Friday, January 29, 2010

Cuts for Education in New Federal Budget

Inside notes from school-focused meetings with the government on education initiatives, regulations and changes to funding, all over the past week and prior to the president's State of the Union Address on Thursday. Posted without much comment but with some contextual layers to enhance the conversation. Let me know if you think any of this is off or anything missing.

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The Budget, due out February 1, has a few kernels of interest that for-profits and school administrators need to take into account. For one, this aggressive budget limiting and budget freezing going on in the Obama administration will have a direct impact on SES, and native systems in school districts.

The Administration's budget will also request additional funding for I3. Finally, we can expect to see an effort to consolidate programs into thematic funding streams and being less prescriptive. Expect lots of "fiscal restraint" and "funding fewer programs, but doing them better" in the budget which most likely means termination of smaller programs and a small overall increase in total education funding.

Then more of what we already kind of knew. New system in the works. A need for common understanding on standards.

Accountability Systems: The proposal will most likely replace AYP with another accountability framework focused on student academic growth toward every student graduating from high school ready for college and career. This framework will include a growth model as well as assessments related to "common standards." No sense of if there will be a new timeline, but 2014 will almost certainly go away.

And then this was most interesting, considering that one common complaint arising from teachers is that they are not paid enough money. There's also this view that capitalist intervention in school systems is like the sign of the devil. So, it's good to see that someone is looking in an evolutionary way at the role that incentives, rewards, payments and budgeting windfalls can lessen the grievances and improve performance.

One thing to point out, though, is that it seems this administration is either not warmly fond of SES, or it just doesn't know what to do with them, so the issues are not raised with them in mind as much as they could be.

Interventions/Rewards: In keeping with the mantra of "tight
on goals, loose on means, "the Administration's plan will include financial
rewards for high-performing schools, aggressive interventions for the bottom 5%
performing schools (similar to what is prescribed in Race to the Top and School
Improvement Grants), and more flexibility for the middle 80% or so to select the
interventions they feel will help them improve student growth. School districts
and States will also be subject to accountability for student performance. No sense yet of what will be expected of schools in terms of performance targets (or who sets them) and what failing to meet a target means in terms of interventions (e.g. public school choice, SES).

In terms of timing, and what dominates the President's's not education. It's obviously going to be healthcare. Oh, and there is a war going on with talk of negotiating with the Taliban. Still, here is what ESEA potential looks like: not likely going to be a talking point this year.

The sense that NCLB was not going well was obvious. I slice out here some comments from a source that show a new possible direction for accountability in schools. These things are important, considering the state budget downfalls, and the fact that during every major recessionary valley, there has been a struggle to keep states in the black after the downward trend reverses.

NCLB was criticized for being underfunded, which could become a criticism of the new accountability framework and goal of having all students ready for college. The growth models alone will require additional testing in high school beyond the one assessment required under current law.

Make sure you look into attending the the Education Industry Investment Forum in Phoenix, Arizona March 1-3, 2010.

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