With Sprinkles Please

Matt Williams writes about why the latest Race to the Top iteration adds to an increasingly disjointed education policy agenda. By attempting to tackle a plethora of educational issues with relatively small amounts of money has the obsession with RTTT left us with little of substance? Continue reading

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ESEA Waiver Renewal

In late August, the U. S. Department of Education released its guidance for ESEA Waiver Renewal. As many pundits have noted, Secretary Duncan attached more strings to states earning renewal of their waiver. As it stands, to get a two-year extension of their waivers, states must reaffirm their commitment to college and career ready standards, esea-flex3assessments aligned to those standards, and to the implementation of their designed and submitted system of differentiated accountability (with an expressed focus on closing achievement gaps). This is all expected fare, to be honest, both the focus and the new strings. Currently 41 states have waivers. The bulk of those (35) were granted in Rounds 1 and 2 of the waiver process and these states will be the first to run through the new drills to get their renewals. Continue reading

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ESEA Waiver Renewal

here is one line in the Department’s press release that is really interesting to me, “… (the Department’s renewal process) will also provide an opportunity for states to make necessary adjustments to their approved plans for improving student learning and the quality of instruction.” This is interesting to me because I wonder how far the Department will let states go with those adjustments. Will they allow waivers within a state’s waiver for programs like Kentucky’s Districts of Innovation? What about enabling states interested in moving towards competency education, like those in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network, to pilot parallel assessment and accountability systems for a subset of districts? It seems to me that if the Department is interested in allowing states to be truly innovative in the way we deliver education to our students, this waiver renewal process may be an important, and maybe their last, opportunity to do that. Continue reading

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Big Week for Competency Education

Maine’s new accountability system under the waiver, you can find the full application here, contains several accountability factors including achievement data and a school accountability index. One of the five components of the school accountability index is graduation rate. Maine’s graduation requirements are proficiency- (or competency-) based. This means that, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time any sort of federal accountability system has included a measure of competency. Continue reading

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All Politics Aside: Five Points of Agreement on ESEA Reauthorization

Democrats stood by their 1,000+ page bill which would largely stay the course on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s waiver strategy. Republicans, on the other hand, made the case for a smaller federal presence in education. Despite these differences, there were some striking similarities among the two proposals which warrant some mention. Continue reading

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Now What?

What does the election outcome mean for ESEA? While on the surface it appears to be a status quo election it is important to take a closer look. In the Senate the ranking member, because of term limits, will move from Senator Mike Enzi to most likely Senator Lamar Alexander. This changes the dynamics in the Senate and allows for Senator Alexander, a former Secretary of Education, to be more vocal on issues, processes, and policies that he cares most about. Additionally, committee make up will shift and leadership (ranking members mostly) of subcommittees will change in the House. Could this open up an opportunity to move ESEA? Chairman Kline recently stated that the “urgency in my mind is still there.” We will see if the political will is there on both sides of aisle and in both chambers. Frankly, I put the odds at 2015 or later…sorry but I’m an edu-pessimist when it comes to ESEA.
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