EPLC Education Notebook

Monday, April 11, 2005

    No Child Left Behind

  • The U.S. Department of Education will provide more flexibility in implementing the No Child Left Behind Act to states that are meeting the goals of the law and demonstrate a commitment to NCLB's principles. It remains to be seen how helpful states will view the changes.

    U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced Thursday that the Department will utilize a "more workable, common sense approach" to enforcing the law that focuses on student achievement results because "it is results that truly matter, not the bureaucratic way you get there." To qualify for amendments to state plans for implementing NCLB, the Department will evaluate states according to their implementation of and progress on four key NCLB principles: ensuring students are learning; making the school system accountable; ensuring information is accessible and parents have options; and improving teacher quality. The Department also may take into account a variety of other factors, including graduation and drop-out rates, fiscal management, high school reform initiatives, data infrastructure capabilities and state capacity to improve achievement, and availability of alternate teaching certification programs.

    Flexibility could include changes such as allowing more special education students to be tested using assessments geared toward their instructional level rather than grade level, a specific example offered by Spellings. Under its new plan, the Department will allow states to test a larger percentage of students with the most severe cognitive disabilities with alternative assessments, opposed to the 1% of students currently allowed. Additionally, the Department will convene "a working group to find appropriate ways that growth models - ways to capture individual student progress from year to year - might be used to measure academic achievement." Spellings said the Department will continue to address other concerns as the law "grow(s) and mature(s)" and that requests from states will be considered. Learn more about the Department's new NCLB guidelines in "Raising Achievement: A New Path for No Child Left Behind" at www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/raising/new-path.html.

  • Connecticut is preparing legal action that would make it the first state to file a legal challenge against the No Child Left Behind Act. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he is preparing a suit against the U.S. Department of Education "for imposing millions of dollars worth of illegal unfunded mandates." Expanding the state's assessment system to include all grades 3-8 will cost the state $8 million more than Connecticut receives from the federal government, according to state estimates. Blumenthal said forcing the state to spend its own money to implement the testing requirements violates the Unfunded Mandates Provision of NCLB and the Spending Clause under the U.S. Constitution.

  • A new report from the Center for American Progress examines "how states are implementing their role as providers of technical assistance and resources to schools in need of improvement." The report makes recommends for implementing school improvement more effectively by giving states more flexibility to use federal improvement funds to develop states' technical assistance capacity, creating an array of improvement options beyond school improvement teams, and focusing improvement beyond the school level. Access the report at www.americanprogress.org/atf/cf/%7BE9245FE4-9A2B-43C7-A521-5D6FF2E06E03%7D/MCCLURE3-03-2005.PDF.

  • A new policy brief provides guidance to states in designing systems for evaluating supplemental education service providers. States are required to evaluate providers after two years and remove them from the list of approved tutors if they are not improving student achievement. Access the brief from the federally-funded Supplemental Educational Services Quality Center at www.tutorsforkids.org/documents/SES_Evaluation_Issue_Brief_002.pdf.

  • The State Educational Technology Directors Association released a report on state policy trends in educational technology and implementation of NCLB's Enhancing Education Through Technology program. To learn more about educational technology trends across the nation, see www.setda.org/content.cfm?sectionID=185.

  • Pennsylvania Education Policy Activity

  • On Monday, April 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved forward legislation that requires school districts to establish parent involvement policies, programs and committees. Senate Bill 143 now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

  • On Tuesday, the House Finance Committee held an informational meeting on a tax reform proposal that would change the way education is funded in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth Caucus has reintroduced its proposal to eliminate local school property taxes and nuisance taxes and fund education through a state sales tax. Under the proposal, sales tax would decrease from 6% to 5%, but the base of goods and services taxed would be expanded. Sales tax revenue would be collected in an Educational Operating Fund (EOF) from which the state would distribute dollars to school districts. Some dollars would be held in a reserve fund to weather years when sales tax collections dip below the amount needed to fund schools at the same level as the previous year. Districts would receive from the state at least the amount they are currently spending for the first three years of the new plan and funding would undergo yearly equity adjustments, quarterly enrollment adjustments, and annual inflationary increases. In years 4-7, districts would undergo performance evaluations to improve academic achievement and spending efficiency and funding would be adjusted based on need and growth of the EOF. School districts that wish to fund programs above those provided for by state funding could ask voters for approval to levy a local earned or personal income tax to support additional education funding.

    The legislative package includes a few changes from the proposal introduced during the last legislative session. Specifically, the sales tax would be collected through a sales and use tax rather than a gross receipts tax, the tax rate would be set at 5% rather than 4.5%, and rebates for senior citizens who are renters would be expanded using funds currently allocated for senior citizen property tax rebates. The 5% sales tax rate is higher than in the Caucus' initial proposal because the new legislation adds doctor's office visits to list of goods and services excluded from the sales tax. According to Commonwealth Caucus Chair Sam Rohrer, increasing property taxes are a symptom of Pennsylvania's outdated education funding system and the Caucus' proposal is designed to stabilize K-12 education funding. Legislation authorizing the Commonwealth Caucus plan has been introduced as House Bills 116, 117, 118, 119 (school code bill), and 120.

  • Changes to the regulations governing the State Board of Private Licensed Schools (Chapter 73) are now in effect. The revised regulations consolidate student record-keeping requirements, require applicants for licensure to attend an orientation seminar, and clarify that new school application fees cover only one program area and additional application fees apply for multiple program approvals. Find the regulations at www.pacode.com/secure/data/022/chapter73/chap73toc.html.

  • Microsoft Corp. will donate up to $2 million over five years to support high school reform and teacher professional development in Pennsylvania. The grant will be used to replicate curriculum from the School of the Future for schools participating in the state's Project 720 high school reform initiative; currently under development, the School of the Future is a technology-based high school in the Philadelphia School District supported by Microsoft. The grant also will be used for teacher coaches who work with other educators to integrate technology into the classroom.

  • Republican Representative Patrick Browne became the newest member of the Pennsylvania Senate when he won a special election to represent the 16th District in the Lehigh Valley on April 5. Browne defeated Representative Jennifer Mann (D-132) to finish the term of Charlie Dent who was elected to Congress last November.

  • Research and Reports

  • The Education Policy Institute has published a three-part series on "Latino Students and the Education Pipeline". Find reports that address transitions from middle school to the workforce, baccalaureate graduates, and pathways to a bachelor's degree at www.educationalpolicy.org/Latino.html.

  • A report from the National Institute for Early Education Research looks at "Making the Most of Kindergarten: Present Trends and Future Issues in the Provision of Full-Day Kindergarten." Read the report at http://nieer.org/resources/policyreports/report4.pdf.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released two reports on dual enrollment:
    Dual Credit and Exam-Based Courses in U.S. Public High Schools: 2002-03

    Dual Enrollment of High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2002-03

  • Upcoming Events

  • The U.S. Department of Education will hold a series of public meetings to receive public comment and suggestion about regulations related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Meetings will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. according to the following schedule:

    Monday, June 6, 2005 - San Antonio, TX
    Friday, June 17, 2005 - Nashville, TN
    Wednesday, June 22, 2005 - Sacramento, CA
    Friday, June 24, 2005 - Las Vegas, NV
    Monday, June 27, 2005 - New York, NY
    Wednesday, June 29, 2005 - Chicago, IL
    Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - Washington, DC.

    For more information contact Troy R. Justesen, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services at (202) 245-7468.

  • Team applications are now being accepted for the Governor's Institute for Parental Involvement. The Institute will be held over two weekends on August 12-14 and September 16-18. For more information, contact Karen Shanoski at the Center for Schools and Communities at 610-539-7565 or kshanoskifssr@aol.com or visit www.center-school.org.

  • EPLC will conduct a special two-part Workshop for School Board Candidates in York on Thursday, April 14 and Saturday, April 16. The Workshop is sponsored by Penn State University York and the York Chamber of Commerce. For program information and a registration form, see www.eplc.org/schoolboardworkshop.html.

  • The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and The Education Policy and Leadership Center will co-sponsor a public hearing on the impact of No Child Left Behind on rural schools. The hearing is part of a series being conducted in approximately 20 states by the National Rural Education Association. The hearing will be held on Thursday, April 14 in EPLC's 5th Floor Conference Room, 800 N. Third Street, Harrisburg. For more information, contact Joe Bard, Executive Director of PARSS, at (717) 236-7180 or jfbard@parss.org.

  • This week...Pennsylvania Events: The Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing on the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program on Tuesday. The hearing will also focus on reporting requirements for the scholarship organizations as proposed in Senate Bill 507, which the Committee will consider at a meeting on Wednesday. At its Wednesday meeting, the Senate Education Committee also will consider Senate Bill 390, which addresses continuing professional development for educators, and Senate Bill 417, which increases reimbursements for school construction costs. The House Education Committee meets Wednesday to consider House Bills 185, 189 and 191, which address an array of student nutrition issues; House Bill 100, which increases the reimbursement for school lunch and breakfast programs; House Bill 586, which defines extracurricular activities; House Bill 546, which allows former county employees to purchase PSERS credit toward retirement; and House Resolution 177, which deals with academic freedom on higher education campuses. EPLC's Institute for Community Leadership in Education (ICLE) - Western Pennsylvania program site meets Wednesday in Pittsburgh. EPLC hosts a two-part Workshop for School Board Candidates in York on Thursday, April 14 and Saturday, April 16. PARSS and EPLC co-sponsor a public hearing on the impact of No Child Left Behind on rural schools on Thursday, April 14.    National Events: The American Education Research Association meets in Montreal on April 11-15. The U.S. Department of Education hosts a program on "Choosing a School for Your Child" on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The National Association of Elementary School Principals holds in Annual Convention April 15-19 in Baltimore. The National School Boards Association holds its Annual Conference April 16-19 in San Diego. For details about these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

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