Congress to Vote on H.R. 5 NEXT FRIDAY: Send your opinion

US House SealAn important vote on H.R. 5 is scheduled Friday.  While the League of Women Voters supports national curriculum guidelines and assessment of skills that compares the student achievement across similar districts, it also supports local implementation of the curricula and skills.   The operative definition of the League’s position is that all children should have access to an equitable, quality education.  To what extent does this bill have the desired result?

The bill severely cuts the role of the U.S. Department of Education.  It also freezes funding until 2021.  Finally, it increases support for charter schools and allows Title I funding for low income schools to be moved to other schools.  The bill has generated controversy.  Specific requirements follow.

If you wish to contact your legislators, a contact list is below.

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The Horns of a Dilemma?

bull-155411_640Over and over we hear that testing narrows the curriculum, provokes anxiety rather than enthusiasm for learning, drives teachers out of the classroom, all in the name of improving student achievement.

Why do so many educators and politicians persist in an approach whose effectiveness is yet to be validated?  A clearly articulated rationale for annual testing is needed.  One appeared in the New York Times written by a former advisor to the U.S. Department of Education.  It lays out the administration’s rationale.


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Difference Between U. S. House and Senate Education Bills

congress-74032_1280The Senate version of the education bill (See: US Senator Lamar Alexandar Bill ) and the House version differ mostly on the requirements for achievement testing.

The House version is a reintroduction of last year’s Student Success Act.  Both version emphasize returning control to the states.

A summary of the House version follows.  We will track the bills.  Check Legislative Updates on the rotating banner for the blog.  It is the photo of the green chalkboard.

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New Testing Reduction Bill in Congress

dmbtestRepresentatives Gibson and Sinema filed a bill to significantly change national testing policy.  The provisions would roll back testing from 14 to 6 required standardized tests.  The change is called ‘grade span’ testing.  H.R. 4172 would mandate testing for math and English Language Arts once in grades 3-5; once in grades 6-9, and once in grades 10-12.  This is the same requirement for science assessments.

This is a bipartisan bill sponsored by representatives from Arizona and New York.  A similar option was proposed by Senator Lamar Alexander.

Call to Action: Respond to the USDOE Proposal to use VAM Scores for Colleges of Education

standardized_testIf you want to have input on the USDOE proposal to rate colleges of education on the basis of their graduates’ VAM teaching evaluations, heed Diane Ravitch’s call to action.  The USDOE is seeking input until January 2, 2015.


Click on the following link to see how to respond to the USDOE proposal.  Note that the US LWV has no formal position, so please respond as an individual, not on behalf of the League.  See the following article for more information.

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If Race to the Top loses, What is Lost? What is Gained?

Federal officials will tell you that education is a state responsibility, but federal dollars impact state policy.

So, if Race to the Top (RTT)children-402166_1280 does lose it funding in the new Omnibus  bill, what goes away?


What are the new education priorities in the bill?  A listing from the U.S. Department of Education website gives a list of RTT grant initiatives that may be affected.



New priorities are set.  School Improvement Grants (S.I.G.) remain.Continue reading

New Mexico Charter School Power Struggle


Need Oversight

by Meredith Machen

This is an updated post of the struggle between the Public Education Commission (PEC)  and the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) over proper supervision of charter schools.   The PED is not responding to State auditors’ requests for information following a federal investigation of charters there.  Continue reading

Early Childhood Education Highlighted

Some of the most fascinating research is being done in the development of the minds of little children.  What can be more fun to watch than a young child’s first steps or to hear that first word.  baby-84626_1280Suppose progress just does not happen as we think it should.    By the time they get to kindergarten, these children are already behind.  Catching up is really difficult.

Across the nation, the realization that pre school has to be more than day care has reached legislators.  Do we understand what quality pre school is? What should be taught, and how do these children learn?  Who is teaching?

What is happening in states? We learned that a 16 year old can be an instructor in some pre school programs in Florida.  We need better standards.  If we want to judge progress, what makes good reading?   Here are some sources for programs in different states.Continue reading

Alternative assessments for Students with Disabilities Abolished

In June, 2014 the U.S.DOE increased reporting requirements for students with disabilities programs.  Both program procedures such as meeting evaluation timelines and student outcome data are now required for federal funding. The U.S.DOE estimates that only 18 states and territories will meet the new standards; 41 states and territories met previous standards. California, Texas and Delaware are in the lowest compliance level.


A change in assessment policy can have a big impact. Title I Part A regulations have been amended.  Alternative ESEA standards and assessments that are based on disabilities with be phased out. Data such as graduation and suspension rates as well as state assessment scores will be used for Individuals with Disability Act (IDEA) grants.

The acting Assistant Secretary of Special Education stated that less than 10% of 8th graders with IEPs were proficient in reading.  In his announcement of the new requirements, Secretary Arne Duncan said “We must be honest about student performance, so that we can give all students the support and services they need to succeed”.  Federal programs provide $11.5 billion in grants to states that in 2010 served 6,614,000 children.

2013-14 Florida Charter School Enrollments vs. Projections

Of the 46 new charters started in 2013-14 in Florida,  five met or exceeded their enrollment projections.  Click on the link above to find out how the charters in your area fared.

Charters, however are growing.     classroom2

According to the National Alliance for Charter Schools, there are 6400 charter schools enrolling 2.5 million students.  Two hundred charter schools closed nationwide. The National Center for Education Statistics is a good data source for finding facts about many choice programs also including magnet and Title I programs by type of school and level of school.