Fulfilling his promise to make reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) a top priority in the 114th Congress, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a discussion draft to improve the law as his first action as the new chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Similar to the bill he introduced in 2013, the purpose of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act is “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals and other school leaders, States, Governors, and local communities so that that they can improve their local public schools.” To do so, the legislation would prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from prescribing the standards or measures that states use to establish state standards, assessments, accountability systems, systems that measure student academic growth, measures of other academic indicators, teacher and principal evaluation systems, or indicators of teacher and principal effectiveness.
In order to receive Title I funding, which is authorized at $14.9 billion, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted challenging academic content standards and academic achievement standards in math, reading/language arts, science, and any other subjects as determined by the states. States may also adopt alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities provided that the standards align with state subject standards and promote access to the general curriculum.
Because proliferation of testing has become such a hot issue, the discussion draft offers two options for discussion by the HELP Committee. One option is to continue the requirement for annual assessments in math and reading. The other option is to require assessments in math, reading, and science, but states would be given flexibility over their assessment timelines. They could keep the current schedule for assessments (every year in grades 3-8 and once in grades 9-12) or they could implement grade-span testing, which would require only one assessment in grades 3-5, grades 6-9, and grades 10-12. Districts may also seek approval to administer their own assessments with approval from the state.
State plans must include a single, statewide accountability system “to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.” They system should annually measure academic achievement of all public school students, annually identify and differentiate all public schools in the state, taking into consideration achievement gaps between student subgroups, overall performance of student subgroups, 4-year cohort graduation rates, and extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rates.
Districts with schools identified for assistance are required to conduct a review of the school’s data and the policies, procedures, personnel decisions, and budget decisions that impact the school before developing “evidence-based assistance strategies and activities” for the school. Districts must continue to provide students an option to transfer to another public school and musty pay for the transportation costs.
The draft bill would include a new portability provisions that would give districts the flexibility to ensure that Title I funds follow low-income children to whatever public school they attend. In a letter to the Senate HELP Committee leaders, NASSP, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of School Administrators expressed our opposition to any proposal to transform Title I into a private school voucher program. This portability provision is designed to make it easier implement private school vouchers as a next step.
Just over $3 billion would be authorized for Title II, and the allowable state activities look very similar to current law with regard to principals and other school leaders: reforming principal certification and licensure systems to ensure that principals have the instructional leadership skills to help teachers teach and to help students meet challenge academic content standards, developing and improving evaluation systems that “are based in part on evidence of student academic achievement” and may include student academic growth and other measures determined by the state, establishing alternative routes for principal certification, recruiting and retaining principals who are effective in improving student achievement, developing new principal induction and mentoring programs, implementing high-quality professional development programs for principals, developing school leadership academies, supporting efforts to train principals to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction, and improving principal preparation programs.
The allowable local activities include professional development for principals, which is a priority for NASSP, but it’s in the same bucket as school libraries; AP, dual enrollment, and early college high school programs; extended learning time; and liability insurance for teachers. It seems very unlikely that any of the funding would actually be used for principal professional development since only 4% is used for that purpose under current law.
$1.6 billion is authorized for Safe and Healthy Students under Title IV. Districts may use the funding for drug and violence prevention activities, before and after school programs, school-based mental health services, mentoring programs for at risk students, school counseling programs, and positive behavioral interventions and supports among other activities.
The draft bill would also eliminate Maintenance of Effort (MOE), which helps ensure the continuity of state and local funding efforts. Current MOE provisions provide the greatest protection to low-wealth districts that generally educate more low-income students. We’re concerned that if states are allowed to cut funding for education, the most vulnerable districts that serve the neediest students could be hurt disproportionately.
Providing flexibility in the use of federal funds, the draft bill would allow states to transfer 100% of their funds between Title II and Title IV.
Comments on the discussion draft should be e-mailed to the Senate HELP Committee at FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov by February 2. NASSP will submit comments and meet with staff for Sen. Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to ensure that the bill supports principals and the teachers and students they serve. For updates on ESEA hearings and the pending markup in February, follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter.
In order to ensure that more principals and assistant principals have the skills to lead turnaround efforts in their schools, the US Department of Education is seeking applications for a new program to implement or enhance the “leadership pipeline” in low-performing schools. With $14 million in funds appropriated under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program in FY 2013, the new Turnaround School Leaders Program would provide grants to help select, prepare, support, and retain leaders in SIG-receiving or SIG-eligible schools.
According to the announcement, performance monitoring of the SIG program and interviews with external partners indicate that many school districts “do not have the capacity or resources to recruit or develop school leaders able to undertake successful turnaround efforts.” The announcement also notes that state-approved principal certification and licensure programs “are not preparing school leaders with the specialized skills needed to turn around schools identified as low-performing,” and school districts “struggle to identify the right competencies in leader candidates for turnaround schools.”
Under this announcement, ED expects to award 8-12 awards ranging from $1 to $2 million apiece. Eligible applicants include school districts or consortia of school districts serving more than five SIG-eligible schools. These school districts or consortia could also partner with state educational agencies, institutions of higher education, or nonprofit associations.
Applicants must propose a plan to develop and implement a leadership pipeline for at least one school district that serves five or more SIG-eligible schools. Competitive preference would be awarded to those school districts that have: 1) policies in place to provide school leaders with decisionmaking autonomy with regard to staffing, school schedules, and budgeting; or 2) a record of preparing and supporting turnaround school leaders who have demonstrated success in increased graduation rates and academic growth.
Under the programs, grantees would be required to assist school districts to:
- Recruit and select promising current and prospective school leaders with the competencies necessary to turn around a SIG school or SIG-eligible school;
- Provide high-quality training to selected school leaders to prepare them to successfully lead turnaround efforts in SIG schools and/or SIG-eligible schools;
- Place school leaders in SIG schools and/or SIG-eligible schools and provide them with ongoing professional development and other support that focuses on instructional leadership and school management and is based on individual needs consistent with the school district’s plan for turning around its SIG schools and/or SIG-eligible schools; and
- Retain effective school leaders, using financial or other incentives, and replace ineffective school leaders.
Applicants must provide a notice of intent to apply by April 25, and final applications are due on May 23. For more information about the Turnaround School Leaders Program, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/turnaroundschlldr/index.html.
In a roundtable event at Aviation High School in New York City last June, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted key aspects of a new High School Redesign initiative that President Obama first mentioned in his State of the Union address and then included in his FY2014 budget proposal released last April.
According to Duncan, the purpose of the proposed $300 million discretionary grant program would be to “promote a rethinking of the high school learning experience, and challenge schools to incorporate personalized learning and career and college exploration and ensure that all students graduate with college-level coursework or college credit, as well as with career-related experiences or competencies.” In addition to urging secondary school leaders and teachers to strategically use learning time in more meaningful ways, the new initiative calls for evidence-based professional development to deepen educators’ skills, support collaboration and expand a comprehensive system of student support. Lastly, Duncan noted changes to the current high school structure and experience will require collaboration and contributions from a number of partners from both the public and private sectors, including institutions of higher education, non-profits, business and industry.
Specifically, the High School Redesign initiative would support competitive grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) in partnership with institutions of higher education and other entities, such as non-profits, community-based organizations, government agencies, and business or industry-related organizations to help schools apply academic concepts to real world challenges. The proposed program would also give priority to partnerships in areas with limited access to quality career and college opportunities, such as high-poverty or rural LEAs.
While there seems to be widespread agreement that the traditional high school design is outdated, efforts to reinvent high schools date back decades and have been explored by numerous LEAs, organizations and associations. NASSP’s contribution to the discussion goes back to the 1996 release of the Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement and an updated version of the initiative in 2003. The three core areas identified as critical in Breaking Ranks—collaborative leadership; personalization of the school environment; and curriculum, instruction and assessment—have become commonly agreed upon principles of redesign.
Taking a step further to help put the proposed High School Redesign program into practice, Reps. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Mike Honda (D-CA) have introduced the Creating Academic Pathways and Graduation Our Whole Nation Act (CAP and GOWN). This legislation, supported by NASSP, would help schools, districts, and states implement effective high school improvement systems by identifying low-performing schools and supporting the development and implementation of comprehensive, evidenced-based reform. Specifically, the legislation would create a competitive high school redesign program to increase the number and percentage of students who graduate from high school ready for college and a career by identifying low-performing schools for whole school reform or targeted intervention and establishing an early warning indicator and intervention system in targeted schools as well as feeder middle schools. Additionally, the bill would develop and implement comprehensive high school redesign models that personalize education for students and connect their learning to real-world experiences while providing additional supports to low-income and low-performing high schools. The competitive-grant program would be authorized at $300 million.
While funding for the High School Redesign program remains unknown as Congress continues to struggle to finalize the FY2014 budget, secondary school advocates should be pleased with the continued federal focus on high schools, feeder middle schools and the push to connect student learning directly to the real world.
The NASSP State Coordinators and presidents-elect of our state affiliates stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday, urging Congress to provide much-needed relief to educators hamstrung by the constraints of No Child Left Behind. The lesson learned by these outstanding school leaders? Principals can no longer afford to be silent on education reform issues—they need to make their voices heard because in the absence of leadership, legislators will listen to whomever is talking!
Prior to the Capitol Hill Day, the State Coordinators met with Denise Forte, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the US Department of Education. She outlined the Obama administration’s education agenda for the second term, including a focus on early childhood, college affordability, and high school redesign. The State Coordinators asked questions about the RESPECT project to transform the education profession and how the Department could promote teaching as a valued profession. They also had a passionate conversation about graduation rates and rewarding students and schools who may take longer than 4 years to finish high school.
Although it was a hot and humid day in Washington, DC, the school leaders seemed energetic as they boarded the bus to Capitol Hill. They educated their members of Congress about the role of the principal as instructional leader and how they’re impacted by new teacher evaluation systems in their states. They also urged their legislators to move forward with a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) because they want some continuity in the education reforms that are required for their states to receive an ESEA flexibility waiver. In particular, they recommended additional support to help educators implement college and career-ready standards, growth models and multiple measures of student achievement in accountability systems, principal evaluation systems based on the six domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence, and elimination of the school turnaround models.
The principals and assistant principals also advocated in support of NASSP’s key bills:
- The School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (H.R. 1738/S. 840) to improve the preparation and ongoing mentoring and support of new principals and assistant principals;
- The Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758) to support schoolwide literacy initiatives that focus on literacy across the content areas and targeted interventions for students reading and writing below grade level;
- The Transforming Education Through Technology Act (H.R. 521/S. 1087) to provide “Digital Age” professional development opportunities for school leaders and teachers to ensure that technology is used to personalize instruction for every student;
- The Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 2316/S. 708) to develop an early warning intervention and support system to identify students in the middle grades who are at risk of dropping out and implement interventions to help them succeed; and
- The Graduation Promise Act (S. 940) to provide resources for low-performing high schools to implement differentiated school improvement activities focused on personalizing the school environment; improving curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and enhancing teacher and leader effectiveness.
The State Coordinators and presidents-elect felt empowered by their conversations on Capitol Hill and really felt that their members of Congress wanted to how federal policy impacts the people working in the trenches. Many of them were told that they were the first principals to ever visit the office, which shows that more school leaders need to get involved in grassroots advocacy!
To see photos from the Hill Day and hear more about their conversations, follow the #NASSPSC hashtag on Twitter.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation (S. 1094) yesterday to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Dropping the No Child Left Behind moniker, the bill is called the Strengthening American Schools Act and “provides a framework to get all children to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and/or a career” according to a bill summary.
The bill appropriately addresses the education reforms 37 states have adopted in order to receive an ESEA flexibility waiver from the US Department of Education. Those states would be able to maintain their newly adopted college and career-ready standards, accountability systems, and teacher and principal evaluation systems.
In order to receive Title I funding under the bill, states must adopt college and career ready student academic achievement standards and assessments in reading or language arts and mathematics by the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The new assessments should measure the individual academic achievement of each student and student academic growth, including a measurement of the number of years of academic growth each student attains each year. The assessments would also produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports that allow parents, teachers, and principals to understand and address the specific academic needs of students.
States must also adopt new science standards by December 31, 2014, but they would not be required to use the new standards in their accountability systems. They would also be required to adopt new high-quality English language proficiency standards by December 31, 2015.
All references to adequate yearly progress (AYP) are removed from the bill. Instead, states must demonstrate that they have developed a single, statewide accountability system that annually measures and reports on the achievement and growth of all students, establishes ambitious and achievable annual performance targets, and annually identifies schools that need supports and interventions to prepare college and career ready students. States would create a baseline for performance targets based on assessments given during the 2014-2015, and then they would be required to set targets in four areas: student proficiency, student academic growth, English language proficiency for English learners, and high school graduation rates.
The bill attempts to drive more Title I funding to high schools by requiring districts to use a feeder pattern to estimate the number of low-income students in high schools. The estimate would be calculated by applying the average percentage of students in low-income families of the elementary school attendance areas that feed into the high school to the number of students enrolled in such school.
Similar to the ESEA flexibility waivers, districts would be required to identify schools that are in need of locally designed interventions, that are focus schools, or that are priority schools. For each priority school, the district would conduct a needs analysis to determine the most appropriate school improvement strategies to improve student performance. Districts must also provide ongoing professional development consistent with the needs analysis and conduct regular evaluations of teachers and principals that provide specific feedback on areas of strength and in need of improvement.
For priority schools, districts must select a school improvement strategy similar to the school turnaround models under the current School Improvement Grants program. Under the Transformation and Turnaround strategies, the principal must be replaced if he or she has been in the school for more than two years. The bill includes a new Whole School Reform strategy that must be undertaken in partnership with an external provider and that is based on at least a moderate level of evidence that the program will have a statistically significant effect on student outcomes. States could also establish an alternative evidence-based school improvement strategy for priority schools with the approval of the US Department of Education.
NASSP was pleased to see that states receiving school improvement funds must develop an early warning data system that monitors school-level data and alerts schools when a student indicates slowed progress toward high school graduation. The language mirrors provisions in the Success in the Middle Act (S. 708) and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940), which we strongly support.
Rumors on Capitol Hill are that bipartisan negotiations broke down over the requirement of performance targets for states. Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other committee Republicans are expected to unveil their alternative proposal soon, and flexibility for states and districts will sure to be a recurring theme.
Continue to check the Principal’s Policy Blog for updates on other sections of the ESEA reauthorization bill and for in-depth coverage of the markup scheduled for June 11.
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.