Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Comes Early for Teachers Unions and Obama Administration With No Child Left Behind Rewrite

“It’s like Christmas Day,” exclaimed Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. García was referring to passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama—who similarly referred to the new law as a “Christmas miracle”—earlier Thursday.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the measure, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the most recent iteration of which was No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act passed the Senate by a margin of 85-12 and in the U.S. House by a vote of 359-64 in late November (this included every Democrat who voted in both the House and Senate).

According to Politico, “victory certainly didn’t just land in the laps of union leaders. The National Education Alliance and the American Federation of Teachers are on track to spend $3.7 million combined lobbying Capitol Hill before 2015 is done.

“The National Education Alliance calculates that it has held 2,300 face-to-face meetings with lawmakers this year. Members have sent 255,000 emails to Capitol Hill and made 23,500 phone calls, according to NEA’s calculations.”

Politico goes on to report:

    In February, it spent $500,000 on an ad buy targeting Senate HELP Committee members’ districts, calling on them to replace the law… the AFT calculates it had 200 in-person meetings with lawmakers, made 125,000 phone calls and submitted more than 20,000 online comments to members of Congress.

The proposal’s elimination of Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) has rightly drawn the support of the vast majority of analysts and education stakeholders. AYP was the overly prescriptive federal mandate that undergirded the foundation of No Child Left Behind; it required that all students achieve proficiency by the 2014-15 school year or have a state risk federal sanctions. In addition to eliminating AYP, the new law also eliminates the so-called “highly qualified teacher” provision, which established federal credentialing requirements for teachers. Yet the law’s policy bright spots end there, and they are overwhelmed by the prescriptions, programs, and spending that remain.

Major federal prescription remains, particularly around testing:

    States must continue to administer annual tests and report results publicly. Just as with No Child Left Behind, states must test all children in grades 3 through 8 annually and at least once in high school, and as with No Child Left Behind, results must be disaggregated by subgroup.

    Just as with No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act mandates that states have test participation rates of at least 95 percent of students.

    States must administer tests that include at least three achievement levels and, as with current practice, must set cut scores that are “challenging.” Tests must align to state standards and now must provide “coherent and timely” information about student outcomes and proportion at grade level.

    In addition to the mandated annual tests, new state “accountability” plans must include reports on interim progress, which likely means interim testing on the part of states.

Although the law consolidates some programs, it does not eliminate any program funding, it and creates several new significant federal programs, including:

    Newly codified $250-million annual federal preschool program, to be housed at Health and Human Services and jointly administered by the Department of Education.

    New family engagement centers program, new STEM program, Master Teacher Corps, and civics professional development programs.

    Reconstituted Part A, Title IV section into the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, which would authorize spending at $1.6 billion annually through 2020. That authorized amount comes in addition to the authorized $1.1 billion in Part B, which funds the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program.

And most notably, perhaps, are all of the missed opportunities to advance conservative policy, and policy that would actually empower parents:

*   No option for states to make their Title I funding (the bulk of federal funding for low-income districts) portable, to follow students to a school of choice.

*   No reduction in the accumulation of spending.

*   Limited program consolidation.

*   No option for states to completely opt out of the law through a provision known as APLUS is included. The amendment received 195 votes in the House and 44 votes in the Senate (amounting to 80 percent of Republicans in Congress) yet is not part of this proposal.

Although it may be an early Christmas present for the president and the teachers unions, for those interested in empowering parents and genuinely reducing federal intervention in education, the Every Student Succeeds Act leaves much to be desired.


UK: Parents's fury as school bans them from filming their children's nativity play - in case they share footage on the internet

Parents have been left angry by a school's decision to ban them from filming their own child's nativity play. Mothers and fathers of pupils at Gladstone Road Primary in Scarborough, North Yorkshire were astonished to receive a text telling them of the rule just hours before the youngsters were due to go on stage.

The school claims children could be 'at risk of harm' if the nativity scenes were shared over the internet by parents.

Katrina Young, whose daughter was in the show, said: 'When you children start school, the nativity play is special. It is something you want to film and watch over and over again as they get older.

'So when we were told we weren't allowed to film anything it was absolutely crushing.'

The school has ruled that only staff can film the four and five year old pupils as they act out the story of Jesus's birth.

A mother, who asked not be named, added: 'So that makes it completely pointless. Once the video is distributed there is nothing to stop anyone putting it on Facebook anyway.

'I can understand a ban in filming if they were letting in any Tom, Dick or Harry but not when only parents are allowed in anyway.'

The school has defended its decision, insisting it is in the best interests of the children.  It said in a statement: 'We informed parents that this year the play could not be filmed because of concerns around safeguarding of some of the children at the school.  'There was a risk of harm if the videos were shared more widely on social media, for example.

'As traditionally the school has been able to allow filming, the head teacher did not want to wait until the children arrived at the performance to inform them of the change and therefore advised them in advance.

'We acknowledge this change came with late notification, and regretted the late notice.'


College quotas are actually destroying lives of minorities

Yesterday the US Supreme Court heard a constitutional challenge to racial preferences in college admissions. These preferences obviously hurt whites and Asians turned down to make room for less qualified minorities, but ironically, the preferences also harm many Hispanics and African-Americans - the very students they're supposed to help.

No wonder campuses are roiled with racial tension. It's high time the court put a stop to racial preferences entirely.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman who sued the University of Texas for rejecting her in 2008, claims the university's admissions process unconstitutionally favored minority applicants, violating her right to equality under the law. Like affirmative-action programs everywhere, the school claims it judges each applicant "holistically." Don't buy it.

For University of Texas applicants, simply being born black or Hispanic gets you points for "achievement," even if your parents are wealthy bankers. Being born white or Asian gets you zip. It's similar at Harvard, which is being sued in another case. In defense, Harvard says "when choosing among academically qualified applicants," colleges need "freedom and flexibility to consider each person's unique background."

That's doubletalk. Many minorities admitted to elite schools based on race aren't "academically qualified."

A survey of selective colleges by UCLA professor Richard Sander documented that students who get in based on race tend to earn lower grades and are less likely to graduate. At less demanding colleges, they'd have a better chance to succeed.

They're in over their heads.

But not in California, which outlawed racial preferences in 1996. Minority students now are more apt to attend lower-ranked public colleges but twice as likely to graduate.

Gail Heriot, a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, points to "mounting empirical evidence" that admitting students based on race is "doing more harm than good."

That poignant lesson seems lost on administrators at elite universities who boast of large minority enrollments.

Racial preferences in law school admissions put many minorities on the failure track. At selective law schools, 51 percent of African-American first-year students admitted with racial preferences had grades in the bottom 10 percent of their class, compared with only 5 percent of white students.

It's one thing to be at the bottom of the class, but, Heriot explains, "It is quite another for an African-American student to find himself toward the bottom of the class and to find half of his African-American friends and acquaintances there too." It stokes bitterness and feelings of injustice.

Minority students struggling academically tend to segregate themselves from other students. And turn to nonacademic pursuits - like campus protests. This fall's protesters at the University of Missouri, Princeton, Harvard and Yale are demanding "safe spaces" for black students only.

In previous decades, students protested the Vietnam War or economic inequality. Today, they whine about perceived racial slights. Imagine being admitted to an Ivy League college and then complaining about the names on the buildings - John Calhoun at Yale or Woodrow Wilson at Princeton (as if anyone who lived more than a century ago would pass muster by today's values).

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas warned from personal experience about the harm to minority students: "I watched the operation of such affirmative-action policies when I was in college, and I watched destruction of many kids as a result."

Of course, the justices hearing the Texas case will focus on the harm done to students excluded because they aren't favored minorities. Whites like Abigail Fisher, but also Asians.

Like Harvard and many universities, the University of Texas limits Asian students, even though they have the highest test scores. Asian-American groups label that "racist" and remind the court, "It demeans the dignity and worth of a person to be judged by ancestry instead of his or her own merit and essential qualities."

It's also unconstitutional. Now's the time for the justices to say so unambiguously, and put a stop to it.


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