Inside the Law
New Plans to Flex Muscle of NCLB
As criticisms against No Child Left Behind continue to be voiced in spite of, or perhaps due to, a new administration, the Department of Education has announced pilot programs to give states more flexibility in accessing supplemental educational services (SES) and meeting accountability requirements.
The first pilot program, announced in July, focuses on differentiated accountability and aims to help the states of Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio differentiate between underperforming schools in need of dramatic interventions and those that are closer to meeting the law’s goals.
The second program, announced the following month, is a flexibility agreement that will allow districts in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia to offer tutoring in year one of school improvement status as well as the school choice transfer option. Ordinarily, the law offers transfer options to schools after two years of failing to make progress in all student subgroups and offers SES services such as tutoring only after three years.
In Virginia, officials have long argued that it makes more sense to offer the extra help first, because not all students who qualify to transfer exercise the option. The timing of notification to parents, a student’s desire to stay in his or her own neighborhood, and a lack of available options all contribute to reduced participation in the program, DOE officials say.
Both pilot programs offer states some of the same flexibilities. Georgia’s state superintendent of schools, Kathy Cox, says the state’s newly granted flexibility will give more students the pportunity to receive federally funded tutoring. “This also gives us the opportunity to stop treating all schools the same under NCLB—a change that is much needed in the law,” Cox said in a statement.
The DOE is inviting all states to submit additional proposals for differentiated accountability and growth model programs this fall. Through the programs, the department hopes to gain valuable information that can be shared between states and districts.
Pinching Pennies for Kids
A recen t report from First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, says that only one penny out of every new nondefense dollar spent by the federal government over the past five years goes to children. According to the report, Children’s Budget 2008, spending on U.S. children has increased by about 1.4 percent over the past five years but was easily outpaced by spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Since 2004, spending on education, child welfare and youth training has declined by 9.9 percent, 11.5 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively, says the report. “Absent major adjustments to our current way of doing business, we are rapidly approaching the day when there will be no federal dollars left for any program outside the three major entitlements, plus defense, international affairs and interest on the debt,” reads another study on the same topic from the Urban Institute.
A recent ruling by a California court will allow parents in the state to legally homeschool their children even if they lack a teaching credential—a decision that reverses an earlier position of the court.
Stemming from allegations of a couple’s mistreatment of their children, in February the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in a hearing that parents must have a teaching credential for homeschooling. Families and educators are celebrating the new ruling, but the problem remains that California’s laws, unlike those of at least 30 other states, do not specifically address homeschooling.
The court says that requirements for homeschoolers in other states, such as standardized testing or home visits, should by considered by the California legislature.