NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti issued the following statement on the FY 2015 budget proposal:

President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget offers plenty to celebrate, but also renews some ongoing disappointment. Secretary Duncan got our attention when he declared teacher and leader effectiveness the #2 education priority—quite appropriately, behind equity and opportunity for all students. The Secretary’s language reflects a consistent recognition from ED of the importance of leadership in school success. Unfortunately, that recognition did not translate to budget support. Dedicated leadership-development funds under the School Leadership Program received just a modest $9 million increase to $35 million. Yes, the option of leadership development is woven throughout other programs under Title II, but history tells us that states and districts rarely use  those funds for professional development for principals. And our nation’s school leaders need that training and support more than ever as they strive to implement new college and career-ready standards and teacher evaluation system sunder new accountability requirements.

NASSP was an early supporter of the president’s ConnectED initiative to bring broadband Internet to 99 percent of students in five years, and we are delighted to see that priority reflected in his budget proposal. The proposed $200 million for the new ConnectEDucators initiative will help teachers and leaders optimize digital tools to personalize learning and improve instruction and assessment—hallmarks of NASSP’s Breaking Ranks Framework for School Improvement.

Encouraged though we are by the ConnectED investment, we are equally disappointed by the President’s hefty proposed investment in competitive grant proposals at the expense of formula programs. With dramatic increases in Race to the Top and School Turnaround programs, and new, smaller scale competitive grants in areas like career/technical education and special education, the president renews his commitment to create an education system that tilts toward the “haves.” A competitive grant program necessarily has winners and losers, and the latter are far too typically the poorer, rural districts that often lack the support to write and compete for grants successfully. As equity is the number-one priority, we strongly encourage the administration to rethink these competitive programs and make a strong investment in formula programs like Title I and IDEA.

Cross posting from Ignite ’14 blog.

Last week at Ignite ’14, the NASSP Board of Directors officially approved the release of a joint policy brief with NAESP offering recommendations for principals in implementing teacher evaluation systems.

The brief, titled “Supporting Principals in Implementing Teacher Evaluation Systems: Recommendations from practicing principals to improve instruction and learning,” is the work of a joint committee formed by NAESP and NASSP in November to review current research and literature on the impact that new teacher evaluation systems are having on principals across the country.

The committee of 19 practicing principals provided a unique perspective on how the profession is being impacted by the adoption of new teacher evaluations systems. The committee developed seven recommendations for policymakers at all levels to better support principals in the implementation of teacher evaluation systems.

While the effect of new teacher evaluation systems on principals has been minimally covered in literature, NASSP and NAESP have learned from their members that the time required for the evaluations is a major concern for principals. In February 2013, a survey of NAESP and NASSP members found that a substantive teacher evaluation requires 11–15 hours per teacher over the course of a school year.

While the research is still emerging on the implementation of the new teacher evaluation systems, we do know that principals are facing many challenges including insufficient and ongoing training, unclear or “check the box” rubrics, poor feedback mechanisms, and inadequate time to complete meaningful evaluations and engage in instructional coaching. Recent studies have also found that one of the most positive impacts a principal can have in his or her school occurs when they are able to focus on instructional coaching and build strong relationships with teachers.

The official press release on the new joint policy will be issued this week, so be on the lookout for it!

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ED Releases Guidance on Ed Tech PD $

On February 7, 2014, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

NASSP has been a big propoent of the ConnectED initiative to promote digital learning in the classroom, but most of the conversation has been focused on high-speed broadband and modernization of the E-Rate program. We all know, however, that connectivity is only the one part of the equation: school leaders and teachers must be trained on how to use the technology and integrate it into their instruction to ensure student success.

To address that issue, the US Department of Education released a Dear Colleague letter on February 5 that provides guidance to states, districts and schools on how they can leverage current federal funding “to support innovative technology-based strategies.”

The document includes examples of how funding from Titles I-3 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for digital learning “even if the program statutes do not reference educational technology specifically.”

According to the guidance, “these examples do not depart from previous ED guidance, but clarify opportunities to use federal grant funds to support digital learning, including 1) improving and personalizing professional learning and other supports for educators; 2) increasing access to high-quality digital content and resources for students; 3) facilitating educator collaboration and communication; and 4) providing devices for students to access digital learning resources.”

I’ve talked to many NASSP members, in person and during Twitter chats, who tell me that funding for education technology and training their teachers is a big challenges in their schools. So we were very pleased to hear that in addition to the guidance, President Obama will propose new funding for professional development for education technology in his FY 2015 budget. Details of the budget should be released in early March, so stay tuned!

NASSP Communications Director Bob Farrace was lucky enough to be at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, MD, yesterday where President Obama announced a major private sector investment of nearly $750 million for schools to improve digital learning. The additional funding for education technology is a major win in the administration’s ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of students to “next-generation connectivity” in 5 years.

 Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T have pledged to provide their products, mobile and wireless services, and professional development for educators at a  reduced cost, or for free to certain low-income schools. According to a White House fact sheet, these commitments will “help make the most of the government investment in broadband infrastructure by ensuring it is put the best educational use.”

The US Department of Agriculture will also provide $10 million in distance learning grants for rural schools to purchase equipment and services such as videoconferencing.
 
At a Digital Learning Day event in Washington, DC, today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce a new $2 billion investment in broadband and wireless services for schools through the E-Rate program. NASSP is cautiously optimistic about this proposal, which would improve management of the program and make it easier and cheaper to disperse funds to high-need schools. We have been engaged in conversations with FCC officials about modernizing the E-Rate program, but we also reiterate our call for raising the cap on E-Rate so funds are sustainable in a digital learning environment that is constantly increasing the demands on our schools and the networks they rely on.
 
NASSP is very pleased to hear that President Obama will include funding in his FY 2015 budget proposal for professional development for teachers and school leaders as they transition to digital learning and high-speed connectivity. School leaders were very disappointed when funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program was eliminated in FY 2011 (need to check on the date), and we have been championing Congressional proposals to renew this federal investment.
 
NASSP will continue to engage federal officials in conversations about the importance of digital learning in our nation’s middle level and high schools and urge for a strong and continued investment in the ConnectED initiative.
 

NASSP Opposes New Private School Voucher Proposals

On January 29, 2014, in Federal Funding, by Amanda Karhuse

As part of National School Choice Week in late-January, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have introduced two bills to greatly increase federal funding for private school vouchers at the expense of our nation’s public schools.

“NASSP have long stated its opposition to private school vouchers, which drain money away from public schools, reduce accountability in the education system, and ultimately harm public schools where the vast majority of our nation’s youth receive their education,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “We are especially dismayed that the proposals would eliminate federal education programs that we know are important to school leaders, such as literacy education and career and technical education, and would redirect funding for special education programs and services away from public schools.”

The Scholarship for Kids Act (S. 1968) would authorize nearly $24 billion (41% of federal education funding) for a Scholarship for Kids program. Eligible low-income children would be able to use the grant scholarships at any state-approved public or private school they attend or for supplemental educational services. According to Sen. Alexander, 11 million students would be eligible for the scholarships and would be worth approximately $2,100 per student.

In order to pay for the Scholarship for Kids program, the bill would consolidate more than 80 federal education programs previously allocated for programs under Title I of ESEA, including the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, the High School Graduation Initiative, the School Leadership program, the Enhancing Education through Technology program, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. States participating in the program would be relieved of having to comply with all requirements of ESEA except for provisions related to challenging academic standards and related assessments.

“Equal opportunity in America should mean that everyone has the same starting line,” said Sen. Alexander at an event in Washington, DC. “During this week celebrating school choice, there would be no better way to help children move up from the back of the line than by allowing states to use federal dollars to create 11 million new opportunities to choose a better school.”

The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education (CHOICE) Act (S. 1909) takes a three-pronged approach to increasing private school vouchers. First, the bill would provide funds to states for disability school choice programs that would allow students with disabilities to use funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at any school of their choice. The legislation would also create a pilot school choice program for students living on military bases. Finally, the bill would greatly expand the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for students living in the District of Columbia.

“As someone who grew up poor and nearly failed out of high school, I know the importance of empowering parents and teachers to make a difference in a child’s life,” Sen. Scott said in a press release. “Kids who succeed in the classroom have a better chance of succeeding later in life. Education is the cornerstone of success, and the CHOICE Act is a great first step towards ensuring more kids across our nation have access to a great one.”

All students deserve the opportunity to attend great schools and federal resources should help support schools and students who need it the most. For this reason, NASSP encourages all principals and assistant principals to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose the Scholarship for Kids Act and the CHOICE Act. Visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (PLAC) to find the contact information for your legislators and send a letter today!

Last night, the lead House and Senate Appropriators, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), released a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014.  The omnibus appropriations bill combines all of the 12 individual appropriations bills into one large 1,582 page spending that covers every facet of federal spending including investments in education.

Within the $1.1 trillion dollar package, $156.8 billion was allocated to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee to divvy up to the various programs under its jurisdiction.  $70.6 billion of this allocation went to the Department of Education. This is $739 million below the FY13 post-sequester level.

While not all sequester cuts were restored to every education program, NASSP was pleased to see that the bill places a priority on formula funded programs of importance to NASSP members such as Title I, IDEA and Career and Technical Education State Grants.  As you may recall, NASSP and NAESP sent a joint letter to House and Senate appropriators outlining our organizations’ priorities in the omnibus spending bill.   Here’s how our priorities fared in the bill:

Title I

Title I grants to local education agencies received $624,583 million back from the FY13 post-sequester levels to put it at $14.38 billion for FY 2014.  This is still below the FY 2012 level of $14.5.

IDEA

IDEA state grants received $11.47 billion in the FY 2014 omnibus.  This is approximately $500 million more than the FY 13 post-sequester level, however like Title I the FY14 allocation is still below its FY 12 level.

School Leadership

Unfortunately, the School Leadership Program was cut from its FY13 post-sequester level of $27.6 million to $25.8 million.  The FY14 level is a $3.3 million dollar cut from FY12.  This is extremely disappointing considering the President requested $98 million in his FY14 budget proposal and currently less than 4 percent of Title II “allowable use” funding currently goes to principal professional development.

Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program

The Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program received $158 million in the FY14 omnibus bill.  This is a $6.6 million increase from  the FY13 post-sequester level, while still not back to its FY12 level.

Career and Technical Education State Grants

Like most of our other priorities, Career and Technical Education State Grants received an increase from the FY13 post-sequester level.  CTE state grants were funded at $1.12 billion for FY14.  This is a $53 million dollar increase from FY13, but does not return the program to its FY12 funding level.

Enhancing Education Through Technology

Unfortunately, this program still remains unfunded.

Early Childhood Education

The big winner in the omnibus for education is Head Start.  It received an addition $1 billion over its sequester-level funding to top out at $8.6 billion for FY14.  The omnibus bill also provides $250 million in an early learning Race to the Top grant program for states to develop and enhance pre-K opportunities for 4-year olds.

Another program that received more funding than its FY12 level was the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities National Programs.  The program supports school safety and climate initiatives such as alcohol abuse reduction, drug and violence prevention and education, and school emergency preparedness activities.  This grant program received $90 million in the FY14 omnibus, which is $25 million more than its FY12 level.

The omnibus is likely to reach the House floor as early as Wednesday and then proceed to the Senate for final passage on Thursday or Friday.  The House passed a three day extension of the FY13 Continuing Resolution (CR) by voice vote Tuesday afternoon, with the Senate to follow to provide enough time for the omnibus to pass when the current CR expires on Saturday.

 

 

The US Department of Education announced in December that five applicants would be granted nearly $120 million in the second round of the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition, which aims to personalize education for all students in the classroom. The program is aimed squarely at classrooms and the all-important relationship between educators and students.

 

The FY 2013 winners were selected from 31 finalists out of the more than 200 applications received by the Department. They are:

  • Clarendon County School District Two in South Carolina (consortium of four rural districts)
  • Clarksdale Municipal School District in Mississippi
  • Houston Independent School District in Texas
  • Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (consortium of 18 rural districts)
  • Springdale School District in Arkansas

 

“These winners serve as an example to the rest of the country for how to develop innovative plans to drive education reform and improve student achievement,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These diverse, trailblazing districts have a clear vision and track record of success for models of personalized learning that aim for every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”

 

According to the Department’s press release, grantees were selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers.

 

NASSP State Coordinator Danny Brackett is the principal of Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, and said that educators were “PUMPED” upon hearing the announcement of their $25.8 million award. “We’re excited that we have a chance to positively influence the instruction of all 1,300 teachers in our district and all 21,000 students.”

 

The Springdale Public Schools will implement instructional strategies that engage and empower students and has identified 11 projects to accelerate student achievement, close the experience gap, and deepen student learning. Many of their goals are aligned to NASSP’s Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, including additional advisory time for college and career planning and personalized learning plans for each student. The district is also planning to emphasize the use of technology and expand its existing career academies to align with external standards and college entrance requirements.

 

The district’s plan is also focused on professional development with an assurance that all school leaders and leadership teams will receive training on the new systems put in place designed to support college and career readiness. Collaborative planning time will be expanded to allow participating teachers to engage in student-centered conversations in professional learning communities focused on effective implementation of personalized learning environments. The use of an existing data dashboard and student-centered model will foster increased opportunities for staff to use data to inform their instructional approaches and consider individual student needs.

 

More information about the Race to the Top-District program and the FY 2013 winners can be found on the Department’s Web site.

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NASSP joined forces with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) to send a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations subcommittees outlining our organizations priorities as they prepare a Labor-HHS spending bill.  The Labor-HHS appropriations bill will be part of a larger bill to fund government programs that Congress must pass by January 15 in order to avoid another government shutdown.  Read the letter here.

Congressional staff will be working over the next few weeks to finalize all of the appropriations bills.  We are anticipating that the omnibus spending bill will be released the week of January 6.  Keep checking the Principals Policy Blog and follow the NASSP Government Relations staff on twitter at @akarhuse and @balljacki for the latest updates.

 

Wednesday evening, December 18, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act with a bipartisan vote of 64- 36.  All 53 Democrats, 2 Independents and 9 Republicans – Senators Susan Collins (ME), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Orrin Hatch (UT), John Hoeven (ND), Johnny Isakson (GA), Ron Johnson (WI), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH) – voted in support of the bill.

The deal now goes to the President for his signature.  While many are cheering over the passing of the legislation, Congress’ work is not done.  This is just the beginning.  Now, Congress must produce an omnibus spending bill that combines all federal appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2014 under the new spending levels that were established in the Bipartisan Budget Act.  This all must be completed by January 15, 2014 when the current funding mechanism, the FY 2014 Continuing Resolution (CR) runs out.

We will be closely following this process and advocating to ensure several key investments in education that are important to middle level and high school leaders are funded at the highest levels possible in the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill.  Our major priorities include:  Title I, IDEA, the School Leadership Program, Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, and the Career and Technical Education State Grants.

Keep up to date with the latest developments on the FY 2014 budget here on the Principals Policy Blog and by following Amanda Karhuse and Jacki Ball on twitter at @akarhuse and @balljacki respectively.

Happy Holidays and here’s to more bipartisanship in the House and Senate in 2014!

 

As the self-imposed deadline of December 13 approached for Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R- WI) to reach an agreement, the two announced the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 on December 10 which will replace $63 billion of sequester cuts over two years, evenly divided between defense and non-defense programs.

This deal will replace 87% of the fiscal year 2013 non-defense discretionary (NDD) sequester cuts in fiscal year 2014.   Non-defense discretionary funding is the category of the federal budget that covers almost all domestic federal programs, including investments in education.  For fiscal year 2015, the deal replaces $18 billion of sequestration cuts and raises the NDD spending cap slightly to $492.5 billion.

The Bipartisan Budget Act will be considered first by the House of Representatives then the Senate.  It is expected to be voted on the in the House on Friday, then the Senate early next week.  If the bill is signed into law, the various appropriations committees will be able to generate spending bills under the new levels before the expiration of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) which expires on January 15.

“We are generally pleased,” Joel Packer, Executive Director of the Committee for Education (CEF) said. “While not what we ideally hoped for, which was a complete replacement of the entire sequester for the remaining eight years, this deal does stop the cuts.”  CEF is a coalition of 112 national education organizations and institutions of which NASSP is a member, who lobbies on behalf of increased investments in education.

The next important juncture for education funding will come with the top line spending level provided to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee which funds a vast majority of education programs including Title I, IDEA and the school leadership program which NASSP closely tracks.  Stay up to date with the latest on the federal budget and education policy here on the Principals’ Policy Blog and by following Amanda and Jacki on twitter at @akarhuse and @balljacki.