Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Senate HELP Committee Hearing on ESEA Flexibility Waivers
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee kicked off its most recent attempt to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by holding a hearing in February to examine the state flexibility waivers that are available under the current iteration of the law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
Calling the ESEA waivers “Plan B,” US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explained that the administration put forward a blueprint for ESEA reform in 2010 and only moved forward with the waivers after Congress was unable to reauthorize the law. He said that the guiding principle of ESEA flexibility is that it must first benefit students, and states must demonstrate a commitment and capacity to improve educational outcomes. Duncan also noted that the federal government does not serve as a national school board, but it does have a responsibility to set a high bar, especially for at-risk students. Duncan concluded by expressing a desire to partner with Congress to fix NCLB, which he called “fundamentally broken.”
The committee also heard from two chief state school officers whose states have received flexibility waivers: Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and New York Commissioner of Education John King. They discussed how the waivers have allowed them to enhance reforms already underway in their states, including a focus on student proficiency and achievement gaps, strengthening the accountability system, and improving teacher and principal evaluation. Nonetheless, both chiefs expressed their desire that state reforms developed under the waivers inform ESEA reauthorization and urged Congress to move forward. “Only reauthorization gives us long-term expectations for accountability and long-term capacity for implementation,” said Holliday.
Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust, discussed the report her organization released the same day as the hearing, A Step Forward or a Step Back? State Accountability in the Waiver Era. She outlined four areas of concern in the waivers: 1) Although states were required to set ambitious goals for raising student performance and closing achievement gaps, these goals were not included in the school rating systems developed by many states; 2) Super subgroups that combine small subgroups of student populations are problematic in many states because they mask the true performance of some disadvantaged students; 3) Many states did not include multiple measures of student performance in their accountability systems, but instead chose to continue using only state assessments in math and English language arts; 4) Many states did not specify what districts need to do to turn around the lowest-performing schools.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) closed the hearing with a reminder that the “federal role is to ensure that our nation’s most vulnerable children are not forgotten.” He also reaffirmed his commitment to work towards a comprehensive, bipartisan ESEA reauthorization in the next year.
Update from CQ Roll Call (3/19/13)
Despite the widespread belief that Congress has zero appetite for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year, leaders of the Senate education committee are testing the waters.
Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, met last week with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss the prospects of crafting a bipartisan overhaul of the ESEA (PL 107-110), widely known as No Child Left Behind.
Education Department staffers are meeting with both Democratic and Republican education policy staffers on the committee to work out a potential foundation for a bill.
“Our staffs are going to be working very, very hard the next couple of weeks to see where and if there is common ground,” Duncan said Tuesday at the annual legislative conference for the Council of Chief State School Officers. “The real question is does Congress have the bandwidth, the capacity and the willingness to work in a bipartisan way? And if they do, we stand ready and able to help out any way we can. If they’re not, we’ll come back when they are ready.”
Harkin said Tuesday the three will meet again after the upcoming congressional recess to assess any paths forward.
“Our staffs are doing some work together now,” Harkin said. “We’ll just see what areas we need to work on a little bit more. It’s just trying to find a way of moving forward.”
Though moving forward could mean having to push a partisan bill through committee, Harkin said that is something he is not opposed to doing.
“I am reporting an ESEA bill out of my committee before summer,” Harkin said. “One way or the other, it’s coming out.”
Harkin and Alexander won’t be starting from scratch. They ushered a bipartisan rewrite of the law through committee last year, along with then-ranking member Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo. But neither side was enamored enough with the bill to press Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring it to the floor, and so the effort expired along with the last Congress.
“In the Senate last time we started out with a lean bill and ended up with a really long bill and lots of senators had their ideas in it,” Alexander said. “I voted to get it out of committee, but I didn’t like it very much because it got too intrusive.”
The bill was sprinkled with sweeteners for both sides. For Democrats, it wrote into law the administration’s signature competitive grants, such as the Race to the Top program. It also expanded charter schools, a Republican priority.
But significant policy gaps existed: Democrats thought it lacked robust accountability standards, Republicans wanted to include language to limit federal authority over education policy, and a coalition of members from both parties wanted to include teacher evaluation requirements.
“Obviously, the current dysfunction in Washington makes me less optimistic that this can get done,” Duncan said. “But we’re going to provide whatever leadership we can do to help facilitate it.”
Currently, thirty four states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and twelve states’ requests are still outstanding: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming. And while California was denied its request for a waiver, 10 California school districts have applied for a customized waiver. Three states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, and Vermont.
FY 2013 Appropriations/FY 2014 Budget
After months of anticipation and constant assurances that it would never happen, the sequester that triggers $85 billion in automatic spending cuts took effect on March 1st. Congress and the White House, in spite of reassuring the public for months that it was just too awful and they would never let it happen, failed to come up with an alternative. Because of a policy known as forward funding, most education programs will not feel the impact of the sequester until the fall. But not all programs. Headstart and Impact Aid will feel the cuts in the remaining months of this fiscal year.
For the Department of Education, the impact will be slow in coming on the one hand but fairly immediate given the constraints of teacher contracts. In total, the sequester will force cuts totaling $3 billion from education programs. That means 5.1% for every program and every activity. Because the year is truncated that 5.1% translates to something closer to a 9% decrease. Agency heads like Secretary Duncan have some limited flexibility in how the sequester is applied. If the Department were to enact furloughs they could only apply to career employees. If the Department were to prohibit all travel or cancel conferences that could reduce the overall percentage but the cuts would still have to be applied across the board.
The formula grants that include the majority of education funding that reaches states will be hard hit. Title I and IDEA grants will be reduced by $735 million and $600 million respectively. The Pell Grant program—the largest single expenditure at the Department– is exempt from the sequester this first year. Beyond specific cuts, if there are furloughs of career employees, grant reviews, release of RFPs and other services delivered by the Department are sure to be impacted.
Slowly but surely individual federal agencies are alerting their staff and grantees and the public about their sequester plans. These plans must be sent to the Congress by May 1st. Given that federal workers are in many instances unionized, negotiations between management and union leaders will also slow down the works and impact the way cuts are applied.
While it is too late for the President to negotiate changes for FY 2013, the $85 billion in sequester cuts are scheduled to occur every year over the next 9 years and total over a trillion in reduced federal spending. It is those out year cuts that he and others in Congress hope to address with a so-called grand bargain, which will only possible if Democrats agree to entitlement reforms and Republicans agree to revisit the tax code.
FY 2013 Appropriations
The FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2013 (HR 933) was signed into law on March 26th. The CR extends funding for education programs and other parts of the federal budget at Fiscal Year 2012 levels—minus $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, also known as the sequester—through September 30, 2013. The Department of Education’s share of the sequester is $2.5 billion. The CR also included an additional across-the-board budget cut of 0.2%, which works out to about $136 million of the agency’s $68 billion in discretionary funding. The CR requires all agencies to submit an operating plan to Congress showing the amounts for programs, projects, and activities by April 25.
FY 2014 Budget
Although the Executive Branch typically releases its budget proposal for the next fiscal year on the first Tuesday of February, this year’s budget was delayed while Congress finalized spending for FY 2013. President Obama recently announced that he will release the FY 2014 budget on April 10.
In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, NASSP has been actively meeting with White House officials and members of Congress to share our recommendations on gun violence prevention and other school safety issues.
After Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) read the press statement issued by NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) opposing proposals to arm school officials, our executive directors and the leaders of the National Education Association and the National PTA met with him in January to discuss action items for the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. While the conversation focused on gun control proposals and other school safety issues, we were also able to offer recommendations on the vital need for mental health services in schools. Our organizations submitted joint recommendations to the Congressman that called for reinstating the assault weapons ban and strengthening background checks for all gun purchases; promoting access to mental health services; coordinating federal mental health, education, and justice programs; and providing school officials with the necessary skills and authority to strengthen partnerships with local social and health service providers. Click here to read the full letter.
NASSP and NAESP also submitted joint recommendations to Vice President Biden on how to prevent gun violence in schools and were asked to participate in a meeting today with senior officials from the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education. Because the principal’s responsibility is to foster a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting environment where students come to school ready and eager to learn, we urged policymakers to take preemptive measures to strengthen the ability of schools to provide coordinated services in mental health and school safety at all levels of government. We also encouraged coordination between education and health services agencies so that local communities could focus on schools as the “hub” for delivery of these services. Finally, we requested additional support for federal programs to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools, which we feel will have a dramatic impact in improving school safety and, correspondingly, student achievement for all students. Click here to read the full letter.
Many of our recommendations on bullying prevention and mental health services in schools were reflected in legislation introduced during the 112th Congress: the Safe Schools Improvement Act, the Mental Health in Schools Act, and the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act. NASSP has long supported these bills and expects them to be reintroduced later this year. NASSP was also pleased that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation in December to strengthen and expand the COPS Secure Our Schools program, which provides schools resources to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, secured entrances, and other safety measures. She also introduced a bill that would allow Governors to use their states’ National Guard troops to support local law enforcement in efforts related to school safety. NASSP feels that only appropriately trained law enforcement personnel should serve as school resource officers, so we would encourage states to use this flexibility in a way that would allow more local police officers to receive this training and work in schools.
White House Recommendations
At an event surrounded by school children, victims of gun violence, local law enforcement officials, and education advocates on January 16, President Obama announced his plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence. Now is the Time offers proposals in four key areas: 1) closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands; 2) banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; 3) making schools safer; and 4) improving mental health services.
NASSP was pleased to see that the President took a comprehensive approach to school safety that focuses on security, bullying prevention, and mental health services. His proposal calls for $150 million for a new Comprehensive School Safety program, which will help school districts hire school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Funding could also be used to purchase school-safety equipment, develop and update public safety plans, conduct threat assessments, and train “crisis intervention teams.” The Department of Justice will also develop a model for using school resource officers, including best practices on age-appropriate methods for working with students, which is strongly supported by NASSP.
By May 2013, the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security will release a model, high-quality emergency management plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education, along with best practices for training school staff and students to follow them. President Obama has also called on Congress to provide $30 million in one-time grants to help school districts develop and implement emergency management plans. He also urged Congress to require that states and school districts receiving federal school safety funding to have comprehensive, up-to-date, emergency plans in all of their schools. The President also proposed a $50 million initiative to help 8,000 schools train their school leaders and other staff to implement evidence-based strategies to improve school climate and will require the Department of Education to collect and disseminate best practices on school discipline policies.
To address mental health issues, President Obama is calling for a new initiative Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which will include $15 million to train school staff to detect and respond to mental illness in children. The initiative would also include $40 million to help school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to assure students with mental health issues receive the services they need. In addition, $25 million would be proposed for innovative state-based strategies to support young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues.
NASSP on Capitol Hill
In January and February, NASSP staff met with other members of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and staff for House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline to discuss our recommendations on school safety. Conference calls were also organized for Chairman Kline’s staff and Ranking Member George Miller’s staff to speak to NASSP Specialist for School Safety Bill Bond. NASSP staff also met with staff for Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to discuss various proposals related to the school-to-prison pipeline. Based on the conversation, staff forwarded NASSP’s position statement on corporal punishment and our general school safety recommendations.
In February, Bill Bond was invited to appear before the committee at a hearing on school safety that was prompted by the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Other witnesses included a school counselor from California, the director of the office of safety and security for a suburban Virginia school district, a researcher, an employee from a private security firm, and the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Bond spoke about the assistance he has provided to 12 other schools where students have died and how his role is to focus the principal on the decisions he or she will need to make to get the school back up and functioning. He also spoke more broadly about what a principal must do to prepare his or her school for a crisis, including meeting with local responders; defining people’s roles; examining how the traffic flows around the schools; and creating lockdown, evacuation, and reunification procedures.
One huge area where Bond feels that schools need to adjust their emergency plans is in the area of crisis communications. “Communicating with teachers, staff, and parents is the hardest part of a crisis, but it is extremely important and it’s the key to recovery,” he told committee members. He said that parents expect instant communication today, and if they are hearing nothing from the school they may fill the gap with information from news outlets, texts from their kids, the rumor mill, or social media. Bond said that parents only want to know two things: is my child OK? And when can I get him? “And the more parents can hear from the school that at least makes progress toward those answers, the more it relieves their emotions,” he stated.
Bond’s final point, and one that was shared with the other witnesses, is that school shootings can’t be prevented by more security alone. “Your best protection is a trusting relationship between adults and students that encourages kids to share responsibility for their safety and share information,” he said, explaining that kids very often know better than adults what’s going on in a school and what could cause a crisis.
While the hearing could have turned into a debate on gun violence, only one committee member asked whether teachers and school officials should be armed in schools. All witnesses voiced their opposition to such a proposal, and the conversation shifted to a discussion about the need for more school resource officers, counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Chairman John Kline (R-MN) was careful to not propose additional federal funding for schools to hire these professionals, but he did state that all educators could benefit from training on how to build trusting relationships with students.
Click here to view an archived webcast of the hearing.
School Principal Recruitment and Training Act
NASSP and NAESP have worked closely with staff for Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) to update and improve the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act. Although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress, we expect the legislation to be introduced in the coming weeks. 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.
NASSP and NAESP have organized a sign-on letter for national and state organizations in support of the bill, and we expect the 80+ members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality to include the bill as one of their top legislative priorities this year.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will soon be reintroducing the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act. 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 has been working with its coalition partner, Advocates for Literacy, to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
NASSP staff and other members of Advocates for Literacy also held a meeting in January with Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle to discuss the LEARN Act and implementation of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program.
Transforming Education Through Technology Act
Since Congress eliminated funding for the federal Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program in FY 2011, schools have struggled to pay for new handheld devices, education software, and training for school leaders and teachers on how to use technology to personalize the learning environment for each student. As these skills become more important in our effort to graduate all students college and career ready, principals should be very pleased that House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) has introduced the Transforming Education through Technology Act (H.R. 521). This is brand new legislation that NASSP has added to its advocacy agenda during the 113th Congress.
The Transforming Education through Technology Act would authorize $500 million for State Grants for Technology Readiness and Access. States would be required to provide technical assistance to school districts to help them address their technology readiness needs, deliver computer-based and online assessments, support principals in evaluating teachers’ proficiency in implementing digital tools for teaching and learning, and build capacity for individual school and district leaders. States would also coordinate with teacher and school leader preparation programs to align digital learning teaching standards and provide professional development that is aligned to state student technology standards and activities promoting college and career readiness.
Under the bill, subgrants would be provided to school districts to carry out “digital age” professional development opportunities for all school staff. Specifically, school leaders would receive ongoing professional development to promote: 1) the use of educational technology to ensure a digital age learning environment; and 2) the use of data in order to increase student access to technology and engagement in learning. School districts could also use the funding to hire technology coaches to work directly with teachers on integrating technology into their instruction.
NASSP staff was invited to a meeting with staff for Rep. Miller in February to discuss the strategy for getting more cosponsors on the bill and finding a Senate champion to introduce a companion bill on the Senate side. Congressman Miller also visited Coronado Middle School in San Diego, CA, and met with the school’s principal, Jay Marquand, who is an NASSP member.
The Transforming Education Through Technology Act has 5 House cosponsors.
Success in the Middle Act
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will soon be reintroducing the Success in the Middle Act. 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.
NASSP is leading the Middle Grades Coalition, which held a meeting in January with staff for Rep. Grijalva to discuss the bill’s reintroduction. The coalition also offered a number of recommendations to update and revise the bill, which were submitted to congressional staff.
Graduation Promise Act
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) will soon reintroduce the Graduation Promise Act. 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 and the US Department of Education
Secretary Duncan Announces Principal Ambassador Program
On March 1, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took the stage at Ignite 2013 to a standing ovation by nearly 1,500 middle and high school principals. Duncan spoke about three priorities for the Obama administration during his second term – school safety and mental health, college and career readiness by transforming high schools, and principal preparation and professional development.
Duncan admitted that not enough has been done on principal preparation, evaluation and professional development and vowed to make it a priority in the department’s second term agenda. He announced his commitment to establishing a principal ambassadorship program similar to the one currently in place for teachers at the department to help shape policy. Such ambassadors would share their expertise with policymakers, offer insight into what is and isn’t working at the department, and help shape federal programs and policy.
Although the planning is still in its infancy, the department later announced that the program will roll out next fall. Some principals may be employed for a full year while others will consult from their schools on a part-time basis.
Meeting 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 February as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. The meeting focused on school safety and implementation of college and career-ready standards as required by the ESEA flexibility waivers.
NASSP Board Position Statements
At the February meeting, the NASSP Board of Directors stated its intent to adopt two new position statements. They are now open for public comment through April 12, 2013. Please submit your comments to Patty Kreutz at email@example.com.
The NASSP Board of Directors also approved revisions to the position statement on Safe Schools.
NASSP Federal Grassroots Network
As a reminder, Federal Grassroots Network members no longer participate in quarterly calls (they are now reserved only for the State Coordinators), but they continue to receive the weekly update summarizing the latest news and events in federal policy and funding. If you or your colleagues are not yet members of the Federal Grassroots Network and would like to join please email Jacki Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here.
NASSP State Coordinators
NASSP welcomes several new coordinators to their roles: Tracey Lamb (KY), John Rogers (WV), Dave Powers (MI), and Dennis Barger (AZ).
The NASSP State Coordinators held their quarterly conference calls on February 13. The top issues were ranked in this order: state education funding, teacher evaluation (tied for #2), Common Core State Standards (tied for #2), school safety, federal education funding/sequestration, principal evaluation, and ESEA flexibility waivers.
The next quarterly conference calls will take place on (5/14) at 10 AM ET and (5/15) at 3:30 PM 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.
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 email@example.com. 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):
Senator Introduces Two Bills With Full NASSP Support
Graduation Promise Act:
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) this week has reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act, a bill to provide grants to States to improve high schools and raise graduation rates while ensuring rigorous standards, to develop and implement effective school models for struggling students and dropouts, and to improve State policies to raise graduation rates, and for other purposes. The House complement to this bill is Rep. Ruben Hinojosa’s (D-TX) bill (H.R. 778) introduced in February. Read the summary of the House bill here.
Sen. Bingaman introduced this week another bill that NASSP strongly supports, the ATTAIN Act (S. 1178). “The legislation introduced today will foster the expansion of online and blended learning and promote technology initiatives that lead to personalized, rigorous and relevant learning. The bill also will spur efforts to increase education productivity and reduce costs through the use of technology. By prioritizing funding to enhance technology integration, professional development and leadership, the legislation supports school districts’ capacity to implement online common core assessments in 2014.”
Obama Establishes White House Rural Council:
On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. Chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the council will be responsible for making recommendations for investment in rural areas and coordinate federal engagement with a variety of rural stakeholders, including state, local, and tribal governments. In the coming months, the council will focus on job creation and economic development by increasing the flow of capital to rural areas, promoting innovation, expanding digital and physical networks, and celebrating opportunity through America’s natural resources. For more information, visit www.ed.gov.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a Full Committee Hearing this past Tuesday: Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges. Go here to watch the webcast and read the testimonies. On Thursday, the Senate HELP Children and Families Subcommittee held a hearing: Getting the Most Bang for the Buck: Quality Early Education and Care. Go here to watch the webcast and read the testimonies.
Debt Ceiling/Deficit Reduction:
Last week, the House rejected HR 1954, a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion (the amount needed through the end of 2012). It failed by 97 – 318. House Republican leadership staged this vote to give their members the opportunity to officially register their opposition to raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts (all Republicans voted no) as well as to demonstrate that a clean debt ceiling bill can’t pass without spending cuts. Democrats split with 97 voting yes, 82 voting no and 7 voting present. It is rumored that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to hold a similar vote soon in the Senate to show that there is also no support in the Senate on raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts. We’ll keep you posted on this.
FY ’12 Budget and Appropriations News:
White House Budget Call: Vice-president’s Biden Chief of Staff Bruce Reed this afternoon had a call with external organizations to discuss the debt ceiling/deficit reduction situation. He said the goal is to achieve $1 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years. The talks have been productive, but Congress probably won’t act on the deal until mid-July.
On cuts to discretionary domestic programs, he said the Administration went as far it was comfortable going in the final year-long Continuing Resolution. Cuts below those levels would be difficult if not impossible. One of the Administration’s highest priorities is not to cut discretionary spending to the bone. Mr. Reed said the Administration is not going to reduce the amount of money that goes to education and indeed it is quite the opposite. They will not agree to deep cuts to education for deficit reduction. When asked again about appropriations he said that there will likely be intense battles in September on appropriations levels for specific programs.
NAEP Results in U.S. History Forthcoming
On June 14, NCES will release results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. history. For more information, visit http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.
More Hispanic Students Completing High School
Recent Census data shows us that a higher percentage of young Hispanic adults is finishing high school and the number attending a two-year college has nearly doubled in the last decade. “It’s an amazing level of growth,” said Kurt Bauman, the chief of the Census Bureau’s education branch. Read more.
Broad Superintendents Draw Increased Criticism
Established by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, the Broad Superintendents Academy recruits leaders from inside and outside education to undergo rigorous training with the goal that they become superintendents of a third of the country’s 75 largest school districts. The Academy has come under recent scrutiny due to criticisms of stakeholders in some of these districts with Broad alumni whom some feel have done more harm than good. One such critic is Sharon Higgins, who endured three Broad-trained superintendents pass quickly through her Oakland, CA district. “She said she grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” forced out. She contends in her blog that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard for parent and teacher concerns.” Read more.
New Jersey Governor Wants to Invite Management Companies to Run “Transformation” Schools
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is proposing a strategy that has seen mixed results in Philadelphia schools: allowing non-profit and for-profit management companies to take over persistently failing schools. Read more.
Lessons From High Performing Nations
From the Department of Education’s Biweekly newsletter: Improving Teacher Quality Around the World,” a report authored by Asia Society’s Senior Advisor for Education Vivien Stewart on behalf of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession’s partner organizations, discusses lessons shared during the two-day event held in New York City in March. The summit marked the first-ever convening of education ministers, teachers, and union leaders from high-performing and rapidly improving countries and regions. Discussions were framed around four overarching themes: teacher recruitment and preparation; development, support, and retention of teachers; teacher evaluation and compensation; and teacher engagement in reform. “The report concludes that achieving consistency in teaching quality has become central to the agenda of every country,” said Stewart. “To make progress, governments and teachers organizations will need to work together — as they did at this summit — to invent a new vision for the teaching profession.” Plans are already underway to convene a second international summit in spring 2012. For more information, please visit www.ed.gov/news/press-releases.
Tools For Higher Education
From the Department of Education’s Biweekly newsletter: Continuing its commitment to postsecondary institutions and students, the Department announced tools to help schools raise their performance to better serve students. First, it is providing institutions with guidance on tuition-free trial periods, which give students the chance to see if a program is right for them before they commit financially (http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1112.html). A letter to schools describes trial periods and explains how federal student aid eligibility will work. Second, it is creating and implementing a pilot program on lower loan limits (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-offers-guidance-schools-tuition-free-trial-periods-help-students-deci). This pilot program will allow selected schools to test alternative methods of administering federal student aid by providing waivers for specific student aid requirements. Third, it is accepting proposals from guaranty agencies that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program to enter into Voluntary Flexible Agreements, or VFAs, with the Secretary (http://ifap.ed.gov/fregisters/FR053111FFEL.html). The VFAs will improve services to students, schools, and lenders; use federal resources more cost-effectively and efficiently; and enhance the integrity and stability of the FFEL program.
Guide To Form Partnerships Between Government Agencies and Faith-Based and Community Organizations
Last month, at the launch of a series of “Connecting Communities for the Common Good” meetings around the country, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released a comprehensive partnership guide. This guide (http://www.hhs.gov/partnerships/resources/partnerships_toolkit.pdf) provides interested faith-based and community organizations with information about opportunities to form partnerships across government, on issues like housing, job creation, summer meal programs, responsible fatherhood, and disaster response. The Department’s own Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is participating in the series, leading workshop sessions on how community organizations can strengthen education partnerships.
In an effort to turn around the so-called “dropout factories” and ensure that all students graduate from high school college and career-ready, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has reintroduced high school reform legislation long supported by NASSP and our members.
“No Child Left Behind was important because it demanded more from schools and students. But the law was flawed and we must take action to fix the problems with it,” said Sen. Bingaman who is one of the lead Senators currently working on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). “The legislation I have introduced seeks to reform schools in New Mexico and across the country by raising standards and helping students achieve them.”
Encompassing many of the recommendations outlined by NASSP in Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform, The Graduation Promise Act (S. 1177) would authorize $2.4 billion for a High School Improvement and Dropout Reduction Fund to support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement. High schools receiving funding would be required to implement schoolwide improvement plans that ensure continuous improvement, organize the school to improve teaching and learning, improve curriculum and instruction, provide students with academic and social supports to address individual student learning needs, and increase teacher and school leader effectiveness.
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) sponsored the House version of the bill (H.R. 778), which was reintroduced in February.
The Advanced Programs Act (S. 1179), also recently reintroduced by Sen. Bingaman, would reauthorize the AP Test Fee Program to help pay for low-income students to sit for the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. The bill would also reauthorize the AP Incentive Program that provides grants to states and districts to increase: 1) the number of teachers in high-need schools who are qualified to teach AP or IB courses; 2) the number of AP or IB courses offered in high-need schools; and 3) the number of students who are enrolled in and pass AP and IB courses and exams.
NASSP looks forward to working with Sen. Bingaman and his staff to ensure that both of these proposals are incorporated into a larger bill to reauthorize ESEA.
In an effort to improve high school graduation rates, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and other Democratic leaders have introduced legislation aimed at turning around the nation’s “dropout factories” and their feeder middle schools.
“We are failing our students, failing our communities and failing our nation if we allow this dropout crisis to continue,” said Miller in a press release about the Graduation for All Act (H.R. 4122). “Ending this epidemic is a civil rights imperative, a moral issue and an economic necessity. This bill says that it is no longer acceptable to let an at-risk student fall through the cracks and empowers schools to make changes needed to help at-risk students thrive in school, earn a diploma and go on to college or a good job.”
Under Title I, the bill would authorize a $2 billion competitive grant program for districts to support high schools with a graduation rate of 65 percent or lower and their feeder middle schools. Specifically, participating districts would implement a “Model of Success” in secondary schools similar to the four school intervention models outlined in the School Improvement Grants program:
Transformation Model, which includes increasing teacher and school leader effectiveness through mentoring and induction programs and career-ladder opportunities;
Turnaround Model, which includes 1) replacing the principal if student achievement has declined during his or her tenure; and 2) replacing or reassigning teachers who do not have subject-matter expertise in the subjects they teach or are not highly qualified
Restart Model, which includes closing a school and reopening it under a school management organization or charter management organization; and
Close-Down Model, which includes closing a school and re-enrolling students in other, higher-achieving schools in the district.
The legislation would require districts to implement an early warning system to identify students at risk of dropping out and provide them with academic and social supports to help them succeed—a concept endorsed by NASSP and embodied in the Success in the Middle Act and the Graduation Promise Act (GPA). Finally, districts would provide school leadership teams with more operating flexibility with respect to staffing, budgets, scheduling, and use of school-time decisions; establish credit-recovery programs; and enhance college and career counseling in secondary schools.
Title II of the bill would authorize $150 million for schools districts to partner with local colleges or universities in establishing an early college high school or other dual enrollment program; and Title III would facilitate research on effective best practices to improve student achievement in the middle grades.
“While NASSP is pleased that Congress is focusing attention on middle level and high schools as part of its reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we are concerned that the Graduation for All Act emphasizes four school reform models whose success remains untested and unproven,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “We will continue to advocate for legislation that promotes genuine school improvement and encompasses the Breaking Ranks framework, including the Success in the Middle Act and GPA.”
In response to continued criticism and calls for reform of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and its one-size-fits-all approach to school improvement, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced a new “differentiated accountability” pilot program at a press conference on March 18.
According to information available on the Department of Education’s (ED) website, “differentiated accountability will allow states to vary the intensity and type of interventions to match the academic reasons that lead to a school’s identification.”
The pilot program is limited to 10 state slots, with preference given to states with at least 20% of their Title I schools identified for improvement, and which “combine innovation with a rigorous approach to reform, and…propose to take the most significant and comprehensive interventions for the lowest-performing schools earlier in the improvement timeline.” Preference will also be given to those states whose standards and assessment system have been fully approved by ED, have an approved highly qualified teacher plan, and that provide timely and transparent information on adequate yearly progress (AYP) to the public. According to ED, “states that have had more than one non-approved occurrence of late AYP in the past two years are not eligible.”
States have until May 2, 2008, to submit their proposals for participation in the pilot program, with approval notices coming possibly before the start of the 2008-09 school year.
In addition to the new pilot program, differentiated improvement is a concept that has been gaining traction on Capitol Hill as well. Last year Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced the Graduation Promise Act (S. 1185/H.R. 2928), which would provide grants to states and schools to develop systems of differentiated high school improvement that will focus research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest performing high schools, and improve the capacity of these high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement.
NASSP strongly advocated for the Graduation Promise Act, and was extremely pleased to see provisions of the bill incorporated into both the House and Senate NCLB reauthorization discussion drafts.
Following the House’s lead, in mid-October the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released portions of its draft legislation to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Language addressing accountability, educator quality, and some of the other hot topics under discussion this fall has not yet been made public, but the Senate bill does include much-needed resources for the nation’s lowest-performing high schools.
Based on the text of the Graduation Promise Act (S. 1185), also known as GPA, the draft would create a High School Improvement Fund to assist the nation’s “dropout factories,” or those high schools with a graduation rate of 60% or less. States would establish a set of comprehensive school performance indicators for high schools not making adequate yearly progress and target resources and technical assistance to “high need” high schools. School districts would then implement reforms “designed to address the comprehensive aspects of high school reform,” such as personalizing the school experience, improving curriculum and instruction, providing professional development for principals and teachers, and increasing individual student supports. These activities are in line with the NASSP Legislative Recommendations for High School Reform, and NASSP endorsed GPA earlier this year.
The Senate bill would also create a Secondary School Innovation Fund for school districts to work with higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, or businesses to develop innovative strategies to improve student achievement in middle level and high schools. Grant funds could be used for creating multiple pathways to graduation, offering expanded learning opportunities, improving student transitions from middle level to high school and from high school to postsecondary education or the workforce, and increasing the autonomy and flexibility of secondary schools.
The high school reform proposals seem to have bipartisan support in the House and Senate and will likely become part of the final NCLB reauthorization bill whenever it’s completed. The HELP Committee is rumored to be scheduling a Halloween markup, but activity on the other side of the Capitol has stalled over controversy related to a pay-for-performance provision in the House draft.
Nearly 500 principals descended on Washington, DC, in late July to lobby policymakers for changes to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and advocate for legislation to improve middle level and high schools. The principals, members of NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and participants in the annual NAESP-NASSP National Leaders’ Conference (NLC), spent a day visiting their state legislators and encouraging them to make key changes to NCLB.
Participants urged legislators to refocus provisions for accountability, assessments, English language learners and students with disabilities, school improvement, and teacher and principal quality, reflecting the recommendations developed by NASSP, NAESP, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association (www.nassp.org).
The annual theme of the conference is “Principals Changing Schools Through Leadership and Advocacy,” and participants took this message to heart. The principals also advocated for legislation to improve middle level and high schools, including the Striving Readers Act (H.R. 2289/S. 958) to assist struggling readers in grades 4–12; the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 3406), to support our nation’s lowest-performing middle level schools; and the Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 2928/S. 1185), to create a $2.4 billion High School Improvement and Dropout Reduction Fund. As always, federal funding was a major topic of concern at NLC, and Title I, special education funding, and support for school leaders were all highlighted during congressional visits.
In addition to meeting with legislators, participants heard from U.S. Department of Education (ED) Deputy Secretary Raymond Simon, who opened his session by ringing an old-fashioned school bell to signify how much education has changed since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed in 1965. He said that the “first period” of NCLB, the current iteration of ESEA, produced impressive gains in student achievement, increased elementary scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and narrowed the achievement gap. Simon highlighted the department’s blueprint reauthorization or “second period” of NCLB, which includes:
- Growth models to measure student progress from year to year
- Differentiated consequences and additional funding for schools in need of improvement
- Enhanced tutoring options for struggling students
- Alignment of high school standards with college and workforce expectations
- Expansion of Striving Readers
- Placement of highly effective teachers and highly effective principals in the neediest schools.
A lively question-and-answer session followed the secretary’s remarks, with a number of participants requesting more information about the highly effective principal provision. Simon responded that the key to being an effective principal is to have more autonomy over hiring teachers, and if a school does find itself in restructuring, any union contract or declaration about teacher hiring should be overridden. He also noted that Title II of NCLB provides support for highly effective principals, but NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi pointed out that most states allocate their Title II funds for teachers. Tirozzi requested a dedicated stream of funding for principals and additional funding for the School Leadership program, to which Simon responded that he would “take the message back” to ED.
Immediately following the session with Simon, NASSP attendees heard from Gerald Bracey, an associate of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, a fellow at the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University, and a fellow at the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who debunked the department’s claim that NCLB should be praised for gains made in student achievement. He said that schools are often “the scapegoat of choice,” but in reality, U.S. students perform as well as their peers in other industrialized nations.
Bracey also demonstrated where U.S. students succeed at higher levels: in the workplace—because U.S. schools teach students the skills an employer values: attendance, articulation, interpersonal skills, work ethic, the ability to work in teams, and communication and observation skills. “It’s not enough to be academically strong,” he concluded.
High school reform has not always been a phrase commonly heard on Capitol Hill, but as lawmakers gear up for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the menu of education issues discussed is beginning to change.
This change is in large part a response to a swell of reports issued that brings to light high dropout rates and a lack of student preparation for college and the workplace. Recently, The Condition of Education 2007, an annual report on the state of education mandated by Congress, found that the U.S. had an overall high school graduation rate of only 71.7%, with some states reporting graduation rates as low as 56.5% (South Carolina). Other reports have documented a disturbing trend that fewer than half of high school students will receive the postsecondary education and training required for the fastest growing jobs.
NASSP has been working hard with lawmakers to address these concerns and implement meaningful reform at the middle and high school levels and has developed its own set of recommendations for comprehensive secondary school reform. The following 4 bills embody many of NASSP’s recommendations for middle level and high school reform, including support for schoolwide literacy strategies and interventions; the development of robust data systems to support personalized learning; and increased support for school counselors. Following are the summaries of these 4 secondary school reform bills, all of which NASSP supports, and which have been well-received on Capitol Hill:
The Graduation Promise Act (S. 1185/H.R. 2928)
Introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX)
- Provides grants to states and schools for targeted assistance to the 6 million students most at risk of dropping out by supporting the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement that will focus research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest performing high schools, and will improve the capacity of the high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement;
- Provides districts with competitive grants for the development, implementation, and reproduction of effective high school models for struggling students and dropouts;
- Provides competitive grants to states to identify statewide obstacles hindering students from graduating, and provide incentives for states to increase graduation rates.
The Graduation for All Act (H.R. 1623)
Introduced by Rep. Ruben Hinjosa (D-TX)
- Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act to include high school graduation rates in determining adequate yearly progress (AYP) and annual state report cards;
- Provides grants to states to establish a reading and writing partnership to increase the literacy skills for all students attending middle level and high schools, including strategies for economically disadvantaged students; students from major racial and ethnic groups; students with disabilities; and limited English proficient, migrant, and homeless students.
- Funds in each strategy would be targeted to secondary schools with the lowest graduation rates;
- Requires schools to use grant funds to hire and train literacy coaches for secondary schools, counseling for at-risk students, and professional development for educators that address the needs of poor students; students from major racial and ethnic groups; students with disabilities; and limited English proficient, migrant, and homeless students.
The Graduation for a Better Future Act (S. 765)
Introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
- Creates a competitive grant program targeted to high schools that have graduation rates of 60% or less;
- Requires grantees to use funds to create an early warning system that measures student progress levels in core content areas and quickly identifies students who are at risk of dropping out;
- Requires grantees to use funds to hire and provide in-service training to literacy coaches, provide professional development for educators to enhance literacy instruction, and provide counseling to at-risk students.
The Pathways for All Students to Succeed (PASS) Act (S. 611)
Introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
- Provides grants to states and schools to establish literacy and math skills programs to improve overall reading, writing, and mathematics performance among students in middle level and high schools;
- Schools receiving grants must hire and provide in-service training for at least one literacy or mathematics coach for every 20 teachers to assist teachers in secondary schools with research-based instruction;
- Provides grants to states and schools to develop personalized graduation plans in secondary schools to increase graduation rates;
- Provides funds to hire academic counselors to reduce the student to counselor ratio to at least one for every 150 students. These counselors would assist students in developing their personalized graduation plans and identify support services to aid students as they strive to achieve their graduation goals;
- Provides targeted grants to schools labeled as “in need of improvement” as a result of missing AYP for 2 consecutive years to implement comprehensive school reform models that have proven to be successful in increasing student achievement;
- Provides competitive grants to states to develop or enhance data systems for the collection and dissemination of student graduation rates.
NASSP has long advocated for comprehensive high school reform and is pleased to see the increased attention being paid by lawmakers. As NCLB reauthorization moves forward, we will continue to work hard to encourage lawmakers to pass intelligent secondary school reform. To view NASSP’s Middle Level Recommendations, visit www.nassp.org, and click on “Information for Middle Level Leaders.” To view NASSP’s High School Recommendations, visit www.nassp.org, and click on “Information for High School Leaders.”