Obama's Education Plan

Thomas Toch, Gene Wilhoit, and Chester E. Finn Jr., discuss President Barack Obama's education plan.

February 19, 2009

Obama’s Education Plan

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  • Chester E. Finn Jr., President of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
  • Thomas Toch, Co-founder and co-director of Education Sector, an independent Washington think tank
  • Gene Wilhoit, Executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Scott Cech (Moderator):

    Good afternoon, and welcome to Education Week’s live chat on President Obama’s education plan. We’d like to thank our sponsor of this chat, the Oracle Education Foundation. Joining us live are Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Thomas Toch, co-founder and co-director of Education Sector, and Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. We’ll also get a bit of reportorial perspective from Education Week Assistant Editor Michele McNeil, one of the lead writers covering the evolving story of the impact of stimulus dollars on education. I’m Scott Cech, an associate editor at Education Week, and I’ll be moderating this discussion on what the administration’s education moves so far portend for federal education policy. For the latest updates on what the president’s education policies and stimulus package mean for education in your state, check out “Schools and the Stimulus,” Education Week’s up-to-the-minute, one-stop spot for everything and anything on education’s slice of the stimulus pie. We’re already getting a tremendous number of questions for this chat, so let’s get right to them.

    Question from Jack, Teacher, Bowne High School:

    Now that President Obama has passed his huge and I do mean huge economic stimulus plan. How much more money will teachers be seeing now that it is law? Also, who will oversee that it goes directly into educational systems rather that through the econonic sifter know as politicians hands?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Your first question is best directed to the forum moderator because Education Week is reportedly in the midst of a detailed analysis of the stimulus plan and where the money will go. I have no inside info here; one way that teachers will see some of the money of course is in the form of continuing paychecks and jobs for those who would otherwise be laid off due to state/local budget shortfalls. Portions of the stimulus package to be doled out by the Education Department will likely flow directly into state and local education systems (which, of course, are plenty political in their own ways). The parts that flow through governors and legislatures (or mayors and city councils) will of course find their flow altered by the priorities and predilections of those elected officials.

    Question from Kevin O’Neill Teacher PS 396 Bronx NY:

    When will NYC Dept. of Ed. receive funds from this stimulus package?.When will individual schools know how much money they are going to receive for the 2009/2010 school year.

    Michele McNeil:

    This is the million-dollar question! Everyone wants to know when they’re getting their money. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has told reporters that he wants to get the money out as soon as possible, by July 1. It could be earlier...and I know his staff is working now on how to get the money out as quickly as possible. The department has estimates up for each district for Title I and IDEA, which you can find here. But in all cases, it will then be up to the states to figure out how to get the money to districts quickly.

    Question from Nancy Driscoll, Psychologist, Johnston Co. Schools:

    What promising assessment practices do you see to replace the current high-stakes, end-of-year reading and math testing that now takes place? Where do you see the promotion/retention debate heading?

    Thomas Toch:

    The Obama administration is unlikely to abandon the testing-based accountability provisions of NCLB. It’s planning to use part of the stimulum package to encourage groups of states to work together to create new, better tests that measure a wider range of reading, math and science skills and knowledge and do so in ways that encourage teachers to aim higher in their classrooms. Support ebbs and flows for test-score-based “promotion gates” that require students to repeat grades if they don’t meet acheivement standards. We seem to be in an up-trend at the moment, with increasing numbers of districts inducing promotion gates.

    Question from J. Hundley, principal in Texas:

    What changes do you see for public education with this new president? There is a great deal of worry from the public school sector when the president puts his children into a private school while the public schools around him are not at the highest level of performance. Is there any reason to believe that President Obama will recognize that our public education is at the heart of all we are as a nation and our future?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    We can make initial judgments from his words and initial actions. During the campaign, the president connected education to our long-term economic future. In the stimulus package, the President made education a priority, resulting in $100b in funds to support education. Further, I expect a specific and targeted agenda around standards, data systems, teacher support as well as early childhood and tuition assistance.

    Question from erika fitzpatrick:

    When will states – and then individual districts – receive the money?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    Specific details are yet to come. For most programs, funds will be expended over two years. The administration wants to flow money in some programs immediately. The department has a preliminary chart on their web. Certainly, the money will help avert layoffs and other cuts anticipated by states for next school year--good news. Some states are in much worse condition than others and those in more difficult situations may need to make cuts. The language in the stimulus package requires states to address shortfalls first.

    Question from Darlene Westinghouse - Administrative Integration Technology Specialist - Ulster BOCES:

    How will the stimulus affect technology in education and 21st century schooling?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    Technology is an allowable expense under much of the bill. There is $650 million under Title II D to improve use of technology in elementary and secondary schools. Under the tax provisions computers are qualified as education expenses.

    Question from Beth Hensley, Administrator, Goshen High School, Goshen Local School District:

    With all of the proposed changes for schools and teachers, why has no one addressed needed reforms for administrators in schools? Currently in Ohio, a teacher must only be in practice 3 years before they can obtain a principal’s license. After 3 years, how can they be effective instructional leaders?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Excellent question, but I’d go farther than that. I don’t think principals necessarily need to be their schools’ “instructional leaders”. I think they need to be their schools’ CEO’s. Yes, someone at the school definitely needs to be the instructional leader but it could be a “lead teacher” or “dean of instruction” or “assistant principal for instruction and curriculum”. THAT person needs to be a mighty darn good teacher in his/her own right as well as a mentor, leader, evaluator, etc. But the principal might be better off concentrating on community, budget, staffing, politics, and other such. As for Ohio’s licensure system, don’t even get me started....

    Question from Dawn Jacoby, educator, Thunderbird High School:

    The High School I teach at was built in 1973 during a home building boom. The school is made from sheets of metal and was planned as a temporary building. The buildings leak and the inside of the walls are filled with mold (there is a history of sickness with staff members such as bronchitis, sinuses infections, etc). In the stimulus package for school modernization will schools like Thunderbird be rebuilt and if so will they be rebuilt to follow EPA standards? If situations like this do not include “rebuilding” and to safe standards when and how will this be addressed in the future?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    It is clear from your description that your school needs immediate attention. The stimulus bill does provide a new category for Qualified School Construction Bonding for construction, rehabilitation or repair of facilities;added money to Qualified Zone Academy Bonds which states have used to address schools like yours.

    Question from John Stallcup Co Founder APREMATusa:

    Given the National Math Advisory Panel’s recommendation to focus much needed resources on early elementary math as part of the solution to our students sub par math performance, what will the Dept of Ed be doing specifically in this area?

    Thomas Toch:

    One answer would be: too early to tell. Another would be: I don’t know. Both are correct.

    Comment from Le Anna:

    I am just curious if someone could respond if there will be a transcript of this chat available later on? I am busy during this time. Thank you - Le Anna Montoya

    Question from Todd Luke, Vice President, Max Teaching, Former Principal.:

    Will this stimulus package support long term sustainable staff development for teachers as opposed to the usual one day in and out sessions?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    Additional opportunities are certainly in the stimulus package, with additional funds in Title 1 and IDEA as well as other program areas. Frankly, this is an area for states and the federal government to partner to change the nature of staff development. By targeting new resources on research based best practices, states can redesign programs to include long-term, site specific, content rich, supported professional growth.

    Question from Sean Gaillard, Assistant Principal, Kernersville Middle School:

    What is the biggest change educators can expect from Obama’s Education Plan in the near future?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    The most immediate affect will be that states can use federal funds to avert cuts in state programs and services, with education being a priority. In the long term, I trust the federal government and states will come together in a way to maximize this one-time opportunity to advance the status of public education. The stakes are very high, the pressures to think short-term are great, but we should avoid temptation to invest in ill conceived and ineffective programs. We shall see.

    Question from Rafael Valdivieso, consultant:

    What should be the role of research in the President’s plan?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Robust--but of high quality. It may be that picking the right successor to Russ Whitehurst is as important as what’s in the plan (assuming that, one day, there is “a plan”.)With Mike Smith currently advising the Secretary I suspect this will go pretty well.

    Question from Daniel, Education Policy Researcher,:

    On the Recovery.com, the Education and training fund is 53 billion, while on the chart of Education Week, the Education fund is 115 billion. What’s the calculation method and difference? Thank you!

    Michele McNeil:

    I’m not sure exactly what the Recovery web site is incorporating into “education and training” -- but EdWeek’s $115 billion includes $13 billion for Title I, $12.2B for IDEA, $53.6 billion for state stabilization because almost all of it will go to education(which is separate on the recovery.gov site), plus $14 billion for the higher ed tax credit, $15 billion for Pell Grants, $4.1 billion for early education/child care, $400 million for various teacher quality programs, plus a lot of odds and ends. It all depends on what you define as “education.”

    Question from Ken Woody, Director West Lane Tech (charter high school, Elmira, OR):

    Any purposed changes to conditions of, or for, meeting (AYP annual yearly progress)?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Nothing proposed yet but Secretary Duncan has often commented on the folly of having fifty separate “goal posts” (and we have a new Fordham study out today that illustrates the severity of the problem). I hope the forthcoming NCLB makeover provides for “common” standards and tests across states and an enormous amount of transparency regarding how every school (and subgroup) does vis-a-vis those standards but then leaves it to states to determine what is “adequate"--and what to do with or about schools that aren’t.

    Question from Sean Hutchinson, Teacher, KT. Murphy School:

    What is the most significant issue facing school leaders in the future? Why?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    In this dynamic environment it is extremely difficult to identify a single significant issue. The major challenge facing leaders is around our capacity and will to make the necessary changes to reach the new expectations of public education, that is all children being successful graduates.

    Question from Hal Fraser, Student:

    How do you think the $12.2 billion for special education will be divvied up?

    Michele McNeil:

    $11.3 billion of it goes to the traditional IDEA state grants for school-age students. $400 million goes to the IDEA program for preschool, and $500 million for the IDEA program for infants and toddlers. Within those pots of money, the money will be divvied up according to the existing formulas.

    Question from Marcia Atwood, Professional Development Specialist, Questar III, NY:

    How will states be held accountable for the stimulus money they receive for special education improvements?

    Thomas Toch:

    In the same way that they are accountable for the current special ed funding they receive from the feds. The stimulus funding is being funneled into existing programs.

    Question from David Seeley, Professor Emeritus, City University of New York:

    During his campaign, President Obama said the he wants to “lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education--one where we all come together for the sake of our children’s success.” (p. 50 of Ed Week guide) What [would make] his plans of a “new era” a reality?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Hi, David, nice to hear from you. As you doubtless know, President Obama (and to some extent Arne Duncan) has to date successfully straddled major schisms within the Democratic party regarding education. (To oversimplify, the major schism is between “Democrats for Education Reform” and the unions--over choice, standards, accountability, alt cert, you name it.) Now that they’re in office they have to contend with Republicans, too--though I think they just demonstrated, in connection with the stimulus package, that they don’t really have to! We at Fordham have suggested (in our recent “open letter” to the President and Congress) a grand compromise--relating to NCLB--that we think the more reasonable elements of left and right might come together over. But I would be loath to predict that this is actually going to happen anytime soon.

    Question from Peter Savitz President of Sportime and Abilitations:

    With the new funding for IDEA how will this funding get spent? Will it go mostly to salaries or will it be spent on curricular, teaching tools or aids? Will states and local authorities be able to move their funding to other areas if they choose leaving their spending at the same level?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    The $1.2 billion will be distributed over three programs, most being in Part B Grants to States sor targeted grants and education finance incentive grants. Districts can spend funds in all allowable areas under IDEA. Funds can not be transfered to other programs.

    Question from Mary Henton, National Middle School Association:

    As a follow-up to Sean Gaillard’s question [What is the biggest change educators can expect from Obama’s Education Plan in the near future?]: is there anything in the package that encourages, challenges, promotes, or supports longer-term thinking and planning?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Not yet. The “package” isn’t that well developed yet. It’s still dealing with immediate challenges--and the administration’s education team is beset by even more immediate challenges such as making swift, sane use of the “stimulus” dollars heading their way. I know that the Secretary and his team are well aware of the longer-term issues, however. I just hope they find the time to think their way through them.

    Question from Mel Vaillant, Math Facilitator, Stowers Elementary:

    Why not ask seasoned and successful teachers to be a part of the major decision making concerning our national education?

    Thomas Toch:

    Great question. The better understanding that federal and state policymakers have of the reality of how things play out “on the ground,” the better descisions they’re likely to make.

    Question from William Lamb, Magnet Coordinator, Crescent Heights Language Arts/Social Justice Magnet School:

    We are working within a system originally designed to weed students out in order to find the future leaders of our country. For decades we have been desperately trying to achieve success for all but our greatest success have in the form of an achievement gap and an unprecedented drop out rate. At what point are we going to stop “bandaging” our broken system?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    That’s a pretty cosmic question. I don’t see us starting from scratch, if that’s what you mean, though if I were emperor I’d want to do something like that.

    Question from Ann:

    I am worried that gifted education, which gets a very small part of the education budget, will get hit especially hard with current cuts when more money is actually needed for these children. What can and will be done?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    The answer to this lies at the state level with your capacity to convince state legislators who are looking for places to cut to balance budgets that gifted education is a critical componet of the education system. Legislators listen closely to those in their own community and a most effective campaign is one that organizes around these very important conversations with legislative leaders.

    Question from Joanne Huebner, Vice President, Eperitus LLC:

    There is a lot of focus on the stimulus package and its short-term benefits. American public education long ago reached the point of crisis - in graduation rates, in test scores, in facilities, in teacher compentency, etc, etc. What plans does the Obama Administration have to build and sustain public education for future generations?

    Thomas Toch:

    Thanks for such an easy question.... The federal government can exert the greatest influence on the quality of public education by leveraging change on the systems key drivers--standards and teacher quality--and by pointing the way to better strategies on topics ranging from school finance formulas (because money matters and it’s not distributed fairly now) to models strategies for turning around failing schools.

    Question from Darrell “Coach D” Andrews-Education Consultant:

    How will states be able to provide accountability of funds when money is going to be disbursed to multiple end users?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    Great question. What we do know is that there will be tremendous transparency built into the system by the administration in fact, they have established a website to hold recipients accountable for use of money. We are in the process of working with the states to help them identify the elements of accountability that all might share and will be discussing these reporting issues with the department. States receiving Stabilization funds must submit annual report to the Secretary describing:: Uses of funds; distribution; number of jobs saves or created; Tax increases averted; Progress in reducing inequitites in distributions of highly-qualified teachers, developing logitudinal data systems, and implementing valid standards and assessments. Individual program areas could have additional requirments.

    Question from Frazer Boergadine, Vice President,The Math Learning Center, Salem Oregon:

    How will the stimulus money provide for professional development in mathematics, a content area of weakness in the United States?

    Michele McNeil:

    There are a lot of different ways that the approximately $100 billion in education funding in the stimulus can help with math -- for example, it may prevent some teacher layoffs, which could hurt math instruction. But specifically in the stimulus package there’s $100 million for the National Sciene Foundation’s “Education and Human Resources” program, which works to improve instruction in the STEM subjects. That seems to speak directly to your question.

    Question from Donna Siegrist, Instructional Coach, Raytown Schools, MO:

    I would like to know why $5 billion are being earmarked to reward states that are making progress when the need for funding is so desperate in school districts across the country?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    It is important to provide incentives for states to make progress -- state systems impact local districts in positive and negative ways. Most of the money going through the package most be passed down to local districts. For example, under IDEA that money is targeted for grants to local districts -- Title I is the same, as well as many of the other provisions. In the stabilization funds, there are funds to avert cuts in state spending. Many states will use this to maintain teachers on the payroll.

    Question from Nathan Sparks, Education Director, Hospital Education Program VCUHS:

    Alternate assessments have been mandated since 2000 for students with significant cognitive disabilities. These students tend to be those functioning well below normal, many are non-communicative and non-mobile. The focus of alternate assessments has shifted during the Bush administration towards assessing these students on the same academic standards as their non-disabled peers. Although many states have “leveled” standards for this population of students, in most instances, these leveled standards are still beyond reach for most in this population. Will this administration re-examine how best to assess and provide instruction for this unique population of students? Will assessments and instruction reflect real-world outcomes and potentials for this population? Can we begin to acknowledge that a purely academic content track in school is not appropriate for all students?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Honestly you are out of my legitimate territory, both because I’ve no idea what the Obama team has in mind for cognitively-disabled youngsters vis-a-vis assessments and because I don’t know much about this topic myself. I do know, however, that a brand-new Fordham study, out today, shows that expecting “AYP” from children with disabilities is a major factor in scads of schools not making AYP, which leads me to conclude that the current arrangement really isn’t working. I think the Obama folks understand that.

    Question from Francis Duffy, Co-Director, FutureMinds: Transforming American School Systems:

    Many of us in education see a profound need to transform teaching and learning in school systems from the industrial age model (large group, fixed content, fixed amount of time) to a personalized, customized, learner-centric approach. Will the new administration support this kind of transformational change in school systems?

    Thomas Toch:

    Yes. Secretary of Arne Duncan supported such changes as more flexible school days and a range of instructional strategies as Chicago superintendent, partly by encouraging the create of new, smaller schools that stress personalization. But the biggest federaldriver of school behavior, the testing provision in the No Child Left Behind Act,encourages standardization in the classroom, at least the way NCLB is currently configured.

    Question from Adam Ezring:

    To a certain extent the President’s Education Plan will be formulated by the team Secretary Duncan puts in place. Whats the status of naming Asst. Secretaries to the Department, when will we see a full team in place?

    Thomas Toch:

    Duncan has a few key people in place currently, not all of whom have been announced. A key advisor is including Marshall (Mike) Smith, who was the number two official person in the Clinton Department of Education for 8 years. He has been playing a key role in developing the Ed department’s portion of the stimulum package. Mike retired in November as director of education at the Hewlett Foundation. Another key advisor is Jon Schnur, a former aide to Vice President Al Gore. Jon is likely to be Duncan’s chief of staff. There should be several other announcements in the coming weeks.

    Question from Erik Yates, Technology Curriculum Coordinator, Chatham, NJ:

    What are the expectations/parameters for the $53.6B of aid that is being sent directly to schools, and will the schools be accountable in any way for that money?

    Thomas Toch:

    The $53.6 billion “state fiscal stabalization fund” is broken down this way: $39.5 billion will be given to governors to subsidize the operations of public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools and school systems. The primary goal is to compensate for the loss of state and local revenue and avoid layoffs. $8.8 billion is targeted to “public safety and other government services.” It can be used in a few different ways, including K-12 or highed subsidies and facilities modernization. For school reformers, $4.4 billion for “state incentive grants” and $650 million in an “innovation fund” for the Secretary of Education are key. The incentive money will flow to states that agree to create information systems to track student performance over time, improve test quality, and raise standards in core subjects. The innovation fund money will flow to school systems and non-profit organizations that have made significant progress in closing achievement gaps between different groups of students. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will have wide leeway to decide how to distribute this money, but you can assume that some of it will go to efforts to pay teachers on the basis of their performance and charter schools. It’s not clear yet exactly how schools will be held accountable for spending the reform-related money. The larger pots of money for jobs and construction will be subject to regular federal auditing.

    Question from Don, Ph.d, CUNY:

    Is there any acknowledgment that extreme standardization may not be as beneficial as thought twenty years ago based on more or less flat SAT scores and a failing economy that was supposed to be strengthened through standards. Perhaps more local control, and less comparisons to school as a business are in order.

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Perhaps. Certainly Secretary Duncan is sensitive to the good and bad of local control. Just the other day he was responsible for Chicago’s schools. Nobody I know is in favor of “extreme standardization”. But I don’t think that’s the same as having high standards for schools and kids.

    Question from Ying Hong, systems analyst, texas education agency:

    When talking about improving students’ performance, the most common opinion people have is: we need more money. Do you think it is true?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    If only it were so easy! No, we’ve known for 45 years or so, since the original Coleman Report, that additional inputs into schools does not reliably yield improved results. (Which isn’t to say that schools can accomplish anything with zero resources!) I’d say the entire “standards movement” of the past quarter century is an outgrowth of that perception. Now we know that if we want better results we have to begin by specifying the results we want, then retool the system and its performance to deliver those results. Which MIGHT call for additional resources but they’d have to be awfully well targeted.

    Question from James Perry, President, Center for Fine Arts Education:

    It is my understanding that Florida’s education spending is below the qualification level of 2005-2006 and to access the stimulus funds for education a waiver will be required from the Secretary of Education. Is there any information about how a state will be qualified for such a waiver?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    We are aware of the problem in Florida and in many states who were affected during the early years of the economic decline since they have been reducing budgets over the last three to four years. Language has been added that gives the Secretary discretion to provide waivers for states in economic situations like Florida that can demonstate inability to get to the 06 levels.

    Question from Jennifer Priest Insero, Grade One Teacher, South Lawrence East Elementary:

    I’ve heard rumors that the new administration is thinking about using modern business concepts, particularly in the area of organizational behavior as a model to apply to education in this country. Is there any truth to this and where/how might these concepts be applied? I think it is exciting and intriguing!

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Give me a couple of examples of the “modern business concepts” that you have in mind. Among other things, Secretary of Education Duncan has expressed a desire to promote a much greater use of data in schools to improve teaching and learning. He wants to keep up with Major League Baseball teams....

    Question from Adam Ezring:

    Do you anticipate an attempt at NCLB reauthorization within the first two years of the Obama Administration?

    Thomas Toch:

    Yes. The administration is likely to retain the law’s accountability provision, but put more weight on how much schools improve each students performance each year, rather than merely measure whether sufficient numbers of students meet state standards, a metric that discourages schools from improving the performance of every student. The administration will also likely push for a number of reforms in the teaching profession, including performance-based pay, better standardized tests, and high state standards. It is also pushing these things in the stimulus package.

    Question from Jennifer Hahn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Argosy University:

    NCLB has led to neglect of our gifted and high-achieving students. What will you do to ensure that these exceptional students with learning differences have their needs met?

    Thomas Toch:

    The best thing that federal policymakers could do for higher-achieving students is change the No Child Left Behind Act judges schools. Instead of measuring whether schools get various groups of students up to state standards, a metric that encourages schools to focus on kids who are just below the achievement bar, they should at least in part be measured on how much they teach each student each year, which would give schools an incentive to improve the education of every student.

    Question from Dave Hardesty, Teacher, Campbell County School District, Gillette Wyoming:

    What do you consider the weakest element of N.C.L.B. and how can it be strengthened?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    I wish there were just one. NCLB has half a dozen fundamental flaws that need to be addressed all at once. These include discrepant standards and accountability systems from state to state; remedies (for low-performing schools) that don’t work; mandates that aren’t being carried out; way too much confidence in state and local education agencies to fix their own low-performing schools; conflicts with important school-choice policies; and overreaching by the federal government in areas such as teacher quality that Uncle Sam cannot really do much about. I could go on....

    Question from Marc Severson, Teacher, Tucson Unified School Dist.:

    Do you think it is possible that we could see national standards that ALL schools will be held to?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    We’re headed in that direction, though slowly and awkwardly. They won’t be compulsory national standards; they’ll be voluntary (for states to opt into--and not all will, at least not any time soon). And they won’t come from the federal government; they’re more likely to come from a group of states working together. One such project is beginning under the aegis of Gene W’s group, the governors and Achieve. I think this will be slow and painful but it sounds like something Secretary Duncan wants to see happen.

    Question from Veronica, school leader:

    What are some of the most effective/efficient ways for school districts to use one-time stimulus dollars?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    First they have to decide whether they just want to fill holes in their current budgets (insofar as the rules accompanying the stimulus dollars permit that). If so, the question answers itself. If they want to use the stimulus dollars for other things, the next question becomes whether they can devise other things that only happen once or that can keep on going when the stimulus dollars are all spent. (I don’t think we can presently assume that they’ll be renewed time and again.) Petrilli and Hess and I have suggested, for example, that “summer school for everybody” in summer of ’09 and maybe ’10 could have a positive economic effect, a positive educational effect, and not necessarily have to be repeated in subsequent years. (Unless of course it does a world of good....)

    Question from Kathleen Carpenter, Editor, Teachers.Net Gazette:

    On our forums a concern expressed universally among teachers is that under NCLB their teaching strengths and creativity have been squashed, if not extinguished. Do you see any hope for those who wish to employ more than highly scripted curricula in their classrooms?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Better standards and better tests across more subjects is part of the answer. I rarely find Advanced Placement teachers, for exapmle, grumping that prepping their pupils to pass the AP exams cramps their style in undesirable ways. So test-based external accountability can be married to creative, effective teaching by highly professional subject matter experts. But clearly most state testing regimes, particularly as reshaped to NCLB, don’t accomplish such a union. An overhaul is called for. It probably needs to include more creative assessments--as the AP and IB programs use, for instance--which of course costs more and is slower to score.

    Question from Kathleen Leos CEO GILD- Global Institute for Language and Literacy Development:

    How much of the Education funding will be allocated to Title III for English language learners.

    Thomas Toch:

    There’s no money in the stimulus package targeted to English language learners. Federal ELL grants to states under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act total $700 million this year, up from $200 million in 2001. States provide additional funding for ELLs, mostly through categorical programs and by weighting ELLs differently--40 states and DC weight ELLs more heavily in their funding formulas.

    Scott Cech (Moderator):

    A transcript of this chat will be available shortly after the chat concludes at 3 p.m. Eastern.

    Question from Kentucky Department of Education-Linda Holbrook and Jim Ward:

    In light of the new stimulus package what is the possibility of re-funding the Reading First program within No Child Left Behind?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Though Congress “punished” Reading First (and the Bush administration) by de-funding it, lack of money wasn’t the core problem. Hence having more money won’t necessarily revive the program. The Reading First story is complicated and painful--Sol Stern told it brilliantly in a recent Fordham publication--hard to separate from the continuing “reading wars” in American education and the challenge of Uncle Sam dispensing discretionary dollars to a relatively small number of recipients that meet very exacting standards. That’s a challenge facing the Duncan team, by the way, in disbursing all those discretionary dollars in the stimulus package.

    Question from Mazola Salmons, Grant Writer, Big Sandy Community and Technical College:

    Will monies be available to support programs to enhance high school students transition to postsecondary education?

    Thomas Toch:

    Potenially, under the $5 billion “state incentive grants” and “innovation fund” of the education stimulum package. And certainly the $17 billion increase in Pell Grant funding could be thought of as “enhancing high school students transition to postsecondary education.

    Question from Carrie Sepesy, Pressley Ridge:

    Do you think it’s realistic to be funded for new initiatives if we’re just asking now versus those projects/requests that have already been submitted and are in the pipeline?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    Most of the resources going into the stimulus program are anchored in establish programs. For example, special education, Title I, rehab services, student financial assistance, early childhood, the national science foundation, and supports under the stabilization fund undergird and perserve existing programs. It is true there are some new initiatives included, which, in my opinion provide the stimulus we need to dramatically improve the education system.

    Question from Lora Austin, Literacy Coach, Gamewell Middle School:

    Because we are a Title One school, we can only use our federal funds for reading and math. Teachers are told constantly that we are all reading teachers regardless of content specialty. No funds are available for science and social studies. What can be done to fix this problem?

    Chester E. Finn Jr.:

    Well of course the fact that federal Title I funds can’t be used for science and social studies doesn’t mean the school system can’t use its state and local dollars for this purpose! And of course it does. Washington is (still) not the font of all K-12 revenue. You could also apply to other agencies (e.g. NEH, NSF, the Education Department’s “teaching American history” program) for federal funds that CAN be used for such subjects. But I think the long-term fix is to incorporate science and history into the NCLB framework, making them legitimate conduits for Title I dollars but also part of the basis by which student and school performance is judged and accountability determined.

    Question from Monica, Parent:

    What is proposed in the area of vocational education?

    Gene Wilhoit:

    There is an education technology fund under Title II d to help students become technologically literate and integration of technology. In the stablization fund, state funds could be used to preserve existing programs that are under threat of reduction. For the LEAs one of the uses is implementation of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

    Scott Cech (Moderator):

    Thanks for all the great questions, and many thanks to Messrs Finn, Toch, and Wilhoit, and to Michele McNeil for their time and insights. We’d also like to thank our sponsor, the Oracle Education Foundation. Unfortunately, we have more questions than time, so we’ll have to leave the discussion there. A transcript of this chat will be available shortly.

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