The Blog at CTA

Matt Damon Joins Diane Ravitch Tour

Matt Damon Diane Ravitch book tour Reign of ErrorAfter a stop in Sacramento last week where she shared the stage with CTA Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki , Diane Ravitch continued her tour promoting her new book Reign of Error Wednesday Night at CSU Northridge. Matt Damon, whose educator mother was in the audience, brought some Hollywood star power to the event, introducing Ravitch and lauding her stands on major education issues.

Ravitch wasted no time in her hour-long presentation, exposing what she calls hoaxes being perpetrated on the public and on the education community, largely by corporate and billionaire so-called reformers. "America is not falling behind," noted Ravitch, sharing recent data that ties the US with Finland, a nation often ranked at the top in education.

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Seeing the Common Core in Action

After years of seeing what No Child Left Behind has done, it was downright refreshing to visit 10 classrooms that were piloting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for a story appearing in the June issue of the California Educator.

Instead of just being the “sage on the stage,” I saw teachers acting as “facilitators” for students taking responsibility for their own learning. Rather than being spoon-fed information in the traditional “front-loading” way, students had to tell the teacher what they didn’t understand and then fill in the missing puzzle pieces themselves.

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Federal Lawmakers Need to Fix Pending ESEA

Over CTA and NEA member objections, the House of Representatives on a partisan vote recently passed HR 5, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Now known as The “Student Success Act” (HR 5), the bill as currently written would undermine the federal government’s role of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students. Specifically, the bill would reduce resources aimed to support the education of marginalized students and undermine teacher quality and the role of collective bargaining in constructing teacher evaluations.

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ESEA Waiver Update

The California Department of Education is considering submitting a state-specific waiver from No Child Left Behind. The U.S. Department of Education is offering states NCLB waivers, but has attached so many new requirements that the federal waiver amounts to trading one set of top-down mandates for another. Many of the federal waiver mandates look exactly like Secretary Duncan’s Race to the Top rules. The CDE’s state-specific waiver would have a more limited scope than the federal waiver. Some school districts are also considering applying for district waivers. CTA has met width the CDE and the Governor’s office, but continues to have concerns. What we really need is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that actually helps all students, rather than creating winners and losers, or sanctioning schools.

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The Daily Show Meets Arne Duncan

Obama Administration proposes NCLB "waivers"

For years, educators have been dealing width the harmful consequences of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) - the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Acknowledgment by the Obama administration that public schools and students need quick relief from the burdens caused by NCLB and its regulations - like labeling students and schools based on one test on one day during the school year - is a welcome recognition of what educators have been saying for years. Unfortunately, the administration’s waiver proposal process swaps one federal, top-down mandate for another and continues to hold states and local schools hostage to the same unproven reforms of the Race to the Top competition.

We were encouraged to hear Obama understands our schools need more resources, our students need more educators, and parents must encourage learning in order to make sure American’s children are ready for the future. However, the waiver process circumvents the congressional process and bypasses the opportunity for input from parents and teachers about what's wrong width NCLB and what is needed to improve public schools. We need thoughtful discussions about what our kids need to succeed. We know that one-size-fits all federal mandates don’t work and that parents and educators in local communities must be involved in determining what works best for their students.

Read CTA's statement on the Obama Administration's NCLB waiver Download CTA Quick Points

The White House has outlined how states can get relief from provisions of NCLB in exchange for serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability and ensure that all students “are on track to graduate college and career-ready.” States can request flexibility from specific NCLB mandates that are "stifling reform", but must meet certain requirements to do so. They must address:
  • The transition of students, teachers and schools to a system aligned width college and career ready standards for all students;
  • The development of differentiated accountability systems; and,
  • The development of comprehensive principal and teacher evaluation and support systems.
States can apply by November 14 if their applications are prepared, or they can wait until February for the second wave if they need more time to align/develop plans. President Obama said that the purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level.

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