E-Update for April 9, 2014

E-Update for April 9, 2014

E-Update for April 9, 2014


President Obama announced on April 7 that 24 winners will split $107 million as part of the Youth Career Connect high school redesign competition. The program aims to integrate work skills and real-world experiences into the classroom.   Winners of the largest grants of $7 million each include New York City, Denver, Los Angeles, Pike Township in Indianapolis, Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Laurens County school district in Clinton, S.C.   The 24 winners beat out 275 other applicants for the Department of Labor funded competition. Each winning application includes at least one local high school and a district, a local workforce investment system entity, an employer, and an institution of higher education.  In addition, winners have to secure matching private funds of at least 25 percent.


There will be a full Senate HELP committee hearing on “Expanding Access to Quality Early Learning: the Strong Start for America’s Children Act” on Thursday, April 10, 2014, 10:00AM, in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Witnesses include: John E. Pepper Jr. (Retired Chairman and CEO of The Proctor & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH), The Honorable Angel Taveras (Mayor of Providence, Providence, RI), Dr. W. Steven Barnett (Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, New Brunswick, NJ), and Dr. Grover “Russ” Whitehurst (Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C).

New Legislation

H.R.10 : Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act
Sponsor: Rep Kline, John [MN-2] (introduced 4/1/2014)  Cosponsors (11)

H.R.4294 : Children First Act of 2014
Sponsor: Rep Crowley, Joseph [NY-14] (introduced 3/25/2014)  Cosponsors (None)

H.R.4348 : Transferring Credits for College Completion Act of 2014
Sponsor:Rep Miller, George [CA-11] (introduced 4/1/2014) Cosponsors (6)

H.R.4348: To increase transparency and reduce students’ burdens related to transferring credits between institutions of higher education.
Sponsor: Rep Miller, George [CA-11] (introduced 4/1/2014) Cosponsors  (5)

H.R.4366 : To strengthen the Federal education research system to make research and evaluations more timely and relevant to State and local needs in order to increase student achievement.
Sponsor: Rep Rokita, Todd [IN-4] (introduced 4/2/2014)  Cosponsors (4)

H.R.4373 : To improve the Federal Pell Grant program, and for other purposes.
Sponsor:Rep Hinojosa, Ruben [TX-15] (introduced 4/2/2014)  Cosponsors (19)

S.2164 : Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2014
Sponsor: Sen Murray, Patty [WA] (introduced 3/27/2014) Cosponsors (7)

S.2167 : Computer Science Career Education Act of 2014
Sponsor: Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] (introduced 3/27/2014) Cosponsors (None)

S.2173 : CHOICE Act
Sponsor: Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] (introduced 3/27/2014)  Cosponsors (4)

S.2194 : A bill to improve the Federal Pell Grant program, and for other purposes.
Sponsor:Sen Hirono, Mazie K. [HI] (introduced 4/1/2014) Cosponsors (3)

S.2204 : A bill to establish the Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Committee.
Sponsor:Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] (introduced 4/3/2014) Cosponsors (2)

S.RES.405 : A resolution expressing support for the designation of the week of March 31 through April 4, 2014, as “National Assistant Principals Week”.
Sponsor:Sen Murray, Patty [WA] (introduced 3/31/2014) Cosponsors (4)

U.S Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education Announces Awards to Five States to Continue Efforts to Turn Around Lowest-Performing Schools: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on April 1 that five states will receive more than $85 million to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools through awards from the Department’s School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. The following states are receiving awards: Alaska, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

April 1, 2014

U.S. Departments of Education and Health & Human Services Announce Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!: The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the launch of Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!, a collaborative effort with federal partners to encourage developmental and behavioral screening for children to support the families and providers who care for them.  This initiative encourages early childhood experts—including practitioners in early care and education, primary health care, early intervention, child welfare and mental health—to work together with children and their families. Early screenings check developmental progress and can uncover potential developmental delays. If a child’s screening result shows risk, families and providers will be in a better position to pursue more in-depth evaluation, which is the first step toward getting help for a child who might need it.

March 27, 2014

Expansive Survey of America’s Public Schools Reveals Troubling Racial Disparities:The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the first comprehensive look at civil rights data from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years.  This is the first time since 2000 that the Department has compiled data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools and its 16,500 school districts—representing 49 million students. And for the first time ever, state-, district- and school-level information is accessible to the public in a searchable online database at crdc.ed.gov.  Among the key findings:

  • Access to preschool. About 40% of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.
  • Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of students suspended once, and 48% of the students suspended more than once.
  • Access to advanced courses. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Asian-American high school students and 71% of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high school. Black students (57%), Latino students (67%), students with disabilities (63%), and English language learner students (65%) also have less access to the full range of courses.
  • Access to college counselors. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor; in Florida and Minnesota, more than two in five students lack access to a school counselor.
  • Retention of English learners in high school. English learners make up 5% of high school enrollment but 11% of high school students held back each year.

March 21, 2014

States Continue Progress During Third Year of Race to the Top:On March 19, USED released the year three Race to the Top state progress reports for the District of Columbia and the 11 states that received grants in the first two rounds of the program: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee. These reports capture the highlights and obstacles that the states saw over the course of the 2012-13 school year.  States reached a number of benchmarks in year three, as they began to put reforms into action in classrooms. As we near the four year anniversary of Race to the Top, states are implementing their unique plans, built around four assurance areas: implementing college- and career-ready standards and assessments, building robust data systems to improve instruction, supporting great teachers and school leaders, and turning around persistently low-performing schools. Some states made strategic investments to develop tools and resources for educators, students and parents; launch state-level support networks; or develop additional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) schools or programs. Others launched new pipelines for teachers and leaders, supported key efforts to turn around low-performing schools, or implemented teacher and principal evaluations to better support educators and inform continuous improvement.  For more information about the Race to the Top program, and to review the 12 state-specific year two reports and APR data, visit: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html.

March 19, 2014

U.S. Department of Education Announces Start of 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Competition: USED announced the start of the $134 million 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition on March 14th with the release of the program’s invitation for pre-applications for the i3 “Development” grants (up to $3,000,000 each).  In its fifth round of competition, the i3 program continues to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare every student to succeed in college and in their careers. The i3 program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation, and Scale-up. The Department plans to announce applications for the Validation and Scale-up categories this spring.  The deadline for the pre-application is April 14, 2014. Following the peer review process, the Department will announce a list of the highly rated pre-applications. These pre-applicants will then be invited to apply for the Development competition and given additional time to complete their full application. To learn more about the i3 grant program and the pre-application process, please visit the i3 site: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/innovation/index.html.

March 18, 2014

Congressional Headlines

Durbin, Harkin, Cummings: More Coordination Needed in Federal Oversight of For-Profit College Industry:Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will introduce legislation on April 3 that aims to strengthen for-profit college oversight. The bill would create an interagency committee to coordinate oversight of for-profits. It would create a report on the for-profit industry and a warning list of schools engaged in illegal activities. Durbin said in a statement that he thinks the government has started to “turn the corner” when it comes to holding for-profits accountable. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) will introduce a companion bill in the House.

April 3, 2014

Committee Leaders Introduce the Strengthening Education through Research Act: On April 2, Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Ranking Member Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366), legislation that will reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act and make it easier for states and school districts to access timely information on successful education practices.  The Strengthening Education through Research Act:

o    Enhances the relevancy of education research at the state and local levels, helping teachers, students, parents, and policymakers access more useful information about successful education practices.

o    Streamlines the federal education research system, preventing overlap, redundancy, and duplication of research efforts.

o    Improves accountability and protects the taxpayers’ investment by requiring regular evaluations of research and education programs.

o    Preserves and enhances focus on research regarding educational equity and closing achievement gaps.

o    Strengthens privacy provisions to ensure personally identifiable information collected by IES is secure and protected.

o     Maintains the autonomy of IES, the National Assessment Governing Board, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (also known as the Nation’s Report Card) to shield these entities from political influence and bias.

April 2, 2014

Sens. Hirono, Reed, Whitehouse and Rep. Hinojosa introduce bill to expand Pell Grants: Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a bill on April 1 that would make the Pell Grant a mandatory spending program like Social Security. S. 2194 would also restore year-round Pell Grants so students finish their degrees faster. The bill, supported by 23 organizations, would enable students to continue taking classes in the summer or winter and ensure that Pell Grants keep up with increases in cost of living.  The Pell Grant Protection Act will:

  1. Convert the Federal Pell Grant to a mandatory (automatic) spending program with an inflation adjustment, like Social Security
  2. Restore an updated, streamlined version of Year-Round Pell Grants

April 1, 2014

Miller, House Democrats Reintroduce Legislation to Save College Students’ Time and Money When They Transfer Between Schools: Rep. Miller and House Democrats reintroduced legislation on April 1 to save college students’ time and money when they transfer between schools.  The Transferring Credits for College Completion Act of 2014 (H.R. 4348) aims to ease the process of transferring within a state’s public colleges and universities-including for community college students seeking to move on to four-year institutions-by allowing students to maintain many of the credits  they have already earned.  The legislation will require that all institutions participating in federal student aid programs report on graduation rates of transfer students. Additionally,  it requires that by 2017, all public institutions participating in federal student aid programs establish common, statewide transfer agreements that:

o    Provide for a minimum 30-credit common general education curriculum across all public institutions within the state, with common course numbering;  and

o    Guarantee that an associate degree fulfills the first two years of a related program at any public four-year institution within the state, allowing  community college students to transfer with junior standing.

April 1, 2014

Kline, Miller Introduce Legislation to Support Quality Charter Schools: On March 31, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee, and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee, introduced Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 10), legislation to encourage the growth and expansion of quality charter schools.  Rep. Kline announced the legislation during a trip back to his home state of Minnesota, where he toured two charter schools.  The charter school bill is likely to look similar to a bill that passed the House by a huge bipartisan margin of 365-54 back in 2011.  The major difference in this new version could be a greater emphasis on ensuring that federal funding goes to charter management organizations (such as KIPP or Aspire).  Though the Senate never acted on the 2011 bill, Rep. Kline said in an interview back in his home district that he is optimistic for its chances this time around.  The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act:

  • Improves the Charter School Program by authorizing the replication and expansion of successful charter models;
  • Promotes state efforts to develop, expand, and authorize high-quality charter schools;
  • Supports the sharing of best practices between charters and traditional public schools; and
  • Encourages charter schools to reach out to special populations, including at-risk students, students with disabilities, and English learners.

March 31, 2014

Kline Seeks to Make Special Education Funding a Priority:  Chairman Kline (R-MN) the stated that he will be pouring new energy into bolstering funding for special education.  This is not a new issue for Rep. Kline, who has criticized President Obama in the past for neglecting to increase formula grants, such as special education funding, while boosting competitive grants, such as Race to the Top.  Earlier this year, Rep. Kline was one of more than 130 lawmakers to sign onto a letter asking President Obama to boost funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in his most recent budget request.

March 24, 2014

National and State Headlines

South Carolina Withdrawing From Smarter Balanced Testing Consortium: South Carolina has announced plans to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two consortia developing tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  In an April 3 letter to school districts in the state, Deputy Superintendent Nancy Busbee announced that South Carolina will be leaving Smarter Balanced, and that the move “will allow South Carolina to also consider other assessments that best meet the needs of our state.”  Busbee said that the immediate impact will be that districts can now suspend the field-testing of Smarter Balanced assessments taking place in the state. She also indicated that the move will allow the state to get a head start on picking new assessments.  The pending move brings the total number of states not belonging to either Smarter Balanced or PARCC from 12 to 13. With South Carolina’s withdrawal, Smarter Balanced’s membership total drops from 23 to 22.

April 4, 2014

Bill Challenging Common Core Rejected by Louisiana Lawmakers:  Although many states have considered bills challenging the common core this year, Oklahoma could become just the second to nullify its Common Core adoption (with Indiana being the first and only thus far).  That legislation is relatively close to reaching the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin, a Common Core supporter.  A similar push against the standards in Louisiana was stopped on April 2, even though the effort had the support of fellow Gov. Bobby Jindal.  Lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted 12-7 against House Bill 381, which would have required the state to assemble a panel of various officials to adopt a new set of standards, replacing the state’s decision to adopt the Common Core back in 2010.  Not unlike the Oklahoma legislation and the new Indiana law, the Louisiana bill would not have outright banned the implementation of the Common Core. Although it would have required the state to initially revert to its pre-Common Core standards before the consideration and adoption of its new standards, in theory, nothing would have prevented the state from eventually readopting large portions of the common core itself.  The legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Brett Geymann, said that he introduced the bill because many Louisianans felt like they did not “have a seat at the table” when the standards were being developed.

April 2, 2014

Indiana Gov. Pence Voids 2010 Adoption of Common Core State Standards:Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced on Monday, March 24 that he has signed state legislation that voids the state Board of Education’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards back in 2010. That legislation, Senate Bill 91, is perhaps the most public and persistent voice against the standards in the Hoosier State. Indiana is in the process of drafting and reviewing new standards in English/language arts and math to “replace” the Common Core. These new standards will be a combination of the Common Core, as well as previous content standards that the state has developed and used in classrooms.

March 24, 2014

Waiver States Continue to Struggle With Turnarounds: USED released nine monitoring reports on March 21, examining how states are doing with implementation of flexibility from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act.  Overall, states—including those that won multimillion Race to the Top grants—continue to struggle with turning around their lowest-performing schools, and even with ensuring that their highest-performing or “reward” schools get their due.  Here are some specifics from the reports:

  • Arizona, which is in danger of losing its waiver because of issues with its teacher evaluation system, is also falling down when it comes to supporting “priority” (the lowest performing) and “focus” (other struggling) schools.
  • Race to the Top winners, including the District of Columbia, Ohio, and Rhode Island, are foundering when it comes to assisting with turnarounds. Rhode Island has also asked for changes to its teacher evaluation system that are currently under review at the department.
  • North Carolina is effectively implementing every area of its waiver.
  • New Mexico, one of the first states to get a waiver, is doing well when it comes to implementing new standards, but it is having difficult with both turnarounds and teacher evaluation. Its principal evaluation system is proceeding apace, however.
  • Wisconsin must update the assessment portion of its waiver request to align with recent changes in its assessment system. And like other states, it is having difficulty supporting priority schools.

March 24, 2014

Florida Picks Common Core Test From AIR, Not PARCC:Florida will not be using the Common Core exam developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing consortium. Instead, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart has selected an assessment developed by the American Institutes for Research as its new state test.  The new assessment from the Washington-based nonprofit research group will replace the state’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) that the state has used for accountability purposes for several years.

March 17, 2014


New America Foundation: Time to Improve: How Federal Policy Can Promote Better Prepared Teachers and School Leaders: When it rewrites the federal policies governing teacher preparation, Congress should require the states to include outcomes-based measures of program quality, concludes a recent policy brief from the New American Foundation.  There’s a general sense that, with the exception of the information generated on teacher-licensing tests, the data currently generated from the HEA aren’t particularly helpful. The federal program designations, for instance, do not have any consequences unless a state also withdraws its own approval of the program—an entirely separate process. The authors put forth their vision of a more useful data collection and accountability system. It is clearly based on the ideas generated during a failed 2012 attempt by the U.S. Department of Education to write new federal teacher-training rules with the field. Among other things, the New America Foundation brief says colleges should:

  • Report on graduates’ performance using surveys and other outcome data, for both teacher- and principal-preparation programs;
  • Be required to break down performance data by program, not just by the institution;
  • By 2019-20, develop a system for rating teacher- and principal-program quality in at least three categories;
  • Disallow low-rated programs from offering TEACH grants;
  • By 2022-23, require states to withdraw approval from continuously low-rated programs; and
  • Be prohibited from subgranting federal teacher-training dollars to low-performing programs.

March 25, 2014

Center for American Progress: Four Years Later, Are Race to the Top States on Track?: Race to the Top is a first-of-its kind $4.35 billion competitive grant program designed to spur state-level education innovation to boost student achievement, close achievement gaps, and prepare students for college and careers. This program is significant not only because of the amount of funds made available for competitive grants to states but also because it pushes them to radically change the way they think about educational improvement. Race to the Top, or RTT, encourages states to rethink current standards and raise expectations for all students.  An examination of the U.S. Department of Education’s latest Annual Performance Report, or APR, data around the four core RTT components demonstrates the states’ progress.  When necessary, the APRs are supplemented with extant data from other sources, such as the Government Accountability Office.  Three overarching findings emerged in the review of the data:

  • Many of the lowest-performing schools in RTT states have achieved impressive results in a short period of time. Over the past few years, states reported on the progress of implementing reform models in their lowest-performing schools. Many states described schools where educators and students had improved performance to such an extent that their schools could move out of the ranks of the “lowest-performing.” RTT states also showed their willingness to take action by intervening in low-performing schools that failed to improve.
  • Four RTT states are at or near full implementation of their educator evaluation systems, and all other states are in the process of implementing their systems. Implementing new, more rigorous educator evaluation systems is technical and arduous work. It is a time-consuming effort that requires significant collaboration from state and district leaders, school administrators, and teachers. It is noteworthy that six states have evaluation systems in full implementation at the four-year mark.
  • All RTT states have adopted college- and career-ready standards and are making progress toward implementation of assessments aligned with those standards. States provided educators with professional development opportunities and training on new, more rigorous standards. Although states have made progress, a few are struggling with implementation of the new standards.

Based on the Center for American Progress’s exploratory review of the most recent APR data, RTT states have made progress toward their goals, yet more work needs to be done, which is unsurprising given the amount of change promised. As reviewed in CAP’s 2012 report, states set ambitious goals in their original plans and it will take time to reach them. Substantial change in education policy is challenging. What is most important, however, is how states meet those challenges and move past them toward success. States should continue to make midcourse corrections when needed, and the U.S. Department of Education should continue to provide this flexibility, when appropriate.  In short, the ultimate result of RTT will not be known for several years, as evaluation of the initiative continues. Indeed, many states faced challenges meeting their goals and will likely continue to do so. Although states have struggled through different aspects of the program, RTT sparked significant education reforms, specifically a widespread move to college- and career-ready standards, which is creating conditions for innovation, strengthening educator quality along the career spectrum, and pushing other states that did not receive RTT funds in the same direction. What’s more, despite these challenges, RTT states reached important milestones and accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time.

March 24, 2014

The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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