By John Fensterwald
Four years ago, eight California schools districts that banded together in a nonprofit organization called CORE received federal permission under the No Child Left Behind Act to create their own school accountability system. Now the districts want the state’s permission to continue their experimentation with measurements of student growth, school climate and high school readiness. And CORE wants to let potentially dozens of other California districts participate in their work.
That may not happen, at least not anytime soon. In a letter last month, Karen Stapf Walters, the executive director of the State Board of Education, was skeptical of granting CORE’s request for special status as an “Innovation Zone” under the state’s accountability plan and called the idea “premature.” As a result, there is no plan to place CORE’s proposal on the agenda of the July meeting of the state board.
Source: State officials cool to school districts’ request to become ‘Innovation Zone’ | EdSource
By Carolyn Jones
Schools that offer dental care, mental health counseling, food assistance and other services have a significant and measurable positive impact on student achievement, according to research released this week by the Learning Policy Institute and the National Education Policy Center.
The 26-page brief, “Community Schools: An Evidence-based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement,” found that schools that collaborate with nonprofits and government agencies to provide extra on-campus services in many cases showed increases in attendance, graduation rates and academic achievement, especially in math and reading.
Source: Students perform better at schools offering extra services on campus, study finds | EdSource
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
By Andrew Ujifusa
Federal lawmakers have agreed to relatively small spending increases for Title I programs to districts and for special education, as part of a budget deal covering the rest of fiscal 2017 through the end of September.
Title I spending on disadvantaged students would rise by $100 million up to $15.5 billion from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2017, along with $450 million in new money that was already slated to be shifted over from the now-defunct School Improvement Grants program.
And state grants for special education would increase by $90 million up to $12 billion. However, Title II grants for teacher development would be cut by $294 million, down to about $2.1 billion for the rest of fiscal 2017.
The bill would also provide $400 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, also known as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Title IV is a block grant that districts can use for a wide range of programs, including health, safety, arts education, college readiness, and more.
Source: Budget Deal for 2017 Includes Increases for Title I, Special Education – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Alyson Klein
One of the big goals of the Every Student Succeeds Act was to give districts way more control over their federal funding, in part by creating a new block grant—aka the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants or Title IV. Under the law, districts can use the money for a whole smorgasboard of things: student safety, dual enrollment, dance instruction, training teachers to use technology, hiring school counselors.
And the funding—a whopping $1.6 billion—was supposed to flow to districts through a formula, meaning that pretty much every district in the country would get a piece of it. The districts would have serious latitude in deciding the dollars are spent.
It may not quite work out that way—at least not this year.
Lawmakers are seriously considering turning Title IV into a competitive-grant program at the state level, at least temporarily, sources say. In fact, multiple sources consider the possibility of a competitive-grant program more likely than not this year.
Source: States May Get to Run Competitions for ESSA Block Grant Money – Politics K-12 – 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
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
By Andrew Ujifusa
A measure to block the Obama administration’s regulations governing accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act was introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee.
Senate Joint Resolution 25, if it’s approved, would mean the end of regulations finalized late last year that govern state plans and issues ranging from testing opt-outs to school turnarounds. The House of Representatives approved a similar measure last month. In addition, not long after President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January, his administration paused these regulations.
If the Senate passes Alexander’s resolution and Trump gives the thumbs-up, the Obama-era rules for accountability and state plans would have no force, an alarming prospect for Democrats in Congress and civil rights advocates, who say these regulations include crucial protections for disadvantaged students. However, congressional Republicans and some school groups have supported the move, saying that state K-12 leaders and schools need more flexibility, and that the U.S. Department of Education can still provide nonregulatory guidance and technical assistance to states seeking more clarity or other help with accountability provisions of the law.
Source: Measure to Overturn ESSA Accountability Rules Introduced in Senate – Politics K-12 – Education Week
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
By Richard Bammer
California has the most diverse public school student population in the nation and it is increasingly “minority majority” in its enrollments.
Under components of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, the state’s 1,000 school districts must devise a plan of action to meet the educational needs for every student in California, where, according to data from the 2000 Census, 60 percent of state residents speak only English, while 40 percent speak another language (either instead of, or in addition to, English).
To that end, the Solano County Office of Education plans to launch a “cultural proficiency” program to better serve students in an increasingly diverse county, where, essentially, the world has arrived during the better part of the last half century.
Source: SCOE to sponsor ‘cultural proficiency’ program for educators – The Reporter
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
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
By Alyson Klein
The U.S. Department of Education Tuesday released a blueprint to help states and districts make the most of out of more than $2 billion in federal money for teacher support, preparation, training, and more.
The new federal guidance also walks states and districts through changes to this pot of money—known as Title II—under the brand new Every Student Succeeds Act. (More on the changes to teacher quality in ESSA here.)
The department recommends that states and districts use the funds to make sure that teachers are supported from the time they enter educator training programs, through their early years of teaching, and as they take on leadership positions, including the principalship.
Source: ESSA: Education Department Releases Guidance on Teachers – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By John Fensterwald
California’s top two education officials on Monday spelled out their complaints with proposed federal regulations that they said would conflict with and undermine the state’s new plan to help schools improve and hold them accountable for student achievement.
In a 10-page letter, State Board of Education President Michael Kirst and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson stated that the draft rules for the new federal education act, unless changed, “will derail the significant progress being made in our state towards creating a single, aligned system” that would meet both federal and state requirements. Without more flexibility than the rules allow, the state won’t be able to effectively shift from a school improvement system defined by standardized tests results to one that evaluates a broad range of factors, like school climate, that affect student achievement, they said.
The letter was one of a flurry of comments on the final day of a 60-day comment period for the federal regulations proposed under the new Every Student Succeeds Act. Although Kirst and Torklanson said they were writing on behalf of the state’s 6.2 million students, 14 California education advocacy groups also submitted a letter Monday that supported some of the provisions that Kirst and Torlakson criticized. They also blamed the state, not the new federal law or regulations, for not yet developing a unified accountability system.
Source: Top state education officials detail objections to federal regulations | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
Some states assign a single number or letter grade to rate a school. Some parents prefer that too. But California education leaders are proposing a very different system with a brightly colored report card as a way of explaining the achievement of every school and district. At its meeting Wednesday morning, the State Board of Education will look at the latest draft and discuss how to proceed with it. (You can watch the webcast, starting at 8:30 am, here.)
The board is facing a September deadline to adopt a new school and district improvement and accountability system, which will take effect in 2017-18. In place of the now suspended Academic Performance Index, which assigned a three-digit number to a school based on standardized test scores, the state will take a more comprehensive look at school life and academic progress. The change will parallel the shift in Washington from the No Child Left Behind Act to broader measures required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Source: How to decipher the state’s proposed school and district report cards | EdSource
By Alyson Klein
State K-12 leaders busily trying to transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act are beginning to worry that the U.S. Department of Education is bent on trying to enforce the previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act, Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers said in an interview Thursday.
The department, though, says that the two laws include many of the same requirements when it comes to test quality and equity. More on that below.
Minnich said states are trying to move toward testing and accountability systems that embrace the flexibilities of ESSA, which gives states much more leeway in both areas. They should be given some room to make those moves.
Source: States, Feds Clash on Transition From NCLB to ESSA – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Alyson Klein
For years, nearly 40 states plus the District of Columbia have used federal funding to help low-income students cover the cost of taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.
But, thanks to a big change to the program under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states and districts will need to think hard (and early) about whether—and how—to continue covering those costs.
Some background on how ESSA handles these tests: ESSA consolidated dozens of federal programs, including some that hadn’t been funded in years. One of the programs that had still been receiving federal funding when ESSA passed was the “Advanced Placement Test Fee Program,” which helps low-income students cover the cost of taking advanced exams. The program is currently receiving $28.5 million annually. But next year, it will be part of the brand new, larger Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.
Source: Will Low-Income Students Have a Harder Time Paying AP and IB Fees Under ESSA? – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Bev Perdue and Rob McKenna
The education community seems to agree that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act corrects many flaws of the No Child Left Behind Act, while preserving what worked and presenting huge opportunities to refocus the lens on student success. As our peers in states nationwide wait for ESSA’s provisions to become concrete regulations and turn their attention to implementing the law, we have some advice for them when it comes to collecting and using data: Don’t just simply follow the rules on this one.
Though we are state leaders from different political parties, we both strongly believe that education is every state’s most critical economic driver and our nation’s great equalizer. Moving forward, we know that the most successful state education policies will apply the education data we already have to serve the real needs of children and their families, and of our states’ employers and economies.
Source: Make Education Data Work for All Students | US News Opinion
By Alyson Klein
The Every Student Succeeds Act wasn’t just about accountability, testing, and standards. It also made some big changes for a long overlooked group of students: those in foster care.
We’ve already told you that the law calls for states to break out student-outcome data (i.e. test scores and graduation rates) for foster care students. That’s a big deal.
But it also seeks to help keep foster care students in their “school of origin” if the district and child welfare agencies think it will benefit the student.
The rationale is basically this: Foster care students are coping with a lot very significant change and turmoil, so f it would help them out academically—not to mention economically and socially—to have some stability in their school situation, they should get it.
Source: How Does the Every Student Succeeds Act Handle Foster Children? – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By John Fensterwald
The State Board of Education on Wednesday is planning to choose a handful of statewide metrics to measure student performance as part of its creation of a new school accountability system.
The board will approve the new system in September and begin using it in the fall of 2017. It will replace the Academic Performance Index, the single-number score, based solely on standardized test scores, that the board suspended two years ago. The board is also designing the new system to satisfy federal accountability requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
State board staff are recommending that the board initially choose five metrics to identify which schools and districts need assistance and which demand more intensive intervention.
Source: State board to choose school improvement metrics | EdSource