Elementary and Secondary Education Act

While there seemed to be little optimism at the beginning of the year that the 113th Congress would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the month of June saw a LOT of activity of the issue.

Bipartisan negotiations on ESEA failed in the spring, so the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House education committees went their separate ways. At one point, four separate proposals were floating around Capitol Hill, but ultimately a Democratic proposal passed on the Senate side and a Republican proposal passed on the House side.

NASSP staff has heard that the full House may consider its legislation the week of July 15, but timing for Senate action is uncertain (No Child Left Behind was debated on the Senate floor for over 2 ½ weeks in 2001!). Even if both chambers are able to pass their respective proposals, it seems unlikely that a conference committee will be able to work on the differences in the two bills before the end of the 113th Congress. What seems to be a more likely scenario is that the US Department of Education will issue a proposal for states to renew their ESEA flexibility waivers in 2014.

As the ESEA proposals were being drafted, NASSP participated in a number of joint meetings with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and key congressional staff. Offices being visited this quarter include: Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).

NASSP and NAESP also drafted joint letters to the leaders of the Senate and House education committees outlining our position on key issues for elementary, middle level and high school principals:

 

Summary of Senate ESEA Bill

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation (S. 1094) on June 4 to reauthorize 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.

Title I

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.

School Leadership

Under Title II of the bill (Supporting Teacher and Principal Excellence), states must use 2-5% of funds to support school districts in improving the performance and equitable distribution of principals and other school leaders and providing technical assistance to support the design and implementation of teacher and principal evaluation systems. Part of the technical assistance would include training for principals and other evaluators on how to evaluate teachers in order to differentiate teacher performance accurately, provide useful feedback, and use evaluation results to inform decisionmaking about professional development, improvement strategies, and personnel decisions.

NASSP was very pleased to see the bill incorporate the text of the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (S. 840), which would authorize a competitive grant program to recruit, support, and prepare principals and assistant principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools. The provision would create one-year residencies to train aspiring principals and would provide ongoing mentoring, support, and professional development for at least two years after the aspiring principals complete the residency and commence work as school leaders.

In order to receive the funding under Title II, states would have to assure the creation of a professional growth and improvement system no later than the 2015-2016 school year. For principals, the evaluation system would be based “in significant part” on evidence of improved student academic achievement and growth and evidence of providing strong instructional leadership and support to teachers and other staff. The evaluation system for principals could also include other measures of principal performance such as parent and family engagement.

While NASSP is pleased to see that the evaluation systems would be based on more than just student test scores, we would have preferred to see language similar to the report we released with the National Association of Elementary School Principals in September 2012. We recommend that evaluations should focus on six key domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence: student growth and achievement, school planning and progress, school culture, stakeholder support and engagement, professional qualities and practices, and professional growth and learning.

Unfortunately, the bill includes provisions from the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act (S. 1052) as an allowable use of funds at the state level. The provision would authorize the establishment and operation of new principal preparation academies that we feel strongly would water down current state-developed principal licensure and certification requirements, recruit principal candidates with little-to-no background in education, and provide minimal clinical experience and mentoring.

Literacy

NASSP is pleased to see the inclusion of Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758) in Senator Harkin’s bill. The “Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement” portion of Title IV will provide federal support for states and LEAs to develop or improve, and implement comprehensive literacy programs from birth to grade 12. We have been working extensively on this bill and its inclusion in an ESEA reauthorization. However, we are disappointed to see that the allocation of funding for implementation of comprehensive literacy programming at the various grade levels is less than our endorsed allocations. We have recommended that not less than 40 percent of funding for implementation be directed to grades 6 through 12. The bill allocated not less than 30 percent. We believe the 40 percent allocation is essential to support the complexity of literacy demands for middle and high school students and is necessary due to a lack of resources and funding for secondary school literacy as compared to early childhood and elementary.

Additionally, in light of the adoption and implementation of new college and career ready standards, including the Common Core State Standards across the country, a renewed focus on comprehensive literacy education is crucial and necessary for all students to be college and career ready. These more rigorous standards will require the reorientation of literacy education as a systematic progression of skills across all grades. Specifically, the CCSS will require increased text complexity and inclusion of informational text, which will require more literacy instruction and support from birth throughout all levels of education. See NASSP’s Action Brief on “Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of the Secondary School Leader” for more information on this topic.

Secondary Schools

As part of Title I, SASA establishes a competitive grant to support low-performing middle and high schools to implement innovative and effective reform strategies to increasing student achievement and graduation rates. The goal of the program is to engage students in high need and rural LEAs in rigorous course work while providing them with real-world and applicable learning opportunities. NASSP is very pleased to see that many of the provisions of this section include elements of the Success in the Middle Act (S. 708) and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940). We are especially pleased that the bill requires LEAs receiving a grant under this program to implement an early warning indicator system to help high schools and their feeder middle schools to identify struggling students and provide them with supports to help them get on track to graduate from high school college and career-ready.

Furthermore, the bill requires a significant portion of grant monies to be used on both feeder middle and high schools for personalized learning, professional development for school leaders and teachers, competency based learning, flexibility for school leaders in budgetary and staffing, and the “redesign” of academic content and instructional practices. Additionally, other strategies identified for uses under this program are improved academic and career counseling and exploration, and in-school academy models. Amplified opportunities for post-secondary credit through the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, dual enrollment, and early college high school programs are also featured strategies for secondary school improvement. Many elements of this portion of the bill closely mirror the President’s High School Redesign Program.

Lastly, to foster the “pathway to college,” SASA provides for increased access to AP and IB course work in high need schools. The bill also creates an AP & IB fee program which provides grants to states to pay all or part of the costs associated with examination fees for students. It also proposes a competitive grant program to increase the number of AP and IB teachers and course offerings in high need schools.

School Climate, Mental Health, and Non-Discrimination

In addition to the inclusion of NASSP supported legislation on school leadership and literacy, Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN), Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 1088) was also incorporated in the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (SASA). We are pleased to see additional protections to our nation’s students regardless of their sexual orientation. The bill would enhance current federal protections against discriminatory practices and ensure “effective remedies for discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Also included in Senator Harkin’s ESEA reauthorization bill are reporting requirements on elements of school climate which are a part of new accountability report cards. States and school districts would be required to report on data related to:

  • Student discipline
  • Pregnant and parenting students
  • Rates of school violence, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, in and out of school suspensions, expulsions, referrals to  law enforcement, school-based arrests, disciplinary transfers and student  detentions
  • Implementation of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS)
  • LEA implementation of school-based mental health programs

Furthermore, the bill also addresses school climate in assisting schools to “foster positive conditions for learning in public schools to increase achievement for all students.” SASA provides federal assistance to states to address the physical and mental health and well-being of students, prevent violence, harassment and other destructive behaviors, and promote safe and supportive schools.

NASSP has been active in supporting all educators to address school climate and create safe and supportive school environments for all children. In April, NASSP along with other organizations released A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which offers recommendations for improved school safety and access to mental health services for students.

NASSP and its partner organizations agree that efforts to improve school climate, safety, and student learning are not separate endeavors and must be designed, funded, and implemented as a comprehensive school-wide approach. We also caution against an emphasis on overly restrictive security measures, such as armed guards and metal detectors, which can undermine school climate and student learning.

Summary of Senate Republicans’ ESEA Proposal

Since bipartisan negotiations on legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) failed last month, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other committee Republicans introduced their own proposal to improve current law. In a stark contrast to the Democratic proposal released on June 4 at a whopping 1,100+ pages, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act streamlines most federal education programs to a mere 211 pages.

In general, the purpose of the bill is to reduce the federal footprint in education policy and “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals, Governors, and local communities so that they can improve their local public schools.” To do so, the legislation would prohibit the US Department of Education from issuing regulations to prescribe standards or measures that states and districts would use to establish state standards, assessments, accountability systems, systems that measure student growth, measures of other academic indicators, or teacher or principal evaluation systems.

In order to receive Title I funding, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted “challenging” academic content standards and student academic achievement standards in math, reading or language arts, and science, and implemented “high-quality” yearly student academic assessments that will be used as the primary means of determining the performance of schools. The assessments should involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding. In a move away from the Democratic proposal, the bill would continue to allow states to assess students with disabilities based on modified academic achievement standards.

States must also assure that they have developed and are implementing 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.” The system should annually identify and differentiate all public schools in the state, taking into consideration achievement gaps between student subgroups, overall performance of all students, and high school graduation rates.

The system should also identify schools that are in need of strategies for improving student academic achievement and provide assistance to districts to develop and implement appropriate strategies for improving identified schools. Districts would be required to develop assistance strategies, which may include:

  • Replacing the principal who led the school before implementation of the strategy;
  • Screening and replacing teachers who are not effective in improving student achievement;
  • Giving the school sufficient operational flexibility in programming, staffing, budgeting, and scheduling;
  • Providing ongoing, high-quality professional development to instructional staff;
  • Creating incentives for recruiting and retaining staff with the skills that are necessary to meet the needs of the students in the school;
  • Implementing a research-based instructional program aligned with the state’s challenging academic standards;
  • Converting the school to a charter school;
  • Closing the school and enrolling the students in other schools that are higher performing;
  • Adopting a new governance structure for the school; or
  • Developing other strategies that the district deems appropriate to address the needs of students in identified schools.

Just over $3 billion would be authorized for Title II, and the allowable state activities look very similar to current law with regard to school leaders: reforming principal certification and licensure so that principals have the instructional leadership skills to help students meet challenging state standards, developing and improving evaluation systems that “shall be based in significant part on evidence of student growth,” establishing alternative routes to the principalship, developing new principal induction and mentoring programs, implementing high-quality professional development programs for principals, and supporting efforts to train principals to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction. In order to receive a subgrant from states, districts must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to determine the schools with the most acute staffing needs.

Similar to the bill passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in 2012, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act aims to provide states and districts with maximum flexibility in using federal funds. Essentially, all programs not included in Titles I or II would be consolidated into two block grants, and funding would be allocated to districts based on the results of a comprehensive needs assessment. Unfortunately, this would include a number of programs NASSP members deem essential in their schools, including School Leadership, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, education technology, school counseling, and mental health and bullying prevention programs.

The legislation 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, serving the neediest students, could be hurt disproportionately.

Senate HELP Committee Markup

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee spent two days debating a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Strengthen America Schools Act (S. 1094), which would overhaul what is currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), ultimately passed on June 12 by a party-line vote of 12-10. All Democrats on the committee approved the bill and all Republicans opposed it.

“What I think we all recognize is that it is time to update the law to ensure that every child in this nation receives a great education,” said Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) during his opening remarks. “This is a matter of basic fairness, and is critical to America’s economic strength in the competitive global marketplace.”

Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered the text of the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act (S. 1101) as a substitute amendment, but it failed on a party-line vote after nearly 90 minutes of debate about the appropriate federal role in education. To demonstrate their opinion that the Democratic proposal would diminish the responsibility of states and districts, Republican members often referred to the bill as “NCLB on steroids,” and stated their opposition to the creation of a “national school board.” Sen. Alexander argued that his proposal “places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be–on states and communities, and it does that by giving teachers and parents more freedom, flexibility, and choice.”

When the substitute amendment was defeated, Republican members offered certain provisions of S. 1101 as amendments. They included proposals to remove all new programs in the bill, reduce the requirements on statewide accountability systems, remove the “highly qualified teacher” requirement under NCLB and mandatory teacher and principal evaluation requirements, roll back the Common Core State Standards, lift the cap on alternate and modified assessments for students with disabilities, remove the comparability requirement for Title I funding, allow parents to use public funds to send their children to private schools, and eliminate the Race to the Top program among others. None of the Republican amendments were approved during the markup except for one offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to support the Alaska Native Educational Equity program.

A number of Democratic amendments were approved during the markup, including these supported by NASSP

  • an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to create a new report-only subgroup for students from military families
  • an amendment by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) to require extended learning time as part of the Turnaround and Transformation school improvement strategies;
  • an amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to encourage dual enrollment and early college high school programs in ESEA; and

NASSP was disappointed that the committee rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) that would have created an Office of Rural Education at the US Department of Education. We have long supported a bill (S. 1096) by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) with the same purpose.

Chairman Harkin says that he has received approval from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring the bill to the Senate floor when there is time on the calendar, but it remains unclear where the bill will go from there.

Summary of House ESEA Bill

Not even a full week after the Senate HELP Committee held a 2-day session to consider the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to debate its own version of the bill on June 19. It’s deja vu on Capitol Hill because bipartisan negotiations have failed and the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) that was introduced by Chairman John Kline (R-MN) is expected to garner only Republican support…which is exactly what happened when the committee considered a very similar bill in 2012.

“Adequate yearly progress” would be ended under the Student Success Act, and instead states would be required to develop and implement a single, statewide accountability system to ensure that all public school students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation. One major change from the 2012 proposal is that the bill will reinstate the requirement that states adopt new statewide standards and assessments in science.

The system should annually evaluate and identify the academic performance of each public school in the state based on student academic achievement taking into consideration achievement gaps between subgroups and overall performance of students. It must also include a system for school improvement for low-performing schools that implements interventions designed to address schools’ weaknesses and is implemented by the district. The bill also prohibits the US Department of Education from establishing any criteria that specifies, defines or prescribes any aspect of a state’s accountability system.

H.R. 5 would also eliminate the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program and instead allow states to implement their own turnaround strategies. While we’re pleased that this would remove the four school turnaround models that require the principal’s replacement as a condition for receiving federal funding, NASSP is concerned that this would eliminate the only dedicated funding stream for low-performing middle and high schools.

NASSP was disappointed to see that the bill would authorize funding for Title I at $16.6 billion for FY 2014-2019, which is the same amount appropriated by Congress for FY 2012. As the committee’s own fact sheet notes, this amount is “lower than just the Title I authorization for the last year it was authorized” under No Child Left Behind in 2001. This is obviously unacceptable for the many schools serving low-income students that are eligible for Title I funds, including the middle and high schools that never receive such funding because of the high need in their feeder elementary schools.

NASSP is concerned that the bill broadens the definition of “school leader” to include superintendents and other district officials. We firmly believe that the term should be defined to mean only a principal, assistant principal or other individual who is an employee or officer of a school.

States receiving Title II funds under the bill would be required to implement a teacher evaluation system that uses student achievement data derived from a variety of sources as a significant factor in determining a teacher’s evaluation. The evaluation system should use multiple measures of evaluation, have more than two categories for rating the performance of teachers, and be used to make personnel decisions. NASSP supports the requirement that states provide training to school leaders in the evaluation systems. School districts could also use Title II funding to develop and implement a school leader evaluation system and to provide professional development for teachers and school leaders that is evidence-based, job-embedded, and continuous.

The Student Success Act also includes a provision from the 2012 “kill bill” that would eliminate 42 education programs—many of which are strongly supported by NASSP and our members. They include School Leadership, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, the Enhancing Education through Technology program, Dropout Prevention, and others.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Markup

If they keep records for the fastest hearing, I think Wednesday’s House Committee on Education and the Workforce markup on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, wins first prize! The Committee held a morning session from 9:00am until 10:45am where they discussed the competing proposals from Chairman Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Miller (D-CA). The Committee reconvened after the unveiling of the Fredrick Douglass statue in the Capitol at 12:15pm and finished at 1:15pm with three votes.

The Student Success Act was reported favorably out of the Committee on a party line vote, with all Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposed. The hearing did not produce any spirited debate as everyone in the room knew what the outcome would be. The only amendments offered where Ranking Member Miller’s substitute, Rep. Joe Heck’s (R-NV) amendment that would allow local school districts to expand dual enrollment and early college programs using Title I, II and III dollars to do so, and Rep. Glenn Thompson’s (R-PA) amendment to alter the Title I formula which shortchanges some districts.

Both Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Miller both expressed their desire to work with Rep. Thompson on this issue, and he respectfully withdrew his amendment. Rep. Heck’s amendment was approved on a voice vote and Rep. Miller’s substitute was voted down on a party line vote.

NASSP, along with NAESP, responded to both Chairman Kline’s Student Success Act and Rep. Miller’s substitute amendment in letters to each member.

ESEA Flexibility Waivers

Currently, thirty-nine states plus D.C. have been approved for waivers, and six states’ requests are still outstanding: Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming. And while California was denied its request for a waiver, 10 California school districts have applied for a customized waiver. Four states have yet to apply: Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Vermont.

 

FY 2014 Budget & Appropriations

FY 2014 Budget

On April 10, President Obama released his FY14 budget proposal, which seeks an increase of $3.1 billion over last year’s pre-sequester enacted level. In K-12 education, the president proposed increased funding for school leadership and competitive grant programs.

Signaling a renewed focus on the principalship, the president requested $98 million for the School Leadership program—a dramatic increase over previous levels. As Secretary Duncan stated in his testimony to the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, “This proposal would promote evidence-based professional development for current school leaders aimed at strengthening essential leadership skills—such as evaluating and providing feedback to teachers, analyzing student data, developing school leadership teams, and creating a positive school climate.”

Outside of that increase, nearly all of the president’s newly proposed K–12 education funding is for competitive grant programs, including the proposed High School Redesign program. The president requested $300 million to promote the whole school redesign of the high school experience to provide students with challenging and relevant academic and career-related learning to prepare them for postsecondary education and careers. Under the proposed program, special consideration would be given to partnerships located in areas with limited access to quality career and college opportunities such as high-poverty or rural LEAs. As NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti said in a statement on the budget proposal, “We welcome the president to the conversation about high school redesign, and we commit to helping the administration make the most of its proposed investment.”

At the same time, NASSP remains concerned that funds are being directed toward competitive grant programs at the expense of foundational formula-funded programs. The president requested that funding for Title I and IDEA—two core formula funded programs—be frozen at FY12 levels. The NASSP Board of Directors recently noted in a position statement that, “Federal funding should help achieve equity, not exacerbate inequity. For this reason, competitive grants that by nature award only some, not all, eligible entities, should be authorized and implemented only when Congress identifies an opportunity to help achieve equity through the form of a competitive grant.”

The president’s budget also included a reduction in Impact Aid from FY12 levels and the consolidation of several important programs. Striving Readers and the High School Graduation Initiative are proposed to be consolidated into broader programming entities. Unfortunately, consolidating programs, including some with different goals, will pit them against each other in competition for funding.

Typically, the president’s budget provides the framework for the congressional budget process, but since both houses have already produced their budget resolutions, it will be interesting to see how the president’s proposal influences the appropriations process.

NASSP staff and representatives from the Alliance for Excellent Education met with congressional staff in April to discuss the Obama administration’s proposal for high school redesign. Offices being visited this quarter include: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). In May, NASSP staff met with staff for the House Budget Committee to discuss “backpack funding.”

FY 2014 Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill for FY 2014 on July 11. No date has yet been scheduled for the House Appropriations Committee, but rumors are already flying on Capitol Hill that Congress will not be able to complete all 12 appropriations bills before the new fiscal year starts on October 1, 2013. Insiders are speculating that Congress will instead pass a year-long continuing resolution funding most education programs at their current FY 2013 levels.

NASSP staff and members of the Committee for Education Funding met with staff for Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) in June to discuss funding and federal investments in education.

 

Common Core State Standards

In May, NASSP joined with NAESP, AASA: the School Superintendents’ Association, and the National School Boards Association to urge “adequate time” for CCSS implementation before scores from the assessments are used for accountability purposes. Specifically, our organizations call for a delay in invoking penalties and sanctions related to test scores on schools, principals, and teachers until we have had at least two years of experience with the assessments.

http://www.nassp.org/tabid/3788/default.aspx?topic=School_Leadership_Groups_Urge_quot_Adequate_Time_quot_to_Implement_Common_Core_Standards

Less than a month after issuing our statement, the US Department of Education announced that states could request additional flexibility under ESEA to delay any personnel consequences for teachers and principals tied to the new Common Core assessments for up to one year, until 2016-17.

http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/06/new-flexibility-for-states-implementing-fast-moving-reforms-laying-out-our-thinking/

 

School Safety

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.

National Conference on Mental Health

On June 3, NASSP staff participated in the National Conference on Mental Health that was hosted by the White House. The White House hosted a National Conference on Mental Health today to raise awareness about mental health issues. Attendees included representatives from education and mental health organizations, members of Congress and Cabinet members, and celebrities such as actress Glenn Close and actor Bradley Cooper.

A press statement issued by the White House said that the conference was designed to increase understanding and awareness of mental health. As part of this effort, the Administration also launched www.mentalhealth.gova new website with tools to help with the basics of mental health, the signs of mental illness, how to talk about mental health, and how to get help. The website also includes a series of videos featuring celebrities and ordinary Americans whose lives have been touched by mental illness.

In his opening remarks, President Barack Obama talked about the stigma related to mental illness, but he urged that people need to talk about mental health and get treatment in the same manner as if they were suffering from heart disease or other health conditions. The President shared the commitments of various organizations partnering on this issue and announced that secondary school principals would be holding assemblies to raise mental health awareness later this year. NASSP had urged its members to host such an event before the end of 2013, and middle and high school leaders can still express their commitment at www.nassp.org/mentalhealth.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hosted a panel session that highlighted organizations using social media and other tools to promote awareness of mental health. He said that young people must have access to mental health services in order to achieve their academic potential.

In response to a question about how schools can be more involved in promoting mental wellbeing, Duncan cited examples of schools that are serving as hubs of the community. They should be a location where students, educators, and members of the community can go if they need help and to access services. Duncan also said that the administration’s budget proposal would provide additional funding for schools to be able to hire school counselors, psychologists and social workers. He reminded attendees that Congress will need to approve the funding through the FY 2014 appropriations process in a tough budget environment, stating “we have to invest in education in a very different way.”

Vice President Joe Biden closed the conference by reminding attendees that the most vulnerable age for mental illness is between 16 and 25 and these individuals are also often the least likely to seek help. He said that all educators need training on how to recognize mental health problems in students and be able to refer them to appropriate services. His ultimate hope for the conference would be to make it clear to all Americans that there is no distinction between a mental health problem and a fiscal problem.

A Framework on Safe and Successful Schools

NASSP joined with NAESP, American School Counselor Association, National Association of School Psychologists, School Social Work Association of America, National Association of School Resource Officers in April to issue A Framework on Safe and Successful Schools which outlines policy recommendations and best practices to improve school safety and improve access to mental health supports.

 

Education Technology

ConnectEd

Principals are applauding the launch of the Obama administration’s new ConnectEd initiative to increase broadband Internet access to schools across the country over the next five years. Results of a new NASSP survey of nearly 750 middle and high school principals demonstrate that the new initiative aligns with students’ needs for improved connectivity.

Earlier today, the president called on the FCC to “modernize and leverage” its E-rate program to meet the administration’s new goal of connecting 99% of the nation’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and wireless. President Obama also called on the private sector to help support this vision.

Although more than half (63%) of the respondents in the survey said that their schools have “adequate” broadband Internet access, three-quarters (75%) strongly agreed that improved broadband access in their schools would allow students to engage in more powerful learning activities. Six in 10 principals said that their teachers are prepared to maximize the use of expanded broadband in instruction.

Among the principals surveyed, there was a strong divide between those who had adequate access in their schools and those who struggled with overloaded networks and slow connections—or even no Internet at all. Some principals said that slow Internet speeds became especially burdensome during testing, which could quickly prove problematic as the majority of the nation’s schools transition to online testing under the Common Core State Standards.

“Broadband access affects students’ abilities to engage in technology-rich learning activities and acquire essential skills,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “The president’s ConnectEd initiative will help level the playing field so that all students have access to the same Internet speeds. This effort marks a step in the right direction, but we urge President Obama to also increase the annual funding cap for the E-rate program which is currently set at approximately $2.5 billion. E-rate funding would need to be doubled just to meet the current demand.”

NASSP staff participated in a meeting at the Alliance for Excellent Education with senior White House, FCC, and US Department of Education officials in June to discuss the ConnectEd initiative.

 

FCC Proposal to Modernize E-Rate Program Gathers Momentum

(Education Week, July 1, 2013)

The acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission on Friday took initial steps in what is expected to be a broad effort to remake the federal E-rate program and provide schools with faster online connectivity, putting forward a proposal that mirrors goals outlined by President Obama earlier this month.

Mignon L. Clyburn, who was appointed to the FCC by the president, was expected today to provide the two other current members of the panel with a proposal that calls for not only improving technology infracture, but also making changes to the program’s purchasing and the administrative oversight, according to a senior commission official.

While any changes to the E-rate would have go through a federal rulemaking and public comment process, Clyburn’s initial proposal represents a road map for refashioning the program, the official said.

An overriding goal of Clyburn’s proposal—which was not provided to Education Week in written form—is to increase schools’ and libraries’ access to high-speed Internet access, in keeping with the presidents’ goal of giving 99 percent of the country’s schools access to high-speed broadband and wireless Web access within five years.

Clyburn is also calling for increasing the efficiency of the E-rate and making sure that funds are spent wisely, and improving management of program, which was first established by Congress in 1996 and is funded through telecommunications fees.

Included within Clyburn’s proposal are changes meant to simplify the rules on the development of fiber optic cable lines and the establishment of high-speed wireless connections within districts, including within classrooms, the FCC official said. Her proposal also calls for new options to create incentives for consortia of schools to make purchases within the E-rate program. In addition, it seeks to spark greater competition among bidders to provide E-rate services to schools and libraries.

In an op-ed published Friday in USA Today, Clyburn also called for eliminating government support for outdated services and using E-rate dollars to invest in improving bandwidth. She also suggested that federal officials must partner with nonprofit and private sector providers to improve schools’ tech capacity.

“[W]e need to use this opportunity to bring to the table state and local officials, foundations, network operators, and innovators building the next generation of learning tools and content,” she wrote. “We must leverage the ongoing massive private investments in networks and ensure that investments in connectivity are the foundation for real, positive change in classrooms.”

The chairwoman’s intention is to allow the two other commissioners, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai, to review her proposal and make changes to it over the next three weeks. The commission would then vote on the proposal at its meeting on July 19.

After that, the FCC would propose rules and begin a process for collecting public comments, a period that can last a few months. After that, the FCC would publish final rules on changes to the E-rate, the commission official said.

Pai declined to comment on the request, through his office. Rosenworcel has not yet responded to a request for comment. But the Democrat has repeatedly called for making major changes to the E-rate, including boosting schools’ technological capabilities, most recently doing so this week in a speech at the International Society for Technology in Education’s national conference in San Antonio.

NASSP on Capitol Hill

 

NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year Program

The state and national assistant principals of the year conducted over 125 meetings with their members of Congress on Thursday, April 11. They shared their perspectives on school leadership and their experiences as educators and instructional leaders. In addition, the national winner and finalists participated in a roundtable discussion with the education policy advisors from Rep. Kline and Rep. Miller’s offices on the role of assistant principals, college and career ready/Common Core standards, teacher and principal evaluation and technology.

 

MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools

On May 2, the MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School principals conducted over 50 Hill meetings with education aides in the House and Senate to discuss pertinent education issues. The same day, NASSP and the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) hosted a Hill briefing on Transitioning to College & Career Ready Standards:  The Role of School Leaders.  Three of the 2013 winners, Mitchell Curry (Scott Morgan Johnson Middle School, TX), Robbie Hooker (Clarke Central High School, GA) and Daniel Wiebers (Trenton R-IX High School, MO) participated in the panel discussion with Governor Bob Wise, President of AEE, and House and Senate Education Committee staff.

 

NASSP State Coordinators and Presidents-Elect

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:

  • School Principal Recruitment and Training Act
  • Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act
  • Transforming Education Through Technology Act
  • Success in the Middle Act
  • Graduation Promise Act

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.

 

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 (S. 840/H.R. 1736). Although the bill was not reintroduced during the 112th Congress, we were thrilled that the legislation was reintroduced in April. 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 the 80+ members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality to include the bill as one of their top legislative priorities this year.

The School Principal Recruitment and Training Act currently has 5 House cosponsors and 1 Senate cosponsor.

 

LEARN Act

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758) in April, and we expect Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) to reintroduce the bill sometime this summer.

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. 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.

The LEARN Act has 4 Senate cosponsors.

In May, Advocates for Literacy (including NASSP) hosted a congressional briefing to discuss the link between science and literacy, the preconditions necessary for successful STEM education and the LEARN Act. Panelists included Dr. Brenda Becker, Superintendent of Schools, Hempfield School District, Landisville, PA, Mr. Chris Bird, M.Ed., Physics Teacher, Fairfax High School, Fairfax, VA and Dr. Loren Blanchard, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana. Ms. Sarah Bolton, M.Ed, Senior Budget and Policy Advisor for Sen. Patty Murray (WA) also spoke on the implications for federal policy and the LEARN Act.

NASSP staff and other members of Advocates for Literacy met with staff for House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) in June to ensure that his substitute amendment to the ESEA reauthorization bill included the text of the LEARN Act.

 

Transforming Education Through Technology Act

House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Transforming Education through Technology Act (H.R. 521) earlier this year, and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced a companion bill (S. 1087) in June. 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. 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 and representatives from other national organizations that support education technology conducted meetings with congressional staff to secure more cosponsors for the Transforming Education Through Technology Act. Offices being visited this quarter included: Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).

The Transforming Education Through Technology Act has 10 House cosponsors and 2 Senate cosponsors.

 

Success in the Middle Act

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have reintroduced the Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 2316/S. 708). 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.

The Success in the Middle Act has 9 House cosponsors and 3 Senate cosponsors.

In June, NASSP and members of the Middle Grades Coalition hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss absenteeism in the middle grades. One of the 2013 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools was highlighted during the discussion.

 

Graduation Promise Act

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) reintroduced the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940) in May, and Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) will reintroduce a companion measure in the House later this summer. 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.

The Graduation Promise Act has no Senate cosponsors.

 

NASSP and the White House

MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Program

In April, the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National High School and Middle Level Principals of the Year were invited to participate in a Rose Garden ceremony with President Obama and the 2013 National and State Teachers of the Year. These outstanding principals were also able to meet briefly with the President in the Oval Office before the event. View photos from the event on NASSP’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/principals.

High School Redesign

In May, NASSP staff participated in a meeting with senior White House and US Department of Education officials to discuss the administration’s proposal on high school redesign and career and technical education.

 

NASSP and the US Department of Education

Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program

The U.S. Department of Education released the application for its inaugural Principal Ambassador Fellowship program in June. For a one-year term (2013-14), Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows will work part-time in collaboration with the department’s regional and DC offices while continuing to serve as principals in their home schools. This position will provide outstanding principals with the opportunity to highlight the voice of the principal within the education community and the country at-large. The idea for the principal fellowship came out of a discussion following an event hosted by NASSP and NAESP, in which Department of Education officials shadowed DC-area principals during National Principals Month.

To be eligible, candidates must:

  • Serve as a preK-12 principal during the 2013-14 school year in a US school, including traditional public, charter, virtual, military, tribal and/or private schools
  • Have a minimum of  three (3) years of successful experience as a principal (if the 2012-13 school-year is a principal’s third year as principal, s/he is eligible)
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have the ability to  gain employer support to sign an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreement for participation in the program.

Note: Some schools may use different terminology than “principal.” A candidate is considered eligible despite titling differences provided that s/he is the highest administrative official in the school building.

The deadline to submit an application is July 16, 2013.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2013/06/applications_for_principal_amb.html?qs=principal+ambassador

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 April as part of a series of regular bi-monthly meetings. The meeting focused on the administration’s early childhood education proposals.

JoAnn Bartoletti, Mel Riddile and Amanda Karhuse also met with Deb Delisle and her chief of staff in June to discuss Common Core implementation. The conversation centered on the fact that implementation will not end when the assessments roll out in 2014-2015.  There was agreement that there needs to be continued professional development and training for school leaders and teachers for successful implementation.  There will be follow-up meetings with NASSP and Department of Education staff surrounding these issues.

 

Other Issues

NASSP staff participated in a panel discussion at the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnership (NACEP) Policy Seminar in May to discuss dual enrollment and high school and college partnerships.

NASSP Board Position Statements

At the May meeting, the NASSP Board of Directors adopted two new position statements.

Federal Funding for Formula and Competitive Grants

Parent Trigger Laws

 

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 ballj@nassp.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: John Osgood (NE), Sheila Kahrs (GA), and Dan Richards (MA). We also welcome back Danny Brackett who has returned to the State Coordinator role in Arkansas.

The NASSP State Coordinators held their quarterly conference calls on May 14 and May 15. The conversations focused on their advocacy during the past quarter and what methods they felt were most effected in communicating with their members of Congress and their staff. NASSP staff will follow up with a calendar of activities for the rest of the fiscal year later this month.

 

NASSP Advocacy in the States

In April, NASSP Director of Government Relations Amanda Karhuse conducted two breakout sessions on federal education policy and the power of grassroots advocacy at the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals’ conference in Bozeman, Montana.

Since bipartisan negotiations on legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) failed last month, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other committee Republicans today introduced their own proposal to improve current law. In a stark contrast to the Democratic proposal released on June 4 at a whopping 1,100+ pages, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act streamlines most federal education programs to a mere 211 pages.

In general, the purpose of the bill is to reduce the federal footprint in education policy and “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals, Governors, and local communities so that they can improve their local public schools.” To do so, the legislation would prohibit the US Department of Education from issuing regulations to prescribe standards or measures that states and districts would use to establish state standards, assessments, accountability systems, systems that measure student growth, measures of other academic indicators, or teacher or principal evaluation systems.

In order to receive Title I funding, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted “challenging” academic content standards and student academic achievement standards in math, reading or language arts, and science, and implemented “high-quality” yearly student academic assessments that will be used as the primary means of determining the performance of schools. The assessments should involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding. In a move away from the Democratic proposal, the bill would continue to allow states to assess students with disabilities based on modified academic achievement standards.

States must also assure that they have developed and are implementing 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.” The system should annually identify and differentiate all public schools in the state, taking into consideration achievement gaps between student subgroups, overall performance of all students, and high school graduation rates.

The system should also identify schools that are in need of strategies for improving student academic achievement and provide assistance to districts to develop and implement appropriate strategies for improving identified schools. Districts would be required to develop assistance strategies, which may include:

  • Replacing the principal who led the school before implementation of the strategy;
  • Screening and replacing teachers who are not effective in improving student achievement;
  • Giving the school sufficient operational flexibility in programming, staffing, budgeting, and scheduling;
  • Providing ongoing, high-quality professional development to instructional staff;
  • Creating incentives for recruiting and retaining staff with the skills that are necessary to meet the needs of the students in the school;
  • Implementing a research-based instructional program aligned with the state’s challenging academic standards;
  • Converting the school to a charter school;
  • Closing the school and enrolling the students in other schools that are higher performing;
  • Adopting a new governance structure for the school; or
  • Developing other strategies that the district deems appropriate to address the needs of students in identified schools.

Just over $3 billion would be authorized for Title II, and the allowable state activities look very similar to current law with regard to school leaders: reforming principal certification and licensure so that principals have the instructional leadership skills to help students meet challenging state standards, developing and improving evaluation systems that “shall be based in significant part on evidence of student growth,” establishing alternative routes to the principalship, developing new principal induction and mentoring programs, implementing high-quality professional development programs for principals, and supporting efforts to train principals to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction. In order to receive a subgrant from states, districts must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to determine the schools with the most acute staffing needs.

Similar to the bill passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in 2012, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act aims to provide states and districts with maximum flexibility in using federal funds. Essentially, all programs not included in Titles I or II would be consolidated into two block grants, and funding would be allocated to districts based on the results of a comprehensive needs assessment. Unfortunately, this would include a number of programs NASSP members deem essential in their schools, including School Leadership, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, education technology, school counseling, and mental health and bullying prevention programs.

The legislation 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, serving the neediest students, could be hurt disproportionately.

Sen. Alexander is expected to introduce his bill as a substitute amendment during the June 11 markup, and the amendment will likely fail on a party-line vote. Check back next weeks for more updates on ESEA reauthorization, and for up-to-minute news, follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter!

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.”

ESEA Waivers

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

Sequestration

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.

 

School Safety

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.

Legislation

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.

 

LEARN Act

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 kreutzp@nassp.org.

Federal Funding for Formula and Competitive Grants

Parent Trigger Laws

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 ballj@nassp.org. For an overview of what membership in the Network involves, please go here.

 

NASSP State Coordinators

NASSP welcomes several new coordinators to their roles: Tracey Lamb (KY), John Rogers (WV), Dave Powers (MI), and Dennis Barger (AZ).

The NASSP State Coordinators held their quarterly conference calls on February 13. The top issues were ranked in this order: state education funding, teacher evaluation (tied for #2), Common Core State Standards (tied for #2), school safety, federal education funding/sequestration, principal evaluation, and ESEA flexibility waivers.

The next quarterly conference calls will take place on (5/14) at 10 AM ET and (5/15) at 3:30 PM ET.

In 1997, Bill Bond was the principal of Heath High School in Paducah, KY when one of his students brought 5 guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition into the school and shot eight students, killing three girls. That experience prompted him to reach out to other schools that were going through the same situation, and for the past 12 years he has served as the NASSP specialist for school safety.

Last week, Bond was invited to appear before the House Education and the Workforce 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.

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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. The initiatives mirror many of the recommendations that NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals submitted to Vice President Biden and the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force earlier this month.

“No one internalizes more than principals what President Obama called our first task as a society: To keep our children safe,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Within schools, that safety relies not on guns, but on trusting relationships and a feeling of belonging.”

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.

Many of the President’s initiatives require approval by Congress, including federal funding that will be allocated during the annual appropriations process. Leaders of the House and Senate education committees have already announced their intention to hold hearings on the administration’s proposal, and NASSP will be sure to keep you advised of future developments on these issues.

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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.

NASSP will continue to monitor these and other federal proposals aimed at gun violence prevention, bullying and harassment, and other school safety issues.

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More than $32.8 million in grants have been awarded to 18 states and the District of Columbia as part of a joint effort by the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice to support schools in creating safer and healthier learning environments.

The highly competitive Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative attracted 422 grant applications nationally. Under the initiative, school districts, in partnership with local public mental-health agencies, law-enforcement and juvenile justice entities, must implement a comprehensive, community-wide plan that focuses on the following elements:

  • Safe school environments and violence prevention activities
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention activities
  • Student behavioral, social and emotional supports
  • Mental-health services
  • Early childhood social and emotional learning programs.

“Every child in America deserves a safe and healthy school environment, and it’s our job as educators, parents and community members to ensure that happens,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “The Safe Schools/Healthy Students grants will provide students with access to services and programs that promote healthy development, personally and academically.”

“The prevention of youth violence and substance abuse is a principal objective of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative and is crucial to our efforts to reduce juvenile delinquency,” said Laurie Robinson, acting assistant attorney general, Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice. “The initiative is well equipped to advance the prevention of delinquency, and the grants announced today represent a significant step forward towards that end.”

“In community after community, this initiative has been the catalyst for bringing schools and youth-serving organizations together to build and expand evidence-based programs to prevent violence, promote mental health and boost young people’s academic achievement.”said Eric Broderick, acting administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which manages the program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.“The dividends for children, families and communities at large have been unprecedented: lower rates of school violence, more mental-health services for more children, better attendance and improved academic performance.”

The Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative draws on the best practices of education, juvenile justice, law enforcement and mental-health systems to provide integrated resources for prevention and early intervention services for children and youth.

Since 1999, the Education, Justice and Health and Human Services departments have administered the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, which has provided more than $2.1 billion to local educational, mental health, law enforcement and juvenile justice partnerships.

A complete list of grantees and their abstracts can be found at www.ed.gov/programs/dvpsafeschools/awards.html or see below. For more information on the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, visit www.ed.gov/programs/dvpsafeschools/index.html or www.sshs.samhsa.gov.

2009 Safe Schools/Healthy Students grantees are listed below:

California
Corning Union High School District
Corning, CA
$727,471

El Rancho Unified School District
Pico Rivera, CA
$1,457,841

Escondido Union School District
Escondido, CA
$1,444,942

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools
Nevada City, CA
$1,406,136

Willits Unified School District
Willitis, CA
$731,992

Yolo County Office of Education
Woodland, CA
$714,319

District of Columbia
Washington Latin Public Charter School
Washington, DC
$721,102

Florida
Madison County School District
Madison, FL
$729,347

Georgia
Rockdale County Public Schools
Conyers, GA
$1,145,240

Indiana
Perry Central Community School Corporation
Leopold, IN
$729,132

Illinois
Alton Community Unit School District #11
Alton, IL
$879,211

Wabash Community Unit School District #348
Mt. Carmel, IL
$705,734

Iowa
Marshalltown Community School District
Marshalltown, IA
$1,390,660

Kentucky
Ashland Independent School District
Ashland, KY
$729,972

Louisiana
Recovery School District – LDE
New Orleans, LA
$1,434,068

Massachusetts
Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District
Wilbraham, MA
$731,899

Mississippi
Vicksburg Warren School District
Vicksburg, MS
$1,463,456

Montana
Helena School District One
Helena, MT
$1,364,186

New Jersey
Trenton Public Schools
Trenton, NJ
$1,454,223

New York
Broome-Delaware-Tioga Board of Cooperative Services (BOCES)
Binghamton, NY
$1,402,892

Oneida-Herkimer-Madison Board of Cooperative Services (BOCES)
New Hartford, NY
$1,462,996

Sodus Central School District
Sodus, NY
$731,992

Union Springs Central School District
Union Springs, NY
$1,435,968

North Carolina
Burke County Public Schools
Morganton, NC
$1,452,040

Ohio
Wood County Educational Services Center
Bowling Green, OH
$1,364,627

South Carolina
Kershaw County School District
Camden, SC
$1,431,287

Saluda County School District
Saluda, SC
$711,500

Texas
Mission Consolidated Independent School District
Mission, TX
$1,457,901

Virginia
Albemarle County Public Schools
Charlottesville, VA
$1,456,378

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