How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities


How School Leaders Can Help Children with Disabilities

The COVID-19 pandemic required us to limit in-person services to protect our customers and employees.  Among the most vulnerable populations affected, are children with disabilities and their families.  We are asking school leaders to help us spread the word to parents, guardians, and caregivers about potential financial assistance for children with disabilities.

Our Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash payments to children and teenagers with mental and/or physical disabilities whose families have little or no income and resources.  In most states, a child who receives SSI payments is automatically eligible for Medicaid.  School systems in many states participate in Medicaid to help provide services included in children’s individualized education plans like physical, occupational, and speech therapy.  You can read more about children’s benefits in our publication, Benefits for Children with Disabilities.

With the decline in SSI applications due to the pandemic, it is important that we help children and their families get the financial support they need.  School leaders can assist by:

Learning the process to certify school attendance for students using our For School Officials page.

Referring parents or caregivers to our SSI for Children page—and the SSI Child Disability Starter Kit.

Discussing Social Security’s programs during Individualized Education Program and 504 Plan meetings.

Spreading the word to other school leaders using our SSI Kids Toolkit.

Families of children with disabilities often have higher out-of-pocket costs—leading to financial instability.  Receiving monthly payments can help reduce the struggles families go through and provide the crucial financial support their children need.

We recognize the important role America’s educators play in supporting children and their families.  In this environment, your support is more important than ever.  Please share this information with the school leaders you know.  

AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

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AASA Sends Medicaid Direct Certification Letter to USDA

On May 10th, 2021, AASA and 10 other allied organizations sent a letter to   U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Vilsack requesting that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) expand the Demonstration Projects to evaluate direct certification with Medicaid, as proposed in the American Families Plan. Specifically, this demonstration uses rigorously assessed data to auto-enroll children for free or reduced-price school meals.

Currently, 19 states use Medicaid data to directly certify students for free or reduced-price (FRPL) school meals, under the authority provided in Sections 9(b)(15) and 18(c) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The evaluations of these demonstrations provide useful information about how to strengthen the school meal programs while improving access. In school year 2017-2018, more than 1.2 million students were directly certified using Medicaid data. These students would otherwise most likely not have been certified or would have had to complete a FRPL application. 

AASA was proud to join this effort to advocate for increasing the use of data from Medicaid and other programs to directly certify a greater share of students, reduce the number of families and schools that have to complete/process FRPL application forms, and support schools operating under the Community Eligibility Provision by making it easier for schools to identify more of their low-income children. You can read the full letter here.

Guest Blog Post: Straight talk in financially uncertain times: How district leaders can communicate about the messy financial landscape coming their way


Guest Blog Post: Straight talk in financially uncertain times: How district leaders can communicate about the messy financial landscape coming their way

Today's guest blog post comes from our friends Laura Anderson and Marguerite Roza with Edunomics Lab, a Georgetown University research center exploring and modeling complex education finance decisions to inform education policy and practice.

The economic turmoil is unleashing problematic financial forecasts for public education. Given that state revenues are generally down but still in flux, and there is talk of another federal stimulus, many aren’t yet sure of the magnitude of shortfalls they’ll face or the implications for their communities. Those uncertainties make it challenging for district leaders to communicate about potential budget gaps and what they might mean for their staff and communities.

But that doesn’t mean that the best course of action for district leaders is to postpone the discussion of potential budget problems ahead. In fact, keeping communities in the dark could have the effect of eroding trust in district leaders just when engagement and support for tough spending choices is most needed.

In 2018, researchers at Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab worked with Edge Research to learn how district staff, principals, teachers, and parents engage with and react to information about district finances. Reinforcing findings from earlier interviews conducted by The Winston Group, we uncovered lessons for district leaders when it comes to engaging their staff and communities on the topic. Here we adapt those lessons for the current context to help leaders connect on finance in a way that cultivates transparency and trust.

DO start sharing concerns now even if forecasts are still uncertain.

In a recent informal poll of 30 district financial leaders, we found that while most anticipated needing to make budget cuts in the next few months, only 27% had shared that information with their schools or communities. One leader said she had avoided sharing the news in order to keep her community calm. But the evidence is clear that even when it comes to bad or incomplete financial news, communities want to be kept informed. 

Our research also suggests that even principals and teachers are unclear about where funds originate and the role the district plays in allocating those funds, so communication should help clarify how money flows. In the current moment, many states are forecasting revenue shortfalls, and where districts get a portion of their funding from the state, leaders can explain how such shortfalls matter for districts.   

Down the road, if and when cuts do start materializing, staff and parents will want to know that their leaders were honest with them at every step.

DO link spending decisions to students.

During financial strain, it will be important to regularly emphasize that choices are made with regard to doing the most for students, especially when so much attention is focused on other goals, like averting staff layoffs, or balancing the budget. When communities don’t hear their leaders emphasize that the driving agenda is to do the most for students, they worry that leaders have lost their focus. Even pointing out that “reducing layoffs means preserving services for students” can help communicate that continued focus even in the midst of financial cuts. 

DO engage principals, inviting them to weigh in on tradeoffs for their individual schools.

While staff and parents often distrust their district leaders on financial topics, we found that when financial messages are delivered by principals, trust was higher, in part because these school leaders are more sensitive to their own school’s needs. Given this trust, it makes sense to elevate principals’ role and voice on budget and finance communication especially during this financial turmoil.

One strategy that district leaders can employ is to host regular (weekly) calls with school leaders as a way to share updated financial projections and solicit authentic involvement in financial decisions. In turn, principals could be encouraged to institute regular communications with their school community as well, and to share back what they are hearing from teachers, staff, and parents. Such communication channels send a message that the district is transparent, has processes in place to share concerns, and is sensitive to   impacts on schools. 

Some will worry that principals don't want to be involved or are too busy to participate. Yet virtually every principal interviewed for this research expressed a desire to be more involved in finance issues. Others may worry that principals won’t stay “on message” when it comes to the district’s finances. If disconnects do happen, it may signal a moment for the district to stop and listen, then consider whether and how to engage more with principals. 

DO communicate with dollar amounts and acknowledge tradeoffs. But, avoid using business lingo.

In our research, we found that citing dollar amounts improves credibility and offering real dollar tradeoffs helps stakeholders understand the constraints on the system, including the limits on what is possible with available resources. Even where budgets are in flux, district leaders can share that they are crafting plans to cut as little as $X per pupil or as much as $XX per pupil so as to be prepared. 

Using terms like “efficiency,” “deficit-reduction,” “marginal costs,” or “fund distributions” could inadvertantly send the message that leaders are focused only on the spreadsheets and aren’t sensitive to the impacts of these decisions on students and teachers. And some who are frustrated by any mention of cuts may worry that district leaders did not consider all options. Sharing tradeoffs helps assure audiences of the work done and the dollar amounts involved.

DO offer the public and those inside the system a means to weigh in on financial decisions.

Teachers and parents trust system leaders more when they know they have a voice, can engage in discussions of tradeoffs, and can offer their perspectives. Most of all, they care about transparency and the opportunity to participate.

One easy strategy is for all district communications to include an invitation to share thoughts (even via email). Contact information shows that communication flows two ways, not just from the district to the public but from the public to the district as well.

Research suggests that if leaders’ invitation for public feedback is authentic, those leaders are perceived as more trustworthy and competent. Even if a decision has already been made, inviting feedback on how a change is playing out can go a long way toward maintaining confidence.

Yes, communication in a crisis is a challenge, as leaders face a firehose of urgent demands. But a crisis—and the uncertainty it sparks—makes timely communication more critical than ever. Leaders who communicate early, honestly, and often can build much-needed trust with their public and partners—from the teachers’ union and parents to student advocacy groups and school boards. Smart strategic communication lays the groundwork for goodwill when difficult spending tradeoffs and cuts must be made. It lets communities feel heard. And it helps ensure all parties understand how and why decisions are made, even budget cuts. 


AASA Spotlight: Member Advocacy

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AASA Spotlight: Member Advocacy

While the AASA advocacy team is working daily with Congress, the administration, and superintendents across the nation to advance our federal policy priorities in response to the COVID pandemic, we would be remiss if we didn’t share some of the great work going on at the local level by school system leaders, all the more impressive when we consider everything going on in terms of keeping schools and remote learning up and running.
Today’s highlight comes from the Wauwatosa School District, which serves more than 7,000 students and is located in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Recently, Wauwatosa sent a district resolution to President Trump and Members of Congress urging them to immediately allocate significant and sufficient emergency stabilization aid so that state governments across America can fund their K-12 public schools and prevent furloughs or cuts to K-12 programs. You can check out the resolution by clicking here.

July 29, 2019


Guest Blog Post: Of Schools, Busing, Integration and Outdated Federal Policy

Today's guest blog post is published in coordination with the latest episode of the AASA PEP Talk podcast, which focuses on an arcane provision in federal policy--an outdated anti-busing provision that continues to exist merely because Congress hasn't erased it. The guests on the podcast penned this related blog post, and we are happy to share it here with you:

by Philip Tegeler, Executive Director, Poverty & Race Research Action Council; and Sunil Mansukhani, Principal, The Raben Group

Few expected busing to be a major issue during the June 27 Democratic debate.  The spirited exchange between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden was unexpected by just about everyone, since this issue has largely been considered to be a relic of a bygone era.  However, some of this past history still stubbornly lurks in federal legislation to this day, in the form of harmful federal restrictions that prevent school districts from using federal funds for transportation for school integration purposes.  Such a restriction handcuffs school districts at a time when cross-racial understanding is more important than ever.

Until the beginning of this fiscal year, there were two provisions in federal appropriations laws that contained this ban.  Thus, a school district that wanted to voluntarily take steps to counter increasing racial segregation would not be able to use federal money to help pay for the transportation that would inevitably be needed.  For over 40 years, these two provisions were re-authorized without much discussion.  Yet, when the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) brought these provisions to the attention of Congress a couple of years ago, no one could give a reason for their continued presence today.

We are delighted to report that Congress finally removed these appropriations provisions at the beginning of this fiscal year.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.  There is a similar provision (Section 426) in the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) that has also been on the books for over 40 years.  GEPA is a law which governs the Department of Education.  Again, no credible reason for keeping Section 426 has been presented.  Inertia can be a formidable opponent to progress. 

This archaic provision could be removed at no cost to the federal government.  Furthermore, removing Section 426 would provide school districts with greater flexibility to choose how to best allocate their federal funds for the benefit of their communities.  Removing Section 426 of GEPA should be, and is, achievable.  Allowing school districts to have more flexibility in how they spend federal funds is something that we can all agree on.

Ongoing research at Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) demonstrates that transportation remains central to school integration efforts in districts across the country.  Specifically, CECR’s research included public K-12 districts who confirmed with CECR that they are actively implementing a formal voluntary (i.e., not court ordered) integration plan.  A recent CECR report revealed that 59 school districts across the country, which collectively serve about 3.7 million students, are voluntarily pursuing school integration plans.

As CECR’s research indicates, removing Section 426 would have an immediate impact on school integration efforts that are happening now.  Most notably, it would make federal funds available for student transportation for the four most common methods of contemporary school integration - magnet schools, attendance zone boundary changes, controlled choice, and student transfers. Transportation is crucial as NCSD research has shown how school choice relies upon proactive measures like free transportation to be an effective tool in promoting equity.

In addition to the school districts identified by CECR’s research, numerous other districts could benefit from repealing Section 426, including those that engage in inter-district integration programs, those districts whose Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) funds are ending, school districts that have magnet schools but do not receive MSAP funds, and the approximately 150-200 districts that are currently under a court order to desegregate.  In the “The State of Integration in 2018,” the NCSD describes these, and other, forms of school integration underway across the country.  Organized in short state-level summaries, the report describes many efforts that could be accelerated with repeal of Section 426, such as New York state’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, which affirms the use of federal Title I funds “to support the efforts of districts to increase diversity and reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic isolation.”

In addition to supporting existing efforts, repealing Section 426 may lead more districts to pursue new school integration efforts.  As a follow up to the CECR report described above, CECR researchers have conducted case study interviews with leaders in a select number of districts.  Although conclusive findings from this work are not yet available, a clear theme is evident across interviews.  As detailed on CECR’s blog, district leaders are confused about what forms of integration are acceptable and are fearful that their plans may attract a legal challenge.  By removing a key barrier and clarifying what is legally permissible, repealing Section 426 will help open the doors to additional district efforts to pursue integration.

We urge you to call your senators and House member to request this harmful provision be removed from GEPA.  The United States Capitol switchboard can be reached at (202) 224-3121. It is time for Section 426 to go.  



  1. The National Coalition on School Diversity is a growing network of civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to support government policies that promote school diversity and reduce racial isolation. NCSD also support the work of state and local school diversity practitioners.
  2. There is an exception to GEPA Section 426 in the MSAP program.


June 18, 2019


Guest Blog Post: New SALT Workaround Regulations Narrow a Tax Shelter, but Work Remains to Close it Entirely

This guest blog post comes from Carl Davis, with the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy. Carl serves as the research director at ITEP. This blog post originally appeared on the ITEP blog and is published here with permission. Follow Carl on Twitter @carlpdavis (carl at

Today the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its final regulations cracking down on a tax shelter long favored by private and religious K-12 schools, and more recently adopted by some “blue state” lawmakers in the wake of the 2017 Trump tax cut.

The regulations come more than a year after the IRS first announced the launch of this project and about nine months after it unveiled an initial draft. Overall, the regulations are a big improvement but fall short of ending the tax shelter entirely for wealthy investors. The IRS has indicated that additional guidance will be needed to deal with a variety of lingering issues, though it remains to be seen what that guidance will entail.

At issue are state and local tax credits for taxpayers who make so-called “charitable donations” to specific causes cherry-picked by elected officials, including private K-12 schooling. For years, private school donors have used tax credits in exchange for donating to school voucher programs to beef up their federal charitable write-offs at little or no cost to themselves, since up to 100 percent of their “charitable gifts” to such funds are reimbursed with state tax credits (18 states offer these types of credits). A large state tax credit for private school donations combined with the federal tax deduction for charitable contributions allowed some high-income taxpayers to receive a tax benefit larger than their actual donation. In essence, state and federal law incentivized donations to private schools through a system of credits and deductions that allowed high-income taxpayers to profit from so-called donations. 

For years, these perverse tax shelters went unchallenged. But then in 2017 federal lawmakers enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which capped the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000. Lawmakers in higher-income states, which have a greater number of taxpayers affected by the SALT cap, began to take interest in this shelter as a way of helping their residents cut their federal tax bills. If federal law no longer allows SALT payments above $10,000 to be deducted, why not allow taxpayers to make “charitable gifts” (reimbursed with tax credits) to their state or local government instead of tax payments? New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon enacted these arrangements. Then the IRS noticed the surge of interest in this tax strategy and decided to get involved. 

Under the new regulations, people receiving state tax credits in return for donations will have to subtract those credits when determining the real, deductible amount that they donated. For example, if a taxpayer donates $100 to support private or public education in Pennsylvania but receives a $90 tax credit in return, then only $10 of their donation will be deemed truly charitable and eligible for the federal charitable deduction. In other words, the regulations inject a welcome bit of common sense into the federal tax code’s definition of “charity.” 

Some private school groups were up in arms about this proposal when it was first unveiled and argued that this change should only be implemented in the context of donations to public schools, not private ones. But the IRS wisely rejected that argument and will treat donations to all types of entities in the same way. Failing to do so would have created a grave inequity in our tax code, would have been unnecessarily complex and would have reopened the door to more creative SALT cap workaround schemes. 

The main area where the regulations fall short, however, is in their treatment of investors donating stock or other property in exchange for tax credits. As ITEP explained in its comments on the initial draft of these regulations, investors in states such as South Carolina with stock they wish to offload will be advised by their accountants to “give” their stock away in return for a 100 percent tax credit, rather than sell that stock on the open market. To the IRS, selling a stock generates cash income that triggers a taxable capital gain, but a state tax credit received in return for donating stock has typically remained invisible. A South Carolina taxpayer with $75,000 in capital gains income, for example, could come out ahead by about $23,100 if they take their payment in the form of a state tax credit rather than cash, as ITEP has shown. In other words, some investors making so-called “charitable gifts” will continue to turn a profit as a perverse reward for sham generosity. 

Without question, Congress could fix this lingering problem if it wished. Legislation introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) in the previous Congress, for instance, would require taxpayers to pay capital gains tax if they receive a large state tax credit as compensation for their gift of stock or property to a private school voucher organization. This improvement to our tax code’s measurement of real “charity” is worthwhile and could even be expanded to cover contributions of appreciated property to any organization. 

But the IRS has also indicated that it might seek to address this problem on its own, as it mentions that additional guidance will be needed on a number of issues including the portion of federal law governing treatment of capital gains income. 

Regardless of whether Congress or the IRS is the body to ultimately take action, it’s clear that additional work is needed to preserve the integrity of the charitable deduction by reserving it for real acts of charity, not sophisticated tax planning. Today’s regulation is a great step in that direction, but it shouldn’t be the final word.

June 11, 2019


NEW Toolkit: Crowdfunding Policies for School Districts

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the national nonprofit have joined forces to create an updated toolkit for school district leaders to maximize the impact of crowdfunding in their schools. The Back to School Crowdfunding Toolkit was a first step in helping district administrators understand best practices in vetting and using teacher crowdfunding sites. The new Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit outlines policies and practices that district administrators can enact to support teacher innovation with appropriate safeguards.

Teacher use of crowdfunding sites to receive critical resources for their classrooms is on the rise. However, district leaders often have questions about the process and best practices to ensure safety and transparency. The new toolkit provides insights from AASA members and on how to ensure equity and responsible use of crowdfunding in their districts. 

Our new toolkit Establishing Your Crowdfunding Policy Toolkit can be found here.


May 28, 2019

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NWEA Launches Educators for Equity Grant Program for Equity in Pre-K - 12 Learning Opportunities

NWEA’s Inaugural Program will Award $10,000 Grants to School Districts and Organizations to Support Academic Growth of Underserved Students

The Educators for Equity Grant Program aims to help schools and teachers foster student growth for preK-12 students who face systemic barriers to academic opportunities. The program, from not for profit NWEA,  will award grants of up to $10,000 to eligible schools, districts, and non-profit organizations to help fund initiatives and programs designed to support the academic development of underserved students. 

“Our goal with this program is to help foster equity in educational opportunity and outcomes, so all students leave secondary education prepared to successfully fulfill their postsecondary education, training, and workforce aspirations. We look forward to working collaboratively with these schools and organizations to support student growth and learning.” said Chris Minnich, CEO, NWEA.

To be eligible for a grant, applicants must be a U.S. school serving students from pre-K through 12th grade and either a public school or not-for-profit organization.  Applicants will be evaluated on evidence base; equity mission; cultural relevance; and academic focus. Use of NWEA products and services is not required for eligibility. 

For more information on the NWEA Educators for Equity program or to apply, please visit The application deadline is June 30, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

This guest blog comes from Christine M. T. Pitts, Ph.D., Policy Advisor for Policy and Advocacy at NWEA>

May 20, 2019


Guest Blog Post: Letter to Education Policymakers re: Title IX

Today's guest blog post is reposted, with permission, from the National Women's Law Center.

Background: NWLC recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. In response to these concerning actions, NWLC has drafted a letter reminding education policymakers and leaders that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  The letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001.

Blog Post: Today, we sent a letter to educational policy makers in every state to remind them that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 has not changed, despite all of the actions taken by Betsy DeVos to try to weaken Title IX protections for survivors and all students.   

As we’ve written about before and told the Department of Education, DeVos is trying to make unlawful, cruel, and impractical changes to Title IX that are at odds with the very purpose of the statute.  These rules, if they go into effect, would discourage reporting of sexual harassment, protect schools from liability for failing to respond to known sexual harassment, and mandate unfair investigations. And we’re not alone in thinking this – more than 100,000 individuals, organizations, and education institutions submitted comments to the Department telling them this.   

Unfortunately, we’ve recently learned that some educational institutions and policymakers are confused about the status of Title IX enforcement in schools and have moved to change polices to conform with proposed rules, as though they are final and in effect. This is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. 

Our letter reminds education policymakers that Title IX has not changed and that they still have obligations – above and beyond the proposed Title IX rules – to students and school employees who have experienced sexual harassment.  Our letter urges schools and policymakers to follow existing Title IX rules and Department of Education guidance that has been in place since 2001. And it also mentions that these rules, like many other regulatory actions by this Administration, are likely to face challenges in court.  So it’s not only unnecessary to make changes to policy as though these proposed rules are final, but also probably not the smartest decision.  

If you’re concerned your or your loved one’s school or university is prematurely changing their rules, please share this letter with them. You can also use our toolkit to learn more about survivors’ rights under Title IX.  

Blog post written by Shiwali Patel, Senior Counsel for Education

May 16, 2019


DQC Guest Blog Post: Infographic on the power of spending data

Our newest guest blog post comes from our friends at Data Quality Campaign and relates to the ESSA fiscal transparency requirement. They’re talking about the important opportunity this data represents, and more immediately useful, link to a very helpful infographic on the power behind this unprecedented collection and reporting of school spending data.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to publish school-level spending data on report cards starting next year. While your state may already publish some version of per-pupil expenditures on its school and district report cards, those numbers are usually a district average—in other words, the total expenditures of the entire district, divided by the number of students in the whole district. The new per-pupil expenditure data will include the expenditures at each school, like programs, special courses or interventions, and the actual salaries of the teachers in that building, which is likely to show different per-pupil expenditure amounts at each school. You and your team may have already been in conversations with your state about how to collect this information.

While transparency about school spending is important for policymakers and communities, it is most valuable in the hands of leaders like you who can use it to make sure that every student is getting the resources they need. As you work with the state to collect school-level spending data, you and your team need to view this data side by side with information about the students in your schools, including their academic outcomes. Looking at school-spending data alongside student success data can prompt conversations within your district about how many resources schools have in comparison to one another, and whether the way resources are allocated is helping you meet the goals you have for your students. Now that school spending data is available statewide, you can also take a look at similar school districts’ spending and student outcomes and have conversations with your peers in other districts. Local leaders, including principals, school boards, and district leaders like you have the most important role in both acting on and communicating about school-level spending. 

Brennan McMahon Parton is Director, Policy and Advocacy for Data Quality Campaign


October 18, 2018


Guest Blog Post: Trump Regulatory Agenda

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

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


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



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

October 1, 2018


Rural Matters Podcast: October 2018

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

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

August 17, 2018(1)


Guest Blog Post: Connecting Academic Outcomes and Resource Allocation: Best Practices in School Budgeting

Today's guest blog post comes from Matt Bubness, Senior Manager with the Research and Consulting Center at the Government Finance Officers Association.  AASA most recently collaborated with the GFOA in our efforts to push back on the cap/elimination of the SALT-D in the 2017 tax overhaul. We are happy to continue working together, and to share this entry.

How do school districts budget in an era of decreased public funding and still fulfill their mission to increase student achievement? GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) has developed a series of Best Practices in School Budgeting (available for free at, which clearly outline steps for developing a budget that best aligns resources with student achievement goals. The new Best Practices are supported by the Smarter School Spending website which offers a wide range of free resources for districts to guide and support implementation of the Best Practices. 

The budgeting process presented in these Best Practices is focused on optimizing student achievement within available resources. The Best Practices included information on how to improve your budget process structured around planning and preparing; setting instructional priorities; paying for these priorities; implementing the priorities; and finally ensuring sustainability of all of the effort put into developing the priorities and budget process. Within each of these areas are guidelines and examples on how to implement financial policies, SMARTER goals, root cause analysis, and cost-effectiveness measurement techniques such as A-ROI, among a number of other techniques and concepts. 

Ninety plus districts have worked with GFOA to date in implementing the Best Practices budget process through an early adopter group – the Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting. Districts range in size from a few hundred students to several hundred thousand students, from 30 states across the US and a wide range of demographics. GFOA welcomes district looking to improve their budget and planning processes to join the Alliance - to learn more go to

August 14, 2018


Rural Partner Guest Blog: New Hampshire Rural Superintendents Continue Blazing Professional Network Trail

As part of our ongoing collaboration and partnership with the Rural School and Community Trust, we are proud to kick off an ongoing series of guest blogs, penned by RSCT Executive Director Rob Mahaffey. Each post will highlight a program, district, community, leader or research working to improve educational opportunity for our nation's public rural schools and the communities they serve. Rob Mahaffey can be reached at 

Rural Educational Leaders Network (RELN) at Plymouth State University enters third year

Driving into Plymouth, New Hampshire, one immediately appreciates you are in a small, vibrant, New England community anchored by a thriving higher education institution, Plymouth State University.  Founded as a teacher preparation Normal School, this place is much like my town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia—home to Shepherd University.  It was an honor to spend two energizing days with the educational leaders of the Rural Educational Leaders Network.

Superintendents in the North Country of New Hampshire share concerns with educators across rural America including declining enrollment and school closures, struggling economies and diminishing budgets, retention of well-prepared and experienced teachers, and sustaining a supportive, mutually-beneficial relationship based on school and community engagement. Often these leaders lack a professional network to address these issues and develop locally-based solutions.  By virtue of the rural experience, these school and district leaders are frequently geographically isolated and lack of resources necessary for authentic rural professional learning experiences diminishes access to professional support.  

While the development of virtual online professional learning networks (PLNs) is one solution to the geographic isolation, they are available only to those with reliable high-speed internet access and often topics and conversations do not fully connect with the realities and interests of rural educational leaders.  In order to effectively develop solutions to the issues faced in rural areas, both in and out of the school house, it’s necessary for rural superintendents and other school leaders to have access to PLNs that are specific to their particular rural context and to their learning goals.

Community philanthropy plays a key role in creating a viable solution to this issue.  The Rural Educational Leaders Network (RELN) at Plymouth State University is one such example.  Made possible by private philanthropy, the network is fully funded through a generous endowment by the late Ann Haggart.   In life, Ann was an educational entrepreneur and in her final years observed a break down in the school-community relationship.  Her support and that of Plymouth State University made is possible to support educational leaders in developing their practice. 

RELN is able to provide a colleague professional learning network for more than 80 New Hampshire rural school and district leaders, and those aspiring to those positions. The work of the group is driven by the overarching idea of developing the school-community partnership is to ensure all students are “college and career ready” in combination with the mission to provide a PLN for New Hampshire’s rural educational leaders.  The network model is based on the premises of relevance, continuity, and sustainability. 

Network membership is open to school and district leaders in rural New Hampshire and in combination with topic development ensuring each meeting is highly relevant to the membership.  Each year, three quarterly meetings are held and a two day summit in July hosted by Plymouth State.  Between face-to-face gatherings, the network connections are sustained through online communications shaped by the summit setting the foundation for conversations moving forward and allowing members the opportunity to make connections with prior conversations and learning.   

In my opinion, and based on the experiences and value RELN participates place on this network, opportunities for rural school leaders to partner with a higher education institution and private philanthropy abound.  Please share your thoughts and consider such a network for your community and region.


For more information, click

June 21, 2018


Guest Blog Post: States and Local Governments Win Online Sales Tax Case

Note from Noelle: Today, the Supreme Court issued--by a 5-4 margin--a vote in favor of the position of our filed amicus brief, supporting the rights of states to collect tax on internet sales. Lisa penned this blog as a summary of the case and proceeding.

This guest blog comes from Lisa Soronen, Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center. Lisa's group coordinated the amicus brief AASA signed on to in the South Dakota v Wayfair case before the Supreme Court, related to how states can collect taxes on internet sales.

In South Dakota v. Wayfair the Supreme Court ruled that states and local governments can require vendors with no physical presence in the state to collect sales tax. According to the Court, in a 5-4 decision, “economic and virtual contacts” are enough to create a “substantial nexus” with the state allowing the state to require collection.  

In 1967 in National Bellas Hess  v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per its Commerce Clause jurisprudence, states and local governments cannot require businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state.

Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result” as the Court had reached in Bellas Hess.

Customers buying from remote sellers still owe sale tax but they rarely pay it when the remote seller does not collect it. Congress had the authority to overrule Bellas Hess and Quill but never did so. 

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) stated in its amicus brief in that case. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors. 

Following the 2015 Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax in order to challenge Quill. South Dakota’s law was the first ready for Supreme Court review. It requires out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax if they annually conduct $100,000 worth of business or 200 separate transactions in South Dakota.

In an opinion written by Justice Kennedy the Court offered three reasons for why it was abandoning the physical presence rule. “First, the physical presence rule is not a necessary interpretation of the requirement that a state tax must be ‘applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State.’ Second, Quill creates rather than resolves market distortions. And third, Quill imposes the sort of arbitrary, formalistic distinction that the Court’s modern Commerce Clause precedents disavow.” 

While the dissenting Justices, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, would have left it to Congress to act, Justice Kennedy opined the Court should be “vigilant” in correcting its error. “Courts have acted as the front line of review in this limited sphere; and hence it is important that their principles be accurate and logical, whether or not Congress can or will act in response.”   

To require a vendor to collect sales tax the vendor must still have a “substantial nexus” with the state. The Court found a “substantial nexus” in this case based on the “economic and virtual contacts” Wayfair has with the state. A business could not do $100,000 worth of business or 200 separate transactions in South Dakota “unless the seller availed itself of the substantial privilege of carrying on business in South Dakota.” 

Finally, the Court acknowledged that questions remain whether “some other principle in the Court’s Commerce Clause doctrine might invalidate the Act.” But the Court cited to three features of South Dakota’s tax system that “appear designed to prevent discrimination against or undue burdens upon interstate commerce. First, the Act applies a safe harbor to those who transact only limited business in South Dakota. Second, the Act ensures that no obligation to remit the sales tax may be applied retroactively. Third, South Dakota is one of more than 20 States that have adopted the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.”

Tillman Breckenridge, Bailey Glasser, and Patricia Roberts, William & Mary Law School Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, wrote the SLLC amicus brief which the following organizations joined: the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Government Finance Officers Association, National Public Labor Relations Association, the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, National State Treasurers Association, National School Boards Association, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Association of School Business Officials International. 

June 18, 2018


Guest Blog: School Safety & Door Barricades Guide

This guest blog comes from Robert Boyd, Executive Director of the Secure Schools Alliance. The alliance has created a quick reference guide, available for AASA members, with information and things to consider when it comes to classroom barricades. 

Physical security is a priority for school administrators and facility managers, to help ensure the safety of students, staff members, and visitors during an active shooter/hostile event.  While evaluating methods of securing doors to prevent access, it’s crucial to consider other hazards and the need for free egress, fire protection, and accessibility, as well as the possibility of unauthorized lockdown.

There are many available options for locking classroom doors, but not all security devices comply with the national life safety codes and the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Some may impede evacuation, affect the performance of fire door assemblies, or be difficult or impossible for someone with a disability to operate.  In school shootings that have occurred, the ability to evacuate immediately has proven critical to reducing casualties.  

Barricading doors with furniture or other items can be used as a last resort to deter access during a lockdown, but classroom barricade devices may introduce other risks and liabilities.  In addition to the life safety and accessibility concerns, these devices could be used by an unauthorized person to secure a room and prevent access by school staff and emergency responders.  Doors have been barricaded during several past school shootings, as well as other hostage-taking incidents and assaults in schools.    

The Secure Schools Alliance has published a document which outlines important considerations related to the use of classroom barricade devices; additional guidance and links to school security resources are also included.  This information will help school administrators choose classroom security methods that maintain life safety and accessibility, as well as limiting unauthorized access.


May 24, 2018


Guest Post: IRS Considers Action Against SALT Credits. Will it Give the Voucher Tax Shelter a Free Pass?

By Carl Davis, Research Director for the Institute on Tax and Economic Policy

When Congress was considering capping the deduction for state and local tax (SALT) payments last year, numerous lawyers warned that states would likely circumvent the hastily devised cap by helping their residents convert state tax payments into fully deductible charitable gifts.

To make this conversion, states would offer “workaround tax credits” offsetting most or all of the cost of “donating” to support public services (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon have since enacted these credits). Lawyers knew to offer this warning, which Congress ignored, because this abuse of the charitable giving deduction was already taking place in many “red states” with tax credits supporting K-12 private school vouchers.

A new ITEP report explains the close parallels between the new workaround credits and existing state tax credits, including those benefiting private schools. The report comes the same day that the IRS and Treasury Department announced they would seek new regulations related to these tax credits. It notes that the SALT workarounds are emblematic of a broader weakness with the federal charitable deduction. And it cautions regulators to avoid a “narrow fix” that will only address the newest SALT workarounds (which, so far, have only been enacted in blue states) without also addressing other abuses of the deduction, which have long been employed by red states.

The new IRS notice is light on details, suggesting that regulators do not yet know how they will navigate this complex policy area. ITEP’s new report discusses in detail the two main options that the IRS could choose to pursue:

  1. Broad action that improves the tax code’s measurement of charitable giving, and requires taxpayers to subtract state tax benefits they received when calculating the portion of each gift that was truly “charitable.”  For example: if a taxpayer donates $100 and receives a $60 state tax credit in return, only the remaining $40 would be considered a charitable gift for federal tax purposes.


  1. Narrow action that requires examining every entity (government agencies, public universities, nonprofit organizations, etc.) receiving a donation reimbursed with a tax credit. Based on the outcome of that examination (using criteria that are not yet known), the IRS would either: (a) turn a blind eye and grant a full federal charitable deduction even when the alleged “donation” was reimbursed with a state tax credit, or (b) categorize the reimbursed portion of the donation as a state tax payment subject to the $10,000 SALT cap.

Pursuing the narrow fix would require drawing arbitrary distinctions within the wide range of public entities, quasi-public entities, and heavily-regulated nonprofits currently benefiting from state charitable tax credits. It would also lead to perverse outcomes in which red-state tax shelters would be left intact while the newer, and sometimes less-lucrative, blue-state equivalents would be shut down. As the report explains:

It turns out that high-income taxpayers living in states such as Alabama and Pennsylvania are already enjoying the personal financial benefits of SALT cap workarounds, while those living in California, New York, and elsewhere are still waiting for their lawmakers to finish debating or implementing workaround credits.

Accountants in Alabama and elsewhere are marketing existing state tax credits for private schools using the exact same sales pitch that drew the IRS’s attention to the new credits in New York and other states.  For example, an accounting firm’s tax advice that has been promoted by the Medical Association of Alabama explains that making a “donation” to support private school vouchers is “an opportunity to preserve your state tax deduction.” In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, a similar tax credit is being touted as a tool for “bypassing the $10k state and local tax deduction limitation.”

These sales pitches are not merely idle chatter.  This year, Alabama’s entire allotment of $30 million in tax credits was snatched up in just two months, and SALT cap avoidance was reportedly on the minds of many claimants.

These private school voucher shelters have been problematic for years, as ITEP and AASA have explained. Any IRS action targeting the newest “workaround credits” needs to address these longer-running tax shelters as well. Failing to do so would be unfair and arbitrary, and a step backward for federal tax policy.

May 9, 2018(1)


Guest Blog: Professional Development Resources to Help Students with Learning and Attention Issues

Today's guest blog comes from the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). It links to their latest toolkit [crossposted here] and addresses the important topic of school-wide professional development.  

Seven out of 10 students who receive special education supports for learning disabilities and ADHD spend 80% or more of the school day in the general education classroom.  This means that general educators must be prepared with evidence-based strategies that support all learners, including those with learning and attention issues.  Two strategies proven to benefit all learners are a multi-tier system of support (MTSS) and universal design for learning (UDL), and there are funding opportunities in Title II and Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support the scaling of these approaches in schools.  

Conversations about supporting, implementing, and scaling these strategies must begin at a local level so they can be customized to meet local needs, and teachers can use these strategies to improve student outcomes. That’s why the National Center for Learning Disabilities and, developed a toolkit for parents and advocates to use in their schools and districts to share the importance of using frameworks like UDL, MTSS, personalized learning, and strengths-based IEPs and to help link schools to funding streams that can support these approaches. To learn more, you can download the toolkit.



April 3, 2018


Blog Tour: The Role of Education Leaders To Ensure Safe Schools, Thru a Federal Policy Lens

This post also appears in the AASA Total Child Blog, as part of their National Healthy Schools Day Blog Tour. April 3 is National Healthy Schools Day, and the advocacy team was invited to contribute a blog post talking about what a healthy school looks like, how school shootings have influenced our perceptions of what it means to be a healthy school, and how school system leaders can help the students they serve feel safe. You can access the full collection of blog entries on the Total Child Blog.

When we, as a nation, find ourselves once again responding to yet another school shooting, the urgent need to ensure that our nation’s students can be safe in their learning environments jumps to the front of everyone’s minds, when, ideally, the safety of the students should be so assumed, automatic, and natural it appears as little more than a blip on the radar.  In our department, we look at the questions provided as prompts for this blog in the same way we look at questions posed when it comes to federal education policy: Is there a role for the federal government in this discussion? What does that role look like? How can we represent the voices and priorities of public school superintendents in this discussion? How can we advance a policy that supports state and local decision making? Does the policy outcome/proposal? To that end, here is our contribution to the National Healthy Schools Day Blog Tour.

April 20 marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre, and is also a national day of action in response to the continued national crisis of gun violence in schools. AASA is proud to partner with and support the National Day of Action to Prevent Gun Violence in Schools. Set for more than two months after the most recent school shooting, the timeline ensures at least minimal coverage and attention to the important discussion around school safety, rather than falling off the radar. AASA assembled a set of resources and information to support school system leaders, their staff, their community, and their students as they navigate yet another round of student deaths. In particular the set of ideas and activities that students and school communities can engage in—in addition to or in place of a student walk out—reflects what a healthy school looks like today: something that can and will vary by community, but with a common thread. School shootings haven’t altered our view of what it means to be a healthy school; it has clarified the intensity by which we work to make it a reality for all students. AASA’s Position Paper on School Safety outlines AASA’s policy positions on the comprehensive approach necessary to prevent future school violence. 

AASA recommends that every school district have the following safety programs and procedures: 


  • Every district should have policies in place requiring individual school and building safety plans, as well as district wide safety plans. These plans should serve as a guide to address the various safety needs in the school such as lockdown procedures, evacuations, drills and safety protocols, and personnel assignments. 
  • Every district should conduct regular audits to evaluate and analyze the effectiveness of their school safety and security plans. First-responders, local law enforcement and the entire school community should be engaged in this process. 
  • Every district should communicate with parents and community members about the school-level emergency preparedness protocols to the greatest extent possible. 
  • Every district should provide regular training for all school employees on the district’s school emergency management systems and protocols. 
  • Every district should work to create partnerships between schools, local law enforcement and appropriate community agencies (such as mental health) to prevent and reduce school violence.

And from the federal perspective, AASA has clear recommendations that Congress can take to support school districts in their effort to enhance school safety, as well as recommendations on gun safety legislation:


  • Enhance School Safety Parts of these recommendations were addressed in what Congress passed in the FY18 omnibus. We repeat them here because they are in our current position and to reiterate that they remain priorities and that Congress must maintain its investment in these services, supports and programs. 
    • Reinstate funding for the Safe and Drug Free Schools program. Schools and states annually pay billions of dollars to address the results of substance abuse, school violence and unaddressed mental health needs through local and state funding. Reinstatement of the Safe and Drug Free Schools program represents an important federal investment in successful prevention and intervention efforts. Much of this program can be found in ESSA Title IV. We applaud Congress for the funding it provided for the flexible funding bloc grant in FY18 and what it will mean for districts, in terms of providing these important wrap around supports.
    • Re-establish funding for the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools grants designed to help schools prevent and manage emergencies. AASA was pleased to see the STOP Act included in the FY18 omnibus, a program that will allow districts to support school safety.
    • Restore funding for programs such as the Secure our Schools grant program and the COPS in Schools program, which provided grants for security equipment, security assessments and school resource officers. 
    • Increase funding for mental health counselors and services in schools. Access to these services is a crucial component of any effort to prevent/respond to a school emergency. 
    • Ensure existing federal policy gives local school districts the flexibility to use resources to fund student services personnel (including counselors, psychologists and therapists). Wrap-around services are central to addressing the needs of the total child, and flexibility in existing federal policy will better enable local school districts to use limited federal dollars in a way to maximize student support. 
    • Provide funds for districts to upgrade their facilities if internal safety audits require improvements.
  • Gun Safety Legislation
    • Increase enforcement of existing gun laws 
    • Reinstate the ban on the sale, import, transfer and ownership of assault weapons 
    • Ban large-capacity magazines 
    • Require thorough background checks for all gun purchasers 
    • End the “gun-show” loophole 
    • Prevent individuals convicted of violent crimes from being able to purchase guns 
    • Prevent individuals with mental health issues from purchasing or owning a gun (18 U.S.C. 922 (g)) 
    • Punish irresponsible gun owners

AASA hopes that school leaders find ways of enhancing their current school safety procedures, and applauds the recent federal fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill, which included several measures that directly support the provisions outlined above. You can read AASA’s full analysis of the education implications for the FY18 bill. 


  • Funds ESSA Title IV at $1.1 billion dollars, a $700 million increase, a meaningful payment towards a flexible funding block grant that will help boost school safety and mental health resources. As described in a Congressional fact sheet, the money is intended “to expand school-based mental health services and supports; for bullying prevention; and for professional development for personnel in crisis management and school-based violence prevention strategies”
  • Clarifies that funding thru the Center for Disease Control (CDC) can be used for gun-related research. This is a win: a provision called the ‘Dickey Amendment’ had long existed and been interpreted to mean that such funds couldn’t be sued for this research, resulting in a dearth of research and information related to guns, gun violence, and other such information.
  • The bill includes language that prohibits the use of federal funds to arm teachers or provide firearm training to teachers.
  • Includes the Fix NICS Act, which would ensure federal and state authorities accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • Authorizes and funds the STOP School Violence Act, legislation that would invest in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence before it happens by authorizing the Department of Justice to make grants to states for purposes of training students, school personnel, and law enforcement to identify signs of violence and intervene to prevent people from harming themselves or others. The program is authorized at $75 million.

If we hope to prevent future tragedies at schools, we must comprehensively address both school safety and gun safety. Increased mental health services, community supports for youth, and new attitudes about violence in our entertainment must all be part of this approach. We must be willing to spend the time and resources necessary to make sustainable changes.




January 24, 2018


Guest Blog: How Superintendents Can Be Effective in Local Politics

This guest blog post comes from Paul Hill,founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. 

We at CRPE have been working with superintendent-led initiatives for nearly three decades. We’ve seen a lot of smart and committed people try sensible initiatives, but often fall short of making lasting improvements in the schools.

As we have seen, the most common mechanism for the failure of good ideas is local politics, in the form of opposition from unions, neighborhood groups, the school board or the central office.  We also saw that the man or woman on horseback – who presents a fully developed plan, presumes cooperation and brooks no opposition –doesn’t last long, and his or her work usually disappears without a trace. 

As political scientists, Ashley Jochim and I had seen this before, in what might seem a surprising place, the American presidency. 

A classic book on our field, Richard E. Neustadt’s Presidential Power, starts from the premise that presidents are responsible for a wider range of activities than they can control directly, and that things they try to do all by themselves mostly fail and often backfire. The president’s only real power is to gain the cooperation of other free agents who don’t need to go along. 

Thinking that exposure to Neustadt’s principles might be helpful to current and aspiring district leaders, we looked back at dozens of interviews and case studies for examples of superintendents using power effectively, or failing to do so. We’ve just published the result in our new paper, Unlocking Potential: How Political Skill can Maximize Superintendent Effectiveness. As we show, superintendents gain the power to be effective by:


  • Bargaining and building coalitions.
  • Developing and capitalizing on a professional reputation, based on having clear goals, being resilient and a trustworthy ally, and following through.
  • Always being aware of how particular actions affect their ability to bargain effectively in the future.


Our report unpacks these generalities and provides examples. We hope readers will benefit by seeing politics as a resource and a means to effectiveness, not just a source of annoyance and constraint.  

Paul T. Hill is Founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and Research Professor at the University of Washington Bothell.


December 15, 2017


Guest Blog Post: 5 reasons why Congress should protect public schools, reject tax plan

Today's guest blog post comes from Lawrence (Larry) Feinberg, School Director in Harverford Township. This piexe originally appeared in the Opinion Section of the Delaware County Daily Times. 

I am writing on behalf of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council to urge readers and all public education stakeholders to contact their members of Congress and ask them to vote No on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act when it returns to the House of Representatives. The Legislative Council is comprised of locally elected volunteer school directors representing each of the 15 school districts in Delaware County.

More than 50 million (90 percent) of U.S. schoolchildren attend public schools. The tax reform bill being considered in the U.S. Congress poses a very real threat to our public school students, parents and taxpayers.

Here are five reasons for our members of Congress to vote NO:


  1. Elimination of State & Local Tax (SALT) Deductibility: As currently proposed, the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would eliminate deductibility of sales and income taxes paid to state and local governments; and, both bills would limit deductibility of property tax payments to $10,000. Capping or eliminating the SALT deduction will put intense pressure on state and local governments to cut their own taxes in the face of constituents with higher federal tax bills and lead to reduced services. We urge our members of Congress to support our students, their families and communities by maintaining full deductibility of state and local taxes.
  2. Elimination of Bond Financing Options: Currently, school districts have access to a variety of bond and financing options when it comes to paying for/affording capital and infrastructure projects. We can use these options to save our taxpayers millions of dollars on outstanding debt. Both the House and Senate bills would eliminate some of those options. If the changes go through, it would increase taxpayer costs incurred by school districts associated with financing school construction and renovation.
  3. Increase of $1.5 Trillion in Federal Deficit: The tax cuts in the bill need to be paid for, and neither the House nor the Senate bill completely offset the costs associated with their plan. Instead, they have authorized themselves to raise the nation’s deficit over 10 years to pay for the portion they aren’t paying for now (estimated to be $1.5 trillion). Congress will feel pressure to make cuts elsewhere, and those cuts will fall to education and non-defense discretionary spending.
  4. Expansion of 529 Program to Include K-12 Expenses: Provisions in the House and Senate bills would create a separate unaccountable system of publicly funded and/or subsidized education for non-public schools through the proposed expansion of 529 education savings accounts. Instead, we urge your strong support for the range of choices that are currently offered by our nation’s public school districts, such as magnet schools, charter schools authorized by local school boards and schools with specialized curricula for science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM). 
  5. Repeal of $250 Deduction Available for Teachers Who Spend Their Own Money on Classroom Materials and Supplies: Current law allows teachers to exclude up to $250 from income when those dollars were spent on books, supplies, professional development and other classroom expense. The House bill eliminates this exclusion; the Senate bill would double the maximum (to $500).


Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the schools that educate over ninety percent of our kids; tell them to vote NO on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

You can find your Pennsylvania Congressman’s contact information here

(AASA Edit: You can find your member of Congress here.)

Lawrence A. Feinberg is a fifth-term school director in Haverford Township and serves as chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council. Any comments contained herein are his comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.

November 27, 2017


Bond Reform: Another Dire Threat to Public Schools in the GOP’s Tax Plan

Today's guest blog comes from ASBO International Executive Director, John Musso. 

As Congress moves forward with efforts to pass H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” many education groups, including ASBO International, have cited concerns about Republicans’ tax proposals.

The House and Senate proposals include provisions to shrink or repeal the state and local tax (SALT) deduction; divert public funding to private and religious schools via college 529 savings accounts; and eliminate tax deductions for school supplies and student loan interest payments. While these issues would devastate school funding, teachers’ jobs, taxpayers’ wallets, and student learning—they only tell half the story.

If you asked your school district’s CFO, treasurer, or school business official (SBO) what they think is the biggest problem with Republicans’ tax plan, they’d probably say, "bonds.”

Both versions of H.R. 1 would reform how state and local governments, including school districts, can issue tax-exempt bonds to refinance debt. Specifically, they would prohibit school districts from issuing tax-exempt “advance refunding bonds” (ARBs). ARBs are a cost-effective way for districts to refinance high-interest debt at lower-interest rates, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in lower debt payments. Karen Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Financial Services at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, TX, tells us she has overseen multiple advance refundings that “saved taxpayers millions in interest.”

While refinancing school district debt is more complicated than taking out a low-interest loan to pay off higher-interest debt or refinancing a mortgage, refunding bonds effectively serve the same purpose. School districts have two options when issuing tax-exempt bonds for debt refinancing: current refunding bonds (CRBs) or advance refunding bonds (ARBs).

Both options allow districts to pay off high-interest outstanding bonds with a newer-issued bond that leverages falling market interest rates. The main difference is when a district can issue them. CRBs can be issued within 90 days of the outstanding bond’s first call provision date. ARBs can be issued even earlier, giving districts more time to take advantage of falling rates to refinance debt; the lower the rate, the more cost savings the district can expect. Without tax-exempt ARBs, districts will have less flexibility to refinance debt and reallocate funds from debt obligations to what matters most—students.  

If passed, H.R. 1 will allow districts to continue issuing tax-exempt CRBs, but not tax-exempt ARBs, effective December 31. Sharie Lewis, Director of Business Services and Operations at Parkrose School District, OR, says the sudden cutoff for using this critical financing option will put her district “in a huge bind.” Refinancing is a lengthy process requiring extensive discussion between SBOs, school boards, and other stakeholders. It isn’t a decision to make lightly, and requires careful consideration of the pros and cons. Implementing a cutoff date so soon will force districts with outstanding debt to accelerate their refinancing decisions (and risk moving forward with incomplete information), or forego refinancing at taxpayer expense. Jim English, Associate Superintendent for Business Services at West Ottawa Public Schools, MI, says the district is “working on refinancing some of its bonds to save local taxpayers $500,000,” but won’t be able to do so if the tax plan becomes law.

Any tax policy that reduces local school funding, increases tax burdens on taxpayers, and revokes critical tools districts rely on to manage debt and reinvest in student learning does a disservice to our nation’s children, parents, and communities. However, there is still time to advocate on this issue; find everything you need to communicate with your representatives here.  

John Musso is the Executive Director of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). Founded in 1910, ASBO International is a nonprofit organization that, through its members and affiliates, represents approximately 30,000 school business professionals worldwide. Learn more at This blog was cross-posted with permission and originally appeared at Education Week published an article based on this blog, available here.

November 2, 2017


AASA Signs Amicus Brief in South Dakota vs Wayfair

While AASA does not maintain counsel, we do from time to time engage in the Supreme Court process when a pending case has implications for public schools. Last term, we filed in the Endrew Case, related to special education. We just recently signed onto an amicus brief (from 'amicus curiae', which means 'friend of the court'), a process by which someone who is not a party to the case can provide information or context that bears on the case. A summary of the most recent amicus brief is below, written by Lisa Soronen, of the State & Local Legal Center. Her organization led the effort, which was also supported by the National School Boards Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, among others.

State and Local Legal Center Asks Supreme Court to Accept Sales Tax Case 

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to agree to hear South Dakota’s petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair. In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to hold that states may require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the SLLC stated in its amicus brief in that case. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors. 

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law is the first to be ready for review by the Supreme Court. In September South Dakota’s highest state court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the Supreme Court to overrule it. In October South Dakota filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear its case and overrule Quill.   

The SLLC amicus brief makes two main points. First, it explains why this is the right case for the Court to take. In recent years numerous cases (and state laws) have challenged Quill at the margins. This case directly asks the Court to decide whether to overturn Quill without any distractions like factual issues. Second, now is the right time for the Court to consider overturning Quill because states and local governments are failing to collect billions of dollars in tax revenue annually at an increasing rate due to rising online sales.

The brief cites a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the International Council of Shopping Centers which estimated that in 2015, uncollected sales taxes from remote sales were almost $26 billion. Of this $26 billion, over $17 billion uncollected taxes were projected to be from electronic sales.    

At this point all South Dakota and its amici, including the SLLC, are asking the Supreme Court to do is agree to hear this case. Supreme Court review is discretionary; four of the nine Supreme Court Justices must agree to hear any case. If the Supreme Court refuses to do so, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruling that South Dakota’s law is unconstitutional will stay in place.  possible the Court could hear this case this term meaning it would issue an opinion by the end of June 2018.    

October 9, 2017

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Guest Blog: Update on LGBTQ Student Rights and Policies

Today's guest blog comes from our friends at GLSEN. Please direct any questions or requests for additional information to Sarah Munshi (

Much has transpired over the past year related to transgender students’ rights – in the courts, in public policy, and in public debates. 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.

With so much happening in America today, it is more important than ever that every student, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, understand that their school is a safe, welcoming place in which they can learn and thrive. As superintendents and school leaders are faced with critical decisions in their communities that deeply impact students’ school experiences and their success, we want to be sure that accurate information for creating inclusive and non-discriminatory schools and classrooms is readily accessible. Even as the law continues to evolve regarding protections for transgender students, there is clearly nothing that as a matter of law should preclude policy and practice that is educationally grounded and research-based.   

Resources to support your schools include the U.S. Department of Education’s guide, “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students,” and GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality’s “Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.” Policies such as these have transformed the educational experience for transgender students while critically avoiding any disruption or harm to the educational experience of other students. Thousands of schools across the country have successfully implemented these policies.*   A growing body of evidence shows that districts and schools that adopt and implement all-inclusive policies and practices – including restroom policies – are effective in establishing physically and psychosocially safe schools, resulting in better health and education outcomes for transgender students. 

As the leading national education organization working to create safe and affirming schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, or gender expression, GLSEN is proud to lead the effort. Working with school leaders, teachers, parents, and students—as well as national education organizations and associations whose memberships and constituents work directly in schools every day—we seek to provide practical and actionable support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students. And with an extensive Chapter network, currently comprised of nearly 40 Chapters across the country, GLSEN and our volunteers stand ready to work with you ensure that schools are safe and affirming for all, through the resources listed above, direct support, and professional development from GLSEN staff and Chapters.

* GLSEN and Movement Advancement Project, “Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities,” April 2017.


September 5, 2017(2)


AASA Partners with CoSN for 2017 Infrastructure Survey

It's back to school, which means a LOT of things. Including time for the annual AASA/CoSN infrastructure survey. For the past several years, we have collaborated with CoSN on this survey as a way to assess the current state of broadband and technology infrastructure in U.S. school systems. The survey gathered insights from K-12 school administrators and technology directors nationwide, to assess key areas of concern for school districts, including affordability, network speed and capacity, reliability and competition, digital equity, security and cloud-based services. 

The survey has been distributed. We switched formats this year, and each district is receiving it's own, distinct URL. It was deployed to the main contact in the CoSN database, and we are writing this blog post to put this on your radar and to encourage you to check with your tech/IT team to ensure your district response is captured. 

Dear Education Leader: 

AASA, in partnership with education researchers at MDR and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), recently launched the fifth annual Infrastructure Survey, designed to gather data from school districts across the country on E-rate, Broadband, and Internal Network Infrastructure. Your voice is important in the continued process of reforming the E-rate and other programs to improve schools’ network infrastructure for digital learning. 

This year, CoSN has partnered with Forecast5 Analytics to provide premium results in an online workbook of visual data analytics that will allow you to compare to districts across the country on IT infrastructure strategies.

Last week, we sent a custom survey link to your technology director. We ask that you follow up with your Technology Department to ensure that your school district is represented. The deadline is Friday, September 25th. 

Districts that participate in this survey will receive a report giving a high level overview of the survey results. You will also have an opportunity to request detailed survey results from Forecast5 once you have completed the survey.

Thank you for your help! 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email 

If you have any questions about the survey or the subsequent report and analytics, please email

September 1, 2017

(GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Join Your Colleagues in San Francisco to close Attendance Awareness Month!

This guest blog post comes from Lee Funk, Executive Director of the Attendance Institute

The Attendance Institute, a non-profit agency dedicated to promoting student engagement, is hosting its second annual summit, “Cultivating Success,” in San Francisco on September 29, 2017. This event will focus on multiple routes to successful student performance and will take place on Friday, September 29, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis.

The goal is to bring together innovators, scholars, and result-minded leaders who have real solutions for increasing student achievement and, ultimately, success in life. The forum will stress what proven results are possible—not years in the future, but now.

Ryan J. Smith, the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization, will deliver the keynote address and Dr. Tamarah Pfeiffer, the Associate Deputy Director for the Bureau of Indian Education, will speak during the luncheon.

The Institute’s research staff will unveil the results of a study involving over 70 districts and more than 700,000 students on the effectiveness of systemic interventions for reducing chronic absenteeism and improving graduation rates.

For more information go here:

August 30, 2017


Dan Domenech: Show Your Support for Public Education

Today's guest blog comes from AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech, and he calls on local school districts to consider and adopt their own version of the 'I Love Public Education' resolution adopted by AASA at our advocacy conference this summer. Please direct any questions to Tammy Barbara ( and Noelle Ellerson Ng ( 

In July, AASA launched the I Love Public Education campaign, an ongoing effort to highlight the success and opportunities of public education and demonstrate how public schools develop future generations of successful students. 

Following the AASA governing board's unanimous adoption of the Resolution in Support of Public Education, it's time to take the message to the local level: school districts

AASA is working with other national and state organizations to adopt a multi-organization "I Love Public Education" resolution that we can leverage on Capitol Hill. But, when it comes to amplifying the message, the power lies with our members. At the local level, there is nothing stronger than a unified message from the nation's public school districts, each proclaiming 'I Love Public Education'. 

To that end, we ask our members to work with their local school board to make the resolution a meeting agenda item, and that the board and superintendent work together to adopt their district's 'I Love Public Education' resolution this fall. You can adopt the AASA version unedited, you can modify this version, or you can use our version as a starting point for your district's unique 'I Love Public Education' resolution. Whatever you adopt, we want to hear about it. Please submit your district resolution via email to, fax to 703-528-2146 or mail to AASA, attn: Tammy Barbara, 1615 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. 



  1. Review the AASA resolution
  2. Add the resolution to a school board meeting agenda this fall. 
  3. Work with your board to adopt your district's version of the resolution. 
  4. Share your resolution with AASA.  


Looking to do more? There's a lot more at the local level than just the school district. Could your town or county board adopt the resolution? Can your mayor or town official adopt a version of the resolution? Could you generate a 'community partner' version, open to local officials, the chamber of commerce, and other local entities? 

At a time when education policy is undermining the rich history of our public schools and the roles they play in preparing students to be productive adults, we need your help to lead, shape and grow a broad dialogue and support for public education. Beyond adopting a resolution, you can join the conversation on Twitter by using the #LovePublicEducation hashtag. 

We appreciate the work you do to ensure the children of this country receive the best education possible. Let us know how we can help you. 

August 28, 2017


Supporting What Matters: As schools reconvene, will Congress support public education, mirroring public opinion?

Guest blog post by AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech

The end of summer means the start to another school year. It means time for this year’s annual PDK poll. Each year, for the last 49 years, PDK has polled the public’s attitudes toward public schools, and each year, the results are a telling insight to shifts and mainstays as it relates to public support for public schools. This year is no exception.

When it comes to our nation’s schools, the overarching message from the public remains steady: academic achievement isn’t the only mission, and as such they support investments in career preparation and personal skills. Much like the shift from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was about clarifying that a child is more than a test score, this year’s results echo the idea that a child’s education is more than just academics. 

This summer, AASA launched its ‘I Love Public Education’ campaign, a year-long effort to highlight why public schools are essential to developing the future generations that will maintain our country’s status as a world leader. The campaign is designed to facilitate deliberate conversations and strong, meaningful actions on the efforts to bolster our schools to best support the students they serve. We are working to reshape the current national dialogue on public education to highlight the critical role public schools play as the bedrock of our civic society and their work to prepare students to be successful, contributing members of their local, national and global communities. It’s a campaign central to our work supporting public school superintendents, and it is in strong parallel to a big takeaway from the annual poll, that parents’ main concern remains wanting to ensure their children are prepared for life after they complete high school. 

The public continues to support public schools. We are all too familiar with the quick-draw that negative headlines garner for public schools. But, as the PDK poll has long documented, people support and give good grades to the schools they know. And this year? The proportion of Americans who gave their community’s public schools an A grade is at its highest point in more than 40 years of PDK polling: 15 percent of Americans gave their local schools an A, up from 9 percent a decade ago. In tandem with increased support:

  • 49 percent of Americans gave their local public schools an A or B grade, matching the average since 1999;
  • 22 percent of Americans refer to a lack of funding as the biggest problem facing their local schools;
  • Americans continue to oppose rather than favor using public funds to send students to private school (52 percent to 39 percent), and opposition rises to 61 percent when the issue is discussed with more nuance/detail.

School isn’t the only thing that gets back to session in September. This support for public education will prove critical as Congress returns from their summer work session (sometimes called ‘recess’). With less than 50 work days remaining in the year, there is a lot on their plate. They must address the annual appropriations process and avoid a shut down, and there is a very good chance they will have to navigate the debt ceiling debate. How can Congress invest funding in the career preparation and personal skills of students when the current funding caps are so low—below 2010 levels? Despite the public’s documented support for public schools and non-academic programming, Congress is considering eliminating ESSA Title II and deep cuts to more than a dozen other programs. Layer that on top of an administration that has prioritized investment in privatization and voucher programs—at direct odds with public opinion—and you can see how important the ‘I Love Public Education’ campaign becomes in ensuring that the voices and priorities of the public, and the public schools, are reflected in federal policy.


You can access my full statement on the release of the PDK poll here. You can access the full 2017 PDK poll here

August 28, 2017


Guest Blog: U.S. Superintendents Excited About Their District's Future

This post originally appeared at and is posted here with permission.

Guest Blog by Tim Hodges, Gallup

Download the full report for free here:

K-12 students returning to class this fall are being welcomed back by leaders who are optimistic about the future of their school district. Eighty-five percent of U.S. public school district superintendents agree or strongly agree that they are excited about their district's future. These attitudes are largely unchanged from 2015, when 86% responded positively to the same question.

While school leaders are largely positive about their local situation, this optimism is much harder to find in their opinions of the overall K-12 public education system. About one in three superintendents agree or strongly agree that they are excited about the future of U.S. public education, down sharply from 44% just two years ago. The percentage who either disagree or strongly disagree is up from 24% to 38%, with those most negative about the future of the nation's public school system increasing from 6% to 15%.

Several factors influence leaders' opinions about the future of education. The latest Gallup survey of superintendents suggests that the most pressing challenges facing school districts are changing.

In the past four years, concern has risen among school leaders about improving the academic performance of underprepared students, and this is now the top concern of those tested. Fiscal challenges remain a significant source of concern for superintendents, as was the case in 2013. Superintendents also report high levels of concern about the effects of poverty on student learning (a question asked for the first time in 2017). Complete results for all issues tested this year appear at the end of this article.

At the same time, concern about meeting rising demands for assessment from the state and federal level has moved down in the rankings. Possibly related to this, revamping curriculum is also less of a concern for school leaders than it was in 2013 -- a time when the Common Core State Standards and new federal legislation increased attention on student assessments.

Bottom Line

Public school superintendents begin the new school year optimistic about their own local district, although they are less confident in the nation's schools overall. Local district leaders still struggle to manage difficult fiscal situations and are increasingly focused on the challenges of reducing achievement gaps for underperforming students and addressing the needs of students in poverty. These and other challenges will continue to have the attention of leaders as the nation's students return to school.

About the Study

Gallup developed this research study of K-12 superintendents of public school districts in the U.S. to understand their opinions on important topics and policy issues facing education. Since 2013, Gallup has conducted the survey at least annually. The 2017 report addresses a variety of issues, including:

  • the workplace engagement of superintendents
  • human capital needs in the district, such as recruiting, selecting and retaining talented teachers and principals
  • factors in teacher performance evaluations
  • federal, state and local education policy issues
  • superintendent-board relations

The full report is available for download here.


This survey is an attempted census of U.S. public school district superintendents. Gallup used a purchased sample list of 12,432 K-12 school districts across the U.S. to email their superintendents to invite them to participate in a web survey. Gallup conducted 2,326 web interviews from June 15-July 9, 2017, achieving a 19% response rate. The sample of superintendents was weighted to correct for possible nonresponse bias by matching the obtained sample to targets for all U.S. school districts from the National Center for Education Statistics database on district enrollment, geographical region and location of the district in a city, suburb, town or rural area. The weighted sample thus can be projected to represent public school district superintendents nationwide.


June 27, 2017

(ESEA, GUEST BLOGS) Permanent link

Guest Blog: Our Independent Review of State ESSA Plans and What We Found

Today's guest blog comes from our friends at Collaborative for Student Success. This blog post in is coordination with the release of their broader review of ESSA plans. The Collaborative partnered with Bellwether Education to convene more than 30 bipartisan education policy experts to review state plans.

Several weeks ago, we told you about our independent peer review of state ESSA plans. Since the Every Student Succeeds Act passed with bipartisan congressional support and was signed by President Obama, there has been much debate about how states will – and should – use this opportunity to make bold decisions in designing their new accountability systems.

That’s why the Collaborative for Student Success  teamed up with Bellwether Education Partners to spearhead an independent peer review of these plans. Our effort looks beyond compliance, and focuses in on how states can improve their accountability systems. Our goal is to provide states, districts, parents, teachers and advocates with an additional level of feedback to help ensure that state systems are serving all students and providing a more equitable learning environment that fosters success. We assembled a list of phenomenal expert peer reviewers who boast diversity, partisan balance, and state and national expertise. 

Today, we will release the results of this peer review process.

Our findings already went to state departments of education and Governor’s offices. It is our goal to be as transparent as possible – this is not a “Gotcha” exercise, but it is an advocacy tool. We believe that by using our peer review process, the 17 states that have already submitted a plan can improve upon it, and that the 34 states that will submit a report in September can apply our recommendations. We sincerely hope that through implementation efforts at the state, district and school level, these ideas will help improve classroom results for students, parents, and teachers. 

Here are some high-level findings, beginning with some noteworthy strengths across the state plans


  • We saw much more robust measures of school quality (e.g. including science, art, physical education). Several states were looking to promote more holistic views of school quality;
  • At the high school level, states are pursuing a number of innovative college- and career-readiness indicators (AP, IB, SAT/ ACT, industry certifications, etc.) and refocusing efforts to ensure students are prepared for life after high school;
  • All 17 states included some measure of student growth; and 
  • Even though states could opt to include new, additional indicators of school quality, they are continuing to place strong weight on academics 


You will see that we have gone to great lengths to highlight the best practices we found in the 17 state plans so far, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also push for plan improvements


  • Too many states had goals that were untethered to the state’s long-term visions or were ignored in the accountability system;
  • There is a troubling shift across states towards normative accountability systems, focused on how schools compare with one another, not an external standard; and  
  • Our peers believe that state plans can do more upfront to ensure student subgroups are not overlooked or overshadowed. Our peers had a strong equity lens and as a result, no state received the highest mark possible for having adequate checks in place to ensure all students and subgroups are tended too. 


Lastly, an important point to make which has direct impact on district leaders: these state plans had vague or underdeveloped school improvement plans, with only one state earning the highest mark possible for its proposals to actually turn around low-performing schools. This is a key area where states must do better, as the primary purpose of accountability systems is to drive school improvement.

How can you help? As part of our announcement today we are also launching a new website, This interactive, user-friendly website will help parents and community members make sense of complicated state ESSA plans. We encourage you to share this information with colleagues and policymakers in your state. We hope you use it to help advocate for the changes that will strengthen your state plan and help ensure meaningful accountability. 


February 27, 2017


Guest Blog Post: DACA Students and Resources for Superintendents & Schools

This guest blog post comes from Jonah Edelman, co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children.

Today 750,000 of our nation’s most promising young adults are living under the threat of deportation.  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, currently protects these law-abiding young people, brought to the country as children. But the future of DACA is now in doubt, and, without it, DREAMers could be subject to immediate deportation. These DREAMers are students, graduates, and unknown numbers—at least hundreds and more likely thousands—are teachers. 

AASA and more than 2,000 education leaders from across the country have signed on to a letter calling on Congress to take immediate action to extend legal protections to these young adults. Students need these protections to realize their potential and educators need them to continue teaching in our classrooms.

District leaders are speaking out now because they can’t afford to lose teachers like Alexis Torres, who teaches history in the Spring Branch, Texas school district. Torres is exactly the kind of teacher schools work desperately to recruit—bilingual and culturally aware in a school where nearly half of students lack fluency in English. At 23, he’s lived in the United States since he was 5. But absent a protection from deportation, he could be removed at any time.

Fellow Texan Mayte Lara Ibarra managed to rise to become her high school’s valedictorian with a 4.5 GPA. She’s now enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, but the fear of deportation remains a constant. “My whole life I’ve lived with the conversation of, ‘OK what’s going to happen if like your dad or I get deported,’” she told a local TV station.

Young people like Ms. Ibarra and Mr. Torres have played by the rules, working hard to better themselves, support their families, and make their communities stronger. 

Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s district in Denver was one of the first to hire teachers under DACA.  “We hired them because they are excellent teachers who make our kids and our schools better,” Boasberg said.  “To deport talented teachers and students in whom we have invested so much, who have so much to give back to our community, and who are so much a part of our community would be a catastrophic loss."

The stories and success of DREAMers define what it means to live the American dream and removing them would hurt, not benefit, our schools and our nation.

That’s why a growing number education leaders are joining our call for a lasting solution, including the superintendents of some of the largest school districts; the president of a national teachers union; leaders of top public charter school networks and crucial nonprofits; and principals and teacher leaders.

AASA is leading the way as part of this extraordinary alliance of the nation’s leading educators coming together to protect these DREAMers. 

Today, we are asking you to join us by signing the petition at

By taking action together, we can create conditions in which our students and teachers thrive, rather than relegate them to living in fear.

For more information about the petition for DREAMer protections and the full list of signatories, please visit

11 action steps superintendents and school administrators should consider to help protect undocumented students and their families  

  1. Clearly communicate that our schools are welcoming to everyone.  Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families.  Some districts have even declared that they are ICE-free zones/sanctuary schools and have taken the public position that they will not permit entry to law enforcement absent a judicial order.
  2. Identify a point person who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in the district and keep good documentation of any encounters. Encourage the same for each campus.
  3. Determine a process for approving documents to ensure all materials distributed to teachers, support staff, students, families and the community are up-to-date and authored by reputable sources.
  4. Inform students and their families of their rights by distributing “know your rights” materials (or other approved materials) in appropriate languages to stakeholders so they are informed about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained. 
  5. Maintain a list of approved resources, such as the names of social workers, pro bono attorneys and local immigration advocates and organizations, that can be shared with your students and their families.
  6. Partner with a pro bono attorney, legal aid organization or immigrant rights organization to schedule a “know your rights” workshop on campuses to inform students and families about their rights.
  7. Identify or create a local immigration raid rapid response team. These teams usually consist of attorneys, media personnel and community leaders who may be able to provide support.  If there is a local response team, assign a point person for communication on the district staff.
  8. Create a process for what to do if a parent, sibling or student has been detained. This should include providing a safe place for students to wait if their parent/guardian is unable to take them home. Double-check emergency contact info and ensure that you have multiple phone numbers on hand for relatives/guardians in case a student's emergency contact is detained, be prepared to issue a statement condemning raids and calling for the immediate release of students, and consider alternate pickup and drop-off arrangements in case an ICE checkpoint is established near your school. 
  9. Coordinate with other agencies in the community as needed, particularly child protective services if the chance of foster care is increased during this time.
  10. Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
  11. Train and educate guidance counselors and key staff to help mentor or guide students who are impacted by immigration, including undocumented students applying to college.  

The following links provide additional national resources from immigration experts

  • IMMIGRANT LEGAL RESOURCE CENTER: DACA Current Status and Options  
    • National directory of more than 950 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states.
  • UNITED WE DREAM: Deportation Defense Card 
    • Are you prepared if Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents approach you? Download your Deportation Defense Card to Know Your Rights. - English, Spanish, Chinese and KoreanEnglish, Spanish, Chinese and Korean
    • Hotline for learning rights and reporting right violations: 1-844-363-1423
  • NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER: Draft Resolution Language  
  • The U.S. Department of Education has a page dedicated to information and resources for immigrant, refugee, asylee students and families.
    • GUIDE: Supporting Undocumented Youth in Secondary and Postsecondary Settings (Oct 2015)
    • GUIDE: Early Learning Programs, Elementary Schools, and Educators (Jan 2017)
    • Fact Sheet for Families and School Staff: Limitations on DHS Immigration Enforcement Actions at Sensitive Locations (Nov 2015)
    • In general, DHS’s 2011 prioritization memo explained that immigration enforcement actions may not occur at or in “sensitive locations.” These locations include: schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop.
    • If you believe enforcement action has taken place that is inconsistent with this guidance, file a complaint on the DHS website at, the CBP website at, or ICE website at
    • You may contact ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) through the Detention Reporting and Information Line at (888)351-4024 or through the ERO information email address at, also available at The Civil Liberties Division of the ICE Office of Diversity and Civil Rights may be contacted at (202)732-0092 or
    • You may contact the CBP Information Center to file a complaint or compliment via phone at 1-877-227-5511, or submit an email through the website at






September 15, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2016


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

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

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

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

July 19, 2016


Moving Beyond Pilot Phase: District Conditions for Scaling Personalized Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2016


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

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:




June 14, 2016

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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.

May 17, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



March 15, 2016

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Guest Blog Post: Education for Upward Mobility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


March 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full letter.

Groups signing the letter include: 


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


March 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

The full report can be seen at this link.

March 3, 2016

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

For more information


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


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

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

February 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full research article can be accessed here: 


December 21, 2015

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Guest Blog: Push for National Convention Would Put Constitution Up for Grabs and Lead to Major School Funding Cuts

Today's guest blog post comes from Michael Leachman,Director of State Fiscal Research,Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

As state legislative sessions begin, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and related groups are ramping up a nationwide  campaign to convene a  constitutional convention that would propose amendments stripping the federal government of much of its power and leading to damaging funding cuts for the nation’s schools and other priorities.

Here’s the background.  Under Article V of the Constitution, Congress must call a convention to propose constitutional amendments if two-thirds of the states formally request one.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many states passed resolutions calling for a convention to propose a federal balanced budget amendment.  At one point, 32 states had passed resolutions along these lines, close to the 34 states required.  But over the next 25 years, no more states passed resolutions and half of the states that had passed resolutions formally rescinded them, fearing that a convention would throw open the Constitution to harmful changes. 

The tide turned in 2010 as ALEC and its allies began pushing anew for state resolutions.  Since then, 11 states have adopted new resolutions calling for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment.  Some proponents claim that 27 states have “live” applications, including those passed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s but never rescinded.  They’ve targeted another 13 states for the coming year.  If they succeed in seven of these states – a real possibility – they could claim to have met the 34-state threshold that forces Congress to call a convention. 

In the past year, a separate but similar effort to use Article V to call a constitutional convention also has gained momentum.  It’s being pushed by the Convention of States Project, whose model resolution calls for a convention to propose amendments “that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”  Alabama, Alaska, Florida, and Georgia passed this sort of resolution in the last two years, and the Convention of States Project is targeting other states. 

The movement has the vocal support of some well-known hard-core conservatives.  ALEC claims that legislative leaders in some 30 states are committed to the effort.   

These unfolding events are highly alarming.  The Constitution provides for no authority above that of a convention, so once a convention is called it’s not clear that anyone could stop it from proposing any number of drastic changes to our system of government. 

Indeed, constitutional experts from the late Chief Justice Warren Burger to Justice Antonin Scalia to Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe have warned that a constitutional convention would place the nation in uncharted territory, putting the Constitution up for grabs.  Delegates could even choose to alter the rules for ratifying amendments — just as the 1787 convention that drafted the Constitution did — such as by calling for ratification by national referendum rather than approval by three-fourths of the states. 

Further, no rules have been established for conducting this sort of convention.  How would delegates be selected?  Would each state get the same number of delegates?  How many votes would be needed to approve a proposed amendment?  With so much at stake, these issues would likely be fought out in a highly partisan atmosphere heavily influenced by large political donors.  And with Congress and 31 state legislatures under full Republican control, the rules could be set in a way that helps ALEC and its allies advance radical changes they’d never get through normal legislative procedures. 

At the very least, these changes likely would include balanced budget amendment, which alone would be a disaster for the nation's schools and the economy more broadly.  During a major recession, this sort of amendment would likely lead to massive cuts in federal support for schools and other public services delivered at the state and local levels.  Large cuts in federal spending, in turn, would worsen job losses during recessions, causing unnecessary pain for families across the country – pain that would add to stress and other difficulties for children in school. 

Even if the effort to call for a convention fails, it could build momentum for Congress to propose a balanced budget amendment or other harmful amendments directly to the states. 

ALEC and its allies are working hard to convince state lawmakers that a convention is safe and that states can easily control it.  That’s simply not the case, and a large number of groups are gearing up to educate state lawmakers about the dangerous realities of a constitutional convention. 

With state legislatures in session over the next few months, now is a good time to connect with others concerned about these resolutions in your state.  You can do so by contacting the group in your state belonging to the State Priorities Partnership (our network of state fiscal policy organizations) or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  There’s a great deal at stake. 

December 14, 2015(2)

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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 3, 2015

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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.


October 2, 2015

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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


September 16, 2015

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Guest Blog: Impact Aid Districts on Edge Over Talk of Government Shutdown

Today's guest blog comes from Jocelyn Bissonette, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS). For more information on Impact Aid: 202/624-5455 or

Headlines in recent Washington Post articles include: “Get Ready: Experts Say a Government Shutdown is Likely,” and “The Time to Dust Off Shutdown, Furlough Plans is Approaching.” Each year begins with optimism that Congress will complete its Appropriations work on time, by the beginning of the October 1 Fiscal Year (FY). But since 1996, Congress has resorted to a stopgap measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to buy time to finish its work. On several occasions, this inability to complete the process or agree on a CR has led to a government shutdown, as was the case in 2013 following sequestration. For most public school districts, the posturing, brinksmanship, CRs and shutdowns are par for the course and do not immediately impact a school district’s financial situation. Impact Aid is a major exception. 

Impact Aid, ESEA Title VIII, was signed into law in 1950. The program’s purpose is to offset the loss of local revenue for school districts that have nontaxable Federal property within district boundaries, such as military installations, Indian Trust or Treaty lands, national grasslands or laboratories. Roughly 1,200 school districts receive funding from the $1.2 billion program each year. Unlike other Federal education programs, Impact Aid funding goes directly to school districts, bypassing the State, and can be used for any general fund purpose. At NAFIS, we often describe Impact Aid as Uncle Sam’s tax bill to federally impacted school districts.

Another difference from Federal education programs: Impact Aid is not forward-funded. FY 2016 funds for programs like Title I and IDEA are for the 2016-2017 school year, but for Impact Aid they are for the 2015-2016 school year. This means a CR has an immediate impact on Impact Aid-recipient school districts. To date, the U.S. Department of Education has received over 100 “early payment requests” in anticipation that limited Impact Aid funds will be available under a CR. Impact Aid may comprise upwards of 30-percent of a school district’s operating budget. Without a payment early in the school year, these districts may face a cash flow shortage, meaning they would have difficulty funding day-to-day operations, instructional expenditures, utility payments, or payroll. Occasionally, due to cash flow deficits, school districts must defer payroll, dip into their fund balances, or borrow money while they wait for Impact Aid to arrive. This issue is acute for school districts with limited reserves or those where State aid or county tax revenues are not allocated until December.

This situation is exacerbated during a government shutdown, since the Impact Aid payment timeline is further delayed. In addition, this is the time of year when school districts are collecting and compiling data for the Impact Aid application due each January. During a shutdown, U.S. Department of Education staff cannot report to work, and therefore cannot provide valuable technical assistance. 

In the end, Congress must complete its Appropriations work, even if it means relying on the temporary solution of a CR. Avoiding a government shutdown in that process would prevent a gap in important government functions, including funding and technical assistance for federally impacted school districts.

NAFIS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of school districts from throughout the United States. Founded more than 40 years ago, NAFIS works to ensure the needs of federally connected school districts, and the students they educate, are met through adequate Federal funds. (P) 202/624-5455 (W) (T) @NAFISschools

September 1, 2015

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Guest Post: Credentialing Change Threatens Concurrent Enrollment

Today's guest post comes from Fred Nolan, Executive Director for the Minnesota Rural Education Association. We share this post to gauge the extent to which other communities (rural and non-rural!) are having similar experiences. Dual/concurrent credit can be an excellent option to get students started on a college-bound path who otherwise might not consider such an option.

To the extent that you have a similar experience or relevant information to relay, please contact Fred at fred at e-f-services dot com. 

Minnesota’s growing concurrent enrollment (dual-credit) programs for high school students to earn college credit while attending high school is being threatened by recent actions of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The Commission is proposing new credentialing requirements for Minnesota’s secondary teachers to teach these college courses under the auspices of a college or university.

MREA Working to Establish Coalition: MREA is very involved with the Center for School Change and Minnesota Association of School Administrators to create a broad coalition of school, business and public officials to protest this change and propose a Minnesota alternative for credentialing high school teachers to teach dual-credit courses. MREA worked successfully with these two education organizations in the 2015 legislature to advocate for an increase of $4.6 million in funding for concurrent enrollment and to strengthen local control over which students can enroll in dual credit courses. 

Southwest Minnesota State University Concurrent Enrollment Coordinator Kimberly Guenther says HLC’s action is a huge change. “Everyone is concerned,” she said. “There are not programs to get this credentialing in a manner that would work for teachers even if they wanted to [meet the requirements].”

HLC Accreditation Determines Grant Eligibility: While not well known, HLC has clout. It is a voluntary accrediting association of post-secondary institutions in 19 Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. It is authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit colleges and universities and thereby make their students eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants.

MREA thanks Senator Greg Clausen of Apple Valley, a former high school principal, who was chief author in the 2015 session for concurrent enrollment and is a leader in this current effort.

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