Although Congress made great strides this summer towards a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), policy analysts and educators alike are pessimistic about a final bill being passed before the end of 2014. And since most states will see their flexibility waivers expire at about that same time, the US Department of Education announced in August that those 34 states and the District of Columbia will be able to request renewals through 2016.

“America’s most sweeping education law—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind—is outmoded and constrains state and district efforts for innovation and reform. The smartest way to fix that is through a reauthorized ESEA law, but Congress has not agreed on a responsible bill,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Therefore the federal government has worked with states to develop waiver agreements that unleash local leaders’ energy for change and ensure equity, protect the most vulnerable students, and encourage standards that keep America competitive. The waiver renewal process announced today will support states in continuing positive change and ensuring all children receive a high-quality education—but I look forward to a day when we can announce a new ESEA law that supports every state.”

States seeking renewal of ESEA flexibility must submit an updated flexibility request describing how they will continue to meet the four principles outlined in the original waivers and demonstrate how the waivers have been effective in contributing to improved student achievement. ED is requesting states to submit a letter of intent to request a renewal of ESEA flexibility by December 15, 2013, and all requests must be submitted no later than February 21, 2014.

States must assure their continued commitment to implementing college and career-ready standards and describe how they are monitoring and supporting effective implementation of the standards. States are specifically required to provide all teachers and principals with “appropriate resources and support,” including professional development on the new standards. States must also reaffirm their commitment to develop and administer assessments aligned to the new standards no later than the 2014-2015 school year. They can do this by assuring their membership in one of the two Race to the Top assessment consortia or by administering their own statewide assessments.

States must provide a high-quality plan for implementation of interventions aligned with the turnaround principles in priority schools in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, including a description of how they will identify future cohorts of priority schools. They must also describe how they will increase the rigor of interventions and supports in schools that were previously identified as priority schools that are still low-performing.

States must demonstrate that they are “on track” for full implementation of their teacher and principal evaluation and support systems no later than the 2014-2015 school year. Their implementation plans must include information on when data from the systems will be collected, publicly reported and incorporated into ratings, when ratings will be given to teachers and principals, when ratings will be used to guide professional development, and when ratings will be used to make personnel decisions. States must also describe how they will ensure that poor and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, ineffective, or out-of-field
teachers.

If a state’s request for flexibility is not renewed, schools will be required to resume complying with all of the requirements under No Child Left Behind, including making adequate yearly progress determinations based on assessments given during the 2013-2014 school year, identifying schools for improvement, and paying for supplemental educational services and transportation for public school choice as required under Title I.

Visit the Department’s Web site for more information.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act

While there seemed to be little optimism at the beginning of the year that the 113th Congress would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the month of June saw a LOT of activity of the issue.

Bipartisan negotiations on ESEA failed in the spring, so the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House education committees went their separate ways. At one point, four separate proposals were floating around Capitol Hill, but ultimately a Democratic proposal passed on the Senate side and a Republican proposal passed on the House side.

NASSP staff has heard that the full House may consider its legislation the week of July 15, but timing for Senate action is uncertain (No Child Left Behind was debated on the Senate floor for over 2 ½ weeks in 2001!). Even if both chambers are able to pass their respective proposals, it seems unlikely that a conference committee will be able to work on the differences in the two bills before the end of the 113th Congress. What seems to be a more likely scenario is that the US Department of Education will issue a proposal for states to renew their ESEA flexibility waivers in 2014.

As the ESEA proposals were being drafted, NASSP participated in a number of joint meetings with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and key congressional staff. Offices being visited this quarter include: Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).

NASSP and NAESP also drafted joint letters to the leaders of the Senate and House education committees outlining our position on key issues for elementary, middle level and high school principals:

 

Summary of Senate ESEA Bill

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation (S. 1094) on June 4 to reauthorize ESEA. Dropping the No Child Left Behind moniker, the bill is called the Strengthening American Schools Act and “provides a framework to get all children to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and/or a career” according to a bill summary.

The bill appropriately addresses the education reforms 37 states have adopted in order to receive an ESEA flexibility waiver from the US Department of Education. Those states would be able to maintain their newly adopted college and career-ready standards, accountability systems, and teacher and principal evaluation systems.

Title I

In order to receive Title I funding under the bill, states must adopt college and career ready student academic achievement standards and assessments in reading or language arts and mathematics by the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The new assessments should measure the individual academic achievement of each student and student academic growth, including a measurement of the number of years of academic growth each student attains each year. The assessments would also produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports that allow parents, teachers, and principals to understand and address the specific academic needs of students.

States must also adopt new science standards by December 31, 2014, but they would not be required to use the new standards in their accountability systems. They would also be required to adopt new high-quality English language proficiency standards by December 31, 2015.

All references to adequate yearly progress (AYP) are removed from the bill. Instead, states must demonstrate that they have developed a single, statewide accountability system that annually measures and reports on the achievement and growth of all students, establishes ambitious and achievable annual performance targets, and annually identifies schools that need supports and interventions to prepare college and career ready students. States would create a baseline for performance targets based on assessments given during the 2014-2015, and then they would be required to set targets in four areas: student proficiency, student academic growth, English language proficiency for English learners, and high school graduation rates.

The bill attempts to drive more Title I funding to high schools by requiring districts to use a feeder pattern to estimate the number of low-income students in high schools. The estimate would be calculated by applying the average percentage of students in low-income families of the elementary school attendance areas that feed into the high school to the number of students enrolled in such school.

Similar to the ESEA flexibility waivers, districts would be required to identify schools that are in need of locally designed interventions, that are focus schools, or that are priority schools. For each priority school, the district would conduct a needs analysis to determine the most appropriate school improvement strategies to improve student performance. Districts must also provide ongoing professional development consistent with the needs analysis and conduct regular evaluations of teachers and principals that provide specific feedback on areas of strength and in need of improvement.

For priority schools, districts must select a school improvement strategy similar to the school turnaround models under the current School Improvement Grants program. Under the Transformation and Turnaround strategies, the principal must be replaced if he or she has been in the school for more than two years. The bill includes a new Whole School Reform strategy that must be undertaken in partnership with an external provider and that is based on at least a moderate level of evidence that the program will have a statistically significant effect on student outcomes. States could also establish an alternative evidence-based school improvement strategy for priority schools with the approval of the US Department of Education.

NASSP was pleased to see that states receiving school improvement funds must develop an early warning data system that monitors school-level data and alerts schools when a student indicates slowed progress toward high school graduation. The language mirrors provisions in the Success in the Middle Act (S. 708) and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940), which we strongly support.

School Leadership

Under Title II of the bill (Supporting Teacher and Principal Excellence), states must use 2-5% of funds to support school districts in improving the performance and equitable distribution of principals and other school leaders and providing technical assistance to support the design and implementation of teacher and principal evaluation systems. Part of the technical assistance would include training for principals and other evaluators on how to evaluate teachers in order to differentiate teacher performance accurately, provide useful feedback, and use evaluation results to inform decisionmaking about professional development, improvement strategies, and personnel decisions.

NASSP was very pleased to see the bill incorporate the text of the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (S. 840), which would authorize a competitive grant program to recruit, support, and prepare principals and assistant principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools. The provision would create one-year residencies to train aspiring principals and would provide ongoing mentoring, support, and professional development for at least two years after the aspiring principals complete the residency and commence work as school leaders.

In order to receive the funding under Title II, states would have to assure the creation of a professional growth and improvement system no later than the 2015-2016 school year. For principals, the evaluation system would be based “in significant part” on evidence of improved student academic achievement and growth and evidence of providing strong instructional leadership and support to teachers and other staff. The evaluation system for principals could also include other measures of principal performance such as parent and family engagement.

While NASSP is pleased to see that the evaluation systems would be based on more than just student test scores, we would have preferred to see language similar to the report we released with the National Association of Elementary School Principals in September 2012. We recommend that evaluations should focus on six key domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence: student growth and achievement, school planning and progress, school culture, stakeholder support and engagement, professional qualities and practices, and professional growth and learning.

Unfortunately, the bill includes provisions from the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act (S. 1052) as an allowable use of funds at the state level. The provision would authorize the establishment and operation of new principal preparation academies that we feel strongly would water down current state-developed principal licensure and certification requirements, recruit principal candidates with little-to-no background in education, and provide minimal clinical experience and mentoring.

Literacy

NASSP is pleased to see the inclusion of Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758) in Senator Harkin’s bill. The “Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement” portion of Title IV will provide federal support for states and LEAs to develop or improve, and implement comprehensive literacy programs from birth to grade 12. We have been working extensively on this bill and its inclusion in an ESEA reauthorization. However, we are disappointed to see that the allocation of funding for implementation of comprehensive literacy programming at the various grade levels is less than our endorsed allocations. We have recommended that not less than 40 percent of funding for implementation be directed to grades 6 through 12. The bill allocated not less than 30 percent. We believe the 40 percent allocation is essential to support the complexity of literacy demands for middle and high school students and is necessary due to a lack of resources and funding for secondary school literacy as compared to early childhood and elementary.

Additionally, in light of the adoption and implementation of new college and career ready standards, including the Common Core State Standards across the country, a renewed focus on comprehensive literacy education is crucial and necessary for all students to be college and career ready. These more rigorous standards will require the reorientation of literacy education as a systematic progression of skills across all grades. Specifically, the CCSS will require increased text complexity and inclusion of informational text, which will require more literacy instruction and support from birth throughout all levels of education. See NASSP’s Action Brief on “Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of the Secondary School Leader” for more information on this topic.

Secondary Schools

As part of Title I, SASA establishes a competitive grant to support low-performing middle and high schools to implement innovative and effective reform strategies to increasing student achievement and graduation rates. The goal of the program is to engage students in high need and rural LEAs in rigorous course work while providing them with real-world and applicable learning opportunities. NASSP is very pleased to see that many of the provisions of this section include elements of the Success in the Middle Act (S. 708) and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940). We are especially pleased that the bill requires LEAs receiving a grant under this program to implement an early warning indicator system to help high schools and their feeder middle schools to identify struggling students and provide them with supports to help them get on track to graduate from high school college and career-ready.

Furthermore, the bill requires a significant portion of grant monies to be used on both feeder middle and high schools for personalized learning, professional development for school leaders and teachers, competency based learning, flexibility for school leaders in budgetary and staffing, and the “redesign” of academic content and instructional practices. Additionally, other strategies identified for uses under this program are improved academic and career counseling and exploration, and in-school academy models. Amplified opportunities for post-secondary credit through the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, dual enrollment, and early college high school programs are also featured strategies for secondary school improvement. Many elements of this portion of the bill closely mirror the President’s High School Redesign Program.

Lastly, to foster the “pathway to college,” SASA provides for increased access to AP and IB course work in high need schools. The bill also creates an AP & IB fee program which provides grants to states to pay all or part of the costs associated with examination fees for students. It also proposes a competitive grant program to increase the number of AP and IB teachers and course offerings in high need schools.

School Climate, Mental Health, and Non-Discrimination

In addition to the inclusion of NASSP supported legislation on school leadership and literacy, Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN), Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 1088) was also incorporated in the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (SASA). We are pleased to see additional protections to our nation’s students regardless of their sexual orientation. The bill would enhance current federal protections against discriminatory practices and ensure “effective remedies for discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Also included in Senator Harkin’s ESEA reauthorization bill are reporting requirements on elements of school climate which are a part of new accountability report cards. States and school districts would be required to report on data related to:

  • Student discipline
  • Pregnant and parenting students
  • Rates of school violence, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, in and out of school suspensions, expulsions, referrals to  law enforcement, school-based arrests, disciplinary transfers and student  detentions
  • Implementation of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS)
  • LEA implementation of school-based mental health programs

Furthermore, the bill also addresses school climate in assisting schools to “foster positive conditions for learning in public schools to increase achievement for all students.” SASA provides federal assistance to states to address the physical and mental health and well-being of students, prevent violence, harassment and other destructive behaviors, and promote safe and supportive schools.

NASSP has been active in supporting all educators to address school climate and create safe and supportive school environments for all children. In April, NASSP along with other organizations released A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which offers recommendations for improved school safety and access to mental health services for students.

NASSP and its partner organizations agree that efforts to improve school climate, safety, and student learning are not separate endeavors and must be designed, funded, and implemented as a comprehensive school-wide approach. We also caution against an emphasis on overly restrictive security measures, such as armed guards and metal detectors, which can undermine school climate and student learning.

Summary of Senate Republicans’ ESEA Proposal

Since bipartisan negotiations on legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) failed last month, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other committee Republicans introduced their own proposal to improve current law. In a stark contrast to the Democratic proposal released on June 4 at a whopping 1,100+ pages, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act streamlines most federal education programs to a mere 211 pages.

In general, the purpose of the bill is to reduce the federal footprint in education policy and “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals, Governors, and local communities so that they can improve their local public schools.” To do so, the legislation would prohibit the US Department of Education from issuing regulations to prescribe standards or measures that states and districts would use to establish state standards, assessments, accountability systems, systems that measure student growth, measures of other academic indicators, or teacher or principal evaluation systems.

In order to receive Title I funding, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted “challenging” academic content standards and student academic achievement standards in math, reading or language arts, and science, and implemented “high-quality” yearly student academic assessments that will be used as the primary means of determining the performance of schools. The assessments should involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding. In a move away from the Democratic proposal, the bill would continue to allow states to assess students with disabilities based on modified academic achievement standards.

States must also assure that they have developed and are implementing a single, statewide accountability system “to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.” The system should annually identify and differentiate all public schools in the state, taking into consideration achievement gaps between student subgroups, overall performance of all students, and high school graduation rates.

The system should also identify schools that are in need of strategies for improving student academic achievement and provide assistance to districts to develop and implement appropriate strategies for improving identified schools. Districts would be required to develop assistance strategies, which may include:

  • Replacing the principal who led the school before implementation of the strategy;
  • Screening and replacing teachers who are not effective in improving student achievement;
  • Giving the school sufficient operational flexibility in programming, staffing, budgeting, and scheduling;
  • Providing ongoing, high-quality professional development to instructional staff;
  • Creating incentives for recruiting and retaining staff with the skills that are necessary to meet the needs of the students in the school;
  • Implementing a research-based instructional program aligned with the state’s challenging academic standards;
  • Converting the school to a charter school;
  • Closing the school and enrolling the students in other schools that are higher performing;
  • Adopting a new governance structure for the school; or
  • Developing other strategies that the district deems appropriate to address the needs of students in identified schools.

Just over $3 billion would be authorized for Title II, and the allowable state activities look very similar to current law with regard to school leaders: reforming principal certification and licensure so that principals have the instructional leadership skills to help students meet challenging state standards, developing and improving evaluation systems that “shall be based in significant part on evidence of student growth,” establishing alternative routes to the principalship, developing new principal induction and mentoring programs, implementing high-quality professional development programs for principals, and supporting efforts to train principals to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction. In order to receive a subgrant from states, districts must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to determine the schools with the most acute staffing needs.

Similar to the bill passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in 2012, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act aims to provide states and districts with maximum flexibility in using federal funds. Essentially, all programs not included in Titles I or II would be consolidated into two block grants, and funding would be allocated to districts based on the results of a comprehensive needs assessment. Unfortunately, this would include a number of programs NASSP members deem essential in their schools, including School Leadership, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, education technology, school counseling, and mental health and bullying prevention programs.

The legislation would also eliminate Maintenance of Effort (MoE), which helps ensure the continuity of state and local funding efforts. Current MoE provisions provide the greatest protection to low-wealth districts that generally educate more low-income students. We’re concerned that if states are allowed to cut funding for education, the most vulnerable districts, serving the neediest students, could be hurt disproportionately.

Senate HELP Committee Markup

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee spent two days debating a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Strengthen America Schools Act (S. 1094), which would overhaul what is currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), ultimately passed on June 12 by a party-line vote of 12-10. All Democrats on the committee approved the bill and all Republicans opposed it.

“What I think we all recognize is that it is time to update the law to ensure that every child in this nation receives a great education,” said Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) during his opening remarks. “This is a matter of basic fairness, and is critical to America’s economic strength in the competitive global marketplace.”

Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered the text of the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act (S. 1101) as a substitute amendment, but it failed on a party-line vote after nearly 90 minutes of debate about the appropriate federal role in education. To demonstrate their opinion that the Democratic proposal would diminish the responsibility of states and districts, Republican members often referred to the bill as “NCLB on steroids,” and stated their opposition to the creation of a “national school board.” Sen. Alexander argued that his proposal “places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be–on states and communities, and it does that by giving teachers and parents more freedom, flexibility, and choice.”

When the substitute amendment was defeated, Republican members offered certain provisions of S. 1101 as amendments. They included proposals to remove all new programs in the bill, reduce the requirements on statewide accountability systems, remove the “highly qualified teacher” requirement under NCLB and mandatory teacher and principal evaluation requirements, roll back the Common Core State Standards, lift the cap on alternate and modified assessments for students with disabilities, remove the comparability requirement for Title I funding, allow parents to use public funds to send their children to private schools, and eliminate the Race to the Top program among others. None of the Republican amendments were approved during the markup except for one offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to support the Alaska Native Educational Equity program.

A number of Democratic amendments were approved during the markup, including these supported by NASSP

  • an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to create a new report-only subgroup for students from military families
  • an amendment by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) to require extended learning time as part of the Turnaround and Transformation school improvement strategies;
  • an amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to encourage dual enrollment and early college high school programs in ESEA; and

NASSP was disappointed that the committee rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) that would have created an Office of Rural Education at the US Department of Education. We have long supported a bill (S. 1096) by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) with the same purpose.

Chairman Harkin says that he has received approval from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring the bill to the Senate floor when there is time on the calendar, but it remains unclear where the bill will go from there.

Summary of House ESEA Bill

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.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Markup

If they keep records for the fastest hearing, I think Wednesday’s House Committee on Education and the Workforce markup on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, wins first prize! The Committee held a morning session from 9:00am until 10:45am where they discussed the competing proposals from Chairman Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Miller (D-CA). The Committee reconvened after the unveiling of the Fredrick Douglass statue in the Capitol at 12:15pm and finished at 1:15pm with three votes.

The Student Success Act was reported favorably out of the Committee on a party line vote, with all Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposed. The hearing did not produce any spirited debate as everyone in the room knew what the outcome would be. The only amendments offered where Ranking Member Miller’s substitute, Rep. Joe Heck’s (R-NV) amendment that would allow local school districts to expand dual enrollment and early college programs using Title I, II and III dollars to do so, and Rep. Glenn Thompson’s (R-PA) amendment to alter the Title I formula which shortchanges some districts.

Both Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Miller both expressed their desire to work with Rep. Thompson on this issue, and he respectfully withdrew his amendment. Rep. Heck’s amendment was approved on a voice vote and Rep. Miller’s substitute was voted down on a party line vote.

NASSP, along with NAESP, responded to both Chairman Kline’s Student Success Act and Rep. Miller’s substitute amendment in letters to each member.

ESEA Flexibility Waivers

Currently, thirty-nine states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and six states’ requests are still outstanding: Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming. And while California was denied its request for a waiver, 10 California school districts have applied for a customized waiver. Four states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Vermont.

 

FY 2014 Budget & Appropriations

FY 2014 Budget

On April 10, President Obama released his FY14 budget proposal, which seeks an increase of $3.1 billion over last year’s pre-sequester enacted level. In K-12 education, the president proposed increased funding for school leadership and competitive grant programs.

Signaling a renewed focus on the principalship, the president requested $98 million for the School Leadership program—a dramatic increase over previous levels. As Secretary Duncan stated in his testimony to the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, “This proposal would promote evidence-based professional development for current school leaders aimed at strengthening essential leadership skills—such as evaluating and providing feedback to teachers, analyzing student data, developing school leadership teams, and creating a positive school climate.”

Outside of that increase, nearly all of the president’s newly proposed K–12 education funding is for competitive grant programs, including the proposed High School Redesign program. The president requested $300 million to promote the whole school redesign of the high school experience to provide students with challenging and relevant academic and career-related learning to prepare them for postsecondary education and careers. Under the proposed program, special consideration would be given to partnerships located in areas with limited access to quality career and college opportunities such as high-poverty or rural LEAs. As NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti said in a statement on the budget proposal, “We welcome the president to the conversation about high school redesign, and we commit to helping the administration make the most of its proposed investment.”

At the same time, NASSP remains concerned that funds are being directed toward competitive grant programs at the expense of foundational formula-funded programs. The president requested that funding for Title I and IDEA—two core formula funded programs—be frozen at FY12 levels. The NASSP Board of Directors recently noted in a position statement that, “Federal funding should help achieve equity, not exacerbate inequity. For this reason, competitive grants that by nature award only some, not all, eligible entities, should be authorized and implemented only when Congress identifies an opportunity to help achieve equity through the form of a competitive grant.”

The president’s budget also included a reduction in Impact Aid from FY12 levels and the consolidation of several important programs. Striving Readers and the High School Graduation Initiative are proposed to be consolidated into broader programming entities. Unfortunately, consolidating programs, including some with different goals, will pit them against each other in competition for funding.

Typically, the president’s budget provides the framework for the congressional budget process, but since both houses have already produced their budget resolutions, it will be interesting to see how the president’s proposal influences the appropriations process.

NASSP staff and representatives from the Alliance for Excellent Education met with congressional staff in April to discuss the Obama administration’s proposal for high school redesign. Offices being visited this quarter include: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). In May, NASSP staff met with staff for the House Budget Committee to discuss “backpack funding.”

FY 2014 Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill for FY 2014 on July 11. No date has yet been scheduled for the House Appropriations Committee, but rumors are already flying on Capitol Hill that Congress will not be able to complete all 12 appropriations bills before the new fiscal year starts on October 1, 2013. Insiders are speculating that Congress will instead pass a year-long continuing resolution funding most education programs at their current FY 2013 levels.

NASSP staff and members of the Committee for Education Funding met with staff for Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) in June to discuss funding and federal investments in education.

 

Common Core State Standards

In May, NASSP joined with NAESP, AASA: the School Superintendents’ Association, and the National School Boards Association to urge “adequate time” for CCSS implementation before scores from the assessments are used for accountability purposes. Specifically, our organizations call for a delay in invoking penalties and sanctions related to test scores on schools, principals, and teachers until we have had at least two years of experience with the assessments.

http://www.nassp.org/tabid/3788/default.aspx?topic=School_Leadership_Groups_Urge_quot_Adequate_Time_quot_to_Implement_Common_Core_Standards

Less than a month after issuing our statement, the US Department of Education announced that states could request additional flexibility under ESEA to delay any personnel consequences for teachers and principals tied to the new Common Core assessments for up to one year, until 2016-17.

http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/06/new-flexibility-for-states-implementing-fast-moving-reforms-laying-out-our-thinking/

 

School Safety

In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, NASSP has been actively meeting with White House officials and members of Congress to share our recommendations on gun violence prevention and other school safety issues.

National Conference on Mental Health

On June 3, NASSP staff participated in the National Conference on Mental Health that was hosted by the White House. The White House hosted a National Conference on Mental Health today to raise awareness about mental health issues. Attendees included representatives from education and mental health organizations, members of Congress and Cabinet members, and celebrities such as actress Glenn Close and actor Bradley Cooper.

A press statement issued by the White House said that the conference was designed to increase understanding and awareness of mental health. As part of this effort, the Administration also launched www.mentalhealth.gova new website with tools to help with the basics of mental health, the signs of mental illness, how to talk about mental health, and how to get help. The website also includes a series of videos featuring celebrities and ordinary Americans whose lives have been touched by mental illness.

In his opening remarks, President Barack Obama talked about the stigma related to mental illness, but he urged that people need to talk about mental health and get treatment in the same manner as if they were suffering from heart disease or other health conditions. The President shared the commitments of various organizations partnering on this issue and announced that secondary school principals would be holding assemblies to raise mental health awareness later this year. NASSP had urged its members to host such an event before the end of 2013, and middle and high school leaders can still express their commitment at www.nassp.org/mentalhealth.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hosted a panel session that highlighted organizations using social media and other tools to promote awareness of mental health. He said that young people must have access to mental health services in order to achieve their academic potential.

In response to a question about how schools can be more involved in promoting mental wellbeing, Duncan cited examples of schools that are serving as hubs of the community. They should be a location where students, educators, and members of the community can go if they need help and to access services. Duncan also said that the administration’s budget proposal would provide additional funding for schools to be able to hire school counselors, psychologists and social workers. He reminded attendees that Congress will need to approve the funding through the FY 2014 appropriations process in a tough budget environment, stating “we have to invest in education in a very different way.”

Vice President Joe Biden closed the conference by reminding attendees that the most vulnerable age for mental illness is between 16 and 25 and these individuals are also often the least likely to seek help. He said that all educators need training on how to recognize mental health problems in students and be able to refer them to appropriate services. His ultimate hope for the conference would be to make it clear to all Americans that there is no distinction between a mental health problem and a fiscal problem.

A Framework on Safe and Successful Schools

NASSP joined with NAESP, American School Counselor Association, National Association of School Psychologists, School Social Work Association of America, National Association of School Resource Officers in April to issue A Framework on Safe and Successful Schools which outlines policy recommendations and best practices to improve school safety and improve access to mental health supports.

 

Education Technology

ConnectEd

Principals are applauding the launch of the Obama administration’s new ConnectEd initiative to increase broadband Internet access to schools across the country over the next five years. Results of a new NASSP survey of nearly 750 middle and high school principals demonstrate that the new initiative aligns with students’ needs for improved connectivity.

Earlier today, the president called on the FCC to “modernize and leverage” its E-rate program to meet the administration’s new goal of connecting 99% of the nation’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and wireless. President Obama also called on the private sector to help support this vision.

Although more than half (63%) of the respondents in the survey said that their schools have “adequate” broadband Internet access, three-quarters (75%) strongly agreed that improved broadband access in their schools would allow students to engage in more powerful learning activities. Six in 10 principals said that their teachers are prepared to maximize the use of expanded broadband in instruction.

Among the principals surveyed, there was a strong divide between those who had adequate access in their schools and those who struggled with overloaded networks and slow connections—or even no Internet at all. Some principals said that slow Internet speeds became especially burdensome during testing, which could quickly prove problematic as the majority of the nation’s schools transition to online testing under the Common Core State Standards.

“Broadband access affects students’ abilities to engage in technology-rich learning activities and acquire essential skills,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “The president’s ConnectEd initiative will help level the playing field so that all students have access to the same Internet speeds. This effort marks a step in the right direction, but we urge President Obama to also increase the annual funding cap for the E-rate program which is currently set at approximately $2.5 billion. E-rate funding would need to be doubled just to meet the current demand.”

NASSP staff participated in a meeting at the Alliance for Excellent Education with senior White House, FCC, and US Department of Education officials in June to discuss the ConnectEd initiative.

 

FCC Proposal to Modernize E-Rate Program Gathers Momentum

(Education Week, July 1, 2013)

The acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission on Friday took initial steps in what is expected to be a broad effort to remake the federal E-rate program and provide schools with faster online connectivity, putting forward a proposal that mirrors goals outlined by President Obama earlier this month.

Mignon L. Clyburn, who was appointed to the FCC by the president, was expected today to provide the two other current members of the panel with a proposal that calls for not only improving technology infracture, but also making changes to the program’s purchasing and the administrative oversight, according to a senior commission official.

While any changes to the E-rate would have go through a federal rulemaking and public comment process, Clyburn’s initial proposal represents a road map for refashioning the program, the official said.

An overriding goal of Clyburn’s proposal—which was not provided to Education Week in written form—is to increase schools’ and libraries’ access to high-speed Internet access, in keeping with the presidents’ goal of giving 99 percent of the country’s schools access to high-speed broadband and wireless Web access within five years.

Clyburn is also calling for increasing the efficiency of the E-rate and making sure that funds are spent wisely, and improving management of program, which was first established by Congress in 1996 and is funded through telecommunications fees.

Included within Clyburn’s proposal are changes meant to simplify the rules on the development of fiber optic cable lines and the establishment of high-speed wireless connections within districts, including within classrooms, the FCC official said. Her proposal also calls for new options to create incentives for consortia of schools to make purchases within the E-rate program. In addition, it seeks to spark greater competition among bidders to provide E-rate services to schools and libraries.

In an op-ed published Friday in USA Today, Clyburn also called for eliminating government support for outdated services and using E-rate dollars to invest in improving bandwidth. She also suggested that federal officials must partner with nonprofit and private sector providers to improve schools’ tech capacity.

“[W]e need to use this opportunity to bring to the table state and local officials, foundations, network operators, and innovators building the next generation of learning tools and content,” she wrote. “We must leverage the ongoing massive private investments in networks and ensure that investments in connectivity are the foundation for real, positive change in classrooms.”

The chairwoman’s intention is to allow the two other commissioners, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai, to review her proposal and make changes to it over the next three weeks. The commission would then vote on the proposal at its meeting on July 19.

After that, the FCC would propose rules and begin a process for collecting public comments, a period that can last a few months. After that, the FCC would publish final rules on changes to the E-rate, the commission official said.

Pai declined to comment on the request, through his office. Rosenworcel has not yet responded to a request for comment. But the Democrat has repeatedly called for making major changes to the E-rate, including boosting schools’ technological capabilities, most recently doing so this week in a speech at the International Society for Technology in Education’s national conference in San Antonio.

NASSP on Capitol Hill

 

NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year Program

The state and national assistant principals of the year conducted over 125 meetings with their members of Congress on Thursday, April 11. They shared their perspectives on school leadership and their experiences as educators and instructional leaders. In addition, the national winner and finalists participated in a roundtable discussion with the education policy advisors from Rep. Kline and Rep. Miller’s offices on the role of assistant principals, college and career ready/Common Core standards, teacher and principal evaluation and technology.

 

MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools

On May 2, the MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School principals conducted over 50 Hill meetings with education aides in the House and Senate to discuss pertinent education issues. The same day, NASSP and the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) hosted a Hill briefing on Transitioning to College & Career Ready Standards:  The Role of School Leaders.  Three of the 2013 winners, Mitchell Curry (Scott Morgan Johnson Middle School, TX), Robbie Hooker (Clarke Central High School, GA) and Daniel Wiebers (Trenton R-IX High School, MO) participated in the panel discussion with Governor Bob Wise, President of AEE, and House and Senate Education Committee staff.

 

NASSP State Coordinators and Presidents-Elect

The NASSP State Coordinators and presidents-elect of our state affiliates stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday, urging Congress to provide much-needed relief to educators hamstrung by the constraints of No Child Left Behind. The lesson learned by these outstanding school leaders? Principals can no longer afford to be silent on education reform issues—they need to make their voices heard because in the absence of leadership, legislators will listen to whomever is talking!

Prior to the Capitol Hill Day, the State Coordinators met with Denise Forte, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the US Department of Education. She outlined the Obama administration’s education agenda for the second term, including a focus on early childhood, college affordability, and high school redesign. The State Coordinators asked questions about the RESPECT project to transform the education profession and how the Department could promote teaching as a valued profession. They also had a passionate conversation about graduation rates and rewarding students and schools who may take longer than 4 years to finish high school.

Although it was a hot and humid day in Washington, DC, the school leaders seemed energetic as they boarded the bus to Capitol Hill. They educated their members of Congress about the role of the principal as instructional leader and how they’re impacted by new teacher evaluation systems in their states. They also urged their legislators to move forward with a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) because they want some continuity in the education reforms that are required for their states to receive an ESEA flexibility waiver. In particular, they recommended additional support to help educators implement college and career-ready standards, growth models and multiple measures of student achievement in accountability systems, principal evaluation systems based on the six domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence, and elimination of the school turnaround models.

The principals and assistant principals also advocated in support of NASSP’s key bills:

  • School Principal Recruitment and Training Act
  • Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act
  • Transforming Education Through Technology Act
  • Success in the Middle Act
  • Graduation Promise Act

The State Coordinators and presidents-elect felt empowered by their conversations on Capitol Hill and really felt that their members of Congress wanted to how federal policy impacts the people working in the trenches. Many of them were told that they were the first principals to ever visit the office, which shows that more school leaders need to get involved in grassroots advocacy!

To see photos from the Hill Day and hear more about their conversations, follow the #NASSPSC hashtag on Twitter.

 

School Principal Recruitment and Training Act

 

NASSP and NAESP have worked closely with staff for Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) to update and improve the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (S. 840/H.R. 1736). Although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress, we were thrilled that the legislation was reintroduced in April. The bill would authorize a grant program to recruit, select, train, and support aspiring or current principals with track records of transforming student learning and outcomes and prepare these principals to lead high-need schools. Selected aspiring principals would be provided with a pre-service residency that lasts for at least one year as well as ongoing support and professional development for at least two years after they commence work as school leaders. Grant funds would also be used to provide mentoring and professional development to strengthen current principals’ capacity in the areas of instruction, supervision, evaluation, and development of teachers and highly effective school organizations.

NASSP and NAESP have organized a sign-on letter for national and state organizations in support of the bill, and the 80+ members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality to include the bill as one of their top legislative priorities this year.

The School Principal Recruitment and Training Act currently has 5 House cosponsors and 1 Senate cosponsor.

 

LEARN Act

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758) in April, and we expect Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) to reintroduce the bill sometime this summer.

The LEARN Act would authorize $2.35 billion for comprehensive state and local literacy initiatives, building on the best components of the federal Early Reading First, Reading First, and Striving Readers programs. Districts would support school-wide literacy initiatives that include professional development for principals and teachers to incorporate literacy across the curriculum and targeted interventions for struggling students. NASSP has been working with its coalition partner, Advocates for Literacy, to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.

The LEARN Act has 4 Senate cosponsors.

In May, Advocates for Literacy (including NASSP) hosted a congressional briefing to discuss the link between science and literacy, the preconditions necessary for successful STEM education and the LEARN Act. Panelists included Dr. Brenda Becker, Superintendent of Schools, Hempfield School District, Landisville, PA, Mr. Chris Bird, M.Ed., Physics Teacher, Fairfax High School, Fairfax, VA and Dr. Loren Blanchard, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana. Ms. Sarah Bolton, M.Ed, Senior Budget and Policy Advisor for Sen. Patty Murray (WA) also spoke on the implications for federal policy and the LEARN Act.

NASSP staff and other members of Advocates for Literacy met with staff for House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) in June to ensure that his substitute amendment to the ESEA reauthorization bill included the text of the LEARN Act.

 

Transforming Education Through Technology Act

House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Transforming Education through Technology Act (H.R. 521) earlier this year, and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced a companion bill (S. 1087) in June. This is brand new legislation that NASSP has added to its advocacy agenda during the 113th Congress.

The Transforming Education through Technology Act would authorize $500 million for State Grants for Technology Readiness and Access. Subgrants would be provided to school districts to carry out “digital age” professional development opportunities for all school staff. Specifically, school leaders would receive ongoing professional development to promote: 1) the use of educational technology to ensure a digital age learning environment; and 2) the use of data in order to increase student access to technology and engagement in learning. School districts could also use the funding to hire technology coaches to work directly with teachers on integrating technology into their instruction.

NASSP staff and representatives from other national organizations that support education technology conducted meetings with congressional staff to secure more cosponsors for the Transforming Education Through Technology Act. Offices being visited this quarter included: Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).

The Transforming Education Through Technology Act has 10 House cosponsors and 2 Senate cosponsors.

 

Success in the Middle Act

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have reintroduced the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 2316/S. 708). Under the bill, states are required to implement a middle school improvement plan that describes what students are required to know and do to successfully complete the middle grades and make the transition to succeed in an academically rigorous high school. School districts would receive grants to help them invest in proven intervention strategies, including professional development and coaching for school leaders, teachers, and other school personnel; and student supports such as personal academic plans, intensive reading and math interventions, and extended learning time.

The Success in the Middle Act has 9 House cosponsors and 3 Senate cosponsors.

In June, NASSP and members of the Middle Grades Coalition hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss absenteeism in the middle grades. One of the 2013 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools was highlighted during the discussion.

 

Graduation Promise Act

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940) in May, and Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) will reintroduce a companion measure in the House later this summer. The bill would support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement that focuses research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest performing high schools, and improves the capacity of the high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement. The bill would also provide competitive grants to states to identify statewide obstacles hindering students from graduating, and provide incentives for states to increase graduation rates.

The Graduation Promise Act has no Senate cosponsors.

 

NASSP and the White House

MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Program

In April, the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National High School and Middle Level Principals of the Year were invited to participate in a Rose Garden ceremony with President Obama and the 2013 National and State Teachers of the Year. These outstanding principals were also able to meet briefly with the President in the Oval Office before the event. View photos from the event on NASSP’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/principals.

High School Redesign

In May, NASSP staff participated in a meeting with senior White House and US Department of Education officials to discuss the administration’s proposal on high school redesign and career and technical education.

 

NASSP and the US Department of Education

Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program

The U.S. Department of Education released the application for its inaugural Principal Ambassador Fellowship program in June. For a one-year term (2013-14), Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows will work part-time in collaboration with the department’s regional and DC offices while continuing to serve as principals in their home schools. This position will provide outstanding principals with the opportunity to highlight the voice of the principal within the education community and the country at-large. The idea for the principal fellowship came out of a discussion following an event hosted by NASSP and NAESP, in which Department of Education officials shadowed DC-area principals during National Principals Month.

To be eligible, candidates must:

  • Serve as a preK-12 principal during the 2013-14 school year in a US school, including traditional public, charter, virtual, military, tribal and/or private schools
  • Have a minimum of  three (3) years of successful experience as a principal (if the 2012-13 school-year is a principal’s third year as principal, s/he is eligible)
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have the ability to  gain employer support to sign an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreement for participation in the program.

Note: Some schools may use different terminology than “principal.” A candidate is considered eligible despite titling differences provided that s/he is the highest administrative official in the school building.

The deadline to submit an application is July 16, 2013.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2013/06/applications_for_principal_amb.html?qs=principal+ambassador

Meeting with Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle

NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti and NASSP government relations staff joined other association representatives from the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Association of School Administrators, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals to meet with Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle in April as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. The meeting focused on the administration’s early childhood education proposals.

JoAnn Bartoletti, Mel Riddile and Amanda Karhuse also met with Deb Delisle and her chief of staff in June to discuss Common Core implementation. The conversation centered on the fact that implementation will not end when the assessments roll out in 2014-2015.  There was agreement that there needs to be continued professional development and training for school leaders and teachers for successful implementation.  There will be follow-up meetings with NASSP and Department of Education staff surrounding these issues.

 

Other Issues

NASSP staff participated in a panel discussion at the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnership (NACEP) Policy Seminar in May to discuss dual enrollment and high school and college partnerships.

NASSP Board Position Statements

At the May meeting, the NASSP Board of Directors adopted two new position statements.

Federal Funding for Formula and Competitive Grants

Parent Trigger Laws

 

NASSP Federal Grassroots Network

As a reminder, Federal Grassroots Network members no longer participate in quarterly calls (they are now reserved only for the State Coordinators), but they continue to receive the weekly update summarizing the latest news and events in federal policy and funding. If you or your colleagues are not yet members of the Federal Grassroots Network and would like to join please email Jacki Ball at ballj@nassp.org. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here: http://www.nassp.org/Legislative-Advocacy/NASSP-Federal-Grassroots-Network.

 

NASSP State Coordinators

NASSP welcomes several new coordinators to their roles: John Osgood (NE), Sheila Kahrs (GA), and Dan Richards (MA). We also welcome back Danny Brackett who has returned to the State Coordinator role in Arkansas.

The NASSP State Coordinators held their quarterly conference calls on May 14 and May 15. The conversations focused on their advocacy during the past quarter and what methods they felt were most effected in communicating with their members of Congress and their staff. NASSP staff will follow up with a calendar of activities for the rest of the fiscal year later this month.

 

NASSP Advocacy in the States

In April, NASSP Director of Government Relations Amanda Karhuse conducted two breakout sessions on federal education policy and the power of grassroots advocacy at the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals’ conference in Bozeman, Montana.

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.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation (S. 1094) yesterday to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Dropping the No Child Left Behind moniker, the bill is called the Strengthening American Schools Act and “provides a framework to get all children to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and/or a career” according to a bill summary.

The bill appropriately addresses the education reforms 37 states have adopted in order to receive an ESEA flexibility waiver from the US Department of Education. Those states would be able to maintain their newly adopted college and career-ready standards, accountability systems, and teacher and principal evaluation systems.

In order to receive Title I funding under the bill, states must adopt college and career ready student academic achievement standards and assessments in reading or language arts and mathematics by the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The new assessments should measure the individual academic achievement of each student and student academic growth, including a measurement of the number of years of academic growth each student attains each year. The assessments would also produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports that allow parents, teachers, and principals to understand and address the specific academic needs of students.

States must also adopt new science standards by December 31, 2014, but they would not be required to use the new standards in their accountability systems. They would also be required to adopt new high-quality English language proficiency standards by December 31, 2015.

All references to adequate yearly progress (AYP) are removed from the bill. Instead, states must demonstrate that they have developed a single, statewide accountability system that annually measures and reports on the achievement and growth of all students, establishes ambitious and achievable annual performance targets, and annually identifies schools that need supports and interventions to prepare college and career ready students. States would create a baseline for performance targets based on assessments given during the 2014-2015, and then they would be required to set targets in four areas: student proficiency, student academic growth, English language proficiency for English learners, and high school graduation rates.

The bill attempts to drive more Title I funding to high schools by requiring districts to use a feeder pattern to estimate the number of low-income students in high schools. The estimate would be calculated by applying the average percentage of students in low-income families of the elementary school attendance areas that feed into the high school to the number of students enrolled in such school.

Similar to the ESEA flexibility waivers, districts would be required to identify schools that are in need of locally designed interventions, that are focus schools, or that are priority schools. For each priority school, the district would conduct a needs analysis to determine the most appropriate school improvement strategies to improve student performance. Districts must also provide ongoing professional development consistent with the needs analysis and conduct regular evaluations of teachers and principals that provide specific feedback on areas of strength and in need of improvement.

For priority schools, districts must select a school improvement strategy similar to the school turnaround models under the current School Improvement Grants program. Under the Transformation and Turnaround strategies, the principal must be replaced if he or she has been in the school for more than two years. The bill includes a new Whole School Reform strategy that must be undertaken in partnership with an external provider and that is based on at least a moderate level of evidence that the program will have a statistically significant effect on student outcomes. States could also establish an alternative evidence-based school improvement strategy for priority schools with the approval of the US Department of Education.

NASSP was pleased to see that states receiving school improvement funds must develop an early warning data system that monitors school-level data and alerts schools when a student indicates slowed progress toward high school graduation. The language mirrors provisions in the Success in the Middle Act (S. 708) and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940), which we strongly support.

Rumors on Capitol Hill are that bipartisan negotiations broke down over the requirement of performance targets for states. Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other committee Republicans are expected to unveil their alternative proposal soon, and flexibility for states and districts will sure to be a recurring theme.

Continue to check the Principal’s Policy Blog for updates on other sections of the ESEA reauthorization bill and for in-depth coverage of the markup scheduled for June 11.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama offered schools a deal: To provide schools with resources to keep good teachers and reward the best ones, and expect in return that schools exercise their flexibility to “teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

It’s a deal schools will happily make, provided the right supports are in place. Such supports include a commitment to strengthen the entire education profession through better preparation programs and professional development for teachers, principals, and other instructional staff. This development extends to meaningful educator-evaluation systems that resist a focus on student test scores to assess educator performance.

Such supports include formula funding to balance out the Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation grant programs that drive competition among states to the detriment of low-income students in states that lose. Dedicated resources for programs like Title I will provide ALL students—regardless of state or district—a chance to succeed.

And most immediately, if we’re to no longer “teach to the test,” such supports include policies that are no longer written to the test. We call on the President to renew his pressure on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and fix what is not working for all schools in No Child Left Behind. While the current law did some good in highlighting the achievement gap, the law’s high-stakes testing and onerous AYP provisions do little to reduce the gap. If education is indeed to become our national mission, the commitment must begin with a fairer and more flexible federal law.

The flexibility of a reauthorized ESEA would arrive just in time for schools to accept the President’s challenge to keep all students in school until age 18 or until they graduate. States with such a policy already in place point to a number of benefits, according to a 2010 NASSP position statement, including greater social mobility for students in poverty who are required to remain in school longer. Raising the compulsory age alone, however, will have no real affect. The policy must be accompanied by a comprehensive school renewal, as encouraged in the Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, to empower students as owners of their own learning and as the innovators who will fulfill the broader vision of America that President Obama described.

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Weekly Federal Education Policy Update

On July 14, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston

Announcements

ESEA: House Flexibility Bill Approved

Yesterday the House Education and Workforce Committee approved the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, which would allow states and districts maximum flexibility in their use of federal funds. The overall vote and the votes on all amendments offered followed party lines, reflecting extreme partisanship on this issue. Ranking Member Rep. Miller (D-CA) interpreted this partisanship as an omen that future ESEA negotiations will not be bipartisan and will be contentious. U.S. Secretary of Education also expressed concern for the way the bill could unintentionally shift money away from low-income and minority students and English-language learners. In a written statement Duncan says, “I’m disappointed that the House legislation passed today doesn’t fix the real problems with NCLB, could shortchange the neediest students, and doesn’t give states the kind of flexibility and reform they’re asking for.”

NASSP is opposed to this bill due to some key concerns. To read NASSP’s take on the bill go here: www.principalspolicyblog.org.

Go here to read a full report of what occurred in yesterday’s markup: blogs.edweek.org.

The House will likely try to vote on this bill before the August recess.

New Legislation:

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and ten bipartisan cosponsors introduced today the All Children are Equal (ACE) Act, which “would gradually phase out the current number weighting system used to calculate Title I amounts, to assure that school districts are treated based upon their percentages of poverty, rather than population”. To read more about the bill go here: thompson.house.gov. NASSP will likely support this bill.

Budget/Appropriations:

We have gotten word that the House vote on the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment (HJ Res 1) will occur on July 20. NASSP is strongly opposed to this amendment for the severe funding cuts it would impose on education and other domestic discretionary programs. NASSP urges you to call your Representative(s) and request that they vote NO on this amendment, explaining how already-crunched state and local education budgets would suffer more from this amendment. Go here to see the Committee for Education Funding’s opposition letter cef.org [pdf] and here for another coalition letter we signed onto: www.cbpp.org. For our part, we are making dozens of calls between now and July 20 to key offices to urge opposition of this bill.

Debt Ceiling/Deficit Reduction:

The negotiations remain uncertain, with Republicans insisting they will not support any revenue increases and the President and the Democrats saying they will not support a plan without revenues. Obama also said he wouldn’t sign a short-term increase in the debt ceiling no matter how temporary.

However, Sen. McConnell this week proposed a debt ceiling fallback plan. The Senator proposed legislation that authorizes the President to request an increase in the debt ceiling which would take effect unless a two-thirds majority of either house rejects it. The president would have to request a debt ceiling increase of $700-900 billion, which would require three separate requests and votes before the election. It would not require any spending cuts. (According to Joel Packer’s analysis of the Committee for Education Funding): “The advantage for Republicans politically is that any negative reaction to increasing the debt ceiling would fall solely on Obama and Democrats since every Republican could vote against raising the debt ceiling, without having to deal with an actual default.” Sen. Reid said he would consider this plan.

President Obama said this week that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised Social Security checks might not go out as scheduled on August 3.

NASSP News:

NASSP, NAESP to Join on Principal Evaluation

From the NASSP press release: “NASSP has joined with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) to establish a set of national guidelines for effective principal evaluation. NAESP and NASSP will each appoint individuals from their respective governance zones or regions to serve as members of a jointly sponsored Principal Evaluation Committee. The committee will work over the next six to eight months to review leading research reports, examine exemplary practices, and interface with other stakeholders interested in the profession. The committee will identify gaps in the research and highlight what is, and is not, working with principal evaluation systems.” Read the rest of the press release here: www.nassp.org. And read Education Week’s article on it here: www.edweek.org.

News

Some States Prepare to Implement Their Own Accountability Systems in the Fall

A number of state education chiefs have said that if Congress does not reauthorize ESEA by the fall, they will seek to take advantage of Secretary Duncan’s proposed “Plan B” to grant waivers-in exchange for reform-so they can implement their own accountability systems. Under these waivers states would be released from having to meet 100% proficiency of all students by 2014 in English and Math, and the sanctions that currently occur when schools do not meet AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) would also be waived, all in exchange for comprehensive accountability systems of their own that include intervention plans for underperforming schools. To read more, go here: www.nytimes.com.

Cuts in State School Funding around the Nation

July 11, 2011- There is still a clear divide between Republican leaders and Democrats with regard to balancing budgets. Democrats continue to push for increased taxes (generating revenues) and Republicans focus on deep cuts- and education funding is at the top of the list for budget cuts in most states. States such as Texas, Wisconsin, and Ohio approved plans that would bring large cuts to education funding; whereas California and Iowa are looking to protect K-12 education from budget decreases. Read more here: www.edweek.org

Race to the Top Winners Slow Down and Amend Plans

All Race to the Top winning states except Georgia have amended their plans in some way, either by extending their timeline of implementation or scaling back an initiative, indicating that several states’ plans may have been too ambitious in their timelines given the scope of what they seek to do. Though states could theoretically push back their stated desired outcomes until the last minute to buy themselves more time, they-and the U.S. Department of Education-will still be under pressure to show that these Race to the Top grants do in fact accomplish the comprehensive reforms promised in states’ plans. To read more go here: blogs.edweek.org.

President Obama Hosts First Town Hall Twitter Meeting July 6, 2011

There are approximately 2.25 million @whitehouse twitter account followers, with over 1 million who joined the Town Hall Twitter discussion. There were 22 administration topics discussed; 10% were about education. Obama tweeted live asking for public feedback with regard to reducing the federal deficit. At the weekly CEF meeting on Friday July 8, Joel Packer, CEF Executive Director, said the public can still voice their opinion about the deficit and education/school funding via twitter at the Twitter Whitehouse account. Go to http://twitter.com/#!/whitehouse to post your comments/viewpoints in support of education/school funding and AGAINST CUTS in education. Let your voice be heard!

RESEARCH

July 2011 Employment Rate

July 8, 2011- In an Economic News release by the Bureau of Economic Statistics, the national unemployment rate is up to 9.2%, although this change is reported to be minimal. “Since March, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 545,000, and the unemployment rate has risen by 0.4 percentage point. The labor force, at 153.4 million, changed little over the month.” The most significant decline in employment was in federal, state, and local government employment. For more about our nation’s unemployment statistics, go to www.bls.gov

RESOURCES

NASSP Government Relations Staff is on Twitter! Amanda Karhuse and Mary Kingston have moved into the 21st century and have joined Twitter! Follow us on here for the latest daily federal education policy updates. Follow Amanda: @akarhuse and Mary: @kingston_m.

America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011 is an interagency report from the Federal Forum on Child and Family with very useful statistics. To view the full report, go here: childstats.gov. One daunting statistic – There has been “a rise in the proportion of children from birth to 17 years of age living in poverty, from 19 percent (2008) to 21 percent (2009)”.

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Weekly Federal Education Policy Update

On April 29, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston

Announcements

Advocacy alert: Help NASSP advocate for the LEARN bill! Senator Murray (D-WA) is expected to re-introduce this bill, the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) next week, and we need to show members of Congress that this bill has significant support from the field. Thank you to those of you who have already sent letters to your members of Congress through our Principal’s Legislative Action Center but if you haven’t please go here to do so: app3.vocusgr.com.

Also, please take 5-10 minutes of your day and call your Senators’ offices to urge your Senators to cosponsor this bill-a personalized phone call from you, a school leader, carries weight in the Senate offices! Thanks for helping us to advocate for the best federal policy for you. This bill is needed so badly because it is the only federal program to address literacy at a time when literacy instruction will become more crucial than ever as we prepare students for tougher college- and career-ready standards and for the 21st century workforce.

Appropriations Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will force a vote on the House-passed FY 2012 Budget Resolution proposed by Rep. Ryan (R-WI). The Budget won’t pass in the House but Reid hopes to use it as a gauge to show just how many Democrats oppose it, and to see where Republican votes fall on it as well. Further, the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities recently analyzed the impact of the Ryan budget if it were enacted, and find that “the bulk of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget would come in programs for lower-income Americans …Cuts in low-income programs appear likely to account for at least $2.9 trillion — or nearly two-thirds — of this total amount.” In other words, Ryan’s budget would be devastating to low-income Americans and to domestic discretionary programs like education, and has been strongly opposed by President Obama and Senator Reid along with others. House Appropriations subcommittees are getting ready to start marking up FY 12 bills most likely in late May/early June. Chairman Rogers has promised to have all 12 bills passed by the House before the August recess, but the House is only scheduled to be in session 40 days between now and the start of the August recess so this may not occur.

NASSP officially endorses the National History Day Project. New evaluation results from the National History Day (NHD) program demonstrate the ability of history education to improve academic achievement and build 21st century college- and career-ready skills. The NHD program works with both students and teachers to improve the teaching and learning of history in schools. Since its inception, the NHD program has successfully served 2.2 million students and teachers in 50 states, two American territories, the District of Columbia and in Department of Defense and International Schools overseas. To read more about the evaluation results, go to: www.nhd.org.

U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today $30 million in funding for a second round of Promise Neighborhoods grants to be divided between a new set of planning grants and implementation grants. Of the $30 million, half will be for the first implementation grants to some of last year’s planning grant awardees and half will be for another round of planning grants. Read more here: www.ed.gov.

News

Gates, Pearson Foundations to Develop Common-Core Curriculum

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Pearson Foundation, have announced plans to develop a comprehensive online curriculum aligned with common core standards. The two foundations will create 24 online courses in math and English/language arts for grades K-12. The announcement has received mixed reactions from education groups. “We have ample evidence that solutions that attempt to be comprehensive almost always are inadequate, partly because they’re not developed from the relationship between the local teacher and students” worries Kent Williamson, Executive Director of the National Council of Teachers of English. To read more click here: www.edweek.org

Department of Ed: Hispanic Academic Achievement Will Be Key to America’s Future

The U.S. Department of Education released a report Wednesday underscoring the importance of Hispanic achievement in education. According to the report 22 percent of all pre-K-12 students enrolled in America’s public schools is Hispanic yet only about half earn their high school diploma on time and only 4 percent have completed graduate or professional degree programs. “Hispanic students have graduated at lower rates than the rest of the population for years, making America’s progress impossible if they continue to lag behind” says Juan Sepulveda, Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. To read more click here: www.ed.gov

Ed Tech Advocates Find New Funding Streams After Tough Budget Cuts

Proponents of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Program are proposing new and innovative ways to fund existing programs after the $100 million EETT program was eliminated in the FY11 budget. Karen Cator, Director of the office of educational technology for the DOE says the Department is still committed to educational technology development. “Formula programs are essential for making sure high-need students have access to resources, such as technology, that will help them achieve success in school. We are working to make sure technology is embedded in all programs” says Cantor. To read more click here: www.edweek.org

Proportion of Failing Schools on the Rise According to CEP Report

A new report issued by the Center on Education Policy finds the proportion of schools failing to meet AYP requirements rose 5 percentage points from last year, bringing the number to 38 percent. The report also found that individual states vary widely in their AYP progress. For example, only 5 percent of Texas schools failed to make AYP compared to 91 percent of schools in the District of Columbia. To read more click here: www.edweek.org

Secretary Duncan to Support Withholding Delaware District’s RTTT Funds

In a warning to other districts Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has publicly supported Delaware’s decision to withhold RTTT funds from a district that now wants to change its school-turnaround plans. “Because [Christina School District] has backtracked on that commitment, the state of Delaware has made the tough but courageous decision to withhold Race to the Top funding. I believe that is the right decision” said Duncan in a public statement. The warning comes as states scramble to make ambitious changes before deadlines end. To read more click here: blogs.edweek.org

Resources

From the Dept of Ed e-newsletter: Looking for a better way to find curricula, products, and practices? Check out the new and improved What Works Clearinghouse search feature: Find What Works (ies.ed.gov). This powerful tool makes it easy to find out exactly what rigorous research says about the effectiveness of more than 100 widely used education interventions. Interventions may be searched by outcome, grade level, population, effectiveness, extent of evidence, program type, and delivery method.

A packed crowd of over 100 attendees listened to how two principals turned around their low-performing schools to make dramatic gains in student achievement. The forum, co-hosted by NASSP and the Alliance for Excellent Education featured two of the 2010 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools Principals.

NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi opened the forum by noting that both principals implemented certain strategies identified as effective in the NASSP Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, including strong leadership, a rigorous curriculum, and strong collaboration among all staff.
Lavonne Smiley is principal of Tefft Middle School in Streamwood, IL, and oversees roughly 800 7th and 8th grade students, 47% of whom are Latino and 59% of whom are low-income. After specific encounters with angry or frustrated parents, teachers, and students, Smiley knew she needed to turn things around. Adopting the strategies outlined by Richard DuFour in On Common Ground: The Power of Professional Learning Communities, she brought a greater focus to curriculum, assessment, and interventions for struggling students. As a result, the number of students meeting and/or exceeding state test scores at Tefft jumped from 56% in 2002 to 91% in 2010. Smiley advised other educators to implement school reform with fidelity, continuously self-evaluate, and celebrate successes.

Tom O’Brien was principal of Brentwood High School in Brentwood, NY, for 15 years before his recent retirement. The high school serves a staggering 3,500 students in grades 10-12, 68% of whom are Hispanic and 62% of whom are low-income. Forty-one percent of the student population is also transient, posing a unique challenge. One irony that Mr. O’Brien pointed out was that as his school fell deeper into NCLB sanctions from 2002-2006 for not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP), Brentwood’s test scores were improving steadily for most student subgroups. To turn things around, O’Brien created a collaborative School Improvement Team and staffed teacher coaches and more bilingual teachers to raise student achievement.

As a result, special education students’ test scores rose 52 percentage points in math from 2004 to 2008, while limited English proficient students’ test scores rose 89 percentage points in the same time period. Citing lessons learned, O’Brien emphasized focused leadership, data analysis, a strong improvement team, celebrating successes, and time as critical components to effectively turn around a school.

To discuss policy implications for school turnaround, senior staff from the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee also addressed the audience. Both commented specifically on the four turnaround models for school improvement, which all require replacing the principal as the first step for reform. They shared some details about their bosses’ proposals to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including surprising news that the House bill will not contain the four models, but will instead require a school instructional plan without prescribing one. They also want to identify ways to show improvement beyond AYP indicators, and these strategies will require intensive reliance on data. The Senate has not outright rejected the four school improvement models, but they are seeking the appropriate accountability to place on turnaround schools, and similarly will call on schools to present significant data to show improvement.

NASSP continues to oppose the four school turnaround models and believes that the success stories of these principals invalidate the requirement that the principal be replaced as the first step to school improvement. In contrast, capable, dedicated principals like Smiley and O’Brien prove they are a critical component to successful school turnarounds.

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Now that the Department of Education (ED) has released the final notices for the Race to the Top Fund and the School Improvement Grants, senior officials are turning their attention to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

For the past few months, representatives of national education organizations, practitioners, and congressional staff have been attending education stakeholders forums at ED to discuss various topics within ESEA and were requested to submit their formal recommendations by midnight on December 31, 2009. The comments submitted by NASSP build on recommendations developed by the NCLB Task Force in 2005 and take into consideration emerging issues such as the Common Core State Standards Initiative and new developments in school leadership, literacy, and middle level and high school reform.

In his letter to ED, NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi outlined the following recommendations:

National Standards
NASSP is an endorsing partner of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which is a state-led effort to develop a common core of state standards in grades K–12 for English/language arts and mathematics. Building on our position statement in support of national standards, we urge the development and implementation of common, high-quality assessments aligned with standards and call upon ED to evaluate the progress being made by states to adopt and implement the standards. We also recommend that the federal government offer incentives for states and districts to develop graduation requirements that allow students to choose from multiple pathways to graduation and ensure that students have access to academic supports that help them stay on track toward graduation.

School Leadership
Reiterating our support for additional funding for principal training and professional development, NASSP encourages Congress to enact the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (H.R. 4354/S. 2896) and the Instructional Leadership Act (not-yet-introduced) as a part of ESEA reauthorization. The bills would authorize grant programs to prepare principals to lead high-need schools and incorporate standards of instructional leadership into state principal certification or licensure requirements. We also urge the administration to consider our position statements on highly effective principals and professional compensation for principals in developing proposals for principal evaluation and pay-for-performance programs. Finally, we encourage Congress and the administration to support the National Board Certification for Educational Leaders recently launched by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Literacy
NASSP urges the administration to support the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (H.R. 4037/S. 2740), which would authorize comprehensive state and local literacy initiatives and build on the best components of the federal Early Reading First, Reading First, and Striving Readers programs. The goals of the bill are very much in line with Creating a Culture of Literacy, a guide written for principals to use as they team with staff members to improve their students’ literacy skills by assessing student strengths and weaknesses, identifying professional development needs, employing effective literacy strategies across all content areas, and establishing intervention programs for struggling students.

Middle Level and High School Reform
Building on the Breaking Ranks framework for school reform, NASSP has called upon the federal government to provide additional resources for our nation’s middle level and high schools. We support legislative proposals that would create a new funding stream for school improvement at the secondary school level, implement an early warning and intervention system to identify at-risk students, and provide differentiated and evidence-based interventions in eligible schools. Enacting the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 3006/S. 1362) hand-in-hand with the Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 4181/S. 1698) would strengthen ESEA by providing the support necessary to turn around our nation’s lowest-performing middle and high schools and give our struggling students the help they need from preschool through graduation.

Graduation Rates
NASSP supported the final Title I regulation that requires states to use a uniform and accurate method of calculating graduation rates, but has concerns with defining the graduation rate as the “four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate.” Because not all students enter the ninth grade reading and writing at grade level, we have long recommended that the graduation rate be extended to within at least five years of entering high school. State should be required to use, as a supplement to the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, extended adjusted cohort graduation rates that are approved by ED. In addition, identified special-needs students who complete high school with a state-approved exit document should have until age 21, inclusive, to be counted as graduates as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Growth Models
As stated in the NCLB Task Force recommendations, states should be allowed to measure adequate yearly progress (AYP) for each student subgroup on the basis of state-developed growth formulas that calculate growth in individual student achievement from year to year. NASSP has been very pleased with the expansion of the growth model pilot program, which was first announced in 2006, and we hope that growth models will have a permanent place in a newly reauthorized ESEA.

Multiple Measures of Student Performance
NASSP recommends that states should be allowed to use multiple measures of student performance in determining AYP, including state assessments in subjects beyond reading and language arts, mathematics, and science; portfolios, performance tasks, and other examples of a student’s accomplishments; traditional quizzes and tests; interviews, questionnaires, and conferences; end-of-course exams; comprehensive personal academic or graduation plans; assessments aligned with high school and college entrance requirements; and senior projects.

This month 35 seats in the U.S. Senate were up for election, and when the dust had settled, eight new members were elected. The states with new Senate members include: Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia. Following is an in-depth portrait of the new members of Congress. All quotations are taken directly from the officials’ Websites and are not indicators of record or future action. [This article will be updated in the near future with new information on Mark Begich (D), who recently defeated incumbent Senator Ted Stevens (R) from Alaska. Additional information will be provided when the Minnesota race between incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D) is decided.]

Colorado
Mark Udall (D)
Elected to the Senate with 53% of the vote, Udall had previously served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the issue of education, Udall believes that NCLB has fallen short of its expectations, and needs significant reform.

To this end, in 2007 he introduced the CLASS Act (H.R. 2070), a bill supported by NASSP, and which would have improved the determination of adequate yearly progress (AYP) under NCLB by requiring the use of multiple measures of student achievement, while also improving the assessment of students with disabilities by allowing schools to take a Individual Education Program team decision into account when determining the performance of such students. The bill would have also improved the assessment of English language learners (ELLs) by excluding the test performance of ELLs who had resided in the United States for less than three years.

Idaho
Jim Risch (R)
Elected to the Senate with 58% of the vote, Risch is currently serving his third term as Lieutenant Governor of Idaho. Risch also served as Idaho’s 31st governor, during which time he called a special session of the Idaho Legislature, which was intended to “bring much needed property tax relief to Idaho taxpayers,” and which resulted in the creation of “a strong and protected source of funding for Idaho public schools.”

Nebraska
Mike Johanns (R)
Elected to the Senate with 58% of the vote, Johanns does not support NCLB, and believes “the role of the federal government should be to assist and partner with the state and local school districts, not control and administer them.” In like fashion, he “supports standards, but not the federal government dictating the standards for [Nebraska, and] will push back on any attempts to implement more mandates on the states.”

Johanns supports funding special education at the full 40% of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure, as well as increasing funding for Pell Grants.

New Hampshire
Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Elected to the Senate with 52% of the vote, Shaheen believes that AYP “should be reconfigured to take into account whether students and the school at large are making progress between years, not just progress as measured against an externally imposed goal. Schools should [also] be allowed to develop a variety of assessments in order to show academic progress rather than the current single high stakes exam.”

Shaheen also supports providing more opportunities and incentives to teachers to encourage high quality professional development.

On the issue of special education, Shaheen believes that within eight years the federal government should fund the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) at the full 40% of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure.

New Mexico
Thomas Udall (D)
Elected to the Senate with 61% of the vote, Udall was serving his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was active in education policy and was a member of the House Democratic Education Task Force.

During his ten years in Congress, Udall has supported several bills that would enhance education, including the Teacher Tax Credit Act which provides a tax credit for teachers and principals who work in certain low-income schools, as well as the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, which would increase the amount of student loan forgiveness for teachers in mathematics, science, and special education.

Udall also supports increased federal funding for special education and a number of other programs designed to assist underserved youth, including: 21st Century Learning Centers, TRIO and Upward Bound, and programs funded through the Carl D. Perkins Act.

North Carolina
Kay Hagan (D)
Elected to the Senate with 53% of the vote, Hagan believes that NCLB needs to be significantly reformed and fully funded.

Hagan supports the use of growth models to give schools credit for making gains in student achievement, as well as differentiated consequences for schools not meeting AYP to help them address their individual needs.

Additionally, Hagan supports the use of multiple measures of student achievement in determining AYP, and would “push for NCLB to include incentives for states to align their K-12 standards with the ‘real world standards’ of college and the workplace.”

Oregon
Jeff Merkley (D)
Elected to the Senate with 49% of the vote, Merkley supports several significant investments in education, including fully funding the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, IDEA, NCLB, and increasing the size and number of Pell Grants to help high schoolers and their families cope with rising college tuition costs.

Merkley also believes that a complete overhaul of NCLB is necessary, arguing that “A school’s improvement should be measured not only by test scores, but also by students’ improvement over time, attendance, graduation rates and other standards that states themselves determine.”

Virginia
Mark Warner (D)
Elected to 65% of the vote, Warner has a long record of fighting for education reform. As the Governor of Virginia from 2002 – 2006, he made several investments in education, increasing K – 12 funding in Virginia by over $100 million in 2002 and 2003, and again by almost $1.5 billion in 2004.

During his governorship, Warner has also paid a great deal of attention to high schools and school leaders through his “Education for a Lifetime” initiative, launching Project Graduation and Senior Year Plus, which sought to increase high school graduation rates and increase student preparedness for college and the workforce.

In recognition of the central role that school leaders play in education reform efforts, Warner also launched the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which is “designed to develop a cadre of principals trained to ‘turn around’ consistently low-performing schools [by using] … tried-and-true business principals of turning around failing businesses.”

Warner has criticized the implementation of NCLB, and has argued that it is underfunded by $70 billion.

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