ESEA/NCLB Alert -- November 14, 2003
50th Anniversary of Brown Vs. Board of Education
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National Education Association

ESEA/NCLB Alert -- November 14, 2003

Great Public Schools Campaign

Iowa on the move: Not only are NEA staffers working hard to spread
NEA's message about changing ESEA, NEA members are also following through
with their RA promise to make their voices heard. Earlier this week,
ISEA members attended ED's NCLB Town Hall Meeting Monday in Davenport,
Iowa. What kind of reception did ED's representative receive after talking
about the "greatness" of ESEA? "I doubt if they will ever have one of
these Town Meeting again," an ISEA employee mused.

Special education teachers spoke out against the absurdity of a "100
percent proficiency requirement." Others chastised President Bush and ED
officials for using the dreaded "failing school" label. More lamented
over the fact that "teaching to the test" forces them to neglect higher
level thinking skills and problem solving techniques.

ISEA President John Hieronymus followed through by sending a letter to
Senator Harkin, an education advocate who wants to hold hearings on
ESEA. "On behalf of the children and educators of Iowa, I want to thank
you," wrote Hieronymus. "With the high regard that the nation has for the
quality of education in Iowa, holding hearings in Iowa should add
credibility to the concerns and suggestions expressed."

Republicans against ESEA: Thanks to the input they received in part
from vocal NEA members, two Republic members of Congress - Sen. Olympia
Snowe (ME) and Rep. Rob Simmons (CT) - have sent letters to ED
criticizing NCLB. Both talked with local teachers before crafting their letters.
"The emphasis on standardized testing in the NCLB Act leaves school
teachers and school officials with the impression that the Department is
focused on a very narrow approach to measuring student knowledge," Snowe
wrote. Simmons says he has met several times with an Education
Roundtable he established to discuss ESEA reform. "If we are not able to
restructure the law to address these issues, we run the risk of losing the
worthwhile goals that motivated the passage of this important
legislation," he said.

More collaboration: NEA continues to build collaborative relationships
with other organizations eager to change ESEA. Monty Neill's insightful
article "Leaving Children Behind: How No Child Left Behind Will Fail
Our Children," in November 2003 issue of Phi Delta Kappan Magazine, has
led to partnership between NEA and Neill's organization, the National
Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest). "We are now involved in
discussions with Monty and his group and other organizations - including
the National Schools Boards Association (NSBA), American Association of
School Administrators (AASA), the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), the
NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) about
coming up with principles for accountability and assessment and
legislative fixes for NCLB," says ESEA Policy Manager Joel Packer. Neill's
five-page article is at

Legislative Update

Funding bills in limbo: Late last week, Senate leadership decided to
forego a Veteran's Day holiday recess to devote more time to finishing
pending legislation. Both the House and the Senate approved a continuing
resolution to extend funding for IDEA and ESEA at FY 03 funding levels
until Nov. 21, when Congress expects to adjourn. Last Thursday, House
Speaker Hastert (R-IL) and Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN)
instructed appropriators to begin work on a FY 04 omnibus spending bill, that
would include funding for education and other federal programs included
in the Labor, Health and Human Services bill. Senate leadership plans to
package all the unfinished funding bills - as well a proposal for
private school vouchers for D.C. students - into an omnibus bill and pass it
by the 21st.

NEA's goal is to have mandatory full funding for IDEA phased in over a
six to 10 year period. There's still a possibility that IDEA
reauthorization could come up for a vote before the omnibus spending bill is
presented. But Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) has only a
few days to attempt to individually move the remaining spending bills.

This is a call to action. Congress needs to resolve the funding needs
of IDEA and ESEA now. NEA members are encouraged to contact their
Senators and urge them to bring IDEA reauthorization to a floor vote before
the next recess so that conference committee deliberations can begin in
January or February and NEA and other supporters will have more time to
shape a more palatable bill. If it doesn't, Congress may delay IDEA's
reauthorization until after the 2004 elections. Special educators will
have to wait until 2005 to find out if there's a fix for ESEA. Tired of
all the rigamarole? Express your concerns at

Department of Education (ED) News

A first for Seattle: The Seattle Public School District is the first in
the nation to win approval for unprecedented flexibility under ESEA.
Seattle doesn't get any additional money, but it now has more control
over how it will spend the $4.2 million it receives annually in federal
funds. Seattle can now mix dollars from four existing federal grants for
teacher and principal training, technology, school safety and other
innovative programs as it sees fit, without adhering to strict federal
spending formulas. The government allows 80 school districts nationwide to
consolidate their ESEA funds. Two weeks ago, ED named Florida the first
state to be approved for unprecedented flexibility under the new State
Flexibility Authority Program.

ED has also issued a draft guidance on the Migrant Education Program,
which provides grants to states to meet the special educational needs of
the children of migrant agricultural workers. MEP grants are awarded to
states, who then distribute them to local educational agencies. More
info is available at

More ED grants: Nine states will share $15 million in ED grants to
study how technology impacts student achievement in elementary and
secondary schools. These three-year grants, issued under No Child Left Behind's
Enhancing Education Through Technology (ED Tech) program, requires the
nine recipients to (1) evaluate how promising education programs in
their state use technology to increase student achievement, (2)test and
document their methods and practices and (3) share their info with other
states. The nine states awarded grants are Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, North
Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and
Wisconsin...ED also announced a $266,480 for the Center for Policy Studies in
Rural Education. The grant will help the Center recruit teachers and
administrators into rural areas, help rural states and districts implement
school choice and supplemental services, help policy-makers meet the
special needs of migrant students and distribute info on best practices in
rural education.

More personnel changes: Gerald A. Reynolds has resigned as ED's
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for a job in the Department of Justice.
Reynolds, who ran the department since 2001, faced strong opposition
from civil rights groups concerned about his lack of experience. Although
Reynolds did not win Senate confirmation during hearings in Feb. 2002,
President Bush used his constitutional authority to appoint Reynolds
while Congress was in recess. His "recess appointment" would have expired
in January.

Report from the States

Second thoughts: Due to their current fiscal crisis, some states say
they might have to scale back the rewards being offered to teachers with
National Board Certification (NBCTs). Thirty one states pay for at
least part of the $2,300 fee and 32 states offer a cash bonus to teachers
who complete the stringent National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards certification process. Approximately 500 individual school
districts offer incentives of their own. Some states have already cut-back on
what NEA considers an ideal teacher quality tool. Last year, California
eliminated a $10,000 bonus to all NBCTs. (It still offers $20,000 over
four years to teachers who agree to teach in low-performing schools).
Georgia, which offers an annual 10 percent bonus to NBCTs, spent
$100,000 on National Board Certification in 2000. But state administrators
estimate it will cost $4.7 million in FY 04 and $15.6 million in FY 05 to
compensate their 1000 NBCTs.
Georgia, like other states, worries that scaling back or rescinding
benefits for current teachers would have a profoundly negative impact. But
it can't ignore the criticism of some analysts who disapprove of
channeling state money into National Board Certification, when they say
there's no real proof NBCTs are better teachers than their uncertified
colleagues. Results from some of the 18 independent, longitudinal studies
commissioned by the NBPTS to explore this topic won't be ready until
2004. Georgia school superintendent Kathy Cox says it will take time to
decide whether to continue. "Once the research data is available and the
budget picture becomes a bit clearer, we will work together at all
levels of government to do what is right for all Georgia's teachers."

Testing for "highly qualified:" Alabama says it will use a standardized
test, the Praxis II, to determine if its teachers are "highly
qualified." To date, ED says only 35 percent of Alabama's teachers meet this
criteria. The voluntary test will be in limited use throughout the state
next year and teachers will be allowed to retake it until they
pass...Also, several members of the District of Columbia School Board want to
increase the minimum Praxis scores required of its teaching applicants in
reading, writing and math. ED says D.C.'s passing requirements are
among the lowest in the nation.

Mass protests: The Massachusetts Association of School Committees
overwhelmingly reaffirmed its opposition to the state MCAS tests required of
all Massachusetts graduates, during the MASC annual convention in
Worcester. MASC also passed a resolution expressing grave concern over many
of the key features of ESEA. Delegates said Massachusetts' high MCAS
passing rate does not remove their concern over the test's negative
consequences on teaching and learning. MASC's ESEA resolution also asked
Massachusetts' Congressional delegation to seek changes in the
accountability provisions of the unpopular federal education law, including its
annual testing mandates and severe sanctions.

HQ standards: According to a recent Ed Week report, 33 states say 80
percent of their core class teachers are "highly qualified." A new study
by the Council of Chief State School Officers, suggests that many
states may not be as close to meeting federal guidelines as they think.
CCSSO's newest publication, Meeting NCLB goals for Highly Qualified
Teachers: Estimates by State from Survey Data, relied on info in a federal
survey conducted in 1999-2000 on 60,000 public school teachers in grades
seven through 12. This survey asked a representative sample of teachers
in each state if they had full certification and college majors in the
subjects they taught. Read this report at

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