Opening Remarks by Sen. Harkin (IA)
Senator Harkin sees the need to understand the status and scope of state waiver plans being implemented across the country; consider the conditions and activities of states that do not have approved waivers; ensure that the policies and programs we support are effective in meeting the needs of our most vulnerable students.
Opening Remarks by Sen. by Alexander (TN)
Senator Alexander said Congress should "go back to work this year" on a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and "let the Secretary step back from waivers and let the states make their own decisions about whether students are teachers are succeeding or failing." He wants put into law "whatever needs to be put into law and let the Secretary step back from the waivers and let the states make their own decisions about whether students and teachers are succeeding or failing."
Opening Remarks by Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Duncan noted that NCLB unintentionally encouraged States to lower their standards so that more students would appear to be proficient. He indicated that providing waivers to the states was necessary to relieve them of some of the NCLB unintended consequences. The Federal role, he said, is to support states and districts, provide incentive and education research, and enforce the law. Federal government is not a national school board in charge of curriculum, assessment, and teacher contracts.
Duncan noted the waivers give states the flexibility they need to prepare America's students to graduate from high school prepared for college and a career. The waivers are allowing schools to be rated based on current achievement, graduation rates, dropout rates, and ACT scores. States are implementing improved support and evaluation systems to provide principals and teachers with better information about their practice and targeted professional development to improve that practice. Noted Duncan: Senator Alexander's home State of Tennessee has been a leader in this work, and is in its second year of implementing a new evaluation system that takes into account multiple measures of teacher practice and student learning and ensures that teachers receive regular feedback to inform their instruction.
Senator Harkin asked how waivers have helped expand focus beyond reading and math. Duncan noted that broader measures of assessment beyond test scores, such as college readiness and the indicators of increased IB, AP, dual enrolments, graduation rates and what kids do after K-12 are encouraged by the waivers, which have given states flexibility and they have been creative in solving their issues.
Senator Alexander asked about teacher evaluation, another big topic of the hearing. Duncan noted that Tennessee has done more on rewarding good teachers and we need to learn from what the states are doing well under the waivers. Arne Duncan spoke of alternative teacher certification offering more creativity and opportunity to bring in teachers such as men and men of color.
Senator Franken (MN) noted that every kid's growth should be measured and suggested that computers be used for evaluations to give teachers real time feedback on students so they can adjust curriculum for individual students immediately.
Senator Enzi (WY) asked about "invisible children" lost in the subgroups under "n-size," and expressed dismay that this was not in the past understood by the Committee as fallout of NCLB. He commended Arne Duncan on the flexibility of the waivers.
Senator Sanders (VT) was concerned about the lack of money and attention being sent to rural communities saying that Race to the Top funds did not proportionally reach rural areas. Duncan defended the record saying that additional pools of funds and attention are directed to rural areas.
Senator Roberts (KS) noted that Kansas system is having trouble with the evaluation criteria for teachers and principal evaluations. His state people are telling him there are too many regulations and the locals need more control.
Senator Bennet (CO) asked Duncan what is next and "how can we support you." Duncan suggested that the state superintendents could best answer that question. It was also noted that T-II professional development money needs to be more flexible.
Senator Paul (KY) pitched for vouchers and choice, but Duncan said he will only support choice within the public school community and that the way to reach more needy students is to improve early childhood education and continue to better measure the outcomes of education.
Senator Whitehouse (RI) asked about supporting the highly gifted and if we do enough for these kids. Duncan wants more kids to graduate with college credit, allowing kids of all levels to learn at their own pace.
Panelists Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education, and John King, Jr., New York Commissioner of Education, favor fast reauthorization of NCLB to give states a clear road map of how to proceed. Kati Haycock, President, The Education Trust, wants the law reauthorized but with enough time and flexibility built in for states to make the transition to the new law's requirements. Panelist Andrew Smarick, Partner, Bellwether Education Partners suggested tabling the reauthorization for the time being and learning from the states and their efforts under the waivers.
Read Education Week's article on the hearing.
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