Finally, an ESEA Blueprint from the Feds

After months of anticipation, we finally have the official blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act form the Obama Administration.  The plan was teased in some news articles yesterday (Saturday) morning and was previewed during President Barack Obama’s weekly radio address on Saturday morning.  The official plan, found here, was officially released on Saturday evening at 8 p.m.

At first glance, I found the plan to be whelming.  On the whole, I thought it was entirely solid and relatively thoughtful.  But as I read it (and it shows you what type of life Eduflack lives when he spends his Saturday night reading the Administration’s ESEA blueprint, but for what is was worth, I was also watching West Virginia University beat Georgetown), I was surprised by how little I was surprised with.  As we used to write about two years ago, this was clearly NCLB 2.0.  Much of the last iteration of ESEA remains intact.  Some needed improvements are being made.  And the priorities emphasized in Race to the Top are being codified, hopefully, into the new law.
The highlights?  The plan is grouped under five key principles (not to be confused with ED’s four pillars).  The principles include: college and career-ready students, great teachers and leaders, raise the bar and reward excellence, equity and opportunity, and promote innovation.  These principles break into the following tasks:
  • College and Career-Ready Students — Raising standards for all students, better assessments, a complete education (meaning a well-rounded curriculum beyond the common core standards)
  • Great Teachers and Leaders in Every School — Effective teachers and principals, our best teachers and leaders where they are needed the most, and strengthening teacher and leadership preparation and recruitment.
  • Equity and Opportunity for All Students — Rigorous and fair accountability for all students, meeting the needs of diverse learners, and greater equity.
  • Raise the Bar and Reward Excellence — Fostering a Race to the Top, supporting effective school choice, and promoting a culture of college readiness and success.
  • Promoting Innovation and Continuous Improvement — Fostering innovation and accelerating success, supporting recognizing and rewarding local innovations, and supporting student success.
See, nothing that exactly shakes the K-12 education earth.  As I read the blueprint, I am seeing much of the original intent of NCLB, mixed in with the goals of RttT, a heavy, heavy influence of common core standards, and a strong dash of the principles advocated through the Schott Foundation’s recent Opportunity to Learn (OTL) campaign (primarily the equity planks).  A little something here for everyone, but not enough that any one party is quite swooning at this point.
I’ll be honest, the timing of this release as Eduflack completely puzzled.  This blueprint was released as if ED was trying to dump it so no one noticed it.  In PR, the general rule is you never release something of importance over a weekend.  And you certainly don’t do it at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night.  Many of the leading reporters got an advance briefing of the blueprint (as evidenced by The Washington Post coverage here, which notes an expected 16 percent spending increase in the federal education budget), but it is clear from the early comments that this release was not maximizing the interest in the topic.  We have 16 states coming over to ED this week to plead their case for RttT, with this blueprint now stepping on that significant reform story.  Yes, Duncan is slated to speak before the Senate HELP Committee this Wednesday, but with all of Washington focused on healthcare reform, this blueprint is likely to go undernoticed in the coming days and weeks.
But from the look and feel of the blueprint, it is clear that neither Capitol Hill nor the media is in the intended target here.  Since the beginning of the calendar year, we have been hearing how Assistant ED Secretary Carmel Martin was preparing an ESEA blueprint for legislators on the Hill.  But this document, from its design to its word choices to its bulleted focus of key concepts, is designed to deliver talking points and marching orders to the education blob.  This “blueprint” is designed to move the discussion at member organizations, forums about town, and cocktail parties and gab sessions.  In that way, it isn’t so much a blueprint as it is framing document for debate.
A few things are crystal clear.  One, EdSec Arne Duncan is going all in when it comes to common core standards.  The execution of this blueprint requires the adoption of the proposed standards across the country.  Anything short of 80 percent adoption within the year is going to severely hamstring much of what is proposed in this plan.
Two, those who were expecting accountability (and AYP) to be weakened are going to be severely disappointed.  Yes, we no longer use the term AYP.  But accountability remains alive and well in this document.  Localities are not being granted the flexibility many had hoped they may receive.  And while we are changing some of the rubrics (again, aligning them with those core standards) it is clear that continued improvement of student achievement remains the name of the game.  Even more so when it now appears that states, districts, schools, and teachers will be judged by how good a job they do getting more kids to graduate from high school.
Three, the teachers unions have been put on notice.  Obama’s remarks last week about the situation in Rhode Island were quite an intentional statement against the teaching status quo.  This blueprint strengthens the call for closing low-performing schools, addressing teachers who aren’t making the cut, and holding school districts, administrators, and teachers far more accountable for student achievement than even NCLB did.
Four, rural education is not going to be happy.  After seeking to improve its lot under NCLB, rural ed is almost an afterthought in this blueprint, inserted in a list of specialty audiences AFTER Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education interests.  Hardly the sort of focus that Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Mike Enzi (WY) and House Education Committee Ranking Member John Kline (MN) are hoping to see.  And Eduflack would quibble with what is labeled as “A New Approach,” as many of these bullet items do indeed read like the rhetoric surrounding NCLB intentions back in 2001 and 2002.  But looking to bullet out the takeaways (and distinguish between new and continued approaches) is always useful to those who will be asked to opine on this blueprint now and in the future.
And what’s missing?  No real discussion of anticipated plans of eliminating the current Title II (focused on teachers) and replacing it with new language aligned with the last year’s activities (though I suspect that’s what the effective teachers section is intended to address).  No real emphasis on plans to eliminate traditional, guaranteed block grants and replace them with competitive grant programs a la RttT and i3, particularly at the school district level.  And most importantly, no crosswalk of dollars with priorities.  WaPo may be pointing to a major spending increase under the reauthorization, but it simply isn’t part of the plan that has
been shared with the at large chattering class.  We’re being asked to buy into big ideas, with specific dollars, programs, and line items available on a need-to-know basis at a later date.
So what now?  From early reports, AASA (which was a strong opponent to NCL seems happy.  Teachers unions are upset.  And most simply didn’t realize this was dropped late last night (and announced proudly on Facebook for those who are Fans of the US Department of Education).  While this gives both the House and Senate committees additional information to consider as they hold their ESEA hearings, it is clear that Chairman George Miller (CA) is moving forward with his own plans, and this blueprint may very well be tossed onto the pile with other recommendations coming in to Miller from across the sector.  
Timing?  Eduflack loves those cock-eyed optimists who are still talking about reauthorization by this summer.  It ain’t happening.  If the intent is to re-bucket ESEA around this proposed blueprint, we are looking at spring 2011 at the earliest, assuming we don’t have significant shifts in congressional makeup this November.  But at least it gives us more to talk about than just RttT!

“Teacher Preparation: Who Needs It?”

Without question, teacher quality is one of THE hot topics in education reform these days.  Logically, we recognize that teachers are the ones primarily responsible for boosting student achievement in the classroom.  Programs like the US Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund have thus been designed to reward those teachers whose students demonstrate success.  It is a simple equation, outcomes result in rewards.

But what about the inputs that result in that achievement?  What do teachers need to know, be able to do, and experience before they ever become a teacher of record?  Those are the sorts of questions that the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is trying to tackle with a new series of policy briefings it launched today, titled “Teacher Preparation: Who Needs It?”

In today’s episode, AACTE offered up The Clinical Preparation of Teachers: A Policy Brief, a document that provides some of the history, the research, and the vision for how to best address clinical preparation.  Chief among the recommendations — all prospective teachers, regardless of their pathway, need at least 450 hours of clinical training (or a full semester). 

Full disclosure, Eduflack has worked with the folks over at AACTE for years.  Regardless, today’s briefing offered some interesting recommendations for the federal government, state government, and those preparing the next generation of teachers, including:

For the feds:

  • Revise the “Highly Qualified Teacher” definition within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require that teachers must establish not only their content expertise, but their ability to teach it effectively, as measured by their actual performance in classrooms, following extended clinical experience;
  • Invest in the development of a National Teacher Performance Assessment that would parallel the development and adoption of Common Core Standards;
  • Maintain the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, with a specific clinical preparation focus, in the Higher Education Opportunity Act while increasing funding for the program;

For states:

  • Require a minimum of 450 hours, or one semester, of clinical experience during pre-service teacher preparation;
  • Ensure that all teacher preparation routes, regardless of pathway, include the same clinical preparation requirements;
  • Require a high-quality teacher performance assessment of all teacher candidates;
  • Collaborate to agree upon common clinical experience requirements;
  • Offer incentives to schools that act as clinical settings for teacher candidates;
  • Support the expansion or replication of successful teacher residency programs;

And for providers of teacher preparation:

  • Ensure school districts and universities work jointly to design and supervise strong clinical practice collaborations;
  • Provide all teacher candidates substantial and appropriate clinical preparation prior to becoming “teacher of record” in their own classrooms;
  • Train clinical teachers and other teacher mentors to help and support novice teachers;
  • Require all clinical teachers to have at least three years of teaching experience; and
  • Assist our nation’s public schools and teacher preparation programs to jointly adopt standards for newly redesigned clinically based teacher preparation programs.

As part of the formal presentation, the crowd heard from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (RI), who is quickly becoming THE Senate voice on education in general and professional development in particular.  In his remarks, Senator Reed praised President Obama for adding funds to the Teacher Quality Partnership program as part of last year’s economic stimulus package, but took issue with Obama eliminating the program as part of his budget recommendations last month.  Reed urged all those in attendance to reach out to their Senators and Congressmen to ask that TQP be restored, as the program is essential to ensuring our colleges and universities are working toward developing the high-quality, effectiv
e teachers our schools need so badly.

With a greater and greater focus on effective, results-based instruction, the issue of teacher preparation isn’t going to go away.  Even as part of its Quality Counts study, Education Week recently highlighted those states that are leaders and laggards when it comes to the clinical experience.  Content may be king these days, but pedagogy is quickly gaining stature.    

Investing in Proven Innovation

The hits keep coming from the good folks down on Maryland Avenue.  Today, the U.S. Department of Education officially released its Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant RFP.  For all of those districts looking to get a piece of nearly $650 million in i3 dollars, the clock starts … NOW.  Full details on the grant process can be found here.  

Many will recall that ED circulated a draft i3 RFP for public comment back in the fall.  Today’s announcement very closely mirrors that which we say months ago.  We are still looking at three categories of grants — development, validation, and scale-up.  Development grants still come in with a max of $5 million per; validation with a max of $30 million per, and scale up with a max of $50 million per.
School district applicants still need to provide a 20 percent matching contribution from private sources (including those college/university partners).  Bonus points remain for early childhood focus, college access and success focus, ELL focus, and rural schools focus (with rural schools worth two extra points and the others worth just one).
Most importantly, the evidence requirements remain the same as they have always been.  What does this mean?  In this case, innovation not only means the introduction of something new or different; it also means that you have to prove that that new or different approach is proven effective.  The feds are seeking very real research to drive this innovation, even in the development grants.
Before the end of the month, our friends with the federal government will hold three information sessions for prospective applicants — in Baltimore, Denver, and Atlanta.  Those districts looking to apply for i3 should file a notice of intent within 20 days of the RFP being posted on the Federal Register (still hasn’t gone up, as of 11 a.m. today) and applications are due within 60 days of Federal Register posting.  ED is now saying they will award i3 grants in two phases.
Today’s official grant notice also offers some guidance on how many grants can be awarded.  But in the words immortalized by Barbie (the Doll) back in the late 1990s, “math is hard!”  For months now, Eduflack has been telling interested LEAs that we are likely only looking at 30 total winners.  With a $650 million pool (now down to $643 million), you are looking at eight or nine winners in each of the three categories, assuming districts get close to the max.  So $400 million for scale up (eight grants), $200 million for validation (10 grants), and $40-50 million or so for development grants (10 grants).  Then the pot has run dry.
But ED seems to have a different view of things.  Average grant awards are estimated at $3 million for development, $17.5 million for validation, and $30 million for scale up.  (This despite the realization that virtually every state that applied for Race to the Top funds exceeded the budget range that was assigned to their state).  Based on those ranges, ED estimates up to five scale up winners, and up to 100 winners each in both development and validation.  Obviously, the budget doesn’t allow anything close to that.  
Five scale up winners at $30 million knocks the total pool down to less than $500 million remaining.  A hundred validation grants at $17.5 million per would put us at $1.75 billion, more than three times the remaining pool.  And those up to 100 development grants at $3 million per adds another $300 million.  So if we top out on the estimates (realizing they are all generous ranges) ED is saying i3 could be up to nearly $2.2 billion.  I’m all for stretching the dollar, but that seems to be a little more than the $643 million currently available.
Why is this so important?  LEAs need to realize that competition for these grants is going to be significantly difficult and cutthroat.  With RttT, we had a sense for how many states would and can win.  Virtually every state applies, and based on the funding ranges, we can expect close to 20 states to win.  If we don’t spend the full RttT pool, then we will have fewer winners.
But with i3, we have the possibility of thousands of school districts and consortia applying for a piece of this money.   Some districts have been hard at work on their projects for years, and a scale up grant seems like a slam dunk (Eduflack has long said Chicago Public Schools and its Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, would be a slam dunk for i3).  Other districts have been focusing on their applications for months, even before the draft regulations came out.  Still others have been looking to partner with other districts, local universities, or nationally recognized non-profits, to strengthen their applications.  And then you have some who think that “innovation” in the title means it is supposed to fund technology programs.  Regardless, all want a piece of this.
So instead of 25 or 40 percent of states winning a RttT grant, we are looking at the possibility that far fewer than 5 percent of i3 applicants will get a taste of that federal nectar.  That means applications must be well written, on point, and based on research like few grant proposals have ever been based before (and unlike RttT, i3 applications can’t be more than 35-50 pages, depending on type).  Competition is going to be fierce.  The strength of both the research and the impact will be king.
And what does Eduflack expect to see?  First, many districts will be dusting off ye olde research protocols to ensure their proposed models match that offered by IES these past five or so years.  Second, rural schools are going to fair pretty well here, both because of the extra points and because of the realization that RttT doesn’t provide rurals the attention they may need.  And at the end of the day, we still should expect no more than 35 total winners.  Five scale up winners each coming in close the $50 million cap, 10 or so validation winners coming closer to the $30 million cap than the $17.5 million ED estimate, and another 10-12 development winners, most of which need more than the $3 million in expected seed money.
Good research and documentation is hard, and it doesn’t come cheap.  For months, we’ve been hearing that RttT is all about quality, not quantity.  The same needs to be true for i3.  The focus should be on providing a select group of school districts with the money to truly ramp up and further test a specific intervention that is boosting student performance and closing the achievement gap.  If we want these funds to have a real, true, and lasting impact, we need to spend wisely on the lowest-hanging fruit, investing in those ideas that have the greatest possible return on investment and using those results to inspire other districts to follow suit. 

Happy Anniversary, Me!

We pause from our regular missives on education agitation to take a moment to celebrate Eduflack’s anniversary.  It is hard for me to believe that we launched this blog three years ago.  At the time, I anticipated readership in the zero mark (not even my mother or my wife were regular readers in the early days).  I started Eduflack because I found the writing cathartic.  As originally envisioned, this blog was going to focus on how well we are communicating on key education issues.  As these pages have grown, we’ve also spent a lot of time talking about the policy and the research itself, trying to mix things up, pick fights, and spur some different thinking on the ideas on which we are so focused these days.

In that time, we’ve written close to 1,000 entries.  And, unfortunately for Eduflack readers, my posts are far longer than your average bear blog posts.  I’ll admit, I can be a little verbose, but I continue to try to provide content that is relevant to readers.  I’ve learned over the years that I really do have readers.  Sure, the blog statistics show me who is visiting and how that is increasing, but I am particularly surprised when I hear from real people that they read this site.  I know how much content is out there on the Web, so I take it very seriously when people say they read this stuff.  It puts the pressure on to continue to write, to continue to be relevant, and to continue to be of some sort of value.  You’ve definitely raised the stakes for me, and push me to do better.
That’s one of the reasons why we added the @Eduflack Twitter feed.  During a good week, I can turn out four or five essays on the education news of the day.  But there is much, much more that I wish I could write about.  So each day, I offer up 10-15 Tweets relaying those articles and studies that are catching my eye.  And the good think about the @Eduflack Twitter feed is it is relatively opinion free.  Just lots and lots of links to the issues and topics of importance to me and, hopefully, Eduflack readers.
As I reflect on the last three years, I have to both start and end with huge thanks to those readers and supporters out there.  Everyone who reads it.  Everyone who cites Eduflack or links back to it.  Those who comment on posts.  Those who send me story ideas or take issue with the story ideas I select.  This blog has value because of the ongoing input I receive.  Without such input I really am truly just writing for myself, and that does no one any good at this point.
But there are also a few important notes I would like to point out, based on some recent feedback, items that I believe are worth highlighting:
* Eduflack is not a journalist, and I sure hope I don’t try to portray myself as one.  I have a great deal of respect for journalists and for the ethics that govern their profession.  Real journalists are out there gathering the full story, interviewing parties on both side, and providing a balanced approach to a topic.  That isn’t my job.  At best, I am a commentator.  If you are looking for the news, there a number of sites I can and have directed people to for the best in education information.  I will link to many of those stories in my posts.  But Eduflack is not a journalist, despite the number of media releases that end up in my inbox each day.  I write opinion.  The point of this blog is to provide my critique and my analysis of the education issues of the day.
* That also means that I have a day job.  For the past dozen years, ever since I left Capitol Hill, I have spent most of my time as a consultant, working with a great number of organizations and individuals.  As a general rule, I have always tried NOT to write about my clients.  When I have, I have disclosed those relationships.  But obviously, what I write about is what I am focused on during the day.  The focus on RF came out of all the years I spent shepherding the National Reading Panel.  A recent focus on high school graduation rates and the achievement gap sprung from my work with the National Governors Association and its Honor States initiative.  So while I have always tried to disclose when I have a direct business interest in a post, it is safe to say I have an intellectual interest in everything I write.
* I am an amateur when it comes to research.  Over the past 10-plus years, I have been fortunate to work with a great number of education researchers, particularly those who fall into the non-squishy variety.  I have learned a great deal from them, and, from time to time, feel these wise individuals have provided me an informal graduate education in such research issues.  But whether it be my analysis or virtually anyone else’s analysis of the data, it is always best to trust, but verify.
* I don’t shy away from criticism.  I’m always surprised when folks want to engage in a lengthy debate on a topic with me, but take such debates and critiques offline and private.  I enjoy the public debate.  And I am more than willing to open up these pages to others who may want to take issue with a particular post or may have a different perspective.  If you want to take dear ole Eduflack on, just drop me a line and we can make it happen.
I look forward to another interesting and thought provoking Eduflack year.  We have RttT, common core standards, and i3 coming down the pike.  ESEA reauthorization is waiting.  And, perhaps more importantly, we are starting to move into a closer look at how these new federal actions are affecting our states and localities (particularly on the implementation side).  Lots to write about, lots to commentate on, lots to stir up the pot with.
Thanks, all, for making the past three years so much fun!  Here’s to another year (and hopefully more) of offering an intersection for education policy, research, and communications.

Taking the Pole Position on Race

Those Phase One Race to the Top finalists have now been announced.  As we all know by now, the 16 jurisdictions that will now vie for the honor of being the first three or four states to win a RttT grant include: Colorado, Delaware, Washington DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

For Eduflack, the only real surprise here is Washington, DC (which is a pleasant surprise).  The remaining 15 are all states that have been on most lists for some time.  While a few may be surprised by Illinois, those doubters should read the proposal.  It was one of the strongest in the pool.  And while some may question South Carolina, the state has been touting it has the best application in the pool.  So no major surprised there.

Now let’s take a look at some of the interesting facts.  Back in the summer, the Gates Foundation provided $250,000 grants to 15 states to help with the development of their Race grants.  Fourteen of those states submitted for Phase One (Texas was the holdout), and 10 of those 14 made the cut — Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.  And of the remaining six finalists, four of them received later assistance from Gates, after NGA and CCSSO urgings.  Only Delaware and South Carolina did the heavy lifting themselves.

The four Gates-funded states who didn’t make the cut?  Arkansas, Arizona, Minnesota, and New Mexico.  (Along with the Republic of Texas, of course.)

Only one of the 16 states — Colorado — is west of Mississippi.  That seems a bit surprising, but the scoring rubric didn’t take geography into account.  The South is particularly well represented, which some could see as a sign of the region’s willingness to embrace education reforms and others may see as the value of right to work states and weaker teachers’ unions/organizations.

And for you history buffs, eight of the original 13 colonies made the cut!  Condolences to New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.

According to the US Department of Education, each of these states scored at least 80 percent — or 400 points — on the reviewer scores.  States will be coming to DC in a week and a half (without their consultants and outside proposal preparers) to orally defend their proposals.  And states will either gain or lose points based on the interview and swimsuit competitions.

If academic achievement is the name of the game, it is a surprising mix of states.  Looking at eighth grade NAEP reading performance (one of the best measures of actual student academic success), of the 16 finalists, only Massachusetts is in the Top 10 for eighth grade NAEP reading scores.  And only four of the states — Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Colorado — rank in the top 20.  Five of the finalists (Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, and DC) are in the bottom quartile. 

While Eduflack has read his share of RttT applications, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the nuance and the details (though I will continue to pretend to be to amaze people at forums and cocktail parties).  The finalists appear to be a strong mix of states with a good track record, states with a strong plan for the future, states that have made major legislative changes to qualify for RttT, and some states that really need the dollars.  But don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying.

The US Department of Education’s formal announcement and supporting materials can be found here.  Politics K-12 has great analysis here, while Eduwonk weighs in here, Andy Smarick here, with Tom Vander Ark here.  Who else wants on the carousel of RttT fun?

Democratic Learning, With a Little D

As the battle lines continue to be drawn with regard to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), some continue to remind us that the discussion is more complex than it seems.  K-12 isn’t just about student achievement on math and reading exams, they contend, and true education improvement is about more than just accountability.

One such voice is Sam Chaltain, the national director of the Forum for Education and Democracy.  Reflecting on his past experiences as both a classroom educator and the founding director of the Five Freedoms Project, Chaltain recently released a new book offering a bit of a different framework for classroom instruction.  American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community serves as that call to arms.

Often, we see these sorts of books chock full of ideas, but with little practice or real life to back it up.  In American Schools, Chaltain offers up both the theory behind his reccs and specific practice where those ideas have already taken hold.  The theory is based on five basics organizational points — reflect, connect, create, equip, and let come.  He then offers some real classroom experiences in California, South Carolina, and New Hampshire where those common theoretical words are put to practice.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss looked at American Schools vis-a-vis survey data on the Pledge of Allegiance and how well we are preparing our students to be productive citizens.  Such a discussion line becomes particularly interesting when we reflect on some of the proposed education budget “consolidations” being proposed this year, including specific programs focusing on civics and U.S. history. 

At a time when closing the achievement gap and boosting student achievement across the board is the name of the game, is there room in the debate for a more holistic look at K-12 education and an emphasis on the qualitative measures of classroom education?  Time will tell.  As budgets continued to get stretched and we continue to demand more and more of our classroom educators and our school leaders, it becomes harder and harder to add teaching democracy skills to the list of performance measures we expect to see coming out of our public schools.  But as we begin focusing on what it means to be “college and career ready,” perhaps it is a line of discussion we should be having as we talk about the knowledge and skills all students should possess to contribute to their community.

Regardless, some of the case studies, rubrics, and examples that Chaltain offers up in American Schools are worth a read (and may be worth showing to folks like U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Robert Byrd to remind then of the role civics and history can play in ESEA reauthorization). 

And for those in Washington, DC looking to engage Chaltain on the concept, he’ll be over at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V Streets NW in the District tonight at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the democratic learning premise.  Eduflack is sure Sam would be up for a good ole debate on the topic.

Mark Your Ed Reform Calendars

To paraphrase from edu-son’s favorite band, Black Eyed Peas, this week’s gonna be a good week … at least for those in the education reform community.  We have core standards, and RttT, and ESEA, oh my!

According to Education Daily, National Governors Association officials are now saying that the much-anticipated draft K-12 common core standards (reading and math) will be released next week.  Assuming protocols hold, we’ll all then have 30 days to respond, react, and critique under the public comment period.  It seems NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers is still working toward finalization of the K-12 and college/career ready standards by June, so that states can adopt them by July (as called for under Race to the Top).

And speaking of the great Race, EdWeek’s Michele McNeil is reporting at the Politics K-12 blog that Phase One RttT finalists will be announced Thursday, March 4 (that’s tomorrow, folks) at 11:30 a.m.  The list of nominees will be announced online by ED’s communications office.  Those finalists will then be coming to DC to put on a nice little Ides of March show for the judges, with initial awards slated to come before we’ve played a full month of baseball.

Of course, this AM EdSec Arne Duncan is slated to testify before U.S. Rep. George Miller’s House Education and the Workforce Committee.  The session will focus on the President’s budget and ESEA, with some believing today’s hearing may not be the love-fest that the EdSec has enjoyed on the Hill to date.  The House Ed Committee is always great about getting testimony and webcast of the hearing up quick, so if you aren’t in DC, be sure to check it out later here

For those keeping score, it looks like U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and the Senate HELP Committee are starting to get in the mix on ESEA reauthorization as well.  Harkin has slated the Senate’s first hearing on reauthorization for next Tuesday, March 9, at 2 p.m.  No word on who will testify or the specific topics yet.  Regardless, it sounds like we are going to be getting a lot of ed reform talk to start churning through again!