Using the power of the bully pulpit, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today criticized Congress for its inability to pass a bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the looming government shutdown, and further cuts to education programs under sequestration. The secretary’s speech took place at the National Press Club before an audience of education reporters, education advocates, and US Department of Education officials.

The speech was an opportunity for Duncan to address the Obama administration’s current education initiatives, and he praised state reforms underway due to the implementation of college and career-ready standards and new teacher and principal evaluation systems. Both were requirements under Race to the Top and the ESEA flexibility waivers. He also highlighted other initiatives “outside of the Washington bubble,” such as investments in early childhood education and wrap-around services, and shared specific examples where teachers unions were partners in reform in West Virginia, Indiana, Maryland, Florida, and Colorado.

Duncan criticized certain naysayers of public education, saying our public schools can offer hope and a meaningful life for low-income children. He pointed to recent successes in education such as high school graduation rates, which are at their highest level in 30 years, and the number of students receiving college credit while in high school. But, he also urged public school educators to not make excuses for low achievement, stating that he had met teachers and principals who are proving that “poverty is not destiny” for many low-income students.

Calling education funding “a critical investment for our nation winning the race for the future,” Duncan urged Congress to avert the government shutdown and finalize the FY 2014 appropriations process. He also said that the Department of Education stood ready to work in a bipartisan fashion with Congress to reauthorize “long overdue” bills such as ESEA, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Higher Education Act.

Not even a full week after the Senate HELP Committee held a 2-day session to consider the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to debate its own version of the bill on June 19. It’s deja vu on Capitol Hill because bipartisan negotiations have failed and the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) that was introduced by Chairman John Kline (R-MN) is expected to garner only Republican support…which is exactly what happened when the committee considered a very similar bill in 2012.

“Adequate yearly progress” would be ended under the Student Success Act, and instead 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. One major change from the 2012 proposal is that the bill will reinstate the requirement that states adopt new statewide standards and assessments in science.

The system should annually evaluate and identify the academic performance of each public school in the state based on student academic achievement taking into consideration achievement gaps between subgroups and overall performance of students. It must also include a system for school improvement for low-performing schools that implements interventions designed to address schools’ weaknesses and is implemented by the district. The bill also prohibits the US Department of Education from establishing any criteria that specifies, defines or prescribes any aspect of a state’s accountability system.

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.

NASSP was disappointed to see  that the bill would authorize funding for Title I at $16.6 billion for FY 2014-2019, which is the same amount appropriated by Congress for FY 2012. As the committee’s own fact sheet notes, this amount is “lower than just the Title I authorization for the last year it was authorized” under No Child Left Behind 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.

NASSP is concerned that the bill broadens the definition of “school leader” to include superintendents and other district officials. We firmly believe that the term should be defined to mean only a principal, assistant principal or other individual who is an employee or officer of a school.

States receiving Title II funds under the bill would be required to implement a teacher evaluation system that uses student achievement data derived from a variety of sources as a significant factor in determining a teacher’s evaluation. The evaluation system should use multiple measures of evaluation, have more than two categories for rating the performance of teachers, and be used to make personnel decisions. NASSP supports the requirement that states provide training to school leaders in the evaluation systems. School districts could also use Title II funding to develop and implement a school leader evaluation system and to provide professional development for teachers and school leaders that is evidence-based, job-embedded, and continuous.

The Student Success Act also includes a provision from the 2012 “kill bill” that would eliminate 42 education programs—many of which are strongly supported by NASSP and our members. They include School Leadership, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, the Enhancing Education through Technology program, Dropout Prevention, and others.

As he did last year, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), is expected to introduce an alternative proposal as a substitute amendment to the bill. We expect it to be rejected on a party-line vote, but we do not yet know whether other Democrats on the committee will offer an other amendments. Follow Jacki Ball (@balljacki) and Amanda Karhuse (@akarhuse) on Twitter for live updates during the markup, which will begin on June 19 at 9:00 AM ET.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Status of ESEA Reauthorization
Congress wrapped up 2012 with no movement on ESEA reauthorization and begins the 113th Congress with no indication of addressing reauthorization anytime soon. The urgency of the “fiscal cliff” crisis consumed nearly all of the lame duck session, and the 113th Congress will be tasked with addressing legislation to avert sequestration and to raise the federal debt ceiling. The reelection in November of President Barack Obama means that we can expect states’ waivers from No Child Left Behind to move into the implementation phase, thus dimming a sense of urgency from Congress to reauthorize ESEA. Further, the 113th Congress brings significant turnover of education committee members in the House, with 13 new members on the committee all of whom must be brought up to speed on the key issues related to K-12 education. However, with enough pressure from the Chairmen of the House and Senate education committees and from the President and Secretary Duncan, ESEA reauthorization in the 113th Congress is not entirely out of the question, but still a long shot. NASSP will continue to push for a comprehensive ESEA reauthorization that includes a focus on our key issue areas: school leadership, literacy, middle level and high schools, and education technology. See attached issue sheets for more information on these key areas.

ESEA Waivers
Currently, thirty four states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and two states’ requests are still outstanding: Iowa and Illinois. In addition, California was recently denied its request for waiver. Six states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming. NASSP continues to monitor the waiver process as well as the content of waiver applications to ensure they align with our positions on relevant issues. We are particularly concerned about states’ targets for and weighting of graduation rates as part of their accountability systems. Some states’ waiver applications set graduation rate targets and weighting too low, while others set them so high that schools may be incentivized to “push out” students not ready for graduation in order to meet the high targets.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education in November released a document highlighting which states are using an extended-year graduation rate (e.g., a 5-year or 6-year rate). Most notably, it shows that several states are using an extended-year graduation rate without increasing their annual target. Under the Department’s initial implementation of the regulations, states were allowed to use extended year rates if they had increased annual targets for the extended year rate. The rationale behind this previous approach is that if a school has more time, more students should graduate. Unfortunately, several states maintain the same annual target even if they are using an extended year graduation rate.

NASSP has met with key Congressional staff on the House education committee to express our concerns, and will continue to monitor this issue as well as others contained in the approved waiver applications.

FY 2013 Budget/Appropriations

The federal government is currently operating under a 6-month continuing resolution (CR) which level-funds all programs from their Fiscal Year 2012 levels through March 27, 2013. At that point, Congress will need to agree on and pass a year-long CR to cover spending for the remainder of FY 2013. Agreement on spending levels now seems difficult, since the House and Senate appropriations committees in their allocations for education programs currently have a gap of $1.5 billion that the leadership in appropriations will have to reconcile. Complicating a year-long FY 2013 federal budget are the issues of sequestration (see below) and the federal debt ceiling that Congress must address prior to March. NASSP staff will continue to keep you updated on this messy and stressful situation!

Sequestration

Congress narrowly avoided sequestration by voting at the last minute (January 1) to delay the sequester for two months, or until March 1, 2013. As a result, though sequestration was temporarily averted, it is still a significant threat that could still occur. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF) now projects that the revised sequestration percentage for nondefense discretionary programs will be 5.9% instead of the 8.2% projected by Office of Management and Budget. This is due to the $24 billion reduction in the sequester total for FY 2013. Thus, the total sequester amount will be $85.33 billion, instead of $109.33 billion. The domestic sequester is half of that amount or $42.67 billion. After taking into account the sequester cuts from nonexempt mandatory programs, the CEF projection of the cut to non-defense discretionary spending is $27.44 billion, which would result in a 5.9% across-the board cut. For the Department of Education, that would result in a cut of approximately $2.95 billion.

If sequestration does occur, education funding would not be affected until the 2013-2014 school year, since education is forward-funded by the federal government and this school year’s funds would thus be exempt. However, a few programs would be cut right away (this school year), including the Head Start preschool program for low-income children, and the impact-aid program, which assists districts burdened with additional costs from a large federal presence, such as a military base.

NASSP Government Relations staff has met with Congressional offices this quarter specifically on the issue of sequestration to urge legislators to prevent sequestration and instead find a solution to deficit reduction that is balanced and responsible. We met with the following Congressional offices:House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX). . CEF has also organized meetings with several other Congressional offices this past quarter as well to deliver our unified message about education funding.

NASSP encourages you to tell your legislators that sequestration is unacceptable by sending an action alert to your legislators through NASSP’s Principals’ Legislative Action Center at www.nassp.org/plac. As of January 3, 1,514 letters have been sent to legislators on this issue using NASSP’s action alert. We also encourage you to access a toolkit of resources on sequestration available at http://cef.org/cef-grassroots-campaign-2/. Here you can access sample Tweets, letters to the editor, and action alerts to urge your legislators to stop sequestration. Thank you in advance for your advocacy!

School Principal Recruitment and Training Act

NASSP continues to advocate for the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress. The bill would authorize a grant program to recruit, select, train, and support aspiring or current principals with track records of transforming student learning and outcomes and prepare these principals to lead high-need schools. Selected aspiring principals would be provided with a pre-service residency that lasts for at least one year as well as ongoing support and professional development for at least two years after they commence work as school leaders. Grant funds would also be used to provide mentoring and professional development to strengthen current principals’ capacity in the areas of instruction, supervision, evaluation, and development of teachers and highly effective school organizations. This past quarter, NASSP and NAESP staff worked together to revise a draft bill, and both organizations are working collaboratively with staff of Sen. Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) to prepare a bill for introduction in the 113th Congress.

LEARN Act

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (H.R. 2272/S. 929) in 2011. The bill would authorize $2.35 billion for comprehensive state and local literacy initiatives, building on the best components of the federal Early Reading First, Reading First, and Striving Readers programs. Districts would support school-wide literacy initiatives that include professional development for principals and teachers to incorporate literacy across the curriculum and targeted interventions for struggling students. NASSP is working with its coalition partner, Advocates for Literacy, to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.

The LEARN Act had 15 House cosponsors and 6 Senate cosponsors at the end of the 112th Congress.

Success in the Middle Act

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reintroduced the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 1547/S. 833) in 2011. Under the bill, states are required to implement a middle school improvement plan that describes what students are required to know and do to successfully complete the middle grades and make the transition to succeed in an academically rigorous high school. School districts would receive grants to help them invest in proven intervention strategies, including professional development and coaching for school leaders, teachers, and other school personnel; and student supports such as personal academic plans, intensive reading and math interventions, and extended learning time. This past quarter, NASSP and NAESP staff worked together to revise a draft bill, and both organizations are working collaboratively to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.

The Success in the Middle Act had 17 House cosponsors and 8 Senate cosponsors at the end of the 112th Congress.

Graduation Promise Act

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 778/S. 1177) in 2011. The bill would support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement that focuses research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest performing high schools, and improves the capacity of the high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement. The bill would also provide competitive grants to states to identify statewide obstacles hindering students from graduating, and provide incentives for states to increase graduation rates. NASSP plans to work with other key organizations this upcoming quarter to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.

The Graduation Promise Act had 34 House cosponsors and 1 Senate cosponsor at the end of the 112th Congress.

NASSP on Capitol Hill

Principal Evaluation
NASSP and NAESP conducted a number of join meetings with congressional staff to discuss our recommendations on principal evaluation. Offices being visited this quarter included Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY).

Coalition for Teaching Quality
NASSP staff and other members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality met with congressional staff to discuss implementation of reporting language on teachers in training who are currently labeled “highly qualified” even though they have not yet completed their preparation programs. Offices being visited this quarter included House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

Educator Preparation Reform Act
NASSP, NAESP, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and other organizations met with staff for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to discuss the Educator Preparation Reform Act. The primary focus of the legislation is on teacher and principal preparation and amends the Higher Education Act (HEA). It also improves Title II of the HEA—the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants Program—by expanding the residency programs to include principals and providing partnerships flexibility in meeting the instructional needs of local school districts.

Advocates for Literacy
NASSP and other members of Advocates for Literacy met with staff for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to discuss the LEARN Act and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program.

NCTET Briefing
Over 100 congressional staff and education advocates were able to witness firsthand how technology can be integrated into physics, literacy, and social studies lessons at an October event sponsored by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET). NASSP Director of Government Relations Amanda Karhuse serves on the NCTET board of directors.

To kick off the “pop-up” classrooms event, the principal of Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA, and NASSP member John Word and a physics teacher from Red Lion (PA) High School discussed how technology has changed their instructional practices. “The role of the school leader is to empower teachers to explore new technologies and new ways of teaching,” said Word. He also noted that technology has made his job as an administrator more manageable because he’s “mobile” and always able to access student and teacher data. Both panelists consider themselves lucky to work in school districts that have made technology a top priority, but they agreed there’s always a need for additional funding for professional development for school leaders and teachers. There’s also a concern that few schools are prepared for the new online Common Core assessments that will begin in 2014.

After the panel discussion, audience members rotated through four mobile classrooms. First was a history lesson on the 1860 election with two teachers from New Milford (NJ) High School where 2012 NASSP Digital Principal Eric Sheninger leads a schoolwide technology integration initiative. Attendees also participated in a hands-on physics experiment to measure the temperature of baking soda and vinegar and tracked the data on laptops. Classroom trends were also graphed on the teacher’s whiteboard, so students could understand in real time where they had performed the experiment correctly or not. Teachers from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia demonstrated adaptive curriculum and assessments, including an online essay writing program and interventions for high school students who are reading below grade-level. The final session with educators from Loudoun County (VA) Public Schools showed how gaming technologies can be used to teach special education students about teamwork and to express their feelings and stay in their personal space.

From the audience’s reaction, it was clear that their own education experience was really different than what was presented by these tech-savvy educators. NCTET hopes to plan similar events in the future and encourage Congress to invest in education technology programs so students in every school can have access to a rich learning experience.

NASSP and the US Department of Education

National Principals Month
During the week of October 8-12, officials from the U.S. Department of Education visited nearly 40 local schools, many of which are led by NASSP and NAESP members, to learn more about the daily life of a principal as part of National Principals’ Month. “Great school leaders are key to students receiving a high-quality education and teachers feeling supported and empowered in their work,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Outstanding principals build school cultures focused on learning and high expectations, where all students can reach their full potential. Every great school has a great leader.”

In addition to the visits to these schools, dozens of Education Department staff members visited schools in other parts of the country as part of an organized effort in which federal education officials shadowed school leaders. As a key component of National Principals’ Month, these shadowing visits offered Department staff a glimpse into the daily work of school leaders, while also providing principals with the opportunity to discuss how federal policy, programs, and resources impact their schools.
To complete the week-long partnership effort, on Friday, Oct. 12, principals and Department staff members who participated in the job shadowing engagements joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a debrief discussion to reflect on their experiences and lessons learned.

Find the complete list of participating schools here: http://nasspblogs.org/principalspolicy/2012/10/us-department-of-ed-officials-to-visit-nearly-40-schools-to-learn-from-principals/.

Meetings with Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle
NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti and 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 October and December as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. NASSP is pleased that Assistant Secretary Delisle has established these regular meetings as a means to share information and recommendations, and we hope that they will prove fruitful in terms of the specific recommendations NASSP has for the Department of Education as cited in our position statements and elsewhere

News from the White House and the US Department of Education

Principals to Play a More Prominent Role in Obama’s 2nd Term
In a speech before the Council of Chief State School Officers in November, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that principal preparation and evaluation will be two focus areas for the administration’s education reform agenda in the next Congress. The announcement corroborated what NASSP leaders had been told in private meetings with US Department of Education (ED) officials—there was an admission that teachers had dominated the “human capital agenda” and a promise that school leaders would play a more prominent role if President Obama won a second term. Duncan also supported the creation of a principal ambassador position at ED when the idea was suggested by one of the principals who had participated in the October principal shadowing visits.

Although no details have been released concerning the administration’s policy recommendations on school leadership, ED officials are expected to release a blueprint on the RESPECT proposal to transform the education profession. The $5 billion proposal was first announced during the January 2012 State of the Union address, and multiple drafts were circulated for public comment during the following months. NASSP also held a number of focus group sessions at our national conference in Tampa and with principals and assistant principals who were in Washington, DC, as part of our recognition programs. The overwhelming response was positive towards the administration’s recommendations for preparing, training, and rewarding teachers, but the education profession as a whole cannot be “transformed” without also focusing on school leaders was a recurring comment made by NASSP members.

NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) submitted joint recommendations on the RESPECT proposal to the Department in August 2012. In our letter, we called for principal preparation programs to select high-quality candidates who have demonstrated success as classroom teachers, demonstrate abilities related to effective school leadership competencies, and show prior success in leading adults. Aspiring principals should receive training during a year-long pre-service residency and induction for up to three years alongside a principal mentor. We also urged the inclusion of principal evaluation systems that would assess principal performance on the six domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence and also take into consideration the context of the learning community and the level of authority afforded the individual principal. Our organizations also encouraged districts to provide opportunities for principals and assistant principals to engage in ongoing, sustained, job-embedded leadership development. We remain hopeful that our recommendations will be incorporated into the final version of the blueprint.

NASSP and NAESP have held a number of meetings with key staff on Capitol Hill to discuss our joint recommendations on principal evaluation that were released in September 2012. We are also working together to update the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, which is expected to be reintroduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) early next year. The flagship bill on school leadership will focus on principal preparation, mentoring, professional development, and evaluation, and our hope is that it will serve as the basis for any language affecting school leaders in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Department of Education Awards 17 Promise Neighborhood Grants
On December 21, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods $60 million grant. Promise Neighborhoods, according to the Department of Education, “is a community-focused program that funds local-led efforts to improve educational opportunities and provide comprehensive health, safety, and support services in high-poverty neighborhoods.”

These awards were split between 10 planning grants totaling more than $4.7 million and 7 implementation grants totaling nearly $30 million. The rest of 2012 funds will go toward second-year funding for the 5 implementation grantees awarded in 2011. According to the Department, “Planning grantees will each receive one-year awards of up to $500,000 to create targeted plans for combating poverty in the local community. Implementation grantees will receive awards up to $6 million to fund the first year of a 5-year grant to execute community-led plans that improve and provide better social services and educational programs.”

A complete list of 2012 grant winners can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/secretary-duncan-announces-seventeen-2012-promise-neighborhoods-winners-school-s.
Additional information on the Promise Neighborhoods program and 2012 winners is also available here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods/index.html.

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the Newtown, Connecticut, School Shootings
“School shootings are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies. But words fail to describe today’s heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the father of two children in elementary school, I can barely imagine the anguish and losses suffered today by the Newtown community.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to every parent, child, teacher, staff member, and administrator at Sandy Hook and the surrounding community. And our thanks go out to every teacher, staff member, and first responder who cared for, comforted, and protected children from harm, often at risk to themselves. We will do everything in our power to assist and support the healing and recovery of Newtown.”

Department of Education Awards 16 Race to the Top-District Grants
The U.S. Department of Education announced on December 11 that 16 applicants have won the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition, and will share almost $400 million in funds. The awardees’ plans will address the personalization of student learning, improved student achievement and educator effectiveness, closing achievement gaps, and preparing all students to succeed in college and their careers.

According to the Department of Education, “The 2012 Race to the Top-District grantees will receive four-year awards that range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served through the plan. The winning applicants were the top scorers among the 372 applications the Department received in November, which were evaluated and scored by independent peer reviewers. Grantees represent a diverse set of districts, including applicants from both states that received a Race to the Top state grant as well as those that have not received Race to the Top state funding. Among the winners is a rural-area consortium representing 24 rural districts, which comprise 44 percent of the total number of districts that will benefit from the 2012 competition.”

To view a list of the grantees, go here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-announces-16-winners-race-top-district-competition. For more information about the Race to the Top-District program, including a list of winners, requested award amounts and additional materials, visit the Department’s website: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district/index.html.

NASSP Federal Grassroots Network
As a reminder, Federal Grassroots Network members no longer participate in quarterly calls (only state coordinators do), but continue to receive email updates twice per week 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 become one, please email Amanda Karhuse at karhusea@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: Lisa DeLong (HI), Stacy Johnson (MS), Gary O’Brien (NJ) and Robert Mars (NV).

The NASSP State Coordinators held its quarterly call on November 13 and a make-up call on November 14. The five “hot topics” the Network reported on in their states and that NASSP Government Relations staff created action items on, in order of importance to members, were: teacher evaluation, state education funding, implementation of common core state standards, a tie between principal evaluation and federal education funding, and finally, No Child Left Behind waivers. Fact sheets have been developed on each of these topics.

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

  • February 2013: Tues Feb 12, 10 am EST; Wed Feb 13 2013, 3:30 pm EST
  • May 2013: Tues May 14, 10 am EST; Wed May 15 2013, 3:30 pm EST
  • NASSP and more than 20 of our state associations joined nearly 3,000 other organizations from the non-defense discretionary (NDD) community today in calling upon Congress to avert sequestration by adopting a “balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to NDD programs.”

    As a reminder, sequestration is the drastic, across-the-board cuts to education that are scheduled to occur on January 2, 2013. These across-the-board cuts will occur-unless Congress acts to stop it-as stipulated in the August 2011 Budget Control Act. Congress put this measure of sequestration in place when a 12-member Congressional committee was unable to approve a plan to reduce another $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit last fall.

    NDD programs are provided by the government for the benefit of all Americans. They support economic growth, strengthen safety and security, and enrich the lives of every American in every state and community across the nation. In 2011, NDD spending represented less than one-fifth of the federal budget and 4.3 percent of our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Under strict discretionary caps in the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA), by 2021 NDD spending will decline to just 2.8 percent of GDP, the lowest level in at least 50 years. If sequestration is allowed to take effect, cuts to NDD programs will be even deeper.

    Sequestration would impose the largest education funding cuts ever, chopping funding for programs in the Department of Education by roughly $4 billion, or 8.4%, which would have a devastating impact on state and district budgets.

    To read the letter, go to: http://publichealthfunding.org/uploads/NDDLetter.Final.July2012.pdf.

    The American Association of School Administrators also released a report this week examining how districts are preparing for the potentially devastating cuts of sequestration and how those cuts will impact the nation’s schools. More than half (54.1 %) of the superintendents that participated in the survey reported that their budget for the 2012-13 school year built-in cuts to off-set sequestration. Respondents reported that the cuts of sequestration would mean reducing professional development (69.4 percent), reducing academic programs (58.1 percent), personnel layoffs (56.6 percent) and increased class size (54.9 percent).

    To read the full report, go to: http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/AASA%20Sequestration%20July%202012.pdf.

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    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.

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    NASSP Urges Support for American Jobs Act

    On September 12, 2011, in Federal Funding, by JoAnn Bartoletti

    President Obama this morning announced his plan to send the American Jobs Act to Congress. NASSP strongly endorses the president’s call for investing in our children by funding more teachers and school modernization, for which the Act provides.

    The need is indeed great, as states are facing the depletion of ARRA funds and still suffering the effects of the recession. The results are real and dire: The Council of Economic advisers projects that states will have to lay off 280,000 teachers during the next school year and crumbling facilities are strained by a $270 billion backlog in repairs and maintenance. The advent of online testing that will accompany the Common Core State Standards adoption intensifies an already urgent need for schools to modernize facilities to prepare students for 21st century work and life.

    This bill is about all of us. It’s not about supporting an ideology or institution, but supporting our children–those who will be our caretakers and leaders in the next generation–with educators and facilities that will empower them to thrive.

    To underscore our support, NASSP was proud to recommend two member principals, Virginia Minshew of Park View High School in Sterling, VA (a 2010 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School), and Jane Spence of Bowie High School in Bowie, MD, to join the president in the Rose Garden for his address. Their presence is front-line testimony that the support outlined in the American Jobs Act matters to schools. We encourage all school leaders to add their voices to these principals’ and use the Principal’s Legislative Action Center to encourage their members of Congress to support the American Jobs Act.

    School leaders on Twitter can also visit www.TweetCongress.org to send a quick message to elected officials. First, find your members of Congress by zip code or name, them send a message in 140 characters or less, like:

    @Jim_Moran From Falls Church. Pls support the #JobsAct 2 preserve teacher jobs and modernize schools 4 our kids. http://ow.ly/6s5pQ

    Whether by e-mail, tweet, or good ol’ fashioned phone call, be sure your members of Congress know that your students need their support!

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    As part of the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s effort to consider a piecemeal approach to reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), new legislation was introduced last week to expand the federal Charter Schools Program.

    According to the committee’s bill summary, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 2218) would allow state educational agencies, state charter school boards, or governors to continue to award subgrants for the creation of new charter schools in addition to the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools.

    In order to receive funds under the program, grantees would have to describe how they will work with charter schools to instruct all prospective students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, and provide technical assistance to ensure proper monitoring of charter schools. Funding would be prioritized for those states that:

    1. agree to repeal caps on the number of charter schools permitted in the state;
    2. allow entities other than state educational agencies or local educational agencies to be charter school authorizers;
    3. provide financing to charter schools that is comparable to traditional public schools,
    4. support full-blended or hybrid-online charter school models; and
    5. use charter schools to help improve struggling schools.

    “An estimated 420,000 students in the U.S. are on charter school waitlists, desperate to escape underperforming public schools,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), in a press release. “It’s time we enhance school choice by improving access to charter schools. These innovative institutions empower parents to play a more active role in their children’s education, open doors for teachers to pioneer fresh teaching methods, and promote high academic standards. By facilitating the development and expansion of successful charter schools, H.R. 2218 will provide parents and children more opportunities for a better education.”

    The House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to mark up the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act on June 22, and the full House could consider the bill before the July 4 recess. According to press reports, future ESEA legislation will address local control and flexibility, teachers and school leaders, and accountability.

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    Weekly Federal Education Policy Update

    On June 6, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston

    Announcements

    Education Hearing:

    The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), held a hearing this week to examine the role of charter schools in the nation’s education system. Go here www.edworkforce.house.gov to watch a webcast of the event and read the witness testimony.

    Debt Ceiling/Deficit Reduction:

    House Rejects Clean Debt Ceiling Bill: This Tuesday, 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.

    The next meeting of the Biden bipartisan group (aimed at finding a bipartisan deficit reduction plan for FY 2012) is scheduled for June 9. Yesterday, after President Obama met with the House Republican caucus, Speaker Boehner called for direct talks between himself and Obama and for a deal to be worked out within a month. See: John Boehner calls for debt deal in a month www.politico.com

    FY ’12 Budget and Appropriations News: Balanced Budget

    Constitutional Amendment:

    The House Judiciary Committee yesterday partially marked up H.J. Res 1, a proposed Constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. In addition to mandating that outlays (spending) cannot exceed revenues in any year (other than by a 3/5ths vote of both the House and Senate) it also limits total outlays to no more than 20% of GDP (the co-called global spending cap), which can only be waived by a 2/3rds majority vote of both houses of Congress and prohibits any legislation to increase revenues without a 3/5ths majority vote of both houses. It would take effect in FY 17.

    News

    Department of Education Issues New Rules for Investing in Innovation Grants

    The second round of the Investing in Innovation grant program will be a smaller, $150 million contest for districts and non-profits. The Education Department guidelines will require fewer private-sector matching dollars, ask applicants to focus on rural schools, and change how evidence of past success is used in the scoring process. Read more here: www.edweek.org.

    Common Core Assessments to Integrate Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

    The two consortia of states developing the common core assessments, to be rolled out in the 2014-2015 school year, are crafting them to include accommodations for students with disabilities. Videos with avatars conducting sign language is just one example of the innovative means that the consortia are taking in their approach. “We’re not even thinking about accommodations anymore” in the traditional sense, said Mr. Hock, co-chair of the accessibility and accommodations work group for the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium—one of the two groups developing the new tests. Read more here: www.edweek.org.

    White House Convenes Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

    The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence held its first President’s Advisory Commission meeting last week. The work of this commission is urgent since Hispanics account for more than one in five students in public elementary, middle, and high schools, but have the lowest educational attainment overall. White House Initiative Director Juan Sepulveda said the commission’s priority is to collect best practices, noting that “the community has told us many, many times: We don’t need any more reports, we need help.” Read more here: www.whitehouse.gov.

    Research

    Alliance Releases New Report on Deeper Learning

    From the Alliance website: “Policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels should support the concepts of “deeper learning” to help all students meet higher expectations and be prepared for college and career, according to a new Alliance policy brief released on May 26. The brief argues that deeper learning provides students with the deep content knowledge they need to succeed after high school and the critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills that today’s jobs demand.” Read the brief here: all4ed.org [pdf].

    Resources

    ARRA Spending Report:

    ED has posted an updated reports showing ARRA spending as of May 27. Of the $97.4 billion in ED ARRA funds allocated, 82.6% has been outlaid (spent). $16.9 billion still remains to be spent.

    By State (as of May 27, 2011) www2.ed.gov By Program (as of May 27, 2011) www2.ed.gov.

    CHN Budget Webinar:

    The Coalition for Human Needs is sponsoring a webinar on June 7th: A Webinar for the Budget-Perplexed: Stop the Slashing

    The human needs advocates’ simple guide to understanding – and defeating – unprecedented attacks on the federal budget Tuesday, June 7, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST

    Register today!

    https://chn.peachnewmedia.com/store/seminar/seminar.php?seminar=8116

    Webinar description:

    Massive cuts in essential services like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP/food stamps, education and children’s services, help to low-income communities such as housing and the Community Services Block Grant, and virtually every other human needs program. A large number of proposals now being floated in Washington would devastate these services and would make it far harder for the federal government to respond to economic downturns and solve looming national problems. Yet at the same time, they would do nothing to restrict more deficit-increasing tax cuts for millionaires and corporations.

    These proposals don’t have straightforward names like “The Act to Slash Health Care for Older Americans” or “The Act to Cut Services for Low- and Moderate-Income Americans in order to Provide Enormous Tax Breaks for the Rich.” Instead, Congress is talking about global caps, balanced budget amendments, debt ceiling increases, deficit reduction… It’s hard to fight back if you don’t understand how you’re being attacked.

    NASSP Weekly Federal Education Policy Update

    On May 19, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston

    Announcements

    New Legislation: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a bill that NASSP supports: S. 1019, introduced to amend ESEA in order to support secondary school reentry programs and to reach out to and re-engage disconnected youth. The bill would call upon state and local educational agencies to develop a plan for identifying and re-engaging disconnected youth in a secondary education program that leads to the attainment of a secondary school diploma, and to establish partnerships with community based organizations, institutions of higher education, and other entities to provide a range of educational options and services particularly for students beyond the compulsory age for school. NASSP encourages you to contact your Senators and ask for their co-sponsorship or support of this bill.

    FY ’12 Budget and Appropriations News: Sen. Reid announced that the Senate will definitely vote next week on the House-passed budget resolution (e.g. House Budget Chairman Ryan’s HR 1, which would devastate educating funding). Sen. McConnell is expected to force a vote on President Obama’s FY ’12 budget. Neither is expected to pass.

    FY 12 Senate Budget Committee: Chairman Conrad is meeting with committee Democrats today to decide whether to proceed with a markup but it’s likely there won’t be one. Next week, the House-passed budget will fail to pass the Senate, and won’t even get all 47 Republican votes. Read more here: thehill.com.

    As you recall from my update last week, the House Appropriations Committee last week came out with their FY 2012 302(b) allocations, which are markers for the maximum amount certain agencies can spend for the FY ’12 year. While these numbers are not final, they portend the significant cuts to come to education and other agencies. An analysis of the House’s FY 12 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee shows that their FY 12 level would cut funding for the subcommittee all the way back to FY 2004 levels.

    Debt Ceiling: The federal government has now reached its limit on the debt and Treasury Secretary Geithner has started to implement special measures to prevent a default and until August 2 at which point we need to have raised the debt ceiling. The Republican Study Committee, a very conservative group of members of Congress, is calling for adding to the debt ceiling increase (a “Cut, Cap, and Balance” approach: rsc.jordan.house.gov) which calls for a global spending cap of 18% of GDP (which would return us back to 1956 spending levels!), a balanced budget constitutional amendment and an immediate 50% cut in the deficit in FY 12.

    News

    Specialists Consider Common Social Studies Standards

    Subject-matter specialists from more than a dozen states are meeting this week collaborate on strategies to improve academic standards in social studies. The third meeting of its kind this year, the talks bring together social studies specialists from 18 states and officials of 15 social studies organizations. Though some organizers refer to their work as development of “common state standards,” there is no guarantee the group will create such standards. Instead, these talks are intended to develop resources states can share, such as a set of guidelines or core principles, and to push a dialogue on how to improve each state’s own standards. Read the rest of the article here: www.edweek.org

    Experts Encourage Expanding of Boys’ Options

    Ever since Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act barred sex discrimination in education, girls have been encouraged to study and pursue traditionally “male” careers, including science, technology, and law. Now that a 21st century economy offers fewer good-paying jobs in male-dominated fields like construction, experts are calling for the creation of a White House Council on Boys to Men, much like the existing White House Council on Women and Girls, in order to foster policies and support. Read the rest of the article here: www.edweek.org

    Commentary

    Principal Preparation: Moving Beyond Assessment

    This commentary, an excerpt of which is below, appeared in yesterday’s Education Week. We encourage you to comment on it as a school leader and give your thoughts on the issue.
    By Ann Hassenpflug

    Increasingly, principal-preparation programs are getting the national scrutiny that has been focused on teacher education for some time.
    Today, many principal-training programs run by public and private higher education institutions have been modified to align them with national standards from the Educational Leadership Constituent Council, or ELCC. To receive national recognition from ELCC as part of the college of education accreditation process, faculties have revised their principal-training programs to include assessments that require graduate students to engage in specific activities scored according to rubrics.

    Educational administration faculty members have spent immense amounts of time and effort (without extra compensation or reduced teaching and research loads) to design and implement common principalship assessments. One problem with this: The intense focus on tests has caused other important program components to be neglected—despite a lack of data confirming that the new assessments actually make any difference in a future principal’s leadership ability.

    Instead of continuing to tinker with assessments in principal-preparation programs, it is time to look at other pieces of the process to determine if the necessary questions are being asked about the preparation process, which includes the selection (or, more often, self-selection) of candidates, the pedagogy and delivery methods used in the courses, the knowledge base and skills addressed in the educational administration courses, and the qualifications of the faculty.

    Read the rest of the article and leave any comments here: www.edweek.org

    Research

    The Pell Institute, sponsored by CEF member the Council for Opportunity in Education, issued The Threat of Income-Based Inequality in Education www.coenet.us [pdf]

    New America Foundation’s Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) released an issue brief on the recently finalized fiscal year 2011 federal education appropriations. The paper, 2011 Education Appropriations Guide education.newamerica.net, “provides a summary and analysis of the $68.3 billion education budget for fiscal year 2011″.

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    House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Kline (R-MN) is not backing away from his intent to reduce the federal role in education with the introduction of the Committee’s first small ESEA bill that would eliminate funding for several programs vital to secondary school leaders. This first bill, the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (H.R. 1891) introduced on May 13 by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, eliminates authorizations for ESEA programs that are no longer funded (including those that lost funding in the recent FY 2011 Continuing Resolution) and also eliminated programs that the Obama administration slated for consolidation in FY 2012. Thus, the following key programs for secondary school leaders would be eliminated:

    • School Leadership
    • Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program
    • Smaller Learning Communities
    • Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Programs
    • High School Graduation Initiative
    • Safe and Drug Free State Grants
    • Physical Education
    • National Writing Project
    • Parent Information and Resource Centers
      along with 34 other ESEA programs to total 43 program eliminations.

    To see the complete list of eliminated programs, go here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/UploadedFiles/SUMMARY_-_Setting_New_Priorities_in_Education_Spending_Act.pdf

    The Committee’s press release on May 13 about this bill describes the 43 programs slated for elimination as “inefficient,” “unnecessary,” and even “wasteful,” yet just this Wednesday I attended a Hill briefing on strategies for effective ELL instruction that cited the National Writing Project, a supposedly “wasteful” program, as key to one teacher’s success in her students’ English reading and writing achievement (See http://advocacy.collegeboard.org/preparation-access/teacher-advocacy/news/new-report-teacher-voices-immigration-language-and-culture.)

    Additionally, in the same press release where Rep. Hunter laments that “approximately one-third of American fourth graders can’t read,” he proposes elimination of six key-and successful-literacy programs (Striving Readers, Even Start Family Literacy Program, National Writing Project, Improving Literacy Through School Libraries, Reading is Fundamental, and Early Reading First) making his bill appear ill-advised to address the literacy crisis specifically and student achievement generally. Rep. Hunter-and Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who supports this bill-also argue that many of these programs are duplicative efforts of other designated categories in ESEA. The bill eliminates the School Leadership grant, for example, arguing that it is duplicative of the ESEA Title II (Teacher Quality State Grants) program and the Teacher Incentive Fund. However, NASSP finds this duplication argument unfounded considering that currently, less than 5% of Title II dollars go toward principal professional development, and that most go toward reducing class size in district budgets.

    As a dedicated school leader, you invariably will be impacted by elimination of these programs, whether it is through less or no school leader professional development with the elimination of the School Leadership grant, or it is through no financial support from the federal government to maintain a safe and healthy school environment with the elimination of the Safe and Drug Free State Grants. Additionally, reports show that every state, and thus district, is recovering more slowly from our economic recession than the nation as a whole, and thus relies heavily now on federal support for these critical programs for your schools. NASSP therefore urges you to visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (http://app3.vocusgr.com/WebPublish/controller.aspx?SiteName=NASSP&Definition=Home&XSL=Home&SV_Section=Home) to contact your members of Congress and express your strong opposition to Rep. Hunter’s bill. NASSP Government Relations staff will aggressively oppose this bill through our own outreach, but we need your voice and your support to make our case stronger.

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