"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Winner in the US Government Shutdown: Pork, "USA style"

I just came across an article in the Washington Post by Valerie Strauss, "The debt deal’s gift to Teach For America (yes, TFA)". 
It is about a provision in the bill that the US Congress passed to reopen the federal government and avoid a default:
SEC. 145. Subsection (b) of section 163 of Public 5 Law 111-242, as amended, is further amended by striking 6 ”2013-2014” and inserting ”2015-2016”.
This section basically extends the definition of a "highly qualified teacher" to "any teacher who participates in an alternative route to certification program meeting specified requirements". This is connected to the requirement imposed below (in bold) by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001:
(8) REQUIREMENT- Each State plan shall describe— 
(A) how the State educational agency will assist each local educational agency and school affected by the State plan to develop the capacity to comply with each of the requirements of sections 1112(c)(1)(D), 1114(b), and 1115(c) that is applicable to such agency or school;
(B) how the State educational agency will assist each local educational agency and school affected by the State plan to provide additional educational assistance to individual students assessed as needing help to achieve the State's challenging academic achievement standards;
(C) the specific steps the State educational agency will take to ensure that both schoolwide programs and targeted assistance schools provide instruction by highly qualified instructional staff as required by sections 1114(b)(1)(C) and 1115(c)(1)(E), including steps that the State educational agency will take to ensure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers, and the measures that the State educational agency will use to evaluate and publicly report the progress of the State educational agency with respect to such steps;
(D) an assurance that the State educational agency will assist local educational agencies in developing or identifying high-quality effective curricula aligned with State academic achievement standards and how the State educational agency will disseminate such curricula to each local educational agency and school within the State; and
(E) such other factors the State educational agency determines appropriate to provide students an opportunity to achieve the knowledge and skills described in the challenging academic content standards adopted by the State.
Valerie Strauss writes:
"The person who pushed the language into the bill was Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the Senate’s education committee and a big Teach For America supporter. According to a statement from his communications director, Kate Cyrul Frischmann a spokesman, “Senator Harkin, in his role as Chairman of the education appropriations subcommittee, worked with members on both sides of the aisle to include the teacher qualification language in the CR.” The Obama administration is a big TFA supporter too, having awarded tens of millions of dollars to the organization over the past several years. Administration officials have never offered a public explanation about why someone with five weeks of training should be deemed “highly qualified.”
This was a bill urgently required to reopen the government and avoid a default and yet, it managed to open schools with the greatest need to teachers who lack experience. It's pork, USA style.

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