The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee spent two days debating a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Strengthen America Schools Act (S. 1094), which would overhaul what is currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), ultimately passed on June 12 by a party-line vote of 12-10. All Democrats on the committee approved the bill and all Republicans opposed it.
“What I think we all recognize is that it is time to update the law to ensure that every child in this nation receives a great education,” said Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) during his opening remarks. “This is a matter of basic fairness, and is critical to America’s economic strength in the competitive global marketplace.”
Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered the text of the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act (S. 1101) as a substitute amendment, but it failed on a party-line vote after nearly 90 minutes of debate about the appropriate federal role in education. To demonstrate their opinion that the Democratic proposal would diminish the responsibility of states and districts, Republican members often referred to the bill as “NCLB on steroids,” and stated their opposition to the creation of a “national school board.” Sen. Alexander argued that his proposal “places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be–on states and communities, and it does that by giving teachers and parents more freedom, flexibility, and choice.”
When the substitute amendment was defeated, Republican members offered certain provisions of S. 1101 as amendments. They included proposals to remove all new programs in the bill, reduce the requirements on statewide accountability systems, remove the “highly qualified teacher” requirement under NCLB and mandatory teacher and principal evaluation requirements, roll back the Common Core State Standards, lift the cap on alternate and modified assessments for students with disabilities, remove the comparability requirement for Title I funding, allow parents to use public funds to send their children to private schools, and eliminate the Race to the Top program among others. None of the Republican amendments were approved during the markup except for one offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to support the Alaska Native Educational Equity program.
A number of Democratic amendments were approved during the markup, including these supported by NASSP
- an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to create a new report-only subgroup for students from military families
- an amendment by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) to require extended learning time as part of the Turnaround and Transformation school improvement strategies;
- an amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to encourage dual enrollment and early college high school programs in ESEA; and
NASSP was disappinted that the committee rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) that would have created an Office of Rural Education at the US Department of Education. We have long supported a bill (S. 1096) by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) with the same purpose.
Chairman Harkin says that he has received approval from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring the bill to the Senate floor when there is time on the calendar, but it remains unclear where the bill will go from there. The House is scheduled to mark up its bill on June 19, and it’s also expected to be a very partisan markup with only Republican support for the final bill. How the two sides will be able to conference the competing proposals is anyone’s guess. Check back to the Principal’s Policy Blog for updates on ESEA reauthorization, and follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter for live reports on the committee proceedings.
Today, the U.S. Department of Education released the application for its inaugural Principal Ambassador Fellowship program. For a one-year term (2013-14), Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows will work part-time in collaboration with the department’s regional and DC offices while continuing to serve as principals in their home schools. This position will provide outstanding principals with the opportunity to highlight the voice of the principal within the education community and the country at-large. The idea for the principal fellowship came out of a discussion following an event hosted by NASSP and NAESP, in which Department of Education officials shadowed DC-area principals during National Principals Month.
To be eligible, candidates must:
- Serve as a preK-12 principal during the 2013-14 school year in a US school, including traditional public, charter, virtual, military, tribal and/or private schools
- Have a minimum of three (3) years of successful experience as a principal (if the 2012-13 school-year is a principal’s third year as principal, s/he is eligible)
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Have the ability to gain employer support to sign an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreement for participation in the program.
Note: Some schools may use different terminology than “principal.” A candidate is considered eligible despite titling differences provided that s/he is the highest administrative official in the school building.
The deadline to submit an application is July 16, 2013.
As part of Title I, SASA establishes a competitive grant to support low-performing middle and high schools to implement innovative and effective reform strategies to increasing student achievement and graduation rates. The goal of the program is to engage students in high need and rural LEAs in rigorous course work while providing them with real-world and applicable learning opportunities. NASSP is very pleased to see that many of the provisions of this section include elements of the Success in the Middle Act (S. 708) and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940). We are especially pleased that the bill requires LEAs receiving a grant under this program to implement an early warning indicator system to help high schools and their feeder middle schools to identify struggling students and provide them with supports to help them get on track to graduate from high school college and career-ready.
Furthermore, the bill requires a significant portion of grant monies to be used on both feeder middle and high schools for personalized learning, professional development for school leaders and teachers, competency based learning, flexibility for school leaders in budgetary and staffing, and the “redesign” of academic content and instructional practices. Additionally, other strategies identified for uses under this program are improved academic and career counseling and exploration, and in-school academy models. Amplified opportunities for post-secondary credit through the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, dual enrollment, and early college high school programs are also featured strategies for secondary school improvement. Many elements of this portion of the bill closely mirror the President’s High School Redesign Program.
Lastly, to foster the “pathway to college,” SASA provides for increased access to AP and IB course work in high need schools. The bill also creates an AP & IB fee program which provides grants to states to pay all or part of the costs associated with examination fees for students. It also proposes a competitive grant program to increase the number of AP and IB teachers and course offerings in high need schools.
Continue to the check the blog for more updates on ESEA reauthorization, and for up-to-minute news, follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter!
In addition to the inclusion of NASSP supported legislation on school leadership and literacy, Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN), Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 1088) was also incorporated in the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (SASA). We are pleased to see additional protections to our nation’s students regardless of their sexual orientation. The bill would enhance current federal protections against discriminatory practices and ensure “effective remedies for discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Also included in Senator Harkin’s ESEA reauthorization bill are reporting requirements on elements of school climate which are a part of new accountability report cards. States and school districts would be required to report on data related to:
- Student discipline
- Pregnant and parenting students
- Rates of school violence, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, in and out of school suspensions, expulsions, referrals to law enforcement, school-based arrests, disciplinary transfers and student detentions
- Implementation of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS)
- LEA implementation of school-based mental health programs
Furthermore, the bill also addresses school climate in assisting schools to “foster positive conditions for learning in public schools to increase achievement for all students.” SASA provides federal assistance to states to address the physical and mental health and well-being of students, prevent violence, harassment and other destructive behaviors, and promote safe and supportive schools.
NASSP has been active in supporting all educators to address school climate and create safe and supportive school environments for all children. In April, NASSP along with other organizations released A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which offers recommendations for improved school safety and access to mental health services for students.
NASSP and its partner organizations agree that efforts to improve school climate, safety, and student learning are not separate endeavors and must be designed, funded, and implemented as a comprehensive school-wide approach. We also caution against an emphasis on overly restrictive security measures, such as armed guards and metal detectors, which can undermine school climate and student learning.
Since bipartisan negotiations on legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) failed last month, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other committee Republicans today introduced their own proposal to improve current law. In a stark contrast to the Democratic proposal released on June 4 at a whopping 1,100+ pages, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act streamlines most federal education programs to a mere 211 pages.
In general, the purpose of the bill is to reduce the federal footprint in education policy and “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals, Governors, and local communities so that they can improve their local public schools.” To do so, the legislation would prohibit the US Department of Education from issuing regulations to prescribe standards or measures that states and districts would use to establish state standards, assessments, accountability systems, systems that measure student growth, measures of other academic indicators, or teacher or principal evaluation systems.
In order to receive Title I funding, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted “challenging” academic content standards and student academic achievement standards in math, reading or language arts, and science, and implemented “high-quality” yearly student academic assessments that will be used as the primary means of determining the performance of schools. The assessments should involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding. In a move away from the Democratic proposal, the bill would continue to allow states to assess students with disabilities based on modified academic achievement standards.
States must also assure that they have developed and are implementing a single, statewide accountability system “to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.” The system should annually identify and differentiate all public schools in the state, taking into consideration achievement gaps between student subgroups, overall performance of all students, and high school graduation rates.
The system should also identify schools that are in need of strategies for improving student academic achievement and provide assistance to districts to develop and implement appropriate strategies for improving identified schools. Districts would be required to develop assistance strategies, which may include:
- Replacing the principal who led the school before implementation of the strategy;
- Screening and replacing teachers who are not effective in improving student achievement;
- Giving the school sufficient operational flexibility in programming, staffing, budgeting, and scheduling;
- Providing ongoing, high-quality professional development to instructional staff;
- Creating incentives for recruiting and retaining staff with the skills that are necessary to meet the needs of the students in the school;
- Implementing a research-based instructional program aligned with the state’s challenging academic standards;
- Converting the school to a charter school;
- Closing the school and enrolling the students in other schools that are higher performing;
- Adopting a new governance structure for the school; or
- Developing other strategies that the district deems appropriate to address the needs of students in identified schools.
Just over $3 billion would be authorized for Title II, and the allowable state activities look very similar to current law with regard to school leaders: reforming principal certification and licensure so that principals have the instructional leadership skills to help students meet challenging state standards, developing and improving evaluation systems that “shall be based in significant part on evidence of student growth,” establishing alternative routes to the principalship, developing new principal induction and mentoring programs, implementing high-quality professional development programs for principals, and supporting efforts to train principals to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction. In order to receive a subgrant from states, districts must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to determine the schools with the most acute staffing needs.
Similar to the bill passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in 2012, the Every Child Ready for College and Career Act aims to provide states and districts with maximum flexibility in using federal funds. Essentially, all programs not included in Titles I or II would be consolidated into two block grants, and funding would be allocated to districts based on the results of a comprehensive needs assessment. Unfortunately, this would include a number of programs NASSP members deem essential in their schools, including School Leadership, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, education technology, school counseling, and mental health and bullying prevention programs.
The legislation would also eliminate Maintenance of Effort (MoE), which helps ensure the continuity of state and local funding efforts. Current MoE provisions provide the greatest protection to low-wealth districts that generally educate more low-income students. We’re concerned that if states are allowed to cut funding for education, the most vulnerable districts, serving the neediest students, could be hurt disproportionately.
Sen. Alexander is expected to introduce his bill as a substitute amendment during the June 11 markup, and the amendment will likely fail on a party-line vote. Check back next weeks for more updates on ESEA reauthorization, and for up-to-minute news, follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter!
As Amanda reported yesterday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) unveiled his version of a reauthorized ESEA. He even renamed the bill to the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013. As we both continue to pore over the 1,150 page bill, we will provide you with relevant aspects of the legislation and updates as it moves towards the June 11th markup in the Senate HELP Committee.
NASSP is pleased to see the inclusion of Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (S. 758) in Senator Harkin’s bill. The “Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement” portion of Title IV will provide federal support for states and LEAs to develop or improve, and implement comprehensive literacy programs from birth to grade 12. We have been working extensively on this bill and its inclusion in an ESEA reauthorization. However, we are disappointed to see that the allocation of funding for implementation of comprehensive literacy programming at the various grade levels is less than our endorsed allocations. We have recommended that not less than 40 percent of funding for implementation be directed to grades 6 through 12. The bill allocated not less than 30 percent. We believe the 40 percent allocation is essential to support the complexity of literacy demands for middle and high school students and is necessary due to a lack of resources and funding for secondary school literacy as compared to early childhood and elementary.
Additionally, in light of the adoption and implementation of new college and career ready standards, including the Common Core State Standards across the country, a renewed focus on comprehensive literacy education is crucial and necessary for all students to be college and career ready. These more rigorous standards will require the reorientation of literacy education as a systematic progression of skills across all grades. Specifically, the CCSS will require increased text complexity and inclusion of informational text, which will require more literacy instruction and support from birth throughout all levels of education. See NASSP’s Action Brief on “Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of the Secondary School Leader” for more information on this topic.
Amanda and I are off this afternoon to attend a meeting with Republican leadership from the HELP Committee to discuss their ESEA alternative. Both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives are also expected to introduce ESEA reauthorization bills in the coming week(s). Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the two houses will come to an agreement over ESEA reauthorization. However, to look at glass half-full, as Alyson Klein stated in her Ed Week article yesterday, if nothing else this gives us the opportunity to “see how lawmakers in both parties would like to change the much-maligned NCLB law.”
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation (S. 1094) yesterday to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Dropping the No Child Left Behind moniker, the bill is called the Strengthening American Schools Act and “provides a framework to get all children to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and/or a career” according to a bill summary.
The bill appropriately addresses the education reforms 37 states have adopted in order to receive an ESEA flexibility waiver from the US Department of Education. Those states would be able to maintain their newly adopted college and career-ready standards, accountability systems, and teacher and principal evaluation systems.
In order to receive Title I funding under the bill, states must adopt college and career ready student academic achievement standards and assessments in reading or language arts and mathematics by the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The new assessments should measure the individual academic achievement of each student and student academic growth, including a measurement of the number of years of academic growth each student attains each year. The assessments would also produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports that allow parents, teachers, and principals to understand and address the specific academic needs of students.
States must also adopt new science standards by December 31, 2014, but they would not be required to use the new standards in their accountability systems. They would also be required to adopt new high-quality English language proficiency standards by December 31, 2015.
All references to adequate yearly progress (AYP) are removed from the bill. Instead, states must demonstrate that they have developed a single, statewide accountability system that annually measures and reports on the achievement and growth of all students, establishes ambitious and achievable annual performance targets, and annually identifies schools that need supports and interventions to prepare college and career ready students. States would create a baseline for performance targets based on assessments given during the 2014-2015, and then they would be required to set targets in four areas: student proficiency, student academic growth, English language proficiency for English learners, and high school graduation rates.
The bill attempts to drive more Title I funding to high schools by requiring districts to use a feeder pattern to estimate the number of low-income students in high schools. The estimate would be calculated by applying the average percentage of students in low-income families of the elementary school attendance areas that feed into the high school to the number of students enrolled in such school.
Similar to the ESEA flexibility waivers, districts would be required to identify schools that are in need of locally designed interventions, that are focus schools, or that are priority schools. For each priority school, the district would conduct a needs analysis to determine the most appropriate school improvement strategies to improve student performance. Districts must also provide ongoing professional development consistent with the needs analysis and conduct regular evaluations of teachers and principals that provide specific feedback on areas of strength and in need of improvement.
For priority schools, districts must select a school improvement strategy similar to the school turnaround models under the current School Improvement Grants program. Under the Transformation and Turnaround strategies, the principal must be replaced if he or she has been in the school for more than two years. The bill includes a new Whole School Reform strategy that must be undertaken in partnership with an external provider and that is based on at least a moderate level of evidence that the program will have a statistically significant effect on student outcomes. States could also establish an alternative evidence-based school improvement strategy for priority schools with the approval of the US Department of Education.
NASSP was pleased to see that states receiving school improvement funds must develop an early warning data system that monitors school-level data and alerts schools when a student indicates slowed progress toward high school graduation. The language mirrors provisions in the Success in the Middle Act (S. 708) and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940), which we strongly support.
Rumors on Capitol Hill are that bipartisan negotiations broke down over the requirement of performance targets for states. Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other committee Republicans are expected to unveil their alternative proposal soon, and flexibility for states and districts will sure to be a recurring theme.
Continue to check the Principal’s Policy Blog for updates on other sections of the ESEA reauthorization bill and for in-depth coverage of the markup scheduled for June 11.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation today to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in anticipation of a committee markup on June 11. The bill covers just over 1,100 pages and would completely rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act. NASSP staff is still working to review the bill, but we wanted to highlight those provisions that tie directly to our top advocacy issue: school leadership.
Under Title II of the bill (Supporting Teacher and Principal Excellence), states must use 2-5% of funds to support school districts in improving the performance and equitable distribution of principals and other school leaders and providing technical assistance to support the design and implementation of teacher and principal evaluation systems. Part of the technical assistance would include training for principals and other evaluators on how to evaluate teachers in order to differentiate teacher performance accurately, provide useful feedback, and use evaluation results to inform decisionmaking about professional development, improvement strategies, and personnel decisions.
NASSP was very pleased to see the bill incorporate the text of the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (S. 840), which would authorize a competitive grant program to recruit, support, and prepare principals and assistant principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools. The provision would create one-year residencies to train aspiring principals and would provide ongoing mentoring, support, and professional development for at least two years after the aspiring principals complete the residency and commence work as school leaders.
In order to receive the funding under Title II, states would have to assure the creation of a professional growth and improvement system no later than the 2015-2016 school year. For principals, the evaluation system would be based “in significant part” on evidence of improved student academic achievement and growth and evidence of providing strong instructional leadership and support to teachers and other staff. The evaluation system for principals could also include other measures of principal performance such as parent and family engagement.
While NASSP is pleased to see that the evaluation systems would be based on more than just student test scores, we would have preferred to see language similar to the report we released with the National Association of Elementary School Principals in September 2012. We recommend that evaluations should focus on six key domains of leadership responsibility within a principal’s sphere of influence: student growth and achievement, school planning and progress, school culture, stakeholder support and engagement, professional qualities and practices, and professional growth and learning.
Unfortunately, the bill includes provisions from the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act (S. 1052) as an allowable use of funds at the state level. The provision would authorize the establishment and operation of new principal preparation academies that we feel strongly would water down current state-developed principal licensure and certification requirements, recruit principal candidates with little-to-no background in education, and provide minimal clinical experience and mentoring.
NASSP will continue to work to have our priorities on school leadership incorporated into a final ESEA bill. In the meantime, check the Principal’s Policy Blog regularly for summaries on other provisions within the bill and updates on the June 11 markup.