AAE Federal Update November 8, 2011
posted by: Alix | November 08, 2011, 09:31 PM   

AAE Releases National Membership Survey

Last week, AAE released its annual member survey about key education issues. Polling member teachers from all fifty states, survey results show progressive stances toward education and labor reform, particularly with regard to school choice, technology, attracting new teachers to the workforce, and collective bargaining.


Following the release of the survey, AAE Executive Director Gary Beckner penned an opinion editorial in Roll Call about changing teacher sentiments and the disconnect between teacher unions and the growing professional educator network. We hope that you take a moment to examine the results of our policy survey and share them with your colleagues.

The basis of all AAE's advocacy, the survey report will be shared with the House and Senate Education Committees as efforts to get AAE members' voices heard on the federal level.

Click here
to read the full survey report.

NCLB Update

Following last month's bipartisan overhaul draft of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Department of Education officials and reform groups are still reportedly disappointed with the current version and its stripped down accountability measures.

After pushing Congress for years to renew the NCLB and fix key provisions, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is unsatisfied with the version that passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at the end of October. In an interview with Education Week, Arne Duncan was skeptical of the bill in its current form. "I appreciate folks are working together [on K-12] education-it may be about the only issue right now," Duncan stressed. "I'm encouraged about the process, but it can't just be about the process, it has to be about the product. You don't want to have a weak bill or a bad bill at the end of the day."

With regard to accountability, Secretary Duncan called the version "a step back on raising standards and accountability. We've seen so much progress, we've got to keep getting better, not going backwards." He remained optimistic in citing the upcoming opportunities to amend the current draft.

The administration expressed its concerns with the bill's accountability provisions from the beginning, arguing that leaving the key component to the states would ultimately be detrimental to students in failing schools.

Following the release of the initial draft, the Department of Education highlighted two national editorials on their website regarding the NCLB overhaul. Entitled, "Don't Retreat," the opinion pieces suggest the committee's version rolls back education reform progress.

Early Learning Grants

At the end of October, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services were happy to announce that 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico submitted applications for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, a $500 million competitive grant program to improve early learning and development among high need communities.

 

"I'm thrilled to see so many states taking advantage of this opportunity," Secretary Duncan stated in a release, "and advocacy groups and policy experts have shown tremendous leadership in supporting states' efforts to coordinate their early learning systems.  Their collaborative work is helping ensure that all children enter kindergarten with the skills they need to be successful in school- and beyond."

 

The grant program comes on the heels of recent research and department goals centered on improving early learning programs, those designed for pre-school aged children.  Applicants were asked to design comprehensive plans around areas of reform including: establishing successful state systems, defining high-quality programs, promoting early learning, supporting a great early childhood education workforce, and measuring outcomes and progress.

 

During the next few weeks, applications will undergo peer review by early childhood experts from across the country.  In mid-December, the Departments will award the highest-ranked applicants within funding availability.  Awards will range from around $50 million up to $100 million, based on a state's population of children from low-income families and proposed plan.  

National Report Card on Reading and Math Released

Last week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released its "national report card" on reading and math scores. The data released indicated that 4th and 8th graders have produced small gains in math, but the results are mixed in reading, with 4th grade scores coming in flat compared with two years ago.

 

Overall, achieving proficiency in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress remains a difficult feat for the majority of American students. Only about one-third reached proficiency or higher in reading and 8th grade math. At grade 4 math, however, the figure was slightly higher, at 40 percent.

 

With regard to the states, over the past eight years all fifty states have been required to participate in the NAEP in reading and math allowing for expanded analysis. The largest overall gains occurred in Maryland, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia, when looking at the increase in the percent reaching "proficient" in both subjects. And yet several other states "stood virtually still," including Iowa, New York, and West Virginia.

 

Following the release, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was pleased with the results. "The modest increases in NAEP scores are reason for concern as much as optimism. While student achievement is up since 2009 in both grades in mathematics and in 8th grade reading, it's clear that achievement is not accelerating fast enough for our nation's children to compete in the knowledge economy of the 21st Century. After significant NAEP gains in the 1990s, particularly in mathematics, the 2011 results continue a pattern of modest progress."

Click here to read the results.

Department of Education Piloting 'Green Ribbon' Schools

Beginning in September, the Department of Education unveiled

final plans for a new award program designed to encourage our nation's schools and communities to promote healthy and sustainable environments and educate students to become environmentally literate citizens. The new Green Ribbon Schools competition urges states to nominate individual schools immediately.

 

For several months, the U.S. Department of Education has been developing criteria and selection guidelines for the pilot year of Green Ribbon Schools. Among the many measures for successful programs, department officials are looking for schools who:

  • implement energy conservation measures that pave the way for reduced environmental impact, cost savings and job creation;
  • undertake environmental and behavioral changes in schools that ensure the health, wellness and productivity of students, teachers, and staff; and,
  • promote environmental education that supports students' strong civic skills, environmental stewardship and workforce preparedness.

In the few weeks since the pilot year announcement, 19 states have already communicated to the Department of Education plans to nominate schools. The winners will be announced in the spring.

 

Click here for the latest information about the program.

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