Months after their bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was pulled from the floor due to a lack of votes, the House squeaked through final passage of the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) in a 218-213 vote on July 8. If enacted, the bill would replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act as the law governing elementary, middle, and high schools.
“For too long, Washington’s priorities have outweighed what parents, teachers, and local leaders know is best for their children,” said House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) in a press release about the bill’s passage. “Today, we took an important step in a bold, new direction. After years of working with education stakeholders and members of Congress, I’m pleased the House has advanced responsible reforms that would give the American people what they deserve: a commonsense law that will help every child in every school receive an excellent education.”
Before the final vote, the House considered a series of amendments, including one offered by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) to add the A Plus Act to the bill. NASSP strongly opposed this proposal, which would have consolidated a number of federal programs into a block grant and allowed states to direct the funding to any purpose under state law. Fortunately, the amendment was defeated in a 195-235 vote.
The House approved the following amendments before final passage:
- An amendment by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to allow parents to opt their students out of the testing requirements under the bill and exempt schools from including those students in their 95 percent participation requirement (approved 251-178)
- An amendment by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) to have the bill’s authorization expire in FY 2019 instead of FY 2021 (approved by voice vote)
- An amendment by Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA) to authorize a competitive grant for the implementation and evaluation of technology-based learning practices, strategies, tools, or programs in rural schools (approved 218-213)
- An amendment by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to allow states to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards Initiative (approved 373-57)
- An amendment by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) to express the sense of Congress that students’ personally identifiable information is important to protect (approved 424-2)
House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) offered a substitute amendment that would have totally replaced the text of H.R. 5 with his own proposal, but that amendment failed on a 187-244 vote. Democrats also offered a motion to recommit, which is a parliamentary maneuver to allow those opposed to the bill to further voice their concerns. That motion also was defeated by a vote of 185-244.
NASSP, in collaboration with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), had formally opposed H.R. 5 when the bill was first considered in February. While we are pleased that the bill would eliminate adequate yearly progress and the 100 proficiency requirements in NCLB, remove the unworkable school turnaround models in the School Improvement Grants program, and cap the amount of Title II funds that may be used for class size reduction, we feel that the bad outweighs the good. In our letter to Chairman Kline, we expressed concern about the authorization levels in the bill for Title I; a proposal to make Title I portable; the lack of mandatory funding for professional development; and no additional resources for middle and high schools, literacy, or education technology.
All eyes now turn to the Senate, which began debate on its ESEA reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), on July 7. The bill had been introduced as a bipartisan bill after a unanimous vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on April 23.
Over the past three days, the Senate has considered a number of amendments with many more expected to be filed before final passage, which is expected early next week. In a big win for public schools, the Senate rejected, 45-52, an amendment offered by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would have authorized a $24 billion private school voucher program by eliminating numerous programs authorized under ESEA. The Senate also rejected the A Plus amendment offered by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) by a vote of 44-54.
Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus
In Conjunction with
Alliance for Excellent Education
Association for Middle Level Education
National Association of Elementary School Principals
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform
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A SPECIAL BRIEFING
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015
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385 Russell Senate Office Building
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2014 Virginia Outstanding Middle School Principal of Year
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Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, tens of thousands of students across the country have opted out of federally mandated assessments. The opt-out movement has become a way for parents and students to protest the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as well as the overabundance of testing in schools.
One of the key provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law requires school districts to maintain a 95 percent assessment participation rate. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently told states they risk losing federal funds if they fall below 95 percent compliance. This could have major implications for low-income and rural school districts that rely heavily on federal funding to hire staff, upgrade schools, and incorporate new programs.
On May 15, 2015, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Tom Reed (R-NY) announced the introduction of The Enable More Parents to Opt-Out Without Endangering Resources Act (H.R. 2382), which would guarantee parents the right to opt out of assessments. The EMPOWER Act would prevent the federal government from punishing states that fall below the 95 percent compliance rate and would allow parents to opt their child out of an assessment for any reason. The National Education Association (NEA) has already endorsed the EMPOWER Act and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) signed on as an original co-sponsor. As the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process moves forward, debates over opting out, as well as the proper role of assessments, are expected to continue and could potentially derail the entire process.
The high-stakes testing culture originated from the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) provision of NCLB that placed heavy emphasis on testing and labeled schools based on assessment performance. Each label was accompanied with a list of consequences that provided states with recommendations for improving the schools that failed to meet AYP. In many cases, these labels led to the firing of teachers and school administrators, school closings, or turnaround efforts led by charter school networks. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education started granting states NCLB flexibility waivers in exchange for increased standards, improved accountability, and teacher improvement efforts. While many of the states that received waivers were no longer required to meet AYP requirements, testing in schools continued to increase as accountability and teacher evaluation initiatives progressed.
This April, JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) wrote a letter to parents in response to the opt-out movement. In this letter, Executive Director Bartoletti acknowledges NCLB has created a culture of over testing and sympathizes with parents who have children taking monthly standardized tests. At the same time, she discusses the major implications reduced federal funding could have on state education budgets and tells parents opting out could ultimately reduce educational opportunities for their children.
In addition to advocating for reducing the reliance on assessments, NASSP will continue to support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as well as next generation assessments that measure what students actually need to be college and career ready.
As we reported in a blog post earlier this month, student data privacy continues to be a hot topic on Capitol Hill with a whopping five legislative proposals in circulation. While earlier bills focused on education technology companies and their use of student data, the new proposals would reauthorize the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and have a great impact on principals and how they run their schools.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) released a discussion draft to totally rewrite FERPA in early April. The draft would grant parents the right to inspect and review their children’s education records and require educators to grant requests within 30 days. Educational agencies would be prohibited from releasing education records or personally identifiable information (PII) of students without written consent of their parents with few exceptions. Unidentifiable student data could be released for the purpose of education research, but the draft proposes a requirement that parents be notified of the studies and be given a reasonable amount of time to opt out. Educational agencies would be required to establish policies and procedures to protect the education records, and the draft proposes fines of $2,000 per student if there are violations. The draft would also prohibit marketing and advertising directly to students based on any information collected from education records.
NASSP and a number of other national education organizations submitted informal comments to Kline and Scott in which we outlined concerns with the discussion draft. We offered recommendations to support capacity building for educators at the state, district, and school levels; require parents to access and review their child’s education records only through their local school or district; clarify how educators should notify parents about new operator contracts; and ensure that schools, districts, and states do not have to disclose information that could open up their secure data systems to hackers.
On May 13, Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reintroduced the Protecting Student Privacy Act (S. 1322), which had first been introduced in 2014. The bill would amend FERPA to ensure that educational agencies implement information security policies and procedures that protect PII included in education records and require any outside party with access to student data to have a comprehensive security program designed to protect PII.
The following day, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Student Privacy Protection Act (S. 1341), which would ensure that parents and students retain control of their education records. While the text is not yet available, a summary on his website says the bill would:
- Reinstate protections originally outlined under FERPA by clarifying who can access student data and what information is accessible.
- Require educational agencies to gain prior consent from students or parents and implement measures to ensure records remain private.
- Extend FERPA’s protections to ensure records of homeschooled students are treated equally.
- Prohibit educational agencies, schools, and the US Secretary of Education from including PII obtained from federal or state agencies through data matches in student data.
NASSP will continue to review all of the legislative proposals and meet with congressional staff to ensure they include the policy recommendations approved by our Board of Directors in February 2015.
As the use of digital technology rises in schools, so does the concern about the security of student data. Numerous state bills have been introduced and passed in the past few years, but now Congress is starting to examine a federal response and NASSP has been at the table for these discussions. Our objective is aligned to the position statement approved by the Board of Directors in February 2015: to ensure the protection of student privacy and appropriate use of student data to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.
On April 29, Reps. Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act (H.R. 2092), which mandates what education technology vendors can and cannot do with student data. The bill would require operators to disclose publicly and directly to K–12 schools the types of information being collected and how that information will be used. Operators would have to establish and maintain strong security procedures to prevent data breaches and notification policies in the event of a data breach. Operators would also be prohibited from allowing targeted advertising or selling a student’s information to a third party.
NASSP participated in a number of meetings and conference calls with staff for Reps. Polis and Messer as they drafted the bill and is pleased that they considered our input in the final version. We joined 10 other national education organizations in sending a letter of endorsement for H.R. 2092 because it “strikes a good balance between protecting student privacy and promoting personalized learning informed by data and powered by educational technology.” We are also pleased that the bill would not place an undue burden on schools, principals, or teachers and give them confidence about the digital tools used in the classroom.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has also announced that he is working on draft legislation related to student data privacy. Similar to the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, the bill would focus on the data collected by education technology vendors, but there will be some differences from the House bill. According to Politico, the bill will give parents more control over their child’s data, add early childhood education, and include “strong enforcement tools and robust regulatory language.”
Also of interest to school leaders, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-CA) released a discussion draft for reauthorization of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). NASSP and other national education organizations met with committee staff last week and will likely work together to draft comments on the proposal. At first glance, we are very concerned that the discussion draft is silent on the need to build educator capacity. NASSP recommends that states and districts should provide teachers and principals with specialized training on student data privacy issues that will help them comply with FERPA and other state laws or regulations.
Earlier this week, NASSP joined 17 other national organizations in releasing The Federal Role in Safeguarding Student Data. The document outlines three potential areas for federal action on this issue:
- Ensure that federal laws provide a strong foundation to protect student information in a constantly changing and increasingly digital school environment.
- Ensure that the federal government coordinates across agencies to provide clarity to those on the ground as to how privacy laws work together.
- Support state and local capacity to safeguard data.
NASSP will continue to work closely with our coalition of national education organizations as these proposals move forward. Be sure to visit the Principal’s Policy Blog for regular updates.
On April 16, President Obama signed the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law. Included in this legislation is a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. This law, which was enacted after rural communities were devastated by logging industry regulations, requires that 15 to 20 percent of the United States Forest Service’s county payments be used for specific purposes. These purposes include supporting or expanding rural schools, improving roads in rural communities, increasing public safety, or developing special projects on federal lands.
While Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill that would extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act for three years, this two-year reauthorization will have a major impact on funding and development in rural communities across the country.
In addition to the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, NASSP is also keeping a close eye on the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations process for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. Specifically, NASSP will be monitoring funding levels for the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP), which provides formula grants to small and low-income schools in rural areas through the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program and the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program. This program remains in Title VI of the Every Child Achieves Act and would allow for dually eligible districts to choose which program they would like to apply for funding, which is not allowed under current law.
As ESEA reauthorization and the Appropriations process move forward, NASSP will continue monitoring resource distribution in rural communities.
After two days of debate and consideration of nearly 90 amendments, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in a historic, 22-0, vote on April 16. The Every Child Achieves Act was the end result of weeks of bipartisan negotiations between Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and their leadership was evident throughout the cordial committee debate.
NASSP was pleased that the first amendment approved by committee would authorize a competitive grant for states and districts to audit their assessment systems, including the number of tests and the time spent on test-taking, in order to reduce redundant or unnecessary state and district assessments. The amendment was based on the SMART Act (S. 907) and introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who also sponsored the bill.
Another amendment strongly supported by NASSP would authorize the Innovative Technology Expands Children’s Horizons (I-TECH) program to provide technology-specific professional development for teachers to compliment the acquisition of infrastructure and hardware in the classroom. Districts would be required to spend 50% of the grant funds on professional development related to digital learning. The amendment was based on the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act and introduced by Sen. Baldwin who also sponsored the bill.
Other amendments supported by NASSP that passed would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program and require state, local and school report cards to include information on the number of students attaining career and technical education proficiencies.
NASSP also supported a number of amendments that were offered, but then withdrawn, pertaining to middle schools, high school redesign, the definition of profession-ready teachers and principals, and nondiscrimination of LGBT students. Our hope is that the sponsors of those amendments will be able to find Republican cosponsors and then offer them again on the Senate floor.
Controversial amendments, such as those pertaining to Title I portability and private school vouchers, were also withdrawn, but Senators Alexander and Tim Scott (R-SC) both indicated that they would introduce them on the Senate floor.
Alexander announced his hope that the full Senate would consider the Every Child Achieves Act before Memorial Day. The floor debate is expected to be much more contentious since there will be an open amendment process that allows Senators to offer any amendment related to K-12 education, which could cause some Democrats to oppose the bill in the end.