Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Education, The States Ask: Now What? : NPR Ed : NPR

On Education, The States Ask: Now What? : NPR Ed : NPR:

On Education, The States Ask: Now What?

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The new federal education law is supposed to return to the states greater control over their public schools.
But judging from the mood recently at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States, the states are anything but optimistic about the future, or about the new law.
The apprehension reminded me of the 1989 education summit convened by President George H.W. Bush. Back then the goal was to persuade governors to adopt a set of national education goals. All but a couple of states bought into the idea of "systemic change" with support from the federal government.
The prevailing view was that state and local control of schools wasn't working. What was needed was a national vision for educating every child, regardless of geography, race, ethnicity, sex, ability or disability across social and economic classes. That vision would drive U.S. education policy for a quarter century, and it was a big part of the No Child Left Behind Act signed by George W. Bush in 2002.
Now, with the new education law, the pendulum has swung back to the states. The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, ostensibly puts them in the driver's seat.
So why aren't they happy? I heard lots of reasons at the ECS meeting in San Diego.
  • For state superintendents Tony Evers of Wisconsin and Kirsten Baesler of North Dakota, for example, it's that their states are unprepared to meet ESSA's new requirements for English Language Learners.
  • Other educators said they're worried about glaring disparities in the quality of teachers. According to Jeremy Anderson, president of the Education Commission of the States, more and more states are trying to close that gap. "Seventeen states are talking a lot more about teacher compensation, retention and recruitment," Anderson says. But some people at this year's conference predicted that, if this issue is left to the states, districts will abandon the goal of putting an effective teacher in every classroom.
  • In states and school districts with large minority populations, civil rights groups fear that with less federal oversight, states will offer only a veneer of civil rights protections for low income, racial, ethnic and language minorities.
Looming over all this discussion was the budget crisis in many states. "Revenue volatility" has become the euphemism for budget cuts and uncertainty. Many educators worried that the most promising, innovative reforms will inevitably lose support because they're too costly.

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