Tag Archives: NCLB

House Panel Targets Teacher Distribution, Pay

Washington

Lawmakers and teacher spokesmen had a spirited exchange here this week on the equitable distribution of effective teachers, illuminating the contours of a debate that will likely continue as Congress revisits the issue.
Differing opinions about incentive-pay programs, the role of test scores in pay and evaluation, and how prescriptive the federal government should be in seeking to boost teacher effectiveness were aired at a House hearing. It came as the upcoming renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and implementation of the economic-stimulus law are helping to spur such debate.
Improving the distribution of effective teachers to schools with high concentrations of poor and minority students should be a top federal priority, lawmakers agreed.
“It’s stunning that we’re still discussing this topic with this level of engagement in 2009,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, which held the hearing. “This is not a mystery. The fact that these inequities exist is well documented. It’s our role, if Title I [funding] is supposed to meet these needs, to sort this out,” he said of the federal school aid for disadvantaged children.
But the lawmakers also acknowledged widely divergent opinions about how to achieve the goal.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, speaks during a Sept. 30 hearing.
—Andrew Councill for Education Week
“We are going to have some differences on how to get there,” said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. “But I think we can work in a bipartisan way.”
The hearing marked the first time the House education committee has turned its attention specifically to issues of teacher quality since efforts to renew the No Child Left Behind Act—the current version of the ESEA—fell apart in 2007.
At the hearing, lawmakers and witnesses appeared to agree that the law’s “highly qualified” teacher requirements should be updated.
“We can’t talk about moving the most effective teachers around without knowing who the most effective teachers are,” said Layla Avila, the vice president of the New Teacher Project’s teaching-fellows program, a New York City-based initiative that prepares career-changers to enter teaching. “We talk a lot about retention, but we don’t even know if we’re retaining the most effective teachers.”
Bipartisanship on TIF?
The testimony generated much discussion from lawmakers about whether teacher equity would be better served by mentoring and induction programs, which have generally been favored by teachers’ unions, or by structural changes to systems for compensating and evaluating teachers. Several representatives also mused aloud about the appropriateness of federal mechanisms for scaling up such work.
“Is that a role for the federal government, to encourage, if not force, every school system to have an appropriate evaluation system in place?” inquired Rep. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., serving as a witness, promoted the Teacher Incentive Fund, a federal initiative to seed performance-pay programs.
Although operational since 2006, TIF has never been formally set down in law. Mr. Price, who introduced for the third time Wednesday a bill to formally authorize the program, said his measure would preserve flexibility for districts to craft features in the programs to attract teachers to low-income schools.
“We’ve either mandated things from on high that don’t necessarily result in higher achievement for kids, or haven’t provided the appropriate incentives” for teachers to move to such schools, he said.
TIF, which received $200 million in additional funding in the economic-stimulus law enacted in February, could be one area ripe for bipartisan work.
The 3.2 million-member National Education Association had been an opponent of the program. But in a recent report, the union said that to improve the equitable distribution of teachers, it would support state and local affiliates who partner with districts to create innovative compensation programs, including those that do so with TIF money.
In testimony to the committee, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel added that the union would encourage its local affiliates to “address barriers” to teacher distribution in contracts by writing a “memorandum of understanding” allowing officials to waive contract provisions that prohibit staffing high-needs schools with “great teachers.”

The testimony did not specify seniority provisions, which many administrators say allow more-experienced—and often more-effective—teachers to move to schools with fewer challenges.
Rep. Miller, nonetheless, appeared to view both statements as an affirmative policy shift on the part of the NEA, representing a willingness by the union to renegotiate elements in contracts, and a softening of its opposition to changes in the traditional compensation system.
The testimony is “a very important signal from NEA that represents a significant departure from their historical position,” the committee chairman said.
Mr. Van Roekel did not return requests seeking a response to Mr. Miller’s stance. Nor was it immediately clear how the NEA would square the new initiatives with internal policy resolutions that eschew certain incentive programs, such as compensation based in whole or part on test scores, or extra pay incentives for hard-to-staff subjects.
Test-Score Controversy
Several issues, including the appropriate use of student test scores in evaluations of teachers, are poised to continue to be controversial. Although the incorporation of the test data has been strongly supported by the Obama administration, a handful of lawmakers expressed concerns that doing so would have a negative impact on disadvantaged students.
Those members included a representative from Nevada, one of four states that maintain a “firewall” between student and teacher data.
“There is a problem that if you just use standardized-test scores, you create a disincentive to teach children with special needs, or children in these low-income schools,” said Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat.
Mr. Van Roekel concurred, saying neither student nor teacher performance should be judged only on the results of a single test.
But Chairman Miller responded strongly to those remarks, noting that administration officials have said test scores should be combined with other measures.
“There is nothing in the Race to the Top that says that a test score would have to be the sole factor in evaluations, so let’s clear the air on that. It’s simply not the fact,” he said of the fund that’s part of the economic-stimulus package.
“I think that it’s a real disservice to the administration [to claim otherwise],” Mr. Miller said, “because Education Secretary Arne Duncan is trying to broaden that discussion.”
Vol. 29, Issue 06

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Obama Pushes Longer Day, Longer School Year

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/09/28/303280usmoreschool_ap.html?tkn=SVQFnY1/PlPa/R3oz9I0cYwaiRnze4XaOEct

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PA Test Scores Show Improvement Across the Board!

Great news!

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09209/986808-298.stm

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Las Vegas HS a Model for School Turnaround

What does it take to turnaround a low performing high school?  See for yourself at:
http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jul/27/high-schools-leap-so-so-special/

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What’s up with the PA Exit Exams?

Orie renews fight against high school exit exams.  Check it out at the following link:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09209/986753-454.stm

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Compromise Testing Plan Deserves Consideration

an Op-Ed piece on the compromise High School testing…

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09195/983670-192.stm?cmpid=newspanel5

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NCLB Found to Raise Scores Across Spectrum

NCLB Found to Raise Scores Across Spectrum
By Sean Cavanagh

Since the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted, critics have questioned whether the law’s mandate to bring students to “proficiency” has resulted in schools ignoring the needs of the nation’s highest- and lowest-achieving students.

A new study, released today, suggests those fears have not become reality.

The 50-state analysis found that test scores for both “advanced” and “basic” students rose in nearly three-quarters of assessments studied across states and grade levels, a level of progress only slightly lower than that of students reaching proficiency.

The study sought to examine a story line put forward in recent years—namely, that schools are not focusing on the highest- or lowest-scoring students, but rather on middle achievers, said Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, which produced the report.

While the progress of high and low achievers could be stagnating in individual instances or schools, the study indicates that on average, those students are advancing, said Mr. Jennings, of the center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

“We found no strong evidence that NCLB’S focus on proficiency is shortchanging students at the advanced or basic levels,” the report says. Test scores “provide little evidence that NCLB is having such an effect.”

The study examines trend lines in state reading and math scores at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, beginning in 2002, the year former President George W. Bush signed NCLB into law. It requires states to make yearly progress in moving students toward a specific target: proficiency. All students are to reach that mark by 2014.

Of 300 possible test-score trend lines in reading and math on state exams, the center had data to evaluate 243 of them. Students showed gains in reaching proficiency 83 percent of the time, while 15 percent declined, and the rest did not change significantly.

State scores of students at the basic level, meanwhile, rose 73 percent of the time, and declined in 18 percent of cases. And at the advanced level, 71 percent of the trend lines showed an increase, while 23 percent declined.
Math Progress More Modest

While the gains were “more numerous and larger” at the proficient than at the basic and advanced levels, those differences are attributable partly to a statistical phenomenon caused by more students being included within the proficient group, the CEP says. The study is one of several to be released by the center in the coming months that will examine trends in student performance the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect.

States set their proficiency standards all over the map, research shows, raising questions about the legitimacy of their claims of student progress. States have similarly divergent policies in setting basic and advanced targets, Mr. Jennings said. (“States Tests, NAEP, Often a Mismatch,” June 13, 2007.)

Joann P. DiGennaro, of the president of the Center for Excellence in Education, in McLean, Va., said she doubted whether many state tests could adequately gauge the progress of top-performing students. As a result, she questioned whether the study could provide much information on whether high-achievers are making progress or being challenged in math and language arts classes.

At the same time, Ms. DiGennaro, whose organization advocates increased opportunities for high achievers, said she agreed with the report’s conclusion that the landmark federal law has not measurably affected elite students.

“Before No Child Left Behind, we weren’t doing anything for high achievers,” Ms. DiGennaro said. “It’s not the causal issue in [their] stagnation.”

The CEP study also shows trends that mirror recent results on the prominent federally administered test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress: Math scores rose more than reading results, and elementary and middle schoolers’ progress in math and reading was greater than that at the high school level.

While the report offers no definite explanation for those trends, it says that math skills tend to be “more discrete” and based on rules that can be “systematically taught to students” and may be easier to test than reading. In addition, the proportion of proficient students was lower in math, leaving more room for growth in that subject, the authors explain.

At the high school level, some students may not be motivated to take high school tests if they do not count toward graduation requirements—as is the case in many states, the report says. Yet the results also point to the need to focus more on the academic needs of older students, Mr. Jennings said.

Congress has begun preliminary work on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind law. Mr. Jennings said the results are in one sense encouraging in that they suggest the federal government and state officials can work cooperatively to demand more of students of different abilities.

“Teachers have responded” to NCLB’s mandates, Mr. Jennings said. “They have raised test scores. It clearly shows, as a nation, we can improve the schools, when we agree on what we want to get out of them.”

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