Monday, January 12, 2015


Duncan: "This country can't afford to replace 'the fierce urgency of now' with the soft bigotry of 'It's optional'." smf: What about the bureaucratic wishy-washyness of “I can get you a waiver for that …if you’ll go along with the Common Core”?

from Politico Morning Ed |

12 Jan 2014  ::  Education Secretary Arne Duncan kicked things off this morning with a speech calling No Child Left Behind "tired" and "prescriptive" but urging Congress to keep the elements that he considers essential, including annual testing and reporting of results and mandatory interventions for failing schools. If Republicans leave out those elements, he said, they'll end up failing students. "For a party that has fought hard against wasting money, that has pushed for a focus on results for taxpayer dollars, turning back the clock would be truly hypocritical," Duncan was expected to say. "This country can't afford to replace 'the fierce urgency of now' with the soft bigotry of 'It's optional'," he continued, referencing President George W. Bush's 199 speech [ ] decrying lower expectations for disadvantaged children. Duncan said President Barack Obama's budget proposal next month will include a request for a $2.7 billion increase in federal education spending - more than double his requested increase for fiscal year 2014. About $1 billion of the proposed new spending would go to Title I programs for schools with large numbers of students from low-income families, Duncan said. He added that more funding would help states and districts audit the amount of testing they require. And he said he'll urge Congress to go as far as setting limits on how much time students spend on state and district standardized testing and report to parents if they blow past those limits. More from Caitlin Emma and Maggie Severns:

- Over on Capitol Hill, Sen. Lamar Alexander is expected to roll out his NCLB bill this week. But both Democrats and Republicans are already grumbling about the direction of the bill. Democrats are wondering if Alexander truly wants a bipartisan effort; his draft was not extensively negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray, though the two have been meeting to discuss NCLB. Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Tim Scott warns that he and his colleagues on the right won't vote for the bill if Alexander gives too much ground to Democrats. More from Maggie Severns:

- Most of the headlines so far have been around testing: Duncan is expected to insist on continued annual testing, while Alexander will put a major focus on reducing testing, sources say. But that's far from the only contentious issue. Republicans working on past attempts to revamp NCLB have sought to give states maximum flexibility with federal funds by eliminating scores of programs aimed at specific sub-groups, such as students with disabilities. The left has strongly objected to that approach; policy wonks will be listening closely to hear whether Duncan draws a line in the sand on that issue.

- Advocacy groups are bombarding Congress with advice on fixing NCLB. The Business Roundtable, Council of Chief State School Officers, The Education Trust and the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights have all urged the continuation of annual tests in math and reading. CCSSO's platform, however, has a twist: It's calling on Congress to explicitly authorize the Education Department to hand out waivers to states that want to let local districts experiment with different forms of assessment. Requests for such flexibility have recently popped up in New Hampshire, Colorado and Illinois, as districts have demanded the right to opt out of the new Common Core exams. I have more here:

- The teachers unions have called for rolling back testing. But that's not all. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García tells Morning Education that she pitched Sen. Alexander on the idea of requiring states to publicly disclose not just test scores but also metrics such as teacher turnover and student access to guidance counselors, nurses, AP classes, science labs and art and athletic programs. Some of this information is already disclosed in the federal Civil Rights Data Collection [ ], but Eskelsen García said it should be displayed on an "equity dashboard," broken down by schools and demographics, so the public can see how many resources poor students have compared with their wealthier peers. Eskelsen García said she anticipates pushback: "A lot of state governors will go, 'Whoa, we were just fine when you were blaming the teachers, but now you're going to hold us accountable for making sure poor kids get what they need?' " But she argues that it's crucial to ensuring equity.

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