State board, advocacy groups fundamentally disagree over plan for complying with federal education law | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

After much talk and testimony at a nine-hour meeting, the State Board of Education made modest changes last week to its draft of the state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Board members are confident the plan will soon be ready to pass along to the federal government for approval. Members of a coalition of two dozen civil rights and student advocacy organizations said the changes will do little to improve a plan that’s still vague and weak.

“After months of feedback and engagement, the current plan still doesn’t address the core issues that we know are absolutely essential to support high-need students,” Samantha Tran, senior director of education programming for the nonprofit Children Now, wrote in an email. “The state seems to be abdicating an essential civil rights role, and it’s disheartening.”

Source: State board, advocacy groups fundamentally disagree over plan for complying with federal education law | EdSource

State board faces deadline, tough decisions on new federal law for improving schools | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

With only two meetings left before a mid-September deadline, the State Board of Education is feeling the heat to make progress on the state plan for the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Two of the unsettled issues the board will delve into this week are the criteria for choosing the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools needing assistance and a framework for a coherent system of oversight and assistance in a state with nearly 1,000 school districts and more than 10,000 schools.

In lengthy letters, civil rights and advocacy groups in particular criticized the school selection methodology as seriously flawed. They also called for more details on how assistance would work, who’d provide it and for clearer expectations and benchmarks of progress. A lot of changes are needed in the next 60 days, before submission to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to make a credible plan, they said.

Source: State board faces deadline, tough decisions on new federal law for improving schools | EdSource

18 states sue DeVos for delaying for-profit college rules – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Democratic attorneys general from 18 states, including California, and the District of Columbia sued U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Thursday over her decision to suspend rules that were meant to protect students from abuse by for-profit colleges.

Filed in federal court in Washington, the lawsuit says DeVos violated rule-making laws when she announced a June 14 decision to delay so-called “borrower defense to repayment” rules, which were finalized under President Barack Obama and scheduled to take effect July 1.

In her announcement saying the rules would be delayed and rewritten, DeVos said they created “a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools.”

Source: 18 states sue DeVos for delaying for-profit college rules

Trump Administration Takes on Obama’s Education Law – New America Media

By Freddie Allen

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to make misleading statements about Common Core State Standards, muddying the waters for school districts working to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law on December 10, 2015, reauthorizing the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). According to the U.S. Department of Education, ESSA includes provisions designed to advance equity in education by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students; requires that all students in America be to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers; helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators; ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards; and sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool.

Source: Trump Administration Takes on Obama’s Education Law – New America Media

California would lose $400 million in federal K-12 education funding under Trump budget | EdSource

By Mikhail Zinshteyn

Programs run by the U.S. Department of Education, which distributes funding for numerous programs to all states, would be cut by $9 billion under the Trump administration’s proposed federal budget for the fiscal year beginning in October.

California’s K-12 federal allocation would shrink from the 2016-17 level of approximately $4 billion to $3.64 billion in 2017-18.

Presidential budgets typically serve as wish lists, and it is far from clear what parts of the document released Tuesday will be enacted by Congress. But the document provides important insights into President Donald Trump’s education agenda, and where his priorities lie.

Source: California would lose $400 million in federal K-12 education funding under Trump budget | EdSource

Here’s What You Should Know About That Voucher Bill From Rep. Steve King – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

Although he’s made headlines recently for controversial comments not directly about schools, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa has also made waves for introducing a bill that would dramatically reshape K-12 and education policy. That’s House Resolution 610, and it would create federally backed vouchers for students.

We wrote about the bill earlier this year. The Choices in Education Act of 2017, the in-plain-English name of the bill, would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main K-12 law, of which the Every Student Succeeds Act is the latest version. It would create vouchers funded by Washington for parents to use at private schools if they chose to do so, or to use for home schooling their child. Under King’s legislation, the federal government would fund those vouchers through creating block grants for states.

“As the spouse of a former Iowa teacher, I understand that it’s the right thing for our children to take their education decision[s] out of the hands of the federal government and put it back in the hands of parents who know how best to meet the educational needs of their students,” King said in a statement last year about a similar bill he introduced in 2016.

Source: Here’s What You Should Know About That Voucher Bill From Rep. Steve King – Politics K-12 – Education Week

New Trump Executive Order Could Lead to a Smaller Education Department – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for education could lead to significant cuts to staff and various programs, sources have told us. But it’s not the only action on the president’s agenda that could shrink the U.S. Department of Education.

On Monday, Trump released a new executive order that directs each agency leader to submit “recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions” to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. The recommendations, which agency head must submit to Mulvaney within 180 days, must consider the following factors, according to the text of the order:

Source: New Trump Executive Order Could Lead to a Smaller Education Department – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Buckingham High among finalists for Gold Ribbon designation – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Buckingham Charter Magnet High is among six Solano County secondary schools to make finalist status this year in the state’s Gold Ribbon Schools Award program, it has been announced.

The Department of Education reported that 1,008 California secondary schools, including 13 in Solano County, were eligible to apply for the program that recognizes middle schools and high schools for having exemplary programs and practices. (Elementary and secondary schools are recognized in alternating years.)

To qualify for the program’s final phase, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria, including state and federal accountability measures.

Source: Buckingham High among finalists for Gold Ribbon designation

What Happens to Education Spending if the Budget Stays in a Holding Pattern – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

Right now, the federal budget is flying in circles. It’s operating on a “continuing resolution” through April 28 that essentially holds fiscal year 2017 spending levels at their fiscal 2016 amounts. Trump recently released a very broad outline of his spending priorities for fiscal 2018 that includes a $54 billion cut from domestic agencies—fiscal 2018 starts in October—although we still don’t know how that 10 percent cut in non-defense discretionary spending would specifically impact the U.S. Department of Education.

But where does that leave fiscal 2017 in terms of education spending? And what happens if Congress decides to apply that continuing resolution to the rest of fiscal 2017 through September? With each passing day, that looks increasingly likely.

Below, we examine how a few programs in the Every Students Succeeds Act would be affected if Congress approves a continuing resolution for the rest of the fiscal 2017.

Source: What Happens to Education Spending if the Budget Stays in a Holding Pattern – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Benicia Unified ranked as one of 100 best districts in state – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Benicia Unified School District was ranked as one of the 100 best school districts in California, according to ranking site Niche.com.

Niche– formerly known as College Prowler– is a company that publishes rankings and reviews of K-12 schools, colleges and neighborhoods. Its 2017 list of the best school districts is based on analysis of statistics and reviews from parents and students utilizing data from the U.S. Department of Education. School districts are ranked using a variety of factors, including state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT and ACT scores, the quality of teachers and public school district ratings.

Benicia Unified clocked in at No. 95 on the list with an overall grade of B-plus. The district received an A grade in culture and diversity (based on racial and economic diversity as well as survey responses on school culture and diversity from students and parents), A-minus grades for academics and teachers, and a B-minus grade for health and safety. However, the district also received grades in the C range for sports, clubs and activities, and resources and facilities.Nonetheless, Benicia Unified ranked higher than any other district in Solano County– and was the only one to rank in the top 100– and was ranked No. 21 among districts in the Bay Area.

Source: Benicia Unified ranked as one of 100 best districts in state

State, local leaders appear willing to work with DeVos – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

In the wake of Tuesday’s Senate confirmation of billionaire Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, state and Vacaville-area public education officials, while not expressing surprise over the historic tie vote broken by Vice President Mike Pence, seemed somewhat apolitical at the development, noting California and their respective school districts will continue their mission of doing what’s best for K-12 students no matter who leads the federal agency.

“We look forward to working with the new secretary of education,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in an email to The Reporter without no further elaboration on the elevation of DeVos.

Source: State, local leaders appear willing to work with DeVos

DeVos confirmed as Education secretary as Pence breaks tie – Times Herald

By Maria Danilova, Associate Press

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as Education secretary by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote.

Two Republicans joined Democrats in the unsuccessful effort to derail the nomination of the wealthy Republican donor. The Senate historian said Pence’s vote was the first by a vice president to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination.

Democrats cited her lack of public school experience and financial interests in organizations pushing charter schools. DeVos has said she would divest herself from those organizations.

Source: DeVos confirmed as Education secretary as Pence breaks tie

California will administer new pilot science test despite U.S. Department of Education ruling | EdSource

By Pat Maio

In less than two months, California will begin giving public school students a pilot version of an online test based on new science standards – one of the first states to do so in the United States.

About 17 states are in various stages of rolling out assessments based on the new Next Generation Science Standards, which emerged after educational leaders nationwide met in 2010 and pushed for rewriting a science curriculum that had not been changed since the late 1990s. Yet none of those states have progressed as far as California in developing a pilot version based on the standards that California will administer to students in the 5th, 8th and 10th grade.

However, when some districts begin administering the online pilot tests on March 20, California will effectively be in violation of a ruling issued by the U.S. Department of Education two days before President Barack Obama left office. That ruling rejected the state’s request to waive having to administer the outdated paper and pencil California Standards Tests in science, which are based on the old standards introduced in 1998.

Source: California will administer new pilot science test despite U.S. Department of Education ruling | EdSource

What Does Trump’s Hiring Freeze Mean for the Education Department? – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

President Donald Trump this week signed an executive order freezing hiring at many federal agencies, with the exception of military and public safety employees. So how might that effect the U.S. Department of Education’s work?

For one thing, it could mean longer hours for some of the department’s career staff and slower responses to department inquiries, said Zollie Stevenson, who served as a career staffer in the department under three presidents, including as the director of student achievement and school accountability programs.

“Existing staff in departments often have more work to do and often have to work longer,” said Stevenson, who is now the acting vice president for academic affairs at Philander Smith College, in Little Rock, Ark. “Sometimes the timeline for response to inquiries and program requests can slow down during hiring freezes in areas with lots of customers.”

Source: What Does Trump’s Hiring Freeze Mean for the Education Department? – Politics K-12 – Education Week

U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans | EdSource

By Pat Maio

With two days remaining before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the U.S. Department of Education has rejected California’s request to begin administering online tests this spring based on new science standards, in lieu of a test based on standards established in 1998.

The state’s final administrative appeal following a six-months-long battle over science testing in California was denied Wednesday in a Jan. 18 letter sent by Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

Whalen wrote that she made her ruling based on concerns about the lack of transparency of science testing data during California’s transition from online pilot testing to fully operational tests set for the 2018-19 school year.

Source: U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans | EdSource

Federal government insists again that California administer old science tests | EdSource

By Louis Freedberg

The U.S. Department of Education has once again rejected California’s bid to begin phasing in tests this spring based on new science standards, in lieu of current tests based on standards in place since 1998.

In a letter sent Tuesday to state education leaders, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., said that California would have to continue to administer the old tests. She said the pilot tests based on the Next Generation Science Standards adopted by California in 2013 would not “measure the full depth and breadth of the state’s academic content in science.”

It is not clear what will happen after Jan. 20 when President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated, and whether his administration will also insist that California administer the old tests.

Source: Federal government insists again that California administer old science tests | EdSource

Education Dept. Expands Ambassador Program to School Counselors – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

School counselors will soon be able to apply for the U.S. Department of Education’s School Ambassador fellowships, the department announced on Friday.

The ambassador program seeks to connect those working in schools with their peers, and promote their views with respect to public policy. The program already includes the Teacher Ambassador Fellows, which is in its 10th year, and the Principal Ambassador Fellows, which is in its third year. The former is intended to “create a community of teacher leaders” and help involve teachers in policymaking that impacts the classroom, and the latter is designed to help improve the recruitment and retention of principals, among other things. The newest round of Principal Ambassador Fellows was announced in August.

Source: Education Dept. Expands Ambassador Program to School Counselors – Politics K-12 – Education Week

California high school graduation rates close in on national average | EdSource

By Louis Freedberg

California lags slightly behind the national average in high school graduation rates, but has increased more substantially over the last five years than the national average, according to figures for 50 states released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education.

President Barack Obama touted improving graduation figures at a speech at a Washington D.C. high school Monday morning as part of an effort by his administration to showcase the progress officials say has occurred during Obama’s eight years in office.

The figures show that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the average graduation rate nationwide, based on graduation rates reported by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, increased to 83.2 percent, compared to 82 percent in California.

Source: California high school graduation rates close in on national average | EdSource

Duel between California and Obama administration over education continues | EdSource

by Louis Freedberg

The long-running battle between California and the federal government over the direction of state education policy continues, despite passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law that delegates far more decision-making powers to local school districts than its much-maligned predecessor, the No Child Left Behind law.

In an unexpected response two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education rejected California’s application for a federal waiver from having to administer the California Standards Tests in science, a multiple choice test based on outdated science standards adopted nearly two decades ago.

What makes the latest run-in with the administration so head-scratching is that it comes in the waning months of the Obama administration — over a relatively small piece of a student’s standardized testing regimen, at least compared to the Smarter Balanced math and English tests aligned with the Common Core standards.

Under the No Child Left Behind law, as well as the Every Student Succeeds Act replacing it, states are required to administer a science test each year to 5th- and 8th-graders, and once to high school students, and to report the scores on those tests.

Source: Duel between California and Obama administration over education continues | EdSource

33 California Schools Selected As National Blue Ribbon Winners – Dixon Patch

By Renee Schiavone

More than two dozen private and public schools from across California have been named among 2016’s National Blue Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday.

In total, 33 institutions from the state were selected for the honor this year. Nationwide, 329 public and private elementary, middle and high schools were selected based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps, the Department of Education said.

Of the 329 schools selected, 279 are public and 50 are private. In California, four of the 33 winners are private schools.

Source: 33 California Schools Selected As National Blue Ribbon Winners