Months after their bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was pulled from the floor due to a lack of votes, the House squeaked through final passage of the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) in a 218-213 vote on July 8. If enacted, the bill would replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act as the law governing elementary, middle, and high schools.
“For too long, Washington’s priorities have outweighed what parents, teachers, and local leaders know is best for their children,” said House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) in a press release about the bill’s passage. “Today, we took an important step in a bold, new direction. After years of working with education stakeholders and members of Congress, I’m pleased the House has advanced responsible reforms that would give the American people what they deserve: a commonsense law that will help every child in every school receive an excellent education.”
Before the final vote, the House considered a series of amendments, including one offered by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) to add the A Plus Act to the bill. NASSP strongly opposed this proposal, which would have consolidated a number of federal programs into a block grant and allowed states to direct the funding to any purpose under state law. Fortunately, the amendment was defeated in a 195-235 vote.
The House approved the following amendments before final passage:
- An amendment by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to allow parents to opt their students out of the testing requirements under the bill and exempt schools from including those students in their 95 percent participation requirement (approved 251-178)
- An amendment by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) to have the bill’s authorization expire in FY 2019 instead of FY 2021 (approved by voice vote)
- An amendment by Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA) to authorize a competitive grant for the implementation and evaluation of technology-based learning practices, strategies, tools, or programs in rural schools (approved 218-213)
- An amendment by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to allow states to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards Initiative (approved 373-57)
- An amendment by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) to express the sense of Congress that students’ personally identifiable information is important to protect (approved 424-2)
House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) offered a substitute amendment that would have totally replaced the text of H.R. 5 with his own proposal, but that amendment failed on a 187-244 vote. Democrats also offered a motion to recommit, which is a parliamentary maneuver to allow those opposed to the bill to further voice their concerns. That motion also was defeated by a vote of 185-244.
NASSP, in collaboration with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), had formally opposed H.R. 5 when the bill was first considered in February. While we are pleased that the bill would eliminate adequate yearly progress and the 100 proficiency requirements in NCLB, remove the unworkable school turnaround models in the School Improvement Grants program, and cap the amount of Title II funds that may be used for class size reduction, we feel that the bad outweighs the good. In our letter to Chairman Kline, we expressed concern about the authorization levels in the bill for Title I; a proposal to make Title I portable; the lack of mandatory funding for professional development; and no additional resources for middle and high schools, literacy, or education technology.
All eyes now turn to the Senate, which began debate on its ESEA reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), on July 7. The bill had been introduced as a bipartisan bill after a unanimous vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on April 23.
Over the past three days, the Senate has considered a number of amendments with many more expected to be filed before final passage, which is expected early next week. In a big win for public schools, the Senate rejected, 45-52, an amendment offered by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would have authorized a $24 billion private school voucher program by eliminating numerous programs authorized under ESEA. The Senate also rejected the A Plus amendment offered by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) by a vote of 44-54.
After two days of debate and consideration of nearly 90 amendments, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in a historic, 22-0, vote on April 16. The Every Child Achieves Act was the end result of weeks of bipartisan negotiations between Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and their leadership was evident throughout the cordial committee debate.
NASSP was pleased that the first amendment approved by committee would authorize a competitive grant for states and districts to audit their assessment systems, including the number of tests and the time spent on test-taking, in order to reduce redundant or unnecessary state and district assessments. The amendment was based on the SMART Act (S. 907) and introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who also sponsored the bill.
Another amendment strongly supported by NASSP would authorize the Innovative Technology Expands Children’s Horizons (I-TECH) program to provide technology-specific professional development for teachers to compliment the acquisition of infrastructure and hardware in the classroom. Districts would be required to spend 50% of the grant funds on professional development related to digital learning. The amendment was based on the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act and introduced by Sen. Baldwin who also sponsored the bill.
Other amendments supported by NASSP that passed would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program and require state, local and school report cards to include information on the number of students attaining career and technical education proficiencies.
NASSP also supported a number of amendments that were offered, but then withdrawn, pertaining to middle schools, high school redesign, the definition of profession-ready teachers and principals, and nondiscrimination of LGBT students. Our hope is that the sponsors of those amendments will be able to find Republican cosponsors and then offer them again on the Senate floor.
Controversial amendments, such as those pertaining to Title I portability and private school vouchers, were also withdrawn, but Senators Alexander and Tim Scott (R-SC) both indicated that they would introduce them on the Senate floor.
Alexander announced his hope that the full Senate would consider the Every Child Achieves Act before Memorial Day. The floor debate is expected to be much more contentious since there will be an open amendment process that allows Senators to offer any amendment related to K-12 education, which could cause some Democrats to oppose the bill in the end.
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) yesterday introduced the Better Educator Support and Training (BEST) Act that amends Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to elevate the teaching and principal professions, support educators, improve student achievement, and ensure equity in the nation’s schools. The BEST Act would accomplish this by increasing the capacity of states and local educational agencies to develop and sustain a coherent, comprehensive, and aligned professional continuum for teachers, principals, and other educators that leads to accomplished practice, leadership opportunities, and increased student learning.
““I’m proud to introduce the Better Educator Support and Training (BEST) Act to ensure that our teachers and principals receive the support they deserve to give our children the best education possible,” said Senator Casey. “By providing greater support and training for educators, we can keep the best teachers in the classroom and better prepare our students for the college or career of their choice.”
The legislation aims to increase the capacity of local educational agencies, schools, teachers, principals, and other educators to increase the academic achievement of the most disadvantaged students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, low-income, and minority students. The act would require each State Education Agency (SEA) to conduct an analysis of district-by-district gaps for disadvantaged students and their access to profession-ready educators resulting in the implementation of a comprehensive strategy to improve educator development and support.
Of interest to NASSP members is language in the bill that requires SEAs to use not less than 2 percent and not more than 5 percent of its total allotment of federal funds to improve the effectiveness of principals and other school leaders in high need schools through comprehensive, job-embedded professional development opportunities as part of their implementation plans. In addition, an SEA must use funds to strengthen teacher and principal certification (including recertification) or licensing requirements to ensure that all new teachers, principals, and other educators are profession-ready prior to becoming the educator of record
Over the course of the past several months, NASSP advocacy staff worked closely with staff from Sen. Casey’s and Reed’s offices to ensure that the final bill language reflected the skills, knowledge, and attributes linked to effective leadership at the school building level. While the BEST Act will not be voted on separately in the Senate, it provides a strong foundation for a possible amendment to be offered during the upcoming debate on ESEA reauthorization to improve Title II of ESEA, ultimately helping to ensure that local education agencies have the resources to improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers and principals serving their most disadvantaged students.
As the ESEA debate continues, NASSP will strongly advocate improving policies that have inadvertently overlooked principal professional development. Currently, only about 4 percent of federal funds are specifically spent on principal activities. The research clearly demonstrates that in order to improve student achievement and ensure equity in our schools, effective school leadership is second only to direct classroom instruction and teachers and principals must be supported in a comprehensive continuum of services.
In an effort to help high schools that enroll traditionally underserved students in the development and implementation of comprehensive, evidence-based reform, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has introduced the Next Generation (NextGen) High Schools Act. NASSP strongly supports the bill, which mirrors many of the recommendations contained in the Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement.
“A high school diploma is the gateway to success and the ultimate goal of a K–12 education,” said Sen. Baldwin in a press release. “Unfortunately, the promise of a high-quality education is not realized by many of the nation’s youth, especially students of color and those from low-income families. By personalizing education, integrating coursework with career-based learning, and connecting their learning to real-world experiences, the NextGen High Schools Act will ensure our students are well situated to graduate college and career-ready.”
The NextGen High Schools Act would authorize $300 million for a competitive grant program to ensure that low-performing high schools provide students with challenging, engaging, and relevant academic and career-related experiences that will allow them to be college and career ready upon graduation. Districts would be required to implement an early warning indicator system in high schools and their feeder middle schools that identifies struggling students and create a system of evidence-based and linguistically and culturally relevant interventions. Schools would also be required to personalize the learning experience; providing comprehensive, ongoing job-embedded professional development for school leaders and teachers, and strengthening the transition between high school and postsecondary education.
“The NextGen High Schools Act has the same priority as all of our member principals—to increase the number and percentage of students who graduate from high school ready for college and a career,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “The bill’s recommendations for getting there are very much on target: whole school improvement efforts, early identification and intervention for low-performing schools, and specialized supports for schools most in need. We are confident that the provisions of the NextGen High Schools Act will make a positive contribution to personalized, real-world learning for students across the nation.”
NASSP will continue to work with Sen. Baldwin and her staff in the coming weeks to ensure that the NextGen High Schools Act is enacted as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
During consideration of the House bill (H.R. 5) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), an amendment was approved that underscores the vital role school principals play in their schools every day. NASSP worked closely with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) to encourage Reps. Susan Davis (D-CA), Robert Dold (R-IL), and Jared Polis (D-CO) to introduce the amendment and activated our grassroots network to ensure its approval.
As written in the original bill, the definition of “school leader” failed to make clear to state and school districts that a school leader is an individual who runs the operations and instructional programs within a school building. As a result, states and districts could have interpreted this definition to apply to an assistant superintendent of curriculum or instruction, or a subject matter content specialist who oversees instructional practices within an LEA, but is not in a school building on a daily basis. Additionally, if left unchanged, it was possible that district administrators could become eligible for Title II professional development funds currently aimed at improving the quality of our nation’s school principals. And those Title II funds are already stretched too thin.
NASSP was also very pleased that the House approved an amendment offered by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) that would encourage states to conduct assessment audits. We hear from many principals about testing fatigue and concerns about the instructional time lost to testing and test prep activities. This provision will help states get a clear picture of their testing systems, the time spent on test taking and preparation, and how to streamline and improve the quality of assessments for purposes of informing instruction and learning.
Finally, a potential amendment to expand the Title I portability provision to private schools and essentially create a new private school voucher program was ruled out of order and was not considered on the House floor. This was another huge victory for NASSP and our colleagues at the National Coalition for Public Education, which had sent numerous action alerts in opposition to the amendment.
The House considered more than 40 amendments over a two-day period and was expected to pass H.R. 5 on Friday afternoon, February 27. However, concerns from conservative members of the Republican Party and bipartisan politics related to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill and a possible agency shutdown caused the House leadership to delay the final vote until next week. And it still remains unclear whether there will be enough votes to pass the bill this year.
All eyes are now on the Senate where bipartisan negotiations between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) continue. The latest rumor is that they would like to mark up a bill in the Senate HELP Committee the week of March 9 with full Senate consideration later this spring.
NASSP will continue to collaborate with NAESP and AFSA to ensure that the principal is at the table during ESEA negotiations, and all three organizations are urging members of Congress to oppose H.R. 5. Visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center to email your representative, continue to check the Principal’s Policy Blog for updates, and follow me at @akarhuse for live tweets!
We know that the principalship is important, but only in recent years have we been able to quantify just how important. More than a decade of rigorous research by the Wallace Foundation has confirmed that the quality of leadership is second only to the quality of instruction in school-based factors that affect student learning. But do not let that “second” label lead you to believe schools can do without effective leadership. The Wallace Foundation was unable to identify a single instance of a school turning around to become high achieving without a strong, skillful leader. To further quantify the principal’s impact, a research project led by Robert Marzano calculated that a full 25 percent of schoolwide achievement can be attributed to how the principal chooses to dedicate time, what the principal emphasizes, and the culture the principal fosters.
Unfortunately, support for the principal has not grown along with our understanding of the role’s importance. Like most professionals, principals need opportunities to update their knowledge, improve their skills, and connect with colleagues in professional learning networks. These activities take time. And money. Such activities are perfectly appropriate uses for the $2.5 billion allocated under Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). But the funds are not used that way. The federal government has expanded the list of “allowable uses” so broadly that principal professional development does not even register on the radar. Schools are forced to compete for those funds with other important priorities like class-size reduction, teacher recruitment, teacher development, and others. As a result, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education, of the 44 percent of funds used for professional development, a meager 4 percent was dedicated to principal development.
That low level of funding would matter far less if we were not in the midst of a crisis in the principalship. As high stakes accountability and pressures mount, it is becoming more difficult to find well-prepared professionals who are willing to occupy the principal’s chair. And when we find them, it is even more difficult to keep them. It takes five to seven years for a principal to lead a culture change that will really last in a school. Yet, only 27 percent of principals felt supported enough to remain in place for year five. That means most high school principals are not in place to see their freshman class graduate. More importantly, only one in four schools has an opportunity to see a change initiative through to completion. A new leader introduces new priorities and school communities pay the price of the jerky stop-and-start of school improvement plans.
Fortunately, we can now begin to change that condition. While Congress discusses the next version of ESEA, NASSP along with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Federation of School Administrators have proposed that Congress require 10 percent of Title II funds be dedicated to principals’ ongoing development.
To raise awareness of the need for more professional development for principals, we have launched the #PD4Principals campaign. We invite everyone who is concerned about the issue to tweet with the hashtag and a link back to this blog entry (www.nassp.org/title2). To make the tweet more personal, take a picture with one of our campaign posters and tweet the picture to members of Congress:
- “Investing in the principal = investing in student success.”
- “School leaders need support, too.”
- “25% of student achievement results from my leadership.”
- “You can’t have a great school without a great leader.”
We all know how important the principalship is. Let’s work to make sure our principals are the best they can be.
As Congress moves to quickly reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), NASSP Board Member Christine Handy testified January 27 at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on supporting teachers and leaders.
“My experience, the experience of my colleagues, and 10 years of rigorous research by the Wallace Foundation bear out one large reality: School. Leadership. Matters,” said Handy who is the principal of Gaithersburg High School, a large and diverse school in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Maryland. “The nation must invest in the recruitment, preparation, and ongoing support of principals if we want each student in every school to succeed. The reauthorization of ESEA gives Congress the perfect opportunity to provide that support to school leaders.”
Handy urged Congress to provide dedicated funding for professional development for principals. While Title II of ESEA is the primary source of federal funds to improve principal quality, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has found that only 4 percent is actually spent for principal professional development. The reality is that principal professional learning and growth competes with teacher development, class-size reduction, and other priorities once federal funds arrive to the school district.
“I have benefited enormously in my professional life from guidance and development from my district and from our state and national principal organizations,” continued Handy. “But as state budgets tighten, that professional development becomes less and less accessible.” She noted that Congress recently instructed ED to provide guidance to states to support professional development opportunities for principals. In addition, NASSP, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of Teachers have proposed a 10 percent set-aside within Title II for principal professional development.
To read Handy’s full written remarks, visit the NASSP website.
Other witnesses spoke about teacher quality and preparation programs, including the importance of teacher residencies and mentoring. Questions from the senators on the committee covered every aspect of ESEA such as testing, recruitment of effective teachers and leaders, and the appropriate federal role in education.
The Senate HELP Committee is expected to consider a draft bill on ESEA reauthorization in mid-February with the House Education and the Workforce Committee following close behind. Be sure to read the latest information on the Principal’s Policy Blog and follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter.
Fulfilling his promise to make reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) a top priority in the 114th Congress, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a discussion draft to improve the law as his first action as the new chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Similar to the bill he introduced in 2013, the purpose of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act is “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals and other school leaders, States, Governors, and local communities so that that they can improve their local public schools.” To do so, the legislation would prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from prescribing the standards or measures that states use to establish state standards, assessments, accountability systems, systems that measure student academic growth, measures of other academic indicators, teacher and principal evaluation systems, or indicators of teacher and principal effectiveness.
In order to receive Title I funding, which is authorized at $14.9 billion, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted challenging academic content standards and academic achievement standards in math, reading/language arts, science, and any other subjects as determined by the states. States may also adopt alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities provided that the standards align with state subject standards and promote access to the general curriculum.
Because proliferation of testing has become such a hot issue, the discussion draft offers two options for discussion by the HELP Committee. One option is to continue the requirement for annual assessments in math and reading. The other option is to require assessments in math, reading, and science, but states would be given flexibility over their assessment timelines. They could keep the current schedule for assessments (every year in grades 3-8 and once in grades 9-12) or they could implement grade-span testing, which would require only one assessment in grades 3-5, grades 6-9, and grades 10-12. Districts may also seek approval to administer their own assessments with approval from the state.
State plans must include a single, statewide accountability system “to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.” They system should annually measure academic achievement of all public school students, annually identify and differentiate all public schools in the state, taking into consideration achievement gaps between student subgroups, overall performance of student subgroups, 4-year cohort graduation rates, and extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rates.
Districts with schools identified for assistance are required to conduct a review of the school’s data and the policies, procedures, personnel decisions, and budget decisions that impact the school before developing “evidence-based assistance strategies and activities” for the school. Districts must continue to provide students an option to transfer to another public school and musty pay for the transportation costs.
The draft bill would include a new portability provisions that would give districts the flexibility to ensure that Title I funds follow low-income children to whatever public school they attend. In a letter to the Senate HELP Committee leaders, NASSP, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of School Administrators expressed our opposition to any proposal to transform Title I into a private school voucher program. This portability provision is designed to make it easier implement private school vouchers as a next step.
Just over $3 billion would be authorized for Title II, and the allowable state activities look very similar to current law with regard to principals and other school leaders: reforming principal certification and licensure systems to ensure that principals have the instructional leadership skills to help teachers teach and to help students meet challenge academic content standards, developing and improving evaluation systems that “are based in part on evidence of student academic achievement” and may include student academic growth and other measures determined by the state, establishing alternative routes for principal certification, recruiting and retaining principals who are effective in improving student achievement, developing new principal induction and mentoring programs, implementing high-quality professional development programs for principals, developing school leadership academies, supporting efforts to train principals to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction, and improving principal preparation programs.
The allowable local activities include professional development for principals, which is a priority for NASSP, but it’s in the same bucket as school libraries; AP, dual enrollment, and early college high school programs; extended learning time; and liability insurance for teachers. It seems very unlikely that any of the funding would actually be used for principal professional development since only 4% is used for that purpose under current law.
$1.6 billion is authorized for Safe and Healthy Students under Title IV. Districts may use the funding for drug and violence prevention activities, before and after school programs, school-based mental health services, mentoring programs for at risk students, school counseling programs, and positive behavioral interventions and supports among other activities.
The draft bill would also eliminate Maintenance of Effort (MOE), which helps ensure the continuity of state and local funding efforts. Current MOE provisions provide the greatest protection to low-wealth districts that generally educate more low-income students. We’re concerned that if states are allowed to cut funding for education, the most vulnerable districts that serve the neediest students could be hurt disproportionately.
Providing flexibility in the use of federal funds, the draft bill would allow states to transfer 100% of their funds between Title II and Title IV.
Comments on the discussion draft should be e-mailed to the Senate HELP Committee at FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov by February 2. NASSP will submit comments and meet with staff for Sen. Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to ensure that the bill supports principals and the teachers and students they serve. For updates on ESEA hearings and the pending markup in February, follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter.