Politico Morning Education By Caitlin Emma | http://politi.co/1u9DkQq
January 16, 2015 :: BLAST FROM THE NCLB PAST: Lately, it feels like "Back to the Future" for Margaret Spellings. The debate on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind has brought back memories for Spellings, a longtime adviser to George W. Bush. As his domestic policy adviser, Spellings helped craft the landmark education law in 2001. As his education secretary, she enforced it from 2005 to 2009. And Spellings is not happy with where the bill is headed. "Obviously, NCLB passed more than a dozen years ago and it certainly has to be reauthorized," she told Morning Education. "But what's a little depressing to me is we're having a red herring discussion about a lot of this stuff and it's taking our eye off the ball." For one, the discussion around testing is overblown, she said. "Honestly, for the most part, it's a way of life in schools," she said. "Most parents want to know how their children are doing and that's pretty fundamental." The nation needs more facts on testing - such as how many tests students take and how many hours they spend on them - before ditching annual exams, she said. Spellings said research has shown that testing in and of itself can raise student achievement. Her analogy: "If I know I have a Weight Watchers weigh-in in a few days, then I'm going to tighten it up."
- Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander's draft proposal offers too much flexibility for states - and that could be dangerous, Spellings said. States didn't have very strong accountability systems prior to No Child Left Behind and she warns that they could head down that path again. But she isn't a fan of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's approach, either, saying his recent speech [http://politico.pro/1IEi5qI ] outlining his priorities for reauthorization seemed more focused on politics than policy. That's typical of the whole debate, she said: It's been driven by a larger narrative of federal overreach, akin to the discussion of Obamacare. "I think a lot of this is a reaction to the Department of Education and the reality or perception that it has overstepped its bounds," she said. "It's grown out of Race to the Top, waivers, Common Core and on and on."
- Spellings supports the annual testing requirement but said she thinks there could be more flexibility around consequences for failing schools. Spellings said she's active in policy discussions within the bounds of her role as president of the nonprofit George W. Bush Presidential Center, and they'll be putting out a statement about reauthorizing the law in the coming days. Flashback: In 2011, Spellings wrote an op-ed for POLITICO titled, "No Child Left Behind Works but Needs Updates": http://politi.co/1uaFQ38.
- Speaking of NCLB, education funding wouldn't grow in future years based on the authorization levels outlined in Alexander's reauthorization draft, the Committee for Education Funding finds [http://politico.pro/1B8wc8Q]
OPT OUT CONFAB: As lawmakers in Congress on both sides of the aisle debate the role of testing in NCLB, the opt out movement kicks off its fourth annual national conference [http://bit.ly/1CtnpeN ] today in Florida. A United Opt Out National leader told Morning Education that the Sunshine State is "fertile ground" for hosting such an event. Testing tensions are at an all-time high. For example, Lee County became the first district in the country to opt out of state standardized testing in August, although the district reversed its decision just one month later. While they're not expecting a huge crowd - about 100 people - the national group is planning to equip attendees with tools to bring back to their communities and disrupt the testing status quo. More here: http://bit.ly/1CtnpeN