February 14, 2017(1)

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The Advocate: 2017: The Year of School Superintendent Advocacy

With a new year, a new Congress, and a new administration, now is as good a time as every to issue an advocacy challenge. And while here at AASA we focus on federal advocacy, the premise of this month’s article can apply just as readily to state and local advocacy.

When it comes to advocacy, Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I have found someone to pay us full time to do advocacy. When you—AASA’s members—do advocacy, it is in addition to your day time job of running a school system. A large part of our job is to support AASA members in their advocacy, and it is an explicit benefit of belonging to both AASA and your state superintendent association to have support for advocacy. 

Tying back to an idea we outlined in the October edition of The School Administrator, advocacy can be as quick as 15 minutes a month (5 minutes a week). Peruse the full issue, or read the feature article on the role of superintendent as advocate. Which brings me to the 2017 advocacy challenge.

Each month of this year, our team will identify a topic or two—whether driven by the AASA legislative agenda or by current goings on with Congress or the administration—and provide advocacy support. That is, we’ll give a bit of quick background on the topic, explain the relevant policy proposals and implications, and then share a few talking points that you can use to weigh in with your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both your Senators).  You can take that information to craft your monthly outreach—contacting one office per week—to your Congressional delegation, to relay the policy priorities in the context of what it means for your schools and the students you serve.

We stand by ready to answer any questions you may have. Do you not know the name or email address of the education staffer in your Senator’s office? We can provide that for you. Are you interested in seeing who from your state serves on certain House or Senate committees? Did your Congress member reach out with a different question, and you’d like information about that? We can get that to you.

We are using the February advocacy challenge to make an introduction and extend an invite. Congress is adjourned for recess at regular intervals, meaning they will be in their home district frequently. Recess is an opportune time to invite your elected official (and/or their education staffer) to see your schools in action. Highlight your programs that are excelling (After school? English Learner support? Early education? Credit Recovery?). Give examples where you could do more with better federal support (High class room sizes? Teacher shortages? Limited opportunity for CTE?). Facilitate a community conversation with stakeholders about ESSA (or education technology, or school nutrition, or rural education….).

 

  • Introduce yourself, and your district. Enrollment, free/reduced lunch rate, community type, etc….
  • Introduce your state association, and their role in helping facilitate/convene conference calls and round table conversations with member superintendents.
  • Introduce AASA as the national organization for school superintendents (and feel free to copy one of us on your outreach!)
  • Extend the invitation for the visit, and ask who you should coordinate with to set it up.
  • Extend the opportunity for them to reach out to you as they have questions and consider various policies in Congress; let them know that you’d be happy to tell them what it would look like in your district and for specific things to consider.
  • Indicate that you will be reaching out over the course of the year on federal advocacy priorities, and that you look forward to working with them.

It is an introductory round this first month, and will be more substantive and policy-specific next month. 

Thank you, in advance, for your continued advocacy efforts and support for AASA advocacy. And, as always let us know if you need anything.

 

February 14, 2017

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, This is a Catch-All Education Update, JUST FOR YOU!

Secretary's Statement and Letter to Chiefs re: ESSA Implementation: Last week, Secretary DeVos issued a letter to all Chief State School Officers relating to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation in light of the postponement of the accountability regulations and the Congressional Review Act.  Read the letter.

AASA National Conference on Education: We will be in New Orleans March 2-4. Sign up today! Specific to advocacy, here are the policy sessions where you can find Sasha, Leslie, Deanna and I:

 

  • Special Education 2.0: Breaking Taboos to Build a New Education Law (3/2, 9 am)
  • AASA Advocacy meet & Greet (3/2, 9 am)
  • State Policy 2017: What to Expect, What to Plan For (3/2, 2 pm)
  • Federal Education Policy in a Post-ESSA Era (3/3, 10:45 am)
  • The Third Branch: Supreme Court and Schools (3/3, 12:30 pm)
  • Schools in Transition: Gender Diversity and Best Practices (3/3, 3:45 pm)
  • Federal Relations Luncheon: Public School Choice vs. Private School Vouchers(3/2, 12:30 pm)

Of Funding: There is no real update. The current continuing resolution (for FY17, the dollars that will be in your schools for the 17-18 school year) runs through April 28. Staff are split among the various options for how Congress will wrap the FY17 discussion, which will in part be shaped by a time crunch for floor time, as Congress works through the Congressional Review Act, confirmations, normal order AND starts FY18 negotiations.

Rural Education Caucus: Your member of Congress may not be on an education committee, but there is always a way to be involved. Is your Congressional district rural? Does your state have rural? Then an easy ask is for your members of Congress to join their respective chambers' Rural Education Caucus. When you make the outreach, ask them to contact Rep. Sam Graves' office on the House side or Sen Tester on the Senate side to sign up!

 

February 7, 2017(1)

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More than 350 State and National Organizations Sign Letter to President Trump on Vaccine Safety

AASA joined more than 350 state and national organizations in a joint letter to President Trump expressing our support for the safety of vaccines. While AASA does not have an explicit position on vaccines, we acknowledge the important role they play in protecting the health of our children (the students in our schools) and the role that plays in ensuring students are able to be at school to learn.

You can read the full letter here.Vaccine Letter 020717

February 7, 2017

(ESEA, E-RATE, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Signs Statement Expressing Deep Concern Over Recent FCC Actions

Earlier today, AASA joined 16 other national organizations in a joint statement in response to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's recent decisions affecting the Universal Service Lifeline and E-Rate programs:

You can read the full statement here. It is also excerpted below:

The Education and Libraries Networks Coalition (EdLiNC) is extremely disappointed by FCC Chairman Pai's unilateral decision to revoke the designation of several telecommunications companies as Lifeline broadband providers. This decision will significantly hamper efforts to help close the homework gap for thousands of low-income and rural students, preventing them from gaining access to online resources, to college and employment applications, and to their teachers and peers. We cannot understand the need to block the roll-out of the Lifeline broadband program now and urge the Chairman to reconsider this action.

EdLiNC is also deeply concerned by Chairman Pai's decision to rescind the recently published E-Rate progress report, which does nothing more than demonstrate the progress that the program has made in delivering robust Wi-Fi to classrooms and libraries and providing fiber broadband connection opportunities to their buildings. E-Rate has done more to connect America's public and private schools and public libraries in the past 20 years than any other state or federal program and EdLiNC remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the strength and viability of this program. We urge the Chairman to reconsider this action. EdLiNC looks forward to working with the FCC and Chairman Pai to ensure that the E-Rate program helps meet the needs of our schools and libraries and protects the continued distribution of E-Rate discounts in an equitable way. 

Groups signing the statement include:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of School Business Officials, International
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • International Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Feb 3, 2017

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Medicaid Block Grants: It is Never as Good as it Sounds

This post was written by Rick Jacobs, an expert in school-based Medicaid and a Principal at Fairbanks LLC.

The concept of a block grant for Medicaid is far from a new idea as block grants have been used by the federal government to reduce federal expenditures and shift costs to the states for decades. 

In the late sixties and early seventies, the Nixon Administration implemented block grants for Community Development and certain housing programs.  President Reagan proposed a Medicaid block grant in 1981, which Congress rejected, as part of a broad series of entitlement program cuts and succeeded in cutting Medicaid funding until 1984. President Clinton vetoed Medicaid block grant legislation that was passed by the Congress in 1995.  George W. Bush proposed Medicaid block grants as well as sweeping cuts in Medicaid funding for schools, hospitals and other health care providers. The proposals currently being considered in Congress are building on the 2015 ACA repeal and Medicaid Block Grant sponsored by Sen. Burr and Cong. Upton as well as Speaker Ryan’s ACA repeal and Medicaid Block Grant proposal that passed the House in January 2016. The likelihood of Congress passing Medicaid block grant legislation this session and the President signing it is near certain.

The concept of a block grant has appeal for intergovernmental stakeholders that mask the undesired consequences that result from them. A block grant in simplest terms is a lump sum allotment from the federal government to the states. Alternatively, it could also be a per capita cap to consider population differences, but is effectively the same concept. The benefits to the federal government of a block grant are both financial and programmatic. The block grant limits the amount of federal funds that are appropriated providing greater predictability of budget requirements while concealing the effects of cuts in appropriation. The programmatic benefit of a block grant to the federal government is that it effectively shifts all accountability for program management to the states while retaining regulatory and funding oversight. The purported benefit to the states is that they too gain more predictable funding and are able to exercise more local control over the program with less regulatory oversight from the federal government. In practice, it rarely works out that way.

The fallacy is that:

  1. A block grant is a concealed funding cut
  2. A block grant does not account for changes in program demands
  3. A block grant effectively ignores that the underlying services are mandated and change with social needs
  4. A block grant shifts costs to the states exacerbating the “hidden budget cut” that is the result of a fixed allotment
  5. A block grant is not appropriate for entitlement programs such as Medicaid, especially in schools where services are mandated regardless of the resources available to pay for them
  6. The  entitlement to services and the mandates to provide those services does not end with a block grant and is completely inappropriate for programs that are integrated in both mandating services and entitlement funding such as Title 19 and IDEA.

It is important to note that if the federal funds are reduced by Congress, it does not reduce the non-discretionary expenditures being made on behalf of the Medicaid program, but would merely increase the amount of the unfunded mandate. Furthermore, since IDEA is an entitlement program and the integration of IDEA and Medicaid is predicated on both programs being entitlements, a block grant will reduce the funding for services provided but the entitlement to provide the services will remain. This will create a devastating and escalating shortfall for states as they must provide services pursuant to an open-ended entitlement, but must rely on a fixed and decreasing amount of funding to support those mandates. 

Block grants (or even per capita caps) are not bad policy on their face and have valid and appropriate applications in some situations. The use of a Medicaid block grant would disrupt and damage a program that has met the health care needs of children with disabilities for decades and is premised on the mandate of schools providing services to children without regard to funding. The devastating effects of block grants in general would be intensified for schools who cannot turn away students who require services or ignore their health care needs. Funding for mandated services would be reduced and would put children at risk and increase costs to state and local taxpayers as well as increase costly litigation from parents and other stakeholders. 

 

A Medicaid block grant is bad policy, bad for children and bad for state and local taxpayers.

February 1, 2017

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Webinar: Changes to REAP Program in 2017 & 2018

Join USED's Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) team for REAP: Changes to the Program in FY 2017 & 2018 Webinar, being held February 14 and February 16.

This webinar will provide an overview of changes to program eligibility and processes as a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act and explain what state education agencies can expect in FY 2017, 2018 and beyond.

Respond by clicking one of the dates below to send a notification to REAP@ED.gov. 

The day before each webinar, you will receive a meeting invitation with a link to access the webinar.

 

 

January 27, 2017

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AASA Organizes Perkins CTE Letter for 80+ National Organizations and Businesses

In 2016, the House passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill reauthorizing the Perkins CTE Act, but the Senate was unable to come to an agreement on a few policy issues, so the bill never made it to Conference or President Obama's desk. Since President Trump has promised to bring jobs back to American workers, we decide to spearhead an effort with our friends at IBM and the Association of Career and Technical Education to urge the House and Senate CTE Caucus Co-Chairs to pressure the Trump administration to increase investments in Perkins CTE. In addition, we urged them to work behind-the-scenes to ensure Perkins CTE reauthorization would be taken up quickly by the House and Senate Education committees. You can read our letter, which is signed by 85 associations and businesses here.

January 26, 2017

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AASA Supports the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act

This week, Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA) and Peter Welch (VT) reintroduced the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act (H.R. 627). The bipartisan bill has the support of education and environmental advocacy groups and 43 bipartisan cosponsors.  It was first introduced in 2014 and unanimously passed the House in 2014 and 2016. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.

The bill would create a system to help schools better navigate available federal programs and financing options for energy efficiency improvements to their facilities, potentially saving schools time and money. AASA was proud to support this bill along with both principal associations and other education groups.

January 11, 2017

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Quick and dirty summary of SCOTUS Endrew argument

As mentioned earlier on the blog, AASA submitted an amicus brief in the critically important Supreme Court case Endrew v. Douglas County School District. Accompanied by our terrific lawyers, Ruthanne Deutsch and Chris Borreca, I had the privilege of hearing the oral argument in the Endrew case today and wanted to share a brief summary of my impressions and to let you know that the AASA amicus was mentioned not once, but TWICE in the Court. Amicus briefs rarely get mentioned or cited during oral argument and the fact that ours was referenced is a testament to the strong arguments we presented.

Here's my quick and dirty summary of what happened and may happen: Based on the oral arguments it’s going to be a very close vote. If it goes 4-4 than the 10th Circuit decision in favor of the district stands. That’s a good thing. The court could choose to indicate that the 10th circuit standard for some educational benefit is weak, but not propose a new standard. If they propose a new standard it will be terrible for us, but that doesn’t appear to be the direction they want to go in since they really didn’t know what standard they should adopt. Instead, they may just criticize the 10th circuit for their poor definition of educational benefit and encourage them to find some other way of determining educational benefit and point to the 2nd Circuit or another Circuit that has applied some educational benefit more accurately. If they criticize the 10th Circuit case in this way it could lead to more litigation for states in the 10th Circuit (CO, KS, NM, UT, WY, OK), but they aren’t very litigious places anyway and it would be far better than adopting a new standard that applies to everyone across the U.S. There were many tough questions on both sides (as there should be) and it’s pretty clear that the “merely de minimis standard” the 10th Circuit adopted for educational benefit is gone. The major question is whether it is replaced with anything else or just ruled as an inappropriate standard. The transcript of the oral argument was just posted online, so you're welcome to read it for yourself and decide what the Court is thinking, too! 

 

January 10, 2017

(ESEA, IDEA, PERKINS, RURAL EDUCATION, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Releases Transition Memo

As the new year, new Congress, and new administration get under way, AASA shares its transition memo, identifying areas where the Trump administration could take steps that work to strengthen and support the nation's public schools.

The text of the transition memo is below, or you can read the PDF version.

Please direct any questions to the AASA advocacy team (Noelle Ellerson Ng, Sasha Pudelski, or Leslie Finnan).

 

Dear President-Elect Trump,

As you begin to think more deeply about your policies and priorities for improving the education of students in the United States, AASA, The School Superintendents Association stands ready to work with you and your Secretaries to ensure the 13,000 school districts we represent and the children they educate are well-served by your Administration. Throughout our more than 150 years, AASA has advocated for the highest quality public education for all students, and provided programing to develop and support school system leaders. AASA members advance the goals of public education and champion children’s causes in their districts and nationwide. 

Given that less than 10 percent of our budgets are derived from federal dollars, we strongly support increased local control over education decisions. We championed the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act for many specific reasons, but most generally for taking the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription rampant under No Child Left Behind and swinging it firmly back to state and local control. AASA believes there is a critical role for the federal government in improving K-12 education, but that role is meant to strengthen and support our public schools, not dictate to them. We write to delineate the policy areas in which we believe the Trump Administration can do just that: support and strengthen our public schools. The following outlines our sincere suggestions for areas where we think your administration’s leadership is most important.

Provide states and school districts with flexibility to implement ESSA

State and local education agencies are deeply involved in efforts to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As regulations, guidance and technical assistance designed to support implementation have been released by the Obama administration, certain proposals have run counter to the spirit and intent of the underlying statute and act to undermine the state and local flexibility intended by law makers. One of the best examples of this is within the proposed regulations for the law’s Title I ‘Supplement, Not Supplant’ (SNS) provisions. Title I was designed to be a flexible program, giving school districts and schools latitude to spend Title I funds on a broad array of educational services as long as they are consistent with the program’s purposes. The SNS rule as it is currently drafted substantially limits how school districts and schools may allocate resources, restricting and even undermining the ways in which Title I can support at-risk students. The proposal glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts do or do not have complete flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines intentional, evidence-based efforts aimed at increasing education equity. The proposal will restrict—rather than support—the ways in which state and local resources can be used to most effectively and equitably support at-risk students.

What you can do: We believe that a simple path the administration could follow in supporting state and local flexibility is to default to the underlying statute (which includes a test auditors could use) and refrain from additional unnecessary prescription. 

Reduce the administrative burden on districts

Increases each year in the amount of data requested by the Obama Administration has become the norm for school leaders. This surge in data collection has been particularly difficult for small, rural school districts to meet. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has been particularly to blame for the uptick in data collection through changes made to the Civil Rights Data Collection. In its last iteration for the 2015-2016 school year, the Department increased data collection by 17 percent.  Prior to the Obama Administration, the data was not required to be collected by all districts. In particular, smaller districts were exempt from participating in the collection every two years given the enormous burden it imposed. The Obama Administration chose to remove this exemption and require every district to submit data regardless of the size of district or burden this imposed.  

What you can do: We believe a simple and meaningful change your administration could make is to reduce the data points collected by the Civil Rights Data Collection to the most critical items necessary for monitoring compliance with the Title IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act. Further, the Department could return to the practice of the Bush Administration and revert to the traditional sampling procedures (stratification, estimation, etc.) that were used previously to survey districts for compliance. Further, require an internal audit of all data that is collected by the U.S. Department of Education in every division of the Department and ensure this data is legislatively mandated, non-duplicative and utilized in a manner that could benefit K12 students. Specifically, request that Department personnel whether any current data collection is focused on answering the question ‘Should we be collecting this data?’

Undo financially destructive regulations and absolve unfunded mandates

Since its inception in 1975, IDEA has protected students with disabilities by ensuring access to a free appropriate public education.  At the time the statute was enacted, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure. While special education funding has received significant increases over the past 15 years, including a one-time infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding has leveled off recently and has even been cut. The closest the federal government has come to reaching its 40 percent commitment through annual appropriations was 18 percent in 2005. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states and local school districts to pay for needed services.  This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that students with disabilities often also benefit from. 

To exacerbate special education funding shortfalls, on December 12, 2016, the Obama Administration issued a new IDEA regulation that would have profound financial implications for districts. This regulation attempts to re-write the statute of IDEA pertaining to findings of significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. While AASA believes this aspect of the statute is critically important, we think that the Administration has misinterpreted what the statute says and allows the Department of Education to amend it in ways that are not legally sound. In particular, USED will require states to impose a specific methodology to determine what districts have significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. If the Department’s estimate is to be believed, between 300 and 500 million dollars allocated to districts to provide direct services to students with disabilities would have to be utilized differently. 

What you can do: In your first budget as President, address this unfunded mandate and pledge to work with Congress and OMB to create a path towards fully funding IDEA. If that can’t be accomplished, support changes to IDEA that would allow districts flexibility in reducing their local investment in special education if they can find more efficient ways of serving students with disabilities. Given the underfunding of IDEA discussed above, we ask that you rescind the regulation immediately and urge Congress to take up the reauthorization of IDEA to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. 

Support rural school leaders and students

Rural school districts were not well-served by the Obama Administration. The dissemination of hundreds of millions of dollars through competitive programs like Race-To-The-Top and the Investing in Innovation led to few rural districts receiving any assistance during a significant economic downturn. Furthermore, the increased administrative burden documented below, exacerbated by cuts in federal funding proved to be a double hit for rural school districts. While the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) was preserved under the Obama Administration they did propose setting aside an unspecified amount of REAP dollars to provide competitive grants to innovative rural districts. The REAP program is a critical formula funding source for rural communities because it levels the playing field for small and high-poverty rural districts. 

What you can do: Support federal policy that flexibly supports the unique needs of rural communities, including REAP, Impact Aid, and Forest Counties, among others. REAP, in particular, helps districts overcome the additional costs associated with their geographic isolation, smaller number of students, higher transportation and employee benefit costs, and increased poverty. Funding REAP helps offset the impact of formula cuts and competitive dollars for small rural districts. Oppose attempts to distribute federal funding through competition, which inherently disadvantages rural districts who lack the resources and personnel to compete for funding. Create an Office of Rural Education Policy within the Department of Education to ensure that rural schools and communities are appropriately supported by the Department and considered in any discussion of new or existing education policies.

Ensure Higher Education regulations don’t burden local school districts 

On October 12, 2016, the Department of Education released final regulations regarding the evaluation of teacher preparation programs. These regulations require principals and school administrators to complete surveys and track and disseminate student outcomes for teachers in their schools who have graduated from a state teacher preparation program within the last three years. Besides adding an unprecedented and unfunded new burden to LEAs in the guise of improving teacher preparation programs regulated by the Higher Education Act this creates an unhealthy incentive to send graduating teachers to schools where students will do the best and may only exacerbate the current teacher shortage prevalent across the U.S. It could also create problems with the privacy and use of student data and new demands for data sharing across K12 and higher education institutions that are not technically realistic in some states.

What you can do: Reverse these regulations, and support a reauthorized Higher Education Act that does not place unnecessary burdens on the K-12 school system.

Avoid unnecessary environmental regulations

The Obama administration has made efforts to regulate school building materials, despite evidence that such regulations would not provide great enough benefit to justify the cost burden. Specifically, a rule will likely be proposed to require school and day care facilities to remove any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), flame retardant chemicals used until they were banned in 1979. Few schools still contain light ballasts with these chemicals, and most of those that do have already scheduled their removal.

What you can do: Do not continue with this or other similar regulations. Please be sure to consult with AASA and other similar groups before imposing regulations that would cause great cost burdens on already struggling school systems. 

Rebuild America’s schools

A strong K-12 public school infrastructure is essential if we hope to be globally competitive. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot be expected to learn in school facilities that are physically unsafe, or that lack functioning bathrooms or appropriate heating and cooling systems. Unfortunately, this is the state of too many of our school buildings across the U.S. According to the 2016 State of Our Schools Report, from FY1994-FY2013, school districts and states spent an average annually of $46 billion on utilities, operations, maintenance, and repair from their operating budgets; an average of $12 billion  per year on interest on long term debt—mostly for school construction bonds; and about $50 billion per year for capital construction from their capital budgets for new construction, facilities alterations, system and component renewals, and reducing the accumulation of deferred maintenance. The National Council on School facilities estimates that the nation's districts need to spend about $77 billion annually to modernize school buildings. 

What you can do: Ensure your infrastructure plan addresses the infrastructure needs of school districts. 

Align the K12 education system with skills demanded in workplaces

Last Congress, the House passed legislation to modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The Senate was unable to act last fall despite a vote of 405-5 in the House to pass the bill.  The federal government’s most significant K-12 investment is in career and technical education. Yet, in some places there remains a disconnect between the education students receive in high school and their employment options. We must address this gap by passing a comprehensive reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act that will strengthen the bonds between business/industry and K12 districts and higher education institutions. School leaders must have data that informs them about what major employers are moving in/out of states and how our high schools can help them meet their workforce needs. We also need to invest more in CTE at the federal level. Under the Obama Administration, Perkins CTE funding fell by 13%. 

What you can do: Recommend greater funding for Carl D Perkins CTE to ensure school districts have the equipment, curriculum and appropriate personnel to offer the courses students need. Urge both chambers to work together to pass a bipartisan CTE reauthorization bill that continues the trend of reducing the federal footprint in K12 education policy.

Support and strengthen school lunch and breakfast programs 

The National School Lunch Act was first implemented in 1946 to ensure students had access to at least one healthy meal per day. It was designed as a fully federally funded program. The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act ushered in a dramatic change in how school food services are provided. The strict meal standards have posed a financial and practical burden on many districts throughout the country. The new legislation offered a 6¢ per meal increase, though estimates have shown that the new standards increased costs by 35¢ per meal. While AASA would not support a full repeal of these standards, as much great work has been done to improve the provision of healthy meals, we do support tweaking the most problematic standards to provide relief to those districts having the most trouble meeting the new standards.

What you can do: Support legislation that provides common-sense changes to the nutrition standards, so schools can focus on feeding their students.  Support legislation that increases the federal investment in school lunch and breakfast programs. 

Support public education

While it’s clear that your Administration would like to prioritize expanding private school vouchers, in any and all forms, to students we urge you to consider the practical and financial implications of redirecting current federal K12 funding away from the public school system that must serve all students. There are currently 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Even if vouchers were adopted widely as you propose, public education would remain our primary system; in states with voucher systems, most students would continue to attend public schools. Moreover, voucher programs are an ineffective and damaging education policy. Study after study has shown that private school vouchers do not improve student achievement or provide greater opportunities for the low-income students they purport to serve. Private voucher schools do not provide the same rights and protections to students as public schools, such as those in Titles VI and IX of the Civil Rights Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Private school voucher programs do not offer real choice as most state-voucher systems allow private schools to reject students with vouchers for a variety of reasons, ranging from disability, disciplinary history, English proficiency to ability to pay. Private school vouchers also do not save taxpayer money. In voucher programs, the public schools from which students leave for private voucher schools are spread throughout a school district. The reduction in students from each public school, therefore, is usually negligible and does not decrease operating costs of those public schools. That is one of the reasons why some voucher programs have resulted in multi-million dollar deficits and tax increases. To the extent that non-public schools would have access to federal dollars, all entities receiving public dollars must face the same transparency, reporting and accountability requirements.

As President it is incumbent that you ensure all students have access to quality public schools and that in a broader conversation of school choice, the focus is on ensuring that the nation’s public schools remain a high-quality and viable option for all families. 

What you can do: Ensure that the U.S. Department of Education promotes effective education policies and programs designed to strengthen and support our nation’s public schools and directs resources to local school districts to improve the education of the 50.4 million students that attend public elementary and secondary schools.

In closing, we look forward to working with you and your administration to provide all our nation’s students with  excellent public education opportunities and welcome the opportunity to meet to discuss these priorities further. 

January 9, 2017

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

UPDATED: USED Announces ESSA Guidance and Webinar Series

UPDATED: USED is cancelling Jan 25 webinar and rescheduling for the following week. The adjusted schedule and topics are reflected below.

USED released a series of resources to support States in their transition to the ESSA. The Consolidated State Plan guidance, State and Local Report Cards guidance, and High School Graduation Rate guidance provide additional clarity on the role of States, districts, and schools under the ESSA to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education and that they graduate high school prepared for success in college and career.

The department also announced that it will host a weekly webinar series  (Wednesdays from 2-3:30 EST) beginning on January 11, 2017:

Please note that the schedule is subject to change. The Department will provide a detailed agenda prior to each session. Note that you must register for each webinar.
  • January 11, 2017
    Title I, Part A Assessment Notice of Final Regulations
    Register here.
  • January 18, 2017
    Consolidated State Plan: Consultation, Performance Management, and Assessment Requirements
    Register here.
  • January 25, 2017 NOW FEB 1
    Consolidated State Plan: Supporting Excellent Educators and All Students
    Register here.
  • February 1, 2017 NOW FEB 8
    Consolidated State Plan: Accountability Systems: Long-term Goals and Indicators
    Register here.
  • February 8, 2017 NOW FEB 15
    Consolidated State Plan: Accountability Systems: Annual Meaningful Differentiation and School Identification
    Register here.
  • February 15, 2017 NOW MAR 1
    Consolidated State Plan: School Improvement and Support
    Register here.
  • February 22, 2017
    No webinar
  • March 1, 2017 NOW MARCH 8
    Consolidated State Plan: Program-specific requirements
    Register here.
  • March 8, 2017 NOW MAR 15
    State plan submission
    Register here.
 
 

January 5, 2017

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

The Advocate, January 2017

by Sasha Pudelski, assistant director, Policy and Advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a special education case called Endrew v. Douglas County School District. The case focuses on what level of educational “benefit” a school must offer students with disabilities under IDEA.

For the first time in its 150-plus year history, AASA has chosen to author our own amicus brief for the Supreme Court given the high stakes for school districts if the Court rules in favor of the petitioner (Endrew) and not the respondent (Douglas County School District).

Why are we doing this? If the petitioners prevail, even schools that meticulously abide by IDEA’s extensive procedural requirements would have to be prepared to justify that every student’s IEP is reasonably calculated to provide a “meaningful” or “substantial” educational benefit. Not only would this standard be totally impractical and counter-productive, it would also go against Congressional intent since Congress has never even contemplated redefining the standard set by the courts under Rowley of “some educational benefit” despite several recent reauthorizations.

The background on the Endrew case is as follows: Endrew (“Drew”) is a former student in the Douglas County School District who has been diagnosed with autism. The school district provided Drew with special education and related services under a series of IEPs over several years. After a difficult fourth-grade year, Drew’s parents rejected his proposed fifth-grade IEP and enrolled him in a private school that specializes in educating children with autism.

Drew’s parents then sought reimbursement from the district for his private school tuition on the grounds that he had been denied a free appropriate public education (FAPE). An administrative law judge concluded that Drew’s parents were not entitled to reimbursement because the proposed IEP was procedurally sound and reasonably calculated to provide some educational benefit.

A federal district court upheld that determination. On appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Drew’s parents argued that his IEP had been assessed under the wrong standard. In their view, instead of asking whether the IEP was calculated to provide “some” benefit, the administrative law judge and the district court should have required that it provide a “meaningful” benefit. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. It concluded that it was bound by the Supreme Court’s decision in Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982), which held that an IEP need offer only “some educational benefit.”

The Obama Administration has weighed in on the case in favor of the petitioner (Endrew) as have numerous disability rights organizations and a few education organizations Can you list an example? The Administration posits that if the current standard, “some educational benefit,” were to remain in place then school districts would be free to offer students with disabilities services for only a few months of the year to demonstrate they are making some progress educationally. This is a ridiculous example and one that shows how little the government itself understands about IDEA and its requirements to provide services for students continually (unless they no longer qualify for the service or special education). It also shows how little faith this Administration has in special education professionals and school leaders’ personal desire to ensure students with disabilities achieve academically regardless of a statutory or judicial standard for educational benefit.

Aside from the fact that the Court has no basis for creating a new standard, which we detail in our brief substantially, there is no ‘workable’ standard beyond the current one, which is “some educational benefit.” The Government and the Petitioner would require courts to evaluate the level of education an IEP is designed to provide—either to assess whether it would be substantially equivalent to that afforded other children or to assess whether it would reflect significant progress for that particular child. A court cannot appropriately evaluate the level of education an IEP would provide without judging the quality of educational methods and services: How good are the teachers? How effective are their methods? What difference would smaller class sizes make? Would limited dollars be better spent elsewhere? This kind of second-guessing by courts and the level of scrutiny required in every due process case would lead to outrageous hearing lengths as well as completely subjective decisions by individuals who are not education experts by any stretch.

What does that mean practically speaking? Districts will be in a constant cycle of evaluating and re-evaluating students to ensure they are making “enough” progress, an increased focus on IDEA paperwork and compliance, and greater likelihoods of settlements with parents to avoid even more costly and lengthy litigation. The financial, practical and administrative implications for districts if the Court rules in favor of the petitioner cannot be understated. AASA will attend the hearing on January 11 and will share any relevant insights or summaries on the Leading Edge blog. The Court is expected to rule in late Spring. We will keep you informed of the decision. 

January 5, 2017

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115th Congress and Funding: Quick Update

As part of our advocacy effort, AASA belongs to the Children's Budget Coalition. Here are three items of note from the first meeting of 2017:   

  • HOUSE RULES FOR THE 115TH CONGRESS:  
    • HOW IT IMPACTS APPROPRIATIONS: The House Rules for the 115th Congress, which were adopted on Tuesday, contain several provisions that relate to budget and appropriations matters.  Check out this section by section summary of all the Rules and attached are the summaries of the relevant appropriations and budget sections.  
    • HOLMAN RULE OVERVIEW: The new House Rules reinstate the “Holman Rule,” a 19th century House rule that was rescinded in 1983.  Under the rule, amendments to appropriations bills being considered on the House floor can cut the number or salaries of federal employees covered by the bills provided they are paid with Treasury Department funds.  The rule will be reinstated only for the first session of the 115th Congress. The purpose of this provision is to see if the reinstatement of the Holman rule will provide Members with additional tools to reduce spending during consideration. The reinstatement of the rule is part of a “far broader strategy” in Congress to change the nature of the federal workforce, including the way federal workers are hired and fired.  There are conservatives in the House who want to cut the number of government employees and roll back salaries on an agency-by-agency, program-by-program basis.  The rule will allow them to introduce amendments to this end.  Before this rule change, an agency’s budget could be cut broadly, but a specific program, employee or groups of employees could not be targeted because of civil service protections.  Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) stated that he's “deeply concerned” that the rule “would make it easier for the Majority to circumvent the current legislative process to fire or cut the pay of federal employees.”  The rule could allow “far-reaching changes to the nonpartisan civil service on the basis of ideology,” Hoyer said. Read this related article from the Washington Post.
     
  • FY 17 BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILL:  PROCESS, TIMELINE & UPDATE The bills reconciliation instructions direct four relevant committees (Senate Finance & HELP and House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce) to draft legislation by January 27th which would reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion over ten years.  The instructions do not specify the changes to be made, but they are universally understood to involve repeal of substantial parts of the ACA.  Once both the Senate and House pass the budget resolution, the House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce will hold markups and produce the actual legislation to repeal the ACA.   They will then submit their legislation to the House Budget Committee to be combined into a single package for consideration by the full House.  Note that the Senate Finance & HELP would normally draft their own legislation, but it’s widely expected that they will consider whatever reconciliation legislation passes the House.  Congress is aiming to have the legislation to the President’s desk by the end of February. The resolution overcame its first procedural hurdle in the Senate yesterday even though lawmakers made clear after a morning meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence that any replacement plan is at least months away.  The Senate voted 51-48 yesterday afternoon to proceed to the resolution, S. Con. Res. 3, which would set up a filibuster-proof process, ensuring the chamber’s consideration of legislation repealing parts of Obamacare and replacing it, either as one bill or as separate measures.
  • FY 18 PRESIDENT’S BUDGET:  OUTLINE IN FEBRUARY & FULL BUDGET COMING IN MAY: President-elect Donald Trump plans to submit a fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress but it may not come until later in the spring, lawmakers and staff said Wednesday.  While it is the usual practice of presidents to submit a budget for the fiscal year beginning after their election, there was a lack of certainty about whether Trump would and even some speculation he would skip it. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said it's likely the president’s budget request would not be submitted to Congress until May, months after the statutory deadline of the first Monday in February.  Separately, a GOP aide said he has heard Trump may submit an outline of the budget in late February.

January 2, 2016

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New Seclusion and Restraint Guidance

In what appears to be a final curtsy to the disability rights community they have been eager to please, last week the Obama Administration released guidance for district leaders on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools. This guidance informs school districts of how the use of restraint and seclusion may result in discrimination against students with disabilities thereby violating Section 504 and Title II of the ADA.

Specifically, ED states a school district discriminates on the basis of disability in its use of restraint or seclusion by (1) unnecessarily treating students with disabilities differently from students without disabilities; (2) implementing policies, practices, procedures, or criteria that have an effect of discriminating against students on the basis of disability or defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the school district’s program or activity with respect to students with disabilities; or (3) denying the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Of note, the guidance assumes that a school’s use of restraint or seclusion for a student with a disability could be evidence that the student’s current array of regular or special education and related aids and services is not addressing the student’s needs. Moreover, the guidance states that a school’s use of restraint or seclusion may have a traumatic impact on a student, such that even if she were never again restrained or secluded, she might nevertheless have new academic or behavioral difficulties that, if not addressed promptly, could constitute a denial of FAPE. That traumatizing effect could manifest itself in new behaviors, impaired concentration or attention in class, or increased absences, any of which could, if sufficiently severe and unaddressed, result in a denial of FAPE for that student.

 You can read the guidance and a series of questions and answers on the guidance and seclusion/restraint here.  

December 21, 20167

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AASA and 6 other organizations file Amicus in Endrew v. Douglas County

Today, AASA and 6 other education organizations filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Endrew v. Douglas County School District. We were thrilled to be filing our first lead amicus and this amicus will be the lead amicus representing groups in the K-12 space. Joining us on the brief are the CASE, NAFIS, ASBO, AESA, NAESP, NASSP, and NREA. Our lawyers, Ruthanne Deutsch of Deutch Hunt and Chris Borecca of Thompson & Horton did a commendable job outlining the concerns of school administrators and why Congress, not the Courts, should determine what changes, if any, are needed to IDEA's educational benefit standard.

This case is considered the most important IDEA case that Court has decided since Rowley as it could redefine the concept of educational benefit in the context of providing FAPE in the LRE. Despite losing in the lower courts, the Petitioner (Endrew) has support from the Obama Administration (among others) and it is not at all clear how SCOTUS will rule. You can read our brief here to better understand the massive implications for districts (financial, procedural and administrative) if the Court rules in favor of the Petitioner. 

December 19, 2016

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AASA Analysis of IDEA Significant Disproportionality Regs

Last week, in the waning hours of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Education released the final regulation on the calculation of significant disproportionality under IDEA. Here is a press release that summarizes the reg from ED: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-equity-idea States and districts are not required to comply with these regulations until July 1, 2018. It is our hope that the Congress will delay the implementation of this regulation and address the important issue of significant disproportionality through the reauthorization of IDEA rather than through a Department regulation.

AASA appreciates how many school leaders took the time to comment on the IDEA regulation, and as we read through the 500+ pages of response and clarifications from ED we see that your comments forced the Department to address many of our objections with the proposed regulation. Unfortunately, while ED has been forced to contemplate and respond to our many criticisms of their proposal (albeit somewhat flippant responses at times), they did honor five of our of our requests:

  • States have flexibility not to identify significant disproportionality in an LEA that exceeds a risk ratio threshold if they make reasonable progress in lowering the applicable risk ratio or alternate risk ratio in each of the two consecutive prior years.
  • They eliminate as a category of analysis children with disabilities ages 6 through 21 inside a regular class more than 40 percent of the day and less than 79 percent of the day
  • Provide more flexibility around the n-size and cell-size that states must use. States need not calculate risk ratios for any racial or ethnic group that does not meet minimum cell or n-sizes set by the state.
  • Allowing States to set different risk ratio thresholds in order to reasonably identify significant disproportionality for categories with different degrees of incidence rates, and, therefore, different degrees of disparity.
  • Not mandating districts be held responsible for significant disproportionality for students with the seven low-incidence impairments under IDEA.  

What does this mean for districts? The final regs contain the following:

  • A rebuttal presumption that a minimum cell size of no greater than 10 and n-size of no greater than 30 are reasonable. We believe ED does not have the authority to put pressure on states to adopt a certain n size or cell-size and this aspect of the regulation is wholly inappropriate.
  • ED has significantly expanded the focus on significant disproportionality in the discipline context. The regs clarify that States must address significant disproportionality in the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, using the same statutory remedies required to address significant disproportionality in the identification and placement of children with disabilities.
  • ED has refused to grant critical flexibility to districts that are found to have significant disproportionality that would allow these LEAs to be excused from setting aside 15% of IDEA funds for CEIS for the following reasons: 1) an exceptionally low student population where the addition or subtraction of a few students results in meeting/not meeting the State’s risk ratio, 2) a school serving a specific subgroup of students with disabilities, 3) a highly regarded program for students with disabilities that attracts students from across the State or region, 4) residential facilities or group homes within the district, 5) a recent environmental catastrophe specific to the region that has substantially impacted the health of children throughout the district, 6) very low rates of special education identification, restrictive placements or exclusionary discipline for all students and 7) a highly mobile student population.
  • Districts can use funds for CEIS for students currently enrolled in special education. While we appreciate this flexibility, it is not authorized in the statute.
  • The Department estimates that districts will have to transfer between $298.4 and $552.9 million that they use under Part B to provide direct services for students with disabilities to early intervening services.We believe these estimates are quite low. 

 

 

December 13, 2016

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Final ESSA Accountability Regulations

The U.S. Department of Education released final ESSA accountability regulations. As we said earlier, our three main concerns from the draft were addressed, albeit not perfectly.

Regarding the requirement for a summative indicator, the changes made were a step in the right direction, but did not fully address our concerns. The final regulations allow states to use a dashboard to explain how schools are doing on different indicators and to use ratings within ESSA as their summative rating without identifying a specific grade.

As for the timeline for identification of schools, the final regulations provide states with an extra year over the draft regulations to identify schools in need of support, requiring this identification starting in the 2018-19 school year. State accountability plan deadlines were also pushed back to April 3 or September 18 (from the proposed March and July deadlines).

We detailed the final regulations for transportation of students in foster care previously here. The final rule is much more closely aligned with the statute of ESSA, requiring LEAs to collaborate with state and local child welfare agencies to develop procedures around which agency will be responsible for the payment of transportation services.

A full description of the changes made is found in the italicized sections of this document.

December 6, 2016(2)

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Sequester is so 2013. The new buzz words are 'reconciliation' and 'CRA'.

Sequester is so 2013. When it comes to the terms for obscure Congressional procedures that we need to know for 2017, the new ‘it’ phrases are budget reconciliation and Congressional Review Act. This blog post is designed as a quick overview of each term, why it is relevant in 2017 and how it relates to AASA advocacy.

Congressional Review Act:  

  • Background: We know that Congress writes the bills that become law. When it comes to providing additional detail to support implementation of these laws, the relevant agencies issue regulations. Even in granting rulemaking authority to various agencies, Congress does maintain vigilance over the rulemaking process, through a little-used procedure called Congressional Review Act (CRA). CRA was created in 1996 as part of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. Among other things, the law provided for Congressional review of agency rulemaking. Relevant to this blog post and what we may expect with a Trump administration, Congress can use the CRA to overturn a rule issued by a federal agency. Since its creation in 1996, the CRA has only been successfully used once, in 2001 to nullify an ergonomics standards rule proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition to this one successful CRA, more than 40 joint resolutions for disapproval have been introduced—but not adopted—since the law was enacted. 
  • Process: In order for a CRA to stop/halt a final regulation, here’s what must happen: The relevant agency (in our case, US Education Department) provides a report to each chamber of Congress and the Comptroller General that contains a copy of the rule, a summary/general statement related to the rule, and the proposed effective date. At this point, each Chamber of Congress has a specified time period in which they can consider and take action on a motion to disapprove the rule. If both Chambers move to disapprove the rule, it goes to the President, who can either sign or veto. Once signed, the CRA renders any included rule/regulation as null and void. That is, an rule set to take effect would not take effect, and even provisions already implemented would be negated. A CRA cannot be filibustered. A CRA can be applied to a rule in its entirety only; it is ‘all or nothing’, meaning that Congress cannot use the CRA to rescind certain pieces of a rule while leaving others in tact.
  • Education Implications: The CRA can be applied to any regulation issued in the past 60 business days. For Congress, that means anything from May 2016 on. From an education perspective, that would include the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability regulations and the Higher Education Teacher Preparation regulations, and depending on what is released over the remainder of the calendar year, could also include ESSA supplement/supplant; and IDEA significant disproportionality. Additional agencies could be subject to the CRA, and we follow these following regulations: Department of Labor Over Time Rule; Environmental Protection Agency PCB/Light Ballasts in Schools; and Federal Communications Commission Lifeline (home phone connectivity).
  • Then What?: If the CRA is successful and, for example, the ESSA accountability regulations are rescinded, what would that look like for schools? How would state move forward in crafting their accountability work book? If the ESSA accountability regulations are repealed, the CRA provides that another rule that is significantly similar cannot be produced. That is, the agency cannot issue another rule that is substantially similar to the rule that was rescinded. CRA does not clearly define what ‘substantially the same’ means, so that prohibition would be subject to interpretation. 
  • You can read more in this Frequently Asked Question: Congressional Review Act paper, as prepared by the Congressional Research Service.

Budget Reconciliation:  

  • Background: In its simplest form, budget reconciliation can be described as a provision within a budget resolution that directs one or more committees to submit legislation changing existing law in order to bring federal spending into conformity with the budget resolution. It is an expedited process that allows for consideration of tax, spending and debt limit legislation. This could include requirements for the committee to move legislation that reduces mandatory spending (like Medicaid or Medicare, though it cannot be used to change Social Security) or increases revenues as needed. It should be noted that it is almost 100% unlikely that any reconciliation in 2017 would be anything other than cuts in spending. Increases in revenues (tax increases) are a non-starter. The process of reconciliation was created in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Congress has enacted 20 budget reconciliation bills since 1980. 
  • Process: Reconciliation is ‘triggered’ when the House and Senate agree on a budget resolution that includes reconciliation directives for certain committees. The directives give certain House and Senate committees a timeline by which they must move legislation that does one of the three following: changes spending by a certain amount over a specified time; changes revenues by a certain amount over a specified time; or changes the public debt limit by a certain amount. ‘Changes’ can include either an increase or a decrease; the directive will specify either ‘cut’ or ‘increase’. Current interpretation means that there can be a maximum of three reconciliation bills in a year (one each of the three changes mentioned above). The reconciliation process has some advantages in the Senate, mainly that it can be passed with a simple majority (as opposed to the 60 votes typically needed for more controversial legislation), debate is limited to 20 hours
  • Education Implications: Budget reconciliation instructions can be applied to any committee. In terms of policies that we track that could be subject to reconciliation instructions, they include: changes to the Affordable Care Act; cuts to Medicaid that translate into block-granting the program; changes/eliminations to the CHIP program; and more. We need to see how the House and Senate choose to apply the limited number of reconciliation directives they can apply. While ACA seems an easy target, concerns related to the phasing in of these changes to increase the likelihood that the focus could be on Medicaid of CHIP. 
  • Then What?: Once adopted, the proposal becomes law, and Congress will move forward to implement the adopted change, which in this scenario is all but certain to include funding cuts.
  • You can read more in this excellent summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

 

 

December 6, 2016(1)

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AASA Signs Letter Urging Congress to Complete Appropriations Process

AASA joined a handful of other national education organizations in a letter that urges Congress to complete its appropriations process. While AASA is opposed to a federal shutdown, we are also opposed to a piece-meal, kick-the-can-down-the-road approach to federal funding currently in place and being considered, the continuing resolution. You can read the letter here.

Other groups signing the letter include 

 

  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Child Welfare League of America
  • Children’s Health Fund
  • Every Child Matters
  • First Focus Campaign for Children
  • MomsRising
  • National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
  • National Respite Coalition
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • Public Advocacy for Kids
  • Save the Children Action Network

 

December 6, 2016

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NCES Shares Latest Data on ‘New American’ Students

The number of “New Americans,” or immigrants and the children of immigrants, in U.S. schools has increased significantly in number and proportion, according to the National Center for Education Statistics’ brief report, New American Undergraduates: Enrollment Trends and Age at Arrival of Immigrant and Second-Generation Students, which doesn't come as a surprise.

The report hones in on Asian and Hispanic students, and is broken down by four questions:

  • How has the composition of New American (immigrant and second-generation) undergraduates changed over time? At what ages did immigrant students arrive in the U.S., what is their citizenship status, and how do these characteristics vary by students’ race/ethnicity?
  • How do the background characteristics and academic preparation of Asian and Hispanic New American students differ?
  • What are the postsecondary enrollment characteristics of Asian and Hispanic New American students in terms of the institutions they attend, whether they attend full time, and their major fields of study?
  • How do selected postsecondary enrollment characteristics of immigrant undergraduates vary by the age at which they arrive in the United States?

Key to the report is the examination of students’ age at arrival in the U.S., and how academically prepared students are for college and whether they enrolled in college. As well as the data on college credit earned while in high school by Asian and Hispanic immigrants and second-generation students. 

new-american-study-fig8

The study findings reveal that immigrants’ age at arrival in the U.S., and their age of postsecondary enrollment are related and that immigrants who arrived as children (under age 12), were more likely than those who arrived as adolescents or adults, to earn college credit or AP credits in high school and less likely to need to need a developmental course in college. This implies that those who arrive as children have more time and opportunity to prepare for college, according to the brief.

Immigrants arriving in the U.S. as children and adolescents were also more likely to attend postsecondary institutions full-time, than adult immigrants were.

Another important chart to take a look at is the Major Field of Study by Age at Arrival, which shows that immigrants who arrived as children and adolescents majored in STEM fields and social studies at a higher rate than those who arrived as adults. Conversely, a higher percentage of adult arrivals majored in health care fields.  

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December 5, 2016

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Congress Must Act Now: Fund Secure Rural Schools Program!

Background: The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was intended as a safety net for forest communities in 42 states.  SRS payments are based on historic precedent and agreements removing federal lands from local tax bases and from full local community economic activity.  The expectation is that the federal government and Congress will develop a long-term system based on sustainable active forest management. Congress needs to act on active long term forest management programs generating local jobs and revenues. 

Relevance: As we begin the final weeks of 2016 and the 114th Congress, the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (Forest Counties) remains zero-funded. While Congress funded SRS for 2014 and 2015, they have not funded SRS for 2016, meaning that 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools in rural communities and school districts served by the SRS program are currently receiving zero funding through this program. With these cuts, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services.  We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded. 

Call to Action: Contact your members of Congress (your Senators and your Representative) to discuss Secure Rural Schools (SRS, or Forest Counties).  Let them know what your budget looks like without this funding and that they need to do something for SRS funding. And, ask them to relay their concern and desire for action with Congressional leadership.  It is critical that Leadership hears from Members that SRS and Forest Management are issues that must be addressed as Congress comes back to work for the Lame Duck session.  Create your own story about what happens if we get nothing. 

In addition to your Senators and Representative, please contact any House/Senate leadership from your state. A full list of House and Senate leadership is below: 

Please contact the advocacy team if you need email addresses for the education staffers in any of these offices. 

House of Representatives: Leadership

 

  • Speaker: Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) 
  • Majority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 
  • Majority Whip: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) 
  • Republican Conference Chairman: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 
  • Republican Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) 
  • Democratic Leader: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 
  • Democratic Whip: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) 
  • Assistant Democratic Leader: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) 
  • Democratic Caucus Chairman: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)  

 

US Senate Leadership

 

  • Republican Majority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 
  • Majority Whip:  John Cornyn (R-TX) 
  • Republican Conference Chair: John Thune (R-SD) 
  • Republican Policy Committee Chair: John Barrasso (R-WY) 
  • Republican Conference Vice Chair: Roy Blunt (R-MO) 
  • Democratic Minority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV) 
  • Democratic Whip: Richard Durbin (D-IL) 
  • Democratic Conference Committee Chair: Charles Schumer (D-NY) 
  • Democratic Conference Committee Vice Chair & Policy Committee Chair: Patty Murray (D-WA) 

 

December 2, 2016

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AASA December Advocate

Preparing for a new Congress and Administration

Washington, D.C. is in a bit of a funk. As the 114th Congress draws to a close, Congress is set to leave town in a few days without fully completing its federal budgeting process (yet again). There is a sense of bewilderment by lobbyists, congressional and agency staff and even members of Congress about what kind of political environment they will face when they return in January.

As a staunchly non-partisan organization, AASA is in many ways lucky compared to other key education groups. We have great relationships on both sides of the aisle. We know that our members depend on us to advance the best policies possible for students and school systems regardless of who thinks of them. This allows our team to be flexible, pragmatic, aggressive and independent in our defense of the public policy interests of superintendents.

While this election was devoid of much serious conversation about education policy, now that we know we are working with President-elect Trump, we are determined to make it a meaningful relationship. We didn’t hide our displeasure with the Obama Administration’s Race-to-the-Top initiative, or conditional ESEA waivers or expansion of the Civil Rights data collection. The Department knew what we thought and they chose to do things differently than we would have liked, which is their prerogative. Similarly, we will call it like we see it with the Trump Administration. And, as we look ahead to next year and try and crystalize what Trump may want to do in the K-12 education space, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, one of the most controversial fiscal regulations on school districts ever proposed governing the distribution of state and local Title I dollars is likely to disappear (see supplement not supplant call-to-action). We could also see a less aggressive role for the Office of Civil Rights under a Trump Administration and a reduction in data collection requirements on districts and proactive investigations. We could also see potential changes to regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and related to the Affordable Care Act. These changes will likely be wins for AASA members, from a policy point of view. 

On the other hand, we will likely find ourselves spending significant time and energy fighting draconian cuts to education. With control of both chambers, Republicans could try and lift spending caps on defense at the expense of non-defense discretionary spending, of which education is included. This would mean that we could see reductions in our key federal education funding streams at a critical time.

Medicaid reform is also a concern we will be tracking. Our policy team works closely with our Children’s Department to incentivize greater healthcare coverage for students. The untimely need to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coupled with the possibility that fewer Medicaid-eligible students will receive coverage if Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is repealed should be of great concern to school leaders.

While Trump disagrees with members of his own party about spending sometimes, there’s a possibility that there could be broad support for finding and funneling “new” dollars toward school choice. While Trump’s $20 billion-dollar school choice plan is short on details, most Beltway insiders do not believe that attempts to make Title I dollars portable to private schools will go far next Congress. The majority of the Congress was re-elected and they are proud to see the implementation of ESSA move forward and know that Title I portability would fundamentally alter successful enactment of the most heralded legislative accomplishments in recent memory.  However, attempts to voucherize IDEA funding, create a federal tuition tax-credit system, or expand the floundering D.C. voucher program are all strong possibilities. There is also some speculation that Trump could try to use the presidential pulpit to get states to repurpose state dollars.  

As we consider the Trump policies we probably will not like, there is comfort in knowing that we still have the same Chairman and Ranking Member on the Senate Education Committee: U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) Patty Murray (D-Wash.) The thin GOP majority in the Senate and the continuation of the 60-vote threshold make it more likely that reasonable, bipartisan policy and funding measures prevail in that chamber. In contrast, the House Education Committee will be led by a known firebrand, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who has been more focused on higher education policy than K-12.

While AASA would have preferred a nominee to lead the Department of Education with not only experience within education, but a track record reflecting support for public schools, we will to try and build a strong working relationship with Betsy DeVos and her team, and continue to honestly and actively represent the views of school leaders in Washington, D.C. To the extent that education policy is on the menu, we will be at the table.

 

 

 

November 30, 2016

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Analysis of Foster Care Transportation Requirements in ESSA Reg

Earlier, this week the US Department of Education (ED) published final regulations to implement the accountability and state plan provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These final regulations include new rules related to homelessness and foster care. In light of AASA's deep concerns with the proposed regulation the new and final rule is a considerable advocacy win given its importance for school leaders.

Below is an quick analysis from Barbara Duffield at SchoolHouse Connection on what school leaders must understand about the new regulation

I. Transportation to School of Origin for Children in Foster Care -  §299.13(c)(ii)

In §299.13(c)(ii), ED included the following regulation for the Title I state plan:  

“To ensure that children in foster care promptly receive transportation, as necessary, to and from their schools of origin when in their best interest under section 1112(c)(5)(B) of the Act, the SEA must ensure that an LEA receiving funds under title I, part A of the Act will collaborate with State and local child welfare agencies to develop and implement clear written procedures that describe:

(A)  How the requirements of section 1112(c)(5)(B) of the Act will be met in the event of a dispute over which agency or agencies will pay any additional costs incurred in providing transportation; and

(B)  Which agency or agencies will initially pay the additional costs so that transportation is provided promptly during the pendency of the dispute. 

Analysis of Final Regulation:

This final rule on the transportation of children in foster care to their schools of origin is a marked departure from the U.S. Department of Education’s initial proposal. The final rule also substantially modifies ED’s previously-issued guidance on the same subject.

The final regulation requires LEAs that receive Title I Part A funds to collaborate with State and local child welfare agencies on written procedures that describe how the statutory requirements of ESSA in section 1112(c)(5)(B) will be met in the event of a dispute over which agency/agencies will pay additional costs of transportation, including which agency/agencies will initially pay additional costs during the pendency of the dispute.

It is important to note:

1) The final regulation references the statutory requirements of ESSA in section 1112(c)(5)(B). This section requires LEAs that receive Title I Part A funds to collaborate with child welfare agencies to develop and implement local transportation procedures that must ensure that children and youth in foster care receive transportation to their school of origin, if it is in their best interest; and that, if there are additional costs, LEAs provide transportation only on the condition that the LEA agrees to pay some or all of those costs or the child welfare agency agrees to reimburse the LEA for the costs.

Nothing in the final regulation changes the limited statutory obligations of LEAs to provide transportation if there are additional costs, and onlyif they are reimbursed or agree to pay for it.

2) The regulations clearly establish no presumption regarding which agency/agencies are responsible for additional transportation costs during disputes. Rather, the regulation requires LEAs that receive Title I Part A funds to collaborate with State and local child welfare agencies to develop procedures that describe which agency/agencies will pay for additional costs during disputes over which agency/agencies must pay.

3) The final regulation contemplates a collaborative process between LEAs and state and local child welfare agencies for developing local transportation procedures. It would be inconsistent with the statute and the final regulation for an SEA to impose a uniform requirement unilaterally on all LEAs in a state to pay for transportation during disputes. Such a unilaterally-imposed requirement would conflict with the requirement for the collaborative development of local transportation procedures addressing how transportation will be provided and who will be responsible for additional transportation costs while disputes are pending.

 

November 29, 2016

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School Choice in the States

 Following the election of Donald Trump and the nomination of Betsy DeVos, there has been a lot of talk about school choice provisions at the federal level. It is important to keep in mind that most school choice provisions are at the state level. Outside of charter schools, magnet schools and open enrollment, states have legislation that falls into four categories: vouchers, education savings accounts, individual tax credits or deductions and tax credit scholarships. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of this legislation on the books, as shown in the map below. Of these, 16 states have vouchers, 16 have tax credit scholarships, 8 have individual tax credits or deductions, and 5 have education savings accounts.

 choice map

The voucher legislation tends to be the longest, with bills dating back to 1869. Tax credits and scholarships have been growing since the 2000's. A newer option, education savings accounts have been growing since Arizona first passed its program in 2011. Nevada has the widest reaching program, with its education savings account open to all students in the state.

choice chart

Following the election, several states saw a Republican sweep and see the possibility of further legislation being enacted. We will continue to track any legislation at the federal level, and your state association will be doing the same at the state level.

November 28, 2016(1)

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech Statement on ESSA Accountability Regulations

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in response to the U.S. Education Department releasing its final rule on the accountability provisions within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): 

"Today’s final rule on the accountability provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act is a solid improvement over the initial proposal and brings the regulations much more in line with the intent and spirit of the underlying statute. It is clear the Department of Education listened carefully to the overwhelming feedback they received in response to the proposed rule and revised their first draft to more closely reflect the insight, expertise and feedback of education practitioners—including public school superintendents—across the nation. As we move forward with ESSA implementation and into the new year and new Congress, AASA remains committed to working with Congress and the new administration to make sure additional ESSA implementation resources are equally committed to state and local leadership and flexibility, as well as broader education policies prioritizing the strengthening and support of our nation’s public schools.”

You can read further analysis on the regulation on the AASA policy blog.

November 28, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Post-Turkey Education Update: Sec of Ed, ESSA Regs, and Funding

Nothing says ‘Welcome back from the long holiday weekend!’ like the information in this blog post. Depending on your perspective, we could be thankful the final ESSA regulations weren’t dropped before the long weekend, or we could wallow in a write up that makes an already long Monday feel all the more ‘Monday’. But I digress.

Three things to flag for you from an advocacy update perspective: 

  • ESSA Regulations: Today, USED released its final regulations on ESSA accountability. We are still combing through the 300 page document. Here are some quick takeaways: Press Release, Summary, School Improvement Timelines, and the full text of the final regulations.
  • All three of our biggest concerns were addressed: the proposed requirement for a single summative indicator, the timeline for identification and the transportation of foster children provision.
    • The final regulation rescinds the initial proposed requirement of a single summative indicator. States can use the ratings in ESSA (including comprehensive improvement and targeted support) as their summative ratings, without being required to have a single, overall number or letter grade.
    • The proposed regulations required states to ID schools in need of improvement at the start of the 2017-18 school year. That has been delayed one year; the final regulation requires the identification for the 2018-19 school year. The timeline for accountability workbook submission has also changed. States will still have two options, but they are now April3 and September 18, 2017 (as opposed to the originally proposed March and July timelines).
    • The final regulations remove the language that requires LEAs to provide transportation to children in foster care if the LEA and child welfare agency do not agree on who will pay the additional costs associated with providing this transportation. This important change brings the final regulation into much closer alignment with the underlying statute. 
    • As a refresher, you can read AASA’s full set of formal comments to the proposed accountability regulations.
  • Secretary of Education: President Elect Donald Trump has selected his education secretary, and will nominate Betsy DeVos. There’s not much for us to say that you probably didn’t piece together from extensive media coverage over the weekend. Here are a few sample pieces:
  • AASA is neutral on the nomination. As a non-partisan professional association, we are committed to working with the Secretary of Education, the President and Congress regardless of their political affiliation. We will watch closely to ensure that the Secretary uses her position and opportunity for leadership to move policy that strengthens the nation’s public schools and we will remain diligent on key AASA policies, which include opposition to vouchers, ensuring that all entities receiving public dollars (including charter schools) are subject to the same accountability, transparency and reporting requirements, and that equity is at the center of all policy decisions.
  • Continuing Resolution: The current CR runs through December 9, meaning Congress has just over a week to adopt another fiscal policy to avoid a federal shutdown. At this point, they are working toward another short term continuing regulation, set to run through March 31. Republican leaders may try to wrap up the entire lame duck session by December 8, and have everyone out of town. 
 

November 10, 2016

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Bookshare Delivers Free Accessible Ebooks to Students with Disabilities

Today's guest blog post comes from Jim Fruchterman who is the founder and CEO of Benetech.  

 Imagine if each book needed by your students with disabilities was instantly available for free.  That reality is already mostly here, thanks to Bookshare, a national service funded by the federal Department of Education.

Bookshare has more than 480,000 accessible ebooks in its online library, including textbooks, literature, pleasure books, reference books, and books spanning almost every genre.  It has already delivered more than 10,000,000 ebooks to over 400,000 registered student users.  Bookshare can instantly convert these ebooks into braille, large print or audio books to meet the needs of students with vision impairments, physical disabilities or learning disabilities such as dyslexia that get in the way of reading print.

Thanks to national funding from the Office of Special Education Programs, Benetech continues to make extensive improvements to Bookshare to meet the needs of educators, both special educators and mainstream classroom teachers.  We know how busy teachers are, and we want to make it as easy and straightforward as possible to create reading lists of books for students with disabilities.  For students who are reading the books, we support just about every kind of technology, from specialized technology such as braille displays, to smart phones, dumb phones and inexpensive MP3 players.  And, the all-digital nature of the service and assistive technology software means it is just as easy for rural school districts to access Bookshare’s library as urban and suburban districts. 

Benetech is not only providing the largest online library for students with disabilities, but we’re also working closely with the publishing industry to see that mainstream digital educational materials are fully accessible from the start – or Born Accessible.  We believe that any book that is published can be published accessibly. The best long-term solution to book accessibility is universal design, where the same ebook that works for the student without a disability works terrifically well for the student with a disability. We’ve published a guide for districts on how to buy accessible: Buy Accessible: What to Look for in eBooks

As a final note, many national special education programs like Bookshare were defunded in the latest federal funding bill coming out of the House of Representatives.  It doesn’t make sense to go back to the days when teachers had to scan the same books over and over again at the district level.  The original dream of Bookshare was to solve that issue: scan once and share over and over again.  And, as you can see, that vision is now reality.  If you value helping students with disabilities read books, please contact your Congressional representatives today to ensure they continue. Thank you for supporting Bookshare and students across the country. 

November 2, 2016

(ESEA, E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

School Technology Makes Progress, Yet Challenges Remain—AASA & CoSN’s 2016 Infrastructure Survey

School systems in the United States are making progress in increasing broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi in classrooms. However, significant hurdles remain before all students are able to experience a digitally-enabled learning environment. These are the findings revealed today in CoSN’s 2016 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey, a report conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and MDR.

Gathering insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, the report addresses key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

“The good news is districts are making real progress in supporting modern technology infrastructure. However, it remains clear that more work and investment are needed over the long run to address the digital equity challenge of today and provide robust broadband connectivity for all students in and outside of school,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. 

Progress: School systems have progressed toward meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. Today 68 percent of the school districts fully meet the minimum Internet bandwidth recommendations in every one of their schools (it climbs to 80 percent of districts having three-fourths of their schools at this immediate connectivity goal). The 68 percent fully achieving the goal today is up from just 19 percent in 2013. 

The survey also shows increased reliability in Wi-Fi, which is now largely ubiquitous in high schools – only 6 percent lack Wi-Fi. In 2016, 81 percent of survey respondents indicated that they were very confident or somewhat confident in their Wi-Fi, a significant improvement over previous years.

Remaining Challenges: Despite this progress, school leaders also reported that affordability remains the biggest barrier to establishing strong connectivity in schools and that digital equity is a major priority. 

School districts are also largely not meeting the FCC’s long-term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students. Only 15 percent of school districts report having 100 percent of schools reaching this goal, and that is consistent across urban, rural and suburban districts. School system leaders are divided about whether the long-term goal is too ambitious or about right.

School leaders project significant Internet bandwidth growth (100 to 500-plus percent increase) over the next 18 months, especially in urban (37 percent) and suburban (31 percent) districts. School leaders also project that nearly two-thirds of all students will use two or more devices at school within the next three years—an increase from 21 percent of students today. 

“The 2016 E-Rate and Infrastructure Survey demonstrates that we are making progress in bringing broadband infrastructure to our schools and in meeting our short-term bandwidth connectivity goals. This is welcome news,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “At the same time, however, the survey shows that challenges remain. In particular, we must continue to raise awareness and come up with strategies to overcome the ‘Homework Gap,’ which is the cruelest part of our new digital divide. Thanks to CoSN, AASA, and MDR for this year’s survey, which continues to shine a spotlight on the state of infrastructure necessary to support digital learning across the country.”

“The findings of this year’s infrastructure report highlight the important work of the ongoing effort to expand school connectivity and the opportunity to use this expanded connectivity in schools to support student learning as schools transition to implementation of the reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act. The findings of this survey—both where progress has been made and where there is continued room for growth—are in strong parallel to the underlying improvements of ESSA and the responsibility state and local education agencies will play in leveraging expanded decision-making authority into meaningful learning opportunities for their students. Also, for addressing equitable educational opportunities, including those tied directly to connectivity, including equitable access both in and outside of school,” said Daniel A. Domenech, who serves as Executive Director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and a member of the Universal Service Administrative Company Board of Directors.

Further details as well as additional challenges and priorities identified by school system leaders follow:  
  • Affordability
    • Recurring Expenses a High Hurdle. This year, 57 percent of school leaders identified the cost of ongoing recurring expenses as the biggest barrier to robust connectivity—up from 46 percent last year. 
    • Monthly Costs Going Down. The cost for monthly Internet connection showed significant improvement, with nearly one-half of respondents reporting low monthly costs (less than $5 per Mbps). This is a steady improvement from 36 percent in 2015 and 27 percent in 2014.
  • Lack of Competition
    • Lack of Competition Magnified Rurally. More than half (54 percent) of rural district leaders reported that only one provider sells Internet to their school system, and 40 percent of rural respondents reported receiving one or fewer qualified proposals for broadband services in 2016. This marks no progress from last year. 
  • Digital Equity
    • Digital Equity Atop the List. Among the school leaders surveyed, 42 percent ranked addressing digital equity / lack of broadband access outside of school as a “very high priority.” 
    • Strategies Needed. Nearly two-thirds of school system leaders, however, revealed that they do not have any strategies for providing off-campus connectivity to students. This is only a slight improvement over previous years.
  • Security
    • Small Investment in Security. Nearly half of school system leaders spend less than 4 percent of their entire technology budget on security. 
    • Phishing Top Security Concern. The largest security concern for school leaders is phishing (with 19 percent citing it as a high risk), with denial of service and ransomware rated equally as threats (9 percent).  
  • Cloud-Based Services
    • Server Migration Increasing. Approximately 40 percent of school districts are considering migrating their server infrastructure to the cloud. 
    • Learning Management Systems Tops Cloud Deployment. Nearly 60 percent of school system leaders stated that learning management systems make up the largest cloud deployment, followed by student information systems. 

Conducted in August 2016, the 2016 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey collected 567 responses from district administrators and technology leaders serving urban, suburban and rural school system in 48 states and the District of Columbia. 

“MDR is excited to once again partner with an organization committed to identifying and solving the challenges associated with technology and education,” said Kristina James, MDR Director of Marketing. “Current MDR research shows that 75 percent of districts rated wireless networks as their top technology priority, the sixth year in a row that wireless networks have topped their priority list, reflecting the shift to digital and districts’ interest in being able to personalize learning for all students. This year’s CoSN survey illustrates the same desire, while highlighting the barriers districts need to overcome, to continue making progress towards this shift.”

To read the full report, please visit: www.cosn.org/infrastructure2016  

October 31, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

49 Superintendent State Associations Submit Joint Response to USED "Supplement, Not Supplant" Regulations

Earlier today, 49 superintendent state associations submitted a joint letter in response to USED's proposed regulations on "Supplement, Not Supplant" (SNS) within Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (The state of Hawaii does not have a superintendent state association.)

The signatories represent a nation-wide response to the proposal and a unified voice in expressing specific concerns with USED's proposal. The letter was submitted in an effort to inform USED's work in the hope that the final rule will be revised and improved. In signing the letter, each state association Executive Director wrote,:

"...We write to express our deep concern with the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) proposed regulations related to the ‘Supplement, not Supplant’ (SNS) provisions of Title I in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The regulations represent new, far-reaching federal mandates dictating how local school districts spend their state and local funds and are in conflict with the spirit and intent of the underlying statute, which is premised on state and local control. 

"ESSA’s reform of SNS should not be an opportunity for USED to exert unprecedented influence over the more than 90 percent of K-12 funding generated by state and local districts. It must be an opportunity for the flexible, but high expectations for equity in ESSA to drive improvement in our nation’s schools. 

"We are committed to working together with our state and local education agencies and associations to guarantee the success of this new law. This includes the important work our members have built their careers around (providing students with excellent educational opportunities) and the role of equitable resources in supporting educational achievement. We, as state association executives, came together to support ESSA in part for its continued commitment to equity, including strong bipartisan support for ensuring that Title I dollars continue to be in addition to—not in place of—state and local dollars. We come together again, now, in response to the USED regulations to ensure that the final rule supports the important work of ESSA and the SNS provision without unnecessarily disrupting existing efforts to improve resource equity.

"Our members are very familiar with education finance, an understanding that highlights how USED’s proposed SNS regulations run counter to the very goal they aim to address: ensuring students have access to equitable education resources. Because compliance with the proposed regulation would be based on spending thresholds, districts would have to centrally manage all decisions that affect costs. The proposal would force school personnel to make the difficult decision of compliance over meeting the needs of the students they serve...." Read the full letter.

October 21, 2016(1)

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States

Earlier this week, our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an updated version of their report detailing trends on investment in education. In a nutshell, as the title reveals, after nearly a decade, school investments still way down in some states. You can read the full report here, and we have pulled a few highlights for your quick review:

  • At least 23 states will provide less “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — in the current school year than in 2008.
  • Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period.
  • Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.
The report is a very thorough walk through of trends in state and local funding in education and includes some very helpful and visually powerful charts detailing these trends. You can also take a look at the report's webpage.

 

October 21, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

State Advocacy: Michigan lawmakers take aim at proposed federal school funding 'mandate'

Earlier this week, the Michigan State Senate Education Committee passed a resolution related to the Department's proposed regulations on the 'supplement, not supplant' provisions within Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The resolution addresses key concerns with proposal, including federal overreach. You can read a related article here and we have embedded the full text below.

A resolution to urge the President and Congress of the United States to curb and clarify the role and authority of the U.S. Department of Education as it relates to the "supplement not supplant" provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Whereas, The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that federal Title I funding to low-income students supplements, rather than supplants, state and local dollars. This provision is intended to keep local school districts from using federal Title I dollars as a replacement for state and local dollars in low-income schools; and

Whereas, To enforce this provision, the U.S. Department of Education has proposed burdensome regulations to require school districts to show that average per-pupil state and local spending in Title I schools is at least equal to the average spending in non-Title I schools. The rules allow several different options for districts to calculate spending and demonstrate compliance with "supplement not supplant"; and

Whereas, The proposed regulations exceed the legal authority of the department and blatantly trample on explicit statutory prohibitions. Specific prohibitions in the "supplement not supplant" provisions include subdivision 1118(b)(4), which says, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or permit the Secretary to prescribe the specific methodology a local educational agency uses to allocate state and local funds to each school receiving assistance under this part"; and

Whereas, School district personnel have complained that the proposed regulations would be unworkable. The School Superintendents Association (AASA) stated that the proposed regulation "glosses over the realities of school finance, the reality of how and when funds are allocated, the extent to which districts do or do not have complete flexibility, the patterns of teacher sorting and hiring, and the likelihood that many students would experience the rule, as drafted, in a way that undermines true efforts aimed at increasing education equity"; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate, That we urge the President of the United States to direct the U.S. Department of Education to stop its federal overreach as it relates to the "supplement not supplant" provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act; and be it further

Resolved, That we memorialize Congress to enact legislation that clarifies the Department of Education's role and authority as it pertains to "supplement not supplant" provisions; and be it further

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the members of the Michigan congressional delegation, and the U. S. Department of Education as public comment on proposed rules.

 

October 19, 2016(1)

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Domenech Nominated to USAC, AASA Files IRS Letter

Two quick and unrelated items:  

 

  • Earlier this month, AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech was nominated to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) Board of Directors as the representative for schools that are eligible to receive discounts, continuing a positions he had held since 2012. USAC is the entity that oversees the E-Rate program. Dan's letter of support was signed by 14 national organizations in addition to AASA:
    • American Federation of Teachers 
    • Association of Educational Service Agencies 
    • Association of School Business Officials, International
    • American Library Association 
    • Consortium for School Networking
    • International Society for Technology in Education
    • National Association of Elementary School Principals
    • National Association of Independent Schools
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals
    • National Association of State Boards of Education
    • National Catholic Educational Association
    • National Education Association
    • National PTA
    • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
    • National Rural Education Association
    • National School Boards Association
  • AASA joined with the Association of Educational Services Agencies (AESA) to send a joint letter to the IRS in response to the proposed regulations under Code section 457, in particular the provisions for bona fide sick and vacation leave plans.

 

 

October 19, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Is YOUR State Considering a Constitutional Convention? Urge them to OPPOSE.

Since our last blog post about a Constitutional Convention and a growing conservative movement to invoke Article V of the US Constitution to call a convention, the threat has only gotten worse. ALEC and other arch-conservative groups continue to aggressively push this in states, and just last month, the New York Times featured a front page story about this very real risk. With this increased attention, now is the time for more groups to be part of this conversation. Your voices are important in this conversation because of what’s at stake for your group’s issues.

With three additional states passing resolutions invoking Article V focused on a Balanced Budget Amendment this year, proponents claim that they are in striking distance of a convention. They already potentially have as many as 28 states of the 34 needed. We fully expect that additional states could pass resolutions in 2017 given the increasingly polarized state legislative environments if we don’t do anything to stop it. 

In order to protect our Constitution, we need legislative champions to help pass rescissions in Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, and Nebraska and to defend against additional attempts to pass Article V resolutions in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Virginia. 

Proponents are charging ahead so we don’t have time to waste. Constitutional experts and legal scholars agree that a Constitutional convention would put at risk the many issues and policies we care most deeply about.  This week as part of their latest efforts, the Convention of States group held a convention simulation in Williamsburg, Virginia (September 21-23). While the event was invite only, it was livestreamed where over 2,000  signed up to watch. A long list of state legislators were poised to attend the simulation in person. 

Your voice and that of your partners throughout the country are absolutely critical to stopping this threat. Here’s how you can help elevate this conversation:  

 

  • Alert your state partners about this threat, especially state partners in the target states listed above. Here is a sample letter that you can forward your to state partners and groups and a fact sheet. Please connect your state partners with us so we can identify key legislators to reach out to and put your state partners in touch with other allies in their states. 
  • Consider drafting a blog or identifying a spokesperson to write an OpEd in a national or target state publication. We can help you think through messaging and content. 

We also have toolkits and talking points available. Please let us know if you need any additional resources or information – you can reach out to me at rsegal@cbpp.org.   

 

October 17, 2016

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Final Teacher Prep Regs Place New Burden on Districts

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education issued Higher Education Act (HEA) regulations on teacher preparation programs that will place new, unexpected burdens on school administrators. After reviewing the regulations, AASA believes they will not improve a district’s ability to recruit and retain effective teachers and will add to the already sizeable paperwork burden of school administrators without providing any useful information to them about teacher preparation.  

The final HEA regulations place an unfunded mandate on district personnel to complete an employer survey that assesses the performance of teachers who have graduated within three years from a teacher prep programs, and to submit student achievement data related to the new teacher's performance to state entities. The survey and data will be for all “new” teachers in all subjects including those subjects that are currently considered non-tested by the State. Since districts do not receive any funding from the Higher Education Act and are not required to be in compliance with the Higher Education Act, AASA reads these regulations as an unprecedented mandate for school districts.  

As we stated in our comments to the proposed regulations, the employer survey would be redundant and burdensome given that school administrators already have locally designed processes for evaluating teachers that are far more sophisticated and appropriate than a 30-minute survey instrument. AASA supports locally designed and developed teacher evaluation systems, particularly for new teachers who may need considerably more support and professional development than other teachers. We believe school administrators should focus on providing these opportunities for improvement for new teachers rather than filling out ill-defined employer forms to purportedly improve and rank teacher preparation programs. Even if each survey takes less than 30 minutes, supervisors would have many surveys to complete every year, which would force them to take time from other, more critical, student-focused tasks. 

In addition to the survey, the district would be responsible for transmitting student learning outcomes for each new teacher to the State. In many states, districts are not equipped to handle the amount of data sharing required by these new proposed regulations, and the burden to create a district-to-state feedback loop would be expensive and time-consuming. While states would have three years to design, implement and refine their data systems to enable district-level data to be securely shared with the state, years of experience tell us this work is slow-going and complex. The Department began awarding grants to states to support data systems that would allow states to link K-12 student achievement data to teachers and postsecondary systems in 2005. While some states and territories are currently developing or planning these systems, 25 states and territories do not even have plans to build these systems. The reality that these data sharing systems do not exist in over half of the country does not mean that districts would not be responsible for reporting this data to the state if these proposed regulations go into effect. Unfortunately, districts would have to allocate dollars and personnel to ensure this data is reported and these expenditures would come at a direct expense of providing direct instruction to students and complying with other local, state and federal mandates. AASA is also concerned about the security of the data to be shared. Especially in small, rural districts, the privacy of student data is difficult to guarantee. Many districts in rural areas are too small for data to be disaggregated while maintaining student anonymity. The complex data systems that will have to be built quickly to implement these regulations may not support such rigorous privacy measures.

Unless overturned by Congress or the next President, every state will be required to fully implement these regulations by the 2018-2019 school year. AASA is engaging with other stakeholders, including the higher education community, to strategize about what can be done to stop this unfunded mandate. Stay tuned. 

October 13, 2016

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Report from Washington at the National Rural Education Conference

Today, I had the pleasure of presenting at the National Rural Education Conference, providing an update on education policy from Congress and the Administration. My presentation, covering ESSA and regulations, appropriations, school nutrition, and Perkins CTE can be accessed here. Thank you to everyone who participated in a lively discussion!

October 12, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Call to Action: Submit Comments to USED ESSA Regulations

How to File Comments with the US Education Department (USED)

COMMENTS ARE DUE November 7

  • Draft your response comments. You can create your own comments or work from AASA’s template letter.
  • Go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED-2016-OESE-0056-0001  
  • Click ‘Comment Now’ (the blue box in the upper right hand corner) and you will be taken to an online submittal form.
  • In the ‘Comment Box’, type something like “I submit the attached comments in response to USED’s proposed regulation on the supplement/supplant provision within Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
  • Upload your file (attach your comments).
  • Enter your name in the text boxes and select your title/organization in the ‘Category’ drop down box. Please note that there is a ‘school administrator’ option.
  • Click ‘Continue’. You will be taken to a new screen.
  • Review your submission, check the box indicating that your submission may be shared, and then click ‘submit comment’.
  • If you are pressed for time or need help submitting the comments, I can submit them on your behalf. Please email me your final comments (nellerson@aasa.org) no later than November 1, with the subject line Please file ESSA comments.

Share Your Letter with Your Congressional Delegation: Contact a member of the advocacy team with any questions about who to contact when you share your USED ESSA comments with the hill. 

Looking for related content?  

October 11, 2016

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Urge the Senate to Pass CTE Reauthorization

Just because it’s recess doesn’t mean important conversations can’t be happening on Capitol Hill. In addition to closely following talks about appropriations, AASA is actively engaging members of the Senate to push them to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act.

You may recall that the House passed a unicorn of a bill (a truly bipartisan, well-crafted education policy bill) back in September. This means there’s considerable pressure to complete the reauthorization before the expiration of this Congress and avoid starting all over again in 2017. Adding to the pressure to move this bill to the President’s desk is the unknown political dynamics in the next Congress. With the retirement of John Kline, the House will definitely have a new education chairman (most likely North Carolina’s Virginia Foxx). The Senate may also have a new Democrat at the top of the Committee as Patty Murray is expected to move onto Democratic leadership. (I’m betting Bernie Sanders will get the top spot.) This means that with new negotiators leading the Committee who are eager to put their own stamp on Perkins, the chance of another major bipartisan win in both chambers is a lot less likely.  

Many folks are wondering why the Senate doesn’t just adopt the House bill if it passed the House 405-5? That’s a great question and it is AASA’s hope that the Senate does take that approach: start with the House bill, particularly the accountability and paperwork reduction aspects of the House bill, and then make some tweaks to definitions, federal guardrails, etc.

The main sticking point in moving Senate negotiations forward has to do with Secretarial authority. The House does take away some current authority from the Secretary when it comes to state plan approval, but in light of the Department’s far-reaching proposed regulations on ESSA there is a sense among Republicans that more needs to be done to tighten Secretarial control. The truth is that this Administration has not messed with Perkins at all, and in fact, no Secretary has issued Perkins regulations since the mid-1990s. While AASA certainly appreciates efforts to restore more local and state control in education, the truth is we have not seen an abuse of power in Perkins policy from the Secretary like we have with ESEA.

If you care about this important program and want to see a new and improved law, take a few moments to reach out to your Senate offices today. There’s a very tiny window to get this reauthorization passed once folks return for the lame-duck. Make sure they know you and other school leaders care about improving CTE policy. Check out these talking points to guide you through your conversation. 

September 30, 2016

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EPA Requests Applications to Reduce Diesel Emissions from School Buses

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of approximately $7 million in rebates to public school bus fleet owners to help them replace or retrofit older school buses. Upgrading buses with older engines reduces diesel emissions and improves air quality. 

EPA standards for new diesel engines make them more than 90 percent cleaner than older ones, but many older diesel engines still in operation predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large quantities of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which have been linked to serious health problems such as aggravated asthma and lung damage.

EPA will accept applications from September 29 to November 1, 2016. 

To learn more about the rebate program, applicant eligibility, selection process and informational webinar dates, visit www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/clean-diesel-rebates. And questions about applying may be directed to CleanDieselRebate@epa.gov.  

September 27, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Joins Coalition to Oppose EPA Regulations

AASA joined a coalition of education associations and local governance associations to send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to voice concern over a proposed rule regarding florescent light ballasts in schools and child care centers. The EPA is proposing to require the removal of any florescent light ballast containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals used until 1978, when they were found to contain carcinogens. The proposed rule would require schools and child care centers to remove any light ballast containing PCBs within either two or four years. The rule provides no assistance, financial or otherwise, to schools to assist with this removal. 

Our letter makes clear several concerns: notably the lack of accurate data on which the proposed rule is based, the potential cost, the stringent timeline and the duplication of other federal rules that would make the rule around PCBs unnecessary. Citing a 2014 study by AASA, ASBO and NSBA, the letter clarifies that few schools still have PCB-containing light ballasts and, with regulations banning the sale of the light bulbs that fit these older ballasts, this rule is not only burdensome but unnecessary.

Find the letter here.

September 15, 2016(1)

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AASA Urges Senators to Oppose Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee put their child nutrition bill into a process called "hotlining," where each senator is alerted that, unless someone actively objects, the bill is to be passed without a single vote being cast. Under this process, the lack of active opposition becomes assumed unanimous consent. 

AASA opposed the bill when it went through the committee, and remains opposed to the bill. More importantly, we are opposed to moving such an important piece of legislation without any debate, discussion, or a single vote. We sent this letter to the Senate.

September 15, 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, GUEST BLOGS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Cross Post: USED Regulations on Supplement/Supplant Could Change School Reporting

This blog post originally appeared in the ASBO International policy blog, School Business Network. It is reposted here, with permission.

(Note: The information below is from, “Supplement not Supplant: Latest ESSA Regulations and What It Means for Districts,” a webinar hosted by AASA—The School Superintendents Association for AASA and ASBO members. Access a recording of the webinar here and the PowerPoint slide presentation here.)

Late last month, the Department of Education (ED) proposed a rule for Title I supplement not supplant (SNS), a funding provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that requires state and local education agencies (SEAs/LEAs) to ensure federal Title I dollars add to (supplement) and do not replace (supplant) state and local funding. While the overall purpose of SNS remains the same in ED’s proposal, the means for demonstrating compliance would change if the rule is implemented.

ED’s proposal is well-intentioned for trying to ensure Title I dollars support the students the law is intended to benefit, but could upend K–12 school spending and fiscal reporting practices as the rule currently stands. The rule also conflicts with Congress’ original intent for ESSA when officials passed the education law, which was to roll back the federal government’s influence in schools. Yet this proposal would allow the federal government to dictate how dollars are spent at the local level. The proposal directly affects school business officials (SBOs), who allocate resources, manage fiscal reports, and ensure Title I compliance for the school district. To be clear, ED’s SNS rule would govern how state and local dollars should be spent, not federal dollars. Complying with the rule is a condition for receiving Title I federal dollars, but the rule itself governs the allocation of state and local funds.

So what does the proposal actually say? LEAs must annually publish their methodology for allocating state and local funds in a format and language that is easy to understand, and they have four options for demonstrating compliance with SNS. Below are highlights of each methodology with potential areas of concern that the rule’s language does not address. Districts must meet one of four of these benchmarks:

 

  • Weighted Per-Pupil Formula
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA through a weighted student funding formula (student-based budgeting formula), where educationally disadvantaged students generate more money for their schools.
    • This includes but isn’t limited to low-income students, English Learners (ELs), and students with disabilities. (For an example of how district calculations would work under this formula, see slide 7 of the PowerPoint presentation.)
    • What are some concerns with Method 1? 
      • The rule doesn’t define what “almost all” of the money available to the LEA means; is this 70% of funds? 90%? Also, the rule doesn’t account for weights that are not based on student disadvantage, such as preschool, gifted and talented, CTE, or magnet education programs. How should these fit into the equation?
  • Average Personnel and Non-Personnel Costs (Resource Formula)
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA through a “consistent resource formula” where each Title I school receives at least:
      • The average districtwide salary for each category of school personnel (e.g., principals, teachers, custodians, etc.), multiplied by the number of school personnel in each category assigned to the school under the formula, and
      • The average districtwide expenditure for non-personnel resources multiplies by the number of students in school. (For an example of how district calculations would work under this formula, see slide 10 of the PowerPoint presentation.)
    • What are some concerns with Method 2? 
      • Again, the rule doesn’t define what “almost all” of the money available to the LEA means, nor does it define what a “consistent resource formula” means. There are also a lot of unanswered questions about resource allocations if they vary based on program differences, like with full-time employee (FTE) allocations. Some schools allocate more FTEs based on grade (lower grades often have more FTEs than higher grades), or FTEs may vary for low-income schools, or for special education, IB, dual-immersion programs, and magnet programs. Moreover, what if the allocated FTE position cannot be filled (for example if there is a shortage of special education teachers)?
      • The rule doesn’t clarify whether benefits, pay-for-performance, or other performance-based compensation are supposed to be included in the salary calculation. Nor does it explain whether long-term substitutes should be included in salary calculations. What about staff members who work in multiple buildings? How should custodians, groundskeepers, and other personnel who would fit into his description be calculated? What if their time in buildings is based on need and not allocable in advance? How do LEAs account for staff paid for at the central level who work in school buildings (e.g., building services, maintenance, cafeteria, safety, and grounds keeping staff)? And finally, what exactly does ED consider to be a “non-personnel resource”? The rule only creates more questions. 

  • State-Established Compliance Test
    • LEAs must distribute to schools “almost all” of the state and local funds available to the LEA in a manner chosen by the LEA that:
      • Is applied consistently district wide, and
      • Meets a funds-based compliance test as established by the SEA. This test must be as rigorous as Options/Methodologies 1 & 2, and has been approved by ED through a federal peer review process.
    • What are some concerns with Method 3?
      • The “almost all” definition continues to be a vague term here, but more importantly, this methodology would require federal approval for an SEA to carry out and would be the greatest example of federal overreach. This approach is arguably the most in conflict with Congressional intent for ESSA law. Also, the onus is on SEAs to develop the test, which must be rigorous enough to earn ED’s approval, making this method the most labor-intensive as states are reworking their ESSA accountability frameworks at the same time.

  • ED’s Special Rule (Equalized Spending)
    • LEAs must equalize per-pupil spending in Title I and non-Title I schools. LEAs automatically comply with SNS if they spend an amount of state/local funds per pupil in Title I schools that is equal to or greater than the average per-pupil amount in non-Title I schools; if LEAs meet this special rule they do not need to satisfy any of the three methodologies above.
    • This rule is essentially what ED proposed in April after its negotiated rulemaking process on SNS failed. It’s considered controversial and an example of federal overreach in local school spending, especially since the method would have potential unintended consequences like forced teacher transfers. Districts spend a lot on teacher salaries, and to remain compliant they’d have to shift teachers around to different schools to demonstrate equalized spending, which would have adverse effects on teacher union contracts and negotiations.
    • This option has some flexibilities. Spending in Title I schools can vary up to 5% of average in non-Title I schools in a given year. An LEA can exclude any Title I school that serves fewer than 100 students. An LEA can demonstrate compliance if it shows that one or more non-Title I school(s) gets extra money to serve a “high proportion” of students with disabilities, ELs, or low-income students, which disproportionally affects the average spending in non-Title I schools.
    • What are some concerns with Method 4?
      • What costs will be included/excluded in the per-pupil calculations? ED’s proposed rules for SNS versus ESSA’s accountability requirements contradict each other. The former draft rule references the per-pupil reporting requirements of Section 1111(h)(C)(x) of ESSA. “The per-pupil expenditures of Federal, State, and local funds, including actual personnel expenditures and actual non-personnel expenditures of Federal, State, and local funds, disaggregated by source of funds, for each local educational agency and each school in the State for the preceding fiscal year.” However ED’s accountability rule says the per-pupil spending report would include expenditures for administration, instruction, instructional support, student support services, transportation services, operation and maintenance of plant, fixed charges, preschool, and net expenditures to cover deficits for food services and student body activities. It excludes expenditures for community services, capital outlay, and debt service.
      • Regarding this method’s flexibility provisions, the rule doesn’t define what a “high proportion” of students with disabilities, ELs, or low-income students equals. 90%? 70%? Also, what if more high-cost special education students are in non-Title I schools, where a few students could impact the average per-pupil calculation?

The list of concerns for each methodology reflects the issue that ED’s proposal does not adequately consider the various complexities of school finance and local resource allocation. While ED’s wish to honor Title I law is noble, its approach conflicts with ESSA’s statutory language regarding the level of influence ED is supposed to have in local education. Congress passed ESSA because officials believed that schools and classrooms should be managed by local education leaders who are closer to the ground regarding local education funding and equity issues.

SBOs and other K–12 stakeholders may submit public comments to ED with their concerns about the SNS proposal at the Federal Register website until November 7. Advocates may also urge Congress to overturn ED’s regulations via the legislative process. ASBO International members can find their representatives via the Legislative Action Center and urge Congress to oppose the SNS regulation there. Stay tuned to the Legislative Affairs Community for more advocacy resources, including draft template letters to send to elected officials in opposition to the ED rule, coming soon.

September 14, 2016

(RURAL EDUCATION, E-RATE, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) Kick Off for Rural Students!

The RWDC focuses on STEM education for rural students. For the last five years students have learned precision agriculture. Precision agriculture is the biggest area of innovation and opens the door to many careers for rural students. On September 22, 2016 we will be flying an unmanned Aerial vehicle (UAV) designed by students. You will see the plane take off, fly and take images of crops to collect data to support precision agriculture. There will also be interviews with the students who designed the plane. We hope you and your students will join us for the event! Please save the date! Follow the event using the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

The RWDC supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in high schools through an annual competition. The goal of the RWDC is to motivate and prepare students for the STEM workforce and teach innovation. The RWDC is Real World in the following ways: Students (1) solve Real Problems; (2) use Real Tools; (3) play Real Roles; and (4) make Real Contributions. Through their participation in RWDC each year students are challenged to optimize the design of a plane. Students are designing an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with the mission of precision agriculture. 

If you are unable to attend you can see a replay of the event at following link: 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNcqvy6o-PlObcoiiThyfPQ

September 13, 2016

(E-RATE, ED TECH) Permanent link

In Celebration of ConnectED Day and Future Ready

Today we're celebrating ConnectED Day with our friends at Future Ready and we decided the best way to celebrate is with blog posts! These aren't just any ordinary blog posts, though—they're blog posts written by superintendents in districts from coast to coast, who are leading their students to college, career and life readiness, by taking advantage of ed tech, digital learning strategies and personalized learning methods and more.

You probably remember in June, 2013, when President Obama launched the ConnectED initiative and set a goal to connect 99 percent of America's students to the Internet through high-speed wireless and broadband Internet within five years. Today, we are still on track to meet that goal thanks to efforts made by federal, state and local institutions and especially the progress made on E-rate. With the Future Ready initiative as a model, educators are truly in a place to transform education as we know it, and that goes beyond Chromebooks and iPads.

Start your Future Ready journey today by taking the Future Ready pledge. And, even if you've already taken the pledge, read about the initiatives that other superintendents are championing in their districts and get inspired!

You can find our Future Ready blog series at http://www.aasa.org/future-ready-blogs.aspx. 

September 12, 2016 1

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ED/DOJ Letter and Resources on SROs

:ast week, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice released new lettersrubrics and resources last week related to the hiring and training of school resource officers. In particular, any law enforcement agencies that receive COPS funding for SROs will be required to adopt the new guidelines for SROs.

Among the resources provided are models for crafting MOUs between schools and local law-enforcement agencies, the role of district leaders in monitoring the actions of school-based police officers, and how to train police in such areas as child development and conflict de-escalation. In addition, they are urging districts to adopt a number of specific recommendations such as:

  • incorporating local, state and federal civil rights laws into agreements with law enforcement,  
  • ensuring that law enforcement officers have no role in administering formal school discipline,  
  • requiring SROs to receive specialized training, including education in youth development,  
  • setting policies on when/how SROs can use restraints, and  
  • training teachers and staff to avoid calling SROs to assist with nonviolent disciplinary issues 

 

 

September 12, 2016

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AASA Endorses House Bill to Reauthorize Perkins CTE Act

Today, AASA sent a letter to the House endorsing legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act. The bipartisan bill, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, passed the House Education Committee overwhelmingly (37-0) in July. AASA is very pleased with how the bill addresses many of our key priorities within the reauthorization and hope to see a completed reauthorization before the year end. We also urge appropriators to consider funding levels for Perkins as they examine the reauthorization of this legislation since policy improvements cannot be fully realized without adequate funding levels.

You can read our letter to the House here

September 7, 2016

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Get the Lead out of Schools

I am now getting another lesson in the amount of non-education things superintendents deal with - today, it is the Water Resources Development Act. In addition to a previously existing Lead and Copper rule, the Get the Lead out of Schools Act addresses the lack of Federal laws around lead testing in schools. This bill would require water utilities to test the water of schools they serve for lead - they currently only have to test homes. The bill would also add a grant program to reimburse LEAs, water utilities, or a state agency for the cost of any necessary remediation. 

September 6, 2016(1)

(ESEA, RURAL EDUCATION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Back to School Advocacy Wrap Up: Of Appropriations, Epi Pens, ESSA Regulations and Secure Rural Schools

Recess is over, for the kids and the adults, and that means Congress is back in town and back to session. In an effort to provide a one-stop succinct overview of what happened during recess, this blog post is a wrap up of the topics AASA advocacy was monitoring this summer. You can access an related preview in the first part of our ‘Back to School’ editions of Legislative Corps, AASA’s weekly advocacy update here. (And email Leslie Finnan to subscribe to the newsletter: lfinnan@aasa.org)

Appropriations: We provided a one pager with talking points as it relates to AASA’s legislative priorities for federal funding in fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which starts October 1. FY17 dollars will be in schools for the 2017-18 school year, the first year of ESSA implementation. Congress will not complete its appropriations work on time. When they are unable to complete the appropriations process (consideration and adoption of the 12 stand alone appropriations bills that collectively fund the entirety of the federal government), they can either pass short term funding solution (called a continuing resolution, or CR) or there is a shutdown. There will NOT be a shutdown this year (it’s a presidential election year!), so we are looking at a CR scenario.

Time wise, the House could vote on an initial version of a CR as early as the week of September 19, giving the Senate one week to work through the details before adjourning for another recess. How this CR process plays out is a factor of length, internal republican politics, and riders:

  • Length: Will it be a short term CR that kicks into December, post-election but before the new administration? Will it be six months, into the new administration? Or will they pass a long-term continuing resolution, freezing funding for FY17? (Hint: the long-term CR is less likely. It removes discretion over cuts and increases, and from an education point of view, would be concerning both for funding levels AND ESSA construct. FY16 was allocated for NCLB program construct; FY17 is an ESSA year, and the programs and funding are structured differently).
  • Internal Republican Politics: Will Speaker Ryan be able to harness his caucus for a unifying vote? Will the House Freedom Caucus hold the line on its budget priority (a six month CR), and in doing so, play nicely with House Leadership or drive a wedge and force Speaker Ryan to work with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Dems to avoid a shutdown? In terms of what to expect for Democratic funding priorities within this negotiation, look for anti-Zika money, gun violence, lead poisoning, and support for opioid abuse programs. 
  • Riders: Policy riders are a hiccup in appropriations. It blends two usually distinct entities: appropriations language (paying for a program) and authorizing language (the policy behind a program). Policy riders end up on appropriations bills when Congress needs to move a policy that they can’t move through normal order. It also is increasingly used when a policy may not move on its own, but doesn’t warrant enough opposition to force an overall ‘no vote’ on a larger appropriations bill (which would shut down the government). AASA typically opposes policy riders and supports clean appropriations bills.

Epinephrine Pens: At the end of August, the exponential rise in the cost of epinephrine pens (epi pens) garnered a lot of media and Congressional attention. In a nutshell, the company that owns the brand name medicine within Epi Pen (Mylan) raised the price of the pens by more than 400 percent since 2007. EpiPen is a $1 billion business per year for Mylan. Mylan controls about 98% of the epi pen market. The CEO of Mylan is the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). There was no action on Capitol Hill related to policy that would impact schools, but it did bring up the 2013 federal policy that incentivizes states to have policies that require schools to stock epi pens and train staff in the administration of Epi Pens. There is not an effort to repeal that provision, but AASA did have a lot of outreach to press and the hill as they followed up on our earlier opposition to the proposal, citing both policy and cost implications. Read our related AASA blog post from 2013. In a quick outreach to our advocacy network, we received nearly 100 detailed responses outlining what your states and districts currently do related to epi pens, including stocking, training, and cost. Thank you to everyone who responded. Want to join the AASA advocacy network ? Email Noelle Ellerson (nellerson@aasa.org). 

ESSA Regulations: USED is knee-deep in its efforts to issue guidance, regulations and technical assistance to support ESSA implementation at the state and local level. You can check out the AASA ESSA Resources Library for our set of support materials, including links to all of the related ESSA material from USED. 

  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Accountability
  • AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations on ESSA Assessment forthcoming
  • Still to come: AASA Response to USED Proposed Regulations for Supplement/Supplant

USED Regulations and Guidance: The Department has been on a roll when it comes to releasing guidance and regulations for a number of federal programs. The list below captures those that have been released since July 15:

Forest Counties: A bulk of time on the hill in August was dedicated to maintaining awareness of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Program (Forest Counties). This program provides federal funding to those counties who have a large presence of federal land (national parks or forests). As a result of the federally managed land which is not subject to property taxes, local counties and schools receive funding through this program in recognition of the federal policy that hinders local ability to generate funds for local county and school needs. You can check out our August Call to Action on the program, including our one-pager. We, at a minimum, need Congress to approve a one-year funding fix (including retro-active funding) for the current school year. As it stands right now, there is zero funding available for the current school year. If Congress is feeling ambitious, a two- or three-year funding fix would be welcome, but the overall goal is to secure a program extension/reauthorization. The broader bill that the program falls under includes the politically divisive topic of forest management, and the politics around whether to cut trees or not carries a weight that has, to date, left the program unauthorized and now, unfunded 

 

 

 

September 6, 2016

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Legislative Corps Recess Wrap-Up

Last week, we sent the following wrap-up of recess in our Legislative Corps newsletter. If you did not receive it and are interested in receiving future editions, please email lfinnan@aasa.org.

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016

As you are opening your schools for the year, Congress's summer vacation is also winding to a close. Stay tuned for an email next week with what you should look forward to as they get back to town. 

Insure All Children Toolkit

Yesterday, USED Secretary King and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell joined with AASA and the Children’s Defense Fund to promote a new toolkit, Insure All Children. This toolkit has five sections each focused on specific steps required of school district administrators to ensure uninsured children who are eligible for health insurance enroll, from building a team to enrolling students to sustaining the program for the future.

The toolkit can be accessed at insureallchildren.org. Find a video of the event with Secretaries King and Burwell here and AASA’s press release here.

Americans' Views on Education

Two major polls were recently released, illustrating how Americans view public education. The 15th annual PDK poll showed a slight increase in the view of the nation’s schools and respondents’ views of their local schools: 48% gave their local schools an A or a B, while 24% said the same of schools across the nation. Consistent with former years, respondents agreed that lack of funding is the top problem schools are facing. Read our summary here or the full report here.

EducationNext also released their 10th annual poll, which showed a decline in support for Common Core, down to just 50% supporting the standards. The report also showed strong support for standardized testing, with 73% approving of uniform testing and 70% opposed to opting out. School choice received mixed responses: charter schools maintained strong support (65%), while support for private school vouchers has dropped 12% since 2012. Read our summary here or the full report here.

Transgender Guidance Halted by Judge

A federal judge has halted President Obama’s transgender guidance that requires schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice, while 13 states challenge the order in court. Read more here.

Ed Groups Oppose FBI Program

Education groups, including AASA, sent a letter criticizing the FBI for its program design to prevent the spread of “violent extremism” in schools. The program racially targets Muslim and Middle Eastern students, and adds to growing discrimination they already face. The letter can be accessed here.

August 30, 2016

(PERKINS, SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

48th Annual PDK Poll Shares Public’s Attitude Toward Public Schools, Reinforces the Need for Students to Exit Schools College, Career and Life Ready

Is the purpose of public school education to prepare students for work? To prepare them for citizenship? Or to prepare them academically? When given the opportunity to choose, it became clear that the American public does not agree on a single purpose for public education, according to the 2016 PDK Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

Less than half (45 percent) of adult Americans say preparing students academically is the main goal of a public school education, and just one-third feel that way strongly. Other Americans split between saying the main purpose of public schools is to prepare students for work (25 percent) and for citizenship (26 percent).

These differing priorities also relate to how Americans rate their local public schools. Respondents who say public schools should mainly prepare students for work give their schools lower ratings. Fifty-three percent of those who say the main objective is preparing children academically give their schools top marks.

These findings are paramount for school administrators, as it validates the need to prepare students to be college, career and life ready before they leave your schools. The public, and parents especially, “want to see a clearer connection between the public school system and world of work,” said Joshua P. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International.

AASA continues to back Perkins CTE Reauthorization, and would like to see that Congress increase the federal investment in career and technical education programs to give districts more funding. We are also in support of greater efforts to engage business and industry sectors in CTE programs. Employers must be critical partners in evaluating the areas in which district CTE programs must improve and to assist districts in ensuring they are using the relevant standards, curriculum, industry-recognized credentials and current technology and equipment necessary to align with skills required by local employment opportunities.

Not only are parents interested in seeing schools implement more career-technical and skills-based classes, but they also want to hear about it and to even be involved. A key finding in this poll is that parents are more supportive of their local schools when they feel that educators are listening to their concerns and communicating with them.

In addition to addressing the public’s idea of the purpose of education, the survey covers key topics, including charter schools, testing opt-outs, funding, standards and more. While you’ll want to read the entire report, here’s a breakdown of what we found to be particularly important for superintendents:

  • Purpose of Education: The survey finds a heavy tilt in preferences away from more high-level academics and toward more classes focused on work skills. 68 percent to 21 percent of Americans say having their local public schools focus more on career-technical or skills-based classes is better than focusing on more honors or advanced academic classes.
  • Communication: Parents like their local schools, especially when they believe educators listen to their concerns. Schools that communicate more effectively with parents and give them opportunities to visit and offer input, are generally given A and B grades from parents.
  • Testing opt outs: Majority of Americans (59 percent to 37 percent) think that public school parents should not be allowed to excuse their children from taking standardized tests.
  • Taxes: More Americans support (53 percent) than oppose (45 percent) raising property taxes to improve public schools, but there is broad skepticism (47 percent) that higher spending would result in school improvements. If taxes are raised, there’s little consensus on how the money should best be spent. A plurality (34 percent) says it should go to teachers, but divides on whether that means more teachers or higher teacher pay.
  • Standards for Learning: 46 percent of Americans say the education standards in the public schools in their community are about right, while nearly as many (43 percent) say expectations for students are too low. Few (7 percent) think standards are too high. Fifty percent of urban residents call education standards in their local schools too low compared with 39 percent of suburban and 36 percent of rural residents. Core beliefs about the purpose of public education also come into views of the local schools’ educational standards. Americans who think the main goal of public education should be to prepare students for work are most skeptical of current standards; half think they’re too low, and just two in 10 think they prepare students well for adult success.
  • Charter Schools: Negative perceptions of local and national public schools are related to greater support for charter school autonomy. Majorities of those giving their local public schools a C or lower favor allowing charter schools to set their own standards, while majorities of those giving them an A or B prefer that charter schools meet the same standards.
  • Failing Schools: One of the most uneven results in the survey shows that if a school has been failing for several years, 84 percent would elect to keep the school open and 14 percent would prefer to close it. But, if a failing school is kept open, 62 percent say its administration and faculty should be replaced rather than retaining them and increasing spending on resources and support staff.

Quick points:

  • For the 15th consecutive year, Americans say lack of funding is the No. 1 problem confronting local schools.
  • The share of Americans giving positive grades to the nation’s public schools is up 7 percentage points since 2014.
  • The public divides 43 percent to 43 percent on whether schools should use more traditional teaching and less technology or more technology and less traditional teaching.
  • Better school evaluations affect both willingness to support higher property taxes and confidence that these taxes actually would lead to substantive improvements.
  • Support for increased taxes reaches 70 percent among Americans who think that, if taxes are raised to try to improve local public schools, the schools will get better. Those who are less confident in a good outcome are only half as likely to support tax increases.
  • Among those giving their local public schools an A grade, two-thirds are confident that increased funding would help. Critically, that plummets to 17 percent among those who give their schools a failing grade.
  • Political partisanship and ideology also are key factors. Liberals and Democrats are significantly more likely than conservatives and Republicans to believe tax money for schools will be well-spent and thus to support tax increases. In the widest gap, 70 percent of liberal Democrats support increased taxes, and 66 percent are confident they’d help, compared with 41 percent and 35 percent, respectively of conservative Republicans.

You can download the  report here and read AASA's statement on the poll here.

August 23, 2016(1)

(SCHOOL NUTRITION, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Mini Grant Opportunity: Expand School Breakfast Program

This grant opportunity comes from the AASA Children's Programs Department. All applications are due by September 2. Please direct questions to Rebecca Shaw (rshaw@aasa.org). 

Introduction: AASA, The School Superintendents Association is the nation’s oldest and largest organization of school district leaders, with nearly 9,000 members and affiliate organizations in 49 states.  AASA has funding from the Walmart Foundation to provide mini-grants to school districts to increase school breakfast participation using alternative breakfast strategies. The main goal of the initiative is to increase the number of low-income students who eat breakfast in these districts. We also anticipate that the leadership, interest, commitment and involvement of school superintendents regarding alternative school breakfast strategies will be enhanced.

Grant Overview: AASA will provide mini-grants to school districts to increase school breakfast participation through alternative serving methods. This means that a school will serve Breakfast in the Classroom in elementary schools and/or Second Chance or Grab’N’Go (e.g., kiosks, vending machines, second chance) in middle and high schools. Awards shall not exceed $15,000 and shall to be used to support school breakfast infrastructure (bags, kiosks, storage, etc.). Each district will receive technical assistance from AASA staff and other superintendents and food service directors who have successfully implemented alternative breakfast strategies if requested. The amount of the award will be based on the quality and scope of the application, including superintendent and principal commitment and buy-in to the strategies selected, district need, project reach, and creativity and innovation to increase average daily participation and improve food and nutritional quality.

Eligibility Criteria: Please note the following eligibility requirements. 

  • The school district superintendent must be a member of AASA at time of application submission. (See http://my.aasa.org/AASA/MyAASA/Join-AASA.aspx if the superintendent is not a member.)
  • Proposed schools in which the district will work must have a 50% or greater eligibility overall for free and reduced-priced meals or participate in the CEP program.
  • Average breakfast participation of the schools participating in this program must be at or below 40%.
  • District must have written support/backing from the superintendent, district food service director and principals of participating schools.
  • Alternative breakfast model selection should include the “best practice” of Breakfast in the Classroom for elementary schools and “Grab’n’Go” (including Second Chance) for middle and high schools.

 Award Information:  

  • The amount of the award will be based on:
    • Full support of district superintendent to implement alternative school breakfast.
    • Project scope and reach, creativity, potential increases in average daily participation rates, and food and nutritional quality.
    • Using a “best practice” alternative school breakfast model.
    • District need.
  • Examples of funding including:
    • Equipment to facilitate alternative breakfast model (i.e. insulated bags, carts, kiosks, garbage bags, trash cans, wireless POS machines, etc.).
    • Kitchen equipment to help increase food quality (i.e. freezers, refrigerators, storage, etc.).
    • Nutrition education materials.
    • Advertising materials to promote program.
    • Giveaways for student participation and school-level staff buy-in.
  • Funding cannot be used for:
    • Salaries
    • Food
    • Overhead (indirect)
    • Memberships
    • Consultants 

Grant Application Timeline:  

  • Application Deadline: September 2, 2016
  • Grantee awards notification: September 9, 2016
  • Breakfast program implementation: Fall semester, 2016
  • Final reporting to AASA: January, 2017 (December ADP)

You can access the full grant application here.

If you have questions before submitting the application, please email Rebecca Shaw. Project Coordinator (rshaw@aasa.org ).  

August 23, 2016

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Results and Trends in the 2016 Education Next Poll

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Education Next has released its annual survey of American public opinion, conducted in May and June of 2016. The survey includes a nationally representative sample of Americans and of teachers and presents 2016 opinions on education policy together with trends in opinion. 

This year’s results include two interactive graphics. The first is on Results from the 2016 EdNext Poll and the second on Trends in the EdNext Poll Over Time.

Access the report, Ten-Year Trends in Public Opinion from the EdNext Poll, by Paul E. Peterson, Michael B. Henderson, Martin R. West and Samuel Barrows, here. You may also download the report here.

Among the key findings:

  • Common Core State Standards. Support for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) continued to decline in 2016. Of all those taking a position, 50% favor the use of Common Core in their state, down from 58% in 2015. However, when the name Common Core is not mentioned, two-thirds of respondents favor the use of the same standards across states. Republicans are 22 percentage points less likely to respond favorably when the name is mentioned, as compared to a 10 percentage point difference among Democrats. Teacher support for CCSS, at 44%, did not change between 2015 and 2016.
    • Trend. In 2013, 83% of survey respondents supported CCSS; four years later it is 50%.   Republicans have made the largest shift away from Common Core over the past four years from 82% favorable in 2013 to 39% in 2016. The four-year drop among Democrats, while less, is also substantial—from 86% to 60%.
  • Tests and opting out. There is strong support for using the same standardized test in all states, with 73% of the public in favor of uniform testing; 70% are opposed to letting parents opt their children out of state tests, consistent with 2015 results. Among teachers, opposition to opt out is lower and has declined from 64% in 2015 to 57% in 2016.
    • Trend. Nearly four out of five respondents favor the federal requirement that all students be tested in math and reading in each grade from third through eighth and at least once in high school, about the same as in the past.
  • Teacher tenure. Only 31% of the public support teacher tenure but 67% of teachers do.
    • Trend. Support for tenure has declined by 10 percentage points since 2013 to an all-time low.
  • Charter schools. Public support for charter schools, at 65%, remains high. Substantially more Republicans favor charter schools (74%) than do Democrats (58%), a 16 percentage-point gap between the parties.
    • Trend. Public support for charters has remained stable since 2013, as has the gap between Republicans and Democrats.
  • Targeted school vouchers.  Forty-three percent of the public favor vouchers that would give low-income families a wider choice. Surprisingly, the percentage of Democrats who are supportive is 12 percentage points higher than the Republican percentage.
    • Trend. Public support for school vouchers targeted toward low-income families has dropped by 12 percentage points since 2012 – a major shift in public opinion. Between 2012 and 2016, Republican backing fell by 14 percentage points; among Democrats, the drop is 9 percentage points. Teacher support has slid from 39 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2016.
  • Universal school vouchers. Policies that would give vouchers to all families also lost ground, reaching a new low of 50% of the public.
    •  TrendPublic backing for universal vouchers has dropped by six percentage points since 2014.  Fifty-one percent of Republicans supported universal vouchers in 2014, compared to just 45% in 2016. However, Democratic support for universal vouchers increased from 49% in 2013 to 56% in 2016. 
  • Grading schools. Fifty-five percent of the public give their local school an “A” or “B” letter grade, but only 25% give the nation’s schools the same high grade.
    •  Trend. The public grades their local schools more favorably now than at any point in the past ten years, despite mediocre performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress during the same period. The percentage giving their local schools an “A” or “B” grade has risen 12 percentage points since 2007, when 43% of the public awarded one of the two high grades.
  • Teacher salaries. The percentage of the public favoring higher salaries for teachers, at 65%, reached its highest point since 2008. Seventy-six percent of Democrats favor an increase, as compared to 52% of Republicans. However, respondents, on average, under-estimate the current salary level of the average teacher in their state—$57,000—by approximately 30%. When provided with this information, backing for increases is just 41%. 
    • Trend. The partisan divide on teacher salaries among those not informed of current levels increased from 14 percentage points in 2008 to 24 percentage points in 2016.

August 17, 2016

(E-RATE, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA and CoSN Partner for 4th Annual Infrastructure Survey

AASA is pleased to announce, in coordination with our friends at the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the fourth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. We need to hear from you, the experts—what are your future bandwidth needs? How is the E-rate working for you?

Our goal is to provide crucial information to the FCC, the Department of Education, Congress, and others on the current state of ed tech and E-rate reform. This year, we are providing valuable information on home access to broadband as the FCC is reforming its Lifeline Program. Your input is more important than ever.

Take the Infrastructure Survey today. In about 15 minutes, you can directly impact what we tell the FCC! If a colleague is better suited to respond, please pass this message along (one response per district, please). Should you have any questions or difficulties, please contact K12Infrastructure@gmail.com.

August 11, 2016

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Feedback for Regional Needs for USED's Comprehensive Centers (Survey)

USED is requesting feedback on the issues in your state to help guide the Department's Comprehensive Centers

The work of the centers is informed by feedback from Regional Advisory Committees (RACs). Please take a few minutes to complete this survey, to ensure the voice of public school superintendents is reflected in the needs of the region:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PML2GPN

Background

  • The homepage for the RACs (https://rac.grads360.org/#program
  • The Comprehensive Centers (Centers) program is authorized by Title II of the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002 (ETAA), Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) of 2002. 
  • The purpose of the technical assistance is to support SEA capacity to support local educational agencies (LEAs or districts) and schools, especially low-performing districts and schools; improve educational outcomes for all students; close achievement gaps; and improve the quality of instruction.   
  • The ETAA requires the establishment of ten RACs.  The Department solicited nominations for individuals to serve on the 2016 RACs; anyone could nominate a qualified individual to serve on a RAC.  
  • The purpose of these committees is to collect information on the educational needs of each of the ten regions:
    • Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington) Member Roster
    • Southwest (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) Member Roster
    • Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) Member Roster
    • Southeast (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina) Member Roster
    • Central (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) Member Roster
    • West (Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah) Member Roster
    • Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) Member Roster
    • Mid Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia) Member Roster
    • Appalachia (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) Member Roster
     
 

August 11 2016

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How Can Rural District Leaders Address Teacher Shortages?

AASA has long valued the research briefs produced by the Education Commission of the States and recently requested that they investigate two issue important to rural school leaders: how to improve teacher recruitment and retention practices in rural districts generally and how to specifically address shortages in rural districts of special education personnel. A shortage of special education teachers and specialized instructional support personnel exists across the country, but is particularly acute in rural communities. However, a number of states are taking steps to address this specific shortage the the Education Commission recently reviewed the most promising practices across the country at the request of AASA. You can read the brief here

Of note to school leaders is that most of the substantive work around rural teacher recruitment appears to be happening at the district level, the school level, or in partnerships with teacher preparation programs. In particular, "grow your own" programs are particularly promising in rural districts as a way to address teacher shortages. 

August 9, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

The Advocate: August 2016

By Noelle Ellerson, Associate Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

Reach Out During Recess: Why August Advocacy Matters

Current trends in education policy may not ensure that every student has recess, but if there is one thing that is certain to happen every year for Congress, it is their recess; their August recess, to be exact.

Each year, Congress adjourns for a month (ish) to be in their home districts, a time to step away from the grind of Washington DC and to focus on the issues closer to home and to dialogue with their constituents. In election years—and White House election years in particular—those recesses can last a little longer, and can turn into prime opportunities for school system leaders to campaign and for constituents to highlight the issues that matter to them.

This month’s The Advocate is dedicated to supporting member advocacy while Congress is home for recess. When you make contact with your Congress member or Senator, you could invite them to come visit your school. Use the opportunity to weigh in on any of the variety of federal advocacy policies that are under consideration: school nutrition, ESSA implementation, Perkins Career/Tech education, federal funding/appropriations, regulations and more.

Resources to Support Your Advocacy:

  • Need contact information for the education staffers in your delegation? Contact our team.
  • Talking Points
  • Perkins/CTE
  • School Nutrition
  • ESSA
  • Regulations
  • Appropriations
  • Secure Rural Schools (Forest Counties)
  • Back to School Tool Kit as prepared in coordination with Learning First Alliance (Use your visit to highlight the success of your school and the nation’s public schools in general)
  • AASA ESSA Resources Library: A living resource designed to support school superintendents in their work to implement ESSA. Congress feels a sense of ownership over ESSA, and ensuring they hear your feedback on how implementation is playing out is one way to hold the department accountable for regulations it issues that are not consistent with the spirit and intent of ESSA.
  • The Leading Edge: This is AASA’s policy blog. It is where we post the latest information. In the last week, we have posted about the latest ADHD guidance, our formal ESSA accountability regulations comments, the final school nutrition competitive foods rule, the forest counties call to action, and a multi-organization letter on ESSA foster care provisions.
  • Follow the advocacy team on twitter. We share what we are reading, what we are working on, and what we are learning about federal education policy. (@AASAhq, @Noellerson, @SPudelski, @LeslieFinnan)

And, while The Advocate comes from your advocacy team at the federal level, we know that your state legislature and administration are even more deeply involved in education policy conversations. Check with your state affiliate for information and supports related to state-level advocacy.

 

August 8, 2016

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From HL: New OCR ADHD Guidance Merits Your Attention

Our friends at the law firm of Hogan Lovells wanted us to share their most recent client advisory with  AASA members. The advisory touches on the 35-page guidance issued in July by the U.S. Department of Education on school districts' legal obligations to students with ADHD under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Hogan Lovells advisory outlines the key points in the guidance for school leaders to understand. Read it here

August 3, 2016(2)

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Submits Comments on USED ESSA Accountability Regulations

Earlier this summer, USED released their proposed regulation for the accountability and state plans provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These regulations, once final, will guide the implementation of the ESSA accountability provision. 

AASA reviewed the proposed regulation and  shared our summary and analysis. We issued a call to action (thank you to everyone who submitted comments).

AASA was pleased to submit formal comments ahead of the August 1 deadline. While you can read our full comments, here is a list of the topics we commented on:

 

  • N-size
  • 95 percent participation
  • summative indicator
  • timeline for implementation of comprehensive supports
  • foster child transport
  • previously identified child with a disability
  • definition of long-term English learners
  • consistently underperforming
  • evidence-based
  • school approval in comprehensive supports/improvement plans
  • four-year graduation rate
  • overview section of LEA report cards
  • mailing LEA report cards
  • root cause analysis; and
  • support for educators

 

August 3, 2016(1)

(ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

Secure Rural Schools (Forest Counties): August Call to Action

During the month of August your Members of Congress will be in their districts and it is critical that you meet with them to discuss Secure Rural Schools (SRS, or Forest Counties).  Let them know what your budget looks like with out this funding and that they need to do something in September for SRS.  It is critical that Leadership hears from Members that SRS and Forest Management are issues that must be addressed when Congress comes back into session in September.  Create your own story about what happens if we get nothing.

Here is a one pager for your use/reference.

In addition to your Senators and Representative, please contact any House/Senate leadership from your state. A full list of House and Senate leadership is below:

Please contact the advocacy team if you need email addresses for the education staffers in any of these offices.

House of Representatives: Leadership

 

  • Speaker: Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-WI)
  • Majority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
  • Majority Whip: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
  • Republican Conference Chairman: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
  • Republican Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN)
  • Democratic Leader: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
  • Democratic Whip: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
  • Assistant Democratic Leader: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC)
  • Democratic Caucus Chairman: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) 
 US Senate Leadership

 

 

  • Republican Majority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Majority Whip:  John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Republican Conference Chair: John Thune (R-SD)
  • Republican Policy Committee Chair: John Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Republican Conference Vice Chair: Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Democratic Minority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV)
  • Democratic Whip: Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  • Democratic Conference Committee Chair: Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Democratic Conference Committee Vice Chair & Policy Committee Chair: Patty Murray (D-WA)

 

August 3, 2016

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

Competitive Foods Final Rule

In July, the USDA, under which school nutrition programs lie, released the final rule regarding competitive foods, or any food sold on school grounds outside the reimbursable meal. This final rule makes very few changes from the interim rule released in 2013, meaning your schools’ competitive foods programs will remain largely unchanged. You’ll recall that we have been talking about school nutrition recently, as reauthorization bills have been moving in both the House and the Senate. Regulations like these underscore the need for a solid reauthorization, as that would be the only way to get any reprieve from the onerous rules of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Our talking points for this reauthorization are available here. If you talk to your members of Congress as they are home for campaigning recess, please be sure to tell your Senators not to support pushing the Senate bill through, as it would lead to increased administrative burden and would not provide any relief from the standards. 

AASA’s statement on the final competitive foods rule is:

AASA supports the overall goals to end childhood hunger and address the epidemic of childhood obesity in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and is currently working to support a reauthorization bill that would strengthen school nutrition programs. School superintendents understand the importance of fostering a healthy and positive learning environment, but these regulations come as unfunded mandates with significant cost impacts, forcing LEAs to make difficult choices in an era of extended underfunding of public schools.

AASA strongly supports the role of good nutrition for all students and recognizes its important role in helping advance student achievement. Every day, school districts across the nation provide millions of school-based meals, both breakfast and lunch. We recognize that the intention of this rule was to regulate competitive foods within schools. Unfortunately, we find it imposes an unprecedented expansion of regulation in an area that had previously been under state and local control. Further, this regulation comes without any federal resources to support the required compliance. AASA is opposed to the unfunded mandate this proposed rule represents to our nation’s schools.

In particular, we are most concerned about the complicated rules around when an item can or cannot be served a la carte. Given the extensive regulations of meals served as part of the school lunch and breakfast programs, AASA believes that further regulations on the sale of these items a la carte is unnecessarily burdensome. If an entrée is healthy enough to be served as a part of the reimbursable meal, it should be healthy enough to be served a la carte on any day of the week.

As written, the current law and regulations cause good nutrition policy to fail because the provisions make the program fiscally impossible in these tough economic times. The law and its regulations should not put LEAs in the position of having to choose between covering the federal funding shortfall and funding an instructional position. Little attention has been focused on the drain of local school district funds to pay for or offset the continuing un-funded costs of the federal free and reduced-priced school meals, and AASA is concerned that this rule compounds this problem.

School superintendents simply request that the role of the federal government as it relates to competitive foods in schools be proportional to the amount of resources it provides to support the regulations. As the federal government currently does not provide funds—and this regulation provides no resources—for competitive foods, there is not a role for federal policy to dictate competitive food policy in school districts.  Either provide the resources required to cover the costs associated with the new competitive food regulations or refrain from imposing new federal requirements. 

 

 

August 2, 2016

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AASA and 14 National Education and Homeless Groups Send Letter to ED re ESSA Foster Care Provisions

Last week, AASA along with 14 other national education and homeless organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education expressing grave concerns with the proposed ESSA regulation on transporting students in foster care. The letter states that ED's regulation contradicts ESSA’s statutory language by requiring LEAs to provide transportation when the agencies cannot agree on payment, and would have the effect of shifting the entire cost of transportation to LEAs unilaterally. The proposed rule also undermines and defeats ESSA’s requirement that LEAs and child welfare agencies develop transportation procedures collaboratively. It removes any incentive for child welfare agencies to collaborate or contribute to costs by creating a default position that permits, and even encourages, child welfare agencies to avoid costs simply by failing to come to an agreement. The proposed rule would harm children in foster care, by removing incentives for child welfare agencies to place students near their schools of origin, so students can maintain connections to their community. Such a policy ultimately relieves child welfare agencies of their statutory requirements related to ensuring educational stability for children in foster care, and discourages the allowable use of Title IV-E funds to support school of origin transportation.

If school districts are required to pay the costs of transporting children in foster care to their schools of origin, the resulting expense will limit the ability of school districts to provide transportation and related services to other students, including homeless students. Although both school districts and child welfare agencies have limited budgets, it would be inappropriate for school districts to be required to cover the cost of decisions made by another agency. This is especially true in light of the fact that school districts are currently struggling to meet the transportation needs of homeless children and youth. Public schools have witnessed a 100% increase in the number of homeless children and youth since the 2006-2007 school year. McKinney-Vento funds are extremely limited, reaching less than one in four districts and, even in those districts, not meeting needs. As a result, the swelling cost of transportation for homeless children and youth is paid almost entirely from local school district budgets. 

We were pleased to work with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth in drafting and disseminating this letter and are grateful that our colleagues from ASBO, AESA, CASE, NREAC and NSBA could join us on this important letter. 

 


July 26, 2016

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ED issues new guidance re students with ADHD

Today, the U.S. Department of Education released a new guidance document clarifying the obligation of districts to ensure students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are appropriately identified under Section 504. In the press release, ED stated that over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. 

The majority of the complaints revolve around concerns that students are not timely or appropriately evaluated for or provided services for ADHD even if there are known academic or behavioral difficulties.  

The guidance: 

  • States that OCR will presume unless there is evidence to the contrary, that a student with a diagnosis of ADHD needs a 504 plan at a minimum. 
  • Specifies that even if a student is taking medication, the school district cannot consider any ameliorative effects of that medication or any other mitigating measures, when evaluating whether the student needs a 504 plan.
  • Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
  • Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
  •  Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.

ED also released a document for parents explaining their rights, which can be accessed here

July 19, 2016

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Legislative Advocacy Conference from a First-Timer's Perspective

I am Deanna Atkins, AASA’s advocacy and communications specialist. In this role, I split my time between the communications and advocacy departments, and I was on site for last week’s legislative advocacy conference. As I expand my work with the policy and advocacy team, I shadowed a handful of superintendents as they lobbied on Capitol Hill as part of the conference, to share their perspectives and round out our coverage of the event.

While my task at hand was to tag along with superintendents who are new to the conference, it’s also important to note that this was my first Legislative Advocacy Conference as well – and I could not have dreamed up a better time.

Being among 200 school system leaders who traveled from all across the country to the nation’s capital all to be a part of three jam-packed days of panel discussions, meetings on Capitol Hill, and presentations from members of Congress was an empowering feeling – and it’s no wonder why the agenda included a few receptions. They were well deserved by all!

The conference took place July 12-14 at the Marriott Metro Center in Washington, D.C. Presented in partnership by AASA and the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), and sponsored by AXA, the conference was highly regarded among both veteran and first-time attendees. 

“The conference [met] my expectations and being able to meet several colleagues from across the nation was a highlight,” said Randy Russell, superintendent, Freeman School District 358 (Wash.) and AASA Governing Board member. “You can always learn from others and perspective is an important piece when thinking about how our issues in Washington compare with the issues across the U.S.”

While Day No. 1 of the conference was filled with panel discussions on hot topics from ESSA implementation to Perkins & Career Technical Education, Day No. 2 truly asked the most of attendees as they planned ahead to meet with their Congressional delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to discuss their respective districts' needs and priorities.

Conference rookie Alicia Henderson, superintendent, Bellevue Union School District (Calif.), had not previously lobbied at the Hill, but she came prepared with three meetings scheduled – all of which she handled exceptionally well.

“Three meetings were a comfortable amount,” said Henderson. “The best meeting was my first meeting with Representative Mike Thompson. I appreciated being able to talk about my district with him because it felt like he really cared.”

“I also appreciated meeting in Senator Feinstein’s office because I liked having my colleagues there with me. Even though the three of us had just met, it was great to have a unified voice – we were all on the same page,” said Henderson.

When attending meetings on the Hill, many superintendents identified attendees in their states and agreed to meet with representatives as a group, instead of flying solo. In fact, a team of Michigan superintendents had 11 meetings on the Hill, which is a pretty incredible amount.

AASA Governing Board member and Superintendent of Westwood Community School District (Mich.) Sue Carnell also attended the conference for the first time and said the overall conference was “better than expected.”

With the highlight of conference being the Hill visits for Carnell, her advice to herself for next year is to “be a little more vocal. I mostly observed this time.”

Echoing that, superintendent Russell said, “The advice I would give to a first-time attendee is to connect and attend with someone - like Michelle and Frank - they were great mentors and really helped me maximize what the conference had to offer!”

“Next year will be another great opportunity to learn even more and be better connected with national issues and trends,” said Russell.

You can learn more about AASA’s Legislative Advocacy Conference and view materials shared during the conference here. I would also encourage you to check out the conference Storify, which highlights all of the dialogue that took place on Twitter. 

Lastly, a sincere "thank you" to all of the conference attendees who allowed me to be a part of their experiences. I look forward to seeing you all again next year!

July 19, 2016(1)

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Of Appropriations, Advocacy Conference, and More

This blog post is a catch-all, including a few additional items related to last week's legislative advocacy conference as well as a few advocacy-related updates and items.

Appropriations: Last week, AASA joined the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) in sending a joint letter to the House Appropriations Committee as it considered its Labor/Health/Human Services/Education/Other (where education funding lies) funding proposal for FY17. Check out this chart for a side-by-side comparison of FY16 levels, the President's FY17 proposal, the Senate bill and the House bill. The joint letter calls on Congress to address the true long-term pressure impacting education investment, the funding caps. 

"We commend the sub-committee for their work to move an LHHS budget, acknowledge the education-related increases in the bill and recognize the budget pressures facing each appropriations sub-committee, we continue to emphasize the importance of eliminating the discretionary funding caps. Adequate investment in education is at the foundation of our nation’s economic viability and the current caps significantly hamper the ability of Congress to invest in education."

Advocacy Conference: In an update to the blog post from last week, here is the full set of advocacy conference materials, including power point presentations, talking points AND the feedback form. 

Environmental Protection Agency Takes Action on PCB Regulations (Impacting School Districts, Opportunity to Participate in July 28 meeting): The EPA is circling back to an earlier proposal, from 2013, related to the removal of PCBs (a known carcinogen) from public buildings. In this newest iteration, they are expected to relay that they are narrowing the focus to public schools and day care facilities. The meeting is set for 2 pm ET on July 28 and will be open to your participation via webinar. You can read the invitation letter hereThis blog post will be updated when the enrollment information is available

  • Background: In 2013, the EPA started an effort aimed at reducing the presence of PCBs (a known carcinogen) from public buildings. This would include public schools. AASA collaborated with ASBO and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to respond to the proposal, which was sensitive to balancing the critical responsibility of environmental safety for students and staff with the fiscal implications of removal timelines. This effort is emerging with renewed focus this month, and will narrow its requirements for removing PCBs to only public schools. Talking points:
    • School administrators, school board members, and school business officials remain steadfast in their commitments to providing the students they serve with an excellent education in a safe learning environment, which includes removing potentially harmful environmental factors (like PCBs).  
    • With any federal policy or regulation, the success of the end goal—in this case, elimination of light ballasts with PCBs—depends as much on the policy itself as it does in recognizing the importance of state and local leadership as well as the unintended consequences, costs, and burdens that may come with the policy or regulation.
    • Current regulations (the “lamps rule” through the U.S. Department of Energy [DOE]) have implications for the phasing out/removal of PCB-bearing light ballasts. Given that this rule is already accelerating the removal of old fluorescent light ballasts (FLBs) nationwide, and the compelling data from our comprehensive national data, we question the need for further regulation from the EPA.
    • While we appreciate EPA being diligent in bringing in state and local governance groups in an effort to grow support for providing state and local funding to help offset the costs associated with this redundant regulation, the reality is two-fold: this pressure has been in place for years and few states have acted proactively to provide support to eliminate PCBs. Also, explicit to schools, 31 states are currently spending less per pupil than they did in 2010. This push for funding for PCBs would be at the direct expense of making state education budgets barely break even with levels more than six years ago.

ESSA Call to Action: Earlier this summer, USED released their proposed regulation for the accountability and state plans provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These regulations, once final, will guide the implementation of the ESSA accountability provision. Now is the time to weigh in, to provide feedback for USED to consider as they review and revise the proposal into its final form. AASA reviewed the proposed regulation and  shared our summary and analysis last month. This call to action is designed to support our members in their work to respond to this proposal. AASA has drafted a template response for you to use as part of our Call to Action. All responses must be submitted by August 1. Full details are available on the blog.

 

July 19, 2016

(ESEA, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Moving Beyond Pilot Phase: District Conditions for Scaling Personalized Learning

Today's guest blog post comes from Matt Williams, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy at KnowledgeWorks and features their latest report, District Conditions for Scale.

KnowledgeWorks is a social enterprise focused on ensuring that every student experiences meaningful personalized learning that allows him or her to thrive in college, career and civic life. By offering a portfolio of innovative education approaches and advancing aligned policies, KnowledgeWorks seeks to activate and develop the capacity of communities and educators to build and sustain vibrant learning ecosystems that allow each student to thrive.

The District Conditions for Scale were constructed upon the hard won lessons of district level trailblazers from across the country. These district leaders piloted, assessed, recalibrated, and scaled without an instruction manual. KnowledgeWorks interviewed over 30 district leaders from across the country in an effort to refine, align, and validate the conditions against what is working in the field. The conditions and the cross cutting meta-themes provide a framework for district leaders to scale personalized learning.

Personalized learning is stuck in the school pilot phase. There are countless examples of personalized learning environments and schools from coast to coast. We have all seen that great school and the world of possibilities it offers for the students that attend the school. But how do we move from the isolated examples to whole systems designed around providing personalized learning options for all students? How do we build a school system, a learning system, with personalized learning at the core?

One important step in this work is to identify the conditions of scale that exist at a district level. KnowledgeWorks released District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning. The report focuses on the conditions that a K-12 school district should put in place to support the scaling of personalized learning. The conditions that we put forth and examine are based on interviews with district leaders from across the country that are leading system level change around personalized learning. 

One might ask why focus on scaling personalized learning at the district level? First, the district level is closest to the schools and thus the students as well as to the educators. Moreover, the district level has the most control over system vision, curriculum, and instruction, as well as formative assessment and student supports. Secondly, by solving for scale at the district level we gain a clearer vision for what supportive and catalytic policy can look like at both the state and federal level creating a better aligned, more supportive education system that is oriented towards putting the student at the center of the system. 

The conditions themselves aren’t rocket science or even unfamiliar ranging from curriculum to instruction, from student supports to professional development, from learning environments to leadership development. What gives the conditions their power is a predisposed drive towards personalized learning as well as cross cutting meta-themes. Several meta-themes emerged as the interviewees discussed their experiences: 

Vision: Included in all comments from district leaders, directly or indirectly, was the idea of an aligned vision. All parts of a district should be aligned to the vision, including professional development, the selection of curriculum and instructional practices, and the process of innovation. While it was assumed that the vision would include student achievement, district leaders focused on the general idea of having a vision rather than the specifics of their districts’ visions.

Culture: The shared vision of a district clearly informs the system culture that a district will establish. For many of the district leaders, a key element of culture is expectations around innovation. Many of the districts were forced to make changes with no additional, or in some cases decreased, resources and money. As a result, innovative thinking is an expectation at all levels, including in partnerships, and especially encouraged at the school level. District leaders emphasized the importance of continuous improvement and fixing problems immediately.

Transparency: Resulting from the notion that members of the education community must feel safe to make mistakes, transparency was another overarching theme of interviews with district leaders. Districts need to be transparent to the board, unions, parents, partners, and the public. 

The District Conditions were constructed upon the hard won lessons of district level trailblazers from across the country. These district leaders piloted, assessed, recalibrated, and scaled without an instruction manual. It is our hope that these conditions begin to help districts from across the country implement a more aligned, supportive education system that is oriented towards putting the student at the center of the system through an expressed focus on personalized learning. 

July 13 2016

(ESEA, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Call to Action: ESSA Accountability

Earlier this summer, USED released their proposed regulation for the accountability and state plans provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These regulations, once final, will guide the implementation of the ESSA accountability provision. Now is the time to weigh in, to provide feedback for USED to consider as they review and revise the proposal into its final form.

AASA reviewed the proposed regulation and  shared our summary and analysis last month. This call to action is designed to support our members in their work to respond to this proposal. 

CALL TO ACTION: Your voice matters. Please take the time to personalize the template form. Insert you district letterhead, and follow the prompts (in italics) in the template for types of information to share to personalize the response. Feel free to add on or remove content based on your read of the regulations and our analysis. The important thing is that you weigh in. All comments must be filed by August 1, 2016. 

  1. Access AASA’s template response.
  2. Personalize the draft letter as appropriate, including district/association letterhead.
  3. Save the form.
  4. Submit the form. You cab submit it through the regulations.gov online portal OR you can email it to Noelle to file for you. In your email to Noelle, sent no later than Thursday July 28, please use the subject line ‘File ESSA Comments’ and list your name, title, district/association, street address and email address.

 

 

July 12, 2016

(ESEA, PERKINS, SCHOOL NUTRITION, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

Legislative Advocacy Conference Materials

Our legislative advocacy conference is now in full swing! To those of you joining us, it is great having you here! We are excited to send you all to the Hill tomorrow. The resources we have shared are all available here:

Advocacy Update Slideshow

Talking points:

After your meetings on the Hill, be sure to let us know how they went and give us any feedback on the conference here: http://goo.gl/forms/PKps6rs1w7KxUUh52 and be sure to tweet out pictures and stories using #AASAAdv.

We hope you have a great day on the Hill. If you have any questions or want some company, please be sure to call/email/find us!

 If you are not able to join us this year, I hope you consider coming next year – we’re having a great time!

July 6, 2016

(PERKINS) Permanent link

AASA Supports House Bipartisan Perkins Reauthorization

Yesterday, AASA submitted a letter to the House Education and Workforce Committee on their legislation to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act. You can read the letter here.

June 29, 2016

(PERKINS) Permanent link

House Introduces Bipartisan CTE Reauth Bill

 

Yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released the "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act," a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. You can read the bill here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Strengthening_Career_and_Technical_Education_for_the_21st_Century_Act.pdf 

The House Education Committee is expected to mark-up the bill very soon, and there’s a small chance the bill will move to the floor prior to the August recess. The Senate HELP Committee has not yet introduced a bill to reauthorize Perkins.

There is much to like in the bipartisan bill and many ideas that AASA pushed for inclusion in the reauthorization have been incorporated. Chief among them is the major complaint by school leaders about the onerous administrative requirements for Perkins funding, particularly given the low levels of federal funding for Perkins. The House bill addresses the paperwork burden by allowing districts to fill out a simple, easy-to-complete local application. This is a radical departure from current law and will ensure that no district turns down Perkins funding because the associated paperwork does not justify the award amount.

AASA knows every district with high-quality CTE programs is continuously engaging with both higher education and business/industry partners. We are so pleased to see that as part of the development of a local plan, districts would conduct a needs assessment (an idea suggested by AASA) on a biennial basis that provides business/industry and higher education partners, as well as other key stakeholders, an opportunity to provide input into the local plan to ensure the district is directing its limited resources towards relevant, well-aligned programs of study. In addition, the bill ensures districts have access to, and take into consideration, critical labor market information that will detail current, intermediate, or long-term labor market projections when determining whether to maintain, develop or eliminate programs of study

The House bill also streamlines the accountability system in Perkins and aligns performance measures with those set by each state under ESSA. Districts must report on CTE graduation rates, post-secondary outcomes, and academic proficiency, but States have the discretion to choose another factor, such as the attainment rate of an industry recognized credential, the rate of dual-enrollment or the rate of students participating in work-based learning, that they can use as a fourth indicator. This flexibility ensures that States can use a metric that prioritizes their state policy and investments in CTE and aligns with what they may already require districts to track and report.  Moreover, the accountability system only focuses on the performance of those students who are CTE concentrators, defined as students who have completed three or more CTE courses or who have completed at least two courses in a single CTE program of study.  While we are disappointed to see the continuation of the non-traditional measure in the accountability system, AASA is pleased that this measure only requires districts to focus on the participation of non-traditional students in CTE, rather than participation and completion.

In light of what we have seen with the use of NCLB waivers and the current implementation efforts in ESSA, AASA remains vigilantly opposed to federal legislation that would enhance or maintain the role of the Secretary in determining or adjusting State accountability systems. The strong prohibitions that are added to the bill will prevent the Secretary from much over-reaching, and AASA is committed to working with the Committee to strengthen the limitations placed on the Secretary. Of importance to school leaders is that the bill does repeal the requirement in current law that States must negotiate their targeted levels of performance with the Secretary, which frees States to set more reasonable targets for accountability. It also requires that when the State sets new performance targets, they discuss these proposed targets with school superintendents, teachers, workforce development boards and other key stakeholders.  The House bill also prevents the Secretary from withholding funds from a State that does not meet certain performance targets and empowers State leaders to develop an improvement plan that works best for the needs and circumstances in their States. Even more importantly, at the local level, LEA improvement plans are developed by the LEA with limited input from state leaders, and state leaders are discouraged from requiring districts to redirect limited resources towards improving specific indicators.

 

 

June 24, 2016

(ESEA, PERKINS, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Blogging Round Up

This blog is a collection of quick bits of information we want to flag for you.

House Releases Draft Language for Perkins Career Tech: Today, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released its draft reauthorization proposal for the Perkins Career/Technical Education program. AASA’s Sasha Pudelski is reviewing the language and we will be providing summary and analysis.

ESSA Oversight Hearing: AASA President David Schuler testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee as part of its most recent ESSA oversight hearing, Next Steps in K-12 Education: Examining Recent Efforts to Implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. You can access David’s testimony here, and read our related press release.

AASA’s Summary and Initial Response to Proposed ESSA Accountability Regulations: Formal comments to the Department’s proposed ESSA regulations will be filed by August 1. You can read AASA’s summary of and initial response to the proposed accountability regulations here, and it is posted in AASA’s ESSA Resource Library.

Foster Child Guidance from USED: The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released guidance to states, school districts, and child welfare agencies on new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for supporting children and youth in foster care. (See letter on guidance). The guidance, which is non-binding, touches upon: educational stability requirements; procedures for jointly determining which school is in a child’s best interest; procedures for jointly determining transportation to maintain children in their original schools; transfer of relevant records; and protecting student data and privacy (blog post). The foster youth provisions in the ESSA take effect December 10, 2016 (letter on timelines). This guidance is the first in a series of ESSA guidance packages. The Department of Education plans on releasing guidance for early learners; homeless children and youth; English Learners (Title III); recruiting, preparing, and training teachers and principals (Title II); and student support and academic enrichment (Title IV). The agency is also still reviewing feedback from the field to determine what, if any, additional guidance is a priority for full implementation of the law in the 2017-18 school year.

Perkins Career Tech Guidance: USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released a Dear Colleague Letter emphasizing all students -- regardless of their sex -- must have equal access to the range of career and technical (CTE) programs offered. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act requires states to meet targets for participation and completion rates of males and females in programs that are non-traditional for their sex.

June 24, 2016

(E-RATE, ADVOCACY TOOLS, ED TECH, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Reversing the Bandwidth Crunch: Helping School Systems to Accelerate Connectivity with Fiber

This guest blog post comes from our friends at CoSN and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Like never before, large and small schools are taking advantage of technology tools to blend and personalize the learning experience. This encouraging growth in demand, however, is increasing their connectivity needs—and schools are feeling a bandwidth crunch.

How big of a crunch? 

According to a recent CoSN survey, 68 percent of district technology officers believe their school systems do not have the bandwidth to meet their district’s connectivity demands in the next 18 months. K-12 broadband demands, meanwhile, are growing at an annual rate of more than 50 percent

Fortunately, K-12 schools last year received a big (and modern!) boost from the federal E-Rate program. Nearly $4 billion in federal funding is now available through the program to better connect schools and libraries—funding that will directly support the expenses for receiving high-quality connectivity. 

To give school system leaders the guidance to leverage the E-Rate program’s expanded offerings and accelerate their high-quality fiber connectivity, CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University have produced a new toolkit. 

Maximizing K-12 Fiber Connectivity Through E-Rate: An Overview includes three parts for school leaders:

 

  • Part One, which provides an overview of the E-Rate program and the types of fiber eligible through the program. Through case studies, it also shares how three school systems managed their fiber connectivity challenges.
  • Part Two, which describes important considerations for schools to assess their options. It also includes an additional case study that details how a school district’s E-Rate reimbursement for a fiber “self-build” could support wider fiber build-out.
  • Part Three, which issues a call to action for school systems to begin taking measurable steps toward deciding on and making effective use of today’s fiber connectivity options.

We encourage you to learn more about this modern resource for modern connectivity at: CoSN.org/SEND.

 

CoSN is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. To learn more, visit: cosn.org.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. To learn more, visit: cyber.law.harvard.edu.

 

 

 

June 14, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Creating Safe and Affirming Spaces for Transgender Students

 This guest blog post comes from Nathan Smith, Director of Public Policy at GLSEN.

 

We have recently witnessed an uptick in conversation and attention on how to best serve transgender students in schools. This past legislative cycle, many states considered legislation specifically addressing the issue, and North Carolina passed a highly controversial law requiring that transgender students use school facilities that correspond with their sex assigned at birth. These legislative proposals arose in a national landscape in which 13 states and the District of Columbia had, over the years, passed nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender students on the state level.

Adding to the conversation, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) recently released joint guidance and an accompanying emerging practices document stating that transgender students are protected under Title IX (a position currently being challenged in a lawsuit involving 14 states) and highlighting some practices on serving transgender students currently employed by districts across the country, in some cases for many years.

At GLSEN, we want every student, in every school, to be valued and treated with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. We believe that all students deserve a safe and affirming school environment where they can learn and grow. We conduct extensive research (including our biennial National School Climate Survey), author age-appropriate resources, partner with dozens of national education organizations on policy advocacy and empower students to affect change. GLSEN has developed resources for school leaders who are looking to learn more about the experience of transgender students and seeking evidence-based tools to improve it. Specifically, we have developed:

A Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students, which was created in conjunction with the National Center for Transgender Equality and comports to ED and DOJ’s recent Title IX guidance on transgender students. Notably, in addition to model policy language, the document includes extensive commentary to help school leaders better understand the scope of the issue and a comprehensive list of resources, including sample model policies published by school systems, state and federal guidance, and research and reports;

GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit, available in both English and Spanish. The Safe Space Kit is designed to help educators assess their school’s climate and policies and practices, as well as to provide tools and strategies to create change, such as stickers and posters for display in the classroom;

GLSEN’s Ready, Set, Respect! Elementary Toolkit, developed in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This kit provides tools to help elementary educators teach about the importance of respect for all. It focuses on name-calling, bullying and bias, and diversity;

An extensive Chapter network, currently comprised of 40 Chapters across the country and made up of students, educators, parents and community members who volunteer to bring GLSEN’s programs, support and expertise to their specific communities.

As school leaders and educators work to create safe and affirming spaces for all students, GLSEN stands ready to help, both through the resources listed above, direct support and professional development from GLSEN staff and Chapters.

June 9, 2016

(ESEA, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Letter Expresses Concern with Senate LHHS Bill

In advance of today's Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, in which the committee will consider its bill for the FY17 Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Other bill, which includes education funding, AASA sent a letter to the committee outlining our concerns with the overall funding level and program-specific allocations.

AASA is keenly aware of the pressure that current funding caps--including those of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act--place on appropriations allocations. We believe it is the responsibility of Congress to raise these caps to better support appropriate investment in programs, including education. 

Tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and if the Senate Appropriations Committee passes the bill they consider today, it will mean that our nation's schools start the 2017-18 school year--the first of ESSA--facing a $150 shortfall at the local level.

You can read the full letter here, and the text is embedded below.

On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, representing more than 13,000 school system leaders across the country, I write to relay our thoughts on the FY 2017 Labor-Health Human Services, Education and Other Appropriations bill, which is scheduled for consideration in your committee today, June 9. While we commend the sub-committee for their work to move the first bipartisan LHHS budget in seven years and acknowledge the budget pressures facing each appropriations sub-committee, we remain concerned that the education provisions within the bill, which include nominal increases for a small number of programs, include a $220 million reduction in discretionary funding for education (compared to FY2016 enacted levels). 

Almost exactly six months ago today, President Obama signed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. FY17 allocations are the funds that will support the first year of ESSA implementation, and the allocations included in the bill you consider today fall short of supporting the new law. Congress must follow its strong bipartisan support for authorizing statute with adequate funding levels. In particular, it is critical to ensure a Title I allocation that ensures at least level funding to school districts. While the bill includes a $50 million increase over the FY16 Title I and School Improvement Grant allocations, it still results in a shortfall of $150 million in local level allocations, meaning school districts will start their first year under ESSA with a Title I cut. We are also deeply concerned with the low allocation to the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IV). Title IV helps provide well-rounded education opportunities for all students, and we believe the program should receive a higher allocation, at a level robust enough to support meaningful formula driven allocations.

The success of our nation is shaped by the success of our public schools and the students they serve. We strongly urge Congress to support negotiations to raise the caps on non-defense discretionary funding, even beyond those of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, which increase pressure on subcommittee allocations and continue to tie the hands of appropriators to more adequately invest in education. In addition to the nominal increase and local level cuts in Title I, the caps and subsequent allocations mean that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) receives a $40 million increase, which leaves the federal share hovering around 16% (less than half of the authorized 40% of the additional cost associated with educating student with special needs) and below FY10 allocations when adjusted for inflation.

As the FY17 LHHS-Education bill moves forward, we urge you to improve Title I funding to avoid cuts in local level allocations, to increase Title IV allocations to a level that supports meaningful formula allocation, and to oppose any ideological policy riders.

June 6, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

The Advocate, June 2016

by Sasha Pudelski, assistant director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education is a complex issue that cannot be solved quickly or easily. It differs dramatically both across and within districts and states, and is linked to district finances, student and community demographics, and teacher and administrator training and capacity.

Recent federal investigations have determined that states are not appropriately identifying districts that have significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in special education. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education proposed regulations this spring that would dramatically increase the number of states and districts that must set-aside IDEA Part B funding to remedy significant racial and ethnic disproportionality.

Based on the Department’s projections, 23 states will require between 50-80 percent of all districts to set aside 15 percent of their federal share for early intervening services to remedy significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in at least one disability, educational environment or discipline category. Given the under-funding of IDEA and the lack of resources to address special education at the state and local levels, the financial consequences of requiring districts to redirect federal resources away from the provision of special education and related services and towards early intervening services cannot be understated.

One of the most deeply concerning aspects of the proposed regulation is that it would require the calculation of significant disproportionality to be accomplished through a cell size of 10 students. The Department argues that this cell-size for a subgroup of students is appropriate and will lead to many more districts being labeled as having significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. We certainly concur with this conclusion but believe that using a cell size of 10 will require many districts to set aside resources to address a problem they do not need to solve. In particular, small rural districts will be greatly impacted by the use of a cell size of 10. A large family moving in and out of a district could influence whether or not they have access to 15 percent of its IDEA funds for special education services.

AASA also raised concernswith how districts with specialized programs would be impacted by the new regulation as well as districts with robust open-enrollment policies, a substantial population of migrant students or students in foster care, or districts that have experienced a major health or environmental crisis. A review of comments in response to the proposed regulations found that the vast majority of comments were negative and were written by school leaders, school personnel and school groups. It is our hope that the Department considers this feedback from the education community before promulgating these regulations.

AASA acknowledges the current system of measuring significant disproportionality must be reconsidered, as 21 states failed to find any districts as having significant disproportionality. But, more of the same does not make sound public policy. It is unknown whether districts that have set-aside IDEA funds for early intervening services to address this complicated issue have found much success through this approach.

It’s clear that researchers have yet to find a silver bullet solution to reduce significant disproportionality in identification and placement, although progress has been made on discipline. The approach districts must take to address disproportionality is multifaceted and requires resources that most lack.

The Department’s sledgehammer regulatory approach may only exacerbate inequities in school resources, which is the root problem facing districts with significant racial and ethnic disproportionality. As we urge Congress to take up the reauthorization of IDEA, addressing this important problem in a meaningful and reasonable way will be a top priority for AASA.

As we look towards reauthorization, AASA has launched a new blog called A New IDEA to share thoughtful ideas about the reauthorization of IDEA by legal experts, practitioners and special education researchers.

May 17, 2016(1)

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

AASA Supports the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act

Tomorrow, the House Education and the Workforce Committee will mark up the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act, to reauthorize what is now the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This bill will improve the nutrition standards by requiring a study of any regulations taking into account their impact on cost, participation and nutrition of students to ensure that the standards do not increase the cost of a meal past the federal reimbursement rate and do not cause students who would otherwise eat at school to eat elsewhere. The bill also includes a 3 cent per meal increase for breakfast reimbursement and changes the review period from every three years to every five years, cutting down on administrative time. 

AASA does have three concerns with the bill. As with the Senate bill, it increases the required verification of free and reduced price lunch eligibility, it raises the threshold for the Community Eligibility Provision from 40 percent to 60 percent, and it includes a pilot program that would essentially block grant school nutrition funding for three states while exempting them from all federal mandates. We will work with the committee and the Senate to ensure a final bill best allows districts to run their nutrition programs effectively and efficiently. 

Our letter of support is available here

May 17, 2016

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Don’t Be Tricked by the Reading Paradox

Today's guest blog post comes from Lisa Hansel and Robert Pondiscio of Knowledge Matters

A paradox lies at the heart of efforts to raise reading achievement: If elementary schools make more time for explicit reading instruction by taking time away from science, social studies, and the arts, they are more likely to slow children’s growth in reading comprehension than to increase it. This slowing might not be apparent right away; it might not be apparent in the elementary grades at all. But in later grades—when students are expected to read historical speeches or science textbooks or biographies of artists—they will struggle. 

Reading comprehension is not a “skill” like riding a bike or throwing a ball. The ability to make meaning from text is best thought of as a reflection of a child’s overall education. You need to know a little bit about the subject matter—and sometimes a lot—to make sense of what you’re reading about. Thus, broad reading comprehension depends on a broad education, rich in science, social studies, and the arts—not just reading.

At its heart, the reading achievement gap is an opportunity gap. Think of knowledge and vocabulary like compound interest: If one kindergartner comes to school having heard 30 million more words than a less-fortunate peer, the “interest” on her knowledge and vocabulary allows her to grow richer still; the child with less academic knowledge and vocabulary falls further behind day after day. Low-income children are equally capable of learning as their more-fortunate peers, but have far fewer opportunities to be immersed in academic subject matter and enrichment. 

As Nell K. Duke, one of the nation’s top reading researchers, and Meghan Block wrote in The Future of Children: “Perhaps the greatest obstacle to improving primary-grade reading is a short-term orientation toward instruction and instructional reform. When the aim is to show reading improvements in a short period of time, spending large amounts of time on word-reading skill and its foundations, and relatively little on comprehension, vocabulary, and conceptual and content knowledge, makes sense…. Yet the long-term consequences of failing to attend to these areas cannot be overstated.”

District leaders must do everything in their power to ensure all children, but particularly those in low socioeconomic status families, benefit from a knowledge-rich curriculum from the earliest possible moment. They must not be tricked by the reading paradox.

Lisa Hansel is director of Knowledge Matters, a new campaign to restore wonder and excitement to the classroom by building broad knowledge in science, social studies, and the arts. Previously, she was the editor of American Educator, the magazine of education research and ideas published by the American Federation of Teachers. Robert Pondiscio is executive director of Knowledge Matters and also senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Previously, he was a 5th grade teacher at a South Bronx public school.

May 16, 2016

 Permanent link

AASA Comments on Proposed Reg on Significant Disproportionality

Thank you to the many superintendents and school leaders who have commented on this important proposed regulation by the U.S. Department of Education. Click here to read the comments AASA submitted today in response to the NPRM.

May 13, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students

Today, The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.

The press release from USED states the following:

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX. 

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly – that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

You can continue reading the full press release here.

In short, the guidance also explains schools' obligations to:

  • Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a student's actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status, or gender transition;
  • Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex;
  • Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; and
  • Protect students' privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Please review the following resources provided by the departments to help ensure that all students can enjoy a safe and discrimination-free environment in school:

 

 

May 5, 2016

(IDEA) Permanent link

AASA Call to Action: Comment on Proposed IDEA Regs

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education proposed new regulations on how states and districts will calculate significant disproportionality under IDEA. Their proposal will result in a significant increase in the number of districts that must set-aside 15% of IDEA Part B funds to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality of special education students. Based on the Department’s projections 23 states will require between 50-80% of all districts to set-aside 15% of their federal share for early intervening services to remedy significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in at least one disability, educational environment or discipline category. Nationally, a minimum of $550 million dollars will be redirected to early intervening services.

While we acknowledge that racial and ethnic is disproportionality is an important and complex problem for districts to address, AASA has very substantive concerns with the Department’s proposal and how districts may be inappropriately identified as having significant disproportionality. As school leaders responsible for compliance with IDEA we urge you to take action on these regulations right away. The deadline to submit comments is May 16th. Submitting the comments directly is super easy—simply complete the form here. Below is a summary of the parts of the proposed regulations we support and oppose, so you have a better understanding of the issues.  

Our concerns with the proposed regulations are as follows: 

  • If States must adopt a more rigorous methodology for measuring significant disproportionality, then States must also have greater flexibility in exempting districts from setting aside Part B funds to address this issue. Specifically, very small districts, districts with specialized schools, districts with highly regarded programs for students with disabilities in states with popular open-enrollment policies, districts with high numbers of students in foster care, districts recovering from an environmental or health disaster and districts with very low rates of special education identification, restrictive placements or exclusionary discipline for all students should not be automatically required to set-aside funding.  
  • The Department should not expand the data collection around significant disproportionality to track the placement rates of students who spend between 40-80% of their time in the general education classroom. Reporting on whether a child spends 65 percent versus 80 percent of his time in a general education classroom says nothing about the severity of his disability, the classroom supports he receives, or the quality of services he may obtain in that setting. 
  • A mandatory “n” size of ten may result in many small districts being identified for significant disproportionality. There is no data suggesting ten is the right number or an appropriate one. There is no federal “n” size in ESSA or any other federal education law. States are best positioned to set the “n” size.
  • A requirement that significant disproportionality be examined and addressed for students with autism or other health impairments is highly inappropriate given that it is rare that a district diagnoses a student as having one of these disabilities. 

There are aspects of the proposed regulations we do support: 

  • We support allowing early intervening services like RTI/MTSS to be used on students with disabilities as well as students not yet identified as disabled. 
  • We support requiring states to relying on 3 years of data before deciding a district must address significant disproportionality.  
  • We support allowing States to exempt districts that show reasonable progress in addressing significant disproportionality from setting aside more funds.  

Please take a few minutes to comment on these critical changes to IDEA’s significant disproportionality calculations. To comment directly, go to: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/02/2016-03938/assistance-to-states-for-the-education-of-children-with-disabilities-preschool-grants-for-children#open-comment and complete the form.

April 21, 2016

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

AASA Supports House Bill to Reauthorize Child Nutrition Act

Today, AASA sent the following statement to support the House bill to reauthorize the child nutrition act.

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is pleased to support the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003). Providing healthy meals and snack options for school children is critical. AASAs’ members are proud of their strong nutrition programs and are looking for a reauthorization that provides districts with increased flexibility from certain elements of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The nutrition study, as prescribed in this bill, takes the politics out of the standards and keeps the focus where it belongs: on what is best for our nation’s schools and students.

David R. Schuler, AASA president and superintendent of High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, Ill, and Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director, issued the following statements:  

“I strive to serve my students nutritious meals, but the current nutrition standards, as written, are so burdensome that I had to withdraw from the federal nutrition program and find other ways to feed my students. The flexibilities allowed and the changes that may come through this bill will provide some much-needed relief to districts around the country struggling to balance the needs of their students and the regulations from DC.” – David R. Schuler

AASA has deep concerns over the changes to the Community Eligibility Provision eligibility threshold and the increase in verification of free and reduced price lunch eligibility.

“This bill is a step in the right direction and we look forward to working with the committee to make further improvements to the legislation. We are pleased to see the continued investment in school meals and focus on supporting schools and districts over politics, and hope to work with the committee to pass a bill we can continue to support.” – Daniel A. Domenech 

April 20, 2016

(ED FUNDING) Permanent link

More than 250 National Organizations Sign Letter Opposing Balanced Budget Amendment

AASA joined more than 265 other national organizations in a letter to Congress opposing any balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. AASA has blogged about this effort previously, and you can refresh your memory here.

AASA remains opposed to efforts related to a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution for the damaging impacts on the economy and implications for future economic stability. As written in the letter:

A balanced budget constitutional amendment would damage the economy, not strengthen it. Demanding that policymakers cut spending and/or raise taxes even when the economy slows is the opposite of what is needed to stabilize a weak economy and avert recessions. Such steps would risk tipping a faltering economy into recession or worsening an ongoing downturn, costing large numbers of jobs while blocking worthy investments to stimulate jobs and growth and address urgent needs in infrastructure and other areas...Our Constitution has served the nation well in part because it has focused on enduring principles of government, rather than attempting to dictate fiscal policy for current and future generations. Policymakers should be providing leadership on fiscal policy, rather than avoiding doing so and seeking to cover themselves by writing a highly ill-advised, economically damaging balanced budget amendment into the Constitution.

Read the full letter.

April 20, 2016

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

AASA Joins National Organizations in Response to Proposed Changes to Community Eligibility Provision

On Tuesday, April 19 AASA joined the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the School Nutrition Association (SNA), the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) for a Congressional briefing on the Community Eligibility Provision. This program is a powerful federal option that enables high-poverty schools and districts to provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.

Enacted in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and available nationwide since school year 2014–15, Community Eligibility has been adopted in more than 18,000 high-poverty schools in nearly 3,000 school districts, reaching more than 8.5 million students, according to a new report from FRAC and CBPP.  As it considers reauthorizing the child nutrition bill, the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed to change the rules for eligibility for CEP. Currently, schools and districts with more than 40 percent of students identified for free and reduced price lunch eligibility through direct certification (such as through SNAP or TANF) are eligible. The House proposal is to change that threshold to 60 percent, which would cause 7,000 schools around the country to lose eligibility.

The briefing kicked off with a welcome from AAP President Benard Dreyer and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), House Education and the Workforce Committee. Both expressed the extreme need for CEP, and how we can move it forward, instead of going backwards on school meals for students.

“CEP is helping schools, it’s helping teachers and, above all, it’s helping address child poverty and reduce the stigma associated with being a child who is food insecure,” said Dreyer.

Congressman Scott, a CEP champion and a leader for access to quality early-, secondary- and higher-education for all of America’s children, said “If you have [CEP], you don’t have the stigma of people having to qualify for free and reduced lunch and produce paperwork at the checkout counter that identifies them as low or moderate income and it just makes it much better.”

“We have a report that goes into detail about the good of the Community Eligibility Provision and why it needs to be maintained – and maybe even improved – but certainly not go backwards because education is at risk and the wellbeing of millions of children,” said Scott.

In addition to providing an overview of the Community Eligibility Provision, a panel of education leaders was also there to share their experiences with the program, and what it would mean for the enrolled schools if the program was taken away. The group included Vonda Cooke, director of child nutrition programs, Pennsylvania Department of Education; Lisa Kyer, business administrator, Lansingburgh Central School District (N.Y.); and Morris Leis, superintendent, Coffee County School System (Ga.).

AASA member Superintendent Morris Leis implemented the program in his district in 2014 and has provided students in 11 of his 12 schools with free breakfast and lunch since. If the proposed eligibility changes are made, six of his schools will no longer be able to remain in the program.

“The CEP is changing lives in a positive way in our community,” said Leis. “The things that are happening because of this program are amazing.”

The community in Coffee County is made up of 43,000 people, which includes 7,700 students that are being educated in the district’s 12 schools. 75 percent of those students are considered economically disadvantaged.

“We’re finishing our second year of CEP and if these changes go through, six of our schools will no longer be eligible,” said Leis. “We’ve got a lot of [students] who fall above the threshold for free and reduced [lunch], but if we didn’t have this program their children wouldn’t eat.”

According to Leis, in the middle school, prior to this program, students simply would not eat because they didn’t want the stigma of being a student eating a free lunch.

Since implementation of CEP, Leis said that students are going to the cafeteria to eat and that the entire school atmosphere has changed tremendously.

“Kids are eating and the whole strata of ‘free,’ ‘reduced’ and ‘paid’ is gone. They’re all the same,” said Leis.

The mission of Coffee County School System is to provide an equitable and excellent education for every student – which is being done through CEP.

“We provide [students] books, we provide them with transportation, we have nice buildings for them to come to, we have good teachers to teach them - and under the old system we’d get them here and make them pay for lunch,” said Leis. “Well now with CEP, we don’t classify. We have equity in our school system.”

For more information on the Community Eligibility Provision, visit frac.org.

April 19, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

Message from Dan Domenech: Good News: The E-Rate Application Deadline Has Been Extended

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech shared the following message with the entire AASA membership via email. We cross post it here for your reference.

Dear Colleague: 

I write today to relay critical information related to the FY16 E-Rate application window. 

We have heard from school superintendents across the country about difficulties their districts are having navigating and completing the revamped application for the E-Rate program. In response, AASA joined 17 other national organizations—as part of the broader EdLiNC coalition—in sending a letter to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), requesting an extension of the E-Rate application. 

The letter reads as follows: "EdLiNC's members, E-rate beneficiaries in schools and public libraries across the country, have shared they are having difficulties specifically with navigating and successfully completing the revamped application portal. Thus, we ask that the application deadline be extended. With the E-rate application deadline of April 29, 2016 fast approaching, additional time to complete the application process would greatly benefit potential beneficiaries." Read the full text of the letter. 

On Friday, USAC announced that it was, indeed, extending the application deadline. You can read the full statement here, and here are some highlights: 

 

  • USAC is extending the window for all applicants by four weeks, and the new closing date is May 26, 2016. 
  • USAC continues to roll out additional updates to the online portal and application. You can read an explanation of the additional changes here
  • When the extended window closes on May 26, USAC will open a second filing window for consortia and libraries, closing on July 21, 2016. 
  • Neither the extension nor the second window are expected to delay application review or funding decisions. 
  • USAC analysis shows there should be sufficient funding for all plausible demand scenarios for this application year. Filers should not worry about losing funds as a result of the second window. 
  • Please direct any application-related inquiries to the Client Services Bureau at 1-888-203-8100. 

 

Please let us know if you have any questions. Direct any inquiries to Noelle Ellerson, AASA associate executive director, policy & advocacy at nellerson@aasa.org. 

 

Thank you. 

 

April 19, 2016

 Permanent link

Negotiated Rulemaking: The Sausage Making Stage of ESSA Legislation

The Advocate is a monthly column by the AASA advocacy team. It is shared with our state affiliate executive directors who share it with membership. We cross post the articles to the blog given their relevance to AASA advocacy. This month's article is about negotiated rulemaking.
 
Four months ago, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While the bill is more than 1,000 pages in length, it lacks the level of detail necessary to fully support successful implementation at the local level, and that is where the regulatory process comes in. 
 
Negotiated rulemaking—the specific version of regulation playing out right now—is the in-person version of regulation. A committee of approximately 25 stakeholders representing the education, civil rights, disabilities and other related communities convene to review specified topics in the hopes of reaching consensus on what shape the regulations should take. In this round, negotiated rulemaking (“neg reg”) is focused on assessments and supplement/supplant, with the broader assessments bucket capturing computer adaptive assessment, assessment for English learners, alternate assessment, exception for advanced mathematics assessments in 8th grade and the high school assessment flexibility pilot.
 
AASA joined eight other national organizations in a letter to Secretary King encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that the final product be consistent with the scope and spirit of ESSA and represent, to the extent possible, broad support from the neg reg committee. In particular, the groups encourage USED to refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress designed to empower communities. 
 
Mr. Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools in Georgia and an AASA member, is a member of the committee, appointed to represent the voice of school board and district leaders. AASA’s advocacy team has covered the first six days of neg reg (Mar 21-23 and Apr 6-8), and the group will convene one final time, April 18-19. As much as I would like to be wrong, it seems unlikely that the group will be able to reach consensus. What are some of the sticking points?
  • Alternate Assessment: You’ll recall that AASA advocated very intensely to ensure students can take tests that are developmentally appropriate. The set of items under consideration would limit the flexibility at both the state and local level, should the rate of identification for alternate assessments exceed 1 percent. Further, there is a push for a national definition of ‘students with the most severe cognitive disabilities.’ AASA opposes the attempt to change the carefully negotiated statute and believes that the intent is clear, for state and local education agencies to have some flexibility in how they place students for alternate assessments. Further, to the extent that ESSA did not create a definition, it is not something that should be created through regulation. 
  • Supplement, Not Supplant (SNS): This is one of three fiscal tests that districts and states have to meet to ensure the integrity of Title I dollars. The three tests are maintenance of effort, supplement/supplant and comparability. ESSA made changes to SNS, but not the other two tests. AASA is concerned that the proposed regulations blur the lines between the two distinct tests of SNS and comparability. AASA believes that the new reporting requirements around teacher salary need time to play out before unnecessarily tying them into an SNS proposal that has ‘mission creep’ into the equity function of comparability.
  • Computer Adaptive Assessment: Under the proposal, computer-adaptive tests used for accountability would have to be able to determine whether a student is on grade level.
  • Eighth Grade Assessments: Under the proposal, students who take a higher-level math test for accountability purposes (i.e. an Algebra test, usually given to high schoolers) must be given access to accommodations if they are English language learners, or students in special education.
  • Local High School Assessment: The debate is circling on how to define ‘nationally recognized.’
  • English Learner Assessment: The proposed regulations say states need to come up with a common test to measure English-language proficiency.
For purposes of moving forward, the committee will have two considerations: SNS will be considered on its own, and the assessment pieces will be considered in one joint bucket, with all five items to be voted on collectively, an ‘up’ or ‘down’ vote. 
 
Stay tuned to the AASA Leading Edge blog as the rest of the neg reg process plays out. And, as a point of reference, we are regularly asked some of our go-to resources for education policy news. They’re listed here:
 

April 19, 2016

(ESEA, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Unlocking the Key to School Improvement Success under ESSA

Today's guest post comes from Chelsea Straus, Policy Analyst for the K-12 Education Policy team at the Center for American Progress.

During the recent signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), President Barack Obama remarked that the new education law “focuses on a national goal of ensuring that all of our students graduate prepared for college and future careers.” To help meet this goal, ESSA requires that states and districts take action in their lowest-performing schools to dramatically improve student outcomes.

While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) prescribed specific actions for every struggling school, ESSA gives district leaders significant flexibility in selecting school improvement strategies. However, the law does require that district leaders implement “evidence-based” practices in these schools. 

Unfortunately, there are a limited number of school improvement strategies supported by substantial evidence. The key question is: Now that districts are in the driver’s seat, where should they look for help when crafting school improvement plans and selecting effective intervention strategies? The answer is fairly simple: follow the lead of districts that have successfully turned around low-performing schools. 

A new report from the Center for American Progress investigates how three districts – Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Lawrence, Massachusetts – improved their schools using a specific set of evidence-based practices. These practices include data-driven instruction, excellence in teaching and leadership, a culture of high expectations, frequent and intensive tutoring, and an extended school day and year.

All three of these districts were able to improve student achievement in many underperforming schools. Through strategic preparation and perseverance, these districts overcame barriers associated with allotting sufficient planning time, recruiting and training exemplary teachers, financing the reforms, and securing stakeholder investment. These districts were able to achieve success through increased planning time, school-level budgeting, aggressive recruiting tactics, and word-of-mouth around the effectiveness of these practices. 

As other districts contemplate how to improve low-performing schools under ESSA, they should use CAP’s report as a guide to help ensure a smooth and effective school improvement process. 

ESSA gives districts a new opportunity to take on the challenges of turning around their lowest-performing schools, without the restrictive mandates of NCLB. Although this flexibility can be overwhelming, district leaders can and should follow in the footsteps of their peers in places like Houston, Denver, and Lawrence. These three districts help shed light on the types of practices that have evidence of effectiveness and they have created a path forward for other districts. 

Now districts should seize ESSA implementation as an opportunity to infuse these practices into their low-performing schools. Improving underperforming schools with evidence-based practices will help move us closer to ensuring that all students graduate college- and career-ready. 

 

 

April 14, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins 17 Organizations in Request for E-Rate Application Extension

AASA joined 17 other national organizations in a joint letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting an extension to the E-Rate application filing deadline.

"EdLiNC has long championed the E-rate and supported the recent modernization and overhaul of the program, recognizing the positive impact on our members’ ability to provide high-speed broadband connectivity. EdLiNC recognizes such significant changes to the program require applicants to also navigate and respond to changes to both the application and the application process. EdLiNC’s members, E-rate beneficiaries in schools and public libraries across the country, have shared they are having difficulties specifically with navigating and successfully completing the revamped application portal. Thus, we ask that the application deadline be extended. With the E-rate application deadline of April 29, 2016 fast approaching, additional time to complete the application process would greatly benefit potential beneficiaries." Read the full letter.

Groups signing the letter:

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • International Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National School Boards Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

April 13, 2016

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA ESSA Resource on Transportation for Students in Foster Care

AASA, in collaboration with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, has released a guide on the new ESSA provisions focused on transportation for students in foster care. In contrast to the majority of assessment, accountability and funding provisions in ESSA which are effective beginning the 2017-2018 school year, ESSA’s foster caretransportation provisions are effective December 2016. This guide willhelp you understand the responsibilities both child welfare agencies and school districts have for transporting children in foster care, specifically which aspects are optional and which aspects are requirements. In addition, we provide a series of questions to guide the development of local transportation procedures.  This is the first of many ESSA resources we will producing for AASA members.

 

April 12, 2016

(ESEA) Permanent link

AASA's Statement on Every Student Succeeds Act Hearing - April 12, 2016

In response to Tuesday's Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on ESSA implementation, AASA released the following statement in the press release below.

--

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
James Minichello
703-875-0723
703-774-6953 (cell)
jminichello@aasa.org


Alexandria, Va. – April 12, 2016 – AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in advance of the April 12, 2016 Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from the U.S. Secretary of Education.
 
“AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is proud of its endorsement of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and remains committed to working with both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education as we move forward to support successful ESSA implementation. Our organization represents the nation’s more than 13,000 school system leaders and we are watching closely to ensure that the regulations and guidance that will further shape the law remain aligned and consistent with the underlying statute.
 
“Congress acted very deliberately in its broad, bipartisan work to make changes in certain areas while leaving others untouched. With a bill so clearly focused on positioning state and local educational agencies as the drivers of policy decisions, while ensuring the role of the federal government to support and strengthen the nation’s schools, it is critical that the U.S Education Department (USED) refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress gave communities the flexibility to determine.
 
“To the extent that ESSA establishes definitions and requirements, there are policy decisions crafted with significant input from broad, diverse constituencies, including educators, the civil rights community and the disability community. To the extent that ESSA refrains from a national definition or requirement should remain a state and local decision, unless there is consensus that federal clarification is needed. ESSA anticipated and addressed this very tension, and ‘prohibit[s] any such regulation that would create new requirements inconsistent with or outside the scope of the law.’ New federal definitions through regulation would represent new requirements and would be outside the scope and intent of the law.
 
“In particular, we are deeply concerned that the proposed regulations represent a serious overreach in the areas of ‘supplement, not supplant’ and alternate assessment.

  • Supplement Not Supplant: Supplement, not supplant is one of three federal provisions aimed at preserving the integrity of Title I funding. Maintenance of Effort evaluates the dollar amount; supplement not supplant addresses the construct/methodology of allocation; and comparability addresses equitable allocation. They are distinct statutory provisions, and ESSA changed only one: Congress was as deliberate in its move to modify supplement not supplant as it was to leave both maintenance of effort and comparability unchanged. We are concerned that the proposed regulations reflect a ‘mission creep’ focused on getting changes that Congress denied in statute through regulation. Further, the proposal will unnecessarily burden schools, impact day-to-day operations, result in forced transfers of teachers, and disrupt various methods of school budgeting, including weighted student formulae.
  • Alternate Assessments: The alternate assessment language in ESSA represents a very carefully negotiated compromise between the various groups represented in the negotiated rulemaking committee. We are concerned that the proposed regulations change ESSA statute before it has even been implemented. Echoing a sentiment listed above, we are also concerned with an effort to establish a national definition for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities. The previous law, No Child Left Behind, represented a much more prescriptive role for the federal government in education and did not define the term. To see a definition in the proposed regulation runs counter to the intent of the underlying ESSA statute, which is clear in its focus on state and local decision making and was deliberate in not defining the term. It is a term that has, to date, been defined at the state and local level, and this is an approach that is appropriately deferential to the role of the individualized education program team in crafting these decisions.  The 1 percent cap on alternate assessments remains in place and is a guiding mark. Under ESSA, it remains a litmus test that strikes an appropriate balance between ensuring that students are not disproportionately identified for alternate assessments; preserving the role of the IEP team and the significance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in driving alternate assessment decisions;  and providing limited flexibility to those schools who may find they have an atypically high rate of students who need to take an alternate assessment. We remain optimistic that USED can and will revise its regulations to more closely reflect statutory intent.”

###

For specific questions about ESSA implementation, please contact Noelle Ellerson, AASA associate executive director, policy and advocacy, at nellerson@aasa.org.

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.

April 4, 2016

 Permanent link

AASA Joins 8 National Organizations on Letter to USED About ESSA Implementation

AASA has joined eight other national organizations on a letter to the U.S. Department of Education regarding negotiated rulemaking and the regulatory process for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Read the full letter here

Joining AASA on the letter: 

  • National Governors Association 
  • National Conference of State Legislatures 
  • National Association of State Boards of Education 
  • Council of Chief State School Officers 
  • National School Boards Association 
  • American Federation of Teachers 
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Education Association

 

March 23, 2016

(WELL-BEING) Permanent link

AASA Urges Careful Consideration of FEMA Proposal to Establish a Deductible

File this under 'things I didn't think I would advocate on' as I was preparing for a career in education policy: AASA joined four other national organizations in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responding to its proposal to establish a deductible for its public assistance program.

FEMA’s proposal is considering the establishment of a disaster deductible, requiring a predetermined level of financial or other commitment from a recipient (grantee) before FEMA would provide assistance under the public assistance program when authorized by a Presidential major disaster declaration.  FEMA believes the deductible model would incentive recipients to make meaningful improvements in disaster planning, fiscal capacity for disaster response and recovery, and risk mitigation, while contributing to more effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

AASA, in coordination with the Association of Educational Services Agencies, the Association of School Business Officials International, the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, and the National Rural Education Association sent a response urging caution and restraint. The public assistance program has historically been a federal program and this policy would shift federal responsibility to the state and local level, arguably at a time (post-disaster) that they can least afford it. Further, as sub-grantees, school district's ability to receive FEMA disaster funds would be impacted by their state's willingness/ability to meet or address the deductible. The groups expressed concern that this proposal stands to disproportionately and negatively impact the neediest.

Read FEMA's proposal.

Read the full letter here

March 23, 2016

(E-RATE) Permanent link

AASA Joins 17 National Organizations on Letter to FCC Responding to Changes in Lifeline Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to consider changes that would modernize it's Lifeline program. (Quick background: Lifeline is a sister program to E-Rate, one of the four programs funded through Universal Services Fund. Lifeline helps provide phone connectivity to low-income people, and the proposed changes include allowing the program to provide broadband home access. AASA supports this effort, as it provides an opportunity to address the homework gap, and ensure that more students have access to internet connectivity at home.)

AASA advocates for the E-Rate program in close coordination with EdLiNC, the Education and Library Networks Coalition. As part of EdLiNC, AASA supports the proposal to include broadband as an eligible and supported Lifeline service because we believe it an important step in assisting students to gain access from their own homes to online homework and other digital resources necessary for their education. AASA joined 17 other national organizations in a letter to the FCC outlining our support and identifying areas within the proposal for further improvement. 

You can read the full letter here.

Joining AASA on the letter:  

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Consortium for School Networking
  • nternational Society for Technology in Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Educational Association 
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA 
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National School Boards Association
  • State Educational Technology Directors Association
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

March 15, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Education for Upward Mobility

Today's guest blog post comes from Michael Petrilli,President of The Fordham Institute. He writes today about his most recent publication, a book where he and a dozen leading scholars and policy analysts address the questions "How can we help children born into poverty transcend their disadvantages and enter the middle class as adults? And in particular, what role can our schools play?"

Poor and working class Americans have gotten hammered. Here’s how to help their children do better.

Whatever you think of this year’s presidential election, it’s undeniable that Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ populist messages have struck a chord, particularly with poor and working class voters. As Charles Murray put it in the Wall Street Journal, “For someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational.”

None of this is news to educators, who work with children and families every day who face the challenges that decades of economic upheaval have brought.

State and national leaders have warned since at least the 1980s against leaving people behind, and the need to “build a bridge to the 21st century.” Then-Governor Lamar Alexander said in 1986, “What has suddenly riveted everyone’s attention on our education system is that our standard of living is threatened…we’re not going to have the jobs and the good incomes in America if we don’t have the good skills.” That was thirty years ago.

And to be sure there have been lots of school reform efforts over the years, most well-meaning, and some even effective. But it hasn’t been nearly enough. While NAEP scores have risen at the 4th and 8th grade levels, they remain stubbornly flat at the end of high school. Fewer than forty percent of our graduates leave school ready for college—not just four-year universities but community colleges too. The numbers are much, much worse for kids growing up poor and working class. We saw the challenge coming—the need to equip a vastly larger number of people with stronger skills—and we didn’t get the job done.

So here we are, with low-income and working class voters who have gotten hammered, and are falling further behind their college-educated neighbors, and are letting their anger be heard.

The question for us is whether there’s anything our schools can do to reverse these trends. What can we do to make sure that the next generation develops the skills they need to compete for middle-class and high-wage jobs?

Our schools can’t do it all, or all by themselves, but there’s a least a handful of actions we can take which would do a world of good. For example: balance our obsession with four-year college degrees with renewed attention to high-quality Career and Technical Education; make sure we remember the “strivers”—the low-income, well-behaved, higher-performing students, who are rarely made a top priority; and teach the “success sequence”—finish high school, work full time, and get married before having children. 

While our education system alone cannot solve the stubborn, tragic problem of persistent poverty and the growing gaps between working class and college-educated Americans, there’s much it can do for the children entrusted to it. But first we have to change the way we think about the problem and its possible solutions.

 

Michael J. Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. This essay is drawn from his new edited volume, Education for Upward Mobility, which was released this week.

 

March 15, 2016

(ESEA, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

AASA Joins 10 National Organizations Supporting Increased FY17 Funding for Title I

AASA joined ten other national organizations in a letter addressed to the House and Senate appropriations committee, urging strong support for increased funding for Title I, with an assurance towards avoiding any decrease in local level allocations:

"Without action by the Appropriations Committee, virtually every school district in the nation will unexpectedly find their local Title I allocation cut in school year 2017-18 just as they begin to implement the new law. The Education Department’s proposed Title IA funding levels for federal fiscal year 2017 (FY17) along with the requested proviso language would merely mitigate the severity of these local Title I allocation cuts...President Obama proposed a $450 million ‘increase’ for Title IA in FY17. We are deeply concerned that, for reasons outlined below, this amount is insufficient and will actually result in a projected cut of at least $200 million at the local level ([1]).  The proposal does not reflect an actual increase in the full context of statutory changes in ESSA related to program consolidation, state set aside, and the hold harmless provision. 

ESSA consolidates the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program into Title I. SIG was funded at $450 million in FY16, accounting for the full amount of the President’s proposed increase. More succinctly, these dollars are already in schools, and proposal is merely shifting the funding from SIG to Title I. 

The effective cuts to school districts come from a change in state set aside for school improvement. ESSA raises the state set aside from four to seven percent for school improvement and removes the Title I state set-aside hold harmless requirement for FY17. Under No Child Left Behind, the hold harmless provision ensured that local level allocations would not be reduced as a result of the state school improvement set-aside. States had to ensure level funding for school districts before taking the set aside, and recent funding realities created a scenario where the money that remained available for the state set aside was below four percent. Increasing the set aside to seven percent, in coordination with lifting the hold harmless, will create a funding vacuum, whereby dollars flow first to the state and then to the local level. The fiscal pressure of meeting the increased set aside under ESSA and backfilling funds for states that were operating with less than a four percent set-aside will result in significant cuts to local Title I programs. The Education Department’s Title I budget request at best would translate into a $200 million shortfall for local level allocations and at worst a significantly greater shortfall...

We strongly urge Congress to fund Title IA at a level $450 million above the President’s proposed level, an aggregate increase for school districts in their local level subgrant allocations for school year 2017-18, and ensure that no school district receives less Title I funding to implement the first year of ESSA."

Read the full letter.

Groups signing the letter include: 

 

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Education Association
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association

 

March 14, 2016

 Permanent link

Request for Nominations of Individuals to Serve on Regional Advisory Committees

The U.S. Secretary of Education (Secretary) invites interested parties to submit nominations for individuals to serve on the Regional Advisory Committees (RACs).

Purpose of the RACs: The Secretary is seeking nominations to serve on the RACs in order to collect information on the educational needs of each of the ten regions[1] served by the Regional Educational Laboratories as part of the Comprehensive Centers program.  The RACs will seek individual committee members’ input regarding the need for the technical assistance activities described in section 203 of the Educational Technical Assistance Act (ETAA) and how those needs would be most effectively addressed.  In order to achieve this purpose, the RACs will seek input from chief executive officers of States; chief State school officers; educators, including teachers and administrators; local educational agencies (LEAs); librarians; businesses; State educational agencies (SEAs); and other stakeholders within each region. 

The process for the RACs outlined in this notice is different from the process used to convene the RACs in prior years.  Specifically, we are no longer seeking consensus recommendations and instead are seeking the technical advice of each individual RAC member.  Not later than six months after each RAC is convened, it will submit a report based on this needs assessment to the Secretary.  This report will contain an analysis of the educational needs of the region and each individual’s technical advice to the Secretary regarding how those needs might be most effectively addressed.  The RAC members will not attempt to reach consensus on their recommendations and will instead submit their individual technical advice.  The Secretary shall establish priorities for the next cohort of comprehensive centers, taking into account these regional needs identified by individual RAC members and other relevant regional surveys of educational needs, to the extent the Secretary deems appropriate.  

RAC Membership: Section 206(b) of the ETAA requires that the membership of each RAC contain a balanced representation of States in the region and include not more than one representative of each SEA located in the region.  The membership of each RAC may include the following:  Representatives of LEAs, both rural and urban; representatives of institutions of higher education, including individuals representing university-based education research on education and university-based research on subjects other than education; parents; practicing educators, including classroom teachers, principals, administrators, school board members, and other local school officials; representatives of business; and researchers.  Each RAC will be composed of no more than 25 members.

RAC Member Responsibilities: The Secretary will appoint members for the life of the committee, which will span approximately five months.  Each committee will meet no more than three times.  Any member appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of the full term for which the member’s predecessor was appointed will be appointed for the remainder of such term.  Members will serve without compensation.

Nomination Process: Any interested person or organization may nominate one or more qualified individuals for membership.  If you would like to nominate an individual, including yourself, for appointment to one of the following RACs, please submit the following information to the Department’s School Support and Rural Programs, Technical Assistance Group listed in this notice:

 

  • A copy of the nominee’s resume; 
    • A letter that provides the reason(s) for nominating the individual;
    • Contact information for the nominee (name, title, home and business address, phone number, and email address); and 
    • The group(s) the nominee may qualify to represent from the following categories (list all that apply):
      • SEA
      • LEA
        • Rural LEA
        • Urban LEA
         
      • Practicing educator
        • Classroom teacher
        • School principal 
        • Other school administrator
        • School board member
        • Other local school official
         
      • Parent
      • Institution of higher education
        • University-based research on education
        • University-based research on subjects other than education
         
      • Business
      • Researcher
       
     

In addition, the cover letter must state that the nominee (if you are nominating someone other than yourself) has agreed to be nominated and is willing to serve on one of the RACs.  Nominees will be appointed based on technical qualifications, professional experience, demonstrated knowledge of issues, demonstrated experience, integrity, impartiality, and good judgment.  

Nomination Deadline: Nominations for individuals to serve on the RACs must be submitted by April 20, 2016.

Process for Submissions: You may submit nominations, including attachments, by any of the following methods:

 

  • Electronically:  Send to OESE.RAC@ed.gov (specify in the email subject line, “Regional Advisory Committee Nomination”).
  • Mail, express delivery, hand delivery, messenger, or courier service:  Send to the following address:  U.S. Department of Education, School Support and Rural Programs, Technical Assistance Group, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3E206, Washington, DC 20202, Attn: Britt Jung.  Express mail or hand delivery is encouraged to ensure timely receipt of materials. : 

 

 

For more information: If you have any questions regarding this process, you may contact Britt Jung, Group Leader, School Support and Rural Programs, (202) 205-4513 or email questions to OESE.RAC@ed.gov.

 

March 11, 2016

(IDEA) Permanent link

AASA joins 23 National Organizations Urging FY17 Investments in IDEA

Earlier today, AASA joined 23 other national organizations in sending a letter to Congressional appropriators, urging them to prioritize investment in IDEA. You can read the full letter.

In urging increased federal investment above and beyond the President's proposed freezing of IDEA, the groups write: "Since its inception in 1975, IDEA has protected students with disabilities by ensuring access to a free appropriate public education.  At the time the statute was enacted, Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the National Average per Pupil Expenditure. While special education funding has received significant increases over the past 15 years, including a one-time infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding has leveled off recently and has even been cut. The closest the federal government has come to reaching its 40 percent commitment was 18 percent in 2005. This means that the President’s proposed funding level for FY 17 is below that of more than a decade ago. The chronic underfunding of IDEA by the federal government places an additional funding burden on states and local school districts to pay for needed services.  This often means using local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, shortchanging other school programs that students with disabilities often also benefit from." 

Other groups signing the letter include: 

  • American Art Therapy Association
  • American Council for School Social Work
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
  • American Music Therapy Association
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Council of Great City Schools
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Pupil Services Administrators
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of School Nurses
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Education Association 
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
  • National Rural Education AssociationNational School Boards Association

 

March 9, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: How does a popular measure of teacher effectiveness hold up under scrutiny?

This guest blog post comes from our friends at Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) at WestEd.

Some states that evaluate teachers based partly on student learning use the student growth percentile model, which computes a score that is assumed to reflect a teacher’s current and future effectiveness. However, a recent study conducted in Nevada by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West finds that half or more of the variance in teacher scores from this model is due to random or otherwise unstable sources rather than to reliable information that could predict future performance. Even when derived by averaging several years of teacher scores, effectiveness estimates are unlikely to provide sufficient reliability for high-stakes decisions, such as tenure or dismissal.

The report, Analysis of the Stability of Teacher-Level Growth Scores From the Student Growth Percentile Model, shows how the methods and findings of this study can be used to judge the accuracy of different designs for teacher evaluation systems. It concludes that states may want to be cautious about using scores from the student growth percentile model as measures of teacher effectiveness for high-stakes decisions. The report, authored by Andrea Lash, Reino Makkonen, Loan Tran, and Min Huang by REL West at WestEd for the Institute of Education Sciences.

The full report can be seen at this link.

March 3, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: A Moment in Time: Ready to Be Counted

This guest blog post comes from Rebecca Arnold, of Transforming Education.

We are in a moment where practice, policy, and research have aligned to highlight the importance of developing and measuring students’ non-cognitive/social-emotional skills.  Survey data indicate that 88% of teachers are in schools that are working to develop students’ social-emotional skills. At the same time, under the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act, states must include at least one indicator of school quality or student success in their accountability and continuous improvement systems, which shows that the definition of student and school success has broadened.  Moreover, a compelling longitudinal research base now shows that non-cognitive/social-emotional skills are critical for students’ academic, career, and life outcomes.

Our organization, Transforming Education (TransformEd), supports educators and education systems to develop and measure students’ non-cognitive skills. In order to contribute to the knowledge base in the field regarding the impact of non-cognitive skills on academics, career, and life outcomes, we recently issued a paper entitled, Ready to be Counted: The Research Case for Education Policy Action on Non-Cognitive Skills.”  The paper synthesizes multiple longitudinal and well-controlled studies that have demonstrated that non-cognitive competencies in childhood are important predictors of long-term outcomes, including high school and college completion, employability, earnings, financial stability, avoidance of criminality, and physical and mental health.  In several cases, the data show that these non-cognitive skills matter as much as or even more than cognitive or academic skills in predicting positive life outcomes.  Below is a sample of the key findings in the paper, which are from the landmark Dunedin Study

 

  • Academics: Even at the first major milestone in academic attainment—completing high school—differences among Dunedin Study subjects were large. While about 95% of the top quintile in self-control earned a high school diploma, little more than half (58%) of those from the lowest quintile did so.
  • Career: The level of childhood self-control was also powerfully predictive of socioeconomic status, income, and financial stability in adulthood. For example, while 10% of the high-self-control group was categorized as “low income” (below ~$15,000 US per year) at age 32, more than three times as many (32%) of the low-self-control group had low incomes.
  • Well-being: Children in the lowest quintile of self-control were 2.5 times more likely (27% versus 11%) to suffer from multiple health problems by their 30s. Low self-control also strongly predicted recurrent depression and substance abuse. By age 32, almost half (43%) of those in the lowest quintile of self-control had been convicted of a crime, while barely more than one in 10 (13%) of those in the top quintile were convicted criminals.
Supporting Districts to Take Action on this Compelling Research

 

TransformEd is the lead strategic advisor on social-emotional learning to the CORE Districts – a group of school districts that serve more than one million students in 1,500 schools across California. Six of the CORE Districts chose to act on the research showing the importance of students’ social-emotional skills by systematically measuring these skills alongside academic outcomes and school climate/culture in their federally approved accountability and continuous improvement system. 

In partnership with the CORE Districts, TransformEd has administered common measures of four social-emotional competencies (growth mindset, self-management, self-efficacy, and social awareness) through a field test with nearly 500,000 students. The ultimate goal of this effort is to provide educators with the data they need to make informed choices in systematically adopting scalable, evidence-based approaches to develop students’ social-emotional competencies.  

The data from this field test shows that these skills are statistically significantly predictive of students’ GPA, test scores, attendance, and suspension rates.  We will be issuing a policy paper highlighting these findings in more detail in spring 2016, as well as releasing open source social-emotional measures, so follow us on Twitter (@Transforming_Ed) to ensure that you receive the announcements.

For more information

 

  • Read the full “Ready to Be Counted” paper to learn more about the impact of social-emotional skills.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, which curates social-emotional research, practice, and popular press articles. Check out our website, which includes resources for educators on strategies to develop students’ social-emotional skills.

Sources

Bridgeland, Bruce & Hariharan (2013) The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools. 

Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., Houts, R., Poulton, R., Roberts, B. W., Ross, S., Sears, M. R., Thomson, W. M.,& Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 2693–2698.

February 29, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Using 'Fit' as an Attribute to Select Principals

This guest blog post comes from AASA member Brandon Palmer, Vice Principal of Little Rock High School in Littlerock, CA.

Although the school principal’s role has been growing in importance, the methods used to select principals have changed little since the 1950s. Moreover, researchers have seldom scrutinized principal selection methods; yet, significant procedural issues exist. The concept of fit has been used within principal selection for decades, but researchers appear to disagree on whether fit is an effective criterion and whether its use may foster discrimination. This primarily qualitative study explored the perceptions and practices of top-level district administrators regarding the use of fit within principal selection processes through a conceptual framework of cloning cultures which raise significant equity issues for non-Caucasian selection participants. Results of this study indicate participants define fit both similarly and differently, they believe fit is an important attribute sought in selection, using fit within selection has both advantages and disadvantages, and selecting principals based on fit does not guarantee that a principal will fit the school and district community. Therefore, the concept of fit should be clearly defined and operationalized. In addition, objective assessment criteria should be developed if fit is to be used within principal selection processes to promote equality within selection practices.

In a recent study published in the 2016 CLEARvoz Journal (Center for Leadership and Equity Research), top-level school district leaders were asked a variety of questions concerning their use of “fit” as an attribute to select school principals.  “Fit” is considered to be of great importance to top-level school leaders when selecting school principals.  Interestingly, principal selection researchers disagree on its use.  Despite its perceived importance, researchers have also described “fit” as a means to exclude on the basis of race, gender, or other factors real or imagined.  

Results of this study indicated top-level school district leaders described “fit” in one of three ways: 1) some type of congruence between the principal and school-community, 2) specific character traits, or 3) a candidate’s understanding of the school-community.  While most top-level school district leaders deemed “fit” as important or very important, they also admitted the difficulty in ascertaining “fit” during selection.  

The use of “fit” was cautioned in favor of other attributes such as raising student achievement.  However, if “fit” is to be used, the specific traits that make-up “fit” should be assessed such as knowledge of curriculum and instruction or the ability to build relationships.  It was also suggested the use of “fit” may undermine equity concerns and that more objective methods should be used instead of solely relying on intuition to match school principals with the school-community.

The full research article can be accessed here:  http://journals.sfu.ca/cvj/index.php/cvj/article/view/22/27 

 

February 29, 2016

(IDEA) Permanent link

IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

 

IDEA Regs to Address Significant Disproportionality Proposed by Department

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released a notice for proposed rulemaking that would make substantial changes to how significant disproportionality is identified and remedied in states and districts.

Almost two years ago, the Department asked stakeholders to submit information on how the Department could ensure states appropriately identify districts with significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in the identification, placement and discipline of special education students.  Much of the feedback AASA provided appears to be incorporated as we read through their proposed regulation. While AASA did not suggest regulation was necessary, we would prefer a statutory approach in the IDEA reauthorization to amending these provisions, we do think that the Department’s proposal has some merit.

For example, AASA has stated that it is unfair to districts and students to prohibit those identified as having significant disproportionality to have to set-aside 15% of Part B funds for early intervening services that can only be used for students not yet identified for special education. We urged the Department to allow districts to spend less than 15% if they could prove they were adequately using funds to address significant disproportionality or to ensure the funds could be used on students in special education as well as students not yet identified for special education. The Department chose to propose the latter option and now CEIS funding is not limited to non-special education students. While this does not address the concerns we have with how maintenance of effort provisions are impacted when districts do set-aside funds for CEIS, this is a step in the right direction.

In our comments, we also acknowledged that there needed to be more stringent parameters to ensure states were identifying districts for significant disproportionality. We acknowledge the current system of measuring significant disproportionality must be reconsidered, as only 356 districts were identified as having significant racial or ethnic disproportionality in the 2010-2011 school year. As a result of this data, we supported the conclusion drawn by the Government Accountability Office that “the discretion that States have in defining significant disproportionality has resulted in a wide range of definitions that provides no assurance that the problem is being appropriately identified across the nation.”

We asked the Department to issue guidance on states’ development of a definition of significant disproportionality that ensures they identify districts which have significant disproportionality, but have never been required to take action to address it. While the Department has chosen a regulatory approach, we believe their attempt to ensure significant disproportionality is remedied is somewhat appropriate. The Department proposes requiring states to use a risk-ratio method to compare disproportionality among racial and ethnic groups. Most states are already using risk-ratios, but they aren’t required to set reasonable risk ratios, which leads to few districts being identified for significant disproportionality. In determining a risk ratio, the state would have to work with stakeholders and analyze the data sets helpfully provided by the Department to analyze what an appropriate risk-ratio would be for the state. States also have the flexibility to choose to identify an LEA as having significant disproportionality only after an LEA exceeds a risk ratio threshold for up to three prior consecutive years. This is another positive change.  Finally, a state need not identify an LEA with significant disproportionality if the LEA is making reasonable progress in lowering its risk ratios, where reasonable progress is determined by the State. The Department’s wisdom to provide states with flexibility to honor the progress a district is making in addressing disproportionality is very appreciated by AASA.  We do have concerns by the requirement to use a standard national “n” size of 10 across all racial and ethnic subgroups as this “n” size is not used for ESSA or other federal accountability provisions, but at first glance the proposed regulations generally appear to be a positive development in ensuring significant disproportionality is identified and addressed with district and state flexibility and superintendent input.

AASA will be reviewing the regs once they are formally published on the Federal Register and inviting all members to join us in commenting on the proposed regs. 

 

February 22, 2016

(ESEA) Permanent link

Support AASA Nominations for ESSA Rulemaking Committee

The U.S. Department of Education is engaged in the early stages of the regulatory process related to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The first round of regulation and rulemaking will engage current education practitioners and leaders, and USED is accepting nominations to fill out their roster. AASA is submitting two nominations to represent the nation’s public school superintendents and local system administrators in this very important process. AASA will ask that Dr. Gail Pletnick, Superintendent of Dysart Unified School District in Arizona and AASA President-Elect, and ASAA Executive Director Dan Domenech serve on the rulemaking body.

Please see the endorsing statements below that will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to support Gail Pletnick and Dan Domenech’s nominations for the ESSA rulemaking committee and then complete the two short forms to endorse Dan and Gail.  

You can read Dan’s qualifications here and Gail’s qualifications here.

Endorsing Statement for Dan Domenech:  I support the nomination of Daniel A. Domenech to the US Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking committee, representing local administrators and local boards of education. Dr. Domenech has a proven track record in education, with a career spanning more than 40 years, 27  as an administrator. Dr. Domenech is well-equipped to represent the nation's public schools, whether urban or rural, small or large. His work experience enables him to relate directly to the topics under consideration in the committee, including assessment and the use of Title I funds. It is for these reasons, among others, that I endorse Daniel Domenech's nomination to the rulemaking committee.

To endorse Dan, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1h9jV8bL7RQ3XClI2ieZquaGdxz2kjOfQ9pHn2ciJ4C0/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link 

Endorsing Statement for Gail Pletnick: I support the nomination of Gail K. Pletnick to the US Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking committee, representing local administrators and local boards of education. Dr. Pletnick has a proven track record in education, with a career spanning more than 9 years as a superintendent and nearly 30 years as a school administrator. Dr. Pletnick has worked in public and private school settings and in both suburban and rural communities. Her federal education policy knowledge and work experience enables her to relate directly to the topics under consideration in the committee, including assessment and the use of Title I funds. It is for these reasons, among others, that I endorse Gail Pletnick's nomination to the rulemaking committee.

To endorse Gail, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1tc5TumkSx4e7neopFZfKKdNVv6gc2f9jQEqO9TLtUE0/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link

Thank you! 

 

 

February 19, 2016

(ADVOCACY TOOLS, RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA 2016 Legislative Agenda Adopted

Last week, the AASA Governing Board adopted the 2016 Legislative Agenda. Last year's successful reauthorization of ESEA brought about a significant change in the structure of the legislative agenda. In previous years, we have organized our positions by topic area: ESEA, IDEA, student data and privacy, etc. This year, we reorganized our legislative agenda into sections around policy goals rather than topics. Since many of our goals are shared among different topics, we were able to streamline the legislative agenda through this reorganization. 

Our positioning remains steady throughout this agenda. Some of the main priorities continue to be equity, an appropriate federal/state/local balance, adequate funding and a focus on the total child. 

Find the new legislative agenda here, and a tri-fold summary which is perfect for sharing with your legislators here, with a printable version here