Monday, December 11, 2006

A weekly report of public policy issues in American Education from ASCA

The ASCA Legislative Update
December 11, 2006

Executive Summary:

Budget and Appropriations Update
New Effort and Competitiveness Conversations Usher out 109th Congress
NCTET Hosts Policy Forum on Educational Games
Teach for America Holds Inequity Briefing
In Brief
In the News

1.     Budget and Appropriations Update

The Congress returned to Capitol Hill for a Lame Duck session this week
following a two-week Thanksgiving recess. Much of the week was devoted to determining just how
long the lame ducks would be in town. Though a few non-controversial measures were agreed
to, post office namings and a new program to combat childhood autism to name a few, most of
the difficult unfinished tasks that necessitated the return to Washington, had not been
resolved by week's end.

Dueling press conferences tossed blame for the state of the FY 2007 federal
budget back and forth between parties and Houses of the Congress. Only two of 11 spending
bills have been sent to the President for signature. Absent a final bill for the Department of
Veterans Affairs, a $3 billion increase will be lost to the agency, at least temporarily. A bill
funding military construction that was blocked earlier by three conservative Members fearful
of an earmark bonanza, was finally resolved among Senators, but too late to form a
conference committee, according to the House leadership. The continuing resolution necessary to
keep the government operating expires at midnight tonight, but as of noon on Friday no action
had been taken in either the House or the Senate. It is hard to imagine the extension will not be
agreed to but the delay serves as a reminder of the partisan tension that still pervades the halls
of Congress.

In the midst of squabbling, Members were working on finalizing Committee
assignments and preparing legislation for action in the early weeks of the 110th Congress.
Members will be sworn in on January 4th. Leadership in both the House and Senate have announced
tentative work schedules that will keep Members in town for a straight seven weeks shortly
after that start date. The President's State of the Union will come on the heels of the Democrats'
effort to kick start the Congress with a "100 Hour Agenda" that includes increasing the minimum
wage and improving college access. Unless an unusual spirit of bi-partisanship takes
over the Capitol in the next 24 hours, Members will leave town and the 109th Congress will
adjourn for good, allowing plenty of time to celebrate the holidays and prepare for the 110th

2.     New Effort and Competitiveness Conversations Usher out 109th Congress

Although the already slim chances for action on competitiveness legislation
during the 109th Congress evaporated this week, there was action on the issues. The National
Governors Association announced a 17- member task force to guide its new "Innovation
America" initiative. The task force will be led by NGA Chair, Governor Janet Napolitano (D-AZ),
and NGA Vice Chair, Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN).

During a two-day gathering this week in Phoenix, Arizona, governors worked
with business and academic leaders to identify challenges to innovation and determine the most
promising strategies, policies and programs for addressing them. The agenda included
discussions centered around the state innovation landscape, K-12 science, technology, engineering
and mathematics education and the role of postsecondary education as an engine of
innovation. The meeting and its discussion will inform staff efforts to begin framing an action plan for
creating an "innovation environment" in each state. (See "In Brief" for a listing of Task Force

This new effort builds on considerable political will around competitiveness
and science, technology, engineering and mathematics education issues. However, despite
the attention, the 109th Congress did not enact significant legislation addressing these
issues, despite the introduction of hundreds of bills. Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), who
will assume leadership of the House Science Committee in the 110th Congress, has
indicated that he would like to address these issues during his tenure as Chair. It has been
reported that he sent a memorandum to staff outlining his agenda, which includes moving legislation
to enact the recommendations of the renowned "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report,
including authorization of scholarships to science, math and engineering students who
pledge to become science or math teachers in elementary and high schools, in addition to
increasing funding for federal math and science research by 10 percent a year. He also would like
to increase federal investments in NASA and its programs, address climate control issues and
emphasize the importance of the country's energy independence. Conversations with staff
indicate that these efforts could come in the form of multiple pieces of smaller legislation,
versus a mammoth bill similar to the PACE bills the Senate considered this year.

Once Congress meets in January, a timetable and outlook for competitiveness
legislation will become more apparent.

3.     NCTET Hosts Policy Forum on Educational Games

On Monday, the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training
(NCTET) hosted a policy forum to discuss a new Department of Education initiative,
educational games, and a draft of its NCLB technology principles.

Henry Kelly of the Federation of American Scientists started the discussion
by introducing a recent report titled, "The Summit on Educational Games." The report is the
product of the National Summit on Educational Games, held earlier this year. The summit
brought together the Federation of American Scientists, the Entertainment Software Association,
and the National Science Foundation to research and explore how the United States can use the
features of video games for learning.

The Summit report focused on answering four questions:
Ø What aspects of learning are most amenable to new approaches offered by
video games?
Ø What kinds of research are needed to identify features of gaming that can
be effective in
education and training?
Ø What makes the education market so difficult for innovative commercial
Ø What kinds of changes in instructional practices and management of
educational institutions are needed to take advantage of the power that games could
bring to teaching and learning?

Following Kelly, Tim Magner from the U.S. Department of Ed ucation spoke
about the future of public education in the U.S. and how "technology is the key to building the
next generation of schools and students." The Department of Education has developed School 2.0,
a brainstorming tool designed to help schools develop a common education goal that can be
supported by technology. This tool provides a "common point of entry" so that everyone
involved can participate in the conversation and provide ideas, insights, and suggestions
about the use of technology in the school. It also serves as a way to manage goals for the

The briefing then turned to a review of NCTET's principles for the upcoming
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act reauthorization. NCTET has outlined some principles to
serve as a guide for the role of educational technologies in the law:

Technology helps to provide:
Ø Access to high quality courses and instructors online - including math,
science and foreign language courses often not available except through online learning;
Ø Computer assisted and online assessment that helps teachers target
instruction to individual student needs;
Ø Increased parental involvement through email and school websites,
including communication with teachers and access to student assignments and grades;
Ø Differentiated instruction for low-performing students through engaging,
interactive instructional software and online materials that adapt to support the
learning needs and pace of each student.

In these ways, technology is necessary to help achieve the educational goals
and requirements of NCLB and improve student achievement, according to NCTET.

To view the Federati on of American Scientists report or the NCLB principles
To view School 2.0 visit

4.     Teach for America Holds Inequity Briefing

On Monday, Teach for America (TFA) held an event on Capitol Hill to discuss
inequity in education. Moderated by TFA's Vice President of Research and Public Policy,
Abigail Smith, the panel was composed of TFA alumni including: Craig Jerald, education
consultant, Break the Curve; Amy Black, program associate, TFA; and William Wang, Health
Legislative Assistant, Senator Joe Leiberman (D-CT).

Smith began by outlining TFA's view that the achievement gap is caused by
socioeconomic and racial issues and then compounded by the schools serving these students that
lack capacity and infrastructure. She asked panelists to reflect on how their TFA experience
"intersects" with their current work.

Jerald, Black and Wang all agreed that directly working with students
struggling to succeed in light of numerous societal issues has impacted the way they view education
policy. While agreeing that factors outside of school and the resources available to them
definitely play a part in student success, Jerald strongly asserted that schools have "plent y of
room to improve" with regard to the quality of education made available to these students.

Elizabeth King, a TFA alumni and staff member for Representative Chaka
Fattah (D-PA), expressed concern over teacher retention issues as well as how much effect
TFA can truly have in light of severe infrastructure problems experienced by many schools. "No
teacher is going to be motivated to go to a school everyday that smells like urine."

While all of the panelists agreed that teachers are critical to a student's
success, broader issues concerning capacity building, resources and infrastructure were not
addressed in depth.

5.     In Brief

GAO Releases Title III Report
On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office released a report on the
distribution of funds under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Currently, the
U.S. Education Department uses data from the states from the American Community Survey
(ACS) to determine the funding support level for limited English proficiency (LEP) students.
Large discrepancies in the number of LEP students within each state exist between the ACS and state
estimates, primarily due to unclear criteria and methodology for determining LEP
status. State estimates differed by as much as forty percent below to more than sixty percent above
the ACS estimate. The report also cited several states that receive grant money under Title
III are unsatisfied with the guidance they receive on the best way to use this money to benefit LEP
To read the full report, visit:

Department of Education releases School Crime and Safety Report
In a cooperative effort, the Departments of Justice and Education have
released the most recent "Indicators of School Crime and Safety." The release prompted comments from
Secretary of Education Spellings, who asserted, "for our children to learn, our schools
must be safe. All American parents want to know they are sending their children to a safe
learning environment. And our children deserve schools in which they don't have to be afraid of
violence and can focus on their studies." The annual Indicators of School Crime and Safety provides
an update to monitor our progress towards making schools safer. This year's report shows
that crime rates have continued to decline. The federal government supports local efforts to
improve school safety by providing assistance and lending expertise, along with $535
million this year to fund programs directly related to school safety.
To view the full report visit:

NGA Unveils Innovation Task Force
This week, the National Governors Association (NGA) announced a 17- member
task force to guide its "Innovation America" initiative. The Task Force will be led by NGA
Chair Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (D) and NGA Vice Chair Minnesota Governor Tim
Pawlenty (R). Other task force governors include: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; Missouri
Gov. Matt Blunt; Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell; and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.Business
and academic leaders include: Dr. Craig R. Barrett, chairman of the board, Intel Corp.;
Dr. G. Wayne Clough, president, Georgia Institute of Technology; Dr. Michael M. Crow, president,
Arizona State University; Jamie Dimon, CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Charles O. Holliday Jr.,
chairman and CEO, DuPont; Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president, Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute; Dr. Judith A. Ramaley, president, Winona State University; Dr. Mary S. Spangler,
chancellor, Oakland Community College; John Thompson, chairman of the board and CEO, Symantec
Corp.; Kevin Turner, COO, Microsoft Corp.; and Meg Whitman, president and CEO, eBay Inc.

6.     In the News

Washington Post (12/7/06). "Area Students Lead Country in AP, IB Tests

Inside Higher Ed (12/6/06). "Aiding Needy Students - By Ending Pell?"

Washington Post (12/4/06). "With a Hefty Education Grant Come Equally Great

Boston Globe (12/4/06). "Time to Reform Public Higher Ed."

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World Wide Web users. ASCA is not responsible for the availability or content of these
external sites, nor does ASCA endorse, warrant or guarantee the
information, services, or products described or offered at these other
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