School & District Management

How Assessment, STEM, Reading Fare in Obama’s Proposed Budget

By Catherine Gewertz — February 03, 2015 2 min read
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As you’ve probably heard, President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2016 is out. Our crack federal policy team over at Politics K-12 has tons of detail and analysis for you. But for the matters nearest and dearest to the hearts of Curriculum Matters followers, let’s take a quick look at what the spending plan holds for assessment, for reading and STEM programs, and for high school.

Take a look at the budget summary. Section B has all the meaty stuff you know best.

Striving Readers. The budget requests $160 million for this program, the same as last year’s funding level, and a bit more than in 2014. The program has been “refocused,” however, into a series of competitive grants for school districts for “evidence-based literacy programs and interventions in high-need schools.” District may propose schoolwide programs, but if they’re going to be more targeted, they have to span at least two grade levels in a school.

STEM. The budget addresses this in several places. Those include an increase for math and science partnerships, which would funnel grants to states to create STEM programs that reach more students and respond better to the needs of STEM industries. The administration is also requesting $200 million in education-technology grants that weren’t in the last two budgets.

State assessments. Testing is a big winner in the president’s budget. He’s seeking $403 million, up from $378 in the last two budgets, to help states “support the effective implementation of assessments that are aligned to [college and career readiness] standards.” Given the level and heat on the issue of over-testing, it’s worth noting the language in this part of the budget request:

A State could also use these funds to strengthen the capacity of LEAs and schools to provide all students the opportunity to increase their educational achievement, including conducting reviews of local assessments in an effort to eliminate redundancy and to ensure that they are of high-quality, maximize instructional goals, and are designed to help students achieve State standards.
The Department would set aside $25 million to support projects designed to help States address pressing needs they have identified for developing and implementing their assessments, which could include providing high-quality professional development for teachers using assessment data to improve instruction and meet student needs, helping parents understand how assessments provide information about their children's academic achievement and needs; developing computer-based or other new assessments or assessment items; using technology to help administer or analyze assessments; developing tools to help analyze the quality, alignment, and uses of assessments; or conducting research to contribute to assessment knowledge and quality."

High schools. President Obama is seeking $125 million to help create a new “Next Generation High Schools” program, aimed at delivering strong academic and career preparation. Those schools would put a premium on personalized and project-based learning, the chance to earn college credit while still in high school, and creative uses of learning time, such as innovative approaches to the school calendar or competency-based learning.

Career and Tech Ed. The budget contains a big boost for career and technical education (see Section D), with specifications that CTE reform focus on strong collaboration between high school and postsecondary institutions, accountability for improving outcomes such as student employability, and strong alignment between programs and the labor market.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate. The budget seeks the same amount for supporting states’ expansion of low-income students’ access to advanced coursework as was in the previous two budgets ($28.5 million). But it says that the Education Department plans to issue regulations that require states to put up matching funds for the grants it provides to cover testing fee costs.

School counseling. President Obama seeks money to establish strong school counseling programs, but asks for the same amount of money that was in the previous two budgets ($49.6 million). He’s requesting more funding for physical education programs, though, $60 million, up from $47 million.

Copies of President Barack Obama’s new $4 trillion budget plan arrive Monday on Capitol Hill in Washington.
--J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.