Main menu

Education Report October 1, 2010

The Education Report

OCTOBER 1, 2010
Della Cronin, Editor

The Education Report, a weekly publication of WPLLC, provides an executive summary of
public policy issues affecting American education. Please use the bookmarks below to
navigate to your area of interest:

  1. Budget and Appropriations
  2. In Brief
  3. New Publications
  4. In the News
  5. About WPLLC

  6. Budget and Appropriations
    There is nothing like a firm deadline and the chance to leave town to force the Congress to get
    their job done. After three short weeks of haggling and posturing, in the wee hours of September
    30th, the House and Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government
    operating until early December. This act was vital, as not one out of the twelve budget bills for
    Fiscal Year 2011 made it to President Obama’s desk prior to the end of FY 2010 (yesterday).
    With the fear of a government shutdown compounded by the relentless polling information put
    forth by the media, Members of Congress up for re-election on November 2nd just couldn’t get
    back to the campaign trail fast enough.

The CR that was adopted provides continued funding for all federal agencies at the same rate as
FY 2010 until the Congress is able to negotiate new spending bills. Despite a last minute effort
by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to push the Congress to add $5.7 billion in additional
Pell Grant funding to the measure, which is necessary to cover a shortfall, and approximately $2
billion in funds for another round of Race to the Top and i3 competitions, the bill was passed
without any added dollars for these top administration priorities.

The outlook for a final budget bill for the Department of Education looks uncertain at best.
Congress will undoubtedly be forced to produce an Omnibus bill for all government agencies.
There is also great pressure coming from the Republican Members in both the Senate and House
to cut the overall size of next year’s budget by at least $6 billion. Republicans who support the
recently presented “Pledge to America” would like to see funding cut back to the FY 2008 level,
requiring a 22% reduction in funding for the Department of Education alone.

If agreement cannot be reached on an Omnibus bill, a second alternative is a continuing
resolution for the entire fiscal year. This would be unpopular with the Administration, as it
would not include funding for their new priority programs, nor with Members of Congress who
would lose funding for annual earmarks.

Though the Congress that will be elected on November 2nd will not officially take office until
January, election results are bound to influence the mood and the activity level during the
expected lame duck session. If Republicans are able to win the thirty-nine seats they need in the
House to take over the majority and the ten seats to do the same in the Senate, the session could
have disappointing results for education advocates. Even if Democrats hold on to power, the
message has been received that the public wants greater scrutiny about how public dollars are
distributed, and tough decisions about spending will have to be addressed by legislators. In the
past, education, viewed as an engine of economic recovery, has been exempt from draconian
funding cuts. That trend might not hold going forward.
Back to top.

  1. In Brief
    On Tuesday, First Focus and Preschool California hosted a briefing titled, “California: the State
    of Early Learning,” to showcase the progress of California’s early learning activities. Catherine
    Atkin, president of Preschool California, described the different roles entities in the community
    are playing in the early learning landscape in California. The variety of panelists at the
    event, that included Susan Trigueros, Regional Public Affairs Manager for the Southern
    California Gas Company and Sandra Weese from the California Federation of Teachers,
    demonstrated diverse entities that are invested in providing high-quality early learning services.
    Kris Perry, Executive Director of First 5 California, described the creation of the Early Learning
    Advisory Council that will aid in developing and guiding policy for early education in
    California. They are helping to implement QRIS, which will ensure accountability and quality of
    early learning services throughout the state. A panelist and the superintendent of schools in the
    Fresno County Office of Education, Larry Powell, said, “We know we could unfill prisons if we
    can get kids reading,” and educating for this outcome must start at birth. Powell argued “We get
    nothing out of high school reform,” but the return on investments in early education is so
    extraordinarily substantial that “we may need to lose a generation of our high school students in
    order to take that funding and invest in early education.” Powell explained that through the
    creative use of Title I dollars and his district’s ambitious efforts to win grants and engage the
    business community, they have prioritized early learning programs in their schools. Each panelist
    added how important efforts from all members of the community are to ensure quality, early
    learning programs are available. To read more about what California is doing in early learning,

At a Wednesday Congressional briefing, and a Thursday event hosted by the National Education
Association, policy experts discussed what they consider to be the insufficient research base for
the Administration’s “A Blueprint for Reform,” which outlines its proposals for reforming the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Earlier this year, after the Blueprint was
released, the Department of Education released six reports summarizing the research which, they
argue, supports the proposals outlined in the Blueprint. This week, reviews of those six research
summaries were released by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice as part
of its Think Twice project. In conjunction with the Think Twice Project, the National Education
Policy Center (NEPC) has published a book that analyzes the research, The Obama Education
Blueprint: Researchers Examine the Evidence. The researchers argue that there are vital
omissions in the Blueprint research, including an accountability system for how schools will be
evaluated. The book also addresses the issue of the Blueprint relying heavily on special interest
groups, think tanks, government documents and media reports as sources, rather than peer-
reviewed, academic research. “When No Child Left Behind was signed into law nearly a decade
ago, it was a triumph of rhetoric over sound research,” said William J. Mathis, NEPC’s
managing director and co-editor of the new book. “With ESEA now up for renewal, our children
and our nation require we not make the same mistakes again. NEPC is committed to the idea
that policy should be based on sound evidence. The reviews offered in this book will provide our
elected officials with a clear understanding of what the research truly says about proposals in the
Obama administration’s Education Blueprint.” The NEPC book offers six reviews, written by
independent scholars. Each reviewer found that the research examined was of inadequate quality.
Other themes include: key omissions, such as the Blueprint’s accountability system and the
rationale for competitive grants, as well as an undeveloped explanation and support for
intervention models; a focus on problems, versus providing research to support the Blueprint’s
proposed solutions; extensive use of non-research and advocacy sources to justify policy
recommendations; and an overwhelming reliance, with little or no research justification, on
standardized test scores as a measure of student learning and school success. For more
information, visit:

On Wednesday, the House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing titled, “Averting
the Storm: How Investments in Science Will Secure the Competitiveness and Economic Future
of the U.S.” The hearing featured members of the Commission who authored the renowned
2005 “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report, and who have since reviewed the action that
resulted from the report’s recommendations and published their findings in “Rising Above the
Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5.” Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN),
who is retiring this year, opened the hearing by expressing his fear for the “future of this
nation.” The America COMPETES Act, passed by Congress in 2007 in response to
recommendations made in the so-called “RAGS” report, expired September 30, 2010, since the
Senate has yet to pass its reauthorization proposal. (The House passed its bill, HR 5116, earlier
this year,) Against this backdrop, the Committee was poised to discuss the follow-up report to
RAGS, unveiled last week, and the even more dismal outlook for the nation it outlines when
assessing “our competitive position in the world.” All four witnesses agreed that the
reauthorization and full funding of the America COMPTES Act was imperative now that the
country’s competitiveness issues have worsened. The follow-up report, which focused on
specific events in addition to “overarching matters” that developed over the past five years,
reveals startling statistics that undermine any claims of clear improvements, explained Norm
Augustine, retired Chairman and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, former
Undersecretary of the Army and co-author of both reports. Dr. Dan Mote, President Emeritus of
the University of Maryland and Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering, offered three
explanations for the United States’ disappointing rank in competitiveness: 1) all
recommendations in the Gathering Storm report were not fully implemented; 2) other countries
have been fully engaged in their own efforts to improve their global position; and 3) there are
many other issues fighting for the federal attention and dollars. Fostering a culture that supports
future science and technology competitiveness is the key to driving US competitiveness moving
forward, Mote stated. Other suggestions to improve competitiveness in the US outlined by the
witnesses were lowering the corporate tax rate; making the research and development tax credit
permanent; ensuring that all STEM teachers are high-quality, certified, inspiring educators; and
providing sustained federal support for research institutions and the biosciences sector. More
information on this hearing, including testimony and a webcast of the session, is available at:

The Senate confirmed the next director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Subra
Suresh on Wednesday. He has most recently served as the Dean of Engineering at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Arden Bement, Jr., who held the position of NSF
Director for six years, is heading the new Global Policy Research Institute at Purdue University
in West Lafayette, Indiana. Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the House
Committee on Science and Technology, said of the confirmation, “Dr. Suresh is known as a
strong advocate for greater collaboration across fields of engineering and science. We know that
finding solutions to the nation?s greatest scientific and technological challenges increasingly
requires strong and sustained interdisciplinary collaboration. Dr. Suresh?s experience will help
NSF--and, with it, the nation--remain on the cutting edge.” For more information about NSF,
please visit

The College Board and the National Writing Project (NWP) held a congressional briefing on
Thursday titled, “Teachers are the Center of Education: Writing and Learning in the Digital
Age,” to examine the use of new and different technologies in the classroom from the
perspective of the teachers who utilize them and to share highlights from the recently released
report by the same title. Featured panelists included Robert Rivera-Amezola, a fourth grade
teacher at Frances E. Willard Elementary School in Philadelphia, PA; Joel Malley, a high school
English language arts teacher at Cheektowaga Central High School; and Jennifer Woollven, a
tenth grade language arts teacher; the discussion was moderated by journalist and author Juan
Williams. The event also featured video presentations of students interacting with technology,
aiming to improve writing, content comprehension, communication and to promote well-rounded
learning. The videos highlighted the academic benefits of integrating new technologies such as
blogs, podcasts, Ning, Google Docs and iMovie, into general class assignments. Each teacher
represented a different level of access to technology. Rivera-Amezola?s classes only have access
to computer labs in the school, rather than in the classroom. Joel Malley has 16 computers in his
classroom, but often more students than computers. As a New Tech teacher, each of Woollven?s
students has daily classroom access to a netbook. Regardless of access level, all of the teachers
spoke to academic and social gains of students with access to new technologies. Among students
experiencing the most significant gains, English language learners are “propelled” to be more
comfortable with using the English language when exposed to numerous audiences and
applications, according to Woollven. Concerns were raised surrounding the use of informal
language in new media, such as blogs, including shorter, condensed sentences and word and
phrase abbreviations. Rivera-Amezola assured that writing “principles are still taught
methodically,” and Malley added that using Google Docs allows him to provide better, instant
feedback on student writing as the student is going through the writing process, a stark contrast
to the traditional feedback and grading process, and arguably much more beneficial to the
students. Chief among challenges recognized by the teachers in implementation of new
technologies in the classroom: funding and thorough professional training and assistance for
teachers. The presenters noted that teacher buy-in relies on training so that they feel as
comfortable with the new technologies as the students. The teachers also stated that decreasing
the “digital divide” allows for students and teachers to relate better to each other in a manner that
benefits academic learning. For more information, including the video presentations, visit

On Thursday, the National Journal Group, in association with the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, held a policy summit titled, “Myths vs. Reality: Policy Solutions for Student
Achievement.” The purpose of the summit was to discuss common myths surrounding K-12
education policy and to examine how federal investment can increase both access to quality
education and college and career preparedness among high school graduates. Paul Vallas,
Superintendent of Recovery School District of Louisiana, discussed specific challenges of
educating students, noting, “We currently train students for an economy we have not seen, with
the tools and resources of yesterday.” Following his remarks, a panel of education policy experts
considered the results from a recent National Journal education poll, with poll respondents
including Capitol Hill staff, education advocates and federal employees from both the
Department of Education (ED) and the Executive Office of the President. The panelists related
the results from the poll to the facts on the ground, provided their perspectives and answered
numerous questions. It was clear from each of their remarks that they see education reform as
imperative, and they offered specific ideas. Panelist David Coleman, founder and CEO of
Student Achievement Partners, LLC, said retaining effective teachers is crucial, while panelist
Kati Haycock, President of Education Trust, noted that “big changes that have occurred to state
policy, in the last 18 months alone, with Race to the Top and competitive grants.” Aris
Pangilinan, Math Teacher at H.D. Woodson Senior High School in Washington, DC, shared
student answers to a questionnaire administered prior to attending the summit. His students
found the following characteristics “extremely important” in terms of effective teaching: “a good
instructional leader holds us accountable and creates an atmosphere of trust.” Panelist Roberto
Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy, was asked how the federal
government can drive the changes being suggested and proposed by the other panelists. “The
right pathways for teachers are not in place; that a transformation of the teacher recruitment
process must occur as well as linking student performance to teacher evaluations,” Rodriguez
responded. Finally, the panelists were asked where they thought federal investment and
programs like Race to the Top (RTTT) are headed. Each answered similarly, hoping the
program is expanded. Rodriguez pointed out that, “The focus must shift from federal vs. state to
college- and career-ready students.” He added that more must be done to strengthen federal
investments, and that it cannot come solely from competition. For more information on this
summit, visit

On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held the
third in a series of hearings on for-profit institutions of higher education. The hearing took on a
more political and contentious tone than previous hearings. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA)
continued his attacks on the for-profit sector as a whole, which he continues to view as troubled,
wasting tax dollars and poorly serving students. Republicans countered that the Democrats are
on a “witch hunt,” ideologically opposed to profits, and are conducting the hearings and their
investigation in an unfair and biased manner. In fact, after delivering his opening statement,
Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) left the hearing. During the hearing, Chairman Harkin
released a new study compiled by Committee Democratic staff, including documents submitted
by for-profit education companies to the Committee. Four witnesses testified about problems in
the for-profit sector, and various perspectives were represented: Danielle Johnson of the
Meskwaki Settlement in Tama, Iowa, testified as a student who had attended a nursing program at a
Kaplan University campus in Iowa; Lauren Asher, President of the Institute for College Access
and Success, focused on high defaults and low graduation rates at for-profit schools; Dr. Arnold
Mitchem, President of the Council for Opportunity in Education, testified that non-profit or
public institutions do not spend as much on marketing; and Kathleen Bittel of Acme, PA, an
employee of for-profit company Education Management Corp., testified that she was forced to
modify progress documents inappropriately to show better results than were actually occurring.
The written statements of the witnesses, opening statements by Harkin and Enzi, and a new
Report issued by the Committee?s Democratic staff can be found here:

On Friday, the New America Foundation held an event titled, “Many Missing Pieces: A Frank
Discussion about Early Childhood Data and State Longitudinal Data Systems,” to examine the
many challenges associated with linking early childhood education data with K-12 data and to
learn about state progress in creating early childhood data systems. The New America
Foundation?s Early Education Initiative also released an issue brief titled, “Many Missing Pieces:
The Difficult Task of Linking Early Childhood Data and School-Based Data Systems,” which
examines which state data systems are lacking in terms of the ability to analyze student progress
over time. The report also encourages states to include both education and social services
programs in data collection. The authors, Laura Bornfreund and Maggie Severns of the New
America Foundation?s Early Education Initiative, spoke to the findings of the brief and offered
several recommendations to both the federal and state governments. The report identifies $515
million in federal funding, allocated over the past five years, meant to help states create and
expand longitudinal data systems to collect data throughout a child?s educational experience.
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), $250 million was granted to 20
states in May 2010, with the requirement that states utilize funding to link early childhood
program data to K-12 data systems. Severns argued that even with funding to encourage the
link, “There are no examples of states, to our knowledge, of any states that have incorporated
data from the diverse array of early childhood programs into their K-12 longitudinal data
systems.” Bornfreund noted a not surprising trend-- that those states that have received three
early childhood grants, the most possible, have shown significant improvements, whereas states
receiving fewer grants continue to struggle. Federal recommendations include declaring data-
system development a priority of the forthcoming Interagency Policy Board comprised of staff
from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. State recommendations
include providing relevant and timely information on PreK-12 students to all stake holders such
as teachers, principals and families; expanding data sharing responsibilities among state agencies
to include a wide range of both education and social service data; and allowing public access to
long-term aggregate data regarding the impact of early childhood education on student success.
For more information including a recording of the event, please visit

NBC hosted its “Education Nation” event this week, with President Obama, Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan and many other prominent participants. This weeklong focus on the
state of education in America included a summit and discussion groups that involved educators
from all 50 states on topics of education reform and policy, and a focus on education across
NBC’s channels and daily programming. In his education-focused interview on the Today
Show, President Obama announced an initiative to recruit 10,000 science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers over the next two years as part of a larger effort
to prepare 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade. The next day, Secretary Duncan
unveiled a new “TEACH Campaign” and, which the Administration is calling “a
revolutionary new website dedicated to providing information, testimonials and resources for
students and prospective teachers.” Acknowledging that more than a million teachers are
expected to retire in the near future, Duncan cited this as “a historic opportunity to transform
public education in America by calling on a new generation to join those already in the
classroom.” The campaign’s goals are to increase the number of Science, Technology,
Engineering, Math, English Language Learners and Special Education teachers; reveal the
variety of pathways to become a teacher; and celebrate and honor the profession of teaching.
This website provides prospective teaching candidates with resources related to how to become a
teacher. For more information on these initiatives and announcements, visit and
Back to top.

  1. New Publications
    “Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and
    Legislation” (September 2010)

“The Return on the Federal Investment in For-Profit Education: Debt Without a Diploma”
(September 2010)

“The Obama Education Blueprint: Researchers Examine the Evidence” (September 2010)

“Many Missing Pieces: The Difficult Task of Linking Early Childhood Data and School-Based
Data Systems” (October 2010)
Back to top.

  1. In the News
    “UMass will Offer 3-year Plan” Boston Globe (9/27/10)

“4,100 Students Prove „Small is Better? Rule Wrong” New York Times (9/27/10)

“D.C. Public Schools? Head Start Program has Problems, Federal Report Says” Washington Post

“Calls for Longer School Years Face Budget Reality” Boston Globe (9/28/10)

“Recession-Swelled Rolls Test Community Colleges” Wall Street Journal (9/29/10)

“National Charter School Group to Raise $160 Million” Richmond Times-Dispatch (9/29/10)

“Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause…” New York Times (9/30/10)

“Obama Makes it Official: Rahm to Rouse” Washington Post (10/1/10)

Back to top.

  1. About WPLLC
    For over 30 years, the principals and staff at WPLLC have specialized in the field of education, making sure the voices of
    associations and nonprofit organizations are heard—on Capitol Hill and in the media. As a full service government affairs and
    public relations firm, we work in strong partnership with our clients to position them for the greatest success now and in the
    future. Working as a team, relationships are structured to maximize the strengths of each client; the client?s mission is our driving
    force as we help them clarify needs, set goals and craft and implement successful strategies. WPLLC provides expertise in a
    variety of services:

• Government Relations
• Public Relations & Communications
• Policy Research and Analysis
• Strategic Planning
• Grassroots Activities
• Association Management
• Meeting and Conference Planning

For more information, please call us at 202.289.3900 or visit our website at
• • •
This publication contains links to Internet sites for the convenience of World Wide Web users. Washington Partners, LLC is not
responsible for the availability or content of these external sites, nor does Washington Partners, LLC endorse, warrant or
guarantee the information, services, or products described or offered at these other Internet sites.

Copyright 2010. Washington Partners, LLC. Redistribution of this memorandum or its content outside the immediate
organization of the intended recipient without the express prior permission of Washington Partners, LLC is prohibited. Readers
are encouraged to send comments about this publication to Della Cronin at or call 202.289.3900.

Stay Connected with NCSS:   Follow NCSSNetwork on Twitter FaceBook.png rss_0.gif