Weekly Federal Education Policy Update

On June 13, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston

Announcements

Senator Introduces Two Bills With Full NASSP Support

Graduation Promise Act:

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) this week has reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act, a bill to provide grants to States to improve high schools and raise graduation rates while ensuring rigorous standards, to develop and implement effective school models for struggling students and dropouts, and to improve State policies to raise graduation rates, and for other purposes. The House complement to this bill is Rep. Ruben Hinojosa’s (D-TX) bill (H.R. 778) introduced in February. Read the summary of the House bill here.

ATTAIN Act:

Sen. Bingaman introduced this week another bill that NASSP strongly supports, the ATTAIN Act (S. 1178). “The legislation introduced today will foster the expansion of online and blended learning and promote technology initiatives that lead to personalized, rigorous and relevant learning. The bill also will spur efforts to increase education productivity and reduce costs through the use of technology. By prioritizing funding to enhance technology integration, professional development and leadership, the legislation supports school districts’ capacity to implement online common core assessments in 2014.”

Obama Establishes White House Rural Council:

On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. Chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the council will be responsible for making recommendations for investment in rural areas and coordinate federal engagement with a variety of rural stakeholders, including state, local, and tribal governments. In the coming months, the council will focus on job creation and economic development by increasing the flow of capital to rural areas, promoting innovation, expanding digital and physical networks, and celebrating opportunity through America’s natural resources. For more information, visit www.ed.gov.

Education Hearings:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a Full Committee Hearing this past Tuesday: Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges. Go here to watch the webcast and read the testimonies. On Thursday, the Senate HELP Children and Families Subcommittee held a hearing: Getting the Most Bang for the Buck: Quality Early Education and Care. Go here to watch the webcast and read the testimonies.

Debt Ceiling/Deficit Reduction:

Last week, the House rejected HR 1954, a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion (the amount needed through the end of 2012). It failed by 97 – 318. House Republican leadership staged this vote to give their members the opportunity to officially register their opposition to raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts (all Republicans voted no) as well as to demonstrate that a clean debt ceiling bill can’t pass without spending cuts. Democrats split with 97 voting yes, 82 voting no and 7 voting present. It is rumored that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to hold a similar vote soon in the Senate to show that there is also no support in the Senate on raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts. We’ll keep you posted on this.

FY ’12 Budget and Appropriations News:

White House Budget Call: Vice-president’s Biden Chief of Staff Bruce Reed this afternoon had a call with external organizations to discuss the debt ceiling/deficit reduction situation. He said the goal is to achieve $1 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years. The talks have been productive, but Congress probably won’t act on the deal until mid-July.

On cuts to discretionary domestic programs, he said the Administration went as far it was comfortable going in the final year-long Continuing Resolution. Cuts below those levels would be difficult if not impossible. One of the Administration’s highest priorities is not to cut discretionary spending to the bone. Mr. Reed said the Administration is not going to reduce the amount of money that goes to education and indeed it is quite the opposite. They will not agree to deep cuts to education for deficit reduction. When asked again about appropriations he said that there will likely be intense battles in September on appropriations levels for specific programs.

NAEP Results in U.S. History Forthcoming
On June 14, NCES will release results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. history. For more information, visit http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.

News

More Hispanic Students Completing High School

Recent Census data shows us that a higher percentage of young Hispanic adults is finishing high school and the number attending a two-year college has nearly doubled in the last decade. “It’s an amazing level of growth,” said Kurt Bauman, the chief of the Census Bureau’s education branch. Read more.

Broad Superintendents Draw Increased Criticism

Established by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, the Broad Superintendents Academy recruits leaders from inside and outside education to undergo rigorous training with the goal that they become superintendents of a third of the country’s 75 largest school districts. The Academy has come under recent scrutiny due to criticisms of stakeholders in some of these districts with Broad alumni whom some feel have done more harm than good. One such critic is Sharon Higgins, who endured three Broad-trained superintendents pass quickly through her Oakland, CA district. “She said she grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” forced out. She contends in her blog that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard for parent and teacher concerns.” Read more.

New Jersey Governor Wants to Invite Management Companies to Run “Transformation” Schools

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is proposing a strategy that has seen mixed results in Philadelphia schools: allowing non-profit and for-profit management companies to take over persistently failing schools. Read more.

Research

Lessons From High Performing Nations

From the Department of Education’s Biweekly newsletter: Improving Teacher Quality Around the World,” a report authored by Asia Society’s Senior Advisor for Education Vivien Stewart on behalf of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession’s partner organizations, discusses lessons shared during the two-day event held in New York City in March. The summit marked the first-ever convening of education ministers, teachers, and union leaders from high-performing and rapidly improving countries and regions. Discussions were framed around four overarching themes: teacher recruitment and preparation; development, support, and retention of teachers; teacher evaluation and compensation; and teacher engagement in reform. “The report concludes that achieving consistency in teaching quality has become central to the agenda of every country,” said Stewart. “To make progress, governments and teachers organizations will need to work together — as they did at this summit — to invent a new vision for the teaching profession.” Plans are already underway to convene a second international summit in spring 2012. For more information, please visit www.ed.gov/news/press-releases.

Resources

Tools For Higher Education

From the Department of Education’s Biweekly newsletter: Continuing its commitment to postsecondary institutions and students, the Department announced tools to help schools raise their performance to better serve students. First, it is providing institutions with guidance on tuition-free trial periods, which give students the chance to see if a program is right for them before they commit financially (http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1112.html). A letter to schools describes trial periods and explains how federal student aid eligibility will work. Second, it is creating and implementing a pilot program on lower loan limits (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-offers-guidance-schools-tuition-free-trial-periods-help-students-deci). This pilot program will allow selected schools to test alternative methods of administering federal student aid by providing waivers for specific student aid requirements. Third, it is accepting proposals from guaranty agencies that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program to enter into Voluntary Flexible Agreements, or VFAs, with the Secretary (http://ifap.ed.gov/fregisters/FR053111FFEL.html). The VFAs will improve services to students, schools, and lenders; use federal resources more cost-effectively and efficiently; and enhance the integrity and stability of the FFEL program.

Guide To Form Partnerships Between Government Agencies and Faith-Based and Community Organizations

Last month, at the launch of a series of “Connecting Communities for the Common Good” meetings around the country, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released a comprehensive partnership guide. This guide (http://www.hhs.gov/partnerships/resources/partnerships_toolkit.pdf) provides interested faith-based and community organizations with information about opportunities to form partnerships across government, on issues like housing, job creation, summer meal programs, responsible fatherhood, and disaster response. The Department’s own Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is participating in the series, leading workshop sessions on how community organizations can strengthen education partnerships.

NASSP Applauds Reintroduction of Ed Tech Bill

On June 10, 2011, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

Reiterating our support for the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, NASSP and ten other national education organizations issued a press release yesterday thanking Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) for his reintroduction of the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation or “ATTAIN” Act (S. 1178).

“The legislation introduced today will foster the expansion of online and blended learning and promote technology initiatives that lead to personalized, rigorous and relevant learning. The bill also will spur efforts to increase education productivity and reduce costs through the use of technology. By prioritizing funding to enhance technology integration, professional development and leadership, the legislation supports school districts’ capacity to implement online common core assessments in 2014.”

The ATTAIN Act would reauthorize the EETT program at $1 billion for formula grants to states to administer education technology initiatives. States would also allot subgrants to school districts to ensure that school leaders and teachers are technology literate and to support the personalization of student learning through the use of technology.

After getting a huge boost in funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the EETT program received only $100 million in FY 2010 and was eliminated in FY 2011. In addition, the Obama administration’s FY 2012 budget request would consolidate the program into the larger category of “Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education.” The EETT program was also eliminated in the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891), which the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved last month.

NASSP strongly supports the EETT program, which helps states and districts build their capacity to keep pace with the increasing demands in the instructional use of technology. We and the other groups endorsing the ATTAIN Act also advocate for “the meaningful infusion of technology throughout the reauthorization of the ESEA to provide educators and local leaders the flexibility to leverage technology to meet all federal program goals and requirements.”

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