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NCLB Outrages

Serious Problems with DOE Striving Readers Grant

Ohanian Comment: I know schools are desperate for money, but maybe students in those schools unable to meet grant application deadlines because of Department of Education computer glitches should count their blessings. Who wants scripted curriculum for high school?

One of the latest pushes under NCLB is secondary literacy, and to
address that the U.S. Department of Ed sent out a Septmeber request
for grant proposals. The grant proposal for "Striving Readers" had
to be submitted by school districts and had to be 60 pages long.

Those districts interested in this funding were required
to get an external evaluation of the reading program that was to be
funded. So, school districts hoping to receive money from this grant
(between 1 and 5 million dollars) had to produce 60 pages, including
a large section of "scientifically rigorous" evaluation, develop a
program that would be funded, and seek outside evaluators before the
November 14 deadline. Ok. Not fun, but not impossible. However, the
grant proposal had to be submitted electronically by 4:30 on November
14.

Unfortunately, it looks like the DOE could not handle the electronic
submissions and schools trying to upload their proposals found that
the submit button disappeared before the 4:30 deadline. And,
districts trying to get further information about the grant in the
weeks prior to the deadline could not get help from the DOE.
Individuals calling the DOE to ask about the STriving Readers grant
got a voice mail message saying that the voice mail was full.
Katherine Doherty at the DOE admitted to individuals at one school
district that many districts had difficulty meeting the deadline
because of computer glitches, although apparently she claimed the
glitches did not originate at the DOE end. But if many districts
were trying to upload at about the same time, which is par for the
course when submitting a grant, and the DOE server couldn't handle
the traffic, not everyone would be able to submit by the 4:30
deadline. Transmissions begun before the deadline would not have
made it. And, in fact, they did not. The "submit" button for one
urban district in Michigan was no longer available at the very moment
(4:29) they were going to upload the grant request. And, of course,
districts applying for the Striving Readers grant would not be
districts that had the strongest technology infrastructure.

Seems like the department of ed has once again left people behind,
not only in its failure to address the realities of on-line grant
submissions, but in meeting the needs of districts attempting to get
clarification on the the grant requirements. And their questions
went unanswered weeks before the grant deadline because the DOE
couldn't handle the calls.

Announcements about the Striving Readers grant recipients should be
coming out in a few weeks. I wonder how many districts should be on
that list but won't be because of DOE foul-ups.

— Nancy Patterson
Note on Assessment Reform Network
2005-11-26


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