St. Paul, Arkansas principal Daisy Dyer Duerr was invited to speak before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of rural schools prior to their successful 3-2 vote to increase funding for the E-Rate program. The vote will ensure that an additional 408,000 in her state will have access to high-speed broadband Internet and Wi-Fi access in their classrooms.

Duerr, who was named an NASSP Digital Principal earlier this year, shared the story of her school’s success in using technology to greatly improve student achievement. When she became the principal of the 225-student K-12 campus in 2011, the high school was being targeted by the state for poor test scores in literacy and math, and the elementary grades had just been removed from Arkansas’ school improvement roles.

Through grants to purchase digital devices and intensive professional development for teachers, the school has started a bring-your-own-device program and the high school is no longer under state supervision. But with more than 80% of students on free and reduced meals and only 10% with Internet access at home, Duerr said that the E-Rate program allows her to provide accessibility they wouldn’t otherwise receive.

Even though Duerr’s students use digital devices on a daily basis, she noted that one of her biggest struggles has been bandwidth. She praised the FCC for their action to increase funding for the E-Rate program because not every rural school “has a little bulldog fighting for them.”

The order approved today by the FCC raises the spending cap on the E-Rate program from the current $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion annually. The commission also took steps to improve the overall administration of the program and maximize the options schools and libraries have for purchasing affordable high-speed broadband connectivity. For more information, go to: http://www.fcc.gov/e-rate-update.

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Tuesday night, the House of Representatives released a massive omnibus appropriations bill that combined 11 of the 12 individual appropriations bills into one large spending bill that covers every facet of federal spending—including investments in education. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will be under a Continuing Resolution (CR) until March 2015. The House is expected to take action on the spending bill on Thursday with the Senate to follow suit on the weekend or early next week. There will likely be a one to two day CR to allow enough time for both the House and Senate to act since the current CR expires on Thursday, December 11.

Unfortunately, due to budget caps established in December 2013, many education programs did not see any increases in funding, and several were cut, including two programs NASSP has consistently advocated for: the School Leadership Program and the High School Graduation Initiative. Title II, Part A funds for improving teacher and principal quality and career and technical education state grants were flat-funded at their FY14 levels, leaving those programs at $2.3 billion and $1.1 billion respectively.

However, NASSP was pleased to see that two foundational investments for high-need students, Title I and IDEA, each saw a $25 million dollar increase from the last fiscal year. Additionally, the Striving Readers program, which supports comprehensive literacy programming for students from birth to grade 12, received a $2 million dollar increase in FY 2015.

While research shows the impact of school leadership on student achievement and its importance on school climate and culture, Congress once again cut the School Leadership Program. NASSP worked with Congress in 2001 to create this federal grant program which focuses on recruiting, mentoring, and training principals and assistant principals to serve in high-need schools. Since FY12, this program has seen decreases in funding. Unfortunately, it was cut once again by $9.4 million. These continued cuts are disappointing considering the expanding roles and responsibilities of principals, including implementing new teacher evaluation systems, college and career ready standards and new online assessments. The program will be reduced from $25.8 million to $16.4 million in FY15.

Despite the cut in the School Leadership Program, NASSP and principals got a big advocacy win in the report language accompanying the omnibus spending bill. The report language is similar to the language NASSP secured with NAESP and AFSA in the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) Appropriations Committee report.  The committee and omnibus report recognized the importance and impact of school leadership on student achievement. Within the report, Congress has directed the U.S. Department of Education to provide guidance to state education agencies to ensure principals are receiving “sufficient professional development opportunities” to support their instructional leadership capacity.

Lastly, NASSP was disappointed to see that the High School Graduation Initiative program was zeroed out in the FY15 omnibus. This is the only federal investment dedicated to reducing the nation’s dropout rate. We were also disappointed that despite the attention on digital learning over the last year and a half, that there was no funding allocated for education technology and related professional development programs.

NASSP will continue to advocate for investments in school leadership that support the profession and benefit students. NASSP is particularly concerned with the impending return of sequestration in FY 2016 if Congress does not take action to replace the sequester in the 114th Congress.

 

Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Tom Wheeler today announced that the FCC will increase funding for the federal E-Rate program by $1.5 billion, bringing the annual total to just under $4 billion. The FCC is expected to consider the proposal at their next meeting on December 11.

“Chairman Wheeler’s proposal recognizes that students cannot engage in 21st century learning without 21st century tools,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Increasing the funding level of the E-Rate program brings us closer to the promise of connecting students with peers and resources around the globe, of empowering students to lead their own learning, and of amplifying their voices as creators of content. The simple bandwidth of a fiber optic line conveys not just bits of data, but boundless opportunity for each student it reaches.”

NASSP has long supported the E-Rate program and urged the FCC to provide additional funding to meet the growing need for Internet broadband and Wi-Fi services in our nation’s secondary schools. Over the past year, we have called on the FCC to immediately and permanently increase the program’s annual funding level.

Funded at $2.25 billion annually since 1999, the E-Rate was level-funded until 2010, when it began receiving annual inflationary increases. Total funding for the program in FY 2013 was $2.43 billion, less than half of school and library demand for that year. An increase of $1.5 billion equates to just 16 cents per month per telephone line, or less than a penny per day.

Without the ability to access greater bandwidth speeds in classrooms, our nation’s students would be hamstrung in their efforts to use digital textbooks, participate in online and distance learning courses, and take online assessments. In addition, we have consistently maintained that the E-Rate’s annual funding cap, essentially unchanged from its inception, is grossly inadequate to fund the bandwidth increases so many schools require with the growing use of laptops and digital devices.

Through the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC), JoAnn Bartoletti and NASSP’s advocacy staff attended meetings with Chairman Wheeler and his staff to advocate on behalf of the E-Rate beneficiaries—your schools and the students you serve. We also submitted comments in response to proposals to modernize the program that were released earlier this year and have urged principals to talk about the importance of the E-Rate programs in meetings with their federal legislators. Our advocacy efforts will continue as we expect the new Congress to review the FCC actions in 2015.

For more information, view the FCC’s fact sheet here.

 

ED Officials Get Schooled in School Leadership

On October 31, 2014, in School Leadership, by Amanda Karhuse

For the third year in a row, NASSP, NAESP and New Leaders have collaborated with the US Department of Education (ED) to conduct shadowing visits of principals as part of our celebration of National Principals Month. This year, more than 50 principals across the nation opened up their schools to ED officials so they could “walk a day in their shoes.”

On October 30, principals from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia convened at ED headquarters for a debrief session where US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other officials shared their experiences. Duncan shadowed Principal Ambassador Fellow Rachel Skerritt who is the principal of Eastern Senior High School in Washington, DC. Nearly 100% of the students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and the school is undergoing the transformation model under the School Improvement Grants program.

Duncan greeted students as they entered the building and helped Principal Skerritt take attendance and collect cell phones, which are not allowed in the classroom. He also sat in on a faculty huddle in the gym and got a glimpse into the principal’s ever-growing email inbox. Duncan even volunteered to call a parent when there was a challenge with a student.

ED officials also shared their “aha” moments, which included the loneliness of the job for elementary school principals who may be the only administrator in the building and the need for good mentoring programs. They were pleased to witness collaborative leadership in action and now better understand how the principal helps build a safe culture in schools.

Principals were asked what hurdles get in the way of maximizing their role as instructional leaders. A middle school principal from Maryland shared with a small group that he always conducts classroom visits and teacher observations in the morning because he never knows what may happen that day. While being shadowed by the ED official, a student who had been suspended was seen on campus and the principal spent a good part of the day tracking down his parents. Other principals lamented that they often hear teachers say they would never want their job, which makes them very concerned about succession planning and the future of their profession.

Duncan posed for a group photo with the principals and one middle school principal even got a selfie with the secretary, which she immediately tweeted to her students. Duncan thanked the principals for their hard work and ended the discussion with his oft-used quote, “I have yet to see a great school that didn’t have a great principal.” Those words are so true!

Check out the #prinmonth hashtag on Twitter to see photos of the shadowing visits or read the Department’s Storify of the week.

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On Tuesday, October 7, 2014, NASSP member Everett Davis, principal at Redland Middle School in Montgomery County, MD, participated in a series of briefings and meetings with congressional staff and US Department of Education officials to discuss the importance of profession-ready teachers and principals for each and every student.

Research reveals that teachers, principals, and other school leaders are the most important school-based influences on student learning, and every student deserves to be taught and led by excellent teachers and school leaders. However, data show that students in many high-need schools do not have access to great educators.

Recognizing this disparity, the Coalition for Teaching Quality (CTQ), of which NASSP is an active member, released “Excellent Educators for Each and Every Child: A policy roadmap for transforming the teaching and principal professions.” In the document, CTQ—which comprises more than 100 organizations dedicated to ensuring that every child has educators who are fully prepared and effective—offers a continuum of the teaching and principal professions to meet its goal.

The coalition also released “Profession-Ready Teachers and Principals for Each and Every Child,” the first in a series of reports that take deeper looks at the policy roadmap. This report describes four steps that future teachers and principals must take to ensure that they are profession-ready. For principals, profession-ready means having a strong instructional background as a teacher and having demonstrated abilities related to effective school leadership competencies and prior success in leading adults.

During the Hill briefings and meetings, Davis reinforced the importance of the CTQ documents by sharing his experiences as a principal intern last year. This innovative leadership program embeds an aspiring school leader for a full year in a school under the supervision of an accomplished principal. The aspiring principal is provided with a professional development team during the internship and participates in monthly seminars where candidates address authentic school leadership scenarios.

“The practical application of the theory and skills obtained in my preparation program through the principal internship fully prepared me for when I took the reins of the principalship,” said Davis.

As a principal intern, Davis also became the acting principal for six weeks during the school year. Even though Davis is now a principal, he still receives ongoing support from a mentor principal as part of the leadership program. This program embodies the recommendations of NASSP and the Coalition of Teaching Quality in that aspiring principals complete a one-year residency under the guidance of an accomplished school leader.

Every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, disability status, income, or zip code, deserves great teachers and principals. With the release of these documents, the CTQ has laid out a vision of how to achieve this lofty goal. NASSP is a proud member of CTQ and will continue to advocate to ensure that all children have access to excellent educators.

 

NASSP Urges the FCC to Increase Funding for E-Rate Program

On September 29, 2014, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

In an effort to ensure that more schools have access to high-speed broadband and wireless connections, NASSP has submitted comments in response to a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the E-Rate program that was issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on July 23. NASSP also signed on to comments submitted by the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC), a group comprised of the leading public and private education associations and the American Library Association that was formed to promote and improve the E-Rate program to fulfill its mission of accelerating the deployment of advanced telecommunications and information services in schools and libraries.

Our individual and coalition comments both urge the FCC to immediately and permanently increase the E-Rate program’s annual funding level. For years, we have argued that the program requires additional funding to upgrade these basic Internet connections to broadband. Without the ability to access greater bandwidth speeds in classrooms, our nation’s students would be hamstrung in their efforts to use of digital textbooks, participate in online and distance learning courses, and take online assessments. In addition, we have consistently maintained that the E-Rate’s annual funding cap, essentially unchanged from its inception, is grossly inadequate to fund the bandwidth increases so many schools require with the growing use of laptops and digital devices.

Experts in the field suggest that the $1 billion annually (or $5 billion over five years) the FCC has committed for the E-Rate program is simply inadequate for WiFi build out and sustainability costs. The CoSN/Education Superhighway study of public school costs for internal connections “suggests that once all schools and libraries have been upgraded, it will cost approximately $2.2 billion per year ($1.6 billion in E-Rate subsidies) to maintain these networks and upgrade them periodically to list latest standards. Funds for Learning also notes that school districts with more than 20% of their students eligible for the National School Lunch Program may not see even a dime of E-Rate funding for internal connections by 2020.

NASSP believes that technology can increase equity and access to educational opportunities for all students and enhance the impact and reach of great teaching in schools. But we know that teachers and students will only use those tools if they can rely on the connectivity of their broadband network and Wi-Fi capacity. For this reason, we will continue to advocate for a robust E-Rate program and encourage the FCC to permanently raise the funding cap.

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Once considered an add-on program, career and technical education (CTE) continues to raise its profile in mainstream education. And now, CTE is being recognized as a method for building core skills.

A Hill briefing last Wednesday focused on the crucial, yet rarely recognized, connection between literacy and CTE. Held by the Advocates for Literacy (of which NASSP is a leading member) and the Senate CTE Caucus, this event marks an important step in the CTE movement—underscoring that CTE success requires student literacy skills, which can be advanced in the context of high-quality CTE programs.

No one can address this topic with greater authority than 2014 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year Dr. Sheila Harrity, who presented her school’s success in programming that combines traditional high school academics with CTE curriculum.

Principal at Worcester Technical High School (MA), Dr. Harrity explained that the school’s engaging career and technical curriculum builds students’ interest in school, especially those considered at-risk. With her school’s successful CTE programs, Dr. Harrity noted that students with low levels of literacy and academic achievement have seen significant gains when confronted with schoolwork that piques their interests and has visible, real-world application.

Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) offered remarks at the briefing. Senator Kaine, clearly passionate about the topic, noted that the Senate CTE Caucus’ goal is to de-stigmatize CTE and even make it “really hot, sexy, and cool.” Kaine, who earlier in the day introduced legislation to pilot CTE programs in middle school, added, “Technical education is coming back strong and it’s something we can celebrate.”

Click here to learn more about Senator Kaine’s Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act.

In an important step to improve college and career readiness among middle level students, today Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)—co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus—introduced the Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act. Cosponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Mark Warner (D-VA), the bill has received several endorsements from national education organizations—including strong support from NASSP.

This legislation would greatly benefit middle level students by presenting them with CTE programs to foster their college and career development—giving them a leg up on their future. Middle schools would partner with postsecondary institutions and local businesses to create opportunities such as apprenticeships and project-based learning, which are usually reserved for high school or postsecondary programs.

“The Middle STEP Act will expose students to a wide range of career choices through hands-on learning so they will be more informed about future paths and what they can do in high school to pursue them,” said Kaine. “Middle school is an important time for students to explore their own strengths, likes, and dislikes, and CTE exploration programs are great tools to educate them about the type of coursework or training that goes into a career field that matches their interests.”

The Middle STEP program would also provide students with academic counseling to develop a plan for how their high school endeavors will prepare them for a future in high-demand 21st century jobs.

NASSP knows that the middle school years are a crucial time to engage students in a rigorous curriculum that will help them transition into high school and be successful in postsecondary education or careers. In fact, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education, students participating in CTE programs have graduation rates of more than 90%, and we should ensure that more students across the country have access to quality CTE programs.

Click here to read Sen. Kaine’s press release and learn more about the Middle STEP Act.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan affirmed his support for a delay in using new test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a key recommendation proposed by NASSP in May. States and districts were also asked to evaluate the number of tests being given to students and how educators could access assessment data to improve teaching and learning.

“We encouraged states to move a whole lot of changes simultaneously,” wrote Duncan in a blog post on ed.gov. “But in how this change happens, we need to listen carefully to the teachers, principals and other educators who are living it on a daily basis.”

States that request the new flexibility would push back until 2015-2016 the time when student growth measures based on new state assessments become part of the educator evaluation systems.

The policy brief on college and career ready standards (CCRS) adopted by the NASSP Board of Directors in May called for federal policymakers to delay for two years the use of new assessment results for high-stakes accountability purposes. A two-year transition period will allow for sufficient experience will a fully validated and implemented assessment system consisting of pre-assessments, performance-based assessments, and summative assessments all accompanied by meaningful and timely feedback to teachers and schools.

The success of the new college and career ready standards depends on purposeful and well-supported efforts. Those efforts set reasonable expectations for educators and build their capacity to implement the standards. Policymakers at all levels have a role in promoting those efforts.

“Strong school leadership is pivotal to creating a culture of high expectations for each student,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, Executive Director of NASSP, which continues to support high common standards across states. “But principals across the nation report concerns about the implementation of the new standards in their states and the inadequate training they have received to help them ensure that their teachers are able to change instructional practices.”

Titled Policy Recommendations for College and Career Ready Standards in Secondary Schools, the brief includes specific recommendations for policymakers at federal, state, and district levels. They include the abandonment of punitive provisions under the No Child Left Behind Act, delaying consequences for test results for a reasonable transition period, building a solid infrastructure for online testing, and adopting 5- to 10-year plans for complete implementation.

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To fulfill President Obama’s goal under the ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of the nation’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and wireless in four years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an E-Rate modernization order on July 11, 2014, that directs at least $1 billion in support for Wi-Fi for FY 2015 and FY 2016. The order also begins a multi-year transition of all program funding to broadband by gradually phasing down support for non-broadband services. The order also seeks to maximize E-Rate spending by incentivizing consortia and bulk purchasing and streamlining the application process. The new E-Rate rules will be in place in time to support Wi-Fi upgrades beginning in the 2015−2016 school year.

The order, approved on a party-line vote by the FCC, was seen as a huge advocacy success for NASSP and our partners in the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC) who were apprehensive about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s draft proposal that was circulated in June. Though the proposal aimed to “close the Wi-Fi gap, make E-Rate dollars go farther, and bring E-Rate into the 21st century,” our coalition expressed concern that the proposal fell short and did not provide a plan for sustained funding and support.

A letter backed by more than a dozen groups, including NASSP, expressed concerns on the ability of the FCC to pay for its $5 billion, five-year plan to invest in internal Wi-Fi without a permanent increase to the program’s $2.4 billion funding cap, which was not included in Wheeler’s draft proposal. Though the FCC had repurposed $2 billion in existing funds to prioritize broadband, our organizations were doubtful that an additional $3 billion would appear in funding. NASSP staff also attended meetings with FCC officials in June to convey these concerns in person.

Following the order, the FCC released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the E-Rate program on July 23 that seeks comments on:

  • Ensuring affordable access to high-speed broadband sufficient to support digital learning in schools and robust connectivity for all libraries
  • Maximizing the cost-effectiveness of spending for E-Rate supported purchases
  • Making the E-Rate application process and other E-Rate processes fast, simple, and efficient

NASSP believes that technology can increase equity and access to educational opportunities for all students and enhance the impact and reach of great teaching in schools. But we know that teachers and students will only use those tools if they can rely on the connectivity of their broadband network and Wi-Fi capacity. For this reason, we will continue to advocate for a robust E-Rate program and encourage the FCC to permanently raise the funding cap.

NASSP will be submitting joint comments with EdLiNC to the FCC and individual comments on behalf of our members before the deadline on September 15, 2014. Principals are also encouraged to send comments directly to the FCC.

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