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):
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.
FY 2011 Funding: The fiscal year 2011 appropriations process continues to be dramatic. As you recall from my update last week, we are currently operating under a short-term CR that expires April 8 (two weeks from today.) By that time, one of 3 things will happen: Congress will: 1) pass another short-term CR; 2) negotiate to pass a year-long CR; or 3) force a government shutdown if no negotiation is possible. While House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has publicly said he will not allow a government shutdown, the possibility is still on the table. If short-term CR’s continue instead of a year-long one, however, conservative Republicans may use them as opportunities to “ratchet up” their demands for more spending cuts. These demands would include amendments that de-fund Democratic priorities like healthcare reform. From an article today from The Hill publication: “A House GOP aide said Thursday “it is a possibility” that the GOP will increase its demands in an attempt to put the onus on Democrats to avoid a government shutdown. “ Read the rest of the article here: thehill.com.
House Education and Workforce Hearings: This week the Committee held two field hearings in Pennsylvania and New York entitled, “Reviving our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development.”
Full Committee Field Hearing in Utica, New York
Full Committee Field Hearing in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
At the Wilkes-Barre hearing, Rep. Barletta said: “Critical to that effort are our institutions of higher learning. They help ensure that students and workers have the tools they need to succeed in the workplace. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor documents the close relationship between higher education and employment. Today, workers with a high school diploma have a nearly one in 10 chance of being unemployed, while their colleagues with a college degree have only a 4.3 percent chance of being unemployed.”
Grad Nation Summit: From America’s Promise Alliance website: “Commemorating the launch of America’s Promise Alliance’s 10-year Grad Nation campaign, the Building a Grad Nation Summit convened March 21-23, 2011 in Washington, D.C. The three-day event was co-hosted by America’s Promise Alliance, the Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University to inspire a national movement to reach our goal of a 90 percent national graduation rate by 2020.” Review webcasts of summit sessions as well as the group’s “Marshall Plan” to achieve its goals here: http://www.americaspromise.org/Our-Work/Grad-Nation/Summit.aspx.
Obama Administration Unveils College Graduate Initiative
Vice President Joe Biden announced a new initiative Tuesday aimed at increasing college graduation rates. Biden called on state governors to become more involved in encouraging college completion and offered financial incentives to states that offer innovative plans for increasing graduation rates. Bob Wise, a former governor and current president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, said the plan may be effective but “states must also significantly raise high school graduation rates, while increasing the preparation of high school students for college-level class”. To read more click here: www.edweek.org
Call for Shared Curriculum Sparks Common Core Debate
A debate has risen in school districts and states over whether the implementation of Common Core Standards should require a national shared curriculum or not. Differing definitions of curriculum have added a new layer to the already complex debate over how much local control communities should have over classroom content. “There is a certain unease about curriculum creation because it connects to content.” says Lynne Munson, President of the Common Core Organization, “we are trying to navigate those admittedly difficult waters”. To read more click here: www.edweek.org
Study Shows Negative Impact of Dropout Rates on U.S. Economy
A new report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education measures the impact of school drop-out rates on the U.S. economy. According to the report, the high rate of unemployment and low earning power of drop-outs impedes the economic flow of money, ultimately costing the nation millions of dollars. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education states, “There’s been a lot of talk about how budget deficits threaten our children’s future, but the best way to cut budget deficits is to cut drop out rates”. To read more click here: www.edweek.org
Districts Make Tough Program Cuts As Budget Crisis Looms
Districts nationwide are beginning to cut programs once thought to be an essential part of school life as budgets become increasingly tight. Districts are cutting everything from after-school tutoring, to sports programs, reducing transportation options and even shortening the school year. “All the low-hanging fruit is gone…you talk about the light at the end of the tunnel, but I don’t think people see the tunnel anymore” says John Musso, executive director of the Association of School Business Officials International. To read more click here: www.edweek.org
DOE Outlines new Promise Neighborhood Model
Despite a federal budget battle that keeps funding levels uncertain, the Department of Education has released new guidelines for the implementation and grant process of the Promise Neighborhoods Program. The program, modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone initiative, provides educational and developmental assistance to children in high-need areas. President Obama has asked for $210 million for the program, though an FY 11 federal budget has not yet been approved by Congress. To read more click here: www.edweek.org/22/26promise.h30.html#offer
Student Aid Alliance Website: “The Student Aid Alliance, a coalition of 61 higher education organizations committed to protecting the federal student aid programs, today unveiled a new website (www.studentaidalliance.org) to help students and higher education leaders make the case for protecting Pell Grants and other core federal student aid programs from drastic budget cuts.
“The new site highlights student success stories, integrates the Student Aid Alliance’s new Facebook page (facebook.com/studentaidalliance) and Twitter account (twitter.com/stuaidalliance), provides an action center for contacting policymakers, and gives access to data on the prevalence of federal student aid by state and congressional district.”
First Focus held a briefing Thursday to discuss policy issues, including education policy, that affect the children of immigrant families. A study released by First Focus in conjunction with the briefing finds children in immigrant families account for nearly one-fourth of all children in the U.S. The majority of these children-88 percent-are U.S. citizens. In addition, an estimated 1.8 million children are undocumented. Many were brought to the United States at a young age and have spent the majority of their lives in the U.S. Under a 1982 Supreme Court Ruling, undocumented children who were brought to the United States by their parents cannot be denied a K-12 education. Though 65,000 undocumented children graduate from American high schools each year, they are unable to pursue college or career opportunities.
Immigrant children represent a large and rapidly growing proportion of children in America and thus a significant portion of our future work force and leaders. However, education policy does little to recognize, support, or nurture the academic challenges and strengths of immigrant children and many will fall behind academically. Numerous studies have championed the positive effects of a comprehensive and strong Pre-K education. Yet, immigrant families are less likely than the families of native-born U.S. citizens to utilize early education programs such as Head Start, Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Title I. Factors for low Pre-K enrollment include socioeconomic barriers, a lack of awareness regarding availability and importance of early education, language barriers, and a confusion over eligibility rules.
First Focus suggests several recommendations to address some of the challenges facing both children and families of immigrants. For one, it is suggested that Pre-K programs include English Language Learners (ELL) as a target group for enrollment and in the development of curriculum. Without strong English skills, ELL children are significantly disadvantaged at the kindergarten level and such a disadvantage will follow them throughout their school careers. As well, schools are advised to invest in bilingual staff that will be able to engage and address the needs of immigrant students as well as the needs of their parents. Finally, First Focus calls for the development of an extensive outreach program that will raise the awareness of immigrant families to the importance, availability, and eligibility of early learning programs.
By focusing on strong early development, the children of immigrant families will be better prepared to be productive and successful members of society. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the vast majority of these children American citizenship. As American citizens, immigrant children have a right to equal education. To deny immigrant children quality education is to ignore a large and important section of the U.S. population. NASSP has recently stated its intent to adopt a new position statement on undocumented students.
Read the First Focus report
President Obama delivered his third State of the Union address on January 25 and called for three things in particular that he says are critical to “winning the future”: innovation, EDUCATION, and infrastructure. Of Obama’s key statements on education, he said, “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.” He also explicitly called on Congress to “fix” No Child Left Behind (though he didn’t request a timeline), and to model it after the Race to the Top competitive grant program that allowed more flexibility for states to implement innovative changes in teacher evaluation, tenure, and technology, among other things.
President Obama is expected to release his Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request the week of February 14. Stay tuned for news from NASSP on this, and what it means for education. One thing in the budget we can expect is an investment in STEM funding, based on Obama’s remarks in the State of the Union and the following statement from the White House: “The President’s plan will invest $80 million to expand promising and effective models of teacher preparation, which will help train 10,000 more effective STEM teachers per year… The President’s plan will invest $20 million in research that will improve our understanding of how to best recruit, prepare and retain the best STEM teachers.”
Last week I mentioned that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has declared he wants to abolish the Department of Education because he sees no place for federal involvement in education. Sen. Paul sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and actually just introduced a bill reflecting his desire to eliminate federal education funding: www.randpaul2010.com [pdf]. This bill (S. 162) eliminates funding for all Department of Education programs except for maintaining $16.256 billion for Pell. This bill suggests that the federal government de-fund Title I, IDEA, Impact Aid, career/technical/adult ed, teacher quality programs, TRIO, GEAR-UP, campus-based aid, student loans, research, etc. So far there are no cosponsors on this bill, and we hope there end up being none!
USDA Issues New Nutrition Standards for School Lunches
In compliance with new nutrition standards set out by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a proposed rule to increase the level of nutrition in school lunches. The proposal seeks to align school lunch standards with those recommended by the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans”, which recommends a diet consisting of nutrient-dense foods for the promotion of healthy growth and development. In order to achieve this goal, lunches would include a higher proportion of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while at the same time limiting levels of calories, saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium. Read more on our Principals’ Policy Blog: www.principalspolicyblog.org.
Bipartisan Push For ESEA Reauthorization Looks Possible
Following President Obama’s appeal in the State of the Union address to “fix” No Child Left Behind, key Congressional education leaders seem poised to work with the White House to reauthorize this major education bill. “I don’t want to make it sound like it’s going to be a piece of cake or too easy,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a leading Republican on education issues, following the State of the Union address. But, he added, “I look forward to coming up with a consensus to fix the problems” with the NCLB law. Read more here: www.edweek.org.
Department of Education Posts “Data Dashboard” As Attempt at Transparency and Accountability
At an education stakeholder’s meeting this past Monday, Department of Education officials introduced the newly posted “Data Dashboard” (version 1.0), which lists 16 indicators of U.S. education achievement and progress. Users can use these indicators, like the percent of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool comparing 2005-07 data to 2006-08, or the percent of freshmen graduating from high school within 4 years comparing 2006-07 data to 2007-08, and can dig further into data to see state comparisons, charts of the results, and a breakdown of the data by ethnicity. Officials said that this is just version 1.0, and they will continue to add more indicators that prove rigorous in their statistical accuracy, and relevant to the national conversation of educational benchmarks for our country. Check out the Data Dashboard here: dashboard.ed.gov and read a commentary about its quality from two Education Week writers here: www.edweek.org.
Study Identifies Effective Teacher Evaluation Practices
A report on the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) from the National Institute for Excellence in Teachings finds that evaluator training, classroom teacher involvement, and a thorough feedback mechanism count as the top priorities to integrate in effective evaluation systems. TAP is a comprehensive teacher compensation, career advancement, professional development, and evaluation system that 11 states have adopted to serve more than 10,000 teachers. You can read all recommendations in this report, More than Measurement: The TAP System’s Lessons Learned for Designing Bet ter Teacher Evaluation Systems, here: tapsystem.org [pdf].
I encourage you all to see the documentary Race to Nowhere, which showcases the pressures on students of high-stakes testing, and questions the purposes of such intensive testing when the curriculum and assessments do not teach and measure what we truly need to teach and measure students to best prepare them for 21st century careers. Check out the film here (www.racetonowhere.com) and look up upcoming screenings in your area here: www.racetonowhere.com.
Despite weeks of public endorsements from the White House and other administration officials, the Senate was unable to garnish the 60 votes necessary to begin debate on legislation (H.R. 5281) to help young, undocumented immigrants get on the path to legal U.S. citizenship.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or “DREAM” Act would grant conditional permanent residential status to undocumented youth. Then, after 10 years, it would allow them to apply for permanent residency if they graduated from a community college, completed at least two years of postsecondary education towards a bachelor’s degree, or served in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years. Permanent residents would then be eligible to apply for naturalization after three years.
The bill would apply only to individuals under the age of 30 who were illegally brought to the United States by their parents prior to their 16th birthdays. They must have lived in the country for at least five years, received a high school diploma or a General Educational Development credential, and be considered “of good moral character” for that time period.
“NASSP firmly believes that each child is entitled to a quality public education and should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams after high school,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “In this era of education accountability, the DREAM Act will help motivate students to focus on their academics, graduate from high school, and contribute to a global society.”
In the weeks prior to the vote, immigration and education advocates lobbied key members of Congress to support the DREAM Act, believing that it was the last chance to enact the legislation before more conservatives head to Washington. The White House also made the bill a top priority holding numerous press conferences and conference calls with the secretaries of defense, homeland security, and commerce noting the economic and national security implications for the bill’s passage.
The House approved the legislation by a vote of 216-198 on December 8 with only eight Republicans supporting passage. Although a handful of Republicans had cosponsored earlier Senate versions of the bill, all 42 Senate Republicans vowed to block any “significant” legislation during the lame-duck session until Congress voted to extend the 2001 tax cuts that were set to expire. When the vote finally occurred on December 18, 55 Senators voted in favor of the bill with only 3 Republicans supporting passage.
Now that the Department of Education (ED) has released the final notices for the Race to the Top Fund and the School Improvement Grants, senior officials are turning their attention to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
For the past few months, representatives of national education organizations, practitioners, and congressional staff have been attending education stakeholders forums at ED to discuss various topics within ESEA and were requested to submit their formal recommendations by midnight on December 31, 2009. The comments submitted by NASSP build on recommendations developed by the NCLB Task Force in 2005 and take into consideration emerging issues such as the Common Core State Standards Initiative and new developments in school leadership, literacy, and middle level and high school reform.
In his letter to ED, NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi outlined the following recommendations:
NASSP is an endorsing partner of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which is a state-led effort to develop a common core of state standards in grades K–12 for English/language arts and mathematics. Building on our position statement in support of national standards, we urge the development and implementation of common, high-quality assessments aligned with standards and call upon ED to evaluate the progress being made by states to adopt and implement the standards. We also recommend that the federal government offer incentives for states and districts to develop graduation requirements that allow students to choose from multiple pathways to graduation and ensure that students have access to academic supports that help them stay on track toward graduation.
Reiterating our support for additional funding for principal training and professional development, NASSP encourages Congress to enact the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (H.R. 4354/S. 2896) and the Instructional Leadership Act (not-yet-introduced) as a part of ESEA reauthorization. The bills would authorize grant programs to prepare principals to lead high-need schools and incorporate standards of instructional leadership into state principal certification or licensure requirements. We also urge the administration to consider our position statements on highly effective principals and professional compensation for principals in developing proposals for principal evaluation and pay-for-performance programs. Finally, we encourage Congress and the administration to support the National Board Certification for Educational Leaders recently launched by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
NASSP urges the administration to support the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (H.R. 4037/S. 2740), which would authorize comprehensive state and local literacy initiatives and build on the best components of the federal Early Reading First, Reading First, and Striving Readers programs. The goals of the bill are very much in line with Creating a Culture of Literacy, a guide written for principals to use as they team with staff members to improve their students’ literacy skills by assessing student strengths and weaknesses, identifying professional development needs, employing effective literacy strategies across all content areas, and establishing intervention programs for struggling students.
Middle Level and High School Reform
Building on the Breaking Ranks framework for school reform, NASSP has called upon the federal government to provide additional resources for our nation’s middle level and high schools. We support legislative proposals that would create a new funding stream for school improvement at the secondary school level, implement an early warning and intervention system to identify at-risk students, and provide differentiated and evidence-based interventions in eligible schools. Enacting the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 3006/S. 1362) hand-in-hand with the Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 4181/S. 1698) would strengthen ESEA by providing the support necessary to turn around our nation’s lowest-performing middle and high schools and give our struggling students the help they need from preschool through graduation.
NASSP supported the final Title I regulation that requires states to use a uniform and accurate method of calculating graduation rates, but has concerns with defining the graduation rate as the “four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate.” Because not all students enter the ninth grade reading and writing at grade level, we have long recommended that the graduation rate be extended to within at least five years of entering high school. State should be required to use, as a supplement to the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, extended adjusted cohort graduation rates that are approved by ED. In addition, identified special-needs students who complete high school with a state-approved exit document should have until age 21, inclusive, to be counted as graduates as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
As stated in the NCLB Task Force recommendations, states should be allowed to measure adequate yearly progress (AYP) for each student subgroup on the basis of state-developed growth formulas that calculate growth in individual student achievement from year to year. NASSP has been very pleased with the expansion of the growth model pilot program, which was first announced in 2006, and we hope that growth models will have a permanent place in a newly reauthorized ESEA.
Multiple Measures of Student Performance
NASSP recommends that states should be allowed to use multiple measures of student performance in determining AYP, including state assessments in subjects beyond reading and language arts, mathematics, and science; portfolios, performance tasks, and other examples of a student’s accomplishments; traditional quizzes and tests; interviews, questionnaires, and conferences; end-of-course exams; comprehensive personal academic or graduation plans; assessments aligned with high school and college entrance requirements; and senior projects.
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.”