December 14, 2015(2)

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Changes to Federal Procurement to Impact Local Purchasing

Today's guest blog post comes from our friends at SIIA. SIIA is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry, representing approximately 700 member companies worldwide that develop software and digital information content. SIIA members include the leading publishers and innovative developers of digital products and services for K-20 education, including instructional materials, education software and applications, professional development and related technologies and services for use in education.

New procurement rules from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will impact schools and districts around the country. In an effort to streamline processes, improve cost effectiveness, and reduce waste/abuse, OMB consolidate 8 previous procurement guidelines into a single set of requirements. This new process will apply to any federal, state or local agency, including school districts, spending a federal grant, such as Title I or Perkins CTE Act.

While the new rules are slightly more specific in detailing specific procurement procedures, for the most part, the new rules will not be a huge change from current practice as many states already require some of these practices in place. The U.S. Department of Education provided clarification on a few of the changes that school procurement officials should be aware of:

 

  1. All contracts for products or services equal to or greater than $150,000 must be put through a competitive bid – eliminated sole-source contracting except when necessary and documented.
  2. RFP’s may not specify product brand names but instead must utilize product specifications to allow for equal competition. However, there are limited exceptions where a school or district’s existing technology or infrastructure requires specifying a brand name.
  3. Pilot programs also must follow the new rules on competition and be put through a competitive bidding process if the cost is equal to or greater than $150,000.
  4. School employees who “select, award, and administer” contracts may not receive any “tangible personal benefit” from the service provider. Tangible benefits include improved employment opportunities which may in some cases impact the level of professional development a provider may offer such employee.

Though technically effective since December 26, 2014, non-federal entities, including schools and LEAs, are under an implementation grace period for two (2) fiscal years after the effective date. For example, a school with a fiscal year start of July 1 will need to shift to the new rules by June 30, 2017.

 

For more information, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has made its fact sheet on the procurement rule changes available to AASA and its members. Please reach out to Brendan Desetti, SIIA’s director of education policy, with any questions.

December 14, 2015(1)

(ESEA) Permanent link

ESSA Presentation, With Audio

AASA's Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy, Noelle Ellerson presented on ESSA at the annual conference for AESA. At the request of the members, those slides are available with an audio narrative.. The presentation is 44 minutes long.

Powerpoint presentation, only (no audio)

Full recording (slides and audio):

December 14, 2015

(ED TECH) Permanent link

Speak Up: Final Week to Complete Survey, Opportunity for Early Peek at Data

AASA is once again pleased to partner with our friends at Project Tomorrow as they administer the Speak Up survey, which gives education stakeholders the opportunity to share their viewpoints about key educational issues, particularly concerning digital learning and the use of technology to support future ready schools. The 2015 survey closes this Friday, December 18, meaning this is the last week for you to participate. 

Here are the participation numbers as of COB Friday December 11:

Speak Up 2015 Counts to Date: 401,034 total surveys
Students: 
329,261 Teachers: 33,286 Administrators: 3,791 Parents: 29,242 Community Members: 5,454

Update – Quick Facts

  • Online surveys open now for K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, school site administrators, district administrators, technology leaders and community members. New this year, special surveys for Science Teachers and Communication Officers.
  • Surveys opened on Oct 1 and will remain open until Dec 18
  • New questions this year include topics such as: Homework gap, ultimate science classroom, print vs. digital, videos and movies within instruction, communications and engagement, and data privacy.
  • Speak Up is all over Twitter this year – follow us @SpeakUpEd or follow Julie @JulieEvans_PT for updates and news about all things Speak Up
  • Our Speak Up America Campaign was a huge success with over 80,000 surveys taken during the weeklong promotion and celebration event. At the request of many we have extended our social media campaign and book giveaways into next week.
  • Check out our new online interactive map with real time updates on state by state participation:  http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/participationmap.html - is your home state on the map? 

Sneak peek at some preliminary Speak Up 2015 data! 

In celebration of our Speak Up America campaign, we have pulled a special snapshot of preliminary data for students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members. Click on the links to view each of our special snapshots.

Two things that you can do today to support Speak Up

 

  1. Complete a Speak Up survey yourself as a parent or community member.  With our community member survey, everyone who cares about K-12 education has the opportunity to share his or her ideas about digital learning.  Take your community member survey or the parent survey here:   http://www.speakup4schools.org/speakup2015.   Share this link within your organization and through your social media networks as well.   I have attached some sample text to share out as well.
  2. Promote school or district participation in Speak Up to your customers and partners.  Our biggest challenge is getting the word out about Speak Up to school and district leaders.  Speak Up is a service to them – but they cannot take advantage of it if they don’t know about it.  Here are some ways that you can help with that:

 

    • Put Speak Up information and the survey link on your website  
    • Send out information in newsletters, listservs, emails about Speak Up 
    • Include Speak Up information in your webinars or at your meetings and conferences all next week
    • Reach out to key influencers in your organization to help spread the word about Speak Up

December 9, 2015

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Study of the American Superintendent: 2015 Mid-Decade Update

Today, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, released the Study of the American Superintendent:2015 Mid-Decade Update to follow up on The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial Study, a comprehensive study on the demographics, background and experiences of American school superintendents. 

This year’s report includes a supplementary section on gender and the superintendency. Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • The pattern of an aging superintendency continues from the 2010 study; one-third of superintendents plan to retire within five years.
  • While increases have been made throughout the years, females only make up 27 percent of the superintendency, up only 2 percent from 2010. This stands in direct contrast to the female-dominated teaching force.
  • Superintendents most often see politics as inhibiting their performance, with school board members, staff and community as the greatest contributors.
  • Career satisfaction remains high; over 80 percent of present superintendents would choose to be a superintendent again. This number is lower for female superintendents, at 78 percent.

 

A summary of findings is available here. Members can access the full report here.

Any questions can be directed to me at lfinnan@aasa.org.

December 8, 2015(1)

(ED TECH) Permanent link

Is your school district #FutureReady?

This blog post comes from our friends at Future Ready.

Dear AASA Member:

As a national coalition partner of Future Ready, we appreciate your interest in helping your schools transform teaching and learning with the effective use of digital learning strategies. 

We encourage you to join the movement by signing the Future Ready District Pledge. As you know, by signing the pledge, you’ll join more than 2,000 superintendents who have committed to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their district and to share what they have learned with other districts.  Upon signing the pledge, you are provided free access to summits, an interactive planning dashboard, and will gain access to ongoing professional learning opportunities through virtual events, mentoring and free resources.

With your help, we hope to reach the goal of more than 2,000 pledge signers by December 9, so we can announce that this one-year goal for FRS has been met. To see who has already signed the pledge in your area, click here. Please also help us spread to word by forwarding this note to at least five superintendents and encourage them to pledge.

Sincerely,

Future Ready Schools Team (Sara Hall and Tom Murray) 

The Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education Team (Richard Culatta and Katrina Stevens)

 

December 8, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

UPDATED: Senate Prepares to Vote on ESSA, AASA Letter of Support

UPDATED: The Senate voted on cloture (ending debate and moving forward on a final vote) for ESSA. The vote will be at 10:45 on Wednesday December 9. The cloture vote was 84-12. Here is a list of the no votes (all Republican): Senators Ted Cruz (TX), Lee (UT), Paul (KY), Sasse (NE), Vitter (LA), Crapo (ID), Moran (KS), Shelby (AL), Blunt (MO), Scott (SC), Daines (MT), and Risch (ID).

Following up on last week's House action to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Senate is set to vote--likely today--on the bill, which would then proceed to the President's desk to become law.

Read AASA's letter of endorsement.

The Association of Educational Service Agencies, National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition and National Rural Education Association issued their own endorsement letter, calling attention to specific provisions in the bill that address the unique opportunities and obstacles facing rural schools. 

December 3, 2015

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Shared Blog Post: Bridging the Gap Between K-12 and Community College

This blog post originally appeared in the Hobson's Education Blog, Education Advances, on November 19, 2015. It was penned by Stephen M. Smith, President, Advising & Admissions Solutions.
 
Community college serves as an important bridge between K-12 and higher education, as well as an important driver for workforce readiness and economic growth. However, despite these important roles community colleges play, we seldom talk about how to improve that transition between K-12 and community college to ensure more successful outcomes.

 

 
That’s why, earlier this year, Hobsons, in partnership with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) made a commitment to action at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to explore opportunities and challenges that exist in creating effective success bridges between K-12 and community college. Through this collaboration, Hobsons and AASA seek to identify critical barriers to success that students face as they transition from high school to community college and to equip both K-12 and community college administrators with tools and resources to meet their respective needs.

 

 
Today, we’re pleased to report some of the progress towards that commitment.

 

 
Earlier this summer, Hobsons and AASA, in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), hosted a convening of school district superintendents and and community college presidents. The group discussed ways to address the issues of college access, readiness, persistence, and completion of a community college program or degree.

 

 
During the convening, attendees shared success stories, best practices, and innovative programs that are advancing effective practice in bridging K-12 and higher education.

 

 
Programs like the Gulf Coast PASS initiative in Texas are bringing together high schools and community colleges across the state to help increase college readiness among high school graduates, ease the transition between high school and community college, and increase student success in community college developmental courses.

 

 
The New Jersey Council of County Colleges is using support from the Kresge Foundation to partner with high schools to conduct academic “boot camps” to improve student performance in developmental education courses and move them through the courses more quickly.

 

 
And, the Missouri Innovation Campus is a progressive collaboration between the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College (MCC) and the University of Central Missouri (UCM) that allows students to take community college courses in high school, graduate with an associate’s degree, and be eligible to complete a bachelor’s degree from UCM in only two years.

 

 
Other initiatives in Texas, Washington, Arizona, New York, and Florida are also expanding pathways between K-12 and community college. For a deeper look at this work and other ways to move the needle to promote college access and success, download our convening report.

 

 
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’re proud to be a part of this conversation and to be fostering change in how K-12 districts work with their community college partners. We look forward to more progress in the near future.

 

December 1, 2015(1)

(ESEA) Permanent link

AASA ESSA Call to Action

Congress is poised to vote on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as early as Wednesday, December 2. As such, AASA is issuing this call to action to ensure that members of Congress have the voice of school superintendents on record. For further information, you can read AASA’s ESSA overview  or endorsing statement.

CALL TO ACTION: When it comes to advocacy on this proposal and the related legislation, we subscribe to ‘better safe than sorry’. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the entirety of your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both Senators) to urge them to support the conference proposal to reauthorize ESEA. Top-line talking points are embedded below, and we can share a Congressional Directory with email addresses for the education staffer in each office as well as phone numbers. When it comes time for the final rush, it is important to email not only the education staffer (they are the ones who inform the boss of the policy) but also to call the front desk (the interns are inundated with calls and are merely tallying Yes and No). 

WHAT TO DO

 

  • Contact each of your Congressional offices. Urge them to support ESEA reauthorization. You can use the Congressional Directory shared by AASA or find your member of Congress here: http://aasa.org/legislative-action-center/# (Scroll to “Find Your Elected Officials”) 
  • Talking Points: You can craft your own talking points or a summary of the proposal based on AASA ESSA overview memo. You can also refer to some of these more general talking points: 
    • Reauthorization is crucial to providing the nation’s schools with relief from current law, which is both broken and lacking in the flexibility states and local school districts need to support student learning and achievement .
    • This proposal is a strong step in the right direction because it restores a more proper balance between federal, state and local government in public education. 
    • This framework takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription and places it more squarely in the area of state and local expertise and autonomy. 
    • This effort recognizes the importance of empowering state and local leaders to use their professional knowledge and proximal location to make the decisions necessary to successfully adhere to their educational missions. 
    • This is not a perfect bill, but it gets far more right than it gets wrong, and our nation’s schools and students deserve a complete reauthorization and to be free from the limited, conditional nature of ESEA waivers.   
    • We are hopeful that the federal government is now prepared to take the next steps based on our experience with the current ESEA to restore more authority (or shared authority) to local government. 
    • We are encouraged to see proposed needed changes to ESEA.  We are prepared to build upon the original intent of the ESEA authorization while reducing the excessive testing and mandates that have limited the creative local solutions to improving student achievement. 
    • We encourage our legislators to take the necessary steps advocated in the recent proposed re-authorization language for ESEA. 
     

Stay tuned to the Blog! We will have additional talking points and sample social media items. AASA’s The Leading Edge (www.aasa.org/aasablog.aspx)  

 

December 1, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

AASA Overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act

Late last month, AASA’s Policy & Advocacy team shared a summary of the framework and preliminary call to action related to the proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In the two weeks that have since passed, Congress has released the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) a bipartisan, bicameral proposal to reauthorize ESEA that reconciles the differences between the House and Senate proposals voted on earlier this summer.

We are pleased to report that the summary of the framework was overwhelmingly accurate in its depiction of what would be in the actual bill. This memo is an overview of the legislation and is designed to both inform you and support any outreach you may do to your Congressional delegation as both the House and Senate are expected to consider ESSA before adjourning in the middle of the month. Do not be fooled by the similarity in format to the previous memo. While there is a lot of the same information, there is enough new information (including further detail and clarification) to warrant a complete read of the memo. 

TOPLINE: ESSA is a significant improvement over current law. It takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription—rampant in current law—and returns autonomy and flexibility to the state/local level/ With this flexibility comes great responsibility, as state and local education agencies will have a much more explicit say in the structure—and ultimate success—of their accountability workbooks. ESSA is the epitome of compromise, reconciling differences between the very partisan (Republican) House bill and the bi-partisan Senate bill. In reconciling those differences, a very basic way to look at this framework is as ‘somewhere in between a very conservative House bill and the moderate Senate compromise’. As AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said in his press release about the framework, “We applaud Congressional leaders for moving such a bipartisan framework. One of the biggest benchmarks of bipartisan legislation may be when everyone is a little unhappy, because nobody got everything they wanted. By that metric alone, this framework lays a solid foundation for a successful conference process.”  

AASA has endorsed ESSA, which you can read about in our endorsing statement. Domenech addressed the critical balance in ESSA, “The federal government has a very critical role to play in federal education policy, and that is to support and strengthen—not dictate and prescribe to—our nation’s public schools. ESSA is the embodiment of this very policy, preserving very important federal policy cornerstones like equity, accountability, standards and assessments, but doing so in a way that empowers state and local education leaders to more effectively operate the systems for which they are responsible.” EdWeek did a great write up on how various groups are responding to ESSA, and cited AASA Past President David Pennington (Ponca City Schools, OK). 

Timeline and Next Steps: The House of Representatives could vote as early as this Wednesday, and the Senate could vote as early as next week. This sets up the possibility of President Obama signing the bill into law before the end of 2015.  “Next steps” are outlined in the AASA call to action, available here

You can read the full ESSA analaysis and overview here.

November 30, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

AASA Endorses Every Student Succeeds Act

Earlier today, Congress released the Every Student Succeeds Act, the conferenced bill to reauthorize ESEA, reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions from this summer. AASA is pleased to endorse the bill and sent a letter of support to the hill today. Here is the press release detailing our support:

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, strongly endorses the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representing the nation’s more than 13,000 school system leaders, AASA has been deeply engaged in efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). AASA is pleased to see Congress advance such a comprehensive, bipartisan piece of legislation that focuses on policies that support and strengthen our nation’s schools and the students they serve.

As the sole organization to oppose No Child Left Behind from the beginning, AASA has long endorsed an approach to federal education policy that takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription and returns it to state and local control. ESSA strikes a very appropriate balance of power between the federal, state and local levels.

The federal government has a very critical role to play in federal education policy, and that is to support and strengthen—not dictate and prescribe to—our nation’s public schools,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech. “ESSA is the embodiment of this very policy, preserving very important federal policy cornerstones like equity, accountability, standards and assessments, but doing so in a way that empowers state and local education leaders to more effectively operate the systems for which they are responsible.”

ESSA is a significant improvement over current law. “In sharing bill text of ESSA, Congress demonstrated its commitment to seeing ESEA reauthorization to completion. This legislation builds on 8 years of momentum, and carries forward the very strong bipartisan sentiment of more recent efforts,” said David Schuler, AASA president. “Our nation’s schools and the students they serve want and deserve more than the broken, outdated remnants of No Child Left Behind. It is imperative Congress not only pass ESSA, but do so in an expedient manner and deliver this bill to the President’s desk before the New Year.”

November 24, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

Even More ESEA!

In addition to the summary from last week and updated in a blog post this morning, here’s what you need to know about what happened in ESEA Land last week, and what to expect moving forward.

 

  • First, please note there were clarifications re: SIG and ed tech funding in the memo. The memo was updated to reflect that the state set aside in Title I (when SIG and Title I are consolidated) is 7%, a sum of the current 4% set aside and the approx. amount of the SIG allocation. Also, the memo is updated to reflect that the cap on education technology device purchases within the Title IV block grant is 15%, not 5% (typo, apologies).
  • The highly qualified teacher (HQT) provisions are eliminated.
  • You can access the AASA summary here. You can also access a handy run down of the programs included with in the ESEA framework and their authorized funding levels.
  • The conference committee met on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, before voting to move forward with the conference report. Legislative language for the bill, called Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) will be available Nov. 30. There is a leaked version currently available (here) and that is a good place to start in terms of reviewing the bill.
  • The Conference Committee considered nine amendments. Seven were adopted and two were rejected. AASA had weighed in on the amendments (read our conference committee letter) and the two we supported were adopted.
  • Rep Thompson Title I Study Amendment – Rep Thompson (PA) is the long-time champion of the Title I formula rewrite on the House side. His complete rewrite was filed and not offered, and instead, he advanced this study, which would require the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director to complete a study of the effectiveness of the formulas and weighting of formulas under Title I within 18 months. The goal of the report is to provide information on if funds are going to the neediest students, and evaluating the efficacy and equity within number and concentration weighting.
  • Sen Mike Enzi Early Childhood Amendment – The amendment would require a review and report to Congress within two years from enactment on possible elimination, overlap, and duplication of early childhood programs.
  • Other Adopted Amendments:
    • Rep Bonamici STEM Amendment – To expand the list of allowable activities under Title IV, including allowing an integration of STEM and the arts and support for other interdisciplinary programs.
    • Sen Bennet Overtesting Amendment – To allow states to place a target cap on the amount of time spent on testing. It is important to note that this is permitted, but not required.  
    • Rep Messer Title II Amendment – To allow Title II funds to be used in support of educating teachers in the use of student data.
    • Rep Wilson DropOut Amendment – To help schools improve dropout and prevention programs by creating an additional use of Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) funds to provide schools funding for dropout prevention.
    • Rep. Polis ELL Amendment – To add an allowable use of Title III funds to provide dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment opportunities for English Language Learner (ELL) students to take college courses or earn an associate's degree. 
     

 

November 23, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

ESEA Reauthorization: Summary of Conference Framework and Call to Action

This blog post is longer than usual and is two-fold: The first half details what we know about the framework and the second half is a call to action. At this point, the proposal is something that AASA would endorse, should the outline mirror what is in the statute. The call to action is designed to support your advocacy—your outreach to your entire Congressional delegation—as a way to educate them on the importance of supporting an ESEA reauthorization and why this proposal is a very strong starting point.

You can access a printable version of this summary here. (WORD)

AASA has worked with hill staff, reporters and advocates to piece together what we know about what is (and isn’t!) in the proposal. The summary here within is subject to change, given that this is based on conversations and summaries, and there is not yet an actual bill. 

TOPLINE: This conference framework is an improvement over current law. It takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription—rampant in current law—and returns autonomy and flexibility to the state/local level/ With this flexibility comes great responsibility, as state and local education agencies will have a much more explicit say in the structure—and ultimate success—of their accountability workbooks. The framework represents a compromise between the very partisan (Republican) House bill and the bi-partisan Senate bill. IN reconciling those differences, a very basic way to look at this framework is as ‘somewhere in between a very conservative House bill and the moderate Senate compromise’. As AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said in his press release about the framework, “We applaud Congressional leaders for moving such a bipartisan framework. One of the biggest benchmarks of bipartisan legislation may be when everyone is a little unhappy, because nobody got everything they wanted. By that metric alone, this framework lays a solid foundation for a successful conference process.” 

DETAILS:  

 

  • Assessment: The framework maintains annual assessment, meaning testing every child in grades 3-8 in math and ELA each year and once in high school, and three assessments in science (one per grade span). 
  • Standards: You have to high standards. The state and locals make a decision. There is no federal role or incentivization for a specific set of standards. The state can choose Common Core, can use Common Core but call it ‘UnCommon Core’, can acquire another set of generated standards or can work to make their own standards.  
  • Accountability: This is where a lot of the ‘whittling back’  of federal overreach can be found: 
    • These plans would go into effect for the 17-18 school year. The 15-16 school year would be the last year states and LEAs would have to submit data as currently required. This means that the 16-17 year could serve as a soft/trial run for all or pieces of the new/proposed state accountability workbook. 
    • States must continue to disaggregate data by student sub group and must continue to calculate graduation rates using the adjusted cohort graduate rate as established in the 2008 regulations. 
    • There are two additional buckets in accountability that will trigger action:
      • States must identify and intervene in schools in the bottom 5% and in high schools that graduate less than 67% of their students. States will generate this list every three years, and states will establish the exit criteria (meaning if you can improve student learning/achievement in one year, you could—if the state structures it this way—be off the list in one year, rather than being stuck there for three). 
      • States must include provisions related to intervention in consistently underperforming schools. For LEAs in this bucket, as determined by the state the LEA will come up with a plan for improvement. The state will determine the number of years an LEA with this designation can go without showing improvement, and then the state will require additional supports/intervention. There are NO prescribed turn around models; states and LEAs determine those options/combinations. 
       
    • The state accountability plan must include sub-group performance targets. This is NOT annual measurable objectives in that the data on these targets is merely reported; it triggers no action. That is, a school that struggles to meet these targets will NOT trigger intervention. These targets will be long-term and interim, and must include targets for graduation rates, reading and math scores and English Language proficiency for English Language Learners.  
    • The accountability construct empowers state and local education agencies to shape their accountability workbooks in a way that diminishes continued overreliance on high-stakes, one-time standardized testing. In designing an accountability workbook, academic factors must represent more than half (at least 51%)  of all indicators, meaning that up to 49% of the accountability construct can be focused on whole-child and other critical, non-academic, indicators.  
     
  • Title I:  
    • School Improvement Grants are consolidated into Title I. The funds previously available under SIG will flow through the regular Title I formula. There will be a set-aside of approx. 7%, representing the current 4% set aside for school improvement under Title I PLUS the state's SIG amount. States must move at least 95% of that 7% to schools for innovation. States can choose whether to allocate these innovation dollars through competition or formula.  
    • Portability IS OUT. 
      • The framework does include a weighted student formula for Title I. This proposal will allow an LEA to aggregate its state and local dollars with its federal dollars (From Titles I-IV) This pilot program will apply to 50 LEAs, who can use these pooled dollars and design their own allocation formula in a manner that allows them to better target dollars to the neediest schools. This is NOT portability. This pilot will NOT change allocations at the state or district level. Rather, it allows districts greater authority over where the dollars flow in their schools. There is a requirement LEAs participating in this pilot demonstrate that needy schools receive at least as much under the weighted formula as they did before the pilot. 
      • We anticipate Republicans will tout this as ‘backpack funding’ or portability. While this is an increase in local control of spending, it is at the district level. True portability would have the money follow the child to the school of their choice regardless of actual need or levels of concentration, and the placement of that child would be determined by the family. In this pilot, the LEA is the entity allocating the dollars and will factor in concentrations of poverty with the added caveat of ensuring that the neediest schools don’t see an exodus of funding. This is in stark contrast to actual portability, where dollars would be diluted to a per-pupil level and allocated blindly to the schools based on enrollment, not concentration of poverty.  
       
    • Maintenance of Effort is IN. The House bill had eliminated this critical element and we are pleased to see that state and local education agencies will continue to have to invest at least 90% of what they did the year before in order to receive federal dollars. 
    • The Title I formula will be unchanged. Both the House and Senate proposals included formula rewrites, neither of which made it through. This means that Title I dollars will continue to be allocated in a manner that allows larger, but less poor, districts to receive a higher allocation of Title I dollars per child than their actual concentration of poverty would indicate. That said, we are OK with the status quo because we had reservations about what a compromised formula rewrite would look like. 
      • We are fairly confident the bill will include a requirement for Congress to do a study of the Title I formula, taking a very critical look at the issue of number and percentage weighting, and its impact on small, large, urban and rural schools. This is the exact research we have been advocating with in our efforts on the Title I formula and we are pleased to see formal movement by Congress. 
      • Precedent in ESEA reauthorization would include an update of the quintiles in the Title I formula. The quintiles are the enrollment ‘buckets’, where each threshold represents approximately 20% of the nation’s students. We had deep reservations about updating the quintiles without reworking the formula, because the threshold for the upper bound would have fallen by 10,000, meaning that more larger (bot not necessarily poorer!) districts could max out under number weighting, further exacerbating the impact of inequitably allocating dollars away from smaller, poorer schools. No update of the quintiles reinforces the pressure to accurately address the very real, but unintended, consequences of the current formula. 
       
    • Rural Education
    • AASA helped pen the original Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) in 2001, and we are pleased to see that the changes we have long advocated are reflected in this bill. In a reauthorization that consolidated and eliminated many programs, it is wonderful to see REAP remain as a stand-alone program.  
    • The US Education Department will have to do a study to evaluate how they are <not> serving rural schools. 
    • Also, Rural School Consolidated Grant Applications are in, meaning that small, rural schools can coordinate to submit consolidated applications. This may be through their local education service agency.  
     
  • Funding Caps: The bill includes funding caps, though those numbers are written to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which would be there is room for small increases in the years of this authorization. This authorization is for four years.
  • Early Education: ESEA will now include an early education component. This will be administered jointly through the Health/Human Services Department and US Education Department, with HHS acting as the fiscal agent. This program is in addition to Head Start and Child Care Development Bloc Grants. 
  • Alternate Assessment: AASA’s preferred position was no cap on alternate assessments. That is, we think that the local IEP team is best positioned to determine which students qualify for/need an alternate assessment. We are pleased with the compromise in the framework. Alternate assessments will be capped at 1% at the STATE level. Local IEP teams will work to make their determinations as driven by IDEA. There are explicit prohibitions on both the Secretary and the state from forcing a local cap (as in current practice). LEAs will have an alternate assessment rate determined by need and the state is responsible for monitoring LEAs individually to determine the overall state level. Should a state find it has an alternate assessment rate above 1%, the state can pursue a waiver.  
  • Student Privacy: FERPA is out. The proposed commission to analyze/study student data and privacy is also out. That is, no student data/privacy reauthorization reference in this bill. 
  • School Climate: Programs in Title IV are consolidated into a bloc grant. This bloc grant will be formula to state and formula to local. LEAs must use at least 20% of this allocation for well-rounded education and at least 20% for safe/healthy programming.  Technology is an allowable use in this title. Spending on technology devises/equipment/software would be capped at 15%, but LEAs could use up to 60% of their grant under this program for technology-related activities, including  training teachers to use technology, blended learning, personalized learning, buying content, etc. 
  • Foster Care: Foster care provisions are what was included in the Senate bill, which in my understanding is that any additional transportation costs to be incurred would be assumed by the LEA only if they were being reimbursed by the child welfare agency, agreed to share the costs with child welfare or if the district decided to cover those costs.  
  • Expanded Data Collection Under Title IX (Gender Equity): Eliminated. 
  • Title II Formula: The Title II formula WILL be revamped. It uses the Senate-adopted version, with tweaks to  change the poverty population to a sliding scale, and to include the ramp down/hold harmless.  
  • Background Checks: The framework includes language related to the unfavorable practice of ‘pass the trash’ but stops short of the high level of prescription and redundancy with current state/local practice that had been considered. This is language we are ok with. 
  • Comparability: Maintained current law (We were opposed to a proposal to include teacher salary in the calculation).  

CALL TO ACTION: When it comes to advocacy on this proposal and the related legislation, we subscribe to ‘better safe than sorry’. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the entirety of your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both Senators) to urge them to support the conference proposal to reauthorize ESEA. Top-line talking points are embedded below, and we can share a Congressional Directory with email addresses for the education staffer in each office as well as phone numbers. When it comes time for the final rush, it is important to email not only the education staffer (they are the ones who inform the boss of the policy) but also to call the front desk (the interns are inundated with calls and are merely tallying Yes and No). 

You can see, based on a quick review of our conference letter alone, that this proposed framework includes many AASA priorities. This proposal is a significant improvement over current law and we are comfortable with supporting it moving forward and anticipate that we will be in a position to support the legislation, pending final review (The devil is always in the detail). 

 

  • WHAT TO DO
    • Contact each of your Congressional offices. Urge them to support ESEA reauthorization. You can use the Congressional Directory shared by AASA or find your member of Congress here: http://aasa.org/legislative-action-center/# (Scroll to “Find Your Elected Officials”) 
    • Talking Points: You can craft your own talking points or a summary of the proposal based on the content in this memo. You can also refer to some of these more general talking points: 
      • Reauthorization is crucial to providing the nation’s schools with relief from current law, which is both broken and lacking in the flexibility states and local school districts need to support student learning and achievement 
      • This proposal is a strong step in the right direction because it restores a more proper balance between federal, state and local government in public education. 
      • This framework takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription and places it more squarely in the area of state and local expertise and autonomy. 
      • This effort recognizes the importance of empowering state and local leaders to use their professional knowledge and proximal location to make the decisions necessary to successfully adhere to their educational missions. 
      • This is not a perfect bill, but it gets far more right than it gets wrong, and our nation’s schools and students deserve a complete reauthorization and to be free from the limited, conditional nature of ESEA waivers.   
       
     

 

 

November 9, 2015

(PERKINS) Permanent link

AASA Policy Priorities for Perkins CTE Reauthorization

The Senate is beginning to work on a bill to update the Perkins CTE Act. The re-authorization of Perkins provides Congress with a critical opportunity to reinforce the importance of effective, high quality CTE programs in schools that are aligned with college-and-career-readiness standards, as well as the needs of employers, industry and labor. AASA believes every adolescent should graduate from high school prepared for college or fulfilling careers, but Congress must increase the federal investment in career and technical education programs as well make important changes to the Perkins Act if we hope to accomplish this goal. Below you will see a summary of the recommendations we submitted to Congress as they consider the reauthorization of Perkins. The full document is available here

AASA Priorities

 

  • When contemplating any updates to the Perkins program, it is essential to consider the federal funding context for Perkins first and foremost. To propose extensive new mandates for districts when there is little likelihood that Perkins will receive an influx of new federal funding would be foolish and unfair.
  • While AASA appreciates the funding needs of post-secondary institutions, critical partners in fulfilling the career pathway partnership, we firmly oppose any efforts to mandate funding set-asides for post-secondary at the federal or state level or allowing regional entities the discretion to determine the secondary/post-secondary allocations.
  • AASA strongly supports greater efforts to engage business and industry sectors in our 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.
  • AASA supports encouraging districts to direct greater funding to providing career planning and counseling to all students. Greater career counseling and planning would ensure that local CTE programs effectively reach traditionally under-enrolled students and assist them in understanding their options, creating a plan for coursework, laying out goals, and accessing the information they need to make knowledgeable decisions about their future career plans.
  • In light of the funding dynamics, AASA believes it is essential that a reauthorized Perkins law place less emphasis on compliance and reporting and instead focus on incentivizing best practices and relevant secondary program performance goals. We caution the committee from considering new accountability measures that are neither easy for districts to collect nor easily comparable between districts and states.
  • It is essential to reform the Perkins accountability system to match the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act. While federal reporting mandates may be appropriate, States should measure the success of secondary CTE programs and address low-performing programs as they see fit.

 

 

November 9, 2015

(IDEA) Permanent link

How are current IDEA MoE provisions hurting students?

On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/673183.pdf 

There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act--that we highlighted in an earlier blogpost. Below are a few examples from the GAO report of how the current IDEA MoE provisions are negatively impacting students. 

  •  A Michigan district said that when they had difficulty hiring a staff psychologist they had to contract for psychologist services, which turned out to be less costly than what the district spent on those services previously, causing challenges in meeting MOE. 
  • An official in one Texas district said that although their special education director recommended expanding their integrated athletics program for children with disabilities, they chose not to because they did not want to commit to the increased costs in an environment of ongoing budget uncertainty. 
  • A Virginia state education official said that districts feel penalized for complying with IDEA’s directive to serve more students with disabilities in general education classrooms since this more inclusive model can be less costly than placing all these students in special education classrooms; yet the MOE requirement is not flexible enough to allow for this without putting districts at risk of failing to meet MOE. 
  • Several district officials noted that protecting special education funding does not necessarily equate to protecting or improving special education services. For example, a Minnesota district official said the 100 percent MOE requirement may discourage districts from striving to make students with disabilities as independent as possible if such actions would reduce special education spending. He was concerned that not enough attention was being given in the IEP process to encourage greater independence and inclusion and that the process was being driven by maintaining expenses rather than responding to the evolving needs of students. 
  • A New Jersey district official said his district failed to meet MOE after reorganizing to share the cost of a special education director with another district. 

MOE can discourage efforts to implement efficiencies that could help reduce costs and can lead to unnecessary spending to comply with the requirement. For example, one Wisconsin district official commenting on the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013 NPRM said that because of state legislative changes that required reductions in their contributions to teacher benefits, they had to find other ways to spend money on special education to meet MOE regardless of whether the expenditures were needed. 

November 5, 2015

 Permanent link

AASA Joins NSBA and Others in Signing Amicus Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court Case Fisher vs. the University of Texas

AASA joins the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and six other state, national and international organizations in signing an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Fisher vs. the University of Texas case. We are hopeful that it will assist the Court in making a positive decision for America’s school children. Read the filing.

Organizations joining AASA and the NSBA on the brief include:

  • Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund
  • American School Counselors Association
  • Associations of School Business Officials International
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • PDK International

AASA has also signed on to an earlier iteration of this amicus brief.

October 29, 2015

(ESEA) Permanent link

Tweeting on Federal Education Policy

Today's blog entry comes from AASA's Deanna Atkins, online technologies and advocacy specialist, the newest member of the AASA advocacy team.

Policy influencers, EPFP alumni and educators tuned in to EPFP’s Twitter chat on federal education policy on Tues., Oct. 27. The conversation was led by EPFP alumni Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association and Mary Kingston Roche, director, public policy, Coalition of Community Schools, IE, and additional tweeters chimed in during the discussion from a variety of organizations using the hashtag, #epfpchat.

Questions were based around ESEA reauthorization, education funding and the 2016 presidential campaign season, which made for an exciting and extremely important conversation detailing what House Speaker John Boehner's departure means for ESEA reauthorization; why Education Secretary Arne Duncan's departure is less consequential when it comes to ESEA reauthorization; what the next big federal education policy topic will be after ESEA; why education issues have a limited role in the presidential debates; and more.

If you missed the Twitter chat, you can view the archived conversation here and check out highlights from the discussion below. Should you have any further questions, please contact Noelle Ellerson.

October 29, 2015

(RESEARCH, PUBLICATIONS AND TOOLKITS) Permanent link

Flurry of USED Resources

In the last few weeks, USED has flexed its paper-pushing muscles, releasing a variety of ‘Dear Colleague’ letters/resources/documents. We’ve captured a handful of them here in an effort to get them on your radar:

  • Chronic Absenteeism: The administration announced Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. It is designed as a joint effort amongthe White House, U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ) to combat chronic absenteeism. It will call on states and local communities across the country to join in taking immediate action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning in the current school year (2015-16). The available resources include a Dear Colleague letter, a resource toolkit, and a fact sheet. Read related press release.
  • Testing: In a rather unanticipated move, the Administration release its Testing Action Plan, a push for ‘fewer and smarter assessments’. Keeping in mind that this is the same administration that had a line in the sand over maintaining annual assessment in ESEA reauthorization discussions, they are now messaging about ways to reduce over-testing. USED will review its policies to address any places where the Administration may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time. They encourage state and local education agencies to work in a similar manner, and message on ESEA, suggesting a cap on testing time, better information for parents, use of multiple measures and supporting state/local assessment audits.   Read AASA’s response to the proposal. You can read full detail and the fact sheet here.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Resource Guide: USED released this set of resources to help educators, schools leaders and communities/community organizations better support undocumented youth. The effort is aimed at debunking misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The reality is that the action of K12 schools here is pretty clear: you cannot ask a child their legal status. The impact of this resource guide is more notable for higher education actors. Read the Superintendent Dear Colleague Letter. Read the DACA Press Release.
  • Graduation Rates: USED released updated graduation rate information, showing that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners. States that saw the biggest gains include Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois. Through the press release, you can access the provisional data files for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
  • USED Statement on Learning Disabilities: In a blog post, released guidance to state and local education agencies clarifying that students with specific learning disabilities — such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia — have unique educational needs. It further clarifies that there is nothing in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in a student’s evaluation, determination of eligibility for special education and related services, or in developing the student’s individualized education program (IEP).  We read this as ‘You are neither mandated to do this, nor forbidden from doing this. As you were, unless you want to change.’ If anything, it gives cover to those IEP teams who wanted to go further in clarifying/identifying these specific disabilities in an IEP, and clarifies when that is appropriate.
  • Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: The department also released information about an experimental dual enrollment project today. In this pilot, the Department would allow students to use Pell grants for dual enrollment courses while in high school. The courses must apply toward a potential post-secondary (Bachelors or Associates) degree to be eligible. This is part of the administration's efforts to keep college costs down and increase access to post-secondary opportunities.

October 28, 2015

(IDEA) Permanent link

New GAO Report Highlights Critical Need for BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act

On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/673183.pdf

There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act. Here are a few we wanted to highlight: 

 

  • To promote innovation and efficiency while safeguarding special education funding, GAO suggests that Congress consider options for a more flexible local MOE, such as adopting a less stringent maintenance requirement.  
  • GAO believes districts need more exceptions for reducing MOE. GAO identified various circumstances related to cost reductions—such as local actions to implement efficiencies—as key challenges in meeting MOE. 
  • GAO found stringent MOE requirements can have negative consequences for all students. Prioritizing special education spending to meet MOE during a period of budget constraints can result in cuts to general education spending that affect services for all students, including the many students with disabilities who spend much of their days in general education classrooms.  
  • The GAO report revealed that some district officials found that MOE can discourage efforts to implement innovations or expand services. For example, some leaders said that because of MOE, they did not want to commit to a higher level of spending to implement innovative services, despite other provisions in IDEA that are intended to encourage innovation.  
  • The GAO investigation uncovered that in the 2014-2015 school year, 9 states believe almost half of all districts in the state will struggle to maintain special education funding levels, and 25 states acknowledged that some districts will face challenges in meeting the MOE requirement in 14-15.  
  • The GAO found that at least some districts faced challenges in meeting the requirement, despite exceptions intended to help in such situations. Specifically, the current exceptions do not address the key challenges that districts face, including factors that are outside of their control and that do not affect the level of services provided to students with disabilities. In these situations, it was unclear whether funds spent on special education to comply with MOE resulted in enhanced services for students with disabilities. 
  • In their survey, GAO found that districts cited reductions in state funding of K-12 education and reductions in the state contribution to funding for special education as a major factor in not meeting MOE. State funding for elementary and secondary education has been slow to recover from the 2008 recession and long-term budget challenges are likely to persist. 
  • In addition, rural districts are disproportionately struggling to keep up funding for special education. Of the districts surveyed by GAO, 57.8 percent of districts that had anticipated having trouble meeting MOE were rural. 

October 28, 2015

 Permanent link

AASA Supports Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

Congress faces two significant tasks before the end of the year: raising the debt ceiling (which expires Nov 3) and completing its annual appropriations work  to avoid a federal shutdown (the current continuing resolution ends Dec 11). Recent history would indicate that Congress would legislate by crisis, waiting until the 11th hour on both proposals, bringing the nation to the brink of a shutdown.

Not this week, though. Breaking recent trends of both last-minute legislation AND highly partisan approaches, Congress is set to vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, a bill that would raise the debt ceiling and replace sequester/raise draconian funding caps, setting the stage for far-less contentious discussions for wrapping up the annual appropriations work. 

 
On Monday, a surprisingly-well guarded round of discussions between House and Senate leadership and the White House was released, called the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. You can read the full budget agreement here

You'll recall that when it comes to FY16 funding, AASA has three priorities: replace/repeal sequester, advance a short-term continuing resolution to buy Congress more time to negotiate raising the caps, and then provide appropriations bills that invest in (Rather than cut!) education. To date, Congress had adopted a clean continuing resolution through December 11. In announcing the BBA, Congress replaces sequester for two years and raises the caps, putting Congress on a path to more adequately invest in education. 

What do you need to know about the deal? 

  • AASA supports the BBA. Read our letter of support. AASA is a member of the Committee for Education Funding, and I serve as President. CEF also endorsed the BBA; read their letter of support.  
  • The deal replaces sequester caps for two fiscal years (FY16 and FY17). In raising the caps, the deal maintains the very important principle of parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, raising caps for each by $33 billion in FY16 and $23 billion in FY17.
  • Raises the debt ceiling through March 15, 2017
  • This represents, potentially, the last budget negotiation of the Obama administration. 

What are the next steps?

 

  • The House is set to vote today on the bill. Once the Senate votes and it is signed into law, the next step is a return to the appropriations process.
  • Appropriations committees will receive their respective allocations (presumably with an increase, given the raised caps). These allocation numbers could be available later this week, and would give us an idea of what additional funding is available for education.
  • This process is far from over. The debt ceiling won't be breached, the funding caps were raised and the government shutdown was avoided. The negotiations for specific programs, though, can still be contentious and we have to see the extent to which policy riders (most recently best embodied in the debate over Planned Parenthood funding and the continuing resolution) rear their heads and threaten to 'disrupt the apple cart'