Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 6/In the News

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IN THE NEWS[edit | edit source]

Keeping you Current with the Latest Information Surrounding U.S. Public Schools

Journalist: Autumn Bittinger

Table of Contents
Federal News
Virginia News
It's All about Teachers
Final Thoughts
Quiz Time
Answer Key


Readers will identify current federal issues about educational reform in the United States, including the stimulus package, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the potential development of a federal curriculum.
Readers will gain an understanding of Virginia schools, how they are ranked, and existing Standards of Learning debates.
Readers will be introduced to the economic status of education, including budget cuts and teacher layoffs.
Readers will know where to access additional research links, including valuable teacher websites.

If you spend any time watching the news, the situations occurring in U.S. public schools seem bleak. We are cutting budgets, overloading teachers with too many students, not providing them enough resources, and narrowing curriculum without uniformity. We are still far from any type of reform, and in the meantime, schools are failing students.

Unfortunately, while total reform may be necessary, this is a multifaceted issue entrenched in debates at the federal, state, and local municipal levels. The argument has been over vouchers, magnet schools, charter schools, home-schooling, and presently there seems to be no agreeable solution. So much time is spent debating that we ignore brilliant research right in front of us; shining bright lights on successful instructional methods. We ignore our teachers and their needs, as money gets irresponsibly shuffled to administrators and then totally lost to local school districts. This is not a problem that we can simply throw dollars at without oversight. Real solutions are needed that prepare students to be competitive in the global marketplaces of the 21st century. We need a system that ensures an equal and quality education for all. What are these solutions? Should we look more closely at creating a federal curriculum? Should we operate schools more like traditional businesses with healthy free market competition? Can we eliminate schools that do not maintain standards and provide extra funding for those who do? Can we provide teachers with a structured accountability system that purges jobs for those who do not make the cut, but increases salary for those who excel? Although these are valuable questions, no one seems able to move past typical bureaucratic red tape. Nevertheless, it is up to us to decide whether information in today's news will force us to engage change and become activists for reform.

February 25, 2009, a $787 billion stimulus package was passed through Congress, without a single Republican vote. $53 billion was initially allocated for education and training, and is beginning to see its way into our state and local school districts. Approximately $100 billion will find its way to our state schools by July 1, 2009.


5/5/09 Fox News
Arne Duncan and No Child Left Behind
The United States' new Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, promises to review NCLB. He admits that NCLB has had some success at addressing low-achieving, diverse student populations, but there are still many distinct failures with the legislation. Duncan would like to start by first changing its name. He believes the NCLB title is toxic, and has proposed that elementary students submit recommendations as to what it should be called instead. Regardless of its title, Duncan is a man on a mission. He plans to review all of the short fallings written in this legislation. According to Education Week Newspaper, 1/3 of schools failed to meet yearly progress goals last year. Duncan has made it clear: He will not brush those schools under the rug any longer. He told the Education Writers Association in Washington that NCLB was very loose on overall goals, but very tight and prescriptive on how to accomplish those goals. He claims the idea is fundamentally backwards. In addition, Duncan will attempt to create more uniform country-wide standards in the subject areas of math and language arts. He also defends a position that music and fine arts should not be eliminated from curriculum because of other required instruction. Lastly, he is an avid defender of public charter schools and plans to allocate more stimulus money to those schools who are paving the way for true education reform.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1/4 of high school freshmen still drop out. NCLB has had no effect of this statistic.

Federal Curriculum?
There is much controversy surrounding the establishment of a federal curriculum, comparable to other countries models of successful education. States argue that NCLB is already the largest federal encroachment, where education has always been primarily the state's jurisdiction. The federal government argues that our children cannot afford to have such disparities in instruction between state's guidelines. Nonetheless, Arne Duncan is still pushing for national standards in math and language arts instruction. How is this different from our current NCLB standards? If a national uniformity is passed, then students from every state would be tested the same way in chosen subject disciplines. According to the Washington Post (2009), "Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have already announced an effort to craft a single vision for what children should learn each year from Kindergarten through high school."

    • Additional Resource: Refer to Time magazine, 4/27/2009, Vol. 173, Issue 16, p32-36 for an insightful article on ideas behind federal curriculum.
    • It can be accessed directly from the Time website.


VDOE Press Release
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Billy K. Cannaday Jr. states, "Nearly all Virginia children now attend schools that are exceeding the Commonwealth's minimum expectations for student achievement. So many schools are now moving beyond minimum standards for competence and proficiency and towards academic excellence. It is a credit to the educators, elected leaders, policy makers and parents whose sustained support for reform has been essential in raising student achievement" (VDOE Press Release, 9/25/08).

The Virginia Department of Education (2008) states, "Ninety-five percent of Virginia's public schools are now fully accredited and meeting state standards for student achievement in english, mathematics, history and science based on 2007-2008 assessment results"
(VDOE Press Release, 9.25.08).

Virginia Education Association
The Virginia Education Association is graciously saying thank you to the federal government for its cut of the stimulus package. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act comes at a time when Virginia schools seem to need it most. According to VEA, the stimulus is a "breathtaking injection of resources at a most dire time. According to one estimate, the bill will provide an average additional $870 per pupil nationally over the next two years. It will also create or save 267,355 teaching positions and an additional 40,000 instructional staff this year" (VEA, 2009, n.p.).

The Virginia Pilot
Social Studies Sol's? To take or not take? Should we continue testing third graders on their cumulative history knowledge from kindergarten? This a just one interesting debate occurring in the administration offices at the VDOE. Early childhood history instruction focuses on topics from Ancient China, American Indians, the Roman Empire, and the West African Empire of Mali. Now, Virginia is considering the elimination of this particular SOL because NCLB does not require it. Should we devalue the importance of history education in our student's early years? The jury is still out on this debate.

Regardless of the policy debates occurring between states and the federal government, teachers still have the most important job: to make positive changes everyday in the lives of their students. The question we should be most concerned with now, is how to gain better resources for our classrooms. This topic seems highly disheartening however, as studies with recent statistics show extreme teacher layoffs and budget cuts all over the United States.

    • Additional Resource: Refer to Education Week Newspaper, 2/25/2009, Vol. 28 Issue 22, p1-13.
    • Article provides a current update on issues surrounding teacher layoffs. It can be accessed directly from

Nonetheless, the job still must go on. While legislative debates may continue forever, teachers still need to be able to work harder and smarter for their students. They need to leave the controversy out of the classroom and remain focused on the one thing that is most important, the students!

There is a plethora of free online resources to help teachers with planning and activities.

At the end of the day, we can all do our very best to aide or participate in the educational reform process. However, all that really matters is that our future generation is safe, happy, and learning the skills necessary to survive successfully in this ever-changing world. Policies will be debated, students will grow up and move on, changes will occur. All that is left is whether we have done the best we can for our students and our communities.

Socrates said long ago, "the mission of education is to help people become both smart and good".

With the right advocates and professionals involved, we should be able to accomplish this mission! We should start now!


1.) What is the name of our new education secretary?
a. Arne Duncan
b. Geraldine Ferraro
c. Hillary Clintion
d. Tim Geithner

2.) If a national curriculum is passed through congress, which two subjects will it primarily focus on?
a. Language and Math
b. Music and Fine Arts
c. Science and History
d. Science and Math

3.) The stimulus package was passed on February 25, 2009. How much money was allocated for education and training?
a. $53 billion
b. $100 billion
c. $130 million
d. $787 billion

4.) NCLB has helped with all but the following...
a. creating yearly goals for public schools.
b. music and fine arts instruction.
c. implementing standards for math and language instruction.
d. inner city schools.

Key: 1.) a 2.) a 3.) a 4.)b

Issacson, W. (2009, April). How to Raise The Standard in America's Schools. Time, 173, 32-36.
Sawchuk, S. (2009, February 25). Layoff Policies Could Diminish Teacher Reform. Education Week Newspaper, p. 1-13.
Retrieved June 6, 2009 from Fox news: Official Site Website:
Retrieved June 6, 2009 from Hampton Official Site Website:
Retrieved June 6, 2009, from Official Site Website:
Retrieved June 6, 2009 from U.S. Department of Education: Official Site Website:
Retrieved June 6, 2009 from Virginia Department of Education: Official Site Website:
Retrieved June 6, 2009 from Virginia Education Association: Official Site Website:
Retrieved June 6, 2009 from Washington Post: Official Site Website:

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