On April 16, President Obama signed the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law. Included in this legislation is a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. This law, which was enacted after rural communities were devastated by logging industry regulations, requires that 15 to 20 percent of the United States Forest Service’s county payments be used for specific purposes. These purposes include supporting or expanding rural schools, improving roads in rural communities, increasing public safety, or developing special projects on federal lands.
While Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill that would extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act for three years, this two-year reauthorization will have a major impact on funding and development in rural communities across the country.
In addition to the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, NASSP is also keeping a close eye on the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations process for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. Specifically, NASSP will be monitoring funding levels for the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP), which provides formula grants to small and low-income schools in rural areas through the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program and the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program. This program remains in Title VI of the Every Child Achieves Act and would allow for dually eligible districts to choose which program they would like to apply for funding, which is not allowed under current law.
As ESEA reauthorization and the Appropriations process move forward, NASSP will continue monitoring resource distribution in rural communities.
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 summer months saw a LOT of activity on Capitol Hill. The law, currently known as No Child Left Behind, has been due for reauthorization since 2007.
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 on developing education policy. At one point, four separate proposals were floating around Capitol Hill, but ultimately a Democratic proposal was approved by the Senate HELP Committee in June and a Republican proposal (H.R. 5) was passed by the full House in July. Debate in both chambers centered on the appropriate federal role in education and a conversation about how to provide more flexibility for states and local school districts.
NASSP took no formal position on the Senate bill (S. 1094) as it contained both good and bad proposals affecting middle and high school leaders. However, we sent a joint letter with the National Association of Elementary School Principals opposing H.R. 5, which would lock in sequester cuts to programs authorized under ESEA through the 2019-2020 school year and provide little support to principals in their role as instructional leaders.
NASSP believes that the appropriate role of the federal government is to ensure that all students, especially those served in low-income communities and high need schools, have access to a rigorous curriculum and other educational opportunities so that all students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to be prepared for the global workforce. Additionally, we believe that a reauthorized ESEA should help states and districts manage robust, meaningful accountability systems, while at the same time, provide sufficient supports for educators and schools to improve.
We are concerned that the bipartisan approach taken by Congress this year makes it very unlikely that a reauthorization will be finalized before the end of 2014. Rumors suggest that the full Senate may consider S. 1094 sometime this year, but Congress is fully focused on budget and appropriations issues. Even if the Senate does approve a bill in 2013, it would seem difficult for a conference committee to work out the major differences in the bills.
The following summarizes are positions on key issue areas within ESEA and how they are addressed in the House and Senate proposals:
House: H.R. 5 would remove the word “principal” from federal law and instead use the term “school leader,” which would also include superintendents and other district leaders. We feel that this diminishes the role of the principal as an instructional leader in absence of clear direction that principals are unique and their role in fostering high-quality instruction and learning must be upheld.
We are also disappointed that H.R. 5 includes provisions from the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act (H.R. 2196) as an allowable use of funds at the state level. NASSP oppose the GREAT Act and its intent to establish new principal preparation academies that usurp state-level authority over principal licensure and certification requirements, recruit principal candidates with little-to-no background in education or experience in a school or classroom, and provide minimal clinical experience and mentoring for new principals and assistant principals.
Senate: S. 1094 significantly expands and improves support for principals and instructional leaders from current law by including provisions of the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (S. 840). The bill authorizes a competitive grant program to recruit, support, and prepare principals and assistant principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools through research-based programs. The provision would create one-year residencies to train aspiring principals, and provides ongoing mentoring, support, and professional development for at least two years after the aspiring principals complete the residency and enter the profession.
We were disappointed that S. 1094 also includes provisions from the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act (S. 1052) as an allowable use of funds at the state level.
House: NASSP strives to support the instructional leadership skills of the nation’s middle level and high school principals and other schools leaders. Professional development for principals has been largely overlooked by states and local districts. While we are pleased that states must provide training to school leaders on the statewide teacher evaluation systems, we are concerned that H.R. 5 does not require districts to use Title II funds for professional development for principals.
Senate: NASSP strongly supports a provision within S. 1094 that requires States to 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. Many states are initiating pilot principal evaluation systems and will need significant assistance to ensure that they will lead to improved leadership performance. Part of the technical assistance would also 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.
House: NASSP and NAESP issued a report in September 2012 called Rethinking Principal Evaluation, which offers states and districts a framework for principal evaluation systems to reflect the complexity of the principalship, and measure the leadership competencies that are required for student and school success. Principals are concerned about the new evaluation systems being developed by states and districts that were a condition for receiving ESEA flexibility waivers, SIG program funds, as well as Race to the Top. Congress now has a responsibility to provide guidance to state and local efforts in ESEA in order to establish effective principal evaluation systems that will lead to improved performance of principals within the domains of effective school leadership, or the areas of their role in a school that are in their direct control.
We are concerned that H.R. 5 does not require the school leader evaluation systems in States to be based on more than just student test scores. We recommend that any principal evaluation focus on the 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. The research contained in NAESP and NASSP’s report recommends that no more than a quarter of a principal’s evaluation be based on student achievement, and that the evaluation include multiple measures of performance within each of the six key domains. Further, ESEA must ensure that States and districts provide for relevant, reliable, valid evaluation systems that comprehensively evaluate principals by taking into account local contextual factors, and weighting performance components appropriately to the individual principal.
Senate: The evaluation systems required in S. 1094 must be based “in significant part” on evidence of improved student academic achievement and growth, and evidence of providing strong instructional leadership, as well as support to teachers and other staff.
College and Career-Ready Standards
House: The nation’s principals and other school leaders are enthusiastic about the potential of rigorous, common standards that raise the bar for all students and set learning expectations from high school completion to college and career-readiness. Under H.R. 5, 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. The bill does not address State’s adoption or implementation of Common Core State Standards.
Senate: In order to receive Title I funding under S. 1094, 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.
NASSP is concerned about provisions in the bill that support the transition to the new standards and aligned assessments for high-stakes accountability purposes only. Specifically, we have called for a delay on penalties and sanctions related to test scores for schools, principals, and teachers. This is not a call to eliminate accountability, but to allow for a transition period so that schools have at least two years of experience with the new assessment systems. The reauthorization of ESEA must take into account the transition period to give states, districts, and educators the time needed to properly address data collection issues, which have dogged states since the inception of NCLB.
House: 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.
Senate: 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 under S. 1094. 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.
House: As a member of Advocates for Literacy, NASSP was very disappointed that H.R. 5 would not include any federal comprehensive literacy program and would eliminate the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program. We feel that a renewed focus on comprehensive literacy education is crucial and necessary for all students to be college and career ready.
Senate: The text of the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758), which NASSP strongly supports, would be incorporated into S. 1094. The “Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement” provision 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.
House: H.R. 5 would not include any federal education technology program and would eliminate authorization for the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act, which has not been funded since FY 2010.
Senate: NASSP is very pleased to see the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation or “ATTAIN” Act included in S. 1094. The bill would authorize grants to states to administer education technology initiatives and subgrants to school districts to ensure that school leaders and teachers are technology literate. Principals are enthusiastic about the potential of education technology to support the personalization of student learning and improve academic achievement. However, they desperately need resources in their schools to purchase hardware, software, and digital devices and to access professional development opportunities so teachers understand how to infuse technology into their instruction.
Secondary School Reform
House: NASSP was disappointed that H.R. 5 would provide no additional support for middle level and high schools and would authorize funding for Title I at $16.6 billion for FY 2014-2019—lower than the program was authorized under NCLB 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.
Senate: We are very supportive of the “Improving Secondary Schools” provision of Title I in S. 1094, which would provide low-performing middle and high schools with the necessary resources to implement innovative and effective reform strategies. Many of the provisions of this section are contained in 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 section 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.
ESEA Flexibility Waivers
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.
FY 2014 Budget & Appropriations
Congress was unable to complete action on the FY 2014 appropriations bill and also failed to approve a continuing resolution (CR) before the fiscal year ended on September 30, 2013. Therefore, the federal government ceased most of its operations for the first time since 1996. This means that “non-essential” government services and programs are suspended until Congress passes a CR to fund the government and federal programs for FY 2014. Most federal employees have been furloughed and all museums and national parks run by the National Park Service are closed. The government does provide for some “excepted” employees and activities during a shutdown that are deemed necessary to protect life, liberty and property namely the U.S. military, border patrol agents, TSA security screeners, air traffic controllers and food inspectors.
In regards to education, the U.S. Department of Education has furloughed 90% of its 4,225 employees, which means there will be processing delays in grant applications, contracts and delays and/or no communications coming from the Department. The Department has stated its website will not be updated until the shutdown is over. The one piece of good news is that most schools and districts will not face an immediate impact due to the shutdown since most federal education programs are forward-funded. This means money for formula funded programs such as Title I and II, IDEA, and career and technical education programs has already been distributed to education agencies. Additionally, the department will ensure that $22 billion in formula funding to states and districts will be dispersed as planned this month. While a short-term shutdown may not immediately impact schools and districts, a longer lasting shutdown will severely hamper the work of the Department and negatively impact schools and districts already adversely affected by sequestration. For additional information on the Department’s detailed shutdown plan, click here.
Additionally, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee have shuttered their doors during the shutdown and most Hill staff have been furloughed as well and are under instructions to not respond to work-related emails. With the doors to both education committees closed for business indefinitely it is even more unlikely that we will see ESEA get to the floor of the Senate, much less be conferenced and reauthorized this year.
One can only hope that Congress will come to their senses and do what is right for the nation by funding government operations, passing a budget for FY2014 which addresses sequestration and deals with the looming debit ceiling deadline on October 17. NASSP has posted an action alert on the Principal’s Legislative Action Center encouraging our members to urge their members of Congress to end the shutdown and invest in education funding. We will continue to advocate for the repeal of sequestration to stop the harmful cuts to investments in education for our nation’s children and support a balanced, bipartisan solution to deficit reduction.
NASSP is strongly supportive of the ConnectED initiative, which the Obama administration launched in June 2013 to increase broadband Internet access to schools across the country and improve digital learning opportunities for students.
At an event at Mooresville (NC) Middle School, President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to “modernize and leverage” the 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 over the next five years. The president also said that the US Department of Education would work with states and school districts to better use existing federal funds to “strategically invest in the kind of professional development to help teachers keep pace with changing technological and professional demands.”
At a Capitol Hill event sponsored by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training in July, NASSP member and principal of Pottsgrove High School in Pottstown, PA, Bill Ziegler, spoke about his school’s technology program and the support they had received from the E-rate program. But he spoke more hesitantly about the future, stating that it would be difficult to keep up with increased bandwidth demands due to online assessments and e-text books among others.
In response to the president’s ConnectEd announcement, the FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to review and possibly modify virtually every aspect of the E-rate program with 3 overarching goals:
- Ensuring schools and libraries have affordable access to 21st century broadband that supports digital learning;
- Maximizing the cost-effectiveness of the E-rate program; and
- Streamlining the administration of the E-rate program.
The FCC asked educators to submit comments on the NPRM by September 16, and NASSP filed it own comments on behalf of middle and high school principals and in coordination with the Education and Library Networks Coalition.
High School Redesign
In a roundtable event at Aviation High School in New York City last June, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted key aspects of a new High School Redesign initiative that President Obama first mentioned in his State of the Union address and then included in his FY2014 budget proposal released last April.
According to Duncan, the purpose of the proposed $300 million discretionary grant program would be to “promote a rethinking of the high school learning experience, and challenge schools to incorporate personalized learning and career and college exploration and ensure that all students graduate with college-level coursework or college credit, as well as with career-related experiences or competencies.” In addition to urging secondary school leaders and teachers to strategically use learning time in more meaningful ways, the new initiative calls for evidence-based professional development to deepen educators’ skills, support collaboration and expand a comprehensive system of student support. Lastly, Duncan noted changes to the current high school structure and experience will require collaboration and contributions from a number of partners from both the public and private sectors, including institutions of higher education, non-profits, business and industry.
Specifically, the High School Redesign initiative would support competitive grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) in partnership with institutions of higher education and other entities, such as non-profits, community-based organizations, government agencies, and business or industry-related organizations to help schools apply academic concepts to real world challenges. The proposed program would also give priority to partnerships in areas with limited access to quality career and college opportunities, such as high-poverty or rural LEAs.
While there seems to be widespread agreement that the traditional high school design is outdated, efforts to reinvent high schools date back decades and have been explored by numerous LEAs, organizations and associations. NASSP’s contribution to the discussion goes back to the 1996 release of the Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement and an updated version of the initiative in 2003. The three core areas identified as critical in Breaking Ranks—collaborative leadership; personalization of the school environment; and curriculum, instruction and assessment—have become commonly agreed upon principles of redesign.
Taking a step further to help put the proposed High School Redesign program into practice, Reps. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Mike Honda (D-CA) plan to introduce the Creating Academic Pathways and Graduation Our Whole Nation Act (CAP and GOWN) in October. This legislation, supported by NASSP, would help schools, districts, and states implement effective high school improvement systems by identifying low-performing schools and supporting the development and implementation of comprehensive, evidenced-based reform.
Specifically, the legislation would create a competitive high school redesign program to increase the number and percentage of students who graduate from high school ready for college and a career by identifying low-performing schools for whole school reform or targeted intervention and establishing an early warning indicator and intervention system in targeted schools as well as feeder middle schools. Additionally, the bill would develop and implement comprehensive high school redesign models that personalize education for students and connect their learning to real-world experiences while providing additional supports to low-income and low-performing high schools. The competitive-grant program would be authorized at $300 million.
While funding for the High School Redesign program remains unknown as Congress continues to struggle to finalize the FY2014 budget, secondary school advocates should be pleased with the continued federal focus on high schools, feeder middle schools and the push to connect student learning directly to the real world.
NASSP on Capitol Hill
MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Capitol Hill Day
The state and national principals of the year conducted over 190 meetings with their members of Congress on Thursday, September 20. 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 for Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
2014 National High School Principal of the Year Testifies at CTE Hearing
Since Congress seems to have hit a brick wall on ESEA reauthorization, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has decided to focus on a new project: reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. The subcommittee overseeing elementary and secondary education held its first hearing on Perkins and CTE programs on September 21, and NASSP was very pleased to be represented by the 2014 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year, Dr. Sheila Harrity, who is the principal of Worcester (MA) Technical High School.
Worcester Tech, which was also named a MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School in 2011, has 1,400 students in 24 technical programs within four small learning communities. Once the lowest-performing high school in the city and the poorest performing vocational school in the state, the students are graduating at high levels and performing well on state assessments, and the achievement gap has decreased significantly for all student subgroups.
Students are graduating college and career-ready at Worcester Tech, taking AP courses and earning a high school diploma in addition to receiving college credits and an industry credential in some fields. Harrity has been able to leverage partnerships with business and industry and four-year colleges and universities, which help support a full-service restaurant, day spa and salon, 16-bay auto service center, and veterinary clinic at the school. “Our school’s success and the city’s success are intertwined,” she stated, noting that students are leaving Worcester Tech with the skills to secure good-paying and rewarding jobs in the community.
In his opening remarks at the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) outlined the status of Perkins reauthorization, stating that Congress will need to assess the federal role in career and technical education, ensure CTE programs are effective, and help states recruit and retain educators with valuable knowledge and experience. “As we work to rebuild our economy after the recent recession, strengthening career and technical education programs will help put more Americans on the path to a prosperous future,” he said.
Delving more into the policy issues, Vermont Deputy Commissioner and President of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium John Fischer spoke about vital importance of a federal investment in CTE, which continues to be a “major driver of change and innovation in CTE.” He explained that all states had agreed to a common vision for CTE that includes five principles:
- CTE is critical to ensuring that the United States leads in global competitiveness;
- CTE actively partners with employers to design and provide high-quality dynamic programs;
- CTE prepares students to succeed in further education and careers;
- CTE is delivered through comprehensive programs of study aligned to the National Career Clusters Framework; and
- CTE is a results-driven system that demonstrates a positive return on investment.
Fischer said that the 2006 law encouraged states to strengthen the integration of high-quality academic and technical education programs, emphasizing that students participating in CTE programs be held to the same academic standards as all other students. He further noted that CTE students are out-performing their peers on academic benchmarks and they are graduating at a national average of more than 90%. “Our nation’s economic vitality hinges on our commitment to invest in and ensure the preparedness, efficiency, innovation, creativity and productivity of the U.S. workforce, and CTE is instrumental to our success,” he concluded.
The committee wants to move quickly on a bipartisan reauthorization of Perkins this year, and future hearings will likely examine the Obama administration’s blueprint that was released in April 2012.
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). 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.
The School Principal Recruitment and Training Act currently has 6 House cosponsors and 1 Senate cosponsor.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) have reintroduced the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758/H.R. 2706). 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.
The LEARN Act has 4 Senate cosponsors and 8 House cosponsors.
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. The bill would authorize $500 million for State Grants for Technology Readiness and Access.
The Transforming Education Through Technology Act has 15 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.
The Success in the Middle Act has 11 House cosponsors and 3 Senate cosponsors.
Graduation Promise Act
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940) in May. 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 Graduation Promise Act has no Senate cosponsors.
National Principals Month
On September 25, the Senate passed a resolution (S. Res. 260) recognizing October 2013 as National Principals Month. A companion resolution (H. Res. 353) was introduced in the House, and it currently has 11 cosponsors.
To date, 11 state associations (AK, AR, GA, IL, IA, MD, MO, ND, OK, PA and WY) have sent us proclamations or resolutions from their respective states in support of National Principals Month.
NASSP and NAESP have been working closely with the US Department of Education to build support for National Principals Month. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan taped a video message thanking principals, and Department officials are scheduled to conduct shadowing visits with local principals the week of October 14 (this activity may be canceled due to the government shutdown).
Other Hill Activity
NASSP government relations staff met with staff for House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) in August to discuss the NASSP board position statement on Parent Trigger and Empowerment Laws.
In September, NASSP government relations staff participated in the Coalition for Teaching Quality’s Day on the Hill to advocate against an extension in the exception to the Highly Qualified Teacher definition for teachers in training. Later that month, NASSP government relations staff attended a meeting with staff for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to further discuss this issue.
In September, NASSP government relations staff attended the Committee for Education Funding’s Bake Sale on Capitol Hill to protest education funding cuts and sequestration and distributed cookie crumbs (“crumbs for education”) to congressional offices.
NASSP and the US Department of Education
Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program
The U.S. Department of Education reported in July that over 450 applications were submitted in June to secure a slot for the 2013-2014 Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program. The Principal Ambassador Program, known as “PAF, was established this year building on the success of the Teacher Ambassador Fellowship. After Department officials spent a day shadowing principals across the DC area during National Principals Month last October, one of the participants highlighted the lack of principals’ voices in dialogues surrounding education policy at a debrief event with Secretary Arne Duncan. The Secretary agreed with him, and then announced the creation of the PAF program at the 2013 NASSP Conference: Ignite in February 2013.
The PAF program is meant to recognize the important impact that a principal has on instructional leadership, the school environment, and talent management. NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals worked to help establish the program to elevate the principal’s voice within the Department, and to help increase its efforts to build the capacity of principals.
The Department is expected to announce three principals who will serve as the 2013-2014 PAFs in November.
Meeting with Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle
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 August as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. The meeting focused on the process for states to renew their ESEA flexibility waivers.
Meeting with Office for Civil Rights
NASSP government relations staff and other members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality met with Seth Galanter, principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights to discuss civil rights data collection and a specific question regarding the status of teachers-in-training.
In August, NASSP government relations staff participated in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) discussion on how national organizations in education and SAMHSA can collaborate and partner to prevent underage drinking.
NASSP government relations staff participated in an orientation session for the Teach for America Capitol Hill Fellows in August.
NASSP government relations staff participated in a panel discussion at the Skills USA Washington Leadership Training Institute in September.
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 email@example.com. 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: Will Parker (OK), Anna Battle (AZ), Justin Gross (IA), Karie McCrate (OH), John Fanning (AZ), Jim Smokrovich (MN), Sharon Pope (VA), and Tom Storer (NJ).
The NASSP State Coordinators held their quarterly conference calls on August 27 and 28. Attendees provided feedback on the new format of the Weekly Advocacy Update and the new Web page for State Coordinators. They also discussed the “Advocacy Asks” for September and October, including activities related to National Principals Month.
NASSP Advocacy in the States
In September, NASSP Manager of Government Relations Jacki Ball attended the Region 7 meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, to talk about the importance of grassroots advocacy and how principals can get more involved at the federal level.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Senate HELP Committee Hearing on ESEA Flexibility Waivers
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee kicked off its most recent attempt to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by holding a hearing in February to examine the state flexibility waivers that are available under the current iteration of the law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
Calling the ESEA waivers “Plan B,” US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explained that the administration put forward a blueprint for ESEA reform in 2010 and only moved forward with the waivers after Congress was unable to reauthorize the law. He said that the guiding principle of ESEA flexibility is that it must first benefit students, and states must demonstrate a commitment and capacity to improve educational outcomes. Duncan also noted that the federal government does not serve as a national school board, but it does have a responsibility to set a high bar, especially for at-risk students. Duncan concluded by expressing a desire to partner with Congress to fix NCLB, which he called “fundamentally broken.”
The committee also heard from two chief state school officers whose states have received flexibility waivers: Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and New York Commissioner of Education John King. They discussed how the waivers have allowed them to enhance reforms already underway in their states, including a focus on student proficiency and achievement gaps, strengthening the accountability system, and improving teacher and principal evaluation. Nonetheless, both chiefs expressed their desire that state reforms developed under the waivers inform ESEA reauthorization and urged Congress to move forward. “Only reauthorization gives us long-term expectations for accountability and long-term capacity for implementation,” said Holliday.
Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust, discussed the report her organization released the same day as the hearing, A Step Forward or a Step Back? State Accountability in the Waiver Era. She outlined four areas of concern in the waivers: 1) Although states were required to set ambitious goals for raising student performance and closing achievement gaps, these goals were not included in the school rating systems developed by many states; 2) Super subgroups that combine small subgroups of student populations are problematic in many states because they mask the true performance of some disadvantaged students; 3) Many states did not include multiple measures of student performance in their accountability systems, but instead chose to continue using only state assessments in math and English language arts; 4) Many states did not specify what districts need to do to turn around the lowest-performing schools.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) closed the hearing with a reminder that the “federal role is to ensure that our nation’s most vulnerable children are not forgotten.” He also reaffirmed his commitment to work towards a comprehensive, bipartisan ESEA reauthorization in the next year.
Update from CQ Roll Call (3/19/13)
Despite the widespread belief that Congress has zero appetite for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year, leaders of the Senate education committee are testing the waters.
Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, met last week with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss the prospects of crafting a bipartisan overhaul of the ESEA (PL 107-110), widely known as No Child Left Behind.
Education Department staffers are meeting with both Democratic and Republican education policy staffers on the committee to work out a potential foundation for a bill.
“Our staffs are going to be working very, very hard the next couple of weeks to see where and if there is common ground,” Duncan said Tuesday at the annual legislative conference for the Council of Chief State School Officers. “The real question is does Congress have the bandwidth, the capacity and the willingness to work in a bipartisan way? And if they do, we stand ready and able to help out any way we can. If they’re not, we’ll come back when they are ready.”
Harkin said Tuesday the three will meet again after the upcoming congressional recess to assess any paths forward.
“Our staffs are doing some work together now,” Harkin said. “We’ll just see what areas we need to work on a little bit more. It’s just trying to find a way of moving forward.”
Though moving forward could mean having to push a partisan bill through committee, Harkin said that is something he is not opposed to doing.
“I am reporting an ESEA bill out of my committee before summer,” Harkin said. “One way or the other, it’s coming out.”
Harkin and Alexander won’t be starting from scratch. They ushered a bipartisan rewrite of the law through committee last year, along with then-ranking member Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo. But neither side was enamored enough with the bill to press Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring it to the floor, and so the effort expired along with the last Congress.
“In the Senate last time we started out with a lean bill and ended up with a really long bill and lots of senators had their ideas in it,” Alexander said. “I voted to get it out of committee, but I didn’t like it very much because it got too intrusive.”
The bill was sprinkled with sweeteners for both sides. For Democrats, it wrote into law the administration’s signature competitive grants, such as the Race to the Top program. It also expanded charter schools, a Republican priority.
But significant policy gaps existed: Democrats thought it lacked robust accountability standards, Republicans wanted to include language to limit federal authority over education policy, and a coalition of members from both parties wanted to include teacher evaluation requirements.
“Obviously, the current dysfunction in Washington makes me less optimistic that this can get done,” Duncan said. “But we’re going to provide whatever leadership we can do to help facilitate it.”
Currently, thirty four states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and twelve states’ requests are still outstanding: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming. And while California was denied its request for a waiver, 10 California school districts have applied for a customized waiver. Three states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, and Vermont.
FY 2013 Appropriations/FY 2014 Budget
After months of anticipation and constant assurances that it would never happen, the sequester that triggers $85 billion in automatic spending cuts took effect on March 1st. Congress and the White House, in spite of reassuring the public for months that it was just too awful and they would never let it happen, failed to come up with an alternative. Because of a policy known as forward funding, most education programs will not feel the impact of the sequester until the fall. But not all programs. Headstart and Impact Aid will feel the cuts in the remaining months of this fiscal year.
For the Department of Education, the impact will be slow in coming on the one hand but fairly immediate given the constraints of teacher contracts. In total, the sequester will force cuts totaling $3 billion from education programs. That means 5.1% for every program and every activity. Because the year is truncated that 5.1% translates to something closer to a 9% decrease. Agency heads like Secretary Duncan have some limited flexibility in how the sequester is applied. If the Department were to enact furloughs they could only apply to career employees. If the Department were to prohibit all travel or cancel conferences that could reduce the overall percentage but the cuts would still have to be applied across the board.
The formula grants that include the majority of education funding that reaches states will be hard hit. Title I and IDEA grants will be reduced by $735 million and $600 million respectively. The Pell Grant program—the largest single expenditure at the Department– is exempt from the sequester this first year. Beyond specific cuts, if there are furloughs of career employees, grant reviews, release of RFPs and other services delivered by the Department are sure to be impacted.
Slowly but surely individual federal agencies are alerting their staff and grantees and the public about their sequester plans. These plans must be sent to the Congress by May 1st. Given that federal workers are in many instances unionized, negotiations between management and union leaders will also slow down the works and impact the way cuts are applied.
While it is too late for the President to negotiate changes for FY 2013, the $85 billion in sequester cuts are scheduled to occur every year over the next 9 years and total over a trillion in reduced federal spending. It is those out year cuts that he and others in Congress hope to address with a so-called grand bargain, which will only possible if Democrats agree to entitlement reforms and Republicans agree to revisit the tax code.
FY 2013 Appropriations
The FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2013 (HR 933) was signed into law on March 26th. The CR extends funding for education programs and other parts of the federal budget at Fiscal Year 2012 levels—minus $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, also known as the sequester—through September 30, 2013. The Department of Education’s share of the sequester is $2.5 billion. The CR also included an additional across-the-board budget cut of 0.2%, which works out to about $136 million of the agency’s $68 billion in discretionary funding. The CR requires all agencies to submit an operating plan to Congress showing the amounts for programs, projects, and activities by April 25.
FY 2014 Budget
Although the Executive Branch typically releases its budget proposal for the next fiscal year on the first Tuesday of February, this year’s budget was delayed while Congress finalized spending for FY 2013. President Obama recently announced that he will release the FY 2014 budget on April 10.
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.
After Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) read the press statement issued by NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) opposing proposals to arm school officials, our executive directors and the leaders of the National Education Association and the National PTA met with him in January to discuss action items for the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. While the conversation focused on gun control proposals and other school safety issues, we were also able to offer recommendations on the vital need for mental health services in schools. Our organizations submitted joint recommendations to the Congressman that called for reinstating the assault weapons ban and strengthening background checks for all gun purchases; promoting access to mental health services; coordinating federal mental health, education, and justice programs; and providing school officials with the necessary skills and authority to strengthen partnerships with local social and health service providers. Click here to read the full letter.
NASSP and NAESP also submitted joint recommendations to Vice President Biden on how to prevent gun violence in schools and were asked to participate in a meeting today with senior officials from the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education. Because the principal’s responsibility is to foster a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting environment where students come to school ready and eager to learn, we urged policymakers to take preemptive measures to strengthen the ability of schools to provide coordinated services in mental health and school safety at all levels of government. We also encouraged coordination between education and health services agencies so that local communities could focus on schools as the “hub” for delivery of these services. Finally, we requested additional support for federal programs to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools, which we feel will have a dramatic impact in improving school safety and, correspondingly, student achievement for all students. Click here to read the full letter.
Many of our recommendations on bullying prevention and mental health services in schools were reflected in legislation introduced during the 112th Congress: the Safe Schools Improvement Act, the Mental Health in Schools Act, and the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act. NASSP has long supported these bills and expects them to be reintroduced later this year. NASSP was also pleased that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation in December to strengthen and expand the COPS Secure Our Schools program, which provides schools resources to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, secured entrances, and other safety measures. She also introduced a bill that would allow Governors to use their states’ National Guard troops to support local law enforcement in efforts related to school safety. NASSP feels that only appropriately trained law enforcement personnel should serve as school resource officers, so we would encourage states to use this flexibility in a way that would allow more local police officers to receive this training and work in schools.
White House Recommendations
At an event surrounded by school children, victims of gun violence, local law enforcement officials, and education advocates on January 16, President Obama announced his plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence. Now is the Time offers proposals in four key areas: 1) closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands; 2) banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; 3) making schools safer; and 4) improving mental health services.
NASSP was pleased to see that the President took a comprehensive approach to school safety that focuses on security, bullying prevention, and mental health services. His proposal calls for $150 million for a new Comprehensive School Safety program, which will help school districts hire school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Funding could also be used to purchase school-safety equipment, develop and update public safety plans, conduct threat assessments, and train “crisis intervention teams.” The Department of Justice will also develop a model for using school resource officers, including best practices on age-appropriate methods for working with students, which is strongly supported by NASSP.
By May 2013, the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security will release a model, high-quality emergency management plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education, along with best practices for training school staff and students to follow them. President Obama has also called on Congress to provide $30 million in one-time grants to help school districts develop and implement emergency management plans. He also urged Congress to require that states and school districts receiving federal school safety funding to have comprehensive, up-to-date, emergency plans in all of their schools. The President also proposed a $50 million initiative to help 8,000 schools train their school leaders and other staff to implement evidence-based strategies to improve school climate and will require the Department of Education to collect and disseminate best practices on school discipline policies.
To address mental health issues, President Obama is calling for a new initiative Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which will include $15 million to train school staff to detect and respond to mental illness in children. The initiative would also include $40 million to help school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to assure students with mental health issues receive the services they need. In addition, $25 million would be proposed for innovative state-based strategies to support young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues.
NASSP on Capitol Hill
In January and February, NASSP staff met with other members of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and staff for House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline to discuss our recommendations on school safety. Conference calls were also organized for Chairman Kline’s staff and Ranking Member George Miller’s staff to speak to NASSP Specialist for School Safety Bill Bond. NASSP staff also met with staff for Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to discuss various proposals related to the school-to-prison pipeline. Based on the conversation, staff forwarded NASSP’s position statement on corporal punishment and our general school safety recommendations.
In February, Bill Bond was invited to appear before the committee at a hearing on school safety that was prompted by the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Other witnesses included a school counselor from California, the director of the office of safety and security for a suburban Virginia school district, a researcher, an employee from a private security firm, and the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Bond spoke about the assistance he has provided to 12 other schools where students have died and how his role is to focus the principal on the decisions he or she will need to make to get the school back up and functioning. He also spoke more broadly about what a principal must do to prepare his or her school for a crisis, including meeting with local responders; defining people’s roles; examining how the traffic flows around the schools; and creating lockdown, evacuation, and reunification procedures.
One huge area where Bond feels that schools need to adjust their emergency plans is in the area of crisis communications. “Communicating with teachers, staff, and parents is the hardest part of a crisis, but it is extremely important and it’s the key to recovery,” he told committee members. He said that parents expect instant communication today, and if they are hearing nothing from the school they may fill the gap with information from news outlets, texts from their kids, the rumor mill, or social media. Bond said that parents only want to know two things: is my child OK? And when can I get him? “And the more parents can hear from the school that at least makes progress toward those answers, the more it relieves their emotions,” he stated.
Bond’s final point, and one that was shared with the other witnesses, is that school shootings can’t be prevented by more security alone. “Your best protection is a trusting relationship between adults and students that encourages kids to share responsibility for their safety and share information,” he said, explaining that kids very often know better than adults what’s going on in a school and what could cause a crisis.
While the hearing could have turned into a debate on gun violence, only one committee member asked whether teachers and school officials should be armed in schools. All witnesses voiced their opposition to such a proposal, and the conversation shifted to a discussion about the need for more school resource officers, counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Chairman John Kline (R-MN) was careful to not propose additional federal funding for schools to hire these professionals, but he did state that all educators could benefit from training on how to build trusting relationships with students.
Click here to view an archived webcast of the hearing.
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. Although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress, we expect the legislation to be introduced in the coming weeks. 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 we expect the 80+ members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality to include the bill as one of their top legislative priorities this year.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will soon be reintroducing the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act. The bill 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.
NASSP staff and other members of Advocates for Literacy also held a meeting in January with Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle to discuss the LEARN Act and implementation of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program.
Transforming Education Through Technology Act
Since Congress eliminated funding for the federal Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program in FY 2011, schools have struggled to pay for new handheld devices, education software, and training for school leaders and teachers on how to use technology to personalize the learning environment for each student. As these skills become more important in our effort to graduate all students college and career ready, principals should be very pleased that House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) has introduced the Transforming Education through Technology Act (H.R. 521). 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. States would be required to provide technical assistance to school districts to help them address their technology readiness needs, deliver computer-based and online assessments, support principals in evaluating teachers’ proficiency in implementing digital tools for teaching and learning, and build capacity for individual school and district leaders. States would also coordinate with teacher and school leader preparation programs to align digital learning teaching standards and provide professional development that is aligned to state student technology standards and activities promoting college and career readiness.
Under the bill, 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 was invited to a meeting with staff for Rep. Miller in February to discuss the strategy for getting more cosponsors on the bill and finding a Senate champion to introduce a companion bill on the Senate side. Congressman Miller also visited Coronado Middle School in San Diego, CA, and met with the school’s principal, Jay Marquand, who is an NASSP member.
The Transforming Education Through Technology Act has 5 House cosponsors.
Success in the Middle Act
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will soon be reintroducing the Success in the Middle Act. 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.
NASSP is leading the Middle Grades Coalition, which held a meeting in January with staff for Rep. Grijalva to discuss the bill’s reintroduction. The coalition also offered a number of recommendations to update and revise the bill, which were submitted to congressional staff.
Graduation Promise Act
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) will soon reintroduce the Graduation Promise Act. 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.
NASSP and the US Department of Education
Secretary Duncan Announces Principal Ambassador Program
On March 1, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took the stage at Ignite 2013 to a standing ovation by nearly 1,500 middle and high school principals. Duncan spoke about three priorities for the Obama administration during his second term – school safety and mental health, college and career readiness by transforming high schools, and principal preparation and professional development.
Duncan admitted that not enough has been done on principal preparation, evaluation and professional development and vowed to make it a priority in the department’s second term agenda. He announced his commitment to establishing a principal ambassadorship program similar to the one currently in place for teachers at the department to help shape policy. Such ambassadors would share their expertise with policymakers, offer insight into what is and isn’t working at the department, and help shape federal programs and policy.
Although the planning is still in its infancy, the department later announced that the program will roll out next fall. Some principals may be employed for a full year while others will consult from their schools on a part-time basis.
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 February as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. The meeting focused on school safety and implementation of college and career-ready standards as required by the ESEA flexibility waivers.
NASSP Board Position Statements
At the February meeting, the NASSP Board of Directors stated its intent to adopt two new position statements. They are now open for public comment through April 12, 2013. Please submit your comments to Patty Kreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NASSP Board of Directors also approved revisions to the position statement on Safe Schools.
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 email@example.com. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here.
NASSP State Coordinators
NASSP welcomes several new coordinators to their roles: Tracey Lamb (KY), John Rogers (WV), Dave Powers (MI), and Dennis Barger (AZ).
The NASSP State Coordinators held their quarterly conference calls on February 13. The top issues were ranked in this order: state education funding, teacher evaluation (tied for #2), Common Core State Standards (tied for #2), school safety, federal education funding/sequestration, principal evaluation, and ESEA flexibility waivers.
The next quarterly conference calls will take place on (5/14) at 10 AM ET and (5/15) at 3:30 PM ET.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Status of ESEA Reauthorization
Congress wrapped up 2012 with no movement on ESEA reauthorization and begins the 113th Congress with no indication of addressing reauthorization anytime soon. The urgency of the “fiscal cliff” crisis consumed nearly all of the lame duck session, and the 113th Congress will be tasked with addressing legislation to avert sequestration and to raise the federal debt ceiling. The reelection in November of President Barack Obama means that we can expect states’ waivers from No Child Left Behind to move into the implementation phase, thus dimming a sense of urgency from Congress to reauthorize ESEA. Further, the 113th Congress brings significant turnover of education committee members in the House, with 13 new members on the committee all of whom must be brought up to speed on the key issues related to K-12 education. However, with enough pressure from the Chairmen of the House and Senate education committees and from the President and Secretary Duncan, ESEA reauthorization in the 113th Congress is not entirely out of the question, but still a long shot. NASSP will continue to push for a comprehensive ESEA reauthorization that includes a focus on our key issue areas: school leadership, literacy, middle level and high schools, and education technology. See attached issue sheets for more information on these key areas.
Currently, thirty four states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and two states’ requests are still outstanding: Iowa and Illinois. In addition, California was recently denied its request for waiver. Six states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming. NASSP continues to monitor the waiver process as well as the content of waiver applications to ensure they align with our positions on relevant issues. We are particularly concerned about states’ targets for and weighting of graduation rates as part of their accountability systems. Some states’ waiver applications set graduation rate targets and weighting too low, while others set them so high that schools may be incentivized to “push out” students not ready for graduation in order to meet the high targets.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education in November released a document highlighting which states are using an extended-year graduation rate (e.g., a 5-year or 6-year rate). Most notably, it shows that several states are using an extended-year graduation rate without increasing their annual target. Under the Department’s initial implementation of the regulations, states were allowed to use extended year rates if they had increased annual targets for the extended year rate. The rationale behind this previous approach is that if a school has more time, more students should graduate. Unfortunately, several states maintain the same annual target even if they are using an extended year graduation rate.
NASSP has met with key Congressional staff on the House education committee to express our concerns, and will continue to monitor this issue as well as others contained in the approved waiver applications.
FY 2013 Budget/Appropriations
The federal government is currently operating under a 6-month continuing resolution (CR) which level-funds all programs from their Fiscal Year 2012 levels through March 27, 2013. At that point, Congress will need to agree on and pass a year-long CR to cover spending for the remainder of FY 2013. Agreement on spending levels now seems difficult, since the House and Senate appropriations committees in their allocations for education programs currently have a gap of $1.5 billion that the leadership in appropriations will have to reconcile. Complicating a year-long FY 2013 federal budget are the issues of sequestration (see below) and the federal debt ceiling that Congress must address prior to March. NASSP staff will continue to keep you updated on this messy and stressful situation!
Congress narrowly avoided sequestration by voting at the last minute (January 1) to delay the sequester for two months, or until March 1, 2013. As a result, though sequestration was temporarily averted, it is still a significant threat that could still occur. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF) now projects that the revised sequestration percentage for nondefense discretionary programs will be 5.9% instead of the 8.2% projected by Office of Management and Budget. This is due to the $24 billion reduction in the sequester total for FY 2013. Thus, the total sequester amount will be $85.33 billion, instead of $109.33 billion. The domestic sequester is half of that amount or $42.67 billion. After taking into account the sequester cuts from nonexempt mandatory programs, the CEF projection of the cut to non-defense discretionary spending is $27.44 billion, which would result in a 5.9% across-the board cut. For the Department of Education, that would result in a cut of approximately $2.95 billion.
If sequestration does occur, education funding would not be affected until the 2013-2014 school year, since education is forward-funded by the federal government and this school year’s funds would thus be exempt. However, a few programs would be cut right away (this school year), including the Head Start preschool program for low-income children, and the impact-aid program, which assists districts burdened with additional costs from a large federal presence, such as a military base.
NASSP Government Relations staff has met with Congressional offices this quarter specifically on the issue of sequestration to urge legislators to prevent sequestration and instead find a solution to deficit reduction that is balanced and responsible. We met with the following Congressional offices:House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX). . CEF has also organized meetings with several other Congressional offices this past quarter as well to deliver our unified message about education funding.
NASSP encourages you to tell your legislators that sequestration is unacceptable by sending an action alert to your legislators through NASSP’s Principals’ Legislative Action Center at www.nassp.org/plac. As of January 3, 1,514 letters have been sent to legislators on this issue using NASSP’s action alert. We also encourage you to access a toolkit of resources on sequestration available at http://cef.org/cef-grassroots-campaign-2/. Here you can access sample Tweets, letters to the editor, and action alerts to urge your legislators to stop sequestration. Thank you in advance for your advocacy!
School Principal Recruitment and Training Act
NASSP continues to advocate for the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress. 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. This past quarter, NASSP and NAESP staff worked together to revise a draft bill, and both organizations are working collaboratively with staff of Sen. Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) to prepare a bill for introduction in the 113th Congress.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (H.R. 2272/S. 929) in 2011. The bill 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 is working with its coalition partner, Advocates for Literacy, to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
The LEARN Act had 15 House cosponsors and 6 Senate cosponsors at the end of the 112th Congress.
Success in the Middle Act
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reintroduced the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 1547/S. 833) in 2011. 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. This past quarter, NASSP and NAESP staff worked together to revise a draft bill, and both organizations are working collaboratively to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
The Success in the Middle Act had 17 House cosponsors and 8 Senate cosponsors at the end of the 112th Congress.
Graduation Promise Act
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 778/S. 1177) in 2011. 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. NASSP plans to work with other key organizations this upcoming quarter to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
The Graduation Promise Act had 34 House cosponsors and 1 Senate cosponsor at the end of the 112th Congress.
NASSP on Capitol Hill
NASSP and NAESP conducted a number of join meetings with congressional staff to discuss our recommendations on principal evaluation. Offices being visited this quarter included Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY).
Coalition for Teaching Quality
NASSP staff and other members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality met with congressional staff to discuss implementation of reporting language on teachers in training who are currently labeled “highly qualified” even though they have not yet completed their preparation programs. Offices being visited this quarter included House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
Educator Preparation Reform Act
NASSP, NAESP, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and other organizations met with staff for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to discuss the Educator Preparation Reform Act. The primary focus of the legislation is on teacher and principal preparation and amends the Higher Education Act (HEA). It also improves Title II of the HEA—the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants Program—by expanding the residency programs to include principals and providing partnerships flexibility in meeting the instructional needs of local school districts.
Advocates for Literacy
NASSP and other members of Advocates for Literacy met with staff for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to discuss the LEARN Act and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program.
Over 100 congressional staff and education advocates were able to witness firsthand how technology can be integrated into physics, literacy, and social studies lessons at an October event sponsored by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET). NASSP Director of Government Relations Amanda Karhuse serves on the NCTET board of directors.
To kick off the “pop-up” classrooms event, the principal of Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA, and NASSP member John Word and a physics teacher from Red Lion (PA) High School discussed how technology has changed their instructional practices. “The role of the school leader is to empower teachers to explore new technologies and new ways of teaching,” said Word. He also noted that technology has made his job as an administrator more manageable because he’s “mobile” and always able to access student and teacher data. Both panelists consider themselves lucky to work in school districts that have made technology a top priority, but they agreed there’s always a need for additional funding for professional development for school leaders and teachers. There’s also a concern that few schools are prepared for the new online Common Core assessments that will begin in 2014.
After the panel discussion, audience members rotated through four mobile classrooms. First was a history lesson on the 1860 election with two teachers from New Milford (NJ) High School where 2012 NASSP Digital Principal Eric Sheninger leads a schoolwide technology integration initiative. Attendees also participated in a hands-on physics experiment to measure the temperature of baking soda and vinegar and tracked the data on laptops. Classroom trends were also graphed on the teacher’s whiteboard, so students could understand in real time where they had performed the experiment correctly or not. Teachers from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia demonstrated adaptive curriculum and assessments, including an online essay writing program and interventions for high school students who are reading below grade-level. The final session with educators from Loudoun County (VA) Public Schools showed how gaming technologies can be used to teach special education students about teamwork and to express their feelings and stay in their personal space.
From the audience’s reaction, it was clear that their own education experience was really different than what was presented by these tech-savvy educators. NCTET hopes to plan similar events in the future and encourage Congress to invest in education technology programs so students in every school can have access to a rich learning experience.
NASSP and the US Department of Education
National Principals Month
During the week of October 8-12, officials from the U.S. Department of Education visited nearly 40 local schools, many of which are led by NASSP and NAESP members, to learn more about the daily life of a principal as part of National Principals’ Month. “Great school leaders are key to students receiving a high-quality education and teachers feeling supported and empowered in their work,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Outstanding principals build school cultures focused on learning and high expectations, where all students can reach their full potential. Every great school has a great leader.”
In addition to the visits to these schools, dozens of Education Department staff members visited schools in other parts of the country as part of an organized effort in which federal education officials shadowed school leaders. As a key component of National Principals’ Month, these shadowing visits offered Department staff a glimpse into the daily work of school leaders, while also providing principals with the opportunity to discuss how federal policy, programs, and resources impact their schools.
To complete the week-long partnership effort, on Friday, Oct. 12, principals and Department staff members who participated in the job shadowing engagements joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a debrief discussion to reflect on their experiences and lessons learned.
Find the complete list of participating schools here: http://nasspblogs.org/principalspolicy/2012/10/us-department-of-ed-officials-to-visit-nearly-40-schools-to-learn-from-principals/.
Meetings 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 October and December as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. NASSP is pleased that Assistant Secretary Delisle has established these regular meetings as a means to share information and recommendations, and we hope that they will prove fruitful in terms of the specific recommendations NASSP has for the Department of Education as cited in our position statements and elsewhere
News from the White House and the US Department of Education
Principals to Play a More Prominent Role in Obama’s 2nd Term
In a speech before the Council of Chief State School Officers in November, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that principal preparation and evaluation will be two focus areas for the administration’s education reform agenda in the next Congress. The announcement corroborated what NASSP leaders had been told in private meetings with US Department of Education (ED) officials—there was an admission that teachers had dominated the “human capital agenda” and a promise that school leaders would play a more prominent role if President Obama won a second term. Duncan also supported the creation of a principal ambassador position at ED when the idea was suggested by one of the principals who had participated in the October principal shadowing visits.
Although no details have been released concerning the administration’s policy recommendations on school leadership, ED officials are expected to release a blueprint on the RESPECT proposal to transform the education profession. The $5 billion proposal was first announced during the January 2012 State of the Union address, and multiple drafts were circulated for public comment during the following months. NASSP also held a number of focus group sessions at our national conference in Tampa and with principals and assistant principals who were in Washington, DC, as part of our recognition programs. The overwhelming response was positive towards the administration’s recommendations for preparing, training, and rewarding teachers, but the education profession as a whole cannot be “transformed” without also focusing on school leaders was a recurring comment made by NASSP members.
NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) submitted joint recommendations on the RESPECT proposal to the Department in August 2012. In our letter, we called for principal preparation programs to select high-quality candidates who have demonstrated success as classroom teachers, demonstrate abilities related to effective school leadership competencies, and show prior success in leading adults. Aspiring principals should receive training during a year-long pre-service residency and induction for up to three years alongside a principal mentor. We also urged the inclusion of principal evaluation systems that would assess principal performance on the six domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence and also take into consideration the context of the learning community and the level of authority afforded the individual principal. Our organizations also encouraged districts to provide opportunities for principals and assistant principals to engage in ongoing, sustained, job-embedded leadership development. We remain hopeful that our recommendations will be incorporated into the final version of the blueprint.
NASSP and NAESP have held a number of meetings with key staff on Capitol Hill to discuss our joint recommendations on principal evaluation that were released in September 2012. We are also working together to update the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, which is expected to be reintroduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) early next year. The flagship bill on school leadership will focus on principal preparation, mentoring, professional development, and evaluation, and our hope is that it will serve as the basis for any language affecting school leaders in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Department of Education Awards 17 Promise Neighborhood Grants
On December 21, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods $60 million grant. Promise Neighborhoods, according to the Department of Education, “is a community-focused program that funds local-led efforts to improve educational opportunities and provide comprehensive health, safety, and support services in high-poverty neighborhoods.”
These awards were split between 10 planning grants totaling more than $4.7 million and 7 implementation grants totaling nearly $30 million. The rest of 2012 funds will go toward second-year funding for the 5 implementation grantees awarded in 2011. According to the Department, “Planning grantees will each receive one-year awards of up to $500,000 to create targeted plans for combating poverty in the local community. Implementation grantees will receive awards up to $6 million to fund the first year of a 5-year grant to execute community-led plans that improve and provide better social services and educational programs.”
A complete list of 2012 grant winners can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/secretary-duncan-announces-seventeen-2012-promise-neighborhoods-winners-school-s.
Additional information on the Promise Neighborhoods program and 2012 winners is also available here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods/index.html.
Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the Newtown, Connecticut, School Shootings
“School shootings are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies. But words fail to describe today’s heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the father of two children in elementary school, I can barely imagine the anguish and losses suffered today by the Newtown community.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to every parent, child, teacher, staff member, and administrator at Sandy Hook and the surrounding community. And our thanks go out to every teacher, staff member, and first responder who cared for, comforted, and protected children from harm, often at risk to themselves. We will do everything in our power to assist and support the healing and recovery of Newtown.”
Department of Education Awards 16 Race to the Top-District Grants
The U.S. Department of Education announced on December 11 that 16 applicants have won the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition, and will share almost $400 million in funds. The awardees’ plans will address the personalization of student learning, improved student achievement and educator effectiveness, closing achievement gaps, and preparing all students to succeed in college and their careers.
According to the Department of Education, “The 2012 Race to the Top-District grantees will receive four-year awards that range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served through the plan. The winning applicants were the top scorers among the 372 applications the Department received in November, which were evaluated and scored by independent peer reviewers. Grantees represent a diverse set of districts, including applicants from both states that received a Race to the Top state grant as well as those that have not received Race to the Top state funding. Among the winners is a rural-area consortium representing 24 rural districts, which comprise 44 percent of the total number of districts that will benefit from the 2012 competition.”
To view a list of the grantees, go here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-announces-16-winners-race-top-district-competition. For more information about the Race to the Top-District program, including a list of winners, requested award amounts and additional materials, visit the Department’s website: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district/index.html.
NASSP Federal Grassroots Network
As a reminder, Federal Grassroots Network members no longer participate in quarterly calls (only state coordinators do), but continue to receive email updates twice per week 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 become one, please email Amanda Karhuse at firstname.lastname@example.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: Lisa DeLong (HI), Stacy Johnson (MS), Gary O’Brien (NJ) and Robert Mars (NV).
The NASSP State Coordinators held its quarterly call on November 13 and a make-up call on November 14. The five “hot topics” the Network reported on in their states and that NASSP Government Relations staff created action items on, in order of importance to members, were: teacher evaluation, state education funding, implementation of common core state standards, a tie between principal evaluation and federal education funding, and finally, No Child Left Behind waivers. Fact sheets have been developed on each of these topics.
The quarterly call dates for the remainder of 2012-2013 are the following (members will choose one date/time per quarter):
NASSP and more than 20 of our state associations joined nearly 3,000 other organizations from the non-defense discretionary (NDD) community today in calling upon Congress to avert sequestration by adopting a “balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to NDD programs.”
As a reminder, sequestration is the drastic, across-the-board cuts to education that are scheduled to occur on January 2, 2013. These across-the-board cuts will occur-unless Congress acts to stop it-as stipulated in the August 2011 Budget Control Act. Congress put this measure of sequestration in place when a 12-member Congressional committee was unable to approve a plan to reduce another $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit last fall.
NDD programs are provided by the government for the benefit of all Americans. They support economic growth, strengthen safety and security, and enrich the lives of every American in every state and community across the nation. In 2011, NDD spending represented less than one-fifth of the federal budget and 4.3 percent of our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Under strict discretionary caps in the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA), by 2021 NDD spending will decline to just 2.8 percent of GDP, the lowest level in at least 50 years. If sequestration is allowed to take effect, cuts to NDD programs will be even deeper.
Sequestration would impose the largest education funding cuts ever, chopping funding for programs in the Department of Education by roughly $4 billion, or 8.4%, which would have a devastating impact on state and district budgets.
To read the letter, go to: http://publichealthfunding.org/uploads/NDDLetter.Final.July2012.pdf.
The American Association of School Administrators also released a report this week examining how districts are preparing for the potentially devastating cuts of sequestration and how those cuts will impact the nation’s schools. More than half (54.1 %) of the superintendents that participated in the survey reported that their budget for the 2012-13 school year built-in cuts to off-set sequestration. Respondents reported that the cuts of sequestration would mean reducing professional development (69.4 percent), reducing academic programs (58.1 percent), personnel layoffs (56.6 percent) and increased class size (54.9 percent).
To read the full report, go to: http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/AASA%20Sequestration%20July%202012.pdf.
The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), held a hearing this week to examine the role of charter schools in the nation’s education system. Go here www.edworkforce.house.gov to watch a webcast of the event and read the witness testimony.
Debt Ceiling/Deficit Reduction:
House Rejects Clean Debt Ceiling Bill: This Tuesday, the House rejected HR 1954, a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion (the amount needed through the end of 2012). It failed by 97 – 318. House Republican leadership staged this vote to give their members the opportunity to officially register their opposition to raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts (all Republicans voted no) as well as to demonstrate that a clean debt ceiling bill can’t pass without spending cuts. Democrats split with 97 voting yes, 82 voting no and 7 voting present.
The next meeting of the Biden bipartisan group (aimed at finding a bipartisan deficit reduction plan for FY 2012) is scheduled for June 9. Yesterday, after President Obama met with the House Republican caucus, Speaker Boehner called for direct talks between himself and Obama and for a deal to be worked out within a month. See: John Boehner calls for debt deal in a month www.politico.com
FY ’12 Budget and Appropriations News: Balanced Budget
The House Judiciary Committee yesterday partially marked up H.J. Res 1, a proposed Constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. In addition to mandating that outlays (spending) cannot exceed revenues in any year (other than by a 3/5ths vote of both the House and Senate) it also limits total outlays to no more than 20% of GDP (the co-called global spending cap), which can only be waived by a 2/3rds majority vote of both houses of Congress and prohibits any legislation to increase revenues without a 3/5ths majority vote of both houses. It would take effect in FY 17.
Department of Education Issues New Rules for Investing in Innovation Grants
The second round of the Investing in Innovation grant program will be a smaller, $150 million contest for districts and non-profits. The Education Department guidelines will require fewer private-sector matching dollars, ask applicants to focus on rural schools, and change how evidence of past success is used in the scoring process. Read more here: www.edweek.org.
Common Core Assessments to Integrate Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
The two consortia of states developing the common core assessments, to be rolled out in the 2014-2015 school year, are crafting them to include accommodations for students with disabilities. Videos with avatars conducting sign language is just one example of the innovative means that the consortia are taking in their approach. “We’re not even thinking about accommodations anymore” in the traditional sense, said Mr. Hock, co-chair of the accessibility and accommodations work group for the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium—one of the two groups developing the new tests. Read more here: www.edweek.org.
White House Convenes Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence held its first President’s Advisory Commission meeting last week. The work of this commission is urgent since Hispanics account for more than one in five students in public elementary, middle, and high schools, but have the lowest educational attainment overall. White House Initiative Director Juan Sepulveda said the commission’s priority is to collect best practices, noting that “the community has told us many, many times: We don’t need any more reports, we need help.” Read more here: www.whitehouse.gov.
Alliance Releases New Report on Deeper Learning
From the Alliance website: “Policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels should support the concepts of “deeper learning” to help all students meet higher expectations and be prepared for college and career, according to a new Alliance policy brief released on May 26. The brief argues that deeper learning provides students with the deep content knowledge they need to succeed after high school and the critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills that today’s jobs demand.” Read the brief here: all4ed.org [pdf].
ARRA Spending Report:
ED has posted an updated reports showing ARRA spending as of May 27. Of the $97.4 billion in ED ARRA funds allocated, 82.6% has been outlaid (spent). $16.9 billion still remains to be spent.
CHN Budget Webinar:
The Coalition for Human Needs is sponsoring a webinar on June 7th: A Webinar for the Budget-Perplexed: Stop the Slashing
The human needs advocates’ simple guide to understanding – and defeating – unprecedented attacks on the federal budget Tuesday, June 7, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST
Massive cuts in essential services like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP/food stamps, education and children’s services, help to low-income communities such as housing and the Community Services Block Grant, and virtually every other human needs program. A large number of proposals now being floated in Washington would devastate these services and would make it far harder for the federal government to respond to economic downturns and solve looming national problems. Yet at the same time, they would do nothing to restrict more deficit-increasing tax cuts for millionaires and corporations.
These proposals don’t have straightforward names like “The Act to Slash Health Care for Older Americans” or “The Act to Cut Services for Low- and Moderate-Income Americans in order to Provide Enormous Tax Breaks for the Rich.” Instead, Congress is talking about global caps, balanced budget amendments, debt ceiling increases, deficit reduction… It’s hard to fight back if you don’t understand how you’re being attacked.
New Legislation: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a bill that NASSP supports: S. 1019, introduced to amend ESEA in order to support secondary school reentry programs and to reach out to and re-engage disconnected youth. The bill would call upon state and local educational agencies to develop a plan for identifying and re-engaging disconnected youth in a secondary education program that leads to the attainment of a secondary school diploma, and to establish partnerships with community based organizations, institutions of higher education, and other entities to provide a range of educational options and services particularly for students beyond the compulsory age for school. NASSP encourages you to contact your Senators and ask for their co-sponsorship or support of this bill.
FY ’12 Budget and Appropriations News: Sen. Reid announced that the Senate will definitely vote next week on the House-passed budget resolution (e.g. House Budget Chairman Ryan’s HR 1, which would devastate educating funding). Sen. McConnell is expected to force a vote on President Obama’s FY ’12 budget. Neither is expected to pass.
FY 12 Senate Budget Committee: Chairman Conrad is meeting with committee Democrats today to decide whether to proceed with a markup but it’s likely there won’t be one. Next week, the House-passed budget will fail to pass the Senate, and won’t even get all 47 Republican votes. Read more here: thehill.com.
As you recall from my update last week, the House Appropriations Committee last week came out with their FY 2012 302(b) allocations, which are markers for the maximum amount certain agencies can spend for the FY ’12 year. While these numbers are not final, they portend the significant cuts to come to education and other agencies. An analysis of the House’s FY 12 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee shows that their FY 12 level would cut funding for the subcommittee all the way back to FY 2004 levels.
Debt Ceiling: The federal government has now reached its limit on the debt and Treasury Secretary Geithner has started to implement special measures to prevent a default and until August 2 at which point we need to have raised the debt ceiling. The Republican Study Committee, a very conservative group of members of Congress, is calling for adding to the debt ceiling increase (a “Cut, Cap, and Balance” approach: rsc.jordan.house.gov) which calls for a global spending cap of 18% of GDP (which would return us back to 1956 spending levels!), a balanced budget constitutional amendment and an immediate 50% cut in the deficit in FY 12.
Specialists Consider Common Social Studies Standards
Subject-matter specialists from more than a dozen states are meeting this week collaborate on strategies to improve academic standards in social studies. The third meeting of its kind this year, the talks bring together social studies specialists from 18 states and officials of 15 social studies organizations. Though some organizers refer to their work as development of “common state standards,” there is no guarantee the group will create such standards. Instead, these talks are intended to develop resources states can share, such as a set of guidelines or core principles, and to push a dialogue on how to improve each state’s own standards. Read the rest of the article here: www.edweek.org
Experts Encourage Expanding of Boys’ Options
Ever since Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act barred sex discrimination in education, girls have been encouraged to study and pursue traditionally “male” careers, including science, technology, and law. Now that a 21st century economy offers fewer good-paying jobs in male-dominated fields like construction, experts are calling for the creation of a White House Council on Boys to Men, much like the existing White House Council on Women and Girls, in order to foster policies and support. Read the rest of the article here: www.edweek.org
Principal Preparation: Moving Beyond Assessment
This commentary, an excerpt of which is below, appeared in yesterday’s Education Week. We encourage you to comment on it as a school leader and give your thoughts on the issue.
By Ann Hassenpflug
Increasingly, principal-preparation programs are getting the national scrutiny that has been focused on teacher education for some time.
Today, many principal-training programs run by public and private higher education institutions have been modified to align them with national standards from the Educational Leadership Constituent Council, or ELCC. To receive national recognition from ELCC as part of the college of education accreditation process, faculties have revised their principal-training programs to include assessments that require graduate students to engage in specific activities scored according to rubrics.
Educational administration faculty members have spent immense amounts of time and effort (without extra compensation or reduced teaching and research loads) to design and implement common principalship assessments. One problem with this: The intense focus on tests has caused other important program components to be neglected—despite a lack of data confirming that the new assessments actually make any difference in a future principal’s leadership ability.
Instead of continuing to tinker with assessments in principal-preparation programs, it is time to look at other pieces of the process to determine if the necessary questions are being asked about the preparation process, which includes the selection (or, more often, self-selection) of candidates, the pedagogy and delivery methods used in the courses, the knowledge base and skills addressed in the educational administration courses, and the qualifications of the faculty.
Read the rest of the article and leave any comments here: www.edweek.org
The Pell Institute, sponsored by CEF member the Council for Opportunity in Education, issued The Threat of Income-Based Inequality in Education www.coenet.us [pdf]
New America Foundation’s Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) released an issue brief on the recently finalized fiscal year 2011 federal education appropriations. The paper, 2011 Education Appropriations Guide education.newamerica.net, “provides a summary and analysis of the $68.3 billion education budget for fiscal year 2011″.