Not even a full week after the Senate HELP Committee held a 2-day session to consider the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to debate its own version of the bill on June 19. It’s deja vu on Capitol Hill because bipartisan negotiations have failed and the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) that was introduced by Chairman John Kline (R-MN) is expected to garner only Republican support…which is exactly what happened when the committee considered a very similar bill in 2012.

“Adequate yearly progress” would be ended under the Student Success Act, and instead states would be required to develop and implement a single, statewide accountability system to ensure that all public school students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation. One major change from the 2012 proposal is that the bill will reinstate the requirement that states adopt new statewide standards and assessments in science.

The system should annually evaluate and identify the academic performance of each public school in the state based on student academic achievement taking into consideration achievement gaps between subgroups and overall performance of students. It must also include a system for school improvement for low-performing schools that implements interventions designed to address schools’ weaknesses and is implemented by the district. The bill also prohibits the US Department of Education from establishing any criteria that specifies, defines or prescribes any aspect of a state’s accountability system.

H.R. 5 would also eliminate the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program and instead allow states to implement their own turnaround strategies. While we’re pleased that this would remove the four school turnaround models that require the principal’s replacement as a condition for receiving federal funding, NASSP is concerned that this would eliminate the only dedicated funding stream for low-performing middle and high schools.

NASSP was disappointed to see  that the bill would authorize funding for Title I at $16.6 billion for FY 2014-2019, which is the same amount appropriated by Congress for FY 2012. As the committee’s own fact sheet notes, this amount is “lower than just the Title I authorization for the last year it was authorized” under No Child Left Behind in 2001. This is obviously unacceptable for the many schools serving low-income students that are eligible for Title I funds, including the middle and high schools that never receive such funding because of the high need in their feeder elementary schools.

NASSP is concerned that the bill broadens the definition of “school leader” to include superintendents and other district officials. We firmly believe that the term should be defined to mean only a principal, assistant principal or other individual who is an employee or officer of a school.

States receiving Title II funds under the bill would be required to implement a teacher evaluation system that uses student achievement data derived from a variety of sources as a significant factor in determining a teacher’s evaluation. The evaluation system should use multiple measures of evaluation, have more than two categories for rating the performance of teachers, and be used to make personnel decisions. NASSP supports the requirement that states provide training to school leaders in the evaluation systems. School districts could also use Title II funding to develop and implement a school leader evaluation system and to provide professional development for teachers and school leaders that is evidence-based, job-embedded, and continuous.

The Student Success Act also includes a provision from the 2012 “kill bill” that would eliminate 42 education programs—many of which are strongly supported by NASSP and our members. They include School Leadership, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, the Enhancing Education through Technology program, Dropout Prevention, and others.

As he did last year, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), is expected to introduce an alternative proposal as a substitute amendment to the bill. We expect it to be rejected on a party-line vote, but we do not yet know whether other Democrats on the committee will offer an other amendments. Follow Jacki Ball (@balljacki) and Amanda Karhuse (@akarhuse) on Twitter for live updates during the markup, which will begin on June 19 at 9:00 AM ET.

As part of the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s effort to consider a piecemeal approach to reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), new legislation was introduced last week to expand the federal Charter Schools Program.

According to the committee’s bill summary, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 2218) would allow state educational agencies, state charter school boards, or governors to continue to award subgrants for the creation of new charter schools in addition to the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools.

In order to receive funds under the program, grantees would have to describe how they will work with charter schools to instruct all prospective students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, and provide technical assistance to ensure proper monitoring of charter schools. Funding would be prioritized for those states that:

  1. agree to repeal caps on the number of charter schools permitted in the state;
  2. allow entities other than state educational agencies or local educational agencies to be charter school authorizers;
  3. provide financing to charter schools that is comparable to traditional public schools,
  4. support full-blended or hybrid-online charter school models; and
  5. use charter schools to help improve struggling schools.

“An estimated 420,000 students in the U.S. are on charter school waitlists, desperate to escape underperforming public schools,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), in a press release. “It’s time we enhance school choice by improving access to charter schools. These innovative institutions empower parents to play a more active role in their children’s education, open doors for teachers to pioneer fresh teaching methods, and promote high academic standards. By facilitating the development and expansion of successful charter schools, H.R. 2218 will provide parents and children more opportunities for a better education.”

The House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to mark up the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act on June 22, and the full House could consider the bill before the July 4 recess. According to press reports, future ESEA legislation will address local control and flexibility, teachers and school leaders, and accountability.

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NASSP has been steadfast in our opposition to the four models for school reform that would all require the principal’s replacement as a condition for receiving funds under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. We remain very concerned that the U.S. Department of Education will try to expand this misguided strategy as part of its proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We therefore, encourage you to visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (PLAC) at www.nassp.org/plac, and urge your members of Congress to oppose any legislation that encompasses the four models for school improvement.

Specifically, the SIG guidance requires districts to use SIG funds to implement one of four interventions in the identified, low-performing schools:

  • Turnaround Model, which includes replacing the principal and at least 50% of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing a new and revised instructional program;
  • Restart Model, which would require a district to close the school and reopen it under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an educational management organization;
  • School Closure, which would require a district to close the school and enroll the students who attended the school in other, high-achieving schools within the district; or
  • Transformation Model, which would require a district to replace the principal and develop and increase teacher and school leader effectiveness by implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies such as extending learning time, creating community-oriented schools, and providing sustained support and operating flexibility with staff, calendar, and budget.

Congress does have the authority to modify the SIG requirements through legislation, although it is unlikely to do so outside of reauthorizing ESEA.

As you may know, the current SIG guidance requires states to target funding only to the lowest-performing schools in the state, including middle and high schools that are eligible for, but not currently receiving, Title I funds. But there is concern among the education community that the proposal could be expanded to impact additional schools, and as a result, the principals that lead them. Already in December 2009, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) introduced a bill to authorize a $2 billion competitive grant program for districts to support high schools with low graduation rates and their feeder middle schools. Although many of the bill’s provisions closely mirror our Breaking Ranks recommendations for school improvement, the Graduation for All Act (H.R. 4122) also requires districts to implement one of the four Models of Success in each of the schools being served.

NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi has already expressed his concerns with the legislation to Chairman Miller and the other cosponsors, and we have submitted formal comments on ESEA reauthorization that include our recommendations for middle level and high school reform. But we cannot do it alone and urge you to reach out to your representative and senators. While a draft letter has been provided for you on PLAC (www.nassp.org/plac), we strongly encourage you to personalize the letter with stories from your own school or district, as this will make your letter considerably more effective.

Thank you for assisting NASSP in our efforts to improve student learning by promoting excellence in middle level and high school leadership.

On February 4, President George W. Bush submitted his education budget for FY 2009 to Congress. The proposal increased funding for some programs while slashing or completely eliminating funding for others.

Programs targeted for elimination include:

  • School Leadership
  • Smaller Learning Communities
  • Comprehensive School Reform
  • Elementary and Secondary School Counseling
  • Career and Technical Education State Grants (Perkins)

Slashed programs include:

  • Teacher Quality State Grants ($2.8 million; $100 million below FY 2008)
  • Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities, State Grants ($100 million; $194.8 million below FY 2008)

Flat-funded programs include:

  • School Improvement Grants ($491.3 billion)

Among those programs that received increases are:

  • Title I, Subgrants to LEAs ($14.3 billion; $406 million over FY 2008)
  • Striving Readers ($100 million; $64.6 million over FY 2008)
  • Special Education, State Grants ($11.3 billion; $337 million over FY 2008)
  • Advanced Placement ($70.0 million; $26.5 million over FY 2008)
  • Math Now ($95.0 million; this is a newly authorized program and was not funded in FY 2008)
  • Teacher Incentive Fund ($200 million; $102.7 million over FY 2008)

To help determine which programs receive increases, cuts, or are targeted for elimination, the Bush Administration developed the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). This tool is used to assess the efficacy of programs’ performance and progress towards meeting their objectives. Each program receives an overall rating of Effective, Moderately Effective, Adequate, Ineffective, or Results Not Demonstrated (RND). Programs receiving a rating of RND typically have a lack of long-term goals, inadequate annual performance measures, or unreliable data. Programs that receive ratings of Ineffective, RND, or that the administration feels are duplicative or contain major flaws in execution or design will be targeted for elimination in the president’s budget. There is some controversy in the use of PART as a tool to determine the yearly funding levels of programs, as only a few programs are assessed each year. For instance, the administration proposed eliminating funding for 47 programs, however only seven programs were assessed using PART in 2007.

The administration relies on a number of additional measures to determine which programs should have their funding increased, cut, or eliminated. However the guiding rationale behind these decisions may be best summed up by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings at the FY 2009 education budget briefing, “resources follow policy.”

Responding to the president’s proposed budget, NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi said “it is disappointing to see that President Bush has once again decided to shortchange public schools and undermine their efforts to improve student achievement.”

“Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon said that ‘the budget was built around the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.’ Yet without adequate funding it is hard to imagine how schools that have had difficulty meeting adequate yearly progress will now be able to do so with even fewer resources,” Tirozzi continued.

“If President Bush is really interested in defeating the vicious cycle of low achievement, then he must invest significantly greater resources than are proposed in his FY 2009 education budget. Preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century workforce must not be done on the cheap.”

At a Department of Education budget briefing, Secretary Margaret Spellings quipped that when it comes to the budget, “the president proposes, and congress disposes,” intimating that with the Democratically controlled congress, President Bush’s budget is effectively dead on arrival.

While it has been rumored that Congress will pass a continuing resolution (CR) to maintain federal funding at FY 2008 levels until a new president is elected, the president should not be so easily dismissed. Bush still has nearly a year left in his presidency, and despite their ardent efforts, the Democrats were forced to submit to the president’s budget request last year.

What will happen next on the federal education funding front? We’ll keep you posted, so check back soon!

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In the midst of reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, lawmakers received a bold reminder earlier this week from education advocates: Don’t forget the funding!

The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a large nonpartisan coalition of over 100 education groups (including NASSP), held its annual legislative conference and gala on September 20, at which it rallied its members for a lobby day on Capitol Hill and presented awards to members of Congress who have shown a dedication to increased education funding.

Speaking at the conference, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said that “under the new [congressional] leadership, and with the help of CEF, we have the ability to reverse the trend in cutting essential federal education programs.”

Not all of the speakers were quite so optimistic however. Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE), said that just because Congress allows for increased funding in NCLB doesn’t necessarily mean more money will get to the schools. Still, he said, “we have to make people in this country understand the importance of education to their future.”

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) put it this way, “the engine of this country is opportunity, and the engine of opportunity is education,” thus if we don’t significantly invest in education from kindergarten through college, America can’t remain internationally competitive.

Also addressing the CEF conference, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) implored those present to spread the word and put pressure on Congress to increase funding for education. “Everyone’s talking about the war [in Iraq]; that’s all they’re talking about. Well, I think we should talk about something else,” we should be talking about education.

The last to address the conference was Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Echoing Harkin’s call to action, Obey said that “people generally do not understand how serious things are in this bill… [We] will be very lucky to get even one dime more than what’s in the president’s budget” unless a significant push on the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education bills is made.

With that, CEF set its members loose on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staff to remind them how essential education funding is to increased student success and increased U.S. international competitiveness.

The Current State of Things

  • The House of Representatives passed its version of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill
  • The Senate passed its bill out of committee but has yet to vote on it
  • While there are differences between the bills, both contain significant increases for education and exceed the presidents’ budget request
  • President Bush has promised to veto any bill that exceeds his budget request

NASSP in conjunction with CEF is working hard to shore-up lawmakers’ support for the highest increases in education funding, and to override the president’s veto if necessary.

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Funding for Rural Schools in Jeopardy

On February 7, 2007, in Federal Funding, by Amanda Karhuse

The October expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (P.L. 106-393) could result in nearly 4,400 Pacific Northwest school districts losing vital funding if Congress does not act soon. The law was first enacted in 2000 to help those states and counties that lost money because of lower timber harvests on federal lands.

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Greg Walden (R-OR) requested that $400 million be included for the “county payments” program in the FY 2007 appropriations stopgap spending bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives approved at the end of January. In a letter to the congressional leadership, they said the law “has kept schools open, roads maintained, search and rescue missions operating, and many other essential local services afloat. The federal government made a pact with rural communities nearly a century ago when it established the federal timber sale program which provided counties a portion of revenue from federal timber sales…To not reauthorize and fund the Act would break the federal government’s pledge to these rural communities all across the country.”

Unfortunately, the lawmakers’ request was denied and an attempt on their part to add the funding as an amendment was overruled. However, President Bush included funding for a five-year extension of the county payments program in his FY 2008 budget request. He indicated that funds “would be targeted to the most affected areas, adjusted downward over time, and eventually phased out.” In addition, DeFazio and Walden have introduced legislation (H.R. 17) to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act through FY 2013. The bill currently has 104 bipartisan cosponsors, and the list is growing.

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NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi and NAESP Executive Director Vincent Ferrandino met with U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings yesterday at the Department of Education in January to discuss reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), specifically focusing on the law’s effect on school principals.

“It is heartening to see the administration take principals’ concerns into account as we begin NCLB reauthorization,” Tirozzi said. “We hope this is only the beginning of a collaboration that will further our common goal: ensuring that every student achieves.”

To start the meeting, Spellings said that she had read the NCLB recommendations developed by both organizations and found that there is “a lot in common about the key issues” with the department’s own approach to reauthorization. First among those key issues are the growth model pilot projects, which allow states to calculate adequate yearly progress (AYP) by tracking achievement scores of the same students from one year to the next. Spellings said she hopes that Congress expands the growth model projects during reauthorization.

Tirozzi addressed the need for voluntary national standards, pointing out that there are currently 50 different definitions of “success” under the law and that many states are “lowering the bar” in order to meet proficiency targets. Spellings agreed that states are “watering down the standards” but she was quick to point out that Congress, not the administration, made the law more flexible by allowing states to establish their own standards and assessment systems. She also expressed her dilemma in arguing for excellence in high standards while so many schools are already having difficulties making AYP.

Pointing out that there is a sense among principals that the law is punitive in nature, Ferrandino argued for a better balance between sticks and carrots. Tirozzi suggested that schools be rewarded for making improvement even if they have not yet met their AYP goals.

With regard to special education students, Tirozzi and Ferrandino said that many teachers and principals are frustrated with the inconsistencies between NCLB and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In particular, IDEA requires students to have a detailed individualized education program, but the plan is not considered in measuring the student’s performance. Additionally, IDEA allows students with disabilities to be educated by and graduate from public high schools until age 21, but NCLB requires all students to graduate within four years.

Tirozzi turned the conversation to adolescent literacy, pointing out that students encounter a “different type of reading” when they reach middle level and high school. He also noted that many middle level and high school teachers don’t have the skills to teach reading to the 6-8 million adolescents reading below grade level. He argued that additional federal funding should be targeted for remediation, advancing literacy, and teacher training and expressed support for the Striving Readers program, which aims to enhance the overall level of reading achievement for students in grades 4-12. Spellings emphasized that the president requested $100 million for Striving Readers in his FY 2007 budget request, an increase of more than $60 million above the FY 2006 level, although Congress maintained FY 2006 funding levels for all education programs in FY 2007.

Highlighting the role of the principal in determining a school’s success, Tirozzi underscored the importance of the School Leadership program. The program is currently funded at $14.7 million, and Tirozzi said that this amounts to less than $17 for every principal in the country. Tirozzi and Ferrandino expressed their support for high-quality professional development for principals and teachers, pointing out the need for a “Marshall Plan” for urban schools. In order to attract more high-quality principals and teachers to urban schools, Tirozzi urged the administration to consider salary incentives, student loan forgiveness, and tax credits. He and Ferrandino also addressed the need for mentoring for new principals and teachers in their first three years in the position.

Spellings highlighted the Teacher Incentive Fund, which aims to improve student achievement by increasing teacher and principal effectiveness and rewarding teachers and principals for increases in student achievement. She noted that the administration recently awarded the first 16 grants, which account for $15 million of the $100 million appropriated in FY 2006. She expressed her concern that there was a need for more “high-quality proposals,” adding that ED will award the remaining funds in the spring.

Looking to the future, Spellings said she hopes that education “will get some real estate” in the president’s State of the Union address, January 23, and in his FY 2008 budget request, which will be submitted to Congress on February 6.

The November 7 midterm elections greatly upset the balance of power in Washington, DC, giving Democrats at least a 34-seat majority (11 races were still undecided at press time) in the House and a 2-seat majority in the Senate. Leadership elections will be held November 16, with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) poised to become the first woman Speaker of the House, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) expected to control the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) anticipated to lead the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

School leaders have reason to be optimistic. Democrats have been outspoken in their opposition to education funding levels, which have decreased or remained stagnant since FY 2005. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), in particular, has consistently been underfunded, receiving only $12.7 billion in FY 2006, approximately $10 billion less than its authorized level. Although the 110th Congress will face a deficit and spending constraints, increased funding for major initiatives such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are expected.

Because work on the FY 2007 appropriations bills has not yet been completed, Congress was expected to approve a continuing resolution in mid-November to keep federal programs running until the first week in December. Work to finalize the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill was to resume when Congress returned from the Thanksgiving break, but until then, programs covered by the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill continued at their FY 2006 levels. Rest assured that NASSP will continue to advocate for the resources secondary schools need to provide the best possible education for all students.

Looking ahead, Miller has already announced that the NCLB reauthorization and passing legislation to make college more affordable will be two of the committee’s top priorities. He plans to continue NCLB field hearings in January focusing on student growth measures in state accountability systems and alternate assessments for English language learners and students with disabilities. In an interview with Education Week, Miller said he would try to build a bipartisan coalition of support to pass changes to the law: “I think the fact of the matter is that there [are] a lot of critics of the bill. But there [are] a lot of supporters of the legislation in terms of we have an obligation to provide a first class learning opportunity to poor and minority children in this country.”

“All I know to do is make decisions based upon principles that I believe are important…” President Bush said at a press conference November 8. However, Bush also pledged bipartisanship, stating, “Obviously, there’s a shift in the Congress and, therefore, in order to get legislation passed, we’ve got to work with the Democrats. They’re the ones who will control the committees; they’re the ones who will decide how the bills flow. And so you’ll see a lot of meetings with Democrats, and a lot of discussion with Democrats.”

In September, NASSP endorsed the Teacher Excellence for All Children (TEACH) Act (H.R. 2835/S. 1218). Sponsored by Miller and Kennedy, the measure would encourage financial incentives for “outstanding teachers,” including competitive salaries, tax breaks, and prepaid tuition for high-achieving undergraduate students going into the teaching profession. The bill also would establish induction programs for new teachers and principals and would provide additional funding for school districts to pay higher salaries for teachers and principals who transfer to the “hardest-to-staff” schools. NASSP is pleased that Miller and Kennedy intend to reintroduce this legislation during the 110th Congress and will work hard for its passage.

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