ED Looking for ‘Game-Changing’ Best Practices

The Education Dept. seeks public input on ways to dramatically improve pre-K through 12 education, appealing for “game-changing,” solutions that could be fast-tracked over the next two years.

Public Comment Deadline: Dec: 1.

President Obama will leave office in a little over two years and it’s unlikely that his successor will keep Education Secy. Arne Duncan at ED. Duncan has become a lightning rod for criticism over the No Child Left Behind waiver process even as the states embrace the strategy as a way to avoid the harsh NCLB penalties.

ED would need the entire last two years to put in place the foundation of any new education policies. As part of the effort, Emily Anthony, a senior policy advisor in the ED Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, put up a blog posting for informal comments on “game-changing” ideas.

The department has new authority to pool money across federal programs in order to fund appraisal of existing efforts. This helps because some competitions did not previously have money set aside for such evaluations.

In her blog posting, Anthony said the department is seeking aid in targeting the best of the best.

“We are asking your help to identify what the most pressing education policy and/or practice questions,” she said. “Our goal is to support the development of findings that have the rigor and power to inform significant improvements in how schools, districts, states, and the federal government provide services to students.”

The four questions are:

  • What are the most critical Pre-K-12 issues that are still not addressed?
  • How could answering these questions help states to improve student outcomes for all students?
  • What type of study is needed?
  • What implications would these findings have for existing practices, policies, and federal programs? Name specific existing practices, policies, and programs if possible.

Some groups have already taken the initiative in making their voices heard.

The Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, made up of the largest school districts in the nation, sent a letter to Duncan on a range of issues, including ways to improve NCLB waiver process.

The group recommends:

  • ED should go outside the box when it comes to assessments and data, including allowing states and districts to experiment with competency-based systems, which look at student mastery of certain skills and performance tasks.
  • Grade-span testing at key points, or testing that just samples certain students, should be an option for districts. There should be fewer and better local assessments, and less focus on states’ summative tests. States and districts could pilot this strategy to start out with.
  • Waiver states should get at least two years before they have to incorporate student-growth data.
  • ED shouldn’t force states to use state test results in teacher evaluations. Local assessments or local tests combined with state tests can be a great measure of student learning, the district leaders say.

Submissions can be posted either publicly through the comment section of the blog or by email to evaluationideas@ed.gov. Unlike a structured Federal Register notice, these comments will be considered informal input. The department will not provide formal responses to ideas submitted and submissions may or may not be reflected in the final decisions, Anthony said.

About Frank Klimko

Frank Klimko is a nationally known journalist, grants expert and speech writer/speaker. He has years of experience helping nonprofits devise lists of the right funding opportunities and secure funding from these foundations and corporate entities. Clients have focused on an array of areas including child care, homeless, hunger and K-12 education. Additionally, he is a Freedom of Information Act expert, who has helped numerous clients with securing proprietary information from the federal government. Currently, Frank Klimko writes the Children & Youth Funding Report and Private Grants Alert, which are Washington DC-based publications. CYF is a daily publication covering Congress, the Education Dept. and the various federal regulatory agencies. PGA, another daily publication, covers the world of private philanthropy.
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