Education Week - June 12, 2013 - (Page 31)

EDUCATION WEEK GOVERNMENT POLITICS & NCLB Bills Split Over Federal Role in K-12 Educators’ reviews spark deep divisions By Alyson Klein Lawmakers in Congress introduced three separate pieces of legislation last week to rewrite the long-stalled Elementary and Secondary Education Act—but none of the measures has bipartisan backing, meaning that there will almost certainly not be a reauthorization this year. All three bills—like the administration’s series of waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act—would move away from “adequate yearly progress,” the key yardstick at the center of the 11-year-old federal school accountability law. But the similarities largely end there. A measure introduced by Senate Democrats—which has gotten the thumbs-up from some influential civil rights groups—would largely pivot off the administration’s NCLB waiver system. But Republican bills introduced in both chambers would seek a much slimmer role for the federal government when it comes to accountability, school turnarounds, and education funding. “We tried hard to get a com- promise,” Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top lawmaker on the education committee and the author of the Senate GOP legislation, said last week. “We just have dramatically different views of the role of the federal government in education.” ‘Big Improvement’ Under the Senate Democratic measure—put forth by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, the chairman of the education committee, and endorsed by the 11 other Democrats on the panel—states would be on the hook for setting goals for student achievement. For the 37 states plus the District of Columbia that have waivers, they could stick with those plans. And states that don’t already have waivers would have to come up with a set of goals that take into account both overall student achievement and growth. That’s a departure from legislation that Sen. Harkin introduced in the previous Congress, with Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, who at the time was the top Republican on the panel. The bill passed out of committee in October of 2011 with the support of every Democrat and just three Republicans. But it never made it to the floor of the full Senate, in part because of opposition from the civil rights and business communities that argued the legislation didn’t go far enough in requiring states to set studentachievement goals. Those groups don’t feel that way this time around. “This is a big improvement,” said Kate Tromble, the director of legislative affairs for the Education Trust, a Washington group that promotes educational equity. She PAGE 33 > n JUNE 12, 2013 n 31 POLICY BRIEF Mich. Loses Round In Mascots Dispute School mascots in Michigan States Fold Teaching Into Preschool Rating Factors By Julie Blair The progress is hard even for Laura J. Johns to believe. In a matter of months, her home state of Georgia has gone from having a patchwork of struggling daycare centers and preschools staffed by low-paid practitioners to what the state early education official sees as an aggressive push to professionalize the field. The quality of the teaching force is a key piece of Georgia’s effort, which has gained momentum because of proactive lawmakers, an infusion of $6.5 million for teacher incentives from state government and foundations, and a statewide rating system for early education programs, said Ms. Johns, the director of Quality Initiative for the state’s Department of Early Care and Learning. The state’s rating system for preschool operations “is going gangbusters,” Ms. Johns said, adding that 150 programs have been rated in the past year or so and that 1,200 more are ramping up to do so. “We’re in a great position to be a model for the country.” Gaining Momentum Georgia may be ahead of the competition in terms of its pace, but it isn’t alone in its effort. More than 13,000 early-childhood programs in 20 states have now been rated by what’s known as a Quality Rating and Improvement System, or QRIS. Nearly every other state is either starting to implement or is developing its own program, said Robert Pianta, who studies QRIS systems and is the dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as well as the director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning there. The aim, he said, is to improve the quality of early-childhood education while providing an easyto-understand evaluation of day-care and preschool programs for the consumers who use them. While states vary in the way they assess programs for ratings, he said, most offer some financial incentive—provided by the state or federal government or, in some cases, foundations—for good quality, including teachers’ educational advancement. “The concept is an A,” Mr. Pianta said. “It really matters what teachers are doing with kids in classrooms.” That said, he’s one of many national sources who criticize the fact that the ratings systems don’t yet tie teacher performance to student output in many states. Others say the systems don’t accurately depict what’s happening in classrooms and are hard for consumers to interpret. Implementation, Mr. Pianta said, “is more of a C right now with a lot of room for improvements.” The QRIS concept dates back more than a decade to North Carolina and Oklahoma, said Louise Stoney, the co-founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance, an online advocacy and information group that focuses on the complexities of early education funding. “North Carolina and Oklahoma had really low standards for quality for licensing, and they wanted to improve early-childhood education but needed something that was voluntary,” Ms. Stoney said. Evaluators began looking at day-care programs and preschools to assess a host of variables including administrative structures, basic child health and safety, availability and use of teaching materials, instructor licensure and education levels, and student-to-teacher ratios, she said. Variation Across the Nation Meanwhile, other states with similar goals began setting up their own programs. Some awarded points for achievement in each category; others required programs to perform sufficiently on certain aspects before allowing them to be assessed on others. Programs were given simple star ratings, with the belief that parents would use them to make choices about early-childhood programs, Ms. Stoney said. The hope was that parents would pick programs with higher quality ratings, pushing competitors to improve. Most states tied financial gains to the QRIS, awarding funding and sometimes materials for improvement to programs, directors, or teachers in the form of cash bonuses or tax incentives. Some states offered tax write-offs to individuals and businesses that donated toward such programs. In 2011, the federal government deemed having a QRIS so important that it provided an incentive to states for such programs by offering money via Race to the Top Early Challenge Grants only to those with such systems in place or under development. The aim of the grants—about $630 million of which has been awarded nationally so far—was to increase the number and percentage of low-income PAGE 34 > CONSUMER’S GUIDE Nearly all states have or are developing Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, or QRIS, to evaluate preschools. þRating systems are seen as a way to give the public a handle on the quality of early education programs, day-care centers, and other operations for young children that can vary widely in their makeup and aims. þNearly every state has or is developing a QRIS program. þTo date, more than 13,000 early education centers in 20 states have been QRIS-rated. þRatings may be based on a complex set of factors that include instructor licensure and education levels, student-toteacher ratios, administrative structures, basic child health and safety, and availability and use of teaching materials. þOnly states with a QRIS in place or already under development were eligible to compete for a federal Early Learning Challenge Grant under the Race to the Top program. SOURCE: Education Week with American Indian imagery have been spared by the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights—but the legal wrangling and heated emotions surrounding them appear likely to continue. The OCR late last month dismissed a complaint from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights that sought to ban the use of such mascots and imagery in K-12 schools that receive federal funds. The Michigan civil rights department argued in its February complaint that the use of American Indian imagery denied equal rights to Native American students. The state agency’s director of law and policy cited research that suggests such imagery results in “actual harm” to current and future American Indian students. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, schools that receive federal money are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The job of the OCR in mascot complaints, as described in its response to the Michigan civil rights department, is to determine if the allegations “are sufficient to constitute a racially hostile environment.” The federal office defines such an environment as “one in which racially harassing conduct takes place that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the recipient’s programs or services.” n When the OCR asked the Michigan civil rights agency to identify specific students who had been harmed by American Indian mascots, the state agency cited only research as the basis of its complaint. “You did not provide to OCR any specific examples of racebased incidents nor identify any students or individuals who have suffered specific harm because of the alleged discrimination at any of the named school districts,” wrote Catherine Criswell, the director of the OCR’s Cleveland branch, in the letter, dated May 29. As a result, the OCR determined that the evidence provided wasn’t sufficient to begin an investigation, and thus dismissed the complaint. The Michigan civil rights agency received notice of the dismissal May 31, according to the Associated Press, and is considering whether to appeal the decision. A successful appeal could end up being costly, however. —BRYAN TOPOREK

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 12, 2013

Education Week - June 12, 2013
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Obama Plan Champions E-Rate Fixes
States Seek Flexibility on Testing
FOCUS ON: SCHOOL LEADERS: Chicago Initiative Aims to Upgrade Principal Pipeline
Questions Arise About Algebra 2 For All Students
Year-End Exams Add Urgency to Teaching
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Race on to Ready N.Y.C. Teacher Reviews
Districts Turning Summer School Into Learning Labs
Preschools Aim to Better Equip Low-Income Parents
After Early Progress, SIG School Struggles To Improve
Progress, Persistence Seen in Latest Data on Bullying
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: ‘MOOC’ Plan Could Spawn Dual-Enrollment Courses
Virginia Joins Ranks of States Creating State-Run Districts
Blogs of the Week
NCLB Bills Split Over Federal Role in K-12
Policy Brief
States Fold Teaching Into Preschool Rating Factors
Peer Review Quietly Put On Hold For State Assessment Systems
State Opposition Jeopardizes Common-Core Future
OP EDUCATION: Are New Teachers Ready to Teach?
EDWARD CROWE, MICHAEL ALLEN, & CHARLES COBLE: A Good Time for Progress in Teacher Prep
JULIE GORLEWSKI: Teaching Toward Utopia
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
OTIS KRIEGEL: ‘You’ll Get the Hang of It’

Education Week - June 12, 2013