Education Trust News

Senate Action Saves Pell, For Now

On May 25, the U.S. Senate rejected the House of Representative’s fiscal year 2012 budget proposal. The vote was 40-57. The defeat, largely the result of the public uproar over the Medicare provisions contained in the House’s budget, saved the Pell Grant program, at least for the moment.

However, public concern about Medicare cannot protect Pell forever. In fact, the budget-cutting fervor that’s seized Capitol Hill, combined with the political pressure on members of Congress to protect Medicare, will force them to seek cuts in other places. That makes other critical programs like Pell Grants extremely vulnerable. 

Report: Small Changes in Class Size Have Little Impact

A new report from the Brookings Institution casts doubt on the effectiveness of efforts to reduce class size around the country. Analysts sifted through research on class-size reduction and reached a definitive conclusion: To have a meaningful effect on student outcomes, class size must drop by seven to 10 students, must occur in lower grades, and must target a specific population of students. National moves to cut class size — though costly — have typically done none of these, instead making small, across-the-board reductions.

Brown v. Board: A Promise Still Unfulfilled

In a statement marking the 57th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, pointed to both progress and obstacles on the road toward equity.

“Our federal education laws are rooted in the effort to uphold this promise, but, sadly, education inequalities still exist on many levels in this country,” Miller said in his statement. “They exist when children in the poorest schools are denied access to great teachers and they exist when school districts allow dropout factories to fail our students.”

U.S. Chamber Calls for Accountability, High Standards

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently outlined its priorities for the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  As a leading voice for the nation’s business community, the Chamber maintains that the success of the economy depends on every student graduating ready for college and the workforce.

Supports for Teachers Will Help Students

Everyone agrees that we need to raise our education standards if we hope to raise student achievement. That goal is at the heart of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. But higher standards alone won’t do the job. Teachers also need instructional tools to help students meet the new, tougher expectations.

Opponents of instructional supports aligned to the Common Core claim that they would stifle teacher innovation. Actually, the creation of such optional, high-quality resources would help teachers so they no longer have to work late into the night, cobbling together lessons from a patchwork of tools that don’t necessarily align with the curriculum.

DREAM Act Could Open Doors for Undocumented Youth

The American Dream is a step closer to reality for some 1.9 million undocumented children and young adults. Most undocumented students who arrived here as youngsters face barriers to higher education, since even if they can enroll in college, they can’t get the same state and federal financial aid as others.

At a press conference on May 11, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced the introduction of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. Hours later, Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced a House version of the bill. The legislation is designed to blaze a path to citizenship—and educational opportunity, including state and federal financial aid.

Title I at Risk on Capitol Hill

New details are emerging about reauthorization plans for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from the House Education & the Workforce Committee. And so far, not so good.

Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) plans to introduce a series of smaller bills rather than one comprehensive piece of legislation. The first proposal in that series sets an ominous tone. It would let districts walk away from the federal commitment to provide low-income students with the extra supports they need to achieve in school.

National Civics Test Shows Gains and Gaps

Can our fourth-graders name two rights of U.S. citizens? Can our eighth-graders make sense of a graph on voting patterns? And can our high school seniors relate the “melting pot” to U.S. history?

New 2010 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress paints a mixed picture of school achievement in civics. The good news: Among fourth-graders, scores climbed overall. Since 1998, achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and between Hispanics and whites narrowed slightly.

Much of the nation’s debate about education reform has focused on accountability and standards, with an emphasis on improving student competency in math and reading. Critics fault this emphasis for squeezing out studies in other subjects such as civics. Yet without reading, kids don’t have a chance at mastering content. At the same time, exposure to a rich array of subject matter, including civics, strengthens students’ reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. That interplay could very well explain the civics gains seen among fourth-graders.