Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, tens of thousands of students across the country have opted out of federally mandated assessments. The opt-out movement has become a way for parents and students to protest the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as well as the overabundance of testing in schools.
One of the key provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law requires school districts to maintain a 95 percent assessment participation rate. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently told states they risk losing federal funds if they fall below 95 percent compliance. This could have major implications for low-income and rural school districts that rely heavily on federal funding to hire staff, upgrade schools, and incorporate new programs.
On May 15, 2015, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Tom Reed (R-NY) announced the introduction of The Enable More Parents to Opt-Out Without Endangering Resources Act (H.R. 2382), which would guarantee parents the right to opt out of assessments. The EMPOWER Act would prevent the federal government from punishing states that fall below the 95 percent compliance rate and would allow parents to opt their child out of an assessment for any reason. The National Education Association (NEA) has already endorsed the EMPOWER Act and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) signed on as an original co-sponsor. As the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process moves forward, debates over opting out, as well as the proper role of assessments, are expected to continue and could potentially derail the entire process.
The high-stakes testing culture originated from the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) provision of NCLB that placed heavy emphasis on testing and labeled schools based on assessment performance. Each label was accompanied with a list of consequences that provided states with recommendations for improving the schools that failed to meet AYP. In many cases, these labels led to the firing of teachers and school administrators, school closings, or turnaround efforts led by charter school networks. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education started granting states NCLB flexibility waivers in exchange for increased standards, improved accountability, and teacher improvement efforts. While many of the states that received waivers were no longer required to meet AYP requirements, testing in schools continued to increase as accountability and teacher evaluation initiatives progressed.
This April, JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) wrote a letter to parents in response to the opt-out movement. In this letter, Executive Director Bartoletti acknowledges NCLB has created a culture of over testing and sympathizes with parents who have children taking monthly standardized tests. At the same time, she discusses the major implications reduced federal funding could have on state education budgets and tells parents opting out could ultimately reduce educational opportunities for their children.
In addition to advocating for reducing the reliance on assessments, NASSP will continue to support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as well as next generation assessments that measure what students actually need to be college and career ready.
After two days of debate and consideration of nearly 90 amendments, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in a historic, 22-0, vote on April 16. The Every Child Achieves Act was the end result of weeks of bipartisan negotiations between Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and their leadership was evident throughout the cordial committee debate.
NASSP was pleased that the first amendment approved by committee would authorize a competitive grant for states and districts to audit their assessment systems, including the number of tests and the time spent on test-taking, in order to reduce redundant or unnecessary state and district assessments. The amendment was based on the SMART Act (S. 907) and introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who also sponsored the bill.
Another amendment strongly supported by NASSP would authorize the Innovative Technology Expands Children’s Horizons (I-TECH) program to provide technology-specific professional development for teachers to compliment the acquisition of infrastructure and hardware in the classroom. Districts would be required to spend 50% of the grant funds on professional development related to digital learning. The amendment was based on the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act and introduced by Sen. Baldwin who also sponsored the bill.
Other amendments supported by NASSP that passed would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program and require state, local and school report cards to include information on the number of students attaining career and technical education proficiencies.
NASSP also supported a number of amendments that were offered, but then withdrawn, pertaining to middle schools, high school redesign, the definition of profession-ready teachers and principals, and nondiscrimination of LGBT students. Our hope is that the sponsors of those amendments will be able to find Republican cosponsors and then offer them again on the Senate floor.
Controversial amendments, such as those pertaining to Title I portability and private school vouchers, were also withdrawn, but Senators Alexander and Tim Scott (R-SC) both indicated that they would introduce them on the Senate floor.
Alexander announced his hope that the full Senate would consider the Every Child Achieves Act before Memorial Day. The floor debate is expected to be much more contentious since there will be an open amendment process that allows Senators to offer any amendment related to K-12 education, which could cause some Democrats to oppose the bill in the end.
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced a new partnership with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to encourage additional school leadership roles for teachers. Under “Lead the Change,” National Board-certified teachers would collaborate with principals, district leaders and other stakeholders to develop a plan for teachers to lead in their schools without having to leave their classrooms.
Prior to the announcement this afternoon, NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti had an opportunity to speak to Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle about the proposal and how our organization could contribute to the initiative. During the conversation, she expressed the association’s excitement about the prospect of principals’ involvement in the development and implementation of Lead the Change.
As the Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement reminds us, school success relies on the outstanding skills and contributions from many individual leaders working together. A culture of shared responsibility and true collaborative leadership will require principals to bring together coalitions of teacher leaders who have the skills to meet the school’s objectives and create a culture of continuous learning and shared decision-making.
While the initiative is short on details at this time, we expect that recommendations will be submitted to Secretary Duncan by March 2015. We know that middle and high school leaders are struggling to implement new college and career-ready standards and teacher evaluation systems, and NASSP will continue to work with the US Department of Education to ensure that the principal’s perspective is taken into consideration as the plan for teacher leaders is developed.
More information will be posted on the Department’s blog on Monday, March 17.
NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti issued the following statement on the FY 2015 budget proposal:
President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget offers plenty to celebrate, but also renews some ongoing disappointment. Secretary Duncan got our attention when he declared teacher and leader effectiveness the #2 education priority—quite appropriately, behind equity and opportunity for all students. The Secretary’s language reflects a consistent recognition from ED of the importance of leadership in school success. Unfortunately, that recognition did not translate to budget support. Dedicated leadership-development funds under the School Leadership Program received just a modest $9 million increase to $35 million. Yes, the option of leadership development is woven throughout other programs under Title II, but history tells us that states and districts rarely use those funds for professional development for principals. And our nation’s school leaders need that training and support more than ever as they strive to implement new college and career-ready standards and teacher evaluation system sunder new accountability requirements.
NASSP was an early supporter of the president’s ConnectED initiative to bring broadband Internet to 99 percent of students in five years, and we are delighted to see that priority reflected in his budget proposal. The proposed $200 million for the new ConnectEDucators initiative will help teachers and leaders optimize digital tools to personalize learning and improve instruction and assessment—hallmarks of NASSP’s Breaking Ranks Framework for School Improvement.
Encouraged though we are by the ConnectED investment, we are equally disappointed by the President’s hefty proposed investment in competitive grant proposals at the expense of formula programs. With dramatic increases in Race to the Top and School Turnaround programs, and new, smaller scale competitive grants in areas like career/technical education and special education, the president renews his commitment to create an education system that tilts toward the “haves.” A competitive grant program necessarily has winners and losers, and the latter are far too typically the poorer, rural districts that often lack the support to write and compete for grants successfully. As equity is the number-one priority, we strongly encourage the administration to rethink these competitive programs and make a strong investment in formula programs like Title I and IDEA.
The US Department of Education announced in December that five applicants would be granted nearly $120 million in the second round of the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition, which aims to personalize education for all students in the classroom. The program is aimed squarely at classrooms and the all-important relationship between educators and students.
The FY 2013 winners were selected from 31 finalists out of the more than 200 applications received by the Department. They are:
- Clarendon County School District Two in South Carolina (consortium of four rural districts)
- Clarksdale Municipal School District in Mississippi
- Houston Independent School District in Texas
- Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (consortium of 18 rural districts)
- Springdale School District in Arkansas
“These winners serve as an example to the rest of the country for how to develop innovative plans to drive education reform and improve student achievement,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These diverse, trailblazing districts have a clear vision and track record of success for models of personalized learning that aim for every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”
According to the Department’s press release, grantees were selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers.
NASSP State Coordinator Danny Brackett is the principal of Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, and said that educators were “PUMPED” upon hearing the announcement of their $25.8 million award. “We’re excited that we have a chance to positively influence the instruction of all 1,300 teachers in our district and all 21,000 students.”
The Springdale Public Schools will implement instructional strategies that engage and empower students and has identified 11 projects to accelerate student achievement, close the experience gap, and deepen student learning. Many of their goals are aligned to NASSP’s Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, including additional advisory time for college and career planning and personalized learning plans for each student. The district is also planning to emphasize the use of technology and expand its existing career academies to align with external standards and college entrance requirements.
The district’s plan is also focused on professional development with an assurance that all school leaders and leadership teams will receive training on the new systems put in place designed to support college and career readiness. Collaborative planning time will be expanded to allow participating teachers to engage in student-centered conversations in professional learning communities focused on effective implementation of personalized learning environments. The use of an existing data dashboard and student-centered model will foster increased opportunities for staff to use data to inform their instructional approaches and consider individual student needs.
More information about the Race to the Top-District program and the FY 2013 winners can be found on the Department’s Web site.
As part of President Obama’s goal to redesign American high schools, yesterday he announced a new collaboration between the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Education to provide high school students “with the industry-relevant education and skills they need for a successful future.”
Under the administration’s proposal, $100 million in Department of Labor revenues from the H-1B visa program would be made available on a competitive basis for Youth CareerConnect Grants. Grants would be awarded only to schools districts with a strong public private partnership that includes, at a minimum, a local workforce investment system entity, a business, and an institution of higher education. Applicants would also be required to provide a 25% match in order to receive the grant.
The proposal is very similar to the administration’s blueprint on Perkins reauthorization that was released in April 2012, and which has received negative feedback from members of Congress and the education community. In our comments to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, NASSP expressed concerns about those provisions of the blueprint requiring a private sector match at the local level, mandatory partnerships with institutions of higher education, and a competitive grant competition versus formula funding.
Applications for the CareerConnect Grants tare due on January 27, 2014, and awards would be made in early 2014 for program implementation to align with the 2014-15 school year. Additional information is available on the Department of Labor’s Web site.
The President’s announcement overshadowed a hearing conducted earlier in the day by the House Education and the Workforce Committee to discuss reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. In his opening remarks, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) expressed concern about the administration’s proposal, stating, “I am discouraged by this morning’s news that President Obama plans to announce a new national competitive grant program aimed at career education—without any input from Congress. Another program will only further muddle the system at a time when we need to make smart, structural reforms to improve CTE programs under the Perkins Act.”
Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the US Department of Education, said that CTE “has enormous potential to successfully prepare all Americans—including the disadvantaged—for college and careers.” Not yet able to discuss the President’s new proposal, she outlined the four principles in the administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization, arguing that the federal investment in CTE “must be dramatically reshaped to fulfill its potential.”
Other witnesses at the hearing talked about the importance of engaging businesses to help design CTE programs and provide mentoring and internship opportunities for students, aligning K-12 education with industry credentials, and encouraging more agreements between high schools and institutions of higher education.
A highly skilled workforce is obviously on the minds of members of Congress these days. Last Friday, NASSP member and Illinois High School Principal of the Year Lazaro Lopez testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a subcommittee hearing on training builders and manufacturers for the future. Now an associate superintendent, Lopez talked about his success at Wheeling High School, a Title I comprehensive high school with a STEM focus organized around career pathways. The school has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, hospital lab with senior care facility, a nanotechnology research lab, and the goal is for all students to graduate with a “Diploma Plus.”
Lopez outlined three key “non-negotiable principles” that drove the work of their career pathways: 1) a sequence of courses that lead beyond high school; 2) external experiences that provide students a real world understanding of career areas through internships or problem-based learning experiences; and 3) an opportunity to earn college credit and/or an industry certification.
As the House Education and the Workforce Committee works to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, last reauthorized in 2006, NASSP offered recommendations today to ensure that the law strengthens career and technical education (CTE) programs to promote college and career-readiness for all students.
The central focus of our comments was on educator quality, ensuring that school leaders are able to manage high-quality CTE programs and CTE teachers are knowledgeable and proficient in both effective teaching methods and technical skills. NASSP recommended that state leadership activities be focused on leadership development and technical assistance for districts and schools. States should be allowed to use Perkins funds to provide professional development opportunities for current CTE leaders and to support leadership training programs that help current principals manage CTE programs in their schools.
NASSP also provided recommendations on the qualifications and training for CTE teachers and the unique professional development opportunities needed for individuals who come into the profession through alternate routes. Essentially, professional development must strengthen the capacity of CTE teachers to collaborate with content area teachers and integrate academic and CTE curricula and coursework. Implementation of new, higher college and career-ready standards in most states will also require a focus on making numeracy and literacy relevant in CTE courses. Finally, CTE teachers will need additional training to ensure that they’re knowledgeable of the latest equipment and certification requirements of their industries.
The comments from NASSP also included recommendations to personalize the learning environment for each student, encourage CTE programs and career counseling at the middle level, and evaluate the effectiveness of CTE programs through multiple measures of student performance.
NASSP also expressed concern about the blueprint for reauthorization that was released by the US Department of Education in March 2012. We opposed the provisions to require a private sector match at the district level, permit only consortia of districts and postsecondary institutions and their partners to apply to States for Perkins funding, and allocate Perkins funds at the district level by a competitive grant.
The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on Perkins reauthorization on November 19 and is expected to move quickly to markup.
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 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: 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.
Using the power of the bully pulpit, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today criticized Congress for its inability to pass a bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the looming government shutdown, and further cuts to education programs under sequestration. The secretary’s speech took place at the National Press Club before an audience of education reporters, education advocates, and US Department of Education officials.
The speech was an opportunity for Duncan to address the Obama administration’s current education initiatives, and he praised state reforms underway due to the implementation of college and career-ready standards and new teacher and principal evaluation systems. Both were requirements under Race to the Top and the ESEA flexibility waivers. He also highlighted other initiatives “outside of the Washington bubble,” such as investments in early childhood education and wrap-around services, and shared specific examples where teachers unions were partners in reform in West Virginia, Indiana, Maryland, Florida, and Colorado.
Duncan criticized certain naysayers of public education, saying our public schools can offer hope and a meaningful life for low-income children. He pointed to recent successes in education such as high school graduation rates, which are at their highest level in 30 years, and the number of students receiving college credit while in high school. But, he also urged public school educators to not make excuses for low achievement, stating that he had met teachers and principals who are proving that “poverty is not destiny” for many low-income students.
Calling education funding “a critical investment for our nation winning the race for the future,” Duncan urged Congress to avert the government shutdown and finalize the FY 2014 appropriations process. He also said that the Department of Education stood ready to work in a bipartisan fashion with Congress to reauthorize “long overdue” bills such as ESEA, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Higher Education Act.