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. The initiatives mirror many of the recommendations that NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals submitted to Vice President Biden and the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force earlier this month.

“No one internalizes more than principals what President Obama called our first task as a society: To keep our children safe,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Within schools, that safety relies not on guns, but on trusting relationships and a feeling of belonging.”

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.

Many of the President’s initiatives require approval by Congress, including federal funding that will be allocated during the annual appropriations process. Leaders of the House and Senate education committees have already announced their intention to hold hearings on the administration’s proposal, and NASSP will be sure to keep you advised of future developments on these issues.

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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.

NASSP will continue to monitor these and other federal proposals aimed at gun violence prevention, bullying and harassment, and other school safety issues.

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Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Status of ESEA Reauthorization

Although both the Senate and House education committees passed bills within the past year to reauthorize ESEA, none of those bills were considered in their respective chambers. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and his staff said for months that the two bills passed by the committee in February 2012 would be considered on the House floor before the August recess, but a legislative agenda for the remaining weeks released by Speaker of the House John Boehner included no education legislation. On the Senate side, HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) had previously announced that the Senate would not bring his bill to the floor until the House passed a “bipartisan” bill. With few legislative days remaining before the looming November elections and a number of appropriations bills still to pass before the fiscal year ends on September 30, there’s slim-to-no-chance ESEA will be completed this year. While waivers and Race to the Top seem like the law of the land for principals and assistant principals in some states, the presidential and congressional elections will have a HUGE impact on whether they remain in place beyond 2014.

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.

ESEA Waivers

The U.S. Department of Education announced June 29 that they approved 5 more states for NCLB waivers: Arkansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia. This makes 24 total states with waivers, and leaves 13 applications still under review, whose decisions may come out over the course of the summer. To date, Iowa is the only state to have been denied a waiver, and Round 3 applications are due on September 6.

Says Secretary Duncan about the approved waivers: “These states have joined in a nationwide movement toward state-led education reform now embraced by 24 states,” said Secretary Arne Duncan. “Their plans are the product of bold, forward-thinking state and local leaders who have moved beyond the tired old battles and partisan bickering to roll up their sleeves and start working together.”

Duncan pointed out that many of the new state-created accountability systems capture more students at risk, including low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners, adding, “States must show they are protecting children in order to get flexibility. These states met that bar.” Read more about these states’ waivers here: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/06/five_more_states_get_nclb_waiv.html.

NASSP on Capitol Hill

During this quarter, NASSP staff participated in a number of meetings with congressional staff to discuss our recommendations for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), including key bills to improve school leadership and provide additional resources for middle and high schools. Offices being visited during this time period include: Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).

FY 2013 Budget/Appropriations

In June, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Senate FY 2013 Labor-HHS-Education bill, which allocates funding levels for various federal education programs for FY 2013. Though we have heard that this bill will not reach the Senate floor and that we are almost certain to start off FY 2013 with a Continuing Resolution (CR) which largely level-funds programs from the current fiscal year, this bill is still important to show us where the Senate is at in terms of spending on education programs.

The full Committee approved the bill on a party line vote of 16-14 (with all Democrats voting yes and all Republicans voting no).  Republicans opposed the bill largely over objections to funding for the Affordable Care Act. Overall, discretionary (non-mandatory) funds for education increased by $408 million (+0.6%). NASSP is happy to see an increase of $100 million each to Title I grants and to IDEA state grants, as well as level-funding for the School Leadership Program ($29 million) and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program ($159 million). Most education programs were level-funded, but others received increases, including:

  • Race to the Top
  • Advanced Placement
  • Promise Neighborhoods
  • IDEA Grants for infants and families
  • International education and foreign language studies domestic programs
  • Research in special education
  • Statewide data systems

 

Funding for other programs was decreased, including for:

  • Mathematics and Science Partnerships
  • Transition to teaching
  • Safe and drug-free schools and communities national programs
  • National assessment (NAEP)
  • National Assessment Governing Board

NASSP Government Relations staff heard this week that the long-awaited House appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will hold its markup the week of July 9. This subcommittee will determine funding levels for education programs for FY 2013 appropriations. At that point, the House and Senate are supposed to “conference” their bills to agree on one final appropriations bill, but this hardly ever happens due to disagreement and this year it is especially likely not to happen because it’s an election year. So, it is nearly certain that we will begin FY 2013 with a continuing resolution, or CR, that largely extends funding levels from the previous year (FY 2012), and will likely last through December. In January, it is more likely we will see a year-long CR that sets different funding levels for FY 2013. Stay tuned for news on the upcoming subcommittee markup!

 NASSP Government Relations staff has met with several Congressional offices that sit on this subcommittee to advocate that education funding not be cut more than it already has the past few years, and we also reiterated the point that sequestration would be untenable for education funding and urged Congress to find another way to reduce the deficit responsibly. We are hopeful that our message will make an impact for FY 2013 education funding. NASSP Government Relations staff met with the following Congressional offices on the Senate subcommittee: Sen. Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Inouye (D-HI); and the following Congressional offices on the House subcommittee: Rep. Jackson (D-IL) Rep. Lee (D-CA); and Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA). NASSP’s coalition partner, the Committee for Education Funding, has organized meetings with several other subcommittee offices this past quarter as well to deliver our unified message about education funding.

Sequestration

(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 in case a 12-member Congressional committee was unable to approve a plan to reduce another $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit; this committee failed, triggering sequestration.

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.)

In May, the House passed H.R.5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012 in a near party-line 218-99 vote. The bill was supported by nearly all Republicans — only 16 opposed it, and no Democrats supported it.

As The Hill explains in a May 10 article, “The House voted Thursday to override steep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget mandated by last summer’s debt deal and replace them with spending reductions to food stamps and other mandatory social programs.

While doomed in the Senate and opposed by the White House, the legislation, which would reduce the deficit by $243 billion, is a Republican marker for post-election budget talks with the White House.”

NASSP is strongly opposed to this bill and feels that this legislation does not come anywhere near the balanced deficit reduction approach we must take to address our federal deficit.

NASSP encourages you to tell your legislators that sequestration is unacceptable by signing this online petition at www.cef.org/action. Join with thousands of other education stakeholders and sign this petition! NASSP Government Relations staff is also leading the efforts around grassroots activism to urge Congress to not let sequestration occur, and will be implementing key grassroots activities in the next quarter to attempt to stop the sequester. Please look for our emails in the coming months on ways we ask you to advocate against sequestration, and we thank you in advance for your participation.

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.

LEARN Act

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 schoolwide literacy initiatives that include professional development for principals and teachers to incorporate literacy across the curriculum and targeted interventions for struggling students.

As a member of Advocates for Literacy, NASSP staff participated in meetings with key congressional staff to discuss the LEARN Act and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program. Offices visited this quarter include Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA).

The LEARN Act currently has 15 House cosponsors and 6 Senate cosponsors.

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.

In June, NASSP cosponsored a congressional briefing on middle level education and early warning indicators with the Alliance for Excellent Education, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, and the National Middle Schools Association.

The Success in the Middle Act currently has 18 House cosponsors and 7 Senate cosponsors.

Graduation Promise Act

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 778/S. 1177). The bill would support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement that focuses research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest performing high schools, and improves the capacity of the high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement. The bill would also provide competitive grants to states to identify statewide obstacles hindering students from graduating, and provide incentives for states to increase graduation rates.

The Graduation Promise Act currently has 34 House cosponsors and 1 Senate cosponsor.

National Assistant Principals Week Resolution

On April 19, newest member of the House Education and Workforce Committee Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) introduced a Congressional resolution (H.Res.626) officially recognizing the week of April 16-20, 2012 as National Assistant Principals Week.

Other Bills

College and Career Ready Classrooms Act

As part of major legislation to create jobs and improve the nation’s economic competitiveness, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced a proposal to assist schools in preparing all students to be college and career ready.

NASSP strongly supports the Common Core State Standards, and the board of directors recently approved a position statement offering recommendations on their successful implementation. We call on Congress to fund ongoing, professional development about these new standards to build the capacity of principals, assistant principals, and teachers. School leaders are also encouraged to provide professional development opportunities to instructional staff members to help them teach to higher standards and provide students with the supports they need to achieve them.

The College and Career Ready Classrooms Act would authorize a competitive grant program to support local school districts in the successful implementation of college- and career-ready standards. In providing professional development opportunities for teachers and other school staff, NASSP is pleased that the bill would require in-service activities for school administrators that support instructional leadership around the implementation of these standards and ensure coordination with pre-service teacher preparation programs. Local implementation strategies would also support the use of technology to personalize instruction and to enhance educators’ own professional learning.

The bill was introduced as one provision in the Rebuild America Act (S. 2252), which would provide investments in job training, manufacturing, and the transportation infrastructure; increase overtime benefits and establish a fair and equitable minimum wage; and make changes to the tax code. While not taking a position on the entire legislation, NASSP also strongly supports a provision that would authorize $20 billion in formula grants for the modernization, renovation, and repair of early learning facilities, K-12 public schools and community colleges.

American Dream Accounts Act

In an effort to expand college access for underserved students, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) has introduced the American Dream Accounts Act (S. 2194) to link college savings accounts to an online database that tracks college readiness. A companion bill (H.R. 4207) was also introduced in the House by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA).

“One of the lessons we’ve learned from the recent recession is that unemployment has remained very low among those with a college degree,” said Sen. Coons in a press release. “Now more than ever, amid intensifying global competition and rapidly changing technology, it’s critical that young people not only finish high school, but pursue some kind of education after high school. American Dream Accounts are a way to strengthen the ability of teachers, parents, mentors, and students to work together to make sure that young people, throughout their entire education experience, prepare for, save for, train for, and then fulfill a vision for their own future—a dream for their life after high school.”

The American Dream Accounts Act would authorize $3 billion from existing U.S. Department of Education (ED) funds for competitive grants to school districts, charter schools, or nonprofit organizations to establish an administer American Dream Accounts, which are personal online accounts for low-income students that monitor college readiness and include a college savings account. Grantees would monitor student progress data, including grades and course selections, progress reports, and attendance and disciplinary records. They would also provide opportunities for students to learn about financial readiness and the college enrollment process and to identify their skills and interests.

While NASSP supports efforts to increase college access for underserved students, we are concerned that the American Dream Accounts Act does not authorize new federal funding for these competitive grants. Formula programs such as Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act have been woefully underfunded for years, and we are concerned that ED would target those resources or other vital education programs to pay for the bill.

Sen. Coons has created a Web page where anyone can post comments about their thoughts on the America Dream Accounts Act. For more information, go to: http://www.coons.senate.gov/issues/dreamaccounts/.

Student Loan Interest Rates

As reported by Education Week on June 29, 2527425274 Congress acted just under the wire Friday to save college students from paying more for student loans. The legislation will freeze interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent, avoiding a scheduled increase on July 1 to 6.8 percent.

Hours after Congress passed the measure, President Obama signed it into law—temporarily—effective through July 6. He is expected to make it permanent before the stopgap measure expires at the end of next week.

The measure was part of a bill to fund construction and federal flood insurance. On Tuesday, U.S. Senate leaders announced they had agreed on a plan to come up with $6 billion to cover the cost of the lower student loan interest rates. The bill passed on a 74-19 vote in the Senate and a 373-52 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Most of the money is expected to come from raising premiums for federal pension insurance. But students also will help foot the bill. Congress is looking to get $1.2 billion in savings from changing eligibility for student loans. It limits loan eligibility to 150 percent of a program’s time to degree — or six years for a bachelor’s degree and three years for an associate degree.

The move to stop interest rates from doubling is expected to affect 7.4 million students, saving each an average of $1,000 in extra financing fees.

Student groups have been actively lobbying Congress to keep interest rates down. On June 28, students and graduates carried banners to Capitol Hill and delivered a petition with 1 million signatures calling for action to freeze interest rates.

NASSP on Capitol Hill

Literacy

NASSP Associate Director for High School Services Mel Riddile served as moderator at a congressional briefing on April 17 hosted by Advocates for Literacy, a coalition of over 40 national organizations that support a comprehensive and systemic approach to improving literacy for students from birth through grade 12.

State Assistant Principals of the Year

The 2012 State Assistant Principals of the Year spent an entire day on Capitol Hill on April 19 meeting with their Congressional offices to have a significant collective impact on the federal conversation around secondary schools and school leadership. Besides effectively advocating for the issues that they are most passionate about, some assistant principals mentioned that they had already convinced their legislators to visit their schools to see their work in action and gain an even greater perspective on this incredibly difficult but rewarding job. The NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year and finalists also spoke at a congressional briefing where they addressed hot topics in school reform.

MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools

On April 26, the 2012 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools winners visited their Congressional offices for their Capitol Hill Day. These exemplary principals visited a total of approximately 40 Congressional offices to deliver their invaluable stories and perspective as school leaders to build upon the great advocacy that our 2012 Virco/NASSP Assistant Principals of the Year conducted last week for their Capitol Hill Day. There’s no doubt that dozens of legislators now have a much better sense of the critical role of school leaders for student success as a result of this collective advocacy. Finally, four of the 2012 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools winners participated in a Capitol Hill briefing on Thursday in which they each spoke of their use of the NASSP Breaking Ranks framework to bring about significant school improvement, as well as their use of other strategies and their leadership skills to change the trajectory of their schools. To review quotes by the panelists that NASSP tweeted during the briefing, look under the hashtag #AEENASSP on Twitter.

NASSP Board of Directors

On May 3, the NASSP Board of Directors participated in a roundtable discussion with Congressional staff on the Senate and House education committees and visited their Congressional offices while in town for their spring Board meeting. This marks the 3rd straight week that NASSP had a group of its members on Capitol Hill to deliver their stories and impart their passion for their work. There’s no doubt that dozens of legislators now have a much better sense of the critical role of school leaders for student success as a result of this collective advocacy.

NASSP State Coordinators and Presidents-Elect

On June 27, nearly 100 NASSP members-state coordinators and presidents-elect-convened on Capitol Hill for a day of advocacy. This Hill Day marked the second year the state coordinators participated in a Hill Day in their new role as federal advocacy liaisons. Our members had very effective visits and most got a chance to meet with their legislators who listened to their perspectives and input as school leaders. NASSP Government Relations staff is excited to see these principals build on the success of their Hill Day and develop relationships with their Congressional offices, and we will continue to support them and advocate on their behalf on Capitol Hill. If you are on Twitter, you can read about their Congressional meetings and their impressions of Hill Day by searching for the hashtag #nasspdc. Congratulations to the state coordinators and presidents-elect!

Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who is a former teacher and principal, recently established the Congres­sional Anti-Bullying Caucus to address federal anti-bullying efforts, and NASSP is proud to endorse and support the work of this new caucus. “As an educator of more than 30 years and a member of Congress who was bullied as a child, I am inspired to help craft solutions that stop bul­lying in communities everywhere, both online and offline,” Honda told Education Daily®. “The bipar­tisan Anti-Bullying Caucus will give a voice to the voiceless by providing a premier forum to develop legislative solutions to stop bullying.” The caucus already has 20 members and Honda said that many other Democratic and Republican Representatives have also expressed interest in joining the caucus.

Rep. Honda says that he will introduce anti-bully­ing legislation this summer. As noted by Education Daily, “Anti-bullying measures already introduced include the Safe Schools Improvement Act, S. 506 and H.R. 1648 [which NASSP supports], the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act, H.R. 83, and the Anti-Bullying and Harassment Act, H.R. 975.

As part of the launch of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus on June 28, NASSP President-Elect Denise Greene-Wilkinson participated in a panel discussion on bullying at the US Department of Education.

News from the White House and the US Department of Education

Department of Education Releases Perkins Act/Career and Technical Education Blueprint

On April 19, the Department of Education issued its blueprint for reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The blueprint is based on 4 key principles:

Alignment: Ensuring that the skills taught in CTE programs reflect the actual needs of the labor market so that CTE students acquire the 21st century skills necessary for in-demand occupations within high-growth industry sectors.

Collaboration: Incentivizing secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers, and industry partners to work together to ensure that all CTE programs offer students high-quality learning opportunities.

Accountability: Requiring CTE programs to show, through common definitions and related performance measures, that they are improving academic outcomes and enabling students to build technical and job skills.

Innovation: Promoting systemic reform of state-level policies to support effective CTE implementation and innovation at the local level

In addition, ED will be holding a Perkins Blueprint webinar. Please see the “Events” section below for this information.

For more information, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/cte/transforming-career-technical-education.pdf.

U.S. Department of Education Seeks Input on “RESPECT” Project to Transform the Teaching Profession

From a Department of Education press release: “A vision document for reforming the teaching profession created by active classroom teachers working temporarily for the U.S. Department of Education was posted for public comment on the Department’s website as part of Teacher Appreciation Week. The 14-page document reflects input from more than 2,500 teachers across the country who participated in approximately 200 roundtable meetings over the past six months.

NASSP worked with ED to hold 4 focus group sessions with principals and assistant principals to discuss RESPECT. These sessions were conducted at the NASSP annual conference in Tampa (March), and here in Washington, DC, with the State Assistant Principals of the Year (April), the MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools (April), and a group of local principals from DC, Maryland, and Virginia (May).

The RESPECT Project, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching, is the Obama Administration’s effort to honor and elevate America’s educators.  The administration’s proposed 2013 budget seeks $5 billion for a new competitive program to support states and districts working to reform the teaching profession.

RESPECT explores transformative ideas for improving classroom instruction, making the most of the school day and year, strengthening the relationship between principal and teachers, and distributing talent to high-need schools and subjects. In addition, it discusses effective methods for recruitment, training, development, and creating career pathways that encourage talented teachers and leaders to maintain professions in education.

For more information, go to: http://www.ed.gov/teaching/national-conversation/vision.

Department of Education Announces District-Level Race to the Top Applications

In May, the US Department of Education released the draft guidelines for a district competition for Race to the Top funds. For more information about the draft guidelines and NASSP’s comments, read this article in Education Week: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/05/department_announces_game_plan.html

To read the draft guidelines, visit the Department’s Web site at: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition.

Obama Announces Plan to Halt Deportation of Illegal Immigrant Youths

The Obama administration announced that it will start granting work permits to illegal immigrant youths (instead of deportation) who meet the following criteria: they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30; they have been in the country for at least five continuous years; have no criminal history; graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED; or served in the military.

As Education Week notes, “The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.

The policy change, described to The Associated Press by two senior administration officials, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act [strongly supported by NASSP], a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.

NASSP Board Position Statements

In May, the NASSP Board of Directors gave final approval to a position statement on Charter Schools: http://www.nassp.org/Content.aspx?topic=47108

NASSP Federal Grassroots Network

The Federal Grassroots Network held its quarterly call on May 8 and a make-up call on May 10. The five “hot topics” the Network reported on in their states and that NASSP Government Relations staff created action items on were: teacher evaluation, principal evaluation, implementation of common core state standards, No Child Left Behind waivers ,and state education funding. If you are not yet a member of the Federal Grassroots Network and would like to become one, please email Mary Kingston at kingstonm@nassp.org. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here: http://www.nassp.org/Legislative-Advocacy/NASSP-Federal-Grassroots-Network.

The quarterly call dates for 2012-2013 are the following (members will choose one date/time per quarter):

  • August 2012: Tues Aug 21 2012, 10 am EST; Wed Aug 22 2012, 3:30 pm EST
  • November 2012: Tues Nov 13, 10 am EST; Wed Nov 14 2012, 3:30 pm EST
  • February 2013: Tues Feb 12, 10 am EST; Wed Feb 13 2013, 3:30 pm EST
  • May 2013: Tues May 14, 10 am EST; Wed May 15 2013, 3:30 pm EST

NASSP Advocacy in the States

NASSP Director of Government Relations Amanda Karhuse was in Harrisburg, PA, on April 13 to speak to the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals.

NASSP Manager of Government Relations Mary Kingston was in Yukon, Oklahoma on June 23 to present the platforms of the presidential candidates as part of a mock presidential election to student council members for the National Association of Student Councils conference.

Largely in response to the recent spike in publicized tragedies caused by bullying, the Department of Education today issued guidance on protecting students from various kinds of bullying. The guidance, distributed in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools, colleges, and universities, clarifies when bullying in schools may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws and reminds educators of their legal obligation to protect students from harassment due to race, national origin, sex, gender, and disability. The letter also gives examples of harassment and describes how a school should address each case.

This response from the Department of Education follows the introduction of a bill addressing bullying in schools, the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). NASSP is one of 70 organizations that support the bill as a member of the Safe Schools Partnership and has strongly advocated for its inclusion in an ESEA reauthorization bill. SSIA is a federal anti-bullying bill that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and “will require comprehensive anti-bullying policies in our nation’s public schools,” according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

The impetus for this bill is indisputable: according to a 2005 report from GLSEN and Harris Interactive that surveyed more than 3,000 students, nearly two-thirds of middle and high school students (65%) said they had been bullied in school in the past year. Further, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (86.4%) said they had been harassed in the past year, and 60.8% said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

Beyond the Department’s letter of guidance released today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he may urge Congress to introduce legislation specifically to address bullying. To that end, the publication Congressional Quarterly reported that “a key Democrat said he will look at ways to address the issue when Congress takes up the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) next year.” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, also said the committee would address bullying in future discussions of ESEA reauthorization. Further, members of the House Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Equality Caucus urged the Department of Health and Human Services to focus suicide prevention efforts on the high-risk groups of gay and transgendered youth.

In the coming year, the White House plans to host a conference to “raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment,” according to a Department of Education press release. “We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” said President Obama. “We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of harassment.”
NASSP will continue to advocate for the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2262/S. 3739) and we urge you to write and/or call your members of Congress to cosponsor this bill.

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Witnesses and all present members of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities unanimously expressed concern for the growing trend in “cyberbullying”. The testimony took place during a subcommittee hearing on June 24 titled “Ensuring Student Cyber Safety”, as part of ongoing discussions of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The term “cyberbullying” refers to any kind of bullying or harassment that takes place on the Internet, through social networking sites like Facebook, and through text messaging. With a Pew 2007 study reporting that 93% of teens aged 12-17 go online daily, 75% have a cell phone, and 73% use social networking sites, the danger of cyberbullying is an increasingly pressing issue.

In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) said that according to a February 2010 PEW report, 73% of wired American teens use social networking websites, and that daily text messaging has increased significantly in the past year and a half, from 38% in February 2008 to 54% in September 2009. She stressed that students cannot learn in environments that are unsafe due to cyberbullying from any forms of technology, and that the emotional and physical impacts of cyberbullying are so severe that we must swiftly address this issue. McCarthy concluded by urging strategic coordination between all interested parties, particularly the students.

Barbara-Jane Paris, principal of Canyon Vista Middle School in Austin, TX, and an incoming member of the NASSP board of directors, was the lone school-based witness and provided an invaluable perspective to the hearing of the effects of cyberbullying at school. As a high school principal five years ago, one of her students became suicidal due to cyberbullying, and Paris admits that at the time she felt powerless with no idea of how to address the issue. After much research she discovered Bully Policy USA, a watchdog organization that advocates on behalf of bullied children and reports on state antibullying laws, which provided her with strategies to combat cyberbullying at her school.

Paris also mentioned the research that came out of a report entitled The Principal’s Perspective: School Safety, Bullying, and Harassment that the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) published with NASSP’s collaboration in 2008. A survey from this report found that 49% of public school principals considered bullying, name calling, or harassment of students to be a serious problem at their school. Furthermore, 72% of principals estimated that students at their school engage in cyberbullying to some extent.

Two themes central to effectively addressing cyberbullying emerged during the hearing: awareness and collaboration. To raise awareness, renowned talk-show host Dr. Phil urged that parents close the “information gap” and learn more about their children’s use of the Internet and social networking sites in order to understand how to prevent cyberbullying. In response, Paris mentioned that she regularly holds “parent summits” at her school to educate parents on Internet safety issues, among other things. She also advocated that educators receive comprehensive professional development on how to ensure student safety while using technology as an educational tool. Dominique Napolitano, a rising high school senior and member of Girl Scouts’ Let Me Know program, which shares current issues facing teen girls online and tools to keep them safer online, noted that teenagers also need to become more aware of the harmful effects of cyberbullying as a prevention strategy since many do not fully realize the grave impact of this kind of bullying. Parry Aftab, a privacy lawyer and expert on cybercrime, announced that she is releasing a “Stop Cyberbullying” toolkit for parents and children this September that will be free and available for schools as a useful awareness tool.

Similarly, most witnesses noted collaboration among parents, students, educators, social and religious institutions, and the federal government as an essential component of cyberbullying prevention. Paris stressed that she and other school administrators cannot effectively ensure student cyber safety without the support of the federal government. Aftab and Dr. Phil urged parents to have an ongoing dialogue with their children about their Internet use and strategies to prevent either being the victim of cyberbullying or the actual perpetrator.

As a member of the National Safe Schools Partnership, NASSP has promoted federal policy recommendations to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools, which are embodied in the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2262) and will hopefully be incorporated into a reauthorized ESEA. These recommendations propose that:

  1. Schools and districts have comprehensive and effective student conduct policies that include clear prohibitions regarding bullying and harassment
  2. Schools and districts focus on effective prevention strategies and professional development to assist school personnel address issues associated with bullying and harassment
  3. States and districts maintain and report data regarding incidents of bullying and harassment to inform the development of effective federal, state, and local policies that address these issues.

To view an archived webcast of the hearing, visit the NASSP homepage at www.nassp.org.

New legislation introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and 60 original cosponsors would extend civil rights protections to public school students who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Upon its introduction in late January, the Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 4530) or “SNDA” was celebrated by civil rights and education groups alike.

SNDA would establish a federal prohibition on discrimination in public schools that is based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also provide victims of such harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence with more effective legal recourse in federal courts. “Every student has the right to an education free from harassment and violence,” said Polis, a former chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education and current member of the House Education and Labor Committee. In a press release, Polis contended that his legislation “puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and get a quality education, free from fear.”

Current federal statutes specifically prohibit discrimination in public schools on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, disability or national origin, but sexual orientation and gender identity have not been expressly addressed until now. SNDA would extend protections to LGBT students based on those found in Title IX, which deals with gender discrimination. That would make adherence to the new protections a requirement for the delivery of federal funds and grants. Additionally, targeted LGBT students and their families would be able to assert a violation of the law when seeking remedies against discrimination in court.

Surveys indicate that as many as nine out of ten LGBT students have been the victims of bullying or harassment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that a majority of these students feel unsafe at school as a result. Repeated discriminatory treatment has been linked to high rates of absenteeism, disengagement, and academic underachievement among LGBT students. For some students, there are even more serious consequences. As stated in a letter signed by Polis and other proponents of the legislation, “left unchecked, discrimination can lead, and has led, to life-threatening violence and to suicide.”

“A safe and secure learning environment is vital to the educational success of all students,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “This legislation will enhance the ability of teachers and administrators to deliver a valuable education in public schools that are free of bullying, harassment and other forms of harmful discrimination.”

 

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Comment on the poll.

A recent issue if U.S. News and World Report spotlights two high schools, one in Milwaukee and one in New York City, that are havens for gay students and other students prone to bullying. Despite the improved graduation rates and grades enjoyed by the students in both schools, some critics argue that such schools are just another form of segregation, masking the real problem instead of solving it. Plans for another gay school, slated to open in Chicago, have stalled among skepticism.

While schools strive to be safe havens for all students, some school leaders acknowledge that gay students remain casualties in the fight against bullying. So, principals, are “gay-friendly” schools the answer to keeping these students safe? If you have not already done so, please take this week’s Principal’s Poll at www.nassp.org and leave your comments below.

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Would anonymous tiplines reduce the incidence of bullying in schools?
(Final results)

57% Yes
43% No

Total Votes: 163

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MSNBC recently reported on the availability of a new tipline by which students can anonymously report threats and incidents of bullying in their schools. The Web site at SchoolTipline forwards the anonymous tip to the school and sends a reminder to the school official if the tip has gone unread after a day or so.

Principals in middle and high schools regularly confront issues of bullying in school. So where does an anonymous tipline fit among the arsenal of antibullying resources available to schools? Can they help make a difference? Please take this week’s Principal’s Poll at www.nassp.org and leave your comments on the topic below. (Poll is not closed.)

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House Passes Bill to Improve School Safety

On September 26, 2008, in School Safety, by Mary Kingston

On September 17 the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow more funds to flow to low-income schools to improve school safety.

The School Safety Enhancements Act (H.R. 2352) would allow more low-income schools to participate in the Secure Our Schools (SOS) program by lowering the local matching grant requirement to 20%, and increasing the federal share to a maximum of 80%. The bill would also authorize $50 million annually for SOS grants. In addition, the bill would add to the list of allowable uses of grant funds by including a hotline for students and others to report dangerous incidents. Currently funds may be used to help schools pay for metal detectors, lighting, locks, security assessments, training for administrators, students, and teachers, coordination with law enforcement, and other measures designed to improve school safety.

For more information and to apply for SOS grants, visit http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=240.

“Whether it is fighting terrorism or working to keep our schools free of violence, I have always believed that the government’s first responsibility is to protect the people. Our government must help to ensure that our children are safe and protected from violence of any kind in school. I am proud to report that this Congress has taken another step to ensure a safe learning environment for our children by passing my School Safety Enhancements Act,” said Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ), the bill’s sponsor.

The bill now goes to the Senate where it awaits consideration. Information on when the bill might be voted on is not yet available.

Interested in school safety issues? Visit www.nassp.org/safety for a host of resources on school climate, crisis prevention and management, harassment and bullying prevention, and substance and drug abuse prevention.

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Congress Moves to Hike School Safety Funding

On June 16, 2008, in School Safety, by Mary Kingston

On June 11 the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow more funds to flow to low-income schools to improve school safety.

The School Safety Enhancements Act of 2007 (H.R. 2352) would allow more low-income schools to participate in the Secure Our Schools (SOS) program by lowering the local matching grant requirement to 20%, and increasing the federal share to a maximum of 80%. The bill would also authorize $50 million annually for SOS grants. In addition, the bill would add to the list of allowable uses of grant funds by including a hotline for students and others to report dangerous incidents. Currently funds may be used to help schools pay for metal detectors, lighting, locks, security assessments, training for administrators, students, and teachers, coordination with law enforcement, and other measures designed to improve school safety.

The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration. Information on when the bill might be considered is not yet available. There is a companion bill in the Senate, S. 1217, however no action has occurred on this bill since its introduction in 2007.

Interested in school safety issues? Visit www.nassp.org/safety for a host of resources on school climate, crisis prevention and management, harassment and bullying prevention, and substance and drug abuse prevention.

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