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Federal Commission Releases Study on Education Equity

 

 

The Equity and Education Commission, which held hearings in major U.S. cities over the past three years, released its final report, “For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education Equity and Excellence.” The report examines disparities in educational opportunities that give rise to achievement gaps and recommends ways to address those inequalities.

The Commission is the brainchild of Congressmen Fattah (D-PA) and Mike Honda (D-CA) who through their work on the House Appropriations Committee secured funding for the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights to establish the Commission.

“The Commission’s final report represents a significant milestone in the historic effort to close the achievement gap between rich and poor school districts – as well as among schools within a given district, that has plagued our nation’s public education system,” Fattah said.

The commision made recommendations in these areas:

Equitable school finance: States should publicly report what is needed in the way of teaching staff, programs, services, and funding to provide a meaningful education to all students. States should also ensure that sufficient money is available, develop models for using technology in classrooms, and promote high-quality programs for special-needs students. The federal government should provide incentives to states to reduce the number of schools with high concentrations of poverty and seek to expand their authority to intervene in school-equity issues.

Improved teachers, leaders, and curricula: States should better compensate teachers, and increase selectivity and effectiveness of teacher training. The federal government should create a major new grant program to help states address improvements the teacher pipeline. (California GEAR UP is a proud statewide asset to teacher training and capacity building.)

Expanding high-quality early education: States should expand early education so that, within 10 years, every low-income student has access to high-quality preschool. And the federal government should provide some funds for this.

Mitigating poverty’s effects: States, in partnership with the federal government, should adopt dropout-prevention programs and other alternative-education opportunities for at-risk students. (GEAR UP is a innovative and locally based federal program working in areas where poverty affects students the most.)

Tackling accountability and governance: States should develop mechanisms to intervene when districts and schools are in fiscal crisis.

Dropout Nation commented the report was had some missing areas in their blog today:

Meanwhile there is plenty that the commission has left out. While it touches on old-school parent involvement approaches, it fails to acknowledge the importance of Parent Trigger laws in seven states that, along with other measures, are allowing families to lead the turnaround of schools in their own neighborhoods. The commission also fails to consider the development of online and blended learning, which is increasingly allowing families and communities to take control of the teaching and curricula their kids are provided. Even the commission’s dismissal of mayoral control as not being a “panacea” (as if anything created by man ever is) ignores the myriad failings of the traditional district model, and ignores its own point that the school boards that operate it (which end up being servile to NEA and AFT locals), do a poor job of allowing taxpayers and families to play real decision-making roles in education.

The report concludes the commission’s work, which begs the question that Education Week asked on their K-12 Politics Blog: What happens now to these recommendations?

The report hangs its hat on many ideas, however, that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives oppose—such as new programs and protected funding streams for at-risk populations. So it’s unclear just how much traction these ideas would have. What’s more, in some states, adopting more-equitable school finance would probably mean spending more money—at a time when additional cash is still scarce as states climb out of the hole from the recent recession. Equity battles have been raging in state courts for years. Indicative of the challenge of revamping school finance system, the report says, “There is disagreement about exactly how to change the system…”

Eric Hanushek, a Stanford University professor on the commission, said he was glad the report wasn’t just about money. “Twenty years ago, you could well have seen a commission saying ‘Oh, if we just put more money and invest more in our schools, we’re going to be okay,'” he said. “We have to make sure resources are effectively used, and up until now there have been various people arguing various parts of that statement in isolation.”

The next steps are unclear. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stressed that this commission is independent from official department business. “This is not an easy labor of love,” he said. “We asked them … to tell us the truth.”

The report didn’t have recommendations on funding or next steps.

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