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Duncan Testimony, House Committee on Education and Labor

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U.S. Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan
March 3, 2010
House Committee on Education and Labor
“Building a Stronger Economy: Spurring Reform and Innovation In American Education”
Testimony


Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Kline and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to come before this Committee and talk about improving
education in America. I want to begin by thanking Chairman Miller, as well as other Members
of the Committee, for your extraordinary leadership over the past year on behalf of American
students and their families. It was just over a year ago that Congress and President Obama
worked together to complete the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery
Act).

This legislation will deliver nearly $100 billion to Recovery Act recipients, including
States and school districts, to help address budget shortfalls in the midst of the most severe
financial crisis and economic recession since the Great Depression. To date, the Department has
awarded more than $69 billion. For the quarter ending December 31, 2009, recipients reported
that assistance from the Department of Education funded approximately 400,000 jobs overall,
including more than 300,000 education jobs, such as principals, teachers, librarians and
counselors. These numbers are consistent with the data submitted in October, during the first
round of reporting, and this consistency reflects the steady and significant impact of the
Recovery Act. Although State and local education budgets remain strained, schools systems
throughout the country would be facing much more severe situations were it not for the
Recovery Act. The Recovery Act has also helped families and students pay for college by
increasing federal student aid.
I believe, however, that the Recovery Act did much more than just provide short-term
financial assistance to States and school districts. Indeed, I think the Recovery Act will be seen
as a watershed for American education because it also laid the groundwork for needed reforms
that will help improve our education system and ensure America’s prosperity for decades to
come. Thanks to the Recovery Act, all States now are working to strengthen their standards and
assessments; improve teacher and leader effectiveness; improve data systems and increase the
use of data to improve instruction; and turn around low-performing schools.

In addition, the Recovery Act helped to jumpstart a new era of innovation and reform,
including through the $4 billion Race to the Top program and the $650 million Investing in
Innovation Fund. States already have demonstrated their interest in the reforms called for by the
Recovery Act and Race to the Top. Just in preparation to apply for Race to the Top grants,
States have made essential changes, such as allowing data systems to link the achievement of
individual students to their teachers and enabling the growth or expansion of high quality charter
schools. States also are demonstrating the progress they have made toward implementing the
reforms called for in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund in their applications for Phase II of that
funding. We must continue to invest in innovation and scale up what works to make dramatic
improvements in education. The President’s fiscal year 2011 budget ("budget request") includes
$1.35 billion for Race to the Top awards, both for States and for a new school district-level
competition – and we greatly appreciated your statement of support for that initiative, Mr.
Chairman. The 2011 budget request also includes $500 million for the Investing in Innovation
(i3) program.

This Committee also developed and helped to win House passage of the Student Aid and
Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which would make much-needed reforms to Federal
postsecondary student aid programs that would enable us to make key investments in education
by redirecting the tens of billions of dollars that otherwise would be spent on unnecessary
subsidies to lenders over the next decade. These investments include expanding student aid
though a more generous Pell Grant program and low-cost student loans, preparing students and
workers for 21st Century jobs to increase our social well-being and economic prosperity,
including through President Obama's American Graduation Initiative, and helping more low income
children enter school with the skills they need to succeed through the President’s Early
Learning Challenge Fund. SAFRA also includes important investments in Historically Black
Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions. We share your commitment to this
important legislation, which is strongly supported by the 2011 budget, and are working to win
Senate approval for it as soon as possible.

Once again, thank you for your achievements during the past year. It is a record to be
proud of, and one on which I hope we will build as we continue to move forward in the coming
year.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S 2011 BUDGET REQUEST
As you know, last month President Obama released his fiscal year 2011 budget request.
The centerpiece of the 2011 budget request for the Department of Education is the pending
reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The President is
asking for a discretionary increase of $3.5 billion for fiscal year 2011, of which $3 billion is
dedicated to ESEA, the largest-ever requested increase for ESEA. Moreover, if together, we
complete an ESEA reauthorization that is consistent with the President’s plan, the
Administration will submit a budget amendment for up to an additional $1 billion for ESEA
programs. But, our budget and reauthorization are not simply about more resources – they also
are about using resources more effectively. We would greatly appreciate your support for this
historic budget and look forward to working with you on the reauthorization.

As part of developing the 2011 budget request and performance plan, the Department of
Education has identified a limited number of high-priority performance goals that will be a
particular focus over the next two years. These goals, which will help measure the success of the
Department’s cradle-to-career education strategy, reflect the importance of teaching and learning
at all levels in the education system. The Department's goals include supporting reform of
struggling schools, improvements in the quality of teaching and learning, implementation of
comprehensive statewide data systems, and simplifying student aid. These goals and key
initiatives and other performance information are included in the President’s Fiscal Year 2011
Budget materials and are on www.ed.gov.

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION
Our 2011 budget request incorporates an outline of our thoughts about ESEA
reauthorization. We have thought a great deal about the appropriate Federal role in elementary
and secondary education, and want to move from a simple focus on rules, compliance, and
labeling of insufficient achievement, toward a focus on flexibility for States and local
educational agencies (LEAs) that demonstrate how they will use program funds to achieve
results, and on positive incentives and rewards for success. That is why, for example, our 2011
budget request includes $1.85 billion in new funding for the Race to the Top and i3 programs. In
addition, our reauthorization proposal for Title I, Part A of ESEA would reward schools or LEAs
that are making significant progress in improving student outcomes and closing achievement
gaps. We also propose to increase the role of competition in awarding ESEA funds to support a
greater emphasis on programs that are achieving successful results.

We believe that our goals of providing greater incentives and rewards for success,
increasing the role of competition in Federal education programs, supporting college- and careerreadiness,
turning around low-performing schools, and putting effective teachers in every
classroom and effective leaders in every school require a restructuring of ESEA program
authorities. For this reason, our reauthorization proposal would consolidate 38 existing
authorities into 11 new programs that give States, LEAs, and communities more choices in
carrying out activities that focus on local needs, support promising practices, and improve
outcomes for students, while maintaining critical focus on the most disadvantaged students,
including dedicated programs for students who face unique challenges, such as English language
learners and homeless, neglected and delinquent and migrant students.

COLLEGE- AND CAREER-READINESS
Another key priority builds on the Recovery Act’s emphasis on stronger standards and
high-quality assessments aligned with those standards. We believe that a reauthorized Title I
program, which our budget request would fund at $14.5 billion, should focus on graduating
every student college- and career-ready. States would adopt standards that build toward college and
career-readiness, and implement high-quality assessments that are aligned with and capable
of measuring individual student growth toward these standards. Our budget request would
provide $450 million (a 10 percent increase) for a reauthorized Assessing Achievement program
(currently State Assessments) to support implementation of these new assessments.
States would measure school and LEA performance on the basis of progress in getting all
students, including groups of students who are members of minority groups, low-income,
English learners, and students with disabilities, on track to college- and career-readiness, as well
as closing achievement gaps and improving graduation rates for high schools. States would use
this information to differentiate schools and LEAs and provide appropriate rewards and supports,
including recognition and rewards for those showing progress and required interventions in the
lowest-performing schools and LEAs. To help turn around the nation’s lowest-performing
schools, our budget would build on the $3 billion in school improvement grants provided in the
Recovery Act by including $900 million for a School Turnaround Grants program (currently
School Improvement Grants). This and other parts of our budget demonstrate the principle that it
is not enough to identify which schools need help – we must encourage and support state and
local efforts to provide that help.

EFFECTIVE TEACHERS AND SCHOOL LEADERS
We also believe that if we want to improve student outcomes, especially in high-poverty
schools, nothing is more important than ensuring that there are effective teachers in every
classroom and effective leaders in every school. Longstanding achievement gaps closely track
the inequities in classrooms and schools attended by poor and minority students, and fragmented
ESEA programs have failed to make significant progress to close this gap. Our reauthorization
proposal will ask States and LEAs to set clear standards for effective teaching and to design
evaluation systems that fairly and rigorously differentiate between teachers on the basis of
effectiveness and that provide them with targeted supports to enable them to improve. We also
will propose to restructure the many teacher and teacher-related authorities in the current ESEA
to more effectively recruit, prepare, support, reward, and retain effective teachers and school
leaders. Key budget proposals in this area include $950 million for a Teacher and Leader
Innovation Fund, which would support bold incentives and compensation plans designed to get
our best teachers and leaders into our most challenging schools, and $405 million for a Teacher
and Leader Pathways program that would encourage and help to strengthen a variety of
pathways, including alternative routes, to teaching and school leadership careers.
We also are asking for $1 billion for an Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete
Education authority that would make competitive awards focused on high-need districts to
improve instruction in the areas of literacy, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the
arts, foreign languages, civics and government, history, geography, economics and financial
literacy, and other subjects. We propose these programs in addition to a $2.5 billion Effective
Teachers and Leaders formula grant program to States and LEAs, to promote and enhance the
teaching profession.

In addition, throughout our budget, we have included incentives for States and LEAs to
use technology to improve effectiveness, efficiency, access, supports, and engagement across the
curriculum. In combination with the other reforms supported by the budget, these efforts will
pave the way to the future of teaching and learning.

IMPROVING STEM OUTCOMES
One area that receives special attention in both our 2011 budget request and our
reauthorization plan is improving instruction and student outcomes in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The world our youth will inherit increasingly will be
influenced by science and technology, and it is our obligation to prepare them for that world.
The 2011 request includes several activities that support this agenda and connect with
President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, which is aimed at fostering public-private
partnerships in support of STEM. Our goal is to move American students from the middle of the
pack to the top of the world in STEM achievement over the next decade, by focusing on (1)
enhancing the ability of teachers to deliver rigorous STEM content, and providing the supports
they need to deliver that instruction; (2) increasing STEM literacy so that all students can master
challenging content and think critically in STEM fields, and participate fully as citizens in an
America changed by technology in ways we cannot envision; and (3) expanding STEM
education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls and
individuals with disabilities.
Specifically, we are asking for $300 million to improve the teaching and learning of
STEM subjects through the Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM program; $150 million for
STEM projects under the $500 million request for the i3 program; and $25 million for a STEM
initiative in the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to identify and validate
more effective approaches for attracting and retaining, engaging and effectively teaching
undergraduates in STEM fields. And, I have directed the Department to work closely with other
federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Institutes of Health to align
our efforts toward our common goal of supporting students.

COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTIONS
We also recognize that schools, parents, and students will benefit from investments in
other areas that can help to improve student outcomes. Toward that end, we are proposing to
expand the new Promise Neighborhoods program by including $210 million to fund school
reform and comprehensive social services for children in distressed communities from birth
through college and career. A restructured Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students program
would provide $410 million to – for the first time – systematically measure school climates,
which we know can affect student learning. This will help direct funding to schools that show
the greatest need for resources to increase students’ safety and well-being by reducing violence,
harassment and bullying, promote student physical and mental health, and prevent student drug,
alcohol, and tobacco use.

COLLEGE ACCESS AND COMPLETION
The Administration has made college- and career-readiness for all students the goal of its
ESEA reauthorization proposal, because most students will need at least some postsecondary
education to compete for jobs in the 21st Century global economy. For this reason, we are
proposing a College Pathways and Accelerated Learning program that would increase high
school graduation rates and preparation for college by providing students in high-poverty schools
with opportunities to take advanced coursework that puts them on a path toward college. This
new program would help expand access to accelerated learning opportunities such as Advanced
Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, dual-enrollment programs that allow students
to take college-level courses and earn college credit while in high school, and "early college high
schools" that allow students to earn a high school degree and an Associate’s degree or two years
of college credit simultaneously.
Just as essential to preparing students for college is ensuring that students and families
have the financial support they need to pay for college. As I noted earlier, the Administration
supports passage of SAFRA, which would make key changes in student financial aid and higher
education programs that are consistent with President Obama's goal of restoring America’s
status as first in the world in the percentage of college graduates by 2020. In combination with
SAFRA, the 2011 request would make available more than $156 billion in new grants, loans, and
work-study assistance—an increase of $58 billion or 60 percent over the amount available in
2008—to help almost 15 million students and their families pay for college. And another
achievement of the Recovery Act, the new American Opportunity Tax Credit, will provide an
estimated $12 billion in tax relief for 2009 filers. The budget proposes to make this refundable
tax credit permanent, which will give families up to $10,000 to help pay for four years of
college.

The 2011 budget request would bring the maximum Pell grant to $5,710, nearly a $1,000
increase since the President took office. In that time, the number of students receiving grants has
grown from six million to nearly nine million, and the total amount of aid available has nearly
doubled. In addition, the budget request would make funding for the Pell Grant program
mandatory rather than discretionary, to eliminate annual uncertainty about Pell Grant funding
and end the practice of "backfilling" billions of dollars in Pell Grant funding shortfalls.
No one should go broke because of student loan debt. That is why our budget also
would help borrowers struggling to repay student loans by reducing the minimum payment to 10
percent of their discretionary income, and providing for all of their debt to be forgiven after 20
years -- 10 years if they choose a career in public service. These changes will help more than one
million borrowers next year.

IMPROVING OUTCOMES FOR ADULT LEARNERS
The 2011 budget request includes funding for a variety of programs that support adult
learners, including career and technical education, and adult basic and literacy education. These
programs provide essential support for State and local activities that help millions of Americans
develop the knowledge and skills they need to reach their potential in a global economy. For
example, our request would provide $1.3 billion for Career and Technical Education (CTE) State
Grants, to support continued improvement and to increase the capacity of programs to prepare
high school students to meet state college and career-ready standards. One of our greatest
challenges is to help the 90 million adults who would enhance their career prospects by
increasing their basic literacy skills. For this reason, we also are asking for $612.3 million for
Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants, an increase of $30 million over the comparable
2010 level, to help adults without a high school diploma or the equivalent to obtain the
knowledge and skills necessary for postsecondary education, employment, and self-sufficiency.

IMPROVING OUTCOMES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
The budget also includes several requests and new initiatives to enhance opportunities for
students and other persons with disabilities. For example, the budget request includes a $250
million increase for grants to States under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to
help ensure that students with disabilities receive the education and related services they need to
prepare them to lead productive, independent lives. The $3.6 billion request for Rehabilitation
Services and Disability Research would consolidate nine programs under the Rehabilitation Act
into three, to reduce duplication and improve the provision of rehabilitation and independent
living services for individuals with disabilities. The request includes a $6 million increase over
the 2010 level for a new Grants for Independent Living program (which consolidates the
Independent Living State Grants and Centers for Independent Living) and would provide
additional funding for States with significant unmet needs. It also includes $25 million for a new
program that would expand supported employment opportunities for youth with significant
disabilities as they transition from school to the workforce, through competitive grants to States
to develop innovative methods of providing extended services.
The Budget provides $112 million for the National Institute on Disability and
Rehabilitation Research to support a broad portfolio of research and development, capacity building,
and knowledge translation activities. And the request includes $60 million, $30 million
under Adult Education and $30 million under Vocational Rehabilitation, for the Workforce
Innovation Fund, a new initiative in partnership with the Department of Labor. The proposed
Partnership for Workforce Innovation, which encompasses $321 million of funding in the
Departments of Education and Labor, would award competitive grants to encourage innovation
and identify effective strategies for improving the delivery of services and outcomes for
beneficiaries under programs authorized by the Workforce Investment Act. This investment will
create strong incentives for change that, if scaled up, could improve cross-program delivery of
services and outcomes for beneficiaries of programs under the Workforce Investment Act.

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, thanks to the combined leadership of President Obama, Chairman Miller
and the Members of this Committee, and others, we have made extraordinary progress in
meeting the needs of our schools and communities in the midst of financial crisis and recession,
making long-needed reforms in our Federal postsecondary student aid programs, and
reawakening the spirit of innovation in our education system from early learning through college.
The next step to cement and build on this progress is to complete a fundamental restructuring of
ESEA. I know that all of you are interested in this reauthorization and that many of you have
worked on these issues for years, and in many cases, decades, and I look forward to working
with the Committee toward that goal. I have every confidence that with your continuing
leadership and strong support from President Obama and the American people, we will
accomplish this important task.
Thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

— Arne Duncan
testimony
2010-03-03
House Committee on Education and Labor


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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