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August 31, 2010
In Albany, Duncan defends competitive federal education funds
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defended himself yesterday to critics of one of the centerpieces of his federal education policy — his practice of staging competitions to reward student progress or new ideas. Duncan's approach, which inspired his signature Race to the Top grant program, has drawn criticism from advocates like the NAACP, some state leaders and even members of Congress. His critics say that a policy that awards funds based on anything other than student need will inevitably leave some districts behind. During Duncan's visit to the state teachers union headquarters in Albany yesterday, those concerns surfaced again, this time from a teacher from Newburgh. Patricia Van Duser told Duncan that school districts like hers depend on the reliable funding that the federal education department doles out to schools based on need. Van Duser worried that her district's finances could be jeopardized if the federal government moves towards a more competitive model as the Obama administration plans its overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. "You really need that to be formula-driven, not competitive-driven," she said.
August 30, 2010
Listen to us, teachers tell Arne Duncan in Albany
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (right, blue shirt) and NYSUT President Richard Ianuzzi listen to a teacher at a roundtable at NYSUT's Albany headquarters today. ALBANY, N.Y. — Teamwork was the watchword as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan took his national back-to-school bus tour to Albany today. Duncan has taken to the road to celebrate teachers, and to convince them that his reform efforts will not undercut their interests. In New York, many teachers are still skittish of a new teacher evaluation plan that will, for the first time, allow school districts to judge them based on their students' test scores. The state and city teachers union struck the agreement with state education officials in May, in part to improve the state's Race to the Top application. And so, in appearances at the state teachers union headquarters and the State Capitol, Duncan and state officials emphasized that New York's reform policies are the result of a team effort between state education officials and its teachers unions. Those policies won the state nearly $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds last week. "Where other states were not able to reach consensus, New York was," Duncan said.
August 11, 2010
Colorado eligibility for Edujobs unclear
State officials are trying to figure out if Colorado is eligible for a slice of the new $10 billion "Edujobs" program.
August 10, 2010
Federal teacher jobs bill set to channel about $200 million to city
President Barack Obama is expected to sign a $10 billion federal teacher jobs bill into law this evening, opening the way for New York…
July 27, 2010
Tisch: State reform agenda dependent on Race to the Top win
Even as they celebrated New York's Race to the Top finalist status today, state education officials warned that reforms won't happen without a win. In recent months, state officials have committed to changing teacher evaluations, creating new databases to track students' grades and scores, revamping standards, and upgrading tests. But those changes can't happen unless New York takes home the $700 million it asked for in its Race to the Top application, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told me today. "The reform agenda is very contingent upon an infusion of these federal dollars that are earmarked for reform efforts," Tisch said. For a cash-strapped education department in a state whose budget is now nearly four months late, it's not clear where the money to fund costly reform initiatives will come from without federal backing. And New York is not alone among states whose budgets may not support the changes they have promised or even enacted into law. But speaking to reporters today, Duncan said that states should carry out their reform plans even if they don't receive Race to the Top funds.
July 26, 2010
Heads up: Race to the Top finalists to be announced tomorrow
New York could enter Race to the Top’s bell lap tomorrow — and then one step closer to winning $700 million toward overhauling to the…
May 18, 2010
Duncan: "Emergency action" needed now to avoid teacher layoffs
A first-grader at Brooklyn's P.S. 214 told U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the story of Rumplestiltskin today. City, federal and union officials clash on the best way to lift the state's charter school cap. They dispute the fairest way to lay off teachers. And they could barely agree on what school U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan should visit today. But brought together for that visit, Duncan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and teachers union president Michael Mulgrew could agree on one thing — the city needs federal dollars and it needs them soon.
May 5, 2010
Union contract limits options for school turnaround, city says
In an attempt to improve some of the worst schools in the country, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is offering states four methods of turning around their lowest performers. But New York City officials say the union contract here rules out one of the three — the so-called "transformation" model — even though it's the only one that wouldn't cause teachers to lose their jobs. The other three methods either turn schools into charter schools, close them down, or force their principals and at least half of the staff to be fired. "Transformation" calls for the principal's removal, but keeps the school's staff in place. Yet crucially, it also requires that schools use students' test scores as a significant factor in evaluating teachers, that merit pay be put in place, and that teachers whose students don't show enough improvement be fired. Since New York state law bars principals from using student data in teachers' tenure decisions and the teachers contract only allows merit pay for entire schools that perform well, not individual teachers, city officials claim they cannot use it. That's despite the fact that the city actually wants to use the transformation model at some of the 34 schools on the state's turnaround list, a Department of Education official said. He mentioned (but did not name) a small group of schools that are improving and have above-average graduation rates despite their overall-poor performance.
May 4, 2010
Michigan’s first HS wins a high profile graduation guest
While states have been competing for millions in Race to the Top funds, high schools have had their own contest for President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's attention.
March 22, 2010
Duncan’s whirlwind tour of Denver
The education secretary comes to hear tales of collaboration from Douglas County, Denver and the Eastern Plains - and raises hopes for R2T
January 19, 2010
Arne Duncan: Paterson's budget shouldn't assume a RttT win
Gov. Paterson's proposed school budget could actually hurt the state's chance of winning federal Race to the Top funds, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan suggested today. Duncan told reporters this afternoon that he was surprised to learn that Paterson's proposed budget appropriated $750 million in Race to the Top funds even before the competitive fund's application deadline today. "This is going to be very, very competitive, so for anyone to assume they're getting this — that's a bit of a leap of faith, I would say," Duncan said. "And obviously if this money is seen as simply something that is going to be plugging budget holes, that's not something we're going to be interested in." Duncan made the statement in a conference call where he explained President Obama's intention to open the Race to the Top competition up to local school districts, instead of just states.
November 18, 2009
Audit of state ed. dept. raises red flags on stimulus tracking
The state education department needs to regulate how it spends its stimulus money more thoroughly, according to an audit released last week by the U.S. Department of Education. The report, prepared by the USDOE's Office of Inspector General in a round of "initial" audits of four large states, calls into question state oversight practices that monitor how federal grant money is disbursed to school districts and then spent. The report concluded that the state needs to upgrade its regulatory systems in order to provide "a reasonable assurance of compliance" with federal law.
November 12, 2009
Confident state ed officials press forward on Race to the Top
Brushing aside criticism that current state laws could jeopardize New York's chances at Race to the Top Funds, state officials say they will enter the contest in round one. On Monday, the State Education Department will release a comprehensive plan to overhaul teacher training, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said today. Tisch called the proposal a "very aggressive package" that will be a major element of New York's Race to the Top application. The strength of a state's teacher training program is a heavily weighted component of the final Race to the Top criteria unveiled today. At a speech in New York City last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for states to better prepare new teachers. But even with a new teacher training initiative, it remains to be seen whether two controversial state laws — one that bans the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions and another that caps the number of charter schools allowed in the state — could derail the state's application. In a conference call with reporters today, Duncan emphasized that states with such policies will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to states that are "vigorously challenging the status quo" by eliminating such caps and barriers. Some states are changing their laws to improve their Race to the Top chances, but New York has not.
November 11, 2009
Final Race to the Top guidelines keep rule that may exclude NY
The U.S. Department of Education released final guidelines for its $4.3 billion Race to the Top grant program this evening, leaving a provision that could ban New York State from applying for the funds still intact. States that bar districts from using test scores to evaluate teachers and principals are ineligible for the fund. The language of the requirement remains exactly the same as in the draft rules released in July. The draft proposal sparked a debate about whether a New York State provision that bars using student data in teacher tenure decisions will exclude the state from the competition for grant money. However, the final criteria does provide more context on how student data should be used to evaluate teachers and principals than did the draft proposal. The regulations call for states to develop evaluation methods that use student test scores as a "significant factor" in rating teachers and principals, but notes that it should be one factor among several categories for which teachers should be judged.
October 22, 2009
Test scores should be traced to ed schools, Duncan says
U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan speaking at a meeting of the Children's Aid Society at Teachers College this morning. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called this morning for states to link student test data not only back to teachers, but also to the programs that trained them. New York State education officials said they are already working on it. Speaking to a packed auditorium at Columbia University, Duncan criticized education schools for failing to graduate classroom-ready teachers. He said there needs to be a way to determine which programs are working. "It's a simple but obvious idea," Duncan said. "Colleges of education and district officials ought to know which teacher preparation programs are effective and which need fixing. The power of competition and disclosure can be a powerful tonic for programs stuck in the past." Duncan said he will use the competitive stimulus package funds known as the "Race to the Top" program to pressure states to use student data to evaluate teacher preparation programs. After Duncan's speech, state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and education commissioner David Steiner said that Duncan's speech was in line with their own visions of change.
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