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!

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Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.00.54 AMWe 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:

We all know how important the principalship is. Let’s work to make sure our principals are the best they can be.

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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.

In order to ensure that more principals and assistant principals have the skills to lead turnaround efforts in their schools, the US Department of Education is seeking applications for a new program to implement or enhance the “leadership pipeline” in low-performing schools. With $14 million in funds appropriated under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program in FY 2013, the new Turnaround School Leaders Program would provide grants to help select, prepare, support, and retain leaders in SIG-receiving or SIG-eligible schools.

According to the announcement, performance monitoring of the SIG program and interviews with external partners indicate that many school districts “do not have the capacity or resources to recruit or develop school leaders able to undertake successful turnaround efforts.” The announcement also notes that state-approved principal certification and licensure programs “are not preparing school leaders with the specialized skills needed to turn around schools identified as low-performing,” and school districts “struggle to identify the right competencies in leader candidates for turnaround schools.”

Under this announcement, ED expects to award 8-12 awards ranging from $1 to $2 million apiece. Eligible applicants include school districts or consortia of school districts serving more than five SIG-eligible schools. These school districts or consortia could also partner with state educational agencies, institutions of higher education, or nonprofit associations.

Applicants must propose a plan to develop and implement a leadership pipeline for at least one school district that serves five or more SIG-eligible schools. Competitive preference would be awarded to those school districts that have: 1) policies in place to provide school leaders with decisionmaking autonomy with regard to staffing, school schedules, and budgeting; or 2) a record of preparing and supporting turnaround school leaders who have demonstrated success in increased graduation rates and academic growth.

Under the programs, grantees would be required to assist school districts to:

  • Recruit and select promising current and prospective school leaders with the competencies necessary to turn around a SIG school or SIG-eligible school;
  • Provide high-quality training to selected school leaders to prepare them to successfully lead turnaround efforts in SIG schools and/or SIG-eligible schools;
  • Place school leaders in SIG schools and/or SIG-eligible schools and provide them with ongoing professional development and other support that focuses on instructional leadership and school management and is based on individual needs consistent with the school district’s plan for turning around its SIG schools and/or SIG-eligible schools; and
  • Retain effective school leaders, using financial or other incentives, and replace ineffective school leaders.

Applicants must provide a notice of intent to apply by April 25, and final applications are due on May 23. For more information about the Turnaround School Leaders Program, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/turnaroundschlldr/index.html.

Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Donald Payne (D-NJ) today introduced the Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act, which NASSP strongly supports. The bill focuses on the importance of improving teacher and principal quality by providing intensive, job-embedded professional development that is useful and relevant to educators’ work.

“Too often, teachers are subjected to one-time workshops that are disconnected from their needs in the classroom.” said Rep. Polis in a press release. “We need to give teachers the time, training and resources to collaborate and take advantage of the data revolution in education. I am proud to have worked with teachers, principals, and other stakeholders to advance a new system of professional learning that will ultimately lead to better outcomes for students.”

“Teachers and principals are the most important school based factors that impact student achievement. Unfortunately, attempts at education reform have lacked meaningful efforts to strengthen professional development,” said Rep. Payne. “The Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act is an important update to current law to ensure that teachers and leaders have the training and support needed to prepare our 21st Century learners. And I am pleased to cosponsor this legislation with the leadership of Congressman Polis.”

The Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act provides a new definition of professional development in the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act that is based on research and best practices that focuses on continuous professional learning. It also encourages professional learning strategies that involve the use of technology, peer networks and time for school leaders and teachers to engage in collaborative team-based learning multiple times per week. Furthermore, the bill advances evidence-based professional learning strategies for principals to provide useful feedback, engage the community and partners and foster professional learning communities.

NASSP was pleased to offer input and comments prior to the bill’s introduction as the legislation was in development. For example, NASSP worked with Rep. Polis’s staff to ensure that the language in the legislation acknowledged that school leaders have a significant impact on student learning and teacher retention thus playing a significant role in creating a successful school environment. Most importantly, the bill would ensure that evaluation systems for principals connect to a system of support and development. The language is very much aligned to the recommendations developed by NASSP and NAESP in 2012. Rethinking Principal Evaluation combined leading research on principal evaluation and the practitioner perspective to provide states and districts with guidance on establishing effective principal evaluation systems.  Many of the report’s recommendations are included in the Polis bill, such as requiring principal evaluation systems to take into account multiple measures of student performance, including student academic growth, support for effective teachers and other “critical leadership factors”, such as graduation outcomes and social and emotional development—and other factors aligned to the domains of effective principal practice.

The Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act is also consistent with principals’ beliefs that any evaluation must be measured by observations of the principal and other relevant data.  These leadership practices include: creating a school culture of high student achievement; managing the school’s organization and resources to achieve school improvement goals; engaging families, community and other stakeholders; cultivating a positive environment for learning and teaching; managing staff talent and development; and maintaining focus on personal leadership, professional knowledge, skills, and improvement.

Providing personalized professional development for all principals, assistant principals and teacher leaders that supports collaboration and best practices within school districts and schools to improve instruction and learning is critical for the overall success of all students.

NASSP and NAESP sent a joint letter of support for the Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act, and we will continue to work with Congressman Polis and his colleagues to ensure the bill is enacted into law

NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti issued the following statement on the FY 2015 budget proposal:

President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget offers plenty to celebrate, but also renews some ongoing disappointment. Secretary Duncan got our attention when he declared teacher and leader effectiveness the #2 education priority—quite appropriately, behind equity and opportunity for all students. The Secretary’s language reflects a consistent recognition from ED of the importance of leadership in school success. Unfortunately, that recognition did not translate to budget support. Dedicated leadership-development funds under the School Leadership Program received just a modest $9 million increase to $35 million. Yes, the option of leadership development is woven throughout other programs under Title II, but history tells us that states and districts rarely use  those funds for professional development for principals. And our nation’s school leaders need that training and support more than ever as they strive to implement new college and career-ready standards and teacher evaluation system sunder new accountability requirements.

NASSP was an early supporter of the president’s ConnectED initiative to bring broadband Internet to 99 percent of students in five years, and we are delighted to see that priority reflected in his budget proposal. The proposed $200 million for the new ConnectEDucators initiative will help teachers and leaders optimize digital tools to personalize learning and improve instruction and assessment—hallmarks of NASSP’s Breaking Ranks Framework for School Improvement.

Encouraged though we are by the ConnectED investment, we are equally disappointed by the President’s hefty proposed investment in competitive grant proposals at the expense of formula programs. With dramatic increases in Race to the Top and School Turnaround programs, and new, smaller scale competitive grants in areas like career/technical education and special education, the president renews his commitment to create an education system that tilts toward the “haves.” A competitive grant program necessarily has winners and losers, and the latter are far too typically the poorer, rural districts that often lack the support to write and compete for grants successfully. As equity is the number-one priority, we strongly encourage the administration to rethink these competitive programs and make a strong investment in formula programs like Title I and IDEA.

ED Releases Guidance on Ed Tech PD $

On February 7, 2014, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

NASSP has been a big propoent of the ConnectED initiative to promote digital learning in the classroom, but most of the conversation has been focused on high-speed broadband and modernization of the E-Rate program. We all know, however, that connectivity is only the one part of the equation: school leaders and teachers must be trained on how to use the technology and integrate it into their instruction to ensure student success.

To address that issue, the US Department of Education released a Dear Colleague letter on February 5 that provides guidance to states, districts and schools on how they can leverage current federal funding “to support innovative technology-based strategies.”

The document includes examples of how funding from Titles I-3 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for digital learning “even if the program statutes do not reference educational technology specifically.”

According to the guidance, “these examples do not depart from previous ED guidance, but clarify opportunities to use federal grant funds to support digital learning, including 1) improving and personalizing professional learning and other supports for educators; 2) increasing access to high-quality digital content and resources for students; 3) facilitating educator collaboration and communication; and 4) providing devices for students to access digital learning resources.”

I’ve talked to many NASSP members, in person and during Twitter chats, who tell me that funding for education technology and training their teachers is a big challenges in their schools. So we were very pleased to hear that in addition to the guidance, President Obama will propose new funding for professional development for education technology in his FY 2015 budget. Details of the budget should be released in early March, so stay tuned!

NASSP Communications Director Bob Farrace was lucky enough to be at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, MD, yesterday where President Obama announced a major private sector investment of nearly $750 million for schools to improve digital learning. The additional funding for education technology is a major win in the administration’s ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of students to “next-generation connectivity” in 5 years.

 Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T have pledged to provide their products, mobile and wireless services, and professional development for educators at a  reduced cost, or for free to certain low-income schools. According to a White House fact sheet, these commitments will “help make the most of the government investment in broadband infrastructure by ensuring it is put the best educational use.”

The US Department of Agriculture will also provide $10 million in distance learning grants for rural schools to purchase equipment and services such as videoconferencing.
 
At a Digital Learning Day event in Washington, DC, today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce a new $2 billion investment in broadband and wireless services for schools through the E-Rate program. NASSP is cautiously optimistic about this proposal, which would improve management of the program and make it easier and cheaper to disperse funds to high-need schools. We have been engaged in conversations with FCC officials about modernizing the E-Rate program, but we also reiterate our call for raising the cap on E-Rate so funds are sustainable in a digital learning environment that is constantly increasing the demands on our schools and the networks they rely on.
 
NASSP is very pleased to hear that President Obama will include funding in his FY 2015 budget proposal for professional development for teachers and school leaders as they transition to digital learning and high-speed connectivity. School leaders were very disappointed when funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program was eliminated in FY 2011 (need to check on the date), and we have been championing Congressional proposals to renew this federal investment.
 
NASSP will continue to engage federal officials in conversations about the importance of digital learning in our nation’s middle level and high schools and urge for a strong and continued investment in the ConnectED initiative.
 

As the House Education and the Workforce Committee works to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, last reauthorized in 2006, NASSP offered recommendations today to ensure that the law strengthens career and technical education (CTE) programs to promote college and career-readiness for all students.

The central focus of our comments was on educator quality, ensuring that school leaders are able to manage high-quality CTE programs and CTE teachers are knowledgeable and proficient in both effective teaching methods and technical skills. NASSP recommended that state leadership activities be focused on leadership development and technical assistance for districts and schools. States should be allowed to use Perkins funds to provide professional development opportunities for current CTE leaders and to support leadership training programs that help current principals manage CTE programs in their schools.

NASSP also provided recommendations on the qualifications and training for CTE teachers and the unique professional development opportunities needed for individuals who come into the profession through alternate routes. Essentially, professional development must strengthen the capacity of CTE teachers to collaborate with content area teachers and integrate academic and CTE curricula and coursework. Implementation of new, higher college and career-ready standards in most states will also require a focus on making numeracy and literacy relevant in CTE courses. Finally, CTE teachers will need additional training to ensure that they’re knowledgeable of the latest equipment and certification requirements of their industries.

The comments from NASSP also included recommendations to personalize the learning environment for each student, encourage CTE programs and career counseling at the middle level, and evaluate the effectiveness of CTE programs through multiple measures of student performance.

NASSP also expressed concern about the blueprint for reauthorization that was released by the US Department of Education in March 2012. We opposed the provisions to require a private sector match at the district level, permit only consortia of districts and postsecondary institutions and their partners to apply to States for Perkins funding, and allocate Perkins funds at the district level by a competitive grant.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on Perkins reauthorization on November 19 and is expected to move quickly to markup.