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Education Report September 17, 2010

The Education Report

SEPTEMBER 17, 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. STEM Education Featured at Washington, DC Events
  3. New Report Released on How SEAs can Best Assist Underperforming School
  4. In Brief
  5. New Publications
  6. In the News
  7. About WPLLC

  8. Budget and Appropriations
    Lawmakers returned to Washington, DC this week after a six-week summer recess. While they
    were gone, the rising temperature of the discussions of the state and prospects for the economy;
    the predictions related to the mid-term Congressional elections; the discussions around Bush-era
    tax cut extensions; and a number of other factors affected Congressional leadership’s plans for
    the legislative agenda for the remainder of the year. With action on the reauthorization of the
    Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act falling even further down on the list of
    Congressional “to-dos,” advocates will instead turn their efforts to complete the FY 2011
    appropriations process, the potential for action on the America COMPETEs Act and other efforts
    that indirectly affect education. Specifically this includes immigration reform and how current
    policies affect children of immigrants attending institutions of higher education; Congressional
    investigations into for-profit institutions of higher education; the Child Nutrition Act
    reauthorization; the implementation of winning Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation (i3)
    proposals; and other initiatives.

As for the FY 2011 appropriations cycle and the prospects for action before Congress again
leaves town, many education advocates believe they will not know how much money will be
spent on important programs until 2011. Appropriations staff has been asked to start work on a
Continuing Resolution, or “CR.” Since leadership has indicated they might let their Members
return to the districts and states for campaigning as early as October 1, versus the planned
October 8 adjournment, there could be some scrambling to ensure the federal government
operates until the all-but-certain “lame duck” session after the election.

Other big news this week impacting elected officials and political pundits was the results of the
final primary elections held around the country. This week’s polls, predictions and Tea Party
campaigns aside, the effects of local elections on education policy were magnified as Mayor
Adrian Fenty lost the Washington, DC mayoral Democratic primary to rival Vincent Gray.
Given the city’s politics, the November election is all but a formality in replacing the one-term
Fenty with Gray, who has been in DC government for decades. The question for
Washingtonians and education reformers: What does this mean for DC Chancellor Michelle
Rhee and her reform efforts? Rhee has not said whether or not she would stay once Mayor Fenty
leaves his post, nor has Gray said whether or not he would ask her to stay. It has been reported
the two will meet next week to discuss her chancellorship. It seems the two have not met at all
to discuss the possibility. Much has been said—good and bad—about her efforts to turn around
one of the country’s least effective school districts. Rhee discussed some of those challenges
after the Washington, DC premiere of the much-anticipated film about the country’s troubled
education system, Waiting for Superman, that features a number of education reformers,
including herself. As for those who hope she sticks around, including Arlington, Virginia
resident Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, it seems not enough of them were able to vote in
the District to ensure an extended tenure.

During the weeks that federal lawmakers were not in their Capitol Hill offices, the folks at the
Department of Education (ED) were busy helping states apply for and receive their portion of the
$10 billion made available to them by the Education Jobs bill that was signed into law in August.
In addition, ED was working with winning i3 applicants to ensure they secured the 20 percent
private funding match required to receive federal dollars, and also announced two consortia of
states grant awards to develop and implement new assessments that would support the work
around Common Core standards. This week, Secretary Duncan attended a White House event at
which his boss discussed the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and
mathematics) education and innovation. Next week, he will join his colleagues from the
Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development on Tuesday to
discuss Promise Neighborhoods and, presumably, unveil the successful winning applicants.

In coming weeks, Washington, DC-based members of the education community will also be
keeping at least one eye on polls and predictions for the outcome of this year’s mid-term
elections. A change in leadership on either side of the Capitol will mean a scramble in the 112th
Congress to determine the education priorities of the new players on the education policy or
spending committees. Does this remind you of the plot of the film Groundhog Day?
Back to top.

  1. STEM Education Featured at Washington, DC Events
    This week, both the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) and
    the National Science Board released new reports on the state and prospects of STEM (science,
    technology, engineering and mathematics) education in the country. The White House also
    hosted its latest “Educate to Innovate” event to unveil the much-anticipated “Change the
    Equation” effort ( that consists of over 100 corporate entities
    investing in and advocating for effective STEM education programs.

PCAST’s new report (
docsreports) and study was previewed at a Monday event at the Brookings Institute that featured
a broad—and familiar—discussion of the need for better prepared teachers in K-12 education,
increased diversity in the STEM disciplines and a call for “inspiration” so that everyone is
motivated enough to learn something about STEM subsequently inspiring more individuals to
actually go into STEM area studies and careers. House Science and Technology Committee
Chairman Bart Gordon (DTN) called for Senate action on the America COMPETEs Act that
requires a new federal coordination of STEM education investments. There was also a
discussion of a five-year “refresh” on the 2005 renowned Rising Above the Gathering Storm
report expected soon. The PCAST report is available at:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) hosted a Wednesday press event at the National Press
Club to unveil its new report, Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. (http:// That work argues, “The development of the nation's human capital
through our education system is an essential building block for future innovation. Currently, the
abilities of far too many of America's young men and women go unrecognized and
underdeveloped, and, thus, these individuals may fail to reach their full potential. This
represents a loss for both the individual and society. There are talented students with enormous
potential from every demographic and from every part of our country who, with hard work and
the proper educational opportunities, will form the next generation of science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM) innovators.”

Lastly, there was a White House event on Thursday featuring remarks from President Obama,
who congratulated supporters of “Change the Equation” and their goals. He made a point many
in the STEM education community have noted—that there are numerous reports on STEM
education, but there is also a lack of real action or results that have followed. He suggested that
some comprehensive efforts have been stymied by politics, but pointed to “islands of
excellence.” He argued the cost of inaction to the country, the economy and young people is
“immeasurable.” He also cited the newly released PCAST report and said that Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan would be working with his NSF colleagues to examine and implement
its recommendations. For more information on the event, including a transcript, visit:
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  1. New Report Released on How SEAs can Best Assist Underperforming
    School Districts
    Since the implementation of No Child Left Behind in 2002, the expectation of state governments
    to provide specialized assistance and support to low-performing districts and schools has greatly
    increased. The question remains, however: Do state education agencies (SEAs) have the
    knowledge and capacity to deliver quality technical assistance to these entities? On Monday, the
    Center for American Progress (CAP) released a new paper by William Slotnik, Executive
    Director of the Community Training and Assistance Center, which analyzes SEA efforts to date
    in supporting assisting low-performing school districts’ success. Slotnik argues in his
    publication, Levers for Change—Pathways for State-to-District Assistance in Underperforming
    School Districts, that the “traditional state department of education infrastructure simply is not
    up to the challenge” of providing effective technical assistance to turn around low-performing
    districts and schools. Transforming districts that have been failing students for long periods of
    time is a complex challenge that requires significant changes in systems, strategy and behavior.
    However, over the past 30 years of state-to-district interventions implemented by SEAs around
    the country, some “better” practices have emerged. Slotnik concludes the most critical lessons
    are in the effective use of three levers for change: 1)educational, 2)organizational, and
    3)political, and if used together, these levers can achieve better results for students. State
    departments of education must balance their dual responsibilities of improving the educational
    outcomes of all students with monitoring federal statutes and traditions of local control. It must
    organizationally transform from a policy compliance system into a service delivery system.
    Additionally, an SEA must build the capacity of school district leaders as well as the community
    by using its power to convene and be convened by others, such as community organizations,
    parents and business leaders. The role of the community is absolutely critical to lasting reform.
    Lastly, Slotnik stated that it is essential that the SEA has explicit goals and ending points, i.e., the
    state needs an exit strategy. New approaches to state-to-district support are needed as
    underperforming schools exist within underperforming districts. In the end, according to
    Slotnik, “It is critical that SEAs develop strategies rather than tactics to address the dual
    challenge of increasing student achievement and community capacity.”
    To read the full report, go to:
    Back to top.

  2. In Brief
    On Tuesday, President Obama, flanked by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Pennsylvania
    Governor Ed Rendell (D), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D), Congresswoman Allyson
    Schwartz (D-PA) and Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), stood before students at Masterman
    High School to deliver his annual back-to-school address. Obama emphasized that students must
    be “willing to make the effort” in school, take responsibility for their education, and that
    educational success “isn’t about being smarter, but working harder”. The President stressed to
    students that their “success will also help determine America’s success in the 21st century” and
    told them that the “future is in your hands.” Finally, Obama announced his second
    Commencement Challenge—a contest for teachers, students, and parents to work together to
    help prepare students for college and career. The school that can demonstrate how they give
    back to the community and the country will receive the prize—the President visiting their school
    as the commencement day speaker. To watch the speech, visit: http://, and for details on the Commencement Challenge, visit: http://

The Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) held a news conference on Wednesday titled,
“Creating Pathways to Great Futures,” to urge all Americans to partner in efforts to curb the
nation’s high school dropout crisis. Robbie Bach, President of the Entertainment and
Devices Division of Microsoft, opened the event by introducing the five finalists for the
2010-2011 National Youth of the Year award, ultimately naming Ramonia Dixon as the winner.
The finalists were recognized for their academic accomplishments and “strong character,” with
education as the foundation of their “blueprints for the future.” Dixon spoke about the hope and
support she received as a BGCA member and acknowledged her multiple mentors and tutor for
helping her for the past five years, including throughout the college application process. Dixon
stated, “Great futures really do start here.” Robert Balfanz, an Associate Research Scientist at
Johns Hopkins University, explained youth who do not obtain a high school diploma are unlikely
to achieve the highly sought after “American dream.” He is, however, hopeful that the dropout
crisis can be effectively addressed since by sixth grade the groups at risk of dropping can be
identified. Continuing the conversation, the BGCA President and CEO, Roxanne Spillett,
provided an overview of the goals and achievements of the BGCA. She pointed to the findings
of a survey conducted among the BGCA alumni and reported that: 1) 90 percent of BGCA alum
graduate from high school, contrasted to the national average of 68 percent; 2) 45 percent of
alumni stated that the BGCA helped them graduate high school and; 3) 27 percent of alum said
the BGCA saved their lives. Spillett emphasized that youth must be appropriately engaged
during out of school time, the focus of the BGCA, in order to be successful academically and
socially. She emphasized that dropout prevention efforts should use out of school time as a
means to address barriers to graduation. Denzel Washington, BGCA alum and Academy Award-
winning actor, spoke to his experiences in the BGCA and advocated for the development of more
out of school programs, as well as continued support for existing organizations. For more
information, visit

On Tuesday, the Learning and Education Academic Research Network (LEARN) held a briefing
titled, “Education Assessment: Research Driving Progress.” The briefing focused on educational
assessments of students, teachers and principals, with the goal of informing practitioners, as well
as to provide decision-makers with best practices. Three panelists from the LEARN Coalition
spoke about their research for the improvement of school performance, accountability and
assessments at the student, teacher and principal levels. John T. Yun, Associate Professor at the
University of California, Santa Barbara, explained that assessments provide information; lead to
better policy- and decision-making; and “liberate the disenfranchised,” but he also cautioned that
assessments can narrow the curriculum being taught. He emphasized that “when we assess
things, people teach those things,” and assessing creativity and innovation could serve as a
promising development. Robert Pianta, the Dean of Curry School of Education at the University
of Virginia, discussed teacher assessments and explained that a “teacher?s lessons can be
quantified and engineered to improve the quality of instruction.” He provided information based
on his research using data from an observation-based assessment tool. Finally, Ellen Goldring, a
professor at Vanderbilt University, discussed leadership and principal assessment. She noted
how quality leaders have strong impacts on student performance despite their indirect influence.
She detailed the development of a principal assessment tool that uses psychometrics and multi-
sourced feedback from teachers as well as the principal?s supervisor. In closing, moderator Mary
Gresham, the Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo, State
University of New York, emphasized LEARN?s collective goal of enhancing research on the
science of learning; addressing research gaps in teacher preparation and practice; and employing
effective research approaches and rigorous evaluations. She ended the briefing by stating that
LEARN will provide assistance and access to their research in these fields. For more
information, visit:

On September 9, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced 304 Blue Ribbon Schools
throughout the nation at the School Without Walls Senior High School in Washington, DC.
Two hundred and fifty-four public and 50 private schools will be honored November 15-16
during an award ceremony in Washington, DC. Public and private elementary, middle and high
schools with high achieving students or significant progress closing achievement gaps have been
recognized with the Blue Ribbon School status since 1982. Duncan stated, “Schools honored
with the Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to achievement and to ensuring that students
learn and succeed. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and must
receive a quality education.” For more information, go to:

On September 2, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the Partnership for
Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced
Assessment Consortium (SBAC) as winners of grants in the amounts of $170 million and $160
million respectively to develop new assessments based on the Common Core State Standards.
The winners were selected by two panels of peer reviewers including panelists from the Race to
the Top Assessment public meetings and peer reviewers in the Title I review of State assessment
systems. The new assessments, intended to replace restrictive “bubble tests”, will be used to
measure knowledge gains in Mathematics and English Language Arts and will be administered
to students in grade 3 through high school. The grants are funded as a set aside from Race to the
Top funds appropriated as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). "As I
travel around the country the number one complaint I hear from teachers is that state bubble tests
pressure teachers to teach to a test that doesn't measure what really matters," said Duncan. "Both
of these winning applicants are planning to develop assessments that will move us far beyond
this and measure real student knowledge and skills." The PARCC coalition, made up of 26
states, will test students on their ability to read complex text, complete research projects, and
work with digital media. Additionally, PARCC will replace the single standardized test at the
end of the school year with multiple assessments throughout the year with scores to be averaged
into one score for accountability purposes and to provide students, teachers and families a way to
track student progress. Similar to the PARCC coalition, the SBAC coalition, made up of 31
states, will create interim tests so that students, teachers and families can track student progress.
However, the SBAC coalition will retain the single assessment at the end of the year for
accountability purposes, using computer adaptive technology that will ask students questions
based on their previous answers. In order to ensure the new assessment systems adequately
address all learners, including English language learners and students with disabilities, experts
and teachers of the fields will have “substantial involvement” in the creation of the assessments,
according to both consortia. The assessments will be implemented by the 2014-15 school year.
For more information about these grants, go to:

Back to top.

  1. New Publications
    “Built for Teachers How the Blueprint for Reform Empowers Educators” (August 2010)

    “2010 College-Bound Seniors Total Groups Profile Report” (September 2010)

“Suspended Education Urban Middle Schools in Crisis” (September 2010)

“Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 1999 to 2009” (September 2010)

“Ready, Set, Go! Why Business Should Support Early Childhood Education” (September 2010)

“Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators: Identifying and Developing Our Nation?s
Human Capital” (September 2010)

“State Test Score Trends Through 2008-09, Part 1: Rising Scores on State Tests and NAEP”
(September 2010) http://www.cep-

Back to top.

  1. In the News
    “Teacher Pay Plan Detailed” Washington Post (9/10/10)

“U.S. Schools Attract Smaller Share of International Students” New York Times (9/12/10)

“Racial Disparity in School Suspensions” New York Times (9/13/10)

“Obama Urges Students to „Dream Big? in Back-to-School Speech in Philadelphia” Washington
Post (9/14/10)

“White House to Focus on Trade, Education” Wall Street Journal (9/16/10)

“Rhee is Likely to Head for the Door” Washington Post (9/17/10)

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.

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