Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, tens of thousands of students across the country have opted out of federally mandated assessments. The opt-out movement has become a way for parents and students to protest the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as well as the overabundance of testing in schools.
One of the key provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law requires school districts to maintain a 95 percent assessment participation rate. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently told states they risk losing federal funds if they fall below 95 percent compliance. This could have major implications for low-income and rural school districts that rely heavily on federal funding to hire staff, upgrade schools, and incorporate new programs.
On May 15, 2015, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Tom Reed (R-NY) announced the introduction of The Enable More Parents to Opt-Out Without Endangering Resources Act (H.R. 2382), which would guarantee parents the right to opt out of assessments. The EMPOWER Act would prevent the federal government from punishing states that fall below the 95 percent compliance rate and would allow parents to opt their child out of an assessment for any reason. The National Education Association (NEA) has already endorsed the EMPOWER Act and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) signed on as an original co-sponsor. As the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process moves forward, debates over opting out, as well as the proper role of assessments, are expected to continue and could potentially derail the entire process.
The high-stakes testing culture originated from the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) provision of NCLB that placed heavy emphasis on testing and labeled schools based on assessment performance. Each label was accompanied with a list of consequences that provided states with recommendations for improving the schools that failed to meet AYP. In many cases, these labels led to the firing of teachers and school administrators, school closings, or turnaround efforts led by charter school networks. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education started granting states NCLB flexibility waivers in exchange for increased standards, improved accountability, and teacher improvement efforts. While many of the states that received waivers were no longer required to meet AYP requirements, testing in schools continued to increase as accountability and teacher evaluation initiatives progressed.
This April, JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) wrote a letter to parents in response to the opt-out movement. In this letter, Executive Director Bartoletti acknowledges NCLB has created a culture of over testing and sympathizes with parents who have children taking monthly standardized tests. At the same time, she discusses the major implications reduced federal funding could have on state education budgets and tells parents opting out could ultimately reduce educational opportunities for their children.
In addition to advocating for reducing the reliance on assessments, NASSP will continue to support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as well as next generation assessments that measure what students actually need to be college and career ready.
On April 16, President Obama signed the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law. Included in this legislation is a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. This law, which was enacted after rural communities were devastated by logging industry regulations, requires that 15 to 20 percent of the United States Forest Service’s county payments be used for specific purposes. These purposes include supporting or expanding rural schools, improving roads in rural communities, increasing public safety, or developing special projects on federal lands.
While Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill that would extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act for three years, this two-year reauthorization will have a major impact on funding and development in rural communities across the country.
In addition to the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, NASSP is also keeping a close eye on the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations process for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. Specifically, NASSP will be monitoring funding levels for the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP), which provides formula grants to small and low-income schools in rural areas through the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program and the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program. This program remains in Title VI of the Every Child Achieves Act and would allow for dually eligible districts to choose which program they would like to apply for funding, which is not allowed under current law.
As ESEA reauthorization and the Appropriations process move forward, NASSP will continue monitoring resource distribution in rural communities.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here: http://www.nassp.org/Legislative-Advocacy/NASSP-Federal-Grassroots-Network.
NASSP State Coordinators
NASSP welcomes several new coordinators to their roles: 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):
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.
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.
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:
Whether by e-mail, tweet, or good ol’ fashioned phone call, be sure your members of Congress know that your students need their support!