June 24, 2016

(ESEA, PERKINS, ADVOCACY TOOLS) Permanent link

AASA Advocacy Blogging Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

How big of a crunch? 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

June 14, 2016

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 9, 2016

(ESEA, ED FUNDING) Permanent link

AASA Letter Expresses Concern with Senate LHHS Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 6, 2016

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

The Advocate, June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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