In his State of the Union address, President Obama offered schools a deal: To provide schools with resources to keep good teachers and reward the best ones, and expect in return that schools exercise their flexibility to “teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”
It’s a deal schools will happily make, provided the right supports are in place. Such supports include a commitment to strengthen the entire education profession through better preparation programs and professional development for teachers, principals, and other instructional staff. This development extends to meaningful educator-evaluation systems that resist a focus on student test scores to assess educator performance.
Such supports include formula funding to balance out the Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation grant programs that drive competition among states to the detriment of low-income students in states that lose. Dedicated resources for programs like Title I will provide ALL students—regardless of state or district—a chance to succeed.
And most immediately, if we’re to no longer “teach to the test,” such supports include policies that are no longer written to the test. We call on the President to renew his pressure on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and fix what is not working for all schools in No Child Left Behind. While the current law did some good in highlighting the achievement gap, the law’s high-stakes testing and onerous AYP provisions do little to reduce the gap. If education is indeed to become our national mission, the commitment must begin with a fairer and more flexible federal law.
The flexibility of a reauthorized ESEA would arrive just in time for schools to accept the President’s challenge to keep all students in school until age 18 or until they graduate. States with such a policy already in place point to a number of benefits, according to a 2010 NASSP position statement, including greater social mobility for students in poverty who are required to remain in school longer. Raising the compulsory age alone, however, will have no real affect. The policy must be accompanied by a comprehensive school renewal, as encouraged in the Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, to empower students as owners of their own learning and as the innovators who will fulfill the broader vision of America that President Obama described.
Senator Introduces Two Bills With Full NASSP Support
Graduation Promise Act:
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) this week has reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act, a bill to provide grants to States to improve high schools and raise graduation rates while ensuring rigorous standards, to develop and implement effective school models for struggling students and dropouts, and to improve State policies to raise graduation rates, and for other purposes. The House complement to this bill is Rep. Ruben Hinojosa’s (D-TX) bill (H.R. 778) introduced in February. Read the summary of the House bill here.
Sen. Bingaman introduced this week another bill that NASSP strongly supports, the ATTAIN Act (S. 1178). “The legislation introduced today will foster the expansion of online and blended learning and promote technology initiatives that lead to personalized, rigorous and relevant learning. The bill also will spur efforts to increase education productivity and reduce costs through the use of technology. By prioritizing funding to enhance technology integration, professional development and leadership, the legislation supports school districts’ capacity to implement online common core assessments in 2014.”
Obama Establishes White House Rural Council:
On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. Chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the council will be responsible for making recommendations for investment in rural areas and coordinate federal engagement with a variety of rural stakeholders, including state, local, and tribal governments. In the coming months, the council will focus on job creation and economic development by increasing the flow of capital to rural areas, promoting innovation, expanding digital and physical networks, and celebrating opportunity through America’s natural resources. For more information, visit www.ed.gov.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a Full Committee Hearing this past Tuesday: Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges. Go here to watch the webcast and read the testimonies. On Thursday, the Senate HELP Children and Families Subcommittee held a hearing: Getting the Most Bang for the Buck: Quality Early Education and Care. Go here to watch the webcast and read the testimonies.
Debt Ceiling/Deficit Reduction:
Last week, the House rejected HR 1954, a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion (the amount needed through the end of 2012). It failed by 97 – 318. House Republican leadership staged this vote to give their members the opportunity to officially register their opposition to raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts (all Republicans voted no) as well as to demonstrate that a clean debt ceiling bill can’t pass without spending cuts. Democrats split with 97 voting yes, 82 voting no and 7 voting present. It is rumored that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to hold a similar vote soon in the Senate to show that there is also no support in the Senate on raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts. We’ll keep you posted on this.
FY ’12 Budget and Appropriations News:
White House Budget Call: Vice-president’s Biden Chief of Staff Bruce Reed this afternoon had a call with external organizations to discuss the debt ceiling/deficit reduction situation. He said the goal is to achieve $1 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years. The talks have been productive, but Congress probably won’t act on the deal until mid-July.
On cuts to discretionary domestic programs, he said the Administration went as far it was comfortable going in the final year-long Continuing Resolution. Cuts below those levels would be difficult if not impossible. One of the Administration’s highest priorities is not to cut discretionary spending to the bone. Mr. Reed said the Administration is not going to reduce the amount of money that goes to education and indeed it is quite the opposite. They will not agree to deep cuts to education for deficit reduction. When asked again about appropriations he said that there will likely be intense battles in September on appropriations levels for specific programs.
NAEP Results in U.S. History Forthcoming
On June 14, NCES will release results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. history. For more information, visit http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.
More Hispanic Students Completing High School
Recent Census data shows us that a higher percentage of young Hispanic adults is finishing high school and the number attending a two-year college has nearly doubled in the last decade. “It’s an amazing level of growth,” said Kurt Bauman, the chief of the Census Bureau’s education branch. Read more.
Broad Superintendents Draw Increased Criticism
Established by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, the Broad Superintendents Academy recruits leaders from inside and outside education to undergo rigorous training with the goal that they become superintendents of a third of the country’s 75 largest school districts. The Academy has come under recent scrutiny due to criticisms of stakeholders in some of these districts with Broad alumni whom some feel have done more harm than good. One such critic is Sharon Higgins, who endured three Broad-trained superintendents pass quickly through her Oakland, CA district. “She said she grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” forced out. She contends in her blog that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard for parent and teacher concerns.” Read more.
New Jersey Governor Wants to Invite Management Companies to Run “Transformation” Schools
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is proposing a strategy that has seen mixed results in Philadelphia schools: allowing non-profit and for-profit management companies to take over persistently failing schools. Read more.
Lessons From High Performing Nations
From the Department of Education’s Biweekly newsletter: Improving Teacher Quality Around the World,” a report authored by Asia Society’s Senior Advisor for Education Vivien Stewart on behalf of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession’s partner organizations, discusses lessons shared during the two-day event held in New York City in March. The summit marked the first-ever convening of education ministers, teachers, and union leaders from high-performing and rapidly improving countries and regions. Discussions were framed around four overarching themes: teacher recruitment and preparation; development, support, and retention of teachers; teacher evaluation and compensation; and teacher engagement in reform. “The report concludes that achieving consistency in teaching quality has become central to the agenda of every country,” said Stewart. “To make progress, governments and teachers organizations will need to work together — as they did at this summit — to invent a new vision for the teaching profession.” Plans are already underway to convene a second international summit in spring 2012. For more information, please visit www.ed.gov/news/press-releases.
Tools For Higher Education
From the Department of Education’s Biweekly newsletter: Continuing its commitment to postsecondary institutions and students, the Department announced tools to help schools raise their performance to better serve students. First, it is providing institutions with guidance on tuition-free trial periods, which give students the chance to see if a program is right for them before they commit financially (http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1112.html). A letter to schools describes trial periods and explains how federal student aid eligibility will work. Second, it is creating and implementing a pilot program on lower loan limits (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-offers-guidance-schools-tuition-free-trial-periods-help-students-deci). This pilot program will allow selected schools to test alternative methods of administering federal student aid by providing waivers for specific student aid requirements. Third, it is accepting proposals from guaranty agencies that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program to enter into Voluntary Flexible Agreements, or VFAs, with the Secretary (http://ifap.ed.gov/fregisters/FR053111FFEL.html). The VFAs will improve services to students, schools, and lenders; use federal resources more cost-effectively and efficiently; and enhance the integrity and stability of the FFEL program.
Guide To Form Partnerships Between Government Agencies and Faith-Based and Community Organizations
Last month, at the launch of a series of “Connecting Communities for the Common Good” meetings around the country, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released a comprehensive partnership guide. This guide (http://www.hhs.gov/partnerships/resources/partnerships_toolkit.pdf) provides interested faith-based and community organizations with information about opportunities to form partnerships across government, on issues like housing, job creation, summer meal programs, responsible fatherhood, and disaster response. The Department’s own Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is participating in the series, leading workshop sessions on how community organizations can strengthen education partnerships.
In an effort to turn around the so-called “dropout factories” and ensure that all students graduate from high school college and career-ready, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has reintroduced high school reform legislation long supported by NASSP and our members.
“No Child Left Behind was important because it demanded more from schools and students. But the law was flawed and we must take action to fix the problems with it,” said Sen. Bingaman who is one of the lead Senators currently working on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). “The legislation I have introduced seeks to reform schools in New Mexico and across the country by raising standards and helping students achieve them.”
Encompassing many of the recommendations outlined by NASSP in Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform, The Graduation Promise Act (S. 1177) would authorize $2.4 billion for a High School Improvement and Dropout Reduction Fund to support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement. High schools receiving funding would be required to implement schoolwide improvement plans that ensure continuous improvement, organize the school to improve teaching and learning, improve curriculum and instruction, provide students with academic and social supports to address individual student learning needs, and increase teacher and school leader effectiveness.
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) sponsored the House version of the bill (H.R. 778), which was reintroduced in February.
The Advanced Programs Act (S. 1179), also recently reintroduced by Sen. Bingaman, would reauthorize the AP Test Fee Program to help pay for low-income students to sit for the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. The bill would also reauthorize the AP Incentive Program that provides grants to states and districts to increase: 1) the number of teachers in high-need schools who are qualified to teach AP or IB courses; 2) the number of AP or IB courses offered in high-need schools; and 3) the number of students who are enrolled in and pass AP and IB courses and exams.
NASSP looks forward to working with Sen. Bingaman and his staff to ensure that both of these proposals are incorporated into a larger bill to reauthorize ESEA.
Assistant principals nationwide got their day in the sun yesterday (4/27), when the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution (H. Res. 1131) honoring the contributions of assistant principals to the success of students and supporting National Assistant Principals Week, which occurred from April 18 through April 23, 2010. The resolution also gives, for the first time ever, congressional recognition to the NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year program, which recognizes outstanding middle level and high school assistant principals who have demonstrated success in leadership, curriculum, and personalization.
“Assistant principals are the unsung heroes of our schools,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who helped shepherd the resolution’s passage. “[Assistant principals] serve as a behind-the-scenes link between every sector of the school community. Their job description has expanded significantly over the past decades, and they are the backbone of a school’s administrative team. They interact with students, with teachers, with staff, and with parents on a daily basis to ensure that every child is receiving the best education possible. National Assistant Principals Week recognizes their important contributions.”
During National Assistant Principals Week, state assistant principals of the year, the National Principal of the Year and two National Finalists met on Capitol Hill with their Representatives and Senators to advocate for meaningful education reform in five priority areas: school leadership, improving middle grades education; ending the high school dropout crisis; comprehensive literacy education; and realistic education funding.
For more information on the week’s events and the National Assistant Principal of the Year program, including how to nominate an assistant principal for the 2011 award, please visit www.nassp.org/apoy.
In an effort to improve high school graduation rates, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and other Democratic leaders have introduced legislation aimed at turning around the nation’s “dropout factories” and their feeder middle schools.
“We are failing our students, failing our communities and failing our nation if we allow this dropout crisis to continue,” said Miller in a press release about the Graduation for All Act (H.R. 4122). “Ending this epidemic is a civil rights imperative, a moral issue and an economic necessity. This bill says that it is no longer acceptable to let an at-risk student fall through the cracks and empowers schools to make changes needed to help at-risk students thrive in school, earn a diploma and go on to college or a good job.”
Under Title I, the bill would authorize a $2 billion competitive grant program for districts to support high schools with a graduation rate of 65 percent or lower and their feeder middle schools. Specifically, participating districts would implement a “Model of Success” in secondary schools similar to the four school intervention models outlined in the School Improvement Grants program:
Transformation Model, which includes increasing teacher and school leader effectiveness through mentoring and induction programs and career-ladder opportunities;
Turnaround Model, which includes 1) replacing the principal if student achievement has declined during his or her tenure; and 2) replacing or reassigning teachers who do not have subject-matter expertise in the subjects they teach or are not highly qualified
Restart Model, which includes closing a school and reopening it under a school management organization or charter management organization; and
Close-Down Model, which includes closing a school and re-enrolling students in other, higher-achieving schools in the district.
The legislation would require districts to implement an early warning system to identify students at risk of dropping out and provide them with academic and social supports to help them succeed—a concept endorsed by NASSP and embodied in the Success in the Middle Act and the Graduation Promise Act (GPA). Finally, districts would provide school leadership teams with more operating flexibility with respect to staffing, budgets, scheduling, and use of school-time decisions; establish credit-recovery programs; and enhance college and career counseling in secondary schools.
Title II of the bill would authorize $150 million for schools districts to partner with local colleges or universities in establishing an early college high school or other dual enrollment program; and Title III would facilitate research on effective best practices to improve student achievement in the middle grades.
“While NASSP is pleased that Congress is focusing attention on middle level and high schools as part of its reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are concerned that the Graduation for All Act emphasizes four school reform models whose success remains untested and unproven,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “We will continue to advocate for legislation that promotes genuine school improvement and encompasses the Breaking Ranks framework, including the Success in the Middle Act and GPA.”
In an effort to transform the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools nationwide, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released draft guidance on the School Improvement Grants (SIGs) authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the regular FY 2009 appropriations. The draft guidance was published in the Federal Register on August 26 and will be open for public comment through September 25.
“If we are to put an end to stubborn cycles of poverty and social failure, and put our country on track for long-term economic prosperity, we must address the needs of children who have long been ignored and marginalized in chronically low-achieving schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who made the announcement with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) at Harley Harmon Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada. “States and school districts have an opportunity to put unprecedented resources toward reforms that would increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and improve teacher quality for all students, and particularly for children who most need good teaching in order to catch up.”
The proposed requirements would define the criteria states must use to award over $3.5 billion for SIGs to the districts with the lowest-achieving Title I schools that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds. Specifically, states would be required to identify three tiers of schools that are eligible for the funds:
- Tier I: the lowest-achieving 5% of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring;
- Tier II: equally low-achieving secondary schools (both middle level and high schools) that are eligible for, but do not currently receive, Title I funds; and
- Tier III: the remaining Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are not Tier I schools.
Districts desiring a grant would submit an application to their state identifying which Tier I and Tier II schools they would commit to serve, and states would be encouraged to give priority to those districts serving both Tier I and Tier II schools. Districts would then be required to use the funding for implementing one of four specific interventions in the identified schools:
- Turnaround Model, which includes replacing the principal and at least 50% of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing a new and revised instructional program;
- Restart Model, which would require a district to close the school and reopen it under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an educational management organization;
- School Closure, which would require a district to close the school and enroll the students who attended the school in other, high-achieving schools within the district; or
- Transformation Model, which would require a district to address four specific areas critical to transforming the lowest-achieving schools:
- Developing teacher and school leader effectiveness;
- Implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies;
- Extending learning time and creating community-oriented schools; and
- Providing operating flexibility and sustained support.
Grants would be awarded for up to three years and would be of sufficient size to implement reforms in each of the identified schools. Schools that choose to implement the Turnaround, Restart, or Transformation models would receive $500,000 per year. Schools receiving a grant would be required to report student achievement data to their district, and only those schools that are meeting, or are on track to meeting, the district’s student achievement goals may renew their grant beyond the first year.
After reviewing the public comments, ED will release the final guidance and an invitation for applications to states later this fall. For more information, go to: http://www.ed.gov/programs/sif/index.html.
Have eighth-grade graduation festivities become too elaborate?
Total Votes: 180
The conversation begins around this time each year, this time courtesy of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane. Kane believes that with lavish eighth-grade graduation festivities, educators could actually be setting the bar so low that some students might begin to view eighth grade as the high point of their education instead of simply the latest step. Some minority parents disagree, however, arguing that any graduation is a cause for celebration, especially considering the city’s high drop-out rate.
Your turn. If you have not already done so, please take this week’s Principal’s Poll at www.nassp.org and leave your comments below.
Things are changing in education – but overall secondary school student achievement has not been one of them. Since the 1970s the achievement levels of 17-year-olds in both reading and math has not measurably changed, according to data from the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which was recently presented in the 2009 edition of The Condition of Education, available here.
A peek into the data however reveals that average reading and math scores for 9- and 13-year-olds were higher in 2008 than in the 1970s on the long-term NAEP, likely indicating that progress has indeed been made.
The Condition of Education is a congressionally-mandated report that provides an annual portrait of education in the United States. The 46 indicators included in the 2009 edition cover all aspects of education, from early childhood through postsecondary education and from student achievement to school environment and resources.
Among the more stunning takeaways from this years’ report was the growing diversity of America’s public school student population.
Between 1972 and 2007, the percentage of White public school students decreased from 78% to 56%. The main factor behind this change was a dramatic increase in the Hispanic student population, which nearly tripled from 6% in 1972 to 21% in 2007. Notably, the vast majority of this change occurred in the Western United States; however the population shift has affected all parts of the U.S. to some degree.
The percentage of students identified as Asian, Hawaiian, American Indian, or two or more races also made a small, but dramatic increase from 1% to 8% over this same period.
The Black student population in 2007 actually saw a 2% decrease to 15%; placing it at its 1972 level.
In a similarly small shift, the overall high school dropout rate for 16 to 24-year-olds decreased by only about 1 or 2% since 1994. However, the Hispanic dropout rate decreased from about 30% in 1994 to a little over 20% in 2007.
While this rate remains by far the highest amongst Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics, it also represents the greatest decrease over this timeframe.
The full report can be found at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009081.