Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quick guesses about election impacts

Here are my rapid thoughts on how the election results will affect Kentucky education.

The overall federal push to raise achievement as measured by standards-based assessments and make major changes in the very weakest schools will be sustained, but the NCLB rules will be replaced by somewhat more workable expectations.  The pressure to revise those rules is growing rapidly as the 2014 deadline approaches, and it will be strong enough to break the deadlock of the last several years.  In Kentucky and other states, the adjustments will be greeted as a constructive step as we move forward on developing our own new assessment and accountability methods.

Additional federal incentives to adopt Common Core Standards are less likely with added Republican power in Congress, and states that decide to slow down implementation may be under less pressure to move ahead.  The federal push for Common Core has been seen by a number of the winning candidates as a federal intrusion on local control.   In Kentucky, we've made our commitment, and we're using Common Core to implement Senate Bill 1, which originated under Republican sponsorship.  That change won't alter our course.  Enough other states are on board that the main momentum will continue, and opportunities for collaboration will grow.

Federal incentives to allow and expand charter schools will probably continue with the changed federal balance of power, because that strategy has strong Republican backers.  In Kentucky, where no charter bill has ever been reported out of committee, where no group of educators or parents have announced that they are working on a concrete concept for a first such school, and where no donor group has offered to provide start-up funds to get even one charter off the ground, the charter prospects will remain weak.

Federal funding to bridge another year of slow economic growth will not happen.  The 2009 stimulus bill and the 2010 EduJobs bill prevented devastating education cuts, but there won't be another installment like that.  In Kentucky, next school year will be the toughest financially in a long time, with boosted federal support running out, state SEEK funding slated for only tiny growth, and local districts very wary of voting for any additional revenue.  Used to low funding, we may not see as much disruption as some other states, but there is still significant pain ahead.  

Apart from federal initiatives, Kentucky will stay the course on implementing higher standards, supported by stronger assessments and more focused accountability rules, while struggling to provide state-level assistance for schools and districts to implement the new standards and take other steps to equip teachers with stronger skills to support students. The financial limitations on that state support will come in part from the economy and in part from state political leadership unconvinced of the need for further investment.  The election results have changed neither the strong parts of our statewide vision nor the weak parts of our commitment to make that vision into reality.

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