Less than two weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives moved to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by passing the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), the Senate followed suit by passing the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) by a vote of 81 to 17.

This historic achievement comes seven years after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was due for reauthorization. The bill was opposed by 14 Republicans who felt the bill did not go far enough to restore local control in education and three Democrats because of concerns over missing civil rights provisions.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) issued the following statement after the bill passed the Senate:

“Last week, Newsweek Magazine called this the ‘law that everyone wants to fix’—and today the Senate’s shown that not only is there broad consensus on the need to fix this law—remarkably, there’s also broad consensus on how to fix it.”

HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) was also pleased with the passage of the Every Child Achieves Act:

 “Today, the Senate cleared a major hurdle with this strong bipartisan vote to fix the badly broken No Child Left Behind law, but we still have important work to do as this bill moves to a conference and before it is signed into law.”

Throughout this process, the Senate considered 78 amendments, 66 of which were adopted. You can access the Committee for Education Funding’s complete list of the results for each amendment here.

Some of the more notable amendments that passed were:

  • An amendment by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to establish a Student Privacy Policy Committee to conduct a study on the effectiveness of federal laws and enforcement mechanisms along with parental rights to student information (passed 89-0)
  • An amendment by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to modify the Title I funding formula (passed 59-39)
  • An amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to require local education agencies to inform parents of any state or local education agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year (passed 97-0)
  • An amendment by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to provide for early college high school and dual or concurrent enrollment opportunities (passed by voice vote)
  • An amendment by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) to require States to establish a limit on the aggregate amount of time spent on assessments (passed by voice vote)

Some of the noteworthy amendments that failed were:

  • An amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to allow parents to opt their children out of federally mandated assessments (failed 32-64)
  • An amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools (failed 52-45)
  • An amendment by Sen. Chris Murphy to increase subgroup accountability for underperforming groups (failed 43-54)
  • An amendment by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to reinstate grants to improve the mental health of children (failed 58-39)
  • An amendment by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) to ensure that states measure and report on indicators of student access to critical educational resources and identify disparities in such resources (failed 46-50)
  • An amendment by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to allow federal funds for the education of disadvantaged children to follow low-income children to accredited public or private schools (failed 45-52)
  • An amendment by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) to allow states to opt out of federal education regulations while continuing to received federal funds
  • An amendment by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) to provide mandatory funding for universal pre-K education (failed 45-52)

While NASSP supported the bill, there are several aspects that must be improved during conference committee. NASSP along with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) issued a joint statement on the passage of the Every Child Achieves Act.

Now that the House and Senate have both passed bills to reauthorize ESEA, a bipartisan group of representatives and senators will go to conference committee to try and resolve the major differences between the two bills. It is still unclear when the conference committee will occur and it could take several weeks—if not months—before a bill is produced that can pass both chambers while also receiving support from President Obama.

The NASSP advocacy staff will continue to follow the reauthorization of ESEA, so be sure to follow Amanda Karhuse (@akarhuse) and David Chodak (@dnchodak) on Twitter for updates.

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.

NASSP Urges the FCC to Increase Funding for E-Rate Program

On September 29, 2014, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

In an effort to ensure that more schools have access to high-speed broadband and wireless connections, NASSP has submitted comments in response to a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the E-Rate program that was issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on July 23. NASSP also signed on to comments submitted by the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC), a group comprised of the leading public and private education associations and the American Library Association that was formed to promote and improve the E-Rate program to fulfill its mission of accelerating the deployment of advanced telecommunications and information services in schools and libraries.

Our individual and coalition comments both urge the FCC to immediately and permanently increase the E-Rate program’s annual funding level. For years, we have argued that the program requires additional funding to upgrade these basic Internet connections to broadband. Without the ability to access greater bandwidth speeds in classrooms, our nation’s students would be hamstrung in their efforts to use of digital textbooks, participate in online and distance learning courses, and take online assessments. In addition, we have consistently maintained that the E-Rate’s annual funding cap, essentially unchanged from its inception, is grossly inadequate to fund the bandwidth increases so many schools require with the growing use of laptops and digital devices.

Experts in the field suggest that the $1 billion annually (or $5 billion over five years) the FCC has committed for the E-Rate program is simply inadequate for WiFi build out and sustainability costs. The CoSN/Education Superhighway study of public school costs for internal connections “suggests that once all schools and libraries have been upgraded, it will cost approximately $2.2 billion per year ($1.6 billion in E-Rate subsidies) to maintain these networks and upgrade them periodically to list latest standards. Funds for Learning also notes that school districts with more than 20% of their students eligible for the National School Lunch Program may not see even a dime of E-Rate funding for internal connections by 2020.

NASSP believes that technology can increase equity and access to educational opportunities for all students and enhance the impact and reach of great teaching in schools. But we know that teachers and students will only use those tools if they can rely on the connectivity of their broadband network and Wi-Fi capacity. For this reason, we will continue to advocate for a robust E-Rate program and encourage the FCC to permanently raise the funding cap.

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To fulfill President Obama’s goal under the ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of the nation’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and wireless in four years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an E-Rate modernization order on July 11, 2014, that directs at least $1 billion in support for Wi-Fi for FY 2015 and FY 2016. The order also begins a multi-year transition of all program funding to broadband by gradually phasing down support for non-broadband services. The order also seeks to maximize E-Rate spending by incentivizing consortia and bulk purchasing and streamlining the application process. The new E-Rate rules will be in place in time to support Wi-Fi upgrades beginning in the 2015−2016 school year.

The order, approved on a party-line vote by the FCC, was seen as a huge advocacy success for NASSP and our partners in the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC) who were apprehensive about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s draft proposal that was circulated in June. Though the proposal aimed to “close the Wi-Fi gap, make E-Rate dollars go farther, and bring E-Rate into the 21st century,” our coalition expressed concern that the proposal fell short and did not provide a plan for sustained funding and support.

A letter backed by more than a dozen groups, including NASSP, expressed concerns on the ability of the FCC to pay for its $5 billion, five-year plan to invest in internal Wi-Fi without a permanent increase to the program’s $2.4 billion funding cap, which was not included in Wheeler’s draft proposal. Though the FCC had repurposed $2 billion in existing funds to prioritize broadband, our organizations were doubtful that an additional $3 billion would appear in funding. NASSP staff also attended meetings with FCC officials in June to convey these concerns in person.

Following the order, the FCC released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the E-Rate program on July 23 that seeks comments on:

  • Ensuring affordable access to high-speed broadband sufficient to support digital learning in schools and robust connectivity for all libraries
  • Maximizing the cost-effectiveness of spending for E-Rate supported purchases
  • Making the E-Rate application process and other E-Rate processes fast, simple, and efficient

NASSP believes that technology can increase equity and access to educational opportunities for all students and enhance the impact and reach of great teaching in schools. But we know that teachers and students will only use those tools if they can rely on the connectivity of their broadband network and Wi-Fi capacity. For this reason, we will continue to advocate for a robust E-Rate program and encourage the FCC to permanently raise the funding cap.

NASSP will be submitting joint comments with EdLiNC to the FCC and individual comments on behalf of our members before the deadline on September 15, 2014. Principals are also encouraged to send comments directly to the FCC.

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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.

ED Releases Guidance on Ed Tech PD $

On February 7, 2014, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

NASSP has been a big propoent of the ConnectED initiative to promote digital learning in the classroom, but most of the conversation has been focused on high-speed broadband and modernization of the E-Rate program. We all know, however, that connectivity is only the one part of the equation: school leaders and teachers must be trained on how to use the technology and integrate it into their instruction to ensure student success.

To address that issue, the US Department of Education released a Dear Colleague letter on February 5 that provides guidance to states, districts and schools on how they can leverage current federal funding “to support innovative technology-based strategies.”

The document includes examples of how funding from Titles I-3 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for digital learning “even if the program statutes do not reference educational technology specifically.”

According to the guidance, “these examples do not depart from previous ED guidance, but clarify opportunities to use federal grant funds to support digital learning, including 1) improving and personalizing professional learning and other supports for educators; 2) increasing access to high-quality digital content and resources for students; 3) facilitating educator collaboration and communication; and 4) providing devices for students to access digital learning resources.”

I’ve talked to many NASSP members, in person and during Twitter chats, who tell me that funding for education technology and training their teachers is a big challenges in their schools. So we were very pleased to hear that in addition to the guidance, President Obama will propose new funding for professional development for education technology in his FY 2015 budget. Details of the budget should be released in early March, so stay tuned!

NASSP Communications Director Bob Farrace was lucky enough to be at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, MD, yesterday where President Obama announced a major private sector investment of nearly $750 million for schools to improve digital learning. The additional funding for education technology is a major win in the administration’s ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of students to “next-generation connectivity” in 5 years.

 Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T have pledged to provide their products, mobile and wireless services, and professional development for educators at a  reduced cost, or for free to certain low-income schools. According to a White House fact sheet, these commitments will “help make the most of the government investment in broadband infrastructure by ensuring it is put the best educational use.”

The US Department of Agriculture will also provide $10 million in distance learning grants for rural schools to purchase equipment and services such as videoconferencing.
 
At a Digital Learning Day event in Washington, DC, today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce a new $2 billion investment in broadband and wireless services for schools through the E-Rate program. NASSP is cautiously optimistic about this proposal, which would improve management of the program and make it easier and cheaper to disperse funds to high-need schools. We have been engaged in conversations with FCC officials about modernizing the E-Rate program, but we also reiterate our call for raising the cap on E-Rate so funds are sustainable in a digital learning environment that is constantly increasing the demands on our schools and the networks they rely on.
 
NASSP is very pleased to hear that President Obama will include funding in his FY 2015 budget proposal for professional development for teachers and school leaders as they transition to digital learning and high-speed connectivity. School leaders were very disappointed when funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program was eliminated in FY 2011 (need to check on the date), and we have been championing Congressional proposals to renew this federal investment.
 
NASSP will continue to engage federal officials in conversations about the importance of digital learning in our nation’s middle level and high schools and urge for a strong and continued investment in the ConnectED initiative.
 

NASSP Opposes New Private School Voucher Proposals

On January 29, 2014, in Federal Funding, by Amanda Karhuse

As part of National School Choice Week in late-January, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have introduced two bills to greatly increase federal funding for private school vouchers at the expense of our nation’s public schools.

“NASSP have long stated its opposition to private school vouchers, which drain money away from public schools, reduce accountability in the education system, and ultimately harm public schools where the vast majority of our nation’s youth receive their education,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “We are especially dismayed that the proposals would eliminate federal education programs that we know are important to school leaders, such as literacy education and career and technical education, and would redirect funding for special education programs and services away from public schools.”

The Scholarship for Kids Act (S. 1968) would authorize nearly $24 billion (41% of federal education funding) for a Scholarship for Kids program. Eligible low-income children would be able to use the grant scholarships at any state-approved public or private school they attend or for supplemental educational services. According to Sen. Alexander, 11 million students would be eligible for the scholarships and would be worth approximately $2,100 per student.

In order to pay for the Scholarship for Kids program, the bill would consolidate more than 80 federal education programs previously allocated for programs under Title I of ESEA, including the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, the High School Graduation Initiative, the School Leadership program, the Enhancing Education through Technology program, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. States participating in the program would be relieved of having to comply with all requirements of ESEA except for provisions related to challenging academic standards and related assessments.

“Equal opportunity in America should mean that everyone has the same starting line,” said Sen. Alexander at an event in Washington, DC. “During this week celebrating school choice, there would be no better way to help children move up from the back of the line than by allowing states to use federal dollars to create 11 million new opportunities to choose a better school.”

The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education (CHOICE) Act (S. 1909) takes a three-pronged approach to increasing private school vouchers. First, the bill would provide funds to states for disability school choice programs that would allow students with disabilities to use funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at any school of their choice. The legislation would also create a pilot school choice program for students living on military bases. Finally, the bill would greatly expand the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for students living in the District of Columbia.

“As someone who grew up poor and nearly failed out of high school, I know the importance of empowering parents and teachers to make a difference in a child’s life,” Sen. Scott said in a press release. “Kids who succeed in the classroom have a better chance of succeeding later in life. Education is the cornerstone of success, and the CHOICE Act is a great first step towards ensuring more kids across our nation have access to a great one.”

All students deserve the opportunity to attend great schools and federal resources should help support schools and students who need it the most. For this reason, NASSP encourages all principals and assistant principals to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose the Scholarship for Kids Act and the CHOICE Act. Visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (PLAC) to find the contact information for your legislators and send a letter today!

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:

School Leadership

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.

Professional Development

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.

Principal Evaluation

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.

School Turnaround

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.

Literacy

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.

Education Technology

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.

 

Education Technology

ConnectED

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.

 

LEARN Act

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.

 

Other Issues

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 ballj@nassp.org. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here: http://www.nassp.org/Legislative-Advocacy/NASSP-Federal-Grassroots-Network.

 

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.

NASSP Celebrates Connected Educators Month

On September 27, 2013, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

October is a big month to celebrate education. Not only are we leading the charge for National Principals Month, but NASSP is also involved in promoting the importance of connected leading and learning during Connected Educators Month. So we’re planning activities to pull the two initiatives together. Mark your calendars for a series of Twitter chats that we will host in cooperation with our friends at Connected Principals (#cpchat):

 

Wednesday, October 9, 8:00-9:00 p.m.  Topic: Encouraging our colleagues to become connected

Wednesday, October 16, 8:00-9:00 p.m. Topic: Getting recognition for informal professional development like online community participation

Wednesday, October 23, 8:00-9:00 p.m. Topic: What could schools do if we had ample, reliable broadband?

Wednesday, October 30, 8:00-9:00 p.m. Topic: TBC (to be crowdsourced)

 

We’ll identify facilitators over the next week. Just log on to Twitter at the appointed time and start following (and tweeting with) hashtag #cpchat. All the chats will be time well spent, but I would encourage those with a particular interest in E-rate to star the October 23 chat. NASSP has come out loudly in support of President Obama’s ConnectED proposal to ensure ample broadband access to 99% of student in the next five years. The October 23 chat will be a great opportunity to share ideas and showcase the possibilities that broadband access provides.

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