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Morning Announcements: October 12, 2011

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October 12, 2011 04:40 pm

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The New York Times and every other national news outlet reported on senior Senate Democrat Tom Harkin’s released draft of a sprawling revision of the No Child Left Behind education law on Tuesday that would dismantle the provisions of the law that used standardized test scores in reading and math to label tens of thousands of public schools as failing. The 865-page bill, filed by the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate education committee, became the first comprehensive piece of legislation overhauling the law to reach either Congressional chamber since President George W. Bush signed it in 2002.

The Washington Post reported that Harkin’s plan to revamp the main federal education law immediately drew fire from civil rights groups that argued it would ease pressure on schools to provide quality education to all children, regardless of race or income. Further, Education Week   reported the accountability system at the heart of the No Child Left Behind Act would be completely reinvented under the draft reauthorization proposal.

Education Week also reports a showdown looms between the two houses of Congress on their differing visions for K-12 education funding, pitting formula-grant programs crucial to school districts against some of the Obama administration’s favored competitive-grant programs—a split with some unlikely political wrinkles.

On the economic-stimulus front, all eyes had been on Sept. 30 of this year, when states officially were supposed to fall off the “funding cliff,” according to Education Week . That’s the deadline when the big pots of money from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the $10 billion in additional Title I aid and the $11.3 billion in additional special education funds—were supposed to be spent.

According to the Associated Press, Kansas education officials said Tuesday that a new method for calculating the high school graduation rate, mandated by the federal government, shows that nearly one in every five students doesn’t receive a diploma within four years. Statistics presented to the State Board of Education show that 80.7 percent of all Kansas students graduated in four years in 2010. The state’s graduation rate in 2009 was 89.1 percent, but includes students who took longer than four years to graduate. The rate among black students fell from 83.2 percent in 2009 to 66.2 percent in 2010.

The Patriot-News reports Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett laid out his education reform agenda in York today, calling for a school choice program for families of students in the state’s poorest-performing schools; greater opportunities for the formation of charter schools; and expanded tax credits for businesses that contribute to private school scholarship funds. The governor also proposed a new teacher / administrator evaluation system that melds classroom and school observations with student performance.  Corbett said he is trying to create a new paradigm for school funding and administration in a way that will shake up the bottom tier of the existing public school system.

California Watch reports experts warn that California needs to significantly boost the number of undergraduate degrees granted each year in order to turn around the state’s economy and help the country remain competitive. But a new report from Sacramento State University’s Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy says the state’s public higher education segments are not on track to meet that goal. Also, the report finds the UC, CSU and community colleges have no guidance on how to divide increasingly precious state resources among themselves to produce the necessary degrees.

According to The Arizona Republic, some of Arizona’s best schools will be busy explaining to parents why they received only a B or C under Arizona’s new letter grades for rating schools. The letter grades being released today by the Arizona Department of Education indicate that many schools and districts may have a tougher time achieving a grade acceptable to parents because of a new method for measuring school success. That formula puts more weight on how much students improve and less on their level of performance.

According to Associated Press, Louisiana and its local school districts must not let tight budgets diminish promising efforts to lower the state’s high school dropout rate of around 17 percent and boost graduation rates in a state that sees barely over two-thirds of its entering freshmen finish school in four years, a nonpartisan research group said Tuesday. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana released the results of its study of the dropout problem during a news briefing in Baton Rouge, noting statistics showing that dropouts suffer higher unemployment, lower earnings, poorer health, higher rates of criminal behavior and a greater likelihood of needing public assistance than those who finish school.

The state Department of Education has awarded a $2.5 million grant to support a program that coaches principals in high-needs schools, according to Delaware Online. The program will be run through the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Leadership and Learning Center for about 30 months. The contract is funded by part of the state’s $119 million Race to the Top grant.

NPR reports teachers are joining the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street movement that has been spreading across the country since mid-September. The Occupy Education blog features photos of teachers holding up messages outlining how they work on behalf of their students. Many of the messages imply that administrators or bureaucrats undermine their efforts.

The Current reports leaders from more than 100 state universities across the country gathered in Dallas last week at the Future of State Universities Conference. The conference — hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Jim Hunt, former governor of North Carolina — coincided with the release of their essay that calls for an increased role for Web-based education, according to U.S. News University Connection.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to sweeping revisions in the way it teaches students learning English, as well as black youngsters, settling a federal civil rights investigation that examined whether the district was denying the students a quality education. The settlement closes what was the Obama administration’s first civil rights investigation launched by the Department of Education, and officials said Tuesday that it would serve as a model for other school districts around the country.

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