summit on the Teaching Profession is an extraordinary opportunity to broaden our perspective on how to effectively recruit and support teachers. This is an area where we need to move forward with a sense of urgency because building a strong teaching force is critical to having a successful education system."

A background paper, entitled "Building a High Quality Teaching Force" outlines international analysis, lessons and examples around recruiting, preparing, supporting, developing, evaluating, compensating, and retaining teachers and was issued to attendees.

Congressional Hearings Uncover Regulatory Hurdles Faced by K-12 Schools

The U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing two weeks ago to examine the scope of federal education mandates, including data collection requirements and paperwork burdens, and analyze how compliance with these mandates can create unnecessary work for K-12 schools.

"We have to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and effectively. But we must also ensure federal mandates aren't roadblocks to success in our nation's classrooms. Anyone who has talked to a superintendent or teacher understands that federal law can stand in the way of innovative solutions and meaningful reform. Reducing the regulatory burden placed on our education system makes good fiscal sense and good policy sense," said Committee Chairman, Congressman John Kline.

Offering examples of the redundant regulations overwhelming schools, Loudoun County, Virginia, Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edgar Hatrick stated, "Specific regulations, data collection and reporting vary greatly and are dependent on program, grant and agency requests. However, there is overlap, resulting in redundancy of reporting and resources being diverted from the mission of teaching and learning."

Following up on the full committee hearing, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), held a hearing last week to examine the negative impact intrusive federal paperwork requirements have on teachers, administrators, and students in elementary and secondary schools specifically.

During the hearing, both Committee members and witnesses stressed the need to strike a balance between requiring accountability from schools and imposing overly-complicated, duplicative regulations that divert time and money advancing student outcomes.

Chairman Hunter said, "We have a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively and efficiently, and to some extent, regulation and reporting can be helpful in achieving that goal. But we must also make certain the nation's classrooms aren't overwhelmed by piles of costly and redundant paperwork that ultimately harms the future success of our children."

Both hearings certainly raised questions regarding the extensive regulatory requirements under state, local and federal mandates. The committee has remained committed to investigating and streamlining paper requirements for K-12 schools.

Click here for podcasts of both hearings.

Secretary Duncan Warns 82% of Schools Could Be Labeled Failures under NCLB

This month, appearing before the House Education and Workforce Committee, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that based on department estimates, as many as 82% of our nation's schools could fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year. Currently, 37% of schools nationally are not meeting AYP as set by their state's annual targets in reading and mathematics proficiency.

"No Child Left Behind is broken and we need to fix it now," Secretary Duncan said during his testimony before the committee. "This law has created a thousand ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed. We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk."

To reach its AYP goals, the Department of Education assumed that all schools in the country would improve at least at the rate of the top quartile of schools in their respective state. With this benchmark and factoring in four years of raw data, the percent of schools not meeting AYP could rise from 37% to as high as 82% by the end of this year.

In urging Congress to fix these No Child Left Behind issues, Secretary Duncan did credit the law for shining a spotlight on achievement gaps among poor and minority youth, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners, when compared with their peers. "Simply stated, if schools boost overall proficiency but leave one subgroup behind - that is not good enough," he said. "They need a plan that ensures that every child is being served."

Secretary Duncan echoes the rhetoric of President Obama last week, calling on Congress to fix NCLB by this fall. "I want every child in this country to head back to school in the fall knowing that their education is America's priority," President Obama said during an education speech in a Virginia gymnasium. "Let's seize this education moment. Let's fix No Child Left Behind."

AAE Signs On in Opposition to Cuts to Teacher Incentive Fund

This month, AAE joined other education advocacy groups in opposition to a Democratic-led effort to cut funding for the highly successful Teacher Incentive Fund program.

This program supports efforts to develop and implement performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools. TIF's goals include improving student achievement by increasing teacher and principal effectiveness through a comprehensive network of recommendations for performance pay policies in schools.

The House, in its initial 2012-13 budget proposal, eliminated money for the Teacher Incentive Fund, along with funds for all other federal grant programs. The Appropriations Committee is slated to vote on that two-year budget next week. Meanwhile, Senate budget writers have left the door open for continuing the incentive pay program by including at least $155 million in a newly revised budget.

AAE is monitoring the 2011 federal budget and its impact on K-12 education. For the latest updates, visit the AAE blog.

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