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Begich Calls for Education Reform Reflecting Alaska Needs


Priorities are Classrooms and Communities,

Not Punishment and Penalties

In an effort to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act and better prepare Alaska’s students for a successful future, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is calling for education reform recognizing the unique needs of Alaska. Begich also announced today he will introduce two new pieces of education legislation following the August Congressional recess.

Sen. Begich made the announcements today at a news conference at Central Middle School in Anchorage. He was joined by Anchorage Superintendent Carol Comeau, Barb Angaiak, President, NEA-Alaska and Mike Nabers, a civil engineer and graduate of the UAA Alaska Native Science and Engineering program.

“One-size-fits-all rules punish Alaska’s students and schools and put us on a misguided path undermining the strong contributions of our educators while undervaluing the hard work of our students,” Begich said. “A child’s education has no ‘rewind button.’ Now is the time to restore control to our classrooms and communities and put Alaska youth on the right track.”

To promote Alaska’s unique education needs, Sen. Begich is working with his colleagues to draft a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the federal education law outlining education standards, expectations and levels of funding. He has shared conceptual language for the ESEA rewrite and outlined his comprehensive education priorities for future legislation, proposing:

· An emphasis on innovation and improvement at the local level: Communities and families must play a bigger role in improving educational results;

· Recruiting and retaining quality teachers: Support creative approaches to supporting teachers in underserved areas. This includes recruiting and training homegrown teachers;

· Investing in early learning: Permanently authorize Alaska’s two-year early childhood learning pilot program. Early learning has proven results;

· Creating flexibility for struggling schools: Acknowledge the difficulty of hiring administrators and teachers in Alaska and allow educators options for professional development. This counters current policy and some Obama Administration proposals of wholesale firing and replacement;

· Ensuring safe and healthy learning environments: Promote school climate surveys modeled after the Association of Alaska School Boards’ successful work to identify problems and test innovative solutions. A positive atmosphere has proven benefits to learning;

· Support for Alaska Native populations: Strengthen the Alaska Native Education Program and make funding streams more accessible for tribes and organizations;

· The establishment of fair funding formulas for small and rural school districts: Small districts face difficultly participating in competitive grant processes;

· Making sensible rules that promote tutoring: Remove NCLB restrictions requiring tutors to come from other schools or outside organizations, an impossible scenario in Alaska’s remote classrooms;

· Preparing students for college and vocational programs: School standards should be developed in conjunction with local university programs.

“Alaska schools have proven their challenges are surmountable and we as parents believe in our children. We need to embrace our homegrown solutions and create conditions allowing our teachers, communities and students to succeed,” Sen. Begich said.

In addition to proposing language for ESEA reauthorization, Begich has unveiled two pieces of legislation he’ll introduce next month. The bills focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and expanded funding for innovative ideas with a record of improving student outcomes.

The Effective STEM Teaching and Learning Act:

Designed to prepare American students for a global economy the Effective STEM Teaching and Learning Act establishes competitive grants to help states develop comprehensive STEM strategies. Only 16% of America’s undergraduate degrees are in STEM-related fields, which compares poorly to other nations: China 52%, Japan 64%, South Korea 41%.

· Creates grant programs to help states develop comprehensive STEM strategies.

· Improves local control by enabling “outside-the-box” thinking on the local level.

· Targets funds to high-need students in high-need districts.

· Support professional development for STEM teachers.

The Investing in Innovation for Education Act:

The Investing in Innovation for Education Act (i3) would authorize the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) to continue promoting innovative ideas proposed by organizations with records of improving student outcomes. Created in the Economic Recovery Act, the i3 program would be permanently put into law under Begich’s bill. It gives states, specifically in rural areas, an educational opportunity to reward innovative teaching and learning programs through grants.

The i3 program focuses on four areas:

· Increasing teacher and principal effectiveness.

· Turning around low-performing schools.

· Making standards and assessments more practical and effective.

· Improving data systems.

Additional Resources Available At: http://begich.senate.gov/education

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