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.

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Although both the Senate and House education committees passed bills within the past year to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), none of those bills were considered in their respective chambers. Instead, the US Department of Education (ED) has used the waiver process to bypass Congress and “fix” the problems in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the current iteration of the law.

On July 19, ED approved waiver applications for 6 additional states and the District of Columbia, bringing the grand total to 32. The latest states to receive waivers are Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon and South Carolina. Five additional states (California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, and Nevada) are currently under review, and the deadline for the next round of waivers is September 6.

The approved states may waive several specific provisions of NCLB, including the 2014 deadline for 100% student proficiency, in exchange for adopting college and career-ready standards, implementing new accountability and support systems for schools, and developing new evaluation systems for teachers and principals.

“More and more states can’t wait any longer for education reform,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “A strong, bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act remains the best path forward in education reform, but as these states have demonstrated, our kids can’t wait any longer for Congress to act.”

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and his staff said for months that the two bills passed by the committee in February 2012 would be considered on the House floor before the August recess, but a legislative agenda released by Speaker of the House John Boehner in the spring included no education legislation. On the Senate side, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) had previously announced that the Senate would not bring his bill to the floor until the House passed a “bipartisan” bill.

With few legislative days remaining before the looming November elections and a number of appropriations bills still to pass before the fiscal year ends on September 30, there’s slim-to-no-chance ESEA will be completed this year. And while waivers and Race to the Top seem like the law of the land for principals and assistant principals in some states now, the presidential and congressional elections will have a huge impact on whether they remain in place beyond 2014.

NASSP will continue to push for a comprehensive ESEA reauthorization in the next Congress that includes a focus on our key issue areas: school leadership, literacy, middle level and high schools, and education technology. We felt that the Senate committee bill was a step in the right direction toward improving current law and hope that Congress will use that draft as a starting-off point for negotiations in January.

Weekly Federal Education Policy Update

On July 14, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston


ESEA: House Flexibility Bill Approved

Yesterday the House Education and Workforce Committee approved the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, which would allow states and districts maximum flexibility in their use of federal funds. The overall vote and the votes on all amendments offered followed party lines, reflecting extreme partisanship on this issue. Ranking Member Rep. Miller (D-CA) interpreted this partisanship as an omen that future ESEA negotiations will not be bipartisan and will be contentious. U.S. Secretary of Education also expressed concern for the way the bill could unintentionally shift money away from low-income and minority students and English-language learners. In a written statement Duncan says, “I’m disappointed that the House legislation passed today doesn’t fix the real problems with NCLB, could shortchange the neediest students, and doesn’t give states the kind of flexibility and reform they’re asking for.”

NASSP is opposed to this bill due to some key concerns. To read NASSP’s take on the bill go here:

Go here to read a full report of what occurred in yesterday’s markup:

The House will likely try to vote on this bill before the August recess.

New Legislation:

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and ten bipartisan cosponsors introduced today the All Children are Equal (ACE) Act, which “would gradually phase out the current number weighting system used to calculate Title I amounts, to assure that school districts are treated based upon their percentages of poverty, rather than population”. To read more about the bill go here: NASSP will likely support this bill.


We have gotten word that the House vote on the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment (HJ Res 1) will occur on July 20. NASSP is strongly opposed to this amendment for the severe funding cuts it would impose on education and other domestic discretionary programs. NASSP urges you to call your Representative(s) and request that they vote NO on this amendment, explaining how already-crunched state and local education budgets would suffer more from this amendment. Go here to see the Committee for Education Funding’s opposition letter [pdf] and here for another coalition letter we signed onto: For our part, we are making dozens of calls between now and July 20 to key offices to urge opposition of this bill.

Debt Ceiling/Deficit Reduction:

The negotiations remain uncertain, with Republicans insisting they will not support any revenue increases and the President and the Democrats saying they will not support a plan without revenues. Obama also said he wouldn’t sign a short-term increase in the debt ceiling no matter how temporary.

However, Sen. McConnell this week proposed a debt ceiling fallback plan. The Senator proposed legislation that authorizes the President to request an increase in the debt ceiling which would take effect unless a two-thirds majority of either house rejects it. The president would have to request a debt ceiling increase of $700-900 billion, which would require three separate requests and votes before the election. It would not require any spending cuts. (According to Joel Packer’s analysis of the Committee for Education Funding): “The advantage for Republicans politically is that any negative reaction to increasing the debt ceiling would fall solely on Obama and Democrats since every Republican could vote against raising the debt ceiling, without having to deal with an actual default.” Sen. Reid said he would consider this plan.

President Obama said this week that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised Social Security checks might not go out as scheduled on August 3.


NASSP, NAESP to Join on Principal Evaluation

From the NASSP press release: “NASSP has joined with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) to establish a set of national guidelines for effective principal evaluation. NAESP and NASSP will each appoint individuals from their respective governance zones or regions to serve as members of a jointly sponsored Principal Evaluation Committee. The committee will work over the next six to eight months to review leading research reports, examine exemplary practices, and interface with other stakeholders interested in the profession. The committee will identify gaps in the research and highlight what is, and is not, working with principal evaluation systems.” Read the rest of the press release here: And read Education Week’s article on it here:


Some States Prepare to Implement Their Own Accountability Systems in the Fall

A number of state education chiefs have said that if Congress does not reauthorize ESEA by the fall, they will seek to take advantage of Secretary Duncan’s proposed “Plan B” to grant waivers-in exchange for reform-so they can implement their own accountability systems. Under these waivers states would be released from having to meet 100% proficiency of all students by 2014 in English and Math, and the sanctions that currently occur when schools do not meet AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) would also be waived, all in exchange for comprehensive accountability systems of their own that include intervention plans for underperforming schools. To read more, go here:

Cuts in State School Funding around the Nation

July 11, 2011- There is still a clear divide between Republican leaders and Democrats with regard to balancing budgets. Democrats continue to push for increased taxes (generating revenues) and Republicans focus on deep cuts- and education funding is at the top of the list for budget cuts in most states. States such as Texas, Wisconsin, and Ohio approved plans that would bring large cuts to education funding; whereas California and Iowa are looking to protect K-12 education from budget decreases. Read more here:

Race to the Top Winners Slow Down and Amend Plans

All Race to the Top winning states except Georgia have amended their plans in some way, either by extending their timeline of implementation or scaling back an initiative, indicating that several states’ plans may have been too ambitious in their timelines given the scope of what they seek to do. Though states could theoretically push back their stated desired outcomes until the last minute to buy themselves more time, they-and the U.S. Department of Education-will still be under pressure to show that these Race to the Top grants do in fact accomplish the comprehensive reforms promised in states’ plans. To read more go here:

President Obama Hosts First Town Hall Twitter Meeting July 6, 2011

There are approximately 2.25 million @whitehouse twitter account followers, with over 1 million who joined the Town Hall Twitter discussion. There were 22 administration topics discussed; 10% were about education. Obama tweeted live asking for public feedback with regard to reducing the federal deficit. At the weekly CEF meeting on Friday July 8, Joel Packer, CEF Executive Director, said the public can still voice their opinion about the deficit and education/school funding via twitter at the Twitter Whitehouse account. Go to!/whitehouse to post your comments/viewpoints in support of education/school funding and AGAINST CUTS in education. Let your voice be heard!


July 2011 Employment Rate

July 8, 2011- In an Economic News release by the Bureau of Economic Statistics, the national unemployment rate is up to 9.2%, although this change is reported to be minimal. “Since March, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 545,000, and the unemployment rate has risen by 0.4 percentage point. The labor force, at 153.4 million, changed little over the month.” The most significant decline in employment was in federal, state, and local government employment. For more about our nation’s unemployment statistics, go to


NASSP Government Relations Staff is on Twitter! Amanda Karhuse and Mary Kingston have moved into the 21st century and have joined Twitter! Follow us on here for the latest daily federal education policy updates. Follow Amanda: @akarhuse and Mary: @kingston_m.

America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011 is an interagency report from the Federal Forum on Child and Family with very useful statistics. To view the full report, go here: One daunting statistic – There has been “a rise in the proportion of children from birth to 17 years of age living in poverty, from 19 percent (2008) to 21 percent (2009)”.

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Standing united behind the U.S. Department of Education’s blueprint to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced a bill earlier this month to target federal assistance and interventions to the nation’s persistently low-performing schools.

“There are students across the country who are currently finishing out the academic year at schools that persistently fail to provide a quality education,” said Sen. Hagan in May at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress. “We cannot allow our children to go back to these schools in the fall without taking bold and aggressive action to change the odds for our students.”

The School Turnaround and Rewards or “STAR” Act (S. 959) would require states to identify Persistently Low-Performing Schools based on the percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level on state assessments and whether or not those schools are making progress. High schools with graduation rates below 60% could also be considered Persistently Low-Performing Schools. Each district serving one of these schools would be required to implement one of four school intervention models:

Transformation Model, which requires the district to: 1.) replace the principal if he or she has led the school for two or more years with a new principal who has demonstrated effectiveness in turning around a low-performing school; 2.) use evaluation systems to reward school leaders, teachers, and other staff who have increased student achievement or graduation rates and remove those individuals who have not; 3.) provide staff with ongoing, high-quality, job-embedded professional development; 4.) implement strategies to recruit and retain staff with the skills necessary to meet the needs of the school’s students; 5.) use data to identify and implement a research-based instructional program that has been proven to raise student achievement by no less than 10% in one year; 6.) establish schedules and strategies that provide increased learning time; 7.) promote the continuous use of student data to meet the academic needs of individual students; and 8.) provide appropriate social-emotional and community-oriented support services.

Restart Model, which requires the district to convert a school or close and reopen a school under a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization.

School Closure, which requires the district to close a school and enroll the students in other public schools served by the district that are higher performing, provided the other schools are within reasonable proximity to the closed school.

Turnaround Model, which requires the district to: 1) replace the principal; 2) give the new principal sufficient operational flexibility (including over staffing, the school day and school calendar, and budgeting) to fully implement a comprehensive approach to improving student outcomes; 3) use comprehensive evaluations to measure the effectiveness of staff who can work within the turnaround environment and retain no more than 50% of the staff; and 4) implement other activities required under the Transformation Model.

Also mirroring the administration’s ESEA blueprint, the STAR Act would require states to identify Reward Schools that are making significant progress in closing the achievement gap and increasing student academic achievement. Districts serving those schools could then use funding to provide financial awards for principals, teachers, and other staff; improve or enrich the schools’ programs; and provide increased flexibility in making budgeting and staffing decisions. States would also be encouraged to create communities of practice among Reward Schools and support mentoring partnerships between Reward Schools and other schools.

NASSP remains opposed to the four misguided school turnaround models that all require the principal’s replacement as a condition for receiving funds under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. We are very concerned that the STAR Act would actually remove a principal who has led the school for only two years when the SIG program was revised to ensure that a principal could remain at the school for at least three years.

NASSP has a long history of implementing reform efforts with a high degree of fidelity utilizing the Breaking Ranks Framework and expertise of the NASSP staff and consultants. Schools should be able to use their federal funding to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and implement a school improvement plan that truly meets the need of their students, and we will continue to advocate in support of such a proposal on Capitol Hill as ESEA reauthorization moves forward.

A packed crowd of over 100 attendees listened to how two principals turned around their low-performing schools to make dramatic gains in student achievement. The forum, co-hosted by NASSP and the Alliance for Excellent Education featured two of the 2010 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools Principals.

NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi opened the forum by noting that both principals implemented certain strategies identified as effective in the NASSP Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, including strong leadership, a rigorous curriculum, and strong collaboration among all staff.
Lavonne Smiley is principal of Tefft Middle School in Streamwood, IL, and oversees roughly 800 7th and 8th grade students, 47% of whom are Latino and 59% of whom are low-income. After specific encounters with angry or frustrated parents, teachers, and students, Smiley knew she needed to turn things around. Adopting the strategies outlined by Richard DuFour in On Common Ground: The Power of Professional Learning Communities, she brought a greater focus to curriculum, assessment, and interventions for struggling students. As a result, the number of students meeting and/or exceeding state test scores at Tefft jumped from 56% in 2002 to 91% in 2010. Smiley advised other educators to implement school reform with fidelity, continuously self-evaluate, and celebrate successes.

Tom O’Brien was principal of Brentwood High School in Brentwood, NY, for 15 years before his recent retirement. The high school serves a staggering 3,500 students in grades 10-12, 68% of whom are Hispanic and 62% of whom are low-income. Forty-one percent of the student population is also transient, posing a unique challenge. One irony that Mr. O’Brien pointed out was that as his school fell deeper into NCLB sanctions from 2002-2006 for not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP), Brentwood’s test scores were improving steadily for most student subgroups. To turn things around, O’Brien created a collaborative School Improvement Team and staffed teacher coaches and more bilingual teachers to raise student achievement.

As a result, special education students’ test scores rose 52 percentage points in math from 2004 to 2008, while limited English proficient students’ test scores rose 89 percentage points in the same time period. Citing lessons learned, O’Brien emphasized focused leadership, data analysis, a strong improvement team, celebrating successes, and time as critical components to effectively turn around a school.

To discuss policy implications for school turnaround, senior staff from the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee also addressed the audience. Both commented specifically on the four turnaround models for school improvement, which all require replacing the principal as the first step for reform. They shared some details about their bosses’ proposals to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including surprising news that the House bill will not contain the four models, but will instead require a school instructional plan without prescribing one. They also want to identify ways to show improvement beyond AYP indicators, and these strategies will require intensive reliance on data. The Senate has not outright rejected the four school improvement models, but they are seeking the appropriate accountability to place on turnaround schools, and similarly will call on schools to present significant data to show improvement.

NASSP continues to oppose the four school turnaround models and believes that the success stories of these principals invalidate the requirement that the principal be replaced as the first step to school improvement. In contrast, capable, dedicated principals like Smiley and O’Brien prove they are a critical component to successful school turnarounds.

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Common academic standards in K – 12 education continues to be the topic du jour in federal education policy circles. Adding the perspective of students of color to the discussion, the Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) held a forum on this issue on July 24.

CHSE is a coalition of leading civil rights organizations representing communities of color that is focused on high school reform, and they offered advice and several recommendations for the federal government, governors, and state educators to consider in developing, adopting, and implementing common standards, including:

  • Standards that do not account for the sovereignty of Native American tribal communities will face strong opposition;
  • English language learners may need customized standards, both for learning English and for learning with their peers in other subjects;
  • If standards are not accompanied by strong incentives for states and districts to align their curricula and assessments, students in low-performing schools, districts, and states will be at more of a disadvantage with high standards;
  • The adoption of common standards must include a plan to hold states accountable for meeting the unique needs of students of color; and
  • States must be held accountable for making sure that a set of common standards is the starting point and not the “end” for effective education for students. Students of color can benefit from rigorous, clear standards that include effective teachers, access to high-quality supports, and accountability for improved academic achievement and graduation rates for all students.

“We have to be sure to include minority voices in the development of these [common] standards,” said Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “With the adoption of common standards, there needs to be a plan for holding schools accountable for poor and minority communities,” and states should be held accountable for ensuring the common standards are not the end, but the beginning of efforts to improve college and career readiness for all students.

Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of the leading organizations behind the common standards initiative, agreed with Wilkes, adding “As we’re talking about common standards, let’s not forget, these are just one step in the journey towards that educational ideal [of having all students college and career ready].”

Addressing the importance of school leadership in the common standards movement, Michael Wotorson, executive director of CHSE said, “As we develop common standards with the intent of better serving students, we have to continue to ensure we provide our school and district leaders with the capacity and the support necessary to implement these standards for the maximum benefit of all students.”

Representing the House Education and Labor Committee, Denise Forte said that common standards can help bring on the alignment of Pre-K – 12 standards, curriculum, and assessments, which in turn can help close the achievement gap and prepare students for success after high school. She also emphasized the need for additional research on what it takes to educate students of color – especially English language learners – to proficiency, and that this may be an area the federal government can assist in.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who has been one of the lead supporters of the common standards movement in the Senate, also indicated that while the federal government would likely have a role in the movement towards common standards, it would likely consist mostly of financial and political support. “It’s important that we have high standards; it’s also important that the federal government not dictate what they are. Congress needs to support this effort; not lead it.”

NASSP’s Board of Directors adopted an official position statement on National Academic Standards in K-12 Education in 2008, which called on Congress to appoint an independent, diverse group of practitioners, researchers, advocates, and experts to develop a common set of academic standards and authentic, reliable assessments in Language Arts and mathematics in grades K-12. The statement also called on Congress to provide funding for the development and administration of national assessments in Language Arts and mathematics in grades K-12, with the intent of replacing current state assessments.

The full statement can be found here.

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Should schools abandon traditional grade levels in favor of proficiency-based advancement?
Final results:

72% Yes
28% No

Total Votes: 319


The Denver Post reports that Adams 50 School District in Colorado has dropped the traditional K–12 grade levels in favor of a system that lets students move through 10 levels as they achieve proficiency. While currently being carried out in a few small Alaska districts, such a standards-based model has never been tested on a district as large as Adams 50. As part of the new system, Adams 50 students will not be graded on an A–F scale, but will instead earn scores of 1–4, allowing them to maintain a GPA that colleges can recognize.

Principals, is this the next logical step in a standards-based movement–and is it the right step to take. Let us know your opinion by taking this week’s Principal’s Poll at and leave your comments below.

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The number of Title I schools in the restructuring phase of school improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has increased by 56% since the 2006-07 school year, according to a new study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP). In addition, once schools have entered this phase, many struggle to leave it, even after taking all actions required by federal law.

A Call to Restructure Restructuring: Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Act in Five States reveals that despite the alarming increase in the number of schools in restructuring, this number is likely to increase further in the years to come.

Jack Jennings, president and CEO of CEP, explained that when NCLB was first enacted, several states back-loaded their plans to meet the 2014 deadline for getting all students to proficiency in reading and math. This meant that while schools would be allowed to make smaller gains in student proficiency in the early years, significantly larger gains would have to be made in the years just before 2014. Consequently, as the 2014 deadline approaches, a growing number of schools are missing their adequate yearly progress (AYP) targets and falling into restructuring status.

After missing AYP for five or more consecutive years, schools enter restructuring and are presented with a list of five options to turn around student performance, including:

  • Replacing all or most of the school staff who are relevant to the school missing AYP
  • Entering into a contract with an outside organization with a record of success and effectiveness to run the school
  • Reopening the school as a charter school
  • Turning over the school to the state, if the state agrees
  • Undertaking any other major restructuring of the school’s governance that produces fundamental reform.

While over 90% of schools in the five states examined utilized the “any other major restructuring” option (only about 3% chose to replace the school principal), the study found that none of the five restructuring options “were associated with a greater likelihood of a school making AYP overall or in reading or math alone.” As a result of this finding, CEP advises federal policymakers to broaden, not narrow the options available for restructuring schools and consider using strategies that specifically use data to identify areas in which students are struggling, providing tutoring as needed.

On the issue of funding, CEP found that while the federal government mandates that additional monies be provided for schools in restructuring, some of this additional funding is often taken away when schools see improvements in student achievement and exit this phase.

Jennings noted that the withdrawal of these additional funds has made principals and teachers fearful that their schools may quickly slip and miss their AYP targets. This is for the simple reason that schools in restructuring used these additional resources to provide professional development for principals and teachers and targeted assistance to struggling students. Then at the very moment that these schools improve student achievement, “these funds are withdrawn and shifted to other schools that aren’t doing as well,” Jennings said.

“Schools in the restructuring phase under NCLB need the most help, but the current funding system that essentially punishes schools for improving student achievement by taking away resources is wrongheaded and completely counterproductive,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “Instead, federal policy should live up to its goal of getting all students to proficiency by providing increased funding and technical assistance to struggling schools. The federal government should also work with states and districts to help schools create a culture of continuous learning and excellence that encourages students to take charge of their own education. It is only by changing pervasive beliefs and expectations that meaningful school reform can truly be accomplished,” Tirozzi continued.

To guard against creating a revolving door of school failure and success, CEP calls on states and districts to “help schools adequately plan to replace these funds and services and…continue to funnel funds and services to these schools until they are able to maintain achievement.”

As the instructional leaders of schools, principals play a central role in school improvement efforts. When asked what he thinks is the most useful role for principals in schools in restructuring, Jennings responded that it is “probably to work with the current staff to know that a serious effort has to be made to change the school. What we’ve [CEP] found to be most effective is to use data to change instruction and identify students who need tutoring, and provide that tutoring either during or after school, and bring in outside experts to improve teaching.”

Jennings also noted that replacing school staff as a strategy for improving student achievement should be avoided, and only considered as an option when three very specific conditions are in place: 1) districts have the capacity to help the school advertise and interview for open staff positions; 2) the region around the school has enough qualified candidates who might apply for open positions; 3) the district, perhaps with state assistance, can negotiate with the teachers’ union to remove potential obstacles to restaffing. Notably, Jennings explained that many of the schools studied for CEP’s report did not have these conditions in place.

NASSP believes that increasing student achievement requires a schoolwide, comprehensive approach, and rather than merely replacing school staff, schools should focus on the strategies detailed in NASSP’s Breaking Ranks series, including: the creation of professional learning communities; personalization of the school environment; empowering students to take control of their own continuous learning and development; and connecting high expectations with rigorous curriculum, instruction, and assessments.

To view CEP’s report in full, visit For more information on NASSP’s Breaking Ranks series, visit

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U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced the appointment of 16 members to the National Technical Advisory Council (NTAC), which Spellings announced as part of the proposed regulations to strengthen No Child Left Behind. The Council’s purpose is to advise the Department on complex and technical issues regarding the design and implementation of state standards, assessments and accountability systems. The Council will offer expert advice on such things as the use and applicability of minimum subgroup sizes for proficiency calculations, confidence intervals and the principles necessary for ensuring that performance indexes are consistent with the Title I statute and regulations.

“The National Technical Advisory Council will play a vital role in ensuring that we address the technical needs of states and their accountability systems,” Spellings said. “Their work will be invaluable as we move forward in strengthening and improving No Child Left Behind.”

Tom Fisher, former Florida state director of testing, will chair the Council. Members will serve staggered terms, ranging from one to three years. All members are experts in assessment and accountability, and represent a range of backgrounds-from academicians and researchers to national, state and local policymakers. The Council will meet twice a year and additional meetings may be called at the request of the Secretary. Proceedings from meetings will be made available to the public. The first meeting will be held within the next few months.

NTAC meetings will be announced in the Federal Register and on the U.S. Department of Education’s Website,

Members of the Council are as follows:

  • Tom Fisher, CEO, Fisher Education Consulting LLC, McMinnville, TN
  • David Abrams, Assistant Commissioner for Standards, Assessment and Reporting, Albany, NY
  • Anthony Alpert, Director of Assessment, Oregon Department of Education, Salem, OR
  • Diane Browder, Snyder Distinguished Professor of Special Education and Coordinator of the Doctoral Program, College of Education, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Wesley Bruce, Assistant Superintendent for the Center for Accreditation, Assessment and Licensing, Indiana Department of Education, Indianapolis, IN
  • Wayne Camara, Vice President for Research and Development, The College Board, New York, NY
  • Kevin Carey, Research and Policy Manager, Education Sector, Washington, DC
  • Gregory Cizek, Professor of Educational Measurement and Evaluation, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Carl Cohn, former Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District and Distinguished Leader in Residence, College of Education, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
  • Denise Collier, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction/Chief Academic Officer, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, TX
  • Robert Costrell, Professor of Education Reform and Economics and holds the Endowed Chair in Education Accountability, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
  • Harold Doran, Principal Research Analyst, American Institutes for Research, Washington, DC
  • Margo Gottlieb, Lead Developer, World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium, Wisconsin Center for Educational Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WS
  • Suzanne Lane, Professor, Research Methodology Program, Department of Psychology in Education, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Scott Marion, Vice President of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment Inc., Dover, NH
  • John Poggio, Professor, Department of Educational Psychology and Research, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

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Algebra is the gateway to success in college and the workforce, and the path to algebra is through mastery of whole numbers, geometry, and fractions, concluded the recently issued Final Report of the National Mathematics Panel. The panel was created by President Bush in 2006 to examine scientific evidence of how to improve math teaching and learning.

The key, the panel said, lies in the early grades. “The mathematics that children learn from preschool through the middle grades provides the basic foundation for Algebra and more advanced coursework.” As a result, students need a structured curriculum that progresses through the grades, and allows students to gain proficiency in basic math concepts before moving on to more complex ones, while avoiding reintroducing topics learned at earlier grade levels, the report continued.

Like NASSP’s own guide to improving math achievement, Making the Mathematics Curriculum Count: A Guide for Middle and High School Principals, the panel recommends increasing teacher collaboration and aligning the mathematics curriculum vertically throughout the grades, as well as targeting interventions for struggling students.

“The school administrator must provide many opportunities for the mathematics faculty to begin the conversation about mathematics rigor and what it looks like in the classroom.”(p.57). Judith Richardson, principal author of Making the Mathematics Curriculum Count, agrees that teacher behaviors in an academically rigorous classroom, student behaviors, and instructional goals need to be framed and developed by the department. “Faculty must focus on three requisite areas of an effective mathematics classroom: high standards and high expectations, effective instructional delivery and assessment, and support resources for student and teachers.”

There is no doubt that mastery of basic mathematical concepts is a prerequisite for achieving proficiency in more advanced material; however, investments made in the elementary and middle grades must continue in high school with sequentially challenging mathematics courses for all students – an area in which the report is conspicuously silent.

Moreover, while the report acknowledges that students do not always fully grasp the value of math course work and its relevance to postsecondary success, the report does not provide any recommendations for further engaging students. A potential solution to this lies in integrating math concepts in multiple, non-math classes across the curriculum. Examples of this may include: calculating player statistics in physical education, summarizing data and predicting outcomes in science class, using graphic organizers in English, and making and reading graphs and charts in social studies.

According to Judith Richardson, “highly qualified secondary teachers of all disciplines must reinforce in their classrooms mathematics standards utilized in their own curriculum content.”

Another potential solution for addressing this problem can be found by examining the culture of learning that exists in a given school and community, particularly around mathematics.

“In many homes, schools, and communities, mathematics is viewed as an intellectual sieve, preparing top students for academic endeavors, and is not seen as a life skill whose application is required of all students in successful real-life situations,” explains NASSP’s mathematics guide. “The current attitudes of acceptance regarding the characteristics of the limited number of students who are successful in mathematics and allowed to enroll in accelerated mathematics courses clearly indicate a need for a culture change for many parents and community members, as well as some staff members,” the guide continues.

Success in changing school and community attitudes towards mathematics requires considerable effort by the school principal and other stakeholders. NASSP’s mathematics guide provides an in-depth analysis of the steps necessary for change, which include: developing a shared, clearly articulated vision of mathematical excellence for the school, ensuring that teachers and other staff possess the skills necessary to implement the vision, providing incentives that are valued by the stakeholders for following the vision of change, providing the resources necessary to implement the vision, and developing and monitoring an action plan that incorporates all of the change elements.

Although the Math Panel’s report and recommendations do not address the full range of elements necessary for improving student mathematics achievement, the panel does add to the growing body of research highlighting the need for increased teacher collaboration and preparation throughout the grade levels.  The recommended addition of a certified mathematics teacher(s) in the elementary schools and increased certification of mathematics teachers in the middle schools will certainly go a long way in improving the understanding of mathematics curriculum in the high schools.  All teachers prepared and focused on increased mathematics rigor in the classroom, will provide more opportunities for increased student success in mathematics… a position which NASSP strongly supports.

As a follow-up to the panel’s report, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings plans to convene a national summit based on the panel’s recommendations and to seek the input of national organizations.

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