Monday, December 13, 2010

Changes in the Federal Education Agenda for 2011?

An article in yesterday's Times (by Sam Dillon, here) says that Arne Duncan and Obama's education team are having to "recalibrate" their education agenda in light of the Republicans' pending takeover of the House.

In particular, the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind may not occur because of different priorities/emphases of the two parties.  The Republicans (led by John Kline, a Minnesotan who will chair the Houe education committee) want to focus on scaling back the federal government's role, while the Democratic focus is on whether/how a school system is deemed adequate.

The last attempt to revise NCLB, in 2007, failed.  This past year, the Obama Administration focused its education agenda on the Race to the Top grants rather than NCLB. 

I had been wondering why NCLB was not in the news more often in 2010, but I gather from Dillon's piece that the law continues in effect from year to year, unless Congress amends its provisions (I was under the impression that NCLB requires affirmative reauthorization).

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For 2011, Obama has requested an additional $1.35 billion for Race to the Top grants, but the House and Senate have only approved $550 million.  The decrease in funding could limit the program's reach/effects ("Experts said the decreased financing would not inspire as much enthusiasm among states as $4 billion did").

Meanwhile, there is a major pending NCLB deadline: by 2014, every student in the USA must be "proficient" in math and reading. To that end, there's a same-page article in the Times about a major testing scandal in the Atlanta school system ("The allegations center on dozens of employees who are suspected of changing test answers to improve scores on state standardized tests").

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