#1 – The pending Senate omnibus spending bill is a beast. I haven’t been able to get through all of it yet. But a few policy changes on education buried inside. Alyson Klein points writes-up some proposed turnaround changes and also Teacher Incentive Fund changes. Mike Petrilli writes-up a proposed change to the federal Charter Schools Program requiring states to do more on accountability for charter authorizers. Petrilli fits the charter language into the Washington “micro-managing” drum he’s been beating of late. I don’t think that’s the issue, it’s good language and the CSP program should be revamped to better incent quality. Rather, it’s the timing of it. States can’t change their policies in time to comply so only a handful of states would even be eligible for funding if the law passes. So in my view it shows two problems: First, this is the sort of problem you get when Congress can’t do its authorizing work so appropriations bills become the only vehicle for policy changes. Second, it shows the disconnect between how people in Washington think about state policy and the actual realities of state policymaking.
#2 – In the last day or two it seems the media and political tide is turning more favorable for Philly Superintendent and Council of Great City Schools Superintendent of the Year Arlene Ackerman. The issue is a no-bid contract and the city’s arcane and political procurement process. Still, a lot of chatter about where this leads and because the funds federal dollars whether the Department of Education will become involved. Also, five alleged whisteblowers were fired, some of whom are senior, so insiders in Pennsylvania say this could still have legs.
#3 – For the last few months there has been speculation about what a deal the Department of Education gave to Virginia on “adequate yearly progress” or AYP targets might mean more generally. Essentially Virginia was given flexibility to set the targets retroactively and an uncertain process for future years. Now the deal is apparently off. Title I Monitor takes a look at all that. This is a big deal because forget the silliness about 100 percent (the law doesn’t require it), when you start to have accountability targets that require four in five students to be passing state tests even states with low-cut scores on their tests start to have a lot of schools not making AYP because of overall low-performance and/or achievement gaps. So a lot of states seeking relief on that issue right now. Remember, it’s all about the kids!