Sat, April 04

Federal, state education proposals focus on results

Accountability has been the catchword of 2001.

So it's no surprise that in late November Arizona's State Board of Education gave its approval to Jaime Molera's proposal, Leading Education through the Accountability and Results Notification System, or Arizona LEARNS.

In the New Year, however, the state Legislature will need to be persuaded.

"The board endorsed the plan, particularly the four goals," said Tom Collins, spokesperson for the ADE. "They gave the go ahead to proceed with the implementation but obviously issues will be going to the legislature next month when session begins."

Just last week, Molera also praised President George W. Bush's education plan that cleared the U.S. Senate on Dec. 18.

"Like President Bush's program, my proposal rests on fundamental principles of school improvement," Molera said. "We need rigorous standards and fair and accurate measures that include student growth and achievement against state standards. We will support schools in their efforts to improve, and we will take swift action where schools are negligent on behalf of students."

Considered by many to be the most comprehensive education overall since the Secondary Education Act in 1965, the bill, "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001," was negotiated in both the House and Senate for five months before members reached final approval.

A major component of the new legislation triples federal funding for reading from $300 million in 2001 to $900 million in 2002. The funding is specifically aligned to scientifically proven methods of reading instruction through the President's Reading First Plan.

Literacy also has been a top priority for Molera.

"If we are to attack issues like the dropout rate, we must ensure that all students are reading by the end of the third grade," he said. "Like President Bush, I understand that this fundamental skill is the key to ensure that all children meet academic standards."

Molera says his proposal rests on the central goals of academic accountability, guaranteeing students have the skills and knowledge for success.

"Policy makers have failed to answer the public's questions," he said. "School accountability is a top priority for the public – Arizona LEARNS recognizes that."

Following months of intensive work with educators, business and community leaders, as well as Gov. Jane Dee Hull's task force on K-12 education, the plan, says Molera, answers the fundamental questions of whether students are being taught standards, how we measure schools for accountability, and what action to take on behalf of students.

"I will not back down from Arizona's academic standards," said Molera, while his contemporary at the federal level, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, echoed the accountability position.

Paige said, "They have delivered President Bush a final bill with strong accountability for results, expanded options for parents of disadvantaged children, increased flexibility and local control for states and school districts, and programs that support teaching methods based upon scientific research on what works."

Like many proposals to improve accountability, however, those that work directly on the local level are hesitant to proclaim the bill's proposals as workable.

"Despite the record increase in proposed fiscal year 2003 appropriations, the recent cutbacks in state education budgets will make the ambitious evaluation and accountability provisions in H.R. 1 difficult to achieve," said the executive director the American Association of School Administrators, Paul Houston.

Molera's Arizona LEARNS

Key components:

Ensures all students are being taught Arizona's academic standards through curriculum and instructional affidavits required from local schools.

Provides fair and accurate measurement of school performance to allow educators, the State Board of Education and the state Department of Education to take action on behalf of students.

Underscores the need to focus on school improvement through new state Department of Education support for teachers, governing board members, administrators and parents.

Implements clear rewards and sanctions for schools that fail to take actions on behalf of their students.

Key components of No child Left Behind Act (HR 1)

Achieving excellence through high standards and accountability. Includes a general vision for reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, linking federal dollars to specific performance goals to ensure improved results. Beginning in 2005-2006, schools will be required to test every student in Grades 3-8 in reading and math. Results effect federal funding and its implementation.

Improving literacy by putting reading first.

More funding through a new early Reading First program.

More Title 1 flexibility and increased funds or technology

State and local flexibility

Rewards for achieving schools and consequences for those failing to reach performance goals

School reports and additional funding for charter schools

More flexibility in using federal funds for improved teacher quality.

Math and science partnership to improve education in K-12.

Increase school safety by allowing more flexibility to move violent or disruptive students. More funding for safety and drug-prevention programs. Funding for nongovernmental organizations.

Character-education grants.

Title 1 investment changes and accountability measures.

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