October 28, 2015

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

AASA Statement On The Decline In 2015 National NAEP Scores

Today, the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) released The Nation’s Report Card: 2015 Mathematics and ReadingThe results from the 2015 assessment are compared to those from previous years to describe change in fourth and eighth-grade students’ performance in mathematics and reading over time. Performance results are presented as NAEP scale scores and as percentages of students at the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels. The report also includes information about the performance of different student groups, as well as performance gaps by gender and race/ethnicity. NAEP results date back to the early 1990s.

Generally speaking, the trend in NAEP performance has been one of significant growth since the early 1990s. There are small variations each year, and this year’s data is garnering a lot of headlines over a potential stalling in student growth. In mathematics, the 2015 average scores were 1 and 2 points lower in grades 4 and 8, respectively, than the average scores in 2013. These small declines remain well above initial scores, as scores at both grades remain  higher than those from the earliest mathematics assessments in 1990 by 27 points at grade 4 and 20 points at grade 8. In reading, the 2015 average score was not significantly different at grade 4 and was 2 points lower at grade 8 compared to 2013. As was the case in mathematics, scores at both grades were higher in 2015 than those from the earliest reading assessments in 1992 by 6 points at grade 4 and 5 points at grade 8. 

We must be responsible in our consumption of this data and resist the urge for drastic changes. This could be a one-year anomaly or it could be something more significant. However our students perform, we must remain focused on supporting their growth and learning, and resist the urge t point fingers and shift blame.

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech released the following statement

“The headlines today write themselves and cover all the usual angles: Our schools are failing. Our students are failing. We need more tests. We need fewer tests. We need better tests. Common Core is working. Common Core is failing. We need more school choice.

“We have had—and continue to engage in—these conversations, all of which have their time and place. But today, in this moment, when NAEP—widely regarded as the Nation’s Report Card—indicates that our students aren’t making the growth and achievement we would expect, perhaps the conversation isn’t about what we are doing as much as what we are not doing. And in this instance, we must consider the extent to which this set of NAEP data was impacted by the significant cuts to education investment at the local, state and federal level stemming from the great recession and held in place by continued poor policy.

“When it comes to our nation’s schools and the students they serve, we know that education cuts do not heal. Though we’re past the end of the great recession, education investment has yet to reach pre-recession levels. That means that our nation’s K-7th graders have spent the entirety of their K-12 educational experience to date under a post-recession funding climate, and that our 12th-graders have spent half of their educational experience in that underfunded environment.

“In a broader context, the federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 11.6 percent (adjusted for inflation) since 2010. And while AASA doesn’t advocate unfettered spending as a silver bullet, we also do not deny that investment matters. Adequate funding is a critical component of any serious conversation about boosting student learning and closing achievement gaps, and today’s NAEP data might be one of the first times we are seeing a clear, national narrative highlighting the consequences of our recent education funding policy decisions.”

October 27, 2015

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link

AASA Urges School Nutrition Flexibility

Yesterday, AASA, along with the School Nutrition Association, sent a letter to the Hill urging members to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to provide schools with much-needed flexibility. The letter illuminates the higher costs associated with the new standards and the challenges found in a recent GAO report. 

The letter is available here

October 20, 2015

(SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS) Permanent link

UPDATE: AASA weighs in on D.C. voucher program and Title I Portability

While it’s great that Congress wants to continue working to reauthorize overdue education bills, it’s unfortunate that they are rushing to reauthorize the D.C. voucher program known as the “D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program” by the close of the year. Speaker Boehner, the champion of the D.C. voucher program, is retiring and eager to ensure that one of his critical priorities—propping up financially depressed parochial schools in the D.C. area with federal funding—is maintained before his departure. There will be mark-up held in the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee tomorrow morning to continue the program despite the fact that reports by the Department of Education in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 found the program had no impact on student safety, satisfaction, motivation, or engagement, and no statistically significant impact on overall student achievement in math or reading. This week the D.C. Council sent a letter to the Committee stating that it is not the will of the people of D.C. to maintain this program and the funding for the program should be redirected to the public school system. Over $190 million of taxpayer funds have been directed to D.C. private schools since the program began in 2003.

AASA is proud to co-chair the National Coalition of Public Education, a coalition of over fifty national education, civil rights, religious, secular and disability organizations that sent a letter opposing thereauthorization of the D.C. voucher program. The group also sent a letter this week urging the ESEA Conferees to keep Title I portability out of ESEA

UPDATE: Tomorrow the House will vote on HR10, the legislation to continue the D.C. voucher program. AASA strongly opposes any effort to expanded the voucher program to new students. You can read the letter we sent to the House here

October 2, 2015

 Permanent link

You're Invited: Rally to Raise the Caps (in person and remotely!)

As part of our ongoing advocacy related to ensuring increased and appropriate federal investment in education--and against the preservation of the draconian cuts and fiscal pressure under sequestration--AASA remains committed to the idea that Congress can and should replace/repeal sequester. That means they need to #RaiseTheCaps, starting their annual appropriations discussions from a dollar amount that is not arbitrarily capped at post-sequester levels.

You'll recall that we have shared two toolkits related to #RaiseTheCaps: one for non-defense discretionary dollars (the broader portion of the budget that includes education funding) and one more specific to education. You should also check out the latest #RaiseTheCaps infographic, courtesy of our friends at the Committee for Education Funding.

 

  • The federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 7.2% since 2010. Accounting for inflation the discretionary spending on children has decreased by 11.6% due to harmful sequestration cuts.
  • $80 billion: The amount federal education programs have been cut since 2010
  • $75 billion: the amount student financial aid has been cut since 2011
  • 11.6%: The decrease in federal spending on children, adjusting for inflation, since 2010
  • 50: The number of education programs that have been cut since 2010
  • American student rank well behind those in economically competitive countries on international tests: 17th in reading, 20th in science, and 27th in mathematics among the 34 Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
  • $579 million: Cuts since 2010 to IDEA, which serves students 3-21 with disabilities, due to sequestration
  • 57,000: The number of children who lost Head Start services due to 5.7% cut thanks to sequestration
  • 60,000: The number of students in 18 states that could lose access to pre-school entirely as a result of defunding die to sequestration
  • 12%: The amount federal spending is down for Title I, the major assistance program for high poverty schools
  • Unless the cap on non-defense appropriations is raised, it will be virtually impossible for Congress to approve increases to vital education programs.
  • Bottom line: Congress must raise the federal spending caps in order to make necessary education investments to support a high-skills workforce and grow the economy.

 

Now that Congress has averted a shutdown (At least until December 11), they are free to work on a more comprehensive approach to funding that MUST raise the caps for FY16. To that end, you are invited to participate in a Rally to Raise the Caps, in person or over social media, on Wednesday, October 7. The rally is being held at the US Capitol, East Front (the grassy area on the House side between the Capitol and the Library of Congress). 

Featuring House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and other Members of Congress from House and Senate (TBD).

This is a rain or shine, more the merrier event so please forward this invitation far and wide to your colleagues, friends, and family. Our goal is to have at least 300 advocates in attendance!

To help us ensure we’re reaching our goal, please RSVP here.

NDD United will produce a limited amount of signs for ralliers, but feel free to bring your own. Can’t join us in person? Rally with us online via Twitter by following @NDDUnited and #RaiseTheCaps! Sample tweets are available in the toolkits linked above.

With the future of budget negotiations hanging in the balance, it’s critically important that our community send a message to Washington that sequestration is unacceptable. Together, let’s tell them to work and Raise the Caps!

October 2, 2015

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Schools Struggle to Manage Cost of Nutrition Standards

Today's guest blog post comes from Jean Ronnei, SNS, President of the School Nutrition Association and Chief Operations Officer, Saint Paul Public Schools, MN

View an infographic from SNA here.

Since new federal nutrition regulations took effect in 2012, school meal programs have been working hard to improve menus. However, a new School Nutrition Association (SNA) survey of meal program operators nationwide reveals that the cost of meeting the rules threatens school meal programs and their efforts to better serve students.

The survey revealed that despite widespread efforts to promote healthier choices to students, 58% of respondents reported that student lunch participation declined under the new standards. Nearly 93% of those respondents cite “decreased student acceptance of meals” as a contributing factor to this decline. 

Meanwhile, 74% of districts with a la carte service report that this revenue has decreased under new Smart Snacks in School rules, with 43% citing a strong decrease. This loss in revenue can cripple school meal programs, already struggling to manage higher food and labor costs due to the new rules. 

Alarmingly, nearly eight in every ten school districts have had to take steps to offset financial losses since the new standards were implemented, such as reducing staff, cutting reserve funds, canceling equipment investments and limiting menu choices. Schools are losing necessary resources to invest in innovative recipes using fresh, whole ingredients. 

The survey also revealed substantial benefits for schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows schools with a higher percentage of low income students to serve all students free meals.  About one in five districts report having at least one school that used CEP, and about two-thirds of those report that CEP participation has helped their program’s overall financial health. Districts participating in CEP were least likely to report a decrease in lunch participation.

SNA supports the overwhelming majority of the new rules, including caps on calories, saturated and trans fats and mandates to offer larger servings and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. To address challenges under the new rules, SNA is calling on Congress to increase the federal reimbursement for school meals by 35 cents and provide flexibility on a few of the new rules (see www.SchoolNutrition.org/PositionPaper).

 

September 30, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

AASA Letter on ESEA Conference Priorities

Congress is back in session and working full tilt on avoiding a government shutdown. Beyond that, there is still strong momentum for completing ESEA reauthorization this fall. AASA is fully supportive of ESEA reauthorization and is engaged with hill staff on both sides of the hill and both sides of the aisle to reiterate our position of support and our priorities within conference.

Today, AASA sent its conference letter to the announced conferees (Senators Alexander and Murray and Representatives Kline and Scott).  The letter focuses on five specific priority areas and makes recommendations for (in)action: portability, accountability, expanded data collection, Title I formula and alternate assessment.

Earlier in the week, AASA reconvened with nine other national education organizations to send a joint ESEA conference letter urging Congress to advance a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization to the President's desk this fall. Read a related news article. Join AASA on the letter:

  • American Federation of Teachers
  • National Education Association
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • National PTA
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals 
  • National School Board Association
 

September 29, 2015

(E-RATE) Permanent link

USAC Letter to E-Rate Community

Earlier today, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC, the entity overseeing E-Rate) released a letter to the E-Rate comm with an update on the pace of E-Rate funding and the new E-Rate portal. For FY2015, USAC is ahead of any previous funding year, but there is still work to do. USAC continues to see interest in the portal and remains focused on improving its functionality and being customer-friendly.

In the opening of the letter, Mel Blackwell (Vice President of the Schools and Libraries Program) writes:

"This is an exciting and important time of year for the E-rate Program as we move toward completion of all FY2015 applications, continue to implement the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) and mark the beginning of the 2016 funding year with our in-person training efforts. These coming months are particularly important given the changes brought by the modernization orders and the implementation of EPC. We fully understand that change brings both opportunity and challenge to all of us in different ways. I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to mitigate the challenges and deliver on the FCC’s goal of a faster, simpler, and more efficient E-rate Program. Transparency is a critical component of these enhancements and of managing through the change. Thus, I would like to discuss with you a couple of areas that are currently of particular interest --- the pace of FY2015 funding decisions and the status and performance of EPC."

You can read the full letter here.

September 20, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

AASA and ASBO ESEA Memo on Potential Consequences of Title I Portability

Today, AASA and our friends at ASBO, released a memo addressed to the Conference Committee focused on ESEA reauthorization detailing the potential effects of the inclusion of Title I portability provisions found in the House ESEA bill on Title I programs. Specifically, we asked our respective memberships to explain how a requirement to make Title I dollars "follow a child" within a state or school system could impact five aspects of district Title I programs: planning, hiring and retention, administration, and the quality and equitable distribution of funds to students in the district. The memo can be accessed here