Teaching Profession

ELC Receives Grant to Craft Tests to Evaluate Teachers

October 10, 2001 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If the Education Leaders Council needed to prove that it has progressed from splinter group to big-stick status, the group’s sixth annual conference seemed a good time for its organizers to boast how far the group—and its ideas about education—have come.

The ELC, a Washington-based organization largely founded as an alternative to the Council of Chief State Schools Officers, has been hoping to expand its role in education policy and to attract members outside its core group of Republican state leaders.

And now it has the chance: The group has received a major financial and policy-shaping boost from the Department of Education: a $5 million federal grant to form a new teacher-certification board.

The ELC will join with the National Council on Teacher Quality, a panel set up last year by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based policy group, headed by Chester E. Finn Jr., an assistant secretary of education under President Reagan. The initiative aims to create new tests to recognize veteran teachers for excellent performance, ensure new teachers have the skills they need, and help career-changers enter teaching.

The announcement came in the midst of sessions here Sept. 28-29 at which participants criticized the Education Department for awarding research grants that produce scholarship deemed low in quality and too survey-oriented.

While some other conservative-leaning groups criticize dependence on federal grants, the ELC’s chief executive, former Arizona schools chief Lisa Graham Keegan, said she applied for the grant because her group believes it can make better use of the money than other organizations would.

U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, a Republican who represents former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s old district just north of Atlanta, called on Congress to enact President Bush’s education plan. And he argued for big changes to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to allow schools more control over student discipline and to reduce the number of children enrolled in special education.

Mr. Isakson formerly chaired the Georgia state school board as an appointee of then-Gov. Zell Miller, a Democrat who is now in the U.S. Senate.

In speaking to the ELC, Mr. Isakson had calming words for members of the audience who were concerned about the Bush plan’s use of the National Assessment of Education Progress for accountability purposes.

“Everybody is paranoid it’s going to mean a national curriculum,” he said, arguing that it would mean the contrary. “This issue is a nonissue. It’s all in the perception and never in the reality.”

Rep. Isakson said that President Bush’s education plan, now pending in a House-Senate conference committee, deserves to pass, given that both Democrats and Republicans have found so much agreement on the key provisions. “It was honestly the most intellectually honest debate I’ve seen in my three years in Congress,” he said.

Undersecretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok, an ELC founder when he was Pennsylvania’s top education official, spoke about how the Education Department wants to address serious deficiencies in the world of education research. “You have a system that is designed to protect itself for forever,” the former Pennsylvania education commissioner contended.

He said the department would work to make sure the Bush education agenda takes hold. “For the first time, if we do this right, it will be impossible to ignore failure,” he said.

But for all the victory speeches, there were voices of warning. James A. Peyser, chairman of the Massachusetts board of education, said determining which schools succeed and which ones don’t under the plan’s accountability provisions would be the easy part.

“It’s much harder to figure out what to do when the turnaround doesn’t work,” Mr. Peyser said, adding that changes in school leadership, mobility of students, and shifting school attendance boundaries pose significant obstacles.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks apparently kept some ELC members from attending the conference, either because they were too busy, or too wary of air travel. Officials of the group said 280 people attended the conference, 100 fewer than had registered.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige made the trip, and was the keynote speaker at a dinner program held at the Atlanta History Center, a Civil War museum. President Bush was to have followed up with a speech of his own, but the events of recent weeks kept the president busy in Washington.

Mr. Paige called for passage of the president’s education plan, and said the voices of ELC members were especially important as the nation determines how it will seek to improve schools.

“You’re doing God’s work,” he said, and added: “You are the right people at the right time to do something about it.”

He said that a recent visit to schools near the site of the devastated World Trade Center in New York City had been among the most sobering experiences of his entire life. The secretary said he was inspired by the educators who had sheltered children from smoke and ashes after the terrorists struck, and have taught them and encouraged them in the days since.

“Teachers are American heroes,” Mr. Paige said. “We’ve just got to free them from some of their organizations.”

—Alan Richard & Joetta L. Sack

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession How Teachers Are Spending Their Summer Vacation
Swimming, hiking, and an occasional academic project are on the agenda.
1 min read
Lifeguards watch over children and their families as they enjoy the shallow end of the Woodson Family Aquatic Center on the opening day of the 2022 pool season Saturday, May 28, 2022 in Odessa, Texas.
Lifeguards watch over children and their families at the Woodson Family Aquatic Center as pool season opens in Odessa, Texas.
Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Can Educators Agree to Disagree Respectfully?
We must acknowledge that there are strong, defensible differences in perspectives about divisive topics, writes an educator.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Q&A The First 5 Years in the Classroom Are Tough. This Teacher Has Ideas to Lessen the Burden
A middle school teacher talks about why educators need to share stories about their jobs—and find schools that reflect their values.
7 min read
Patrick Harris
Patrick Harris
Teaching Profession Teachers in Texas Shooting Died Trying to Shield Students, Their Families Say
Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, both veteran teachers, co-taught a 4th grade class at their Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.
3 min read
Fourth grade co-teachers Irma Garcia, left, and Eva Mireles.
Fourth grade co-teachers Irma Garcia, left, and Eva Mireles, were killed in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, alongside 19 children.
Courtesy of Uvalde CISD