Education Week - January 8, 2014 - (Page 17)

BLOGS Well Into Final Race to Top Year, States Have Plenty of Cash Left | POLITICS K-12_News | With states well into their final year of Race to the Top implementation, the 12 winners still have a lot of money to spend, according to the latest financial reports by the U.S. Department of Education. The state with the largest share of its award left? New York, with 59 percent of its $700 million still in the bank as of Nov. 30. Meanwhile, Delaware (one of the two states that got a jump start by winning in the first round) has just 31 percent left. Combined, the 12 Race to the Top states have $1.8 billion of their $4 billion in winnings left, or about 46 percent. The Obama administration's signature education-improvement effort was designed-for the most part-to be a four-year program. Awards were made in 2010. It's important to note that the large balances aren't necessarily a bad thing. For one, it's possible this money has already been spent on paper-a contract has been signed, for example-but hasn't been drawn down. Secondly, sometimes there are delays in when the money is spent and when that shows up on the federal ledger. And thirdly, Race to the Top states spent the first couple years of their grants doing intense planning, and left a lot of the actual implementation to the final couple of years. However, the unspent money is one indicator of larger delays that have plagued Race to the Top states, and it is a factor in the Education Department's decision to allow winning states, on a case-by-case basis, to get an additional year of time to implement some of their programs. With these "no-cost extensions," states will have until July 1, 2015, to spend their money (versus summer 2014). Federal officials aren't granting wholesale extensions; the extra time is for small components of states' winning plans. States including Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee are approved to spend some of their money during the 2014-15 school year, mostly on state-level oversight of the program. Advocacy Groups Pushing Back -MICHELE McNEIL Ed. Dept. to Revise SIG Analysis After Contractor's Analysis Error | POLITICS K-12_News | The U.S. Department of Education is revising its recent analysis of the second year of the Obama administration's controversial version of the School Improvement Grant program, after it became clear that an outside contractor charged with crunching the data erroneously left out too many schools that should have been included in the mix. The contractor in question was the American Institutes for Research, which has conducted other SIG research for the department. The analysis cost $28,300 overall. The department is hoping to re-release an updated analysis, with more schools included, in January. The original analysis, released in November, excluded about half the schools that entered the newly revamped SIG program in its first year (the 2010-11 school year) and about a third of the schools that started in the second year (the 2011-12 school year). At the time, the department gave a host of reasons for the exclusions. For instance, the agency said, number crunchers took out schools in states that changed their assessments, schools that merged with other schools, and schools where proficiency rates were missing. But apparently, in some cases, the contractors were overzealous in deciding which schools to toss out, according to an email message to reporters by Cameron French, a department spokesman. Overall, the analysis showed that about two-thirds of schools improved, while another third saw stagnant student performance (or even slipped backward). It's unclear if the do-over will significantly change those conclusions. Importantly, the change doesn't have any impact on the actual school- and district-level data, for every school in the country, that were released along with the SIG results. -ALYSON KLEIN On California's Test Suspension | POLITICS K-12_News | A number of state and national advocacy organizations are none too happy about California's decision to suspend most of its accountability testing for a year to help the state's schools get up to speed on new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards-and they've let U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan know. Not explaining to teachers and schools how their students-particularly those in key subgroups, such as English-language learners-perform on assessments is a major missed opportunity for professional development, say the groups, which include StudentsFirst, Teach Plus, the Education Trust-West, and the Alliance for a Better Community. "The teachers, principals, and superintendents with whom we work have been very clear: They need to know how their students are doing," the groups wrote in a Dec. 23 letter to Mr. Duncan. "This is not only essential in assessing how schools are adapting their curriculum and instruction to meet the [common-core standards], but critical to teachers in their own professional development and continuous improvement to meet the needs of their students." Any waiver that the federal Department of Education grants the Golden State from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act-the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-should, at a minimum, call for the state to "provide useful data on student progress back to the districts," the letter says. More than 40 states and the District of Columbia have NCLB waivers, but California isn't one of them. However, it was one of 15 that applied for the department's so-called "double testing" waiver. That waiver allows states to get rid of some or all of their current testing programs in math and language arts to focus on the field tests being given this spring by two multistate commonassessment consortia. So far, California hasn't heard back on its request. -A.K. EDUCATION WEEK | January 8, 2014 | | 17

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 8, 2014

Education Week - January 8, 2014
State Legislators Fire Up Engines
Inspections Piloted for Teacher Prep
Student Views Shifting on Risks Of Marijuana
L.A. School Bridges Home-School Gap
InBloom Sputters as Data Privacy Hits the Spotlight
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Fariña to Lead N.Y.C. Public Schools
Judge Censures District’s Use of ‘Hess Report’
Los Angeles, D.C. Outshine Urban Peers in NAEP Gains
Blogs of the Week
Cloud Computing Expands, Raising Data-Privacy Concerns
Congressional Appropriators Turn To K-12 Spending Details
Rural Districts Win Big in Race To Top Awards
States Split Latest Pot of Early-Learning Aid
Blogs of the Week
ERIC A. HANUSHEK: Why the U.S. Results on PISA Matter
ROBERT WEINTRAUB & DAVID WEINTRAUB: Why Arne Duncan’s PISA Comments Miss the Mark
JACK DALE: Learning From a Test
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PETER W. COOKSON JR.: Looking for Equity on the Yellow School Bus

Education Week - January 8, 2014