Friday, July 31, 2015

After Years Lambasting Teacher-Ed Programs, Art Levine Creates One

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, headed by one of the most visible critics of teacher-education programs, is creating its own graduate school and research center in the field in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Arthur Levine

The new venture, the Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning, will offer master’s degrees entirely through a competency-based program. It will provide instruction largely through online teaching, and will conduct research on new approaches to teacher education and school leadership. It will also distribute its course modules as free "open source" materials to any colleges that want to use them in their own master’s programs or in professional-development courses that teachers take throughout their careers.

"We’re hoping to reach tens of thousands of people," said Arthur Levine, president of the foundation, who announced the venture on Tuesday at a news conference with MIT’s president.
Mr. Levine, a former president of Teachers College at Columbia University, has been known for his prior critiques of teacher-education programs, at one point calling the range of quality in graduate programs in school leadership "inadequate to appalling" and too often valued by their universities mostly as a "cash cow."

For Mr. Levine, the new academy is a chance to put into practice much of what he has been advocating in his decade as a public critic, and to apply what the foundation has learned through its teaching-fellowship program, which has worked with state policy leaders and 28 schools of education during his eight-year tenure as president there.

"Anybody can throw bricks," said Mr. Levine. Now he'll focus on the question: "Can you change it?"
The venture also builds on some of the ambitions for greater educational experimentation that MIT articulated last year in its report on its own future. That plan called for MIT to become more involved with elementary and secondary education; to make greater use of competency-based teaching, blended learning, and simulations; and to develop new roles for professors and new kinds of credentials. The new academy is "a chance to apply it all to teacher education," said Mr. Levine.

Hands-On Focus

Experts predict the United States will need more than 1.5 million new teachers over the next decade. And as a report from the American Institutes for Research recently noted, many of those same experts agree that the teacher-preparation field needs to become more selective in admitting candidates and to make licensure more stringent. The report also said that the programs should be more grounded in hands-on models with more-effective mentoring.

The teaching academy will start out small; 25 students will attend free in the first class, beginning in the fall of 2017. After that, the academy hopes to enroll about 200 students who will each pay about $15,000 for a degree earned by satisfying the required competencies set out in several modules. The program will focus at first on training teachers for mathematics, and the sciences, working directly with two MIT professors: Eric Klopfer, an expert in the use of computer games and simulations to understand science, and Vijay Kumar, MIT’s associate dean of digital learning.

To develop the competencies, the academy will work with Charlotte Danielson, whose Framework for Teaching rubrics are employed in many school districts around the country. (In some cases the rubrics are controversial because they aren’t grounded in curricula.) MIT will provide the STEM knowledge as well as expertise in technology and cognitive development.

In addition to the program for STEM educators, Mr. Levine said the academy would offer a master’s in school leadership, modeled on the M.B.A. in education leadership that the Wilson foundation has been promoting in three states. He said he envisioned the research side of the academy as the "Bell Labs of education."

The academy for teaching and learning is backed by more than $7 million, including $2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $3 million from the Amgen Foundation, and $2 million from the Wilson foundation. Mr. Levine said he hoped to eventually raise $30 million for the effort.

Crowded Field

The academy joins an already-crowded field. More than 600 colleges now offer master’s degrees or other credentials beyond a bachelor’s degree in teaching. A range of other programs, including Teach for America, newly created institutions like the Relay Graduate School of Education, in New York City, and teacher-certification programs offered by charter schools, also prepare people for teaching jobs and careers.

Jenny DeMonte, author of the new report from the American Institutes for Research on teacher preparation, said the academy’s focus on studying what works in training teachers was especially welcome. "There’s so little research about what teachers should know" to be effective, she said. And having MIT involved "puts some research chops behind it."

Donald E. Heller, dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, said that with so many other options right now, it remains to be seen whether the new academy would have a significant impact on the field. In teacher education, he noted, the one thing everyone agrees on is "clinical experience is very important." The key questions for the academy, he said, are: "What will the supervision be for this program? Where will the students be placed?" The academy plans to work closely with public schools in and around Boston.

Mr. Heller said the academy’s idea of making its modules and materials freely available is generous and notable, but may not necessarily be as transformative as Mr. Levine hopes because, as the Michigan State dean noted, it will be debatable whether they will improve on what’s already available.

"For a lot of people it will be, ‘Oh, here’s one more person competing with us,’" said Mr. Heller. But because of the partners and Mr. Levine’s visibility in the field, he said, "this will be watched a lot more closely" than some of the others.

Executive Compensation at UofL— A Tipping Point?

This from the Kentucky Health Policy Institute:
Over the past few years there has been a plethora of events, reports, investigations, prosecutions and miscellaneous scandals involving the University of Louisville that should have made the Louisville and Frankfort communities sit up and take notice that all may not be well or even legal within the Cardinal Citadel.  However, a recent series of investigative and other reports about the amount and mechanisms of executive compensation have proven to be the tipping point for public outrage. The income disparity between a select few in leadership and the not-keeping-up-with-inflation salaries of faculty and staff– supported as they are by soaring student tuitions– became too great for University of Louisville spin-meisters to stonewall, to facilely explain away, or to blame on the Commonwealth’s lack of funding.  Prominent among the recent reports are those of Chris Otts of WDRB, Andrew Wolfson  of the Courier Journal, and Stephen George of Insider Louisville. The faculty and staff of the University are also understandably outraged.  I put my two cents in also.

I don’t have the patience or space to detail how the story unfolded. The journalists above have published detailed analyses of “how much, how come, and who knew?”  The story has gone nationwide.  Troubling is the observation that numbers and other details from different sources do not always agree.   Official UofL and UofL Foundation documentation is shockingly sparse, inconsistent, and embarrassingly incomplete. The recollections of present and former Trustees of what actually transpired vary, in my opinion, proportionally to obvious personal loyalty to President Ramsey and to the detriment of University credibility.

In its typical effort to deflect the widespread criticism, the University hired an outside consultant to prepare a comparison, or more correctly a justification for the Board of Trustees of how President Ramsey’s compensation compares to that of presidents of other selected universities.  However, at the very session at which the consultant presented its report to a formal meeting of the Trustees, it was revealed that the necessary supporting information given to the consultant by the University was incomplete and grossly understated Ramsey’s compensation!  [Incomplete disclosure? Has that ever happened before?] Additionally and following subsequent full disclosure, the consultant expressed concern about some elements of Ramsey’s compensation that were atypical at other universities.  Despite this revelatory debacle, a majority of the full Board voted to give Ramsey a (reduced) raise and a bonus! It is apparent to me that UofL Board members, both old and new, have no idea how much money Ramsey has been getting nor how he came to receive it!  Shame on them! Ramsey recently forcefully complained that his credibility was being challenged by those asking for accurate information.  It is clear that somebody’s credibility is in tatters.  It is now the responsibility of President Ramsey to tell us whose.

Local newspapers and broadcast media that are sometimes accused of being soft on UofL for fear of losing advertising revenue or sports access are coming out with hard hitting investigative reports. The Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald Leader, Leo, and other newspapers have recently published editorials very critical of the University and its Board of Trustees in this matter.  Prominent citizens are now also asking hard questions and arguing for more transparency.  Good!  This degree of community concern, including a direct request from at least one member of the UofL Board of Trustees, has culminated in the initiation of a limited management audit by the Office of the Auditor of State Accounts of the relationships between the University and at least one of its maze of not-for-profit and for-profit corporations and side-businesses.  In my opinion this is an insufficient response, but at least it is a beginning.  “Following the money” is usually more revelatory than looking at organizational documents.  Independent outside review is what is indicated.  When the University hires its own consultants, we can anticipate before the results are in (if they are disclosed at all) what the reports will say.  As noted above, the initial recent report used by Board of Trustees was embarrassingly ignorant of the facts, but was nevertheless used to justify a 3% raise.  With the exception of predictable fan-boy support, or letters from business partners and special friends promulgated by the University, public comments in the social media to current articles and editorials has been much more negative than the responses to earlier issues.  A current poll by the Courier Journal shows that some 80% of respondents believe that President Ramsey is paid too much, and that a similar proportion believe he is not entitled to a bonus.  Count me among them for reasons discussed below.

How could all of this have happened?

The UofL Board of Trustees are smart, connected people. How could this mess have emerged under their watch?  I was enlightened by a reference offered by the prominent Louisville executive Rich Gimmel as a comment to one of the articles above.  It identified to the concept of “group-think,” or how is it that good people working together can make bad decisions.  I offer the link to my readers.

First things should come first.

Ramsey’s supporters, mostly those who have rotated for years among the various University corporate boards, enjoyed the best seats and invitations to University functions, and whose own prior University involvement is being judged, defend Ramsey’s compensation in a variety of ways.  They point to his longevity on the job with attendant compounding of his compensation, his leadership as the University increased the number of diplomas awarded, the amount of money raised by the Foundation, success in other self-selected metrics approved by the Board, and so on.  Fair enough.  What galls me the most is the prominence given to the justifications that we are now in the Atlantic Coast Conference and have been named by CBS as the “Number Two” sports program in the country.  These latter achievements would be well and good if their foundation rested upon an excellent, or for that matter even an average academic program.  Alas, that is not the way others look upon us.

Academic ranking among other similar institutions.

Using publically available information, U. S. News & World Report’s current profile of Colleges and Universities ranks UofL #161 in the category of National Universities– “those offering a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs, and demonstrating a commitment to research.”  (For comparison, the other ranked national universities in Kentucky are the University of Kentucky at #129, and Spalding University at #181.)   UofL’s undergraduate acceptance rate is 71%– not very selective.  Only 78% of freshman return for a second year.  Our 6-year graduation rate is 53%, but our 4-year gradation rate is only a feeble 25%.  Recall that every year beyond the traditional 4 years entails another basic $10,432 tuition and fees for in-state students, and $24,320 for out-of-state students to which is added other costs of living and education! This is another example of how the “success” of the University comes unnecessarily out of the pocketbooks of its students. Yes some students choose to extend their stay for a variety of reasons other than academic success, but non-availability of required courses and inadequate counselling have been problems as well. Recruiting out-of state and out-of-country students to increase tuition revenue has become standard operating procedure for at least some units of the University.  Tuition remains a major funding stream for UofL, perhaps the major stream.

Phi Beta Kappa.

Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest and best known academic honorary society for institutions of higher education offering liberal arts and sciences programs.  It uses a rigorous process to vet applications wishing to host a chapter on their campuses.  There are currently 283 chapters comprising some 10% of the nation’s leading colleges and universities.  Membership is a well recognized feather in the cap of institutions and students alike. The University of Louisville does not have a chapter.  At least the last three of its applications have been rejected.  UofL is the only eligible member of the Atlantic Coast [Athletic] Conference that does not have a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  (Georgia Tech does not have a chapter either, but it is not primarily an arts and sciences institution.  Virginia Tech on the other hand does have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.)

In 2004 the rejection letter stated concerns about low faculty salaries, a poor graduation rate, and a weak role for foreign languages. It commented that “the overall place of the liberal arts and sciences in the institution’s mission needs clarification.” There was concern about “the lack of a policy on freedom of inquiry.”  In 2007 the graduation rate of 41% “seemed seriously low,” the ratio of academic advisors to students seemed “perilously high,” and “it was a matter of concern that a full third of the instruction in arts and sciences  disciplines was conducted by contingent faculty.”  Faculty salaries were still considered to be “relatively low.” In 2011 the reviewers commented that UofL was “in many ways an institution on the cusp of readiness for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter” but withheld approval in part because “it appears that over half of the arts and sciences curriculum is being taught by contingent faculty” Concern was expressed about “who was actually responsible for some courses.”  The graduation rate was still too low.  The rejection letter acknowledged the financial constraints facing the University. It appears that no further application for a UofL chapter of Phi Beta Kappa has been prepared.

How ’bout those Cards?

Sadly, UofL’s inability to to compete at this level academically is representative of the Commonwealth as a whole.  Although I do not know how many other schools have actually applied, the only schools in Kentucky with Phi Beta Kappa chapters are the University of Kentucky and Center College.  Public officials and the public at large should sit up and take notice.  This is a matter of national competitiveness and economic survivability.  I cannot avoid wondering what the result would be if academic competitiveness was awarded the same reverence as success on the playing fields? It clearly is not.  Our students and their parents deserve more for their money than Beer and Circus.


Over the past 15 years, clinical and academic programs at UofL have been starved in favor of the University’s commercial research initiatives. We paid a big price for that.  So, how have we done in the research business?  Surprisingly, it is difficult for me to sort out the claims from the actual progress.  Brick and mortar edifices built to contain scientific laboratories and startups house non-scientific entities. UofL publications and presentations by its leadership still brag that the University enjoyed the fastest rise in the ranking of medical schools for research funding by the National Institutes of Health.  That statistic was actually generated by me in the early 2000s when I helped advocate for the “Bucks for Brains” program in which the Commonwealth sunk several hundred million dollars into the research programs of the University of Kentucky and UofL. It was easy for UofL to improve its ranking in NIH funding at that time because it was already so low!  The existing NIH grants of new Bucks-for-Brains faculty hires that were recruited to UofL was enough to make a difference in our ranking. How have we done since then?   I have pointed out before, that our ranking for NIH grants has been flat and in fact that the initial bubble of funding rank after the initial hires and departures of faculty has actually deflated. Our updated rank for NH funding in 2014 was #71 out of 140 medical schools— unchanged over the last 15 years. [In 2014, UofL Medical School received 93 grants totaling $40.7 million.]

Of course, schools and non-medial departments of Universities are also eligible for NIH funding.   On a University-wide basis in 2014, UofL ranked #88 out of several hundred institutions of higher learning. The University of Kentucky ranked #53.

Commercialization of research– has it worked?

The promise to Kentuckians was that the monetization of intellectual property and research would bring a bonanza of money and jobs to the state.  I truly have no idea how things have turned out, who might have profited, or where any resulting jobs were located.  I do know that the change to a major focus on commercial research has had a dramatic effect on the academic environment of UofL and not all of it good. It is my concern that things are not as rosy as we are being told.

As an example, I draw your attention to Metacyte, a UofL for-profit corporation. According to the UofL Foundation website, “Working with the UofL Office of Technology Transfer and Nucleus, MetaCyte is creating a seamless commercialization process that will yield viable, operating companies with a combined value in excess of $1Billion by 2020.” However, at last update, only a paltry $16 million of funding was secured and 40 jobs created. It is claimed that more than $11 million was returned to UofL for additional research in the last 13 years.  This is less than $1million per year! This is a tiny fraction of the  mega-millions bled away from clinical and academic programs of the medical school and its hospital to support commercial research.

When I looked three weeks ago, the website of Metacyte itself had not been updated in any way for at least 3 years.  Since then, the website has been shut down.  I am told that the word on the street is that Metacyte itself has closed its doors altogether. Who can tell us different?  I am interested in knowing what is happening in all the other commercial endeavors of UofL and its maze of “private” corporations. I would like to think that other readers would be interested too.  Commercial research was supposed to be the major priority of the Unniversity.

They made me do it!

UofL leadership likes to justify its shift to research as responding to a mandate from state government to become a premier urban research institution, or something along those lines. I had already arrived at UofL when such language was adopted. My memory identifies that mandate as being initiated within UofL itself.  The University became apoplectic when it was announced that the Commonwealth was launching a major initiative to raise the University of Kentucky into the ranks of the top 20 state Universities nationwide.  In large measure, UofL was reacting to the “little brother” designation. The result was that money that would have gone towards the UK initiative was divided between the two schools and neither has achieved their goal. One can only wonder what would have happened if the resources had been divided or used differently. Some still suggest that UofL should be merged into UK, at least with respect to their medical schools. That would be an interesting proposal!


I am at a loss for how to end this article. I am feeling discouragement. It bothers me greatly that even new UofL Board of Trustees members who dare to ask for accurate information and accountability are being demonized and cast as ill-prepared or ill-informed. I have felt some of that too. Nonetheless, the situation we have now is untenable and a source of embarrassment to the community.  Our reputation is suffering badly and adding to our image problem along with evolution-denial, wooden arcs and other science rejections; and continuing government resistance to same-sex marriage.  Surely others who would consider Louisville and Kentucky as places to live, to do business, or to learn are taking notice. I have taken some comfort that the last few rounds of gubinatorial appointments to the UofL Board of Trustees have not come from the group of UofL insiders.  That needs to continue. In many ways, we need fresh looks if not a reboot. The editorial boards of our newspapers are taking positions– our elected and community leaders need to do the same.
HT 2 Steve

Friday, July 24, 2015

KDE considers Interim Commissioner

Plan to whittle Commissioner candidates at annual retreat

This from KSBA:
It’s looking more and more like there will be a interim commissioner of education to span the time between Terry Holliday’s retirement and when his successor takes over.

Roger Marcum
The Kentucky Board of Education will meet Aug. 5-6 in Frankfort for its annual planning retreat (Wednesday) and its regular meeting (Thursday). The advance agenda released yesterday calls for the panel to consider “a motion to appoint an individual as interim commissioner.”

KBE Chairman Roger Marcum said in an email interview with eNews that he hopes the need for an interim chief executive will be a short one.

“I would hope the transition time would be no longer than 30-60 days,” he said. “KBE continues to work toward a goal of selecting the next commissioner before or soon after Dr. Holiday's departure Aug. 31st. If we are able to do so, there will still be a period of transition time before that person will assume the job duties and responsibilities.”

Marcum said he and KBE Vice Chairman Jay Parrent have been putting together a list of candidates for the state board to consider if an interim commissioner is to be chosen at the retreat.

The first item on the board's Wednesday retreat agenda calls for a closed session to meet with representatives of the Florida-based search firm, Greenwood/Asher and Associates. The initial application process for the search closed last Friday. Marcum said more about identifying finalists should be firmed up after the Aug. 5 meeting with the consultants.

Meanwhile, Holliday will be feted at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort that evening in an invitation-only event billed as a “celebration of Kentucky education progress and recognition of Commissioner Holliday's role in that progress.”

At Thursday’s regular meeting, state board members will vote on leadership for the coming year. Marcum has indicated he is willing to serve another one-year term as chairman, adding that the issue is up to the full board. Parrent also is eligible for another term as vice chairman. Both of their terms run through April 2018.

The Thursday agenda also includes staff presentations on the state’s Professional Growth and Effectiveness System for teacher and administration evaluations, an update on academic standards, and a discussion of the state board/KDE biennial budget request and legislative agenda for the 2016 General Assembly.

Public sessions of KBE meetings are streamed live on the Internet via the KDE website.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Assessment board denies Grand Campus exemption

This from the Richmond Register:

If the Madison County Board of Assessment Appeals’ denial of tax exemption for the Grand Campus student housing complex holds, Eastern Kentucky University will have to pay a large property tax bill each year to local taxing entities.

In a decision sent to the university Monday by certified mail, the assessment board upheld Madison County Property Evaluation Administrator Billy Ackerman’s denial of tax exemption for the property.

By 3 p.m. Tuesday, EKU had not received the letter, according to a university spokesperson, and no statement would be issued until officials have a chance to review the decision.

The board conducted a public hearing late Friday morning and then deliberated behind closed doors that afternoon.

The Richmond Register obtained a copy of its decision Tuesday through an open records request.

The assessed value of Grand Campus is $26 million. Under 2014 rates, it would pay $253,760 to local taxing entities, with $156,260 going to the county school district.

Taxes also would be owed to the Madison Fiscal Court, the city of Richmond, the county library board, health board, ambulance board and cooperative extension board.

In its decision, the assessment board cited the state’s 2010 Property Tax Exemption Guide which states,
“If there is any doubt that an exemption should apply, then the doubt should be resolved in favor of not applying the exemption.”

To satisfy the statutory requirement that it follow the “advice” of the state Revenue Department in questions of tax exemption, the board noted it conducted a telephone conference call with David Gordon, executive director of the Revenue Depart-ment’s Office of Property Valuation, and Bethany Rice, an attorney for the department. However, neither would offer more than an “opinion” on the issue, leaving the assessment board without a “judicial determination,” its statement noted.

A review of the Grand Campus lease, which requires the university to pay any property taxes levied on the facility, “closely resembles a standard commercial triple net lease,” the board stated in its unanimous decision. “It appears that Grand Campus LLC did not intent to transfer ownership beyond a leasehold interest.”

If it wants to continue its appeals, the next step is for the university to go before the state Board of Assessment Appeals, according to Ackerman. After that, interested parties can take the case to the courts.

The taxes are not collected while the case is under appeal, Ackerman said Friday.

Kicked Upstairs?

Katte leaving for Central Office job; 
says criticism isn't behind the move

Over the past year and a half, Meadowthorpe Principal Joel Katte had been under fire from a group of parents and school council members for a host of perceived slights, shortcomings, and offenses. The opposition to Katte was substantial, noisy, and public, but not universal.
Joel Katte

His critics held him responsible for...
  • test score declines (and having no answers for why they occurred)
  •  low scores on program reviews - where administrative leadership was rated among the lowest scores - and no area was rated as proficient
  • achievement gap increases
  • the 10% growth that was heralded in one year, was lost (-14%) in the next
  • little administrative support for implementing the school's CSIP
  • inadequate Professional Development
  • too much attention to non-academic programs
  • questionable financial arrangement where Katte profited personally from the expenditure of substantial school funds over which Katte had control without oversight
  • telling the faculty "I have gotten rid of most of you, and I only have a few to go."
  • soliciting financial support to attend a Franklin-Covey workshop from Meadowthorpe parents 
  • unauthorized spending
  • that business practices were suspicious for favoritism
  • unequal opportunities for students
  • skyrocketing turnover rate among faculty
Criticism continued as district efforts to resolve the issues were viewed as ineffective, and too often, lacking in follow through.

For example, last year Katte and the Council completed a bunch of additional SBDM training. But despite this, Katte was late electing teacher representatives last spring, and completely failed to conduct the minority parent election. As a result the Council will likely start the year out of compliance with state law. The same was true the year prior.

This caused his critics to opine that his failure may have been a purposeful attempt to hand-pick faculty to fill existing vacancies without full Council intervention.

At the time of this week's announcement that Katte would be leaving the school, there were no signs that the mounting parental concerns were being resolved.

We've seen this kind of thing before. A principal struggles, but rather than being removed, they end up in the central office. Sometimes, this is a good move. One can be competent, but yet, not cut out to be a principal. The job is not for everyone. Although, much of Katte's criticism centered on competence.

But at other times, an administrator may be moved to the district office, and shunted into a corner (out of the mainstream [alternative and federal programs...] and from which they rarely emerge without changing districts), because the district failed to document unsatisfactory performance and do not "have enough" to fire the individual. And since it's hard for nice folks to fire other nice folks, the impulse to find an easy way to make the problem go away is attractive.

I don't know what's true in this case. But it's very hard to take Katte's statements to the Herald-Leader at face value.

This from the Herald-Leader:
Joel Katte said he is leaving his job as principal of Lexington's Meadowthorpe Elementary. Katte said he is taking a Central Office post, but not because of complaints from critics about his time at Meadowthorpe.

Katte said he will consider it "a privilege and an honor" to be the administrator of Fayette County Public Schools alternative programs for at-risk youth.

He notified parents of his departure Monday. Supporters and critics alike spoke out about Katte in late 2014. Two parents, a grandparent, a teacher and a former staffer were among those who told the school board Oct. 27 that there were problems at Meadowthorpe. They made public their concerns about teacher turnover, communication and declining student achievement at a school board meeting.

One parent, Traci Letcher, told the Herald-Leader in October that more than 150 people signed a petition seeking a resolution.

On Monday, Letcher said, "I am excited for Mr. Katte's next position."

One issue raised by some parents is that Meadowthorpe dropped in state proficiency testing in 2013-14 — from a classification of "distinguished" to "needs improvement."

Former superintendent Tom Shelton said at the time that district officials were working on a plan to improve communication and collaboration at the school and analyzing test scores to develop an improvement plan.

Other parents and teachers have said they supported Katte.

Katte, responding to an email message Monday from the Herald-Leader, said the public concerns didn't lead to his departure.

"I feel called to support the teaching staffs of the Lexington Day Treatment Center, Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center, and our Family Care Center that educates young mothers to ensure these programs' students receive a world-class education that will set each student up for a healthy, successful, and rewarding life," Katte wrote in the email message.

"My first teaching position was in an alternative setting for middle school students, and my last teaching experience was in an alternative high school. Both of those experiences had profoundly positive impacts on my education philosophy, leadership and professional commitments, and I am eager to work in these very important educational settings again."

Fayette County schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Meadowthorpe's school-based council will meet this week to decide next steps. That group could request that district officials appoint an interim principal, or site-based council members could immediately proceed with selecting a principal, Deffendall said.

Monday, July 20, 2015

ESEA Rewrite: What to Expect From House-Senate Conference

It's not over 'til the fat lady sings.

Now that the House and Senate have each passed a bill to update the No Child Left Behind law, conference negotiators must strike a bargain that can satisfy a majority of Republicans in the House and earn the president's signature. What are the chances?

This from Morning Education (via email):  
Amid the serious Senate floor debate last week, there were a few lines from HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander that drew smiles. There was Alexander calling Democrats' pre-K expansion amendment "Common Core for kindergarten" that would amount to a "national school board for 4-year-olds." And this line about an amendment on teaching about climate change: "Just imagine what the curriculum on climate change would be if we shifted from President [Barack] Obama to President [Ted] Cruz and then back to President [Bernie] Sanders and then to President [Donald] Trump?" Alexander joked. "There would be a lot of wasted paper, writing and rewriting textbooks." Then, there was Sen. Al Franken's quip: "The only thing I liked about No Child Left Behind was the name."
Fourteen years ago when NCLB was passed, it took bipartisanship in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to get the deal done: A conference on the House and Senate bills was mostly dead in August of that year.

This go around, the official conference isn't likely to begin until after the August recess, House Education Committee Chairman John Kline said. But even before the Senate passed its rewrite of the law on Thursday, GOP House aides started combing through the Senate's amendments, trying to figure out their next move.
This from Politics K-12:
Education leaders from both chambers of Congress begin brokering an overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this week after recent passage of starkly differing House and Senate bills, in hopes of delivering something to the president's desk this fall.

And the clock is ticking: Congress convenes Monday for one of its last working weeks before members scatter for the summer break July 30 until September.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed its version of a federal K-12 reauthorization for the first time in more than 14 years. The bill, known as the Every Child Achieves Act, is carefully crafted piece of bipartisan legislation from co-authors Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash. The two were able to hold their caucuses together to pass the bill with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle, 81-17.

But that's not exactly how it played out in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republican leadership yanked its version of an ESEA rewrite off the floor mid-debate in February amid waning support from their own caucus.

After months of whipping and educating members about how the bill differs from current law, leadership rescheduled it for floor debate earlier this month, where it narrowly passed in by 218-213, with 27 Republicans joining the entire Democratic caucus in opposing it.

Now the representatives from both parties and both chambers will attempt to find common ground between their dueling reauthorization bills, which contain some big policy differences.

Chief among those differences is how to beef up accountability in a way that appeases the concerns of Democrats and the civil rights communities that the end result must include stronger federal guardrails for the most disadvantaged students, while at the same time ensuring the small federal footprint that Republicans are adamant about.

In an interview after the final passaged of the bill, Alexander acknowledged that discrepancies over accountability exist but reiterated his commitment to getting a bill to the president's desk "that he's comfortable signing."

"I'll need to be convinced," he said when asked about the prospects of increasing safeguards during the conference process. "My goal and the goal of the bill is to keep the important measures of accountability—keep the report cards, keep the tests—so we'll know how the children are doing, but turn over what to do about the tests and the accountability for getting a result to the states and local school boards."

"I think that's real accountability," he continued. "The president would like to have more federal involvement in that accountability process. I understand that. We'll just have to discuss that."

The Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., that would have would have required states to establish measurable state-designed goals for all students and separately for each of the categories of subgroups of students, and to intervene when they don't meet those goals. It also would have required states to intervene in their lowest-performing 5 percent of schools and those that graduate less than 67 percent of their students.

Democrats threw their weight behind the amendment, garnering support from 42 of their members, enough bodies to show that, along with the dozen or so Republicans they anticipate voting against the bill no matter what, they would be able to block final passage of a conferenced bill should it not include stronger accountability language.

Whatever compromise they may make on accountability, however, will have to pass muster in the House, where a solid block of Republicans and Democrats would need to support the bill for it to pass. And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has had a difficult time as of late rallying his troops.
The conferees will also debate whether to maintain provisions in the House bill that are not in the Senate bill that would, for example, allow Title I dollars for low-income children to follow them to the school of their choice. Also in the House bill but not in the Senate bill: The elimination of language in the current law that allows the federal government to punish schools and states where lots of students are opting out of tests.

Murray sought to head off those provisions, speaking on the chamber floor after the Senate passed its reauthorization.

"House Republicans chose a partisan approach to reauthorize this bill," she said. "Their bill doesn't represent one end and ours represents another, where we have to meet in the middle. Their bill really represents an unacceptable partisan approach and path, and ours represents a carefully negotiated compromise with just a few important steps to go."

No matter the result, one thing is for sure: The forthcoming conference process, which is set to begin as soon as possible and likely last several weeks, represents the most serious reauthorization attempt since Congress last overhauled the law in 2001.