On September 6, the House Education and Labor Committee released a staff discussion draft of the remaining titles (Titles II-XI) for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The draft includes language that would officially authorize the Striving Readers program; it currently exists only as a demonstration program through the appropriations bills.
When signed into law in 2002, NCLB contained the Reading First program, a $1 billion program aimed at grades K–3 with the goal of teaching every student how to read by third grade, but it lacked a similar reading program for older students.
First proposed by President Bush in his Fiscal Year 2005 budget, the Striving Readers program was designed to fill that void and was tasked with improving the reading skills of middle school and high school students who read below grade level. Currently, however, only eight programs nationwide receive funding under the Striving Readers program—even though the U.S. Department of Education received close to 150 applications in the initial competition and nine hundred intentions to apply for a grant. The need for a larger program is obvious—as evidenced by the grant competition and by the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, which finds that nearly 70 percent of all fourth- and eighth-grade students failed to read at grade level.
As included in the draft language released last week, the “new and improved” Striving Readers program would be far more comprehensive and, if supported by appropriate funding levels, could expand to every state. Specifically, the revised program would help states create statewide literacy initiatives for students in grades 4–12, share data on student progress with parents and with the public, and improve teacher training and professional development in literacy so that all students receive high-quality instruction. It would also provide funding to districts and schools to create plans to improve literacy, develop top-notch assessments, train teachers in every subject area in literacy strategies, and use data to improve teaching and learning.
At the school level, grant recipients would use money for assessments, training principals to support adolescent literacy initiatives, data collection, recruiting adolescent literacy coaches, and professional development. Schools that receive funds would also have to provide ongoing high-quality professional development in adolescent literacy instruction to teachers of core academic subjects and to school leaders.
States would have to set aside a portion of their funds to provide technical assistance, preservice course work reviews, state licensure and certification recommendations, and progress reports on whether there was a reduction in the number of students who read and write below grade level. The draft also requires a national evaluation of the Striving Readers program and its impact on student achievement.
Teacher Pay-for-Performance and New Math Program for Secondary School Students Also Included in Draft Plan
The draft language for Titles II–XI also includes provisions on teacher and principal quality, English language learners, after-school programs, education reform and innovative programs, and additional language on accountability and flexibility.
The teacher language included in the discussion draft borrows heavily from the Teacher Excellence for All Children (TEACH) Act of 2007, introduced in May by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, and contains provisions for teacher-performance pay and career ladders for teachers.
Under the teacher-performance pay section, high-need school districts could choose to apply for performance pay bonuses of up to $10,000 for outstanding teachers (and of up to $12,500 for teachers of math, science, special education and other shortage subjects) and annual bonuses of up to $15,000 to outstanding principals who transfer into the hardest-to-staff schools for four years. However, school districts would have to develop the evaluation criteria in collaboration with local teacher unions and base it on multiple measures of success, including student learning gains, principal evaluations, and master teacher evaluations.
The career ladder section would establish competitive grants for high-need school districts to establish career ladder programs that increase salaries for those teachers who expand their knowledge and skills and take on additional responsibilities or leadership roles within the school.
The draft language would also provide competitive grants for high-need school districts to create teacher residency programs in which a prospective teacher would work alongside mentor teachers for an academic year. In return, participating prospective teachers must commit to teach in a high-need school district for a period of 5 years.
Also included in the draft is a proposal to combine the Math NOW and Math Skills programs into a single grant program called Math Success for All, which would provide funds for school districts to offer targeted help to low-income students in kindergarten through secondary school whose math achievement is significantly below grade level. Grants awarded under the program could be used to provide inservice training to mathematics coaches who would help elementary and secondary school teachers implement research-based mathematics instruction in their classrooms. Coaches would assist teachers in assessing and improving students’ mathematical abilities and knowledge.
The complete draft language for Titles II–XI, as well as a fourteen-page summary, is available at http://edlabor.house.gov/micro/nclb.shtml.
|Education Funding Still Up in the Air: Timeline Unclear for Education Appropriations Bill
Congress is in high gear for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but the same cannot be said for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill. It has slowed to a snail’s pace since the House of Representatives passed its version of the bill on July 19. Although the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill on June 21, a timetable for debate on the Senate floor has yet to be determined. In all likelihood, the Senate will consider the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which controls spending for the U.S. Department of Education, sometime this fall.
As passed by the House of Representatives, the overall bill totals $607 billion—$10.8 billion more than requested by the president and $2.5 billion more than the amount approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. For the U.S. Department of Education, the House bill includes approximately $62 billion in discretionary spending, an increase of $5.5 billion over FY 2007 and about $6 billion more than President Bush had requested.
Final action on the bill could be delayed until at least December if President Bush vetoes the bill, as he has promised. In a Statement of Administration Policy released on July 17, the president took issue with the level of funding included in the House version of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, saying that the bill contained an “irresponsible and excessive level of spending.”