Archive for February, 2012

Administration Issues NCLB Waivers, New Legislation Introduced in the House

Wednesday, 15 February, 2012

Last Thursday, President Obama announced that 10 states – Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee – will receive waivers, exempting them from meeting specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Flexibility is only being granted to those states that requested waivers and meet the Administration’s prerequisites. For example, states must have already adopted and developed plans to implement college and career-ready standards in reading and math. States must also create comprehensive principal development and teacher evaluation systems that include factors beyond test scores, such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback.

States receiving waivers no longer have to meet the deadline that all students reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014. States must, instead, set new performance targets for improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps. They also must have accountability systems that reward high-performing schools as well as those making significant gains in student achievement. States will develop their own intervention strategies to turn around the lowest performing schools and to help subgroups of students with the greatest needs.

An eleventh state, New Mexico has also requested a waiver, and twenty-eight other states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have indicated that they, too, intend to seek waivers before the next deadline later this month.

In a White House announcement Thursday, the President said that NCLB is driving the wrong behaviors, from teaching to the test to federally determined, one-size-fits-all interventions.

“After waiting far too long for Congress to reform No Child Left Behind, my Administration is giving states the opportunity to set higher, more honest standards in exchange for more flexibility,”  said President Obama. “Today, we’re giving 10 states the green light to continue making reforms that are best for them.  Because if we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone. “

The President, once again, called on Congress to work across the aisle to find a long-term solution as the waivers provide just a temporary fix to the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), NCLB, which expired five years ago. Over the last year, both the House and Senate have worked on their own versions of ESEA rewrites, and the Obama administration submitted its own “Blueprint for Reform,” but there has yet to be bipartisan consensus  on any reauthorization plan.

Expressing disappointment with the President’s waiver decision, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said “This action clearly politicizes education policy, which historically has been a bipartisan issue. It is time for the president to work with Congress on important issues like this, instead of acting unilaterally.”

House Introduces ESEA Legislation

At the same time, the House Education and the Workforce Committee continued to move forward with its own plan for ESEA as Chairman John Kline (R-MN) introduced two pieces of legislation last Thursday. The Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990) address accountability provisions, or Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), with state-developed accountability systems, local teacher evaluation systems, and flexibility with the use of federal funds.

Chairman Kline said, “The administration’s waiver scheme provides just enough temporary relief to quiet the demand for lasting reform. Rest assured, my colleagues and I on the House Education and the Workforce Committee haven’t lost our sense of urgency. We must move forward and advance long-term solutions to the challenges facing the nation’s schools.”

Notably absent from the bills are any provisions for strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. In fact, the Student Success Act removes the current requirement for state testing in science.  The bill summary reads, “To reduce the burden of over-testing on our nation’s students, the bill eliminates the federal requirement that states administer assessments in science. States would retain the option to develop assessments in science and other subjects at their discretion.”

Additionally, the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act would eliminates more than 70 existing elementary and secondary education programs which appears to include the Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships program (Title II, Part B).

The Committee on Education and the Workforce plans to hold a hearing on these two bills on Thursday, February 16.


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President Calls for 100,000 STEM Teachers, One Million STEM Grads in Ten Years

Wednesday, 8 February, 2012

Yesterday, President Obama hosted the second White House Science Fair celebrating science, technology, engineering and math accomplishments of students from across the country. The President also announced key steps that the Administration and its partners have committed to take to prepare 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and math teachers as well as one million new STEM graduates over the next ten years. These goals complement the findings of a new report on undergraduate STEM education, also released yesterday, by the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST).

“When students excel in math and science, they help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future,” said President Obama. “That’s why I’m proud to celebrate outstanding students at the White House Science Fair, and to announce new steps my Administration and its partners are taking to help more young people succeed in these critical subjects.”

Over 100 students from 45 states participated in the White House Science Fair yesterday, exhibiting their winning projects from over 40 different STEM competitions. Learn more about these inspiring student as well as the competitions and organizations that were honored here. After touring the science fair exhibits and congratulating the students, the President addressed an audience of students, science educators and business leaders. He spoke on the importance of STEM education to the country’s economic future and made several key announcements.

100,000 Excellent STEM Teachers

In the 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama issued a national challenge to recruit and prepare 100,000 effective STEM educators over the next decade. Yesterday, he renewed that commitment by announcing key steps being taken to meet that goal:

A new $80 million investment to help prepare effective STEM teachers: The President’s upcoming FY 2013 budget will request $80 million for a new competition by the Department of Education (DoEd) to support effective STEM teacher preparation programs, such as those that allow students to simultaneously earn both a STEM degree and a teaching certificate, and provide undergraduates with intensive experiences during their first two years.

A new $22 million investment from the philanthropic and private sector to complement the Administration’s efforts: In response to the President’s call to prepare 100,000 effective STEM teachers, over 115 organizations, led by Carnegie Corporation of New York and Opportunity Equation, formed a coalition called 100Kin10. So far, the partners have already committed to train over 40,000 STEM teachers in five years and to invest $22 million in STEM teacher preparation and support. Read more about 100Kin10, including Triangle Coalition members involved in this previous post.

• A STEM focus in upcoming Race to the Top competition: To ensure that STEM remains a component of systemic education reform, DoEd will again include a focus on STEM criteria in the next round of Race to the Top.

• New policies and investments to recruit, support, retain and reward excellent STEM teachers:  This year, the DoEd will devote a portion of its upcoming $300 million Teacher Incentive Fund competition to support STEM educators and will also provide new incentives to improve the quality of teacher preparation. Concurrently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will continue to emphasize the quality of teacher preparation programs and plans for innovation in its Noyce Fellowships program.

1 Million More STEM Graduates

In addition to the White House announcements made yesterday, PCAST released a new report on undergraduate STEM education. The report concluded that one million additional STEM graduates are needed over the next decade to fill the growing number of jobs that require STEM skills, in addition to those typically associated with science, engineering, and technology fields.  The report finds that:

• Fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree;

• Increasing the retention rate from 40 to 50 percent would provide three-quarters of the million STEM graduates needed; and

• Colleges and universities can significantly increase their retention rates by improving teaching practices, helping students quickly improve math skills, and diversifying pathways to excel in STEM.

Read additional information on the report, including the full text, at PCAST’s website.

The President announced the following key steps to address the need for 1 million more STEM graduates, as outlined in the PCAST report:

• A priority on undergraduate STEM education reform in the President’s upcoming budget: The President will announce more than $100 million in investment by NSF for improved undergraduate STEM education practices which will increase both the quality and quantity of STEM graduates. In addition, the DoEd proposed First in the World competition will include a STEM priority.

A new K-16 education initiative jointly administered by Department of Education and the National Science Foundation: To improve mathematics education, DoEd and NSF will each commit $30 million to a new K-16 initiative to develop, validate and scale up evidence-based approaches to improve student learning.

In response to the President’s call to action for companies, foundations and others to do more to engage students in STEM, numerous private sector commitments were also announced yesterday. Partners involved with these initiatives include Change the Equation, Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds, FIRST, Fahrenheit 212, FIRST, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Cognizant, New York Hall of Science, Maker Faire, and the Maker Education Collaborative.

To learn more about the President’s plan for increasing the number of STEM educators and graduates, click here.

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