October 22, 2018

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Guest Blog Post: StudentCam, CSPAN's Student Documentary Competition

Today's guest blog features information from CSPAN, related to its C-SPAN Classroom and StudentCam documentary competition. C-SPAN Classroom is a free membership service that works with C-SPAN's programs on public affairs, Congress, non-fiction books and American history to create free resources for teachers and students to use in classrooms and projects. 

Looking for free teaching resources? C-SPAN Classroom has thousands of online resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. All resources are offered free of charge, with video that is mobile device friendly, and supporting materials that are designed to help you enhance your social studies curriculum by using our public affairs programming. Registration and membership in C-SPAN Classroom is free. 

Browse our selection of resources to find primary source materials to use with your students:


  • Current Event Videos: short videos to engage students in discussion on issues affecting the country
  • Constitution Clips: video clips paired with the text of the document to show examples of the Constitution in action
  • Deliberations: lessons designed to engage students in classroom deliberations about current issues being debated in the United States
  • On This Day in History: video resources to help students better understand significant events throughout U.S. history
  • Bell Ringers: video clips that include a brief summary, key vocabulary terms and related discussion questions
  • Lesson Plans: lessons include videos, a summary, vocabulary terms, procedures and culminating activities 
  • Teacher Opportunities: we offer free online training to learn about our resources as well as summer conferences and Fellowship experiences


If you are looking to engage students in a project-based learning experience, introduce them to StudentCam, C-SPAN's documentary competition for students in grades 6-12. This year’s theme is “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AMERICAN?” Choose a constitutional right, national characteristic, or historic event and explain how it defines the American experience. Students may compete individually or in teams of up to 3 members to create a 5-6-minute film for a chance to win one of 150 student prizes. We award a total of $100,000 in prize money. You can find additional details on the competition and ideas for how to incorporate it into classrooms on our website: http://www.studentcam.org.

If you have any questions, you can contact C-SPAN's Education Relations team at educate@c-span.org  or call 1 (800) 523-7586.

October 18, 2018


Guest Blog Post: Trump Regulatory Agenda

Our friends at First Focus put together a quick overview on the latest update to President Trump's federal regulatory agenda. We are happy to share it here, and are pleased to be a member in their Children's Budget Coalition. 

The Trump administration’s fall regulatory agenda released yesterday morning offers a window into the White House’s anti-regulatory vision for the country. They claim it will cut regulatory costs by $18 billion. The agenda, released each year in the spring and fall, lists all rules that agencies are actively working on and what’s fallen to the back burner. There is no penalty for not meeting the listed dates, which aren’t always realistic. Trump boasted his administration had “set a record” for removing costly, unnecessary regulations—a claim disputed by critics who said the White House wildly exaggerated savings and overlooked the benefits of many rules. Here is an overview of some of the administration’s notable plans in some key issue areas:


  • Immigration: The Department of Homeland Security is adding even more new immigration regulations to its already lengthy list, with a new focus on immigrant investors, asylum seekers, and agricultural and seasonal guest workers. The agency released its “public charge” proposal last week, First Focus has an overview of the rule’s harm to children. Getting that proposed regulation published in the Federal Register was a top priority for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is now freed up to work on the remainder of its proposals. For instance, DHS also plans to make some changes to asylum processing. One proposed regulation would rework the “credible fear” process, whereby asylum seekers who demonstrate a credible fear of returning to their home countries cannot be deported until their asylum claims are fully processed. Another proposal is focused on reducing fraud in the process for asylum seekers to obtain work permits. Both proposals are scheduled for September 2019.
  • Tax Law Regulations: Seventeen regulations implementing the 2017 tax law are at the top of the Treasury Department’s action list for fiscal year 2019, according to its regulatory agenda. Most of those projects already were singled out in an Internal Revenue Service priority guidance plan. The list includes high-profile rules on the tax overhaul’s limit on the amount of debt interest payments that businesses can write off and guidance on foreign tax credit issues arising from new international changes.
  • Food Assistance:  USDA is moving to limit households’ eligibility for SNAP, both via changes to work requirements for so-called childless adults and to the categorical eligibility process, which streamlines assistance for individuals who participate in TANF. The proposals will track the House-passed provisions that are in part holding up compromise in Farm Bill negotiations. Stay tuned for a First Focus fact sheet outlining the proposed USDA changes in greater detail!



President Trump also said he will ask all Cabinet departments to cut their budgets by 5 percent next year, after the federal budget deficit swelled to its highest level since 2012 during the first full fiscal year of his presidency. “We’re going to be asking for a 5 percent cut from every secretary today,” he said. 

October 9, 2018


AASA Files Comments on IRS Tax Shelter Regulation

Yesterday, AASA filed comments in response to an IRS regulation that could close a tax shelter in twelve states that allows taxpayers to profit from their donations to tuition tax credit voucher programs. Our comments were focused on one specific aspect of the regulation the IRS is contemplating: whether these educational scholarship tax credits have been marketed and exploited by taxpayers seeking to avoid paying their appropriate share of federal taxes with the knowledge and implicit consent of state.  

You can read our comments here.  




October 3, 2018


Let's Rehash the Fun of FY19 Funding

For the first time in two decades—and the first time in my career at AASA—the federal government has completed the funding process for the US Education Department on time (with time to spare!) and pretty close to normal order.

BACKGROUND: If this were School House Rocks, here is how the federal appropriations process would work:


  • The House and Senate each run their own budget and appropriations process. The following steps occur on parallel tracks, in both the House and Senate, meaning there are two proposals until later in the process, when the chamber come together to conference their bills (reconcile the differences between their individual proposals).
  • After the President introduces his/her budget, each chamber would refer to the President’s proposal to inform their Budget Resolutions, and each chamber would adopt its own budget (a process that sets the overall funding level for the government, but does not get to program-specific allocations)
  • From here, the House and Senate transition from the budget work to the appropriations work, a process by which the overall budget allocation is divvied up among the 12 appropriations bills. Think of the budget as the whole federal funding pie; the appropriations bills are the 12 slices of the pie. Our funding (from US Education Department) is in the Labor Health Human Services Education & Other (LHHS) appropriations.
  • From here, each ‘slice of the pie’ goes through the following process (we’ll use LHHS as the example): The LHHS will would be reviewed and adopted by the LHHS appropriations sub committee. Then, the LHHS bill adopted by the sub committee is reviewed and adopted by the full appropriations committee, and then again reviewed and adopted by the full chamber (House or Senate). 
  • Once the House and Senate have each adopted their own LHHS bill, they go to ‘conference’, the process by which the two bills are considered together and a conference committee works to meld the two proposals together into one final bill. This is a process that could be compromise centric, outright adoption of one proposal over the other, or anything in between. One final LHHS bill emerges from the conference process.
  • Once the House and Senate agree to a conferenced bill, each chamber has to vote to adopt it, and then that final bill is sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
  • This process would be repeated for each of the 12 appropriations bills, and would be completed before the Oct 1 start of the federal fiscal year.

REALITY: Congress is NOT School House Rocks right now, especially as it relates to the annual appropriations. In fact, the last time Congress completed the full appropriations process on time and in natural order was in the mid 1990s. When Congress cannot complete its appropriations work (which funds the government!), there will either be a shutdown or—more common—they will use a continuing resolution, a process that keeps government open, level funded at the previous year’s level, to buy Congress more time to complete their funding work. 

So what happened this year? A lot. Let’s unpack it.



  • Budget Caps: While this is a story about the FY19 funding allocation (for the fiscal year that runs Oct 1 2018 to Sept 30 2019, and dollars that will be in schools for the 2019-20 school year), it’s funding levels tie back to the funding cap conversation of FY18.
  • In 2011, Congress adopted the Budget Control Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that put into place ten years of federal budget caps and triggered the process of sequestration. For purposes of understanding its impact on FY18 and FY19 discussions, know that the budget caps the bill put in place—coupled with the cuts of sequestration—meant that if Congress hadn’t voted to raise the caps in FY18, the allocation to USED would have been at or below FY08 levels. More succinctly, it means that schools would have to educate their 2018 school and student enrollments with 2007 funding levels. Congress had raised the caps twice before—in both 2013 and 2015—and the final FY18 deal was the biggest of all three AND raised the caps for FY19.
  • The overall budget can be divided into mandatory and discretionary funding; discretionary funding is divided into defense and non-defense discretionary funding. LHHS funding comes from the non-defense discretionary (NDD) portion of the budget.
  • The cap increase for NDD between FY18 and FY19 was just over $18 billion. If LHHS funding had received a proportional increase of this funding, it would have been approx. $5.5 billion. To start the FY19 conversations, the House LHHS bill level funded the programs and the Senate bill provided a $2 billion increase. Neither bill provided a proportional increase to support critical LHHS programs, but the Senate bill provided a small increase.
  • The final conferenced bill adopted the higher Senate LHHS allocation, with the increase of $2 billion. Strategically, AASA would have worked to support a final overall number, but there were Big ‘P’ and Little ‘p’ political pressures at play. When it comes to LHHS funding, we are usually one of the last ones over the finish line and of late had come to bear disproportionate cuts to pay for funding increases elsewhere in the government. The idea that we could get over the finish line was novel, and the opportunity to do so on time and with an increase was a big priority for Congress. Anticipating that the President and some GOP would consider cutting LHHS if the bill was considered on its own, the LHHS bill was partnered with the Defense bill. (I like to explain this as the marching band flute player going to prom with the quarter back.) Their thinking was that in pairing the bills, while the President may want to cut LHHS, he would not be willing to risk Defense funding to do so. This was a bet that paid off; the President signed the final LHHS bill into law late last week. 
 So Much Context. Tell Me About the Money!! Selected programs.



  • Overall allocation to USED is $71.5 billion, an increase of $581 million. The final bill rejects the proposal to consolidate USED with the Department of Labor, as well as the Trump/DeVos privatization agenda. The bill does NOT include language to prohibit the use of federal education dollars to arm school personnel.
  • Programs receiving an increase: Title I ($100 m); Title IVA ($70 m); IDEA Part B ($100 m); 21st Century ($10 m); Charter School grants ($40 m); Perkins Career Tech ($70 m); Impact Aid ($32 m); 
  • Programs that are level funded: Title II A; Title III; 
  • Full chart courtesy of Committee for Education Funding 


October 2, 2018

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Guest Blog Post: How Well Are Your English Learners Doing?

This guest post was written by Crystal Gonzales, the Executive Director of the English Learners Success Forum. 

If your district is like thousands of other districts across the nation, chances are that you’re seeing an increase in the enrollment of English Learner (EL) students. It doesn’t come as a surprise considering that nearly five million students comprise the EL student population in the United States, constituting 10% of the total student population. So the question looms: do you know how ELs are doing in your schools?

As ESSA state plans move into the implementation phase and as educational leaders refocus their efforts on narrowing achievement gaps, it has become even more critical that we self-assess our collective efforts in serving all students within our reach, particularly ELs. With a renewed emphasis on ESSA subgroup accountability, schools must ensure ELs are doing well consistently; if these students are not doing well, the state will flag those schools for targeted improvement.

Despite their linguistic, social, and cognitive potential, EL students struggle academically compared to their non-EL peers. In 2017, for example, there was a 31-point achievement gap between non-EL and EL students in fourth grade reading and a  26-point gap in fourth grade mathematics.Several factors contribute to these poor outcomes:

  •  ineffective teachers
  •  insufficient training on working with EL students
  •  limited or no access to appropriate instructional materials
  •  a lack of targeted linguistic support in general education classes

 More than 70% of teachers report that they’ve received inadequate preparation to teach ELs effectively. Furthermore, educators believe their instructional materials for core content are not designed to raise the academic performance of ELs. This is especially problematic when predictions indicate that ELs will comprise 25% of the total U.S. student population over the next decade, and there is an increased likelihood that most teachers in the U.S. public schools will have at least one EL student in their classroom.

Where do we go from here?

The good news is that there are practical, research-based steps that administrators can taketo support their educators and ensure that ELs receive grade-level content (as opposed to watered-down materials).

Evidence reveals curriculum choice has a significant impact on student learning. To be truly effective, the curriculum must align with your state’s academic standards, and it must meet the needs of the students in your classrooms.  The 2017 National Academies report,Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English, provides a thorough overview of how we must consider the needs of ELs at all levels, including specific instructional strategies for ELs to have access to grade-level learning.Curricular materials and professional development connected to the materials (particularly in core content areas of English language arts and mathematics) must include integrated language supports for ELs.

The English Learners Success Forum (ELSF) provides guidance, tools, and resources on how to provide integrated language support, as that kind of support is largely absent from most ELA and math curricular materials. Nationally-recognized EL researchers, experts, teacher educators, and practitioners developed a set of guidelines that outline key focus areas needed for ELs to participate fully in ELA and math mainstream classrooms.Following the development of these guidelines, an ELSF Review Team collaborated with curriculum developers whose materials are used in every state.  Together, the team worked to apply these guidelines, identify high-leverage changes, and provide feedback with the ultimate goal of enhancing their materials to better serve ELs.

ELSF’s goal is to work with curriculum developers who want to be more inclusive of the needs of ELs to create better materials.  We’ve learned what to look for when selecting curriculum inclusive of ELs. As we continue to extract more knowledge through research, we aim to share our resources freely.  To that end, ESLF makes available these free resources to experts in the EL field as well as educators and administrators who are developing or adapting their own materials.

Practical steps you can take:

1. Forward this article to your teams, particularly Chief Academic Officers. Are you curious how your instructional materials and teaching practices are working for your EL students? Invite your teams to take this ‘pulse check’here and set up follow-up conversations.

2. Reflect and share these resources.

Do my ELA and Math teachers feel supported in meeting the needs of ELs in their classrooms? Conduct focus groups and observations to get teacher input. Share ELSF’s guidelines, tools, and resources as a start. You may also consider the tools and resources from our colleagues at the Council for Great City Schools (CGCS).  

3. Bring internal EL experts to the table and utilize existing tools.

If you are conducting a materials selection process for ELA or math, ensure EL district leaders are involved on committees and create specific EL criteria relevant to your districts’ needs in making materials decisions. Utilize resources, such as the Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool (IMET) and EdReports’ rubrics for standards alignment, and for EL supports reference the ELSF Guidelines for Improving Materials for ELs and CGCS’ EL frameworks for ELA and mathematics

4. Engage with ELSF.

We are always looking for exceptional EL educators and leaders to get involved in our work as reviewers, coaches, resource writers, and advocates. Encourage them to join ELSF efforts. Additionally, ensure that vendors you use are familiar with ELSF guidance tools and aim to be inclusive of the needs of ELs.

October 1, 2018


Rural Matters Podcast: October 2018

As part of our organizational goal to better serve and support our nation's rural school superintendents and the schools and communities they serve, AASA is proud to sponsor Rural Matters, a monthly podcast that covers, discusses, and shares conversation, insights, and resources on the latest topics that shape and impact rural school communities. We are pleased to share a quick blurb from the hosts about the latest episode, focused on computer science and STEM: 

Want to know more about success stories in Computer Science and STEM? Episode #26 from our podcast partner, Rural Matters, is a must listen. You'll hear representatives from Arkansas, Idaho, and Florida detail grant opportunities, ground-breaking student competitions, forward-looking professional development initiatives, and innovative funding opportunities. Just search for Rural Matters on iTunes or wherever you get your favorite podcasts, and SUBSCRIBE, or visit Libsyn, http://ruralmatters.libsyn.com/ 

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