Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Senate HELP Committee Hearing on ESEA Flexibility Waivers
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee kicked off its most recent attempt to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by holding a hearing in February to examine the state flexibility waivers that are available under the current iteration of the law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
Calling the ESEA waivers “Plan B,” US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan explained that the administration put forward a blueprint for ESEA reform in 2010 and only moved forward with the waivers after Congress was unable to reauthorize the law. He said that the guiding principle of ESEA flexibility is that it must first benefit students, and states must demonstrate a commitment and capacity to improve educational outcomes. Duncan also noted that the federal government does not serve as a national school board, but it does have a responsibility to set a high bar, especially for at-risk students. Duncan concluded by expressing a desire to partner with Congress to fix NCLB, which he called “fundamentally broken.”
The committee also heard from two chief state school officers whose states have received flexibility waivers: Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and New York Commissioner of Education John King. They discussed how the waivers have allowed them to enhance reforms already underway in their states, including a focus on student proficiency and achievement gaps, strengthening the accountability system, and improving teacher and principal evaluation. Nonetheless, both chiefs expressed their desire that state reforms developed under the waivers inform ESEA reauthorization and urged Congress to move forward. “Only reauthorization gives us long-term expectations for accountability and long-term capacity for implementation,” said Holliday.
Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust, discussed the report her organization released the same day as the hearing, A Step Forward or a Step Back? State Accountability in the Waiver Era. She outlined four areas of concern in the waivers: 1) Although states were required to set ambitious goals for raising student performance and closing achievement gaps, these goals were not included in the school rating systems developed by many states; 2) Super subgroups that combine small subgroups of student populations are problematic in many states because they mask the true performance of some disadvantaged students; 3) Many states did not include multiple measures of student performance in their accountability systems, but instead chose to continue using only state assessments in math and English language arts; 4) Many states did not specify what districts need to do to turn around the lowest-performing schools.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) closed the hearing with a reminder that the “federal role is to ensure that our nation’s most vulnerable children are not forgotten.” He also reaffirmed his commitment to work towards a comprehensive, bipartisan ESEA reauthorization in the next year.
Update from CQ Roll Call (3/19/13)
Despite the widespread belief that Congress has zero appetite for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year, leaders of the Senate education committee are testing the waters.
Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, met last week with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss the prospects of crafting a bipartisan overhaul of the ESEA (PL 107-110), widely known as No Child Left Behind.
Education Department staffers are meeting with both Democratic and Republican education policy staffers on the committee to work out a potential foundation for a bill.
“Our staffs are going to be working very, very hard the next couple of weeks to see where and if there is common ground,” Duncan said Tuesday at the annual legislative conference for the Council of Chief State School Officers. “The real question is does Congress have the bandwidth, the capacity and the willingness to work in a bipartisan way? And if they do, we stand ready and able to help out any way we can. If they’re not, we’ll come back when they are ready.”
Harkin said Tuesday the three will meet again after the upcoming congressional recess to assess any paths forward.
“Our staffs are doing some work together now,” Harkin said. “We’ll just see what areas we need to work on a little bit more. It’s just trying to find a way of moving forward.”
Though moving forward could mean having to push a partisan bill through committee, Harkin said that is something he is not opposed to doing.
“I am reporting an ESEA bill out of my committee before summer,” Harkin said. “One way or the other, it’s coming out.”
Harkin and Alexander won’t be starting from scratch. They ushered a bipartisan rewrite of the law through committee last year, along with then-ranking member Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo. But neither side was enamored enough with the bill to press Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring it to the floor, and so the effort expired along with the last Congress.
“In the Senate last time we started out with a lean bill and ended up with a really long bill and lots of senators had their ideas in it,” Alexander said. “I voted to get it out of committee, but I didn’t like it very much because it got too intrusive.”
The bill was sprinkled with sweeteners for both sides. For Democrats, it wrote into law the administration’s signature competitive grants, such as the Race to the Top program. It also expanded charter schools, a Republican priority.
But significant policy gaps existed: Democrats thought it lacked robust accountability standards, Republicans wanted to include language to limit federal authority over education policy, and a coalition of members from both parties wanted to include teacher evaluation requirements.
“Obviously, the current dysfunction in Washington makes me less optimistic that this can get done,” Duncan said. “But we’re going to provide whatever leadership we can do to help facilitate it.”
Currently, thirty four states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and twelve states’ requests are still outstanding: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming. And while California was denied its request for a waiver, 10 California school districts have applied for a customized waiver. Three states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, and Vermont.
FY 2013 Appropriations/FY 2014 Budget
After months of anticipation and constant assurances that it would never happen, the sequester that triggers $85 billion in automatic spending cuts took effect on March 1st. Congress and the White House, in spite of reassuring the public for months that it was just too awful and they would never let it happen, failed to come up with an alternative. Because of a policy known as forward funding, most education programs will not feel the impact of the sequester until the fall. But not all programs. Headstart and Impact Aid will feel the cuts in the remaining months of this fiscal year.
For the Department of Education, the impact will be slow in coming on the one hand but fairly immediate given the constraints of teacher contracts. In total, the sequester will force cuts totaling $3 billion from education programs. That means 5.1% for every program and every activity. Because the year is truncated that 5.1% translates to something closer to a 9% decrease. Agency heads like Secretary Duncan have some limited flexibility in how the sequester is applied. If the Department were to enact furloughs they could only apply to career employees. If the Department were to prohibit all travel or cancel conferences that could reduce the overall percentage but the cuts would still have to be applied across the board.
The formula grants that include the majority of education funding that reaches states will be hard hit. Title I and IDEA grants will be reduced by $735 million and $600 million respectively. The Pell Grant program—the largest single expenditure at the Department– is exempt from the sequester this first year. Beyond specific cuts, if there are furloughs of career employees, grant reviews, release of RFPs and other services delivered by the Department are sure to be impacted.
Slowly but surely individual federal agencies are alerting their staff and grantees and the public about their sequester plans. These plans must be sent to the Congress by May 1st. Given that federal workers are in many instances unionized, negotiations between management and union leaders will also slow down the works and impact the way cuts are applied.
While it is too late for the President to negotiate changes for FY 2013, the $85 billion in sequester cuts are scheduled to occur every year over the next 9 years and total over a trillion in reduced federal spending. It is those out year cuts that he and others in Congress hope to address with a so-called grand bargain, which will only possible if Democrats agree to entitlement reforms and Republicans agree to revisit the tax code.
FY 2013 Appropriations
The FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2013 (HR 933) was signed into law on March 26th. The CR extends funding for education programs and other parts of the federal budget at Fiscal Year 2012 levels—minus $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, also known as the sequester—through September 30, 2013. The Department of Education’s share of the sequester is $2.5 billion. The CR also included an additional across-the-board budget cut of 0.2%, which works out to about $136 million of the agency’s $68 billion in discretionary funding. The CR requires all agencies to submit an operating plan to Congress showing the amounts for programs, projects, and activities by April 25.
FY 2014 Budget
Although the Executive Branch typically releases its budget proposal for the next fiscal year on the first Tuesday of February, this year’s budget was delayed while Congress finalized spending for FY 2013. President Obama recently announced that he will release the FY 2014 budget on April 10.
In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, NASSP has been actively meeting with White House officials and members of Congress to share our recommendations on gun violence prevention and other school safety issues.
After Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) read the press statement issued by NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) opposing proposals to arm school officials, our executive directors and the leaders of the National Education Association and the National PTA met with him in January to discuss action items for the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. While the conversation focused on gun control proposals and other school safety issues, we were also able to offer recommendations on the vital need for mental health services in schools. Our organizations submitted joint recommendations to the Congressman that called for reinstating the assault weapons ban and strengthening background checks for all gun purchases; promoting access to mental health services; coordinating federal mental health, education, and justice programs; and providing school officials with the necessary skills and authority to strengthen partnerships with local social and health service providers. Click here to read the full letter.
NASSP and NAESP also submitted joint recommendations to Vice President Biden on how to prevent gun violence in schools and were asked to participate in a meeting today with senior officials from the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education. Because the principal’s responsibility is to foster a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting environment where students come to school ready and eager to learn, we urged policymakers to take preemptive measures to strengthen the ability of schools to provide coordinated services in mental health and school safety at all levels of government. We also encouraged coordination between education and health services agencies so that local communities could focus on schools as the “hub” for delivery of these services. Finally, we requested additional support for federal programs to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools, which we feel will have a dramatic impact in improving school safety and, correspondingly, student achievement for all students. Click here to read the full letter.
Many of our recommendations on bullying prevention and mental health services in schools were reflected in legislation introduced during the 112th Congress: the Safe Schools Improvement Act, the Mental Health in Schools Act, and the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act. NASSP has long supported these bills and expects them to be reintroduced later this year. NASSP was also pleased that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation in December to strengthen and expand the COPS Secure Our Schools program, which provides schools resources to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, secured entrances, and other safety measures. She also introduced a bill that would allow Governors to use their states’ National Guard troops to support local law enforcement in efforts related to school safety. NASSP feels that only appropriately trained law enforcement personnel should serve as school resource officers, so we would encourage states to use this flexibility in a way that would allow more local police officers to receive this training and work in schools.
White House Recommendations
At an event surrounded by school children, victims of gun violence, local law enforcement officials, and education advocates on January 16, President Obama announced his plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence. Now is the Time offers proposals in four key areas: 1) closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands; 2) banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; 3) making schools safer; and 4) improving mental health services.
NASSP was pleased to see that the President took a comprehensive approach to school safety that focuses on security, bullying prevention, and mental health services. His proposal calls for $150 million for a new Comprehensive School Safety program, which will help school districts hire school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Funding could also be used to purchase school-safety equipment, develop and update public safety plans, conduct threat assessments, and train “crisis intervention teams.” The Department of Justice will also develop a model for using school resource officers, including best practices on age-appropriate methods for working with students, which is strongly supported by NASSP.
By May 2013, the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security will release a model, high-quality emergency management plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education, along with best practices for training school staff and students to follow them. President Obama has also called on Congress to provide $30 million in one-time grants to help school districts develop and implement emergency management plans. He also urged Congress to require that states and school districts receiving federal school safety funding to have comprehensive, up-to-date, emergency plans in all of their schools. The President also proposed a $50 million initiative to help 8,000 schools train their school leaders and other staff to implement evidence-based strategies to improve school climate and will require the Department of Education to collect and disseminate best practices on school discipline policies.
To address mental health issues, President Obama is calling for a new initiative Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which will include $15 million to train school staff to detect and respond to mental illness in children. The initiative would also include $40 million to help school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to assure students with mental health issues receive the services they need. In addition, $25 million would be proposed for innovative state-based strategies to support young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues.
NASSP on Capitol Hill
In January and February, NASSP staff met with other members of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and staff for House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline to discuss our recommendations on school safety. Conference calls were also organized for Chairman Kline’s staff and Ranking Member George Miller’s staff to speak to NASSP Specialist for School Safety Bill Bond. NASSP staff also met with staff for Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to discuss various proposals related to the school-to-prison pipeline. Based on the conversation, staff forwarded NASSP’s position statement on corporal punishment and our general school safety recommendations.
In February, Bill Bond was invited to appear before the committee at a hearing on school safety that was prompted by the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Other witnesses included a school counselor from California, the director of the office of safety and security for a suburban Virginia school district, a researcher, an employee from a private security firm, and the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Bond spoke about the assistance he has provided to 12 other schools where students have died and how his role is to focus the principal on the decisions he or she will need to make to get the school back up and functioning. He also spoke more broadly about what a principal must do to prepare his or her school for a crisis, including meeting with local responders; defining people’s roles; examining how the traffic flows around the schools; and creating lockdown, evacuation, and reunification procedures.
One huge area where Bond feels that schools need to adjust their emergency plans is in the area of crisis communications. “Communicating with teachers, staff, and parents is the hardest part of a crisis, but it is extremely important and it’s the key to recovery,” he told committee members. He said that parents expect instant communication today, and if they are hearing nothing from the school they may fill the gap with information from news outlets, texts from their kids, the rumor mill, or social media. Bond said that parents only want to know two things: is my child OK? And when can I get him? “And the more parents can hear from the school that at least makes progress toward those answers, the more it relieves their emotions,” he stated.
Bond’s final point, and one that was shared with the other witnesses, is that school shootings can’t be prevented by more security alone. “Your best protection is a trusting relationship between adults and students that encourages kids to share responsibility for their safety and share information,” he said, explaining that kids very often know better than adults what’s going on in a school and what could cause a crisis.
While the hearing could have turned into a debate on gun violence, only one committee member asked whether teachers and school officials should be armed in schools. All witnesses voiced their opposition to such a proposal, and the conversation shifted to a discussion about the need for more school resource officers, counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Chairman John Kline (R-MN) was careful to not propose additional federal funding for schools to hire these professionals, but he did state that all educators could benefit from training on how to build trusting relationships with students.
Click here to view an archived webcast of the hearing.
School Principal Recruitment and Training Act
NASSP and NAESP have worked closely with staff for Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) to update and improve the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act. Although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress, we expect the legislation to be introduced in the coming weeks. The bill would authorize a grant program to recruit, select, train, and support aspiring or current principals with track records of transforming student learning and outcomes and prepare these principals to lead high-need schools. Selected aspiring principals would be provided with a pre-service residency that lasts for at least one year as well as ongoing support and professional development for at least two years after they commence work as school leaders. Grant funds would also be used to provide mentoring and professional development to strengthen current principals’ capacity in the areas of instruction, supervision, evaluation, and development of teachers and highly effective school organizations.
NASSP and NAESP have organized a sign-on letter for national and state organizations in support of the bill, and we expect the 80+ members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality to include the bill as one of their top legislative priorities this year.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will soon be reintroducing the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act. The bill would authorize $2.35 billion for comprehensive state and local literacy initiatives, building on the best components of the federal Early Reading First, Reading First, and Striving Readers programs. Districts would support school-wide literacy initiatives that include professional development for principals and teachers to incorporate literacy across the curriculum and targeted interventions for struggling students. NASSP has been working with its coalition partner, Advocates for Literacy, to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
NASSP staff and other members of Advocates for Literacy also held a meeting in January with Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle to discuss the LEARN Act and implementation of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program.
Transforming Education Through Technology Act
Since Congress eliminated funding for the federal Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program in FY 2011, schools have struggled to pay for new handheld devices, education software, and training for school leaders and teachers on how to use technology to personalize the learning environment for each student. As these skills become more important in our effort to graduate all students college and career ready, principals should be very pleased that House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) has introduced the Transforming Education through Technology Act (H.R. 521). This is brand new legislation that NASSP has added to its advocacy agenda during the 113th Congress.
The Transforming Education through Technology Act would authorize $500 million for State Grants for Technology Readiness and Access. States would be required to provide technical assistance to school districts to help them address their technology readiness needs, deliver computer-based and online assessments, support principals in evaluating teachers’ proficiency in implementing digital tools for teaching and learning, and build capacity for individual school and district leaders. States would also coordinate with teacher and school leader preparation programs to align digital learning teaching standards and provide professional development that is aligned to state student technology standards and activities promoting college and career readiness.
Under the bill, subgrants would be provided to school districts to carry out “digital age” professional development opportunities for all school staff. Specifically, school leaders would receive ongoing professional development to promote: 1) the use of educational technology to ensure a digital age learning environment; and 2) the use of data in order to increase student access to technology and engagement in learning. School districts could also use the funding to hire technology coaches to work directly with teachers on integrating technology into their instruction.
NASSP staff was invited to a meeting with staff for Rep. Miller in February to discuss the strategy for getting more cosponsors on the bill and finding a Senate champion to introduce a companion bill on the Senate side. Congressman Miller also visited Coronado Middle School in San Diego, CA, and met with the school’s principal, Jay Marquand, who is an NASSP member.
The Transforming Education Through Technology Act has 5 House cosponsors.
Success in the Middle Act
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will soon be reintroducing the Success in the Middle Act. Under the bill, states are required to implement a middle school improvement plan that describes what students are required to know and do to successfully complete the middle grades and make the transition to succeed in an academically rigorous high school. School districts would receive grants to help them invest in proven intervention strategies, including professional development and coaching for school leaders, teachers, and other school personnel; and student supports such as personal academic plans, intensive reading and math interventions, and extended learning time.
NASSP is leading the Middle Grades Coalition, which held a meeting in January with staff for Rep. Grijalva to discuss the bill’s reintroduction. The coalition also offered a number of recommendations to update and revise the bill, which were submitted to congressional staff.
Graduation Promise Act
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) will soon reintroduce the Graduation Promise Act. The bill would support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement that focuses research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest performing high schools, and improves the capacity of the high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement. The bill would also provide competitive grants to states to identify statewide obstacles hindering students from graduating, and provide incentives for states to increase graduation rates.
NASSP and the US Department of Education
Secretary Duncan Announces Principal Ambassador Program
On March 1, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took the stage at Ignite 2013 to a standing ovation by nearly 1,500 middle and high school principals. Duncan spoke about three priorities for the Obama administration during his second term – school safety and mental health, college and career readiness by transforming high schools, and principal preparation and professional development.
Duncan admitted that not enough has been done on principal preparation, evaluation and professional development and vowed to make it a priority in the department’s second term agenda. He announced his commitment to establishing a principal ambassadorship program similar to the one currently in place for teachers at the department to help shape policy. Such ambassadors would share their expertise with policymakers, offer insight into what is and isn’t working at the department, and help shape federal programs and policy.
Although the planning is still in its infancy, the department later announced that the program will roll out next fall. Some principals may be employed for a full year while others will consult from their schools on a part-time basis.
Meeting with Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle
NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti and NASSP government relations staff joined other association representatives from the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Association of School Administrators, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals to meet with Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle in February as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. The meeting focused on school safety and implementation of college and career-ready standards as required by the ESEA flexibility waivers.
NASSP Board Position Statements
At the February meeting, the NASSP Board of Directors stated its intent to adopt two new position statements. They are now open for public comment through April 12, 2013. Please submit your comments to Patty Kreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NASSP Board of Directors also approved revisions to the position statement on Safe Schools.
NASSP Federal Grassroots Network
As a reminder, Federal Grassroots Network members no longer participate in quarterly calls (they are now reserved only for the State Coordinators), but they continue to receive the weekly update summarizing the latest news and events in federal policy and funding. If you or your colleagues are not yet members of the Federal Grassroots Network and would like to join please email Jacki Ball at email@example.com. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here.
NASSP State Coordinators
NASSP welcomes several new coordinators to their roles: Tracey Lamb (KY), John Rogers (WV), Dave Powers (MI), and Dennis Barger (AZ).
The NASSP State Coordinators held their quarterly conference calls on February 13. The top issues were ranked in this order: state education funding, teacher evaluation (tied for #2), Common Core State Standards (tied for #2), school safety, federal education funding/sequestration, principal evaluation, and ESEA flexibility waivers.
The next quarterly conference calls will take place on (5/14) at 10 AM ET and (5/15) at 3:30 PM ET.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Status of ESEA Reauthorization
Congress wrapped up 2012 with no movement on ESEA reauthorization and begins the 113th Congress with no indication of addressing reauthorization anytime soon. The urgency of the “fiscal cliff” crisis consumed nearly all of the lame duck session, and the 113th Congress will be tasked with addressing legislation to avert sequestration and to raise the federal debt ceiling. The reelection in November of President Barack Obama means that we can expect states’ waivers from No Child Left Behind to move into the implementation phase, thus dimming a sense of urgency from Congress to reauthorize ESEA. Further, the 113th Congress brings significant turnover of education committee members in the House, with 13 new members on the committee all of whom must be brought up to speed on the key issues related to K-12 education. However, with enough pressure from the Chairmen of the House and Senate education committees and from the President and Secretary Duncan, ESEA reauthorization in the 113th Congress is not entirely out of the question, but still a long shot. NASSP will continue to push for a comprehensive ESEA reauthorization that includes a focus on our key issue areas: school leadership, literacy, middle level and high schools, and education technology. See attached issue sheets for more information on these key areas.
Currently, thirty four states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and two states’ requests are still outstanding: Iowa and Illinois. In addition, California was recently denied its request for waiver. Six states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming. NASSP continues to monitor the waiver process as well as the content of waiver applications to ensure they align with our positions on relevant issues. We are particularly concerned about states’ targets for and weighting of graduation rates as part of their accountability systems. Some states’ waiver applications set graduation rate targets and weighting too low, while others set them so high that schools may be incentivized to “push out” students not ready for graduation in order to meet the high targets.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education in November released a document highlighting which states are using an extended-year graduation rate (e.g., a 5-year or 6-year rate). Most notably, it shows that several states are using an extended-year graduation rate without increasing their annual target. Under the Department’s initial implementation of the regulations, states were allowed to use extended year rates if they had increased annual targets for the extended year rate. The rationale behind this previous approach is that if a school has more time, more students should graduate. Unfortunately, several states maintain the same annual target even if they are using an extended year graduation rate.
NASSP has met with key Congressional staff on the House education committee to express our concerns, and will continue to monitor this issue as well as others contained in the approved waiver applications.
FY 2013 Budget/Appropriations
The federal government is currently operating under a 6-month continuing resolution (CR) which level-funds all programs from their Fiscal Year 2012 levels through March 27, 2013. At that point, Congress will need to agree on and pass a year-long CR to cover spending for the remainder of FY 2013. Agreement on spending levels now seems difficult, since the House and Senate appropriations committees in their allocations for education programs currently have a gap of $1.5 billion that the leadership in appropriations will have to reconcile. Complicating a year-long FY 2013 federal budget are the issues of sequestration (see below) and the federal debt ceiling that Congress must address prior to March. NASSP staff will continue to keep you updated on this messy and stressful situation!
Congress narrowly avoided sequestration by voting at the last minute (January 1) to delay the sequester for two months, or until March 1, 2013. As a result, though sequestration was temporarily averted, it is still a significant threat that could still occur. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF) now projects that the revised sequestration percentage for nondefense discretionary programs will be 5.9% instead of the 8.2% projected by Office of Management and Budget. This is due to the $24 billion reduction in the sequester total for FY 2013. Thus, the total sequester amount will be $85.33 billion, instead of $109.33 billion. The domestic sequester is half of that amount or $42.67 billion. After taking into account the sequester cuts from nonexempt mandatory programs, the CEF projection of the cut to non-defense discretionary spending is $27.44 billion, which would result in a 5.9% across-the board cut. For the Department of Education, that would result in a cut of approximately $2.95 billion.
If sequestration does occur, education funding would not be affected until the 2013-2014 school year, since education is forward-funded by the federal government and this school year’s funds would thus be exempt. However, a few programs would be cut right away (this school year), including the Head Start preschool program for low-income children, and the impact-aid program, which assists districts burdened with additional costs from a large federal presence, such as a military base.
NASSP Government Relations staff has met with Congressional offices this quarter specifically on the issue of sequestration to urge legislators to prevent sequestration and instead find a solution to deficit reduction that is balanced and responsible. We met with the following Congressional offices:House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX). . CEF has also organized meetings with several other Congressional offices this past quarter as well to deliver our unified message about education funding.
NASSP encourages you to tell your legislators that sequestration is unacceptable by sending an action alert to your legislators through NASSP’s Principals’ Legislative Action Center at www.nassp.org/plac. As of January 3, 1,514 letters have been sent to legislators on this issue using NASSP’s action alert. We also encourage you to access a toolkit of resources on sequestration available at http://cef.org/cef-grassroots-campaign-2/. Here you can access sample Tweets, letters to the editor, and action alerts to urge your legislators to stop sequestration. Thank you in advance for your advocacy!
School Principal Recruitment and Training Act
NASSP continues to advocate for the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress. The bill would authorize a grant program to recruit, select, train, and support aspiring or current principals with track records of transforming student learning and outcomes and prepare these principals to lead high-need schools. Selected aspiring principals would be provided with a pre-service residency that lasts for at least one year as well as ongoing support and professional development for at least two years after they commence work as school leaders. Grant funds would also be used to provide mentoring and professional development to strengthen current principals’ capacity in the areas of instruction, supervision, evaluation, and development of teachers and highly effective school organizations. This past quarter, NASSP and NAESP staff worked together to revise a draft bill, and both organizations are working collaboratively with staff of Sen. Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) to prepare a bill for introduction in the 113th Congress.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (H.R. 2272/S. 929) in 2011. The bill would authorize $2.35 billion for comprehensive state and local literacy initiatives, building on the best components of the federal Early Reading First, Reading First, and Striving Readers programs. Districts would support school-wide literacy initiatives that include professional development for principals and teachers to incorporate literacy across the curriculum and targeted interventions for struggling students. NASSP is working with its coalition partner, Advocates for Literacy, to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
The LEARN Act had 15 House cosponsors and 6 Senate cosponsors at the end of the 112th Congress.
Success in the Middle Act
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reintroduced the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 1547/S. 833) in 2011. Under the bill, states are required to implement a middle school improvement plan that describes what students are required to know and do to successfully complete the middle grades and make the transition to succeed in an academically rigorous high school. School districts would receive grants to help them invest in proven intervention strategies, including professional development and coaching for school leaders, teachers, and other school personnel; and student supports such as personal academic plans, intensive reading and math interventions, and extended learning time. This past quarter, NASSP and NAESP staff worked together to revise a draft bill, and both organizations are working collaboratively to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
The Success in the Middle Act had 17 House cosponsors and 8 Senate cosponsors at the end of the 112th Congress.
Graduation Promise Act
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 778/S. 1177) in 2011. The bill would support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement that focuses research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest performing high schools, and improves the capacity of the high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement. The bill would also provide competitive grants to states to identify statewide obstacles hindering students from graduating, and provide incentives for states to increase graduation rates. NASSP plans to work with other key organizations this upcoming quarter to ensure the bill’s reintroduction in the 113th Congress.
The Graduation Promise Act had 34 House cosponsors and 1 Senate cosponsor at the end of the 112th Congress.
NASSP on Capitol Hill
NASSP and NAESP conducted a number of join meetings with congressional staff to discuss our recommendations on principal evaluation. Offices being visited this quarter included Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY).
Coalition for Teaching Quality
NASSP staff and other members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality met with congressional staff to discuss implementation of reporting language on teachers in training who are currently labeled “highly qualified” even though they have not yet completed their preparation programs. Offices being visited this quarter included House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
Educator Preparation Reform Act
NASSP, NAESP, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and other organizations met with staff for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to discuss the Educator Preparation Reform Act. The primary focus of the legislation is on teacher and principal preparation and amends the Higher Education Act (HEA). It also improves Title II of the HEA—the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants Program—by expanding the residency programs to include principals and providing partnerships flexibility in meeting the instructional needs of local school districts.
Advocates for Literacy
NASSP and other members of Advocates for Literacy met with staff for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to discuss the LEARN Act and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program.
Over 100 congressional staff and education advocates were able to witness firsthand how technology can be integrated into physics, literacy, and social studies lessons at an October event sponsored by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET). NASSP Director of Government Relations Amanda Karhuse serves on the NCTET board of directors.
To kick off the “pop-up” classrooms event, the principal of Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA, and NASSP member John Word and a physics teacher from Red Lion (PA) High School discussed how technology has changed their instructional practices. “The role of the school leader is to empower teachers to explore new technologies and new ways of teaching,” said Word. He also noted that technology has made his job as an administrator more manageable because he’s “mobile” and always able to access student and teacher data. Both panelists consider themselves lucky to work in school districts that have made technology a top priority, but they agreed there’s always a need for additional funding for professional development for school leaders and teachers. There’s also a concern that few schools are prepared for the new online Common Core assessments that will begin in 2014.
After the panel discussion, audience members rotated through four mobile classrooms. First was a history lesson on the 1860 election with two teachers from New Milford (NJ) High School where 2012 NASSP Digital Principal Eric Sheninger leads a schoolwide technology integration initiative. Attendees also participated in a hands-on physics experiment to measure the temperature of baking soda and vinegar and tracked the data on laptops. Classroom trends were also graphed on the teacher’s whiteboard, so students could understand in real time where they had performed the experiment correctly or not. Teachers from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia demonstrated adaptive curriculum and assessments, including an online essay writing program and interventions for high school students who are reading below grade-level. The final session with educators from Loudoun County (VA) Public Schools showed how gaming technologies can be used to teach special education students about teamwork and to express their feelings and stay in their personal space.
From the audience’s reaction, it was clear that their own education experience was really different than what was presented by these tech-savvy educators. NCTET hopes to plan similar events in the future and encourage Congress to invest in education technology programs so students in every school can have access to a rich learning experience.
NASSP and the US Department of Education
National Principals Month
During the week of October 8-12, officials from the U.S. Department of Education visited nearly 40 local schools, many of which are led by NASSP and NAESP members, to learn more about the daily life of a principal as part of National Principals’ Month. “Great school leaders are key to students receiving a high-quality education and teachers feeling supported and empowered in their work,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Outstanding principals build school cultures focused on learning and high expectations, where all students can reach their full potential. Every great school has a great leader.”
In addition to the visits to these schools, dozens of Education Department staff members visited schools in other parts of the country as part of an organized effort in which federal education officials shadowed school leaders. As a key component of National Principals’ Month, these shadowing visits offered Department staff a glimpse into the daily work of school leaders, while also providing principals with the opportunity to discuss how federal policy, programs, and resources impact their schools.
To complete the week-long partnership effort, on Friday, Oct. 12, principals and Department staff members who participated in the job shadowing engagements joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a debrief discussion to reflect on their experiences and lessons learned.
Find the complete list of participating schools here: http://nasspblogs.org/principalspolicy/2012/10/us-department-of-ed-officials-to-visit-nearly-40-schools-to-learn-from-principals/.
Meetings with Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle
NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti and NASSP government relations staff joined other association representatives from the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Association of School Administrators, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals to meet with Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle in October and December as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. NASSP is pleased that Assistant Secretary Delisle has established these regular meetings as a means to share information and recommendations, and we hope that they will prove fruitful in terms of the specific recommendations NASSP has for the Department of Education as cited in our position statements and elsewhere
News from the White House and the US Department of Education
Principals to Play a More Prominent Role in Obama’s 2nd Term
In a speech before the Council of Chief State School Officers in November, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that principal preparation and evaluation will be two focus areas for the administration’s education reform agenda in the next Congress. The announcement corroborated what NASSP leaders had been told in private meetings with US Department of Education (ED) officials—there was an admission that teachers had dominated the “human capital agenda” and a promise that school leaders would play a more prominent role if President Obama won a second term. Duncan also supported the creation of a principal ambassador position at ED when the idea was suggested by one of the principals who had participated in the October principal shadowing visits.
Although no details have been released concerning the administration’s policy recommendations on school leadership, ED officials are expected to release a blueprint on the RESPECT proposal to transform the education profession. The $5 billion proposal was first announced during the January 2012 State of the Union address, and multiple drafts were circulated for public comment during the following months. NASSP also held a number of focus group sessions at our national conference in Tampa and with principals and assistant principals who were in Washington, DC, as part of our recognition programs. The overwhelming response was positive towards the administration’s recommendations for preparing, training, and rewarding teachers, but the education profession as a whole cannot be “transformed” without also focusing on school leaders was a recurring comment made by NASSP members.
NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) submitted joint recommendations on the RESPECT proposal to the Department in August 2012. In our letter, we called for principal preparation programs to select high-quality candidates who have demonstrated success as classroom teachers, demonstrate abilities related to effective school leadership competencies, and show prior success in leading adults. Aspiring principals should receive training during a year-long pre-service residency and induction for up to three years alongside a principal mentor. We also urged the inclusion of principal evaluation systems that would assess principal performance on the six domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence and also take into consideration the context of the learning community and the level of authority afforded the individual principal. Our organizations also encouraged districts to provide opportunities for principals and assistant principals to engage in ongoing, sustained, job-embedded leadership development. We remain hopeful that our recommendations will be incorporated into the final version of the blueprint.
NASSP and NAESP have held a number of meetings with key staff on Capitol Hill to discuss our joint recommendations on principal evaluation that were released in September 2012. We are also working together to update the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, which is expected to be reintroduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) early next year. The flagship bill on school leadership will focus on principal preparation, mentoring, professional development, and evaluation, and our hope is that it will serve as the basis for any language affecting school leaders in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Department of Education Awards 17 Promise Neighborhood Grants
On December 21, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods $60 million grant. Promise Neighborhoods, according to the Department of Education, “is a community-focused program that funds local-led efforts to improve educational opportunities and provide comprehensive health, safety, and support services in high-poverty neighborhoods.”
These awards were split between 10 planning grants totaling more than $4.7 million and 7 implementation grants totaling nearly $30 million. The rest of 2012 funds will go toward second-year funding for the 5 implementation grantees awarded in 2011. According to the Department, “Planning grantees will each receive one-year awards of up to $500,000 to create targeted plans for combating poverty in the local community. Implementation grantees will receive awards up to $6 million to fund the first year of a 5-year grant to execute community-led plans that improve and provide better social services and educational programs.”
A complete list of 2012 grant winners can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/secretary-duncan-announces-seventeen-2012-promise-neighborhoods-winners-school-s.
Additional information on the Promise Neighborhoods program and 2012 winners is also available here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods/index.html.
Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the Newtown, Connecticut, School Shootings
“School shootings are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies. But words fail to describe today’s heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the father of two children in elementary school, I can barely imagine the anguish and losses suffered today by the Newtown community.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to every parent, child, teacher, staff member, and administrator at Sandy Hook and the surrounding community. And our thanks go out to every teacher, staff member, and first responder who cared for, comforted, and protected children from harm, often at risk to themselves. We will do everything in our power to assist and support the healing and recovery of Newtown.”
Department of Education Awards 16 Race to the Top-District Grants
The U.S. Department of Education announced on December 11 that 16 applicants have won the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition, and will share almost $400 million in funds. The awardees’ plans will address the personalization of student learning, improved student achievement and educator effectiveness, closing achievement gaps, and preparing all students to succeed in college and their careers.
According to the Department of Education, “The 2012 Race to the Top-District grantees will receive four-year awards that range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served through the plan. The winning applicants were the top scorers among the 372 applications the Department received in November, which were evaluated and scored by independent peer reviewers. Grantees represent a diverse set of districts, including applicants from both states that received a Race to the Top state grant as well as those that have not received Race to the Top state funding. Among the winners is a rural-area consortium representing 24 rural districts, which comprise 44 percent of the total number of districts that will benefit from the 2012 competition.”
To view a list of the grantees, go here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-announces-16-winners-race-top-district-competition. For more information about the Race to the Top-District program, including a list of winners, requested award amounts and additional materials, visit the Department’s website: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district/index.html.
NASSP Federal Grassroots Network
As a reminder, Federal Grassroots Network members no longer participate in quarterly calls (only state coordinators do), but continue to receive email updates twice per week summarizing the latest news and events in federal policy and funding. If you or your colleagues are not yet members of the Federal Grassroots Network and would like to become one, please email Amanda Karhuse at 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):
Advocacy alert: Help NASSP advocate for the LEARN bill! Senator Murray (D-WA) is expected to re-introduce this bill, the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) next week, and we need to show members of Congress that this bill has significant support from the field. Thank you to those of you who have already sent letters to your members of Congress through our Principal’s Legislative Action Center but if you haven’t please go here to do so: app3.vocusgr.com.
Also, please take 5-10 minutes of your day and call your Senators’ offices to urge your Senators to cosponsor this bill-a personalized phone call from you, a school leader, carries weight in the Senate offices! Thanks for helping us to advocate for the best federal policy for you. This bill is needed so badly because it is the only federal program to address literacy at a time when literacy instruction will become more crucial than ever as we prepare students for tougher college- and career-ready standards and for the 21st century workforce.
Appropriations Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will force a vote on the House-passed FY 2012 Budget Resolution proposed by Rep. Ryan (R-WI). The Budget won’t pass in the House but Reid hopes to use it as a gauge to show just how many Democrats oppose it, and to see where Republican votes fall on it as well. Further, the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities recently analyzed the impact of the Ryan budget if it were enacted, and find that “the bulk of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget would come in programs for lower-income Americans …Cuts in low-income programs appear likely to account for at least $2.9 trillion — or nearly two-thirds — of this total amount.” In other words, Ryan’s budget would be devastating to low-income Americans and to domestic discretionary programs like education, and has been strongly opposed by President Obama and Senator Reid along with others. House Appropriations subcommittees are getting ready to start marking up FY 12 bills most likely in late May/early June. Chairman Rogers has promised to have all 12 bills passed by the House before the August recess, but the House is only scheduled to be in session 40 days between now and the start of the August recess so this may not occur.
NASSP officially endorses the National History Day Project. New evaluation results from the National History Day (NHD) program demonstrate the ability of history education to improve academic achievement and build 21st century college- and career-ready skills. The NHD program works with both students and teachers to improve the teaching and learning of history in schools. Since its inception, the NHD program has successfully served 2.2 million students and teachers in 50 states, two American territories, the District of Columbia and in Department of Defense and International Schools overseas. To read more about the evaluation results, go to: www.nhd.org.
U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today $30 million in funding for a second round of Promise Neighborhoods grants to be divided between a new set of planning grants and implementation grants. Of the $30 million, half will be for the first implementation grants to some of last year’s planning grant awardees and half will be for another round of planning grants. Read more here: www.ed.gov.
Gates, Pearson Foundations to Develop Common-Core Curriculum
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Pearson Foundation, have announced plans to develop a comprehensive online curriculum aligned with common core standards. The two foundations will create 24 online courses in math and English/language arts for grades K-12. The announcement has received mixed reactions from education groups. “We have ample evidence that solutions that attempt to be comprehensive almost always are inadequate, partly because they’re not developed from the relationship between the local teacher and students” worries Kent Williamson, Executive Director of the National Council of Teachers of English. To read more click here: www.edweek.org
Department of Ed: Hispanic Academic Achievement Will Be Key to America’s Future
The U.S. Department of Education released a report Wednesday underscoring the importance of Hispanic achievement in education. According to the report 22 percent of all pre-K-12 students enrolled in America’s public schools is Hispanic yet only about half earn their high school diploma on time and only 4 percent have completed graduate or professional degree programs. “Hispanic students have graduated at lower rates than the rest of the population for years, making America’s progress impossible if they continue to lag behind” says Juan Sepulveda, Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. To read more click here: www.ed.gov
Ed Tech Advocates Find New Funding Streams After Tough Budget Cuts
Proponents of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Program are proposing new and innovative ways to fund existing programs after the $100 million EETT program was eliminated in the FY11 budget. Karen Cator, Director of the office of educational technology for the DOE says the Department is still committed to educational technology development. “Formula programs are essential for making sure high-need students have access to resources, such as technology, that will help them achieve success in school. We are working to make sure technology is embedded in all programs” says Cantor. To read more click here: www.edweek.org
Proportion of Failing Schools on the Rise According to CEP Report
A new report issued by the Center on Education Policy finds the proportion of schools failing to meet AYP requirements rose 5 percentage points from last year, bringing the number to 38 percent. The report also found that individual states vary widely in their AYP progress. For example, only 5 percent of Texas schools failed to make AYP compared to 91 percent of schools in the District of Columbia. To read more click here: www.edweek.org
Secretary Duncan to Support Withholding Delaware District’s RTTT Funds
In a warning to other districts Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has publicly supported Delaware’s decision to withhold RTTT funds from a district that now wants to change its school-turnaround plans. “Because [Christina School District] has backtracked on that commitment, the state of Delaware has made the tough but courageous decision to withhold Race to the Top funding. I believe that is the right decision” said Duncan in a public statement. The warning comes as states scramble to make ambitious changes before deadlines end. To read more click here: blogs.edweek.org
From the Dept of Ed e-newsletter: Looking for a better way to find curricula, products, and practices? Check out the new and improved What Works Clearinghouse search feature: Find What Works (ies.ed.gov). This powerful tool makes it easy to find out exactly what rigorous research says about the effectiveness of more than 100 widely used education interventions. Interventions may be searched by outcome, grade level, population, effectiveness, extent of evidence, program type, and delivery method.
More than a year after Congress allocated $250 million in FY 2010 for the newly redesigned Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) program, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has finally released the application for states to compete for the discretionary grants. Applications are due on May 9, and grants would be awarded to states in August.
Forty-six states have already received their share of the $10 million set aside under the SRCL program to create a comprehensive state literacy plan with the assistance of a state literacy team comprised of literacy experts with expertise in literacy development and education for children from birth to grade 12. The only states that did not apply for the formula grant were Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, and South Dakota; but they may still apply for the discretionary grants.
ED expects to award grants to 3-18 states depending on the quality of the applications and the states’ share of low-income students, and grant awards would range from $3 million to $70 million. States would reserve no more than 5% of the funding to continuously improve the comprehensive state literacy plan, and the remaining 95% would be provided to high-need school districts on a competitive basis. States must also ensure that 40% of the funds would be used by districts to serve students in secondary schools, including an equitable distribution of funds between middle and high schools.
While NASSP and other members of our informal literacy coalition are thrilled that ED has finally released the state applications, funding for the SRCL program is in a precarious position. Congress rescinded $50 million in August 2010 in order to help offset costs for the $10 billion education jobs bill, and a House-passed bill (H.R. 1) to fund the federal government through September 30, 2011, would rescind the remaining FY 2010 funding. In addition, Congress has eliminated funding for the SRCL program in the short-term continuing resolutions for FY 2011; however, there is a still a possibility that Congress could restore funding for the program as part of the ongoing budget negotiations.
The SRCL program is currently the only federal initiative to help students improve their reading and writing skills, which is so vital to their future success in college or the workforce. NASSP will continue to work with Congress to ensure that this funding is not only restored but that elements of the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act are enacted as part of a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
States seeking to receive a portion of the $178 million available in competitive grants from the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program can apply for these funds in January or February of 2011, as announced recently by the Department of Education. The Department will then award grants in August of 2011. The Striving Readers program takes a comprehensive approach to literacy, funding programs from birth through grade 12, and spanning across multiple subject areas. The Department recently hosted various education stakeholders, experts and advocacy groups at a public input meeting November 19 to solicit suggestions for guidelines that should be set for the competition.
The Striving Readers program funded at $250 million in FY 2010. In August, however, $50 million was cut to help pay for the education jobs bill that salvaged hundreds of thousands of education jobs across the country. Of that amount, $10 million has already been distributed to states through formula funding to develop nine-member state literacy leadership teams, and all but four states (Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware and South Dakota) applied and received these funds. For the competitive grant program this spring, states could win a maximum of $30 million that they would then distribute through sub-grants to local school districts, prioritizing those districts with the highest needs according to reading performance levels or according to the proportion of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Funds also must be distributed according to the following age breakdown:
• 15 percent for birth to pre-k;
• 40 percent for grades K-5; and
• 40 percent for grades 6-12, with equitable distribution between middle and high school.
NASSP strongly supports the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, and has advocated for legislation to expand the program, the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 2740/H.R. 4037). Passing the LEARN Act will be one of our top priorities as Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Lastly, with the strong prospect that Congress may enact a continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011 that would fund most education programs at their 2010 levels, we have urged appropriators to fund Striving Readers at $250 million versus $200 million.
For more information about the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, go to http://www2.ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders-literacy/index.html.
New legislation introduced this week by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) would create a comprehensive literacy policy that encompasses early childhood, elementary, and middle level and high school education. The Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation or “LEARN” Act (H.R. 4037 /S. 2740) is the product of a collaborative effort between Congress and a coalition of national education organizations, in which NASSP played a major role.
“Literacy must be education priority number one,” said Sen. Murray in a press release. “It’s the building block that keeps students engaged in school and on track to college and a successful career.” Rep. Polis also noted that the LEARN Act “supports high-quality literacy instruction to provide each and every child, including English language learners and students with special needs, with the reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college and in the workforce.”
“NASSP is thrilled to see the LEARN Act come to fruition after so many years of hard work in the area of adolescent literacy,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “This legislation builds on our advocacy work for Striving Readers Act in the 110th Congress and ensures that there is also a strong foundation for literacy skills in the early grades, which will help all students to succeed in secondary school and beyond.”
The LEARN Act 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. Of that amount, 15% must be designated for children from birth to age five, 40% for grades K-5, and 40% for grades 6-12.
Under the bill, states must form a state literacy leadership team to help create a comprehensive state plan to ensure high-quality instruction in reading and writing from early education through grade 12. States would also review pre-service coursework as well as state licensure and certification requirements and make recommendations to improve training in high-quality literacy instruction.
At the local level, school districts would support schoolwide literacy initiatives that include professional development for principals and teachers to incorporate literacy across the curriculum and targeted interventions for struggling students. Districts could also use grant funding to hire literacy coaches or to implement a multi-tier system of supports.
While we encourage all principals and assistant principals to ask their members of Congress to cosponsor the LEARN Act, the bill will likely be considered by Congress early next year as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.