It's teacher hunting season!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

House Committee Defunds Race to the Top; House Committee Says 5 Week Experienced Teacher Can Be Highly Qualified

In a lightly followed item, a U.S. House Subcommittee voted to defund President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's signature Race to the Top program. This has been the program, launched in 2009, Obama's first year in office, that one early conservative critic dubbed, "NCLB 2: The Carrot That Feels Like a Stick." It has pressed states to institute teacher evaluation systems and to expand the number of charter schools. Compliant states would get extra federal funds. Individually, deficient teachers would get fired, "successful" teachers would receive bonuses (Michael Winerip, New York Times, January 22, 2012, "In Race to the Top, the Dirty Work Is Left to Those on the Bottom.")
Alyson Klein, Tuesday, in "House K-12 Spending Bill Would Scrap Race to the Top" in Education Week reported,
The Obama administration's signature K-12 initiative—the Race to the Top competition—would get axed under a proposal put forward by Republicans on the House panel that oversees K-12 spending.
Two other major Obama priorities—the School Improvement Grant program, which provides $533 million to help turn around low-performing schools, and the nearly $150 million Investing in Innovation grant program—would also be eliminated, according to a press release put out by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
The spending bill was introduced today by Republicans on the House subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related agencies. It would cover fiscal year 2013, the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1. The panel is expected to vote on the legislation tomorrow.
But it looks like not all of the administration's favorite programs would be big losers. The bill appears to renew two new competitive-grant programs. One is Promise Neighborhoods, which helps communities pair wraparound services with education programs. Promise Neighborhoods would get nearly $60 million, the same level as last year. That's not as much the $100 million President Barack Obama wanted for the program.
The measure also would renew the nearly $300 million Teacher Incentive Fund, which provides grants to districts to create pay-for-performance programs. And it would keep in place a nearly $160 million comprehensive literacy program.
So which program would win out big-time? Special education state grants, which would get $12.1 billion, a $500 million increase over current levels. By contrast, Title I would get $15.1 billion, the same level as last year. The Obama administration had proposed flat funding for those programs this year.

Alas, this could be a repeat of last year, when the Republican House saved teachers from Race to the Top. The Democrat-controlled Senate prevailed in the negotiations between the two houses and RTTT was restored.
Klein closed with her thoughts on how this year's general election results might impact on RTTT.
This isn't the first time House Republicans have attempted to jettison many of the programs on the Obama administration education-redesign hit parade. Last year, the committee also proposed scrapping Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, SIG, and other programs. But, the Democratically-controlled Senate—and the administration—ultimately won out in budget negotiations.
So when we will know the outcome this year? Probably not until after the presidential election. It's unlikely that Congress will actually finish its work on the bills before that deadline—it's become tradition for them to pass stop-gap measures extending funding until they can work out a deal.
That means that if Obama isn't re-elected—or if Republicans take over the Senate—it's going to be much much tougher for programs like Race to the Top and i3 to survive the chopping block.
Want more? Check out the full draft bill right here.

* * *
Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post reports that a House committee (same one?) has voted to extend for two years defining teachers with five weeks training as highly qualified. [Yep, better have those Teach for America trainees in classrooms than experienced ones. Bravo to Michael Bloomberg for driving experienced teachers out of the profession.]
Does 5 weeks of training make a teacher ‘highly qualified?’ — Updated
By Valerie Strauss (Updated with House subcommittee vote)
Should someone with five weeks of teacher training be considered a highly qualified teacher?
A U.S. House appropriations subcommittee approved legislation on Wednesday that extended for two more years the federal definition of a highly qualified teacher as including students still learning to be teachers and other people with very little training.

A Teach for America recruit gets classroom management training. (Ricky Carioti, photo/THE WASHINGTON POST)
The nonprofit organization Teach for America places college graduates into high needs schools after giving them five weeks of training in a summer institute. The TFA corps members, who are required to give only a two-year commitment to teaching, can continue a master’s degree in education with selected schools while teaching.
Of course it doesn’t make any real sense that a new college graduate with five weeks of ed training or any student teacher should be considered highly qualified — because they aren’t. But federal officials inexplicably partial to Teach for America have bestowed millions of dollars on the organization, and TFA has, not surprisingly, lobbied Congress for this legislation.
The reality is that teachers still in training are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color — the children who need the best teachers. This inequitable distribution disproportionately affects students with disabilities.
Strauss closed with an overview of what No Child Left Behind requires and how federal courts are colliding with legislative decisions in the area:
The No Child Left Behind law requires all classrooms to have highly qualified teachers, though the definition of just what those are has been debated for years.
In 2010, Congress approved legislation that defined “highly qualified teachers” as including students still in teacher training programs. There is an effort now among supporters to keep that definition on the books — even though the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals twice ruled that it violated No Child Left Behind because it did not fully meet a credential standard set in that law.
Last month the Senate Appropriations Committee was on its way to extending the federal definition but, after some protest, decided not to. Still there is support in the Senate to do so.
The House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday approved legislation that would eliminate most of the funding for President Obama’s Race to the Top and other education programs — and would allow teachers in training to be considered highly qualified teachers through the 2014-15 school year.
The Obama administration has given waivers to more than half of the states, which allows them to ignore major parts of NCLB. That includes the highly qualified teacher provision, if they include student achievement in teacher evaluations.
However, there are other federal education funds, such as Title 1, tied to a highly qualified teacher provision.
Bottom line: The issue isn’t over.

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