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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sen. Alexander is expected to introduce his bill as a substitute amendment during the June 11 markup, and the amendment will likely fail on a party-line vote. Check back next weeks for more updates on ESEA reauthorization, and for up-to-minute news, follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter!

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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 The National Association of Secondary School Principals invites you to attend

 

School Leaders Address Hot Topics in Education Reform

A Discussion with the 2012 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year and National Finalists

 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2:00pm – 3:30pm

Capitol Visitor Center, SVC 201-00

Washington, DC

 

 

Speakers

 

Ken Griffith, President, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

 

Brian True, Director of Sales, Virco Inc.

 

Sean Burke, National Finalist

McMinnville High School, McMinnville, OR

 

Maureen Cohen, National Finalist

Grafton High School, Grafton, MA

 

Denise Khaalid, 2012 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year

South Pointe High School, Rock Hill, SC

 

 

What does it take to improve student achievement, what does effective school reform actually look like in schools, and what is the best way to evaluate teachers? Every school will have a unique experience, but a key group of key school leaders play an important role: assistant principals. You will hear from the 2012 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year and National Finalists as they discuss hot topics in education reform such as maintaining a positive school climate, teaming and coaching teacher leaders, and using technology to improve student achievement and for professional learning.

 

Space for this event is limited; RSVPs will be accepted on a “first-come” basis. Acceptances ONLY with subject line “RSVP: April 19 NASSP Briefing” to kingstonm@nassp.org by Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

The NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year program began in 2004 as a means to recognize the dedication and critical importance of secondary school assistant principals. The program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school assistant principals who have demonstrated success in leadership, curriculum and personalization.

NASSP is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.

As America’s leading manufacturer and supplier of furniture and equipment for K–12 schools, Virco is proud to support NASSP. Virco’s great classroom furniture selection includes best-selling ZUMA® models, traditional chairs and desks, and all-new Parameter®, TEXT®, Metaphor® and Telos® items. In 2005, ZUMA and ZUMAfrd™ became the first classroom furniture products to earn GREENGUARD® for Children and Schools certification; now, Virco has hundreds of Greenguard-certified products. Virco offers the classroom furniture industry’s only Take-Back Program that helps schools recycle their out-of-service furniture. If you’re faced with a major FF&E purchasing project, check out Virco’s stress-free PlanSCAPE® service!

A newly introduced bill, the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act (H.R.6654 /S.3364), would provide five year grants to low-income urban or rural school districts to help address the nonacademic needs of students by increasing the recruitment and retention of K–12 school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers.

The need for these additional student support personnel is great. Principals and other school staff often do not have adequate training to deal with the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students, yet because many low-income schools are forced to share a single counselor, psychologist, or social worker, teachers are often left to deal with these student needs on their own.

In the current age of student achievement and accountability, attending to the nonacademic needs of students has never been more important. Studies have shown that students’ academic performance is affected by social and emotional factors, and that students who receive social, emotional, and behavior support have increased their academic achievement. (For information on these studies, visit www.nasponline.org; www.counseling.org; www.sswaa.org; and www.socialworkers.org.)

NASSP has consistently called on Congress to address the nonacademic needs of students, and recently joined with over 20 organizations representing educators and student support service personnel in support of the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act.

Specifically, this legislation would authorize $30 million for five year partnership grants between institutions of higher education and urban or rural low-income school districts to train and place school counselors, psychologists, and social workers in underserved districts.

The bill would also create a student loan forgiveness program for school counselors, psychologists, and social workers who have worked for at least five years in low-income school districts. In addition, the bill would require the Secretary of Education to conduct a study on how to best distribute student support personnel to regions experiencing a shortage of school counselors, psychologists, or social workers.

Although it is unlikely that the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act will be passed this year, the legislation will at the very least serve as a placeholder for next year, when Congress is expected to move forward on a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

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