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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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!
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
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)”.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Running on a platform of change, Sen. Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Presidency by one of the biggest margins of victory in recent history, and it is change that the incoming Obama administration will likely bring to federal education policy.
Regretfully, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind, did not occur in 2008, and with a flagging economy and two wars, education is not likely to be among the top priorities of the new administration. As a result, it is unclear whether a reauthorization of ESEA will occur in 2009, or if we will have to wait even longer.
Although education might not be a top priority for Obama, he has taken a comprehensive approach to education reform. Thus when the reauthorization does occur, we can expect some fairly major changes to ESEA in the areas of middle level reform and the high school dropout crisis, and improving assessments and accountability under ESEA.
President-Elect Obama has been proactive in his efforts to improve middle level education and reduce the high school dropout rate, and in 2007 he introduced the Success in the Middle Act (S. 2227), which NASSP helped draft, and which reflects NASSP’s Policy Recommendations for Middle Level Reform.
“The dropout problem begins well before high school,” said Obama in his education reform plan, available on his Website. “The middle grades are a crucial, but often overlooked, segment of the educational pipeline,” the plan continued.
The Success in the Middle Act received a warm response on Capitol Hill, and NASSP expects several components of the bill to be included in the reauthorization of ESEA.
Among the most controversial aspects of the ESEA have been assessments and the determination of adequate yearly progress (AYP). President-Elect Obama supports the use of “a broader range of assessments that can evaluate higher-order skills, including students’ abilities to use technology, conduct research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, [and] present and defend their ideas. These assessments should provide immediate feedback so that teachers can begin improving student learning right away,” according to responses received to a questionnaire NASSP sent to Obama.
In his efforts to reform how AYP is determined, Obama believes that the accountability system needs to include more than a single student test. Obama would push for the inclusion of multiple measures of student learning within subject areas, and give states the option of including evidence of student achievement in areas beyond reading and math.
NASSP supports the use of multiple measures of student achievement, including end of course exams, student portfolios, senior projects, the ACT, PSAT, and SAT, in addition to performance on standardized tests, including state assessments. For more information on NASSP’s stance on these issues, visit www.principals.org, and click on “Legislative Advocacy.”
In addition, Obama supports the creation and enhancement of state leadership academies and investments in professional development for school principals. Obama also backs the development of multi-tiered credentialing systems that “encourage principals to grow professionally over the course of their careers, and particularly within their first few years on the job, when they are most open to and in need of professional development,” according to his campaign Website.
NASSP strongly supports school leadership academies, many of which are currently funded by the federal School Leadership program. NASSP is also working with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to develop a national certification for principals.
To support these changes, Obama would advocate for an additional $18 billion investment in education. The majority of this investment ($10 billion) would be targeted toward early childhood education.
As the Obama administration gets to work addressing the nation’s problems, efforts are already underway at NASSP to help the new administration navigate the complex field of education, and making clear that school leaders play a central role in student learning, and thus in all school reform efforts.
To learn more about Obama’s education plans and NASSP’s positions on these issues, visit www.nassp.org/obama.
On October 28, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced final regulations to strengthen and clarify No Child Left Behind (NCLB), focusing on improved accountability and transparency, uniform and disaggregated graduation rates and improved parental notification for Supplemental Education Services and public school choice. The Secretary made the announcement while speaking to educators, state and local policymakers and business leaders at South Carolina Educational Television in Columbia, S.C.
“NCLB has shined a spotlight on schools,” said Secretary Spellings. “It is compelling grown ups to do the right thing by kids. And it’s working. According to the Nation’s Report Card, since 2000, more kids are learning reading and math. Since this law was passed, nearly one million more students have learned basic math skills. Children once left behind are making some of the greatest gains, but more work needs to be done. That’s why I’ve taken a responsive, common sense approach to implementing the law with today’s announcement.”
he Secretary noted that these new regulations reflect lessons learned over the past six years since NCLB was enacted and builds on work that states have made with their assessment and accountability systems. One area that there is broad public consensus around is the need for a uniform graduation rate.
Recognizing that the nation can no longer tolerate - much less prosper – with its abysmal graduation rate, particularly among minority students, the final regulations establish a uniform graduation rate that shows how many incoming freshman in a given high school graduate within four years.
“As far back as 2005, governors from all 50 states agreed to adopt a uniform, more accurate graduation rate. But so far, only 16 states have done so,” said Secretary Spellings. “Parents know that a high school diploma is the least their children need to succeed in today’s economy.”
Under the new regulations, all states will use the same formula to calculate how many students graduate from high school on time and how many drop out. The final regulations define the “four year adjusted cohort graduation rate” as the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, adjusted for transfers, students who emigrate and deceased students. The data will be made public so that educators and parents can compare how students of every race, background and income level are performing.
The final rules announced by the Secretary today also require that parents must be notified in a clear and timely way about their public school choice and supplemental education service options. The regulations seek to ensure that states make more information available to the public about what tutoring providers are available, how these providers are approved and monitored, and most importantly, how effective they are in helping students improve.
“These services can’t make a difference if parents don’t know they’re available,” said Secretary Spellings.
Several of the regulations seek to clarify elements of the law that require school systems to be accountable for results and transparent in their reporting to parents and the public. States and districts must now publish reading and mathematics results from the Nation’s Report Card alongside data from their own tests for students and include participation rates for students with disabilities and those who are limited English proficient. The regulations also state that measures of student academic achievement may include multiple question formats and multiple assessments within a subject area. In addition, in order to ensure the inclusion of all sub-groups of students, states will be required to explain how its minimum group size, or “N-size” and other components of its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) definition, interact to provide statistically reliable information and at the same time ensure the maximum inclusion of all students and subgroups.
Building on the Department’s growth model pilot program, the regulations outline the criteria that States must meet in order to incorporate individual student progress into the State’s definition of AYP. Recognizing schools in restructuring need the most significant intervention, the regulations seek to ensure that the interventions are more rigorous and that they specifically address the reasons for the school being in restructuring.
Under the new regulations, the Secretary of Education will be required to continue the dialogue and address some of the more technical needs of the states through the National Technical Advisory Council. The council is comprised of experts in the fields of education standards, accountability systems, statistics and psychometrics and it is advising the Department on complex and technical issues and ensure state standards and assessments are of the highest technical quality.
For more information about the final regulations and to view the Secretary’s full remarks, fact sheets and a webcast of the announcement, visit www.ed.gov
The number of Title I schools in the restructuring phase of school improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has increased by 56% since the 2006-07 school year, according to a new study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP). In addition, once schools have entered this phase, many struggle to leave it, even after taking all actions required by federal law.
A Call to Restructure Restructuring: Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Act in Five States reveals that despite the alarming increase in the number of schools in restructuring, this number is likely to increase further in the years to come.
Jack Jennings, president and CEO of CEP, explained that when NCLB was first enacted, several states back-loaded their plans to meet the 2014 deadline for getting all students to proficiency in reading and math. This meant that while schools would be allowed to make smaller gains in student proficiency in the early years, significantly larger gains would have to be made in the years just before 2014. Consequently, as the 2014 deadline approaches, a growing number of schools are missing their adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets and falling into restructuring status.
After missing AYP for five or more consecutive years, schools enter restructuring and are presented with a list of five options to turn around student performance, including:
- Replacing all or most of the school staff who are relevant to the school missing AYP
- Entering into a contract with an outside organization with a record of success and effectiveness to run the school
- Reopening the school as a charter school
- Turning over the school to the state, if the state agrees
- Undertaking any other major restructuring of the school’s governance that produces fundamental reform.
While over 90% of schools in the five states examined utilized the “any other major restructuring” option (only about 3% chose to replace the school principal), the study found that none of the five restructuring options “were associated with a greater likelihood of a school making AYP overall or in reading or math alone.” As a result of this finding, CEP advises federal policymakers to broaden, not narrow the options available for restructuring schools and consider using strategies that specifically use data to identify areas in which students are struggling, providing tutoring as needed.
On the issue of funding, CEP found that while the federal government mandates that additional monies be provided for schools in restructuring, some of this additional funding is often taken away when schools see improvements in student achievement and exit this phase.
Jennings noted that the withdrawal of these additional funds has made principals and teachers fearful that their schools may quickly slip and miss their AYP targets. This is for the simple reason that schools in restructuring used these additional resources to provide professional development for principals and teachers and targeted assistance to struggling students. Then at the very moment that these schools improve student achievement, “these funds are withdrawn and shifted to other schools that aren’t doing as well,” Jennings said.
“Schools in the restructuring phase under NCLB need the most help, but the current funding system that essentially punishes schools for improving student achievement by taking away resources is wrongheaded and completely counterproductive,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “Instead, federal policy should live up to its goal of getting all students to proficiency by providing increased funding and technical assistance to struggling schools. The federal government should also work with states and districts to help schools create a culture of continuous learning and excellence that encourages students to take charge of their own education. It is only by changing pervasive beliefs and expectations that meaningful school reform can truly be accomplished,” Tirozzi continued.
To guard against creating a revolving door of school failure and success, CEP calls on states and districts to “help schools adequately plan to replace these funds and services and…continue to funnel funds and services to these schools until they are able to maintain achievement.”
As the instructional leaders of schools, principals play a central role in school improvement efforts. When asked what he thinks is the most useful role for principals in schools in restructuring, Jennings responded that it is “probably to work with the current staff to know that a serious effort has to be made to change the school. What we’ve [CEP] found to be most effective is to use data to change instruction and identify students who need tutoring, and provide that tutoring either during or after school, and bring in outside experts to improve teaching.”
Jennings also noted that replacing school staff as a strategy for improving student achievement should be avoided, and only considered as an option when three very specific conditions are in place: 1) districts have the capacity to help the school advertise and interview for open staff positions; 2) the region around the school has enough qualified candidates who might apply for open positions; 3) the district, perhaps with state assistance, can negotiate with the teachers’ union to remove potential obstacles to restaffing. Notably, Jennings explained that many of the schools studied for CEP’s report did not have these conditions in place.
NASSP believes that increasing student achievement requires a schoolwide, comprehensive approach, and rather than merely replacing school staff, schools should focus on the strategies detailed in NASSP’s Breaking Ranks series, including: the creation of professional learning communities; personalization of the school environment; empowering students to take control of their own continuous learning and development; and connecting high expectations with rigorous curriculum, instruction, and assessments.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced that Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia have been approved to allow school districts to offer Supplemental Educational Services (SES) to students attending Title I schools in year one of school improvement status. Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Indiana have been approved for the same flexibility under the Differentiated Accountability pilot program announced earlier this month.
This flexibility agreement will allow districts within these states to offer tutoring ahead of schedule under No Child Left Behind. States approved for the SES pilot must meet the following criteria: (1) timely notification of adequate yearly progress; (2) a state SES evaluation in progress; and (3) a state assessment system for which the U.S. Department of Education has granted Full Approval with Recommendations.
“Success in the previous years of this pilot program has allowed us to expand it to more states,” Secretary Spellings said. “SES is a lifeline for students who need more resources and parents who want more options. Research shows that students benefiting from SES are improving in both their reading and math skills.”
Supplemental educational services are an important component of No Child Left Behind, giving low-income parents real options to obtain free tutoring and after-school services for their children. These states will also offer the school choice transfer option, either at the same time as SES, or in the second year of school improvement status along with SES.
These pilots will ensure that more eligible students receive SES, and the U.S. Department of Education hopes to gain valuable information through the pilots that can be shared with other states and districts to improve the quality and delivery of this free tutoring.
For more information on Supplemental Educational Services, go to www.ed.gov