E-Update for the Week of September 6, 2022

E-Update for the Week of September 6, 2022

Highlights:

  • On September 1, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report on a special administration of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), which showed steep declines in grade 9 reading and math scores across the country.
  • On August 31, the White House, U.S. Department of Education (USED), and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new efforts to help strengthen the teaching profession and support schools in their effort to address teacher shortages as the new school year begins.
  • On August 26, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to USED regarding the proposed Changes in Ownership provisions within the Institutional Eligibility, Student Assistance General provisions, and Federal Pell Grant.

Administration:

Biden-Harris Administration holds meeting to discuss and announce actions to strengthen teaching profession and help fill vacancies: On August 31, the White House, U.S. Department of Education (USED), and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced new efforts to help strengthen the teaching profession and support schools in their effort to address teacher shortages as the new school year begins. The White House held a meeting with First Lady Jill Biden, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona, DOL Secretary Marty Walsh, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice, the executive leadership of ZipRecruiter, Handshake, and Indeed, and leaders from the National Governors Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. A fact sheet issued following the meeting outlines new commitments to help school districts fill teacher vacancies. ZipRecruiter is launching a new online job portal specifically dedicated to K-12 school jobs, Handshake will help college students explore careers in education, and Indeed will facilitate virtual hiring fairs for educators throughout the country. These actions by leading talent recruitment and job search platforms are focused on making it easier for states and school districts to source, recruit, and hire teachers and school professionals. At the meeting, First Lady Jill Biden remarked, “we are all ready to get to work to make sure that our students have the teachers they need and deserve.” 

In conjunction with the event, USED and DOL issued a joint letter to state and local education and workforce leaders encouraging them to take action to address teacher and school staff shortages and invest in the teaching profession. The letter first encouraged education leaders to establish registered apprenticeship programs for teaching, citing evidence that teacher preparation programs that incorporate clinical experiences and relevant coursework lead to successful teachers. The letter also advocates for increased collaboration between workforce and education systems, which would provide more opportunities for states and school districts to leverage resources and partnerships to strengthen the pipeline for school staff. The third initiative invites leaders to create ways to pay teachers a liveable and competitive wage, and points to American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Rescue (ESSER) funds to do so. The letter notes that ARP ESSER funds can be used to address current challenges related to COVID recovery, but states and communities should seek ways to make significant investments in elementary and secondary education to sustain the staffing levels necessary to support all students.
August 31, 2022

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

USED Awards over $29 Million to states for Innovative, Equitable Approaches to Improve Student Learning: On August 29, USED announced that ten state education agencies (SEAs) were awarded grant funding under the 2022 Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) program. The program encourages high-quality, innovative and authentic assessments that advance teaching and learning, and support multilingual learners and students with disabilities, improve the utility and instructional relevance of assessment results, and develop local capacity to design and implement performance-based assessments. “With this enhanced data and the resources from the American Rescue Plan, our school leaders have the resources to support students who need them the most, which is vital as our nation recovers from the pandemic,” USED Secretary Miguel Cardona remarked. USED notes that the CGSA grants will allow states to develop assessments that better align with state academic standards, measure high order thinking schools, enhance collaborations between K-12 and postsecondary institutions, emphasize equity considerations in assessment design, and pilot new assessment types, including assessments designed to be more instructionally relevant.
August 29, 2022

Superintendents request USED extension in ARP ESSER spending: On August 29, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, sent a letter to USED requesting additional time to liquidate federal funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Under the current statutory deadline, set when Congress passed the funding package, school districts must obligate ARP funds by 2024. This letter follows a previous letter sent in July 2022, which requested “critical guidance as far in advance as possible on whether we can have additional time to liquidate funds, the circumstances under which it will be permissible, and the process for receiving approval.” The superintendents write that additional guidance on liquidation is necessary, particularly when taking into consideration longer-term contracts with tutoring and other vendors, school building improvements, more affordable access to high-quality curricula, and mental health services. 683 superintendents signed the letter, concluding with “We understand the importance of being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and … hope you can act with expedience to ensure we can similarly act quickly to spend ARP funds as effectively as possible.”
August 29, 2022

USED discharges $1.5 billion in student debt relief for borrowers at Westwood College: On August 30, USED announced that it approved $1.5 billion in student loan relief for borrowers enrolled at Westwood College from January 1, 2002 through November 17, 2015. This debt relief will impact 79,000 borrowers, after USED’s previous findings over the past two years resulted in $130 million in relief for 4,000 borrowers who attended Westwood. The Department found that Westwood misrepresented the value of its credentials, as USED Under Secretary James Kvaal stated, “Westwood operated on a culture of false promises, lies, and manipulation in order to profit off student debt that burdened borrowers long after Westwood closed.” Specifically, Westwood promised prospective students that they would be employed within six months of graduation, and gave students a false “employment pledge,” guaranteeing students that the institution would help pay their bills if they could not find a job within six months of graduating. In its investigation, USED found no evidence that Westwood followed through on this promise.
August 30, 2022

National Center for Education Statistics releases data showing sharp decline in reading and math scores during the COVID-19 pandemic: On September 1, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report of a special administration of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend, which showed steep declines in grade 9 reading and math scores across the country. The results of the assessment, administered in 2022, showed that average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020. These declines represent the largest score drop in reading since 1990, and the first ever score drop in mathematics. NAEP reports scores at five selected percentiles to show the progress made by lower-, middle-, and higher-performing students, and results showed that lower-performing age 9 students declined more than scores for higher-performing students. In reading, scores of students in the lower percentile declined ten points from 2020 to 2022, whereas scores of students in the higher percentile dropped between two and three points. A similar difference was shown in math, where scores of lower-performing students dropped twelve points, while scores of higher-percentile students dropped three to five points. The report also shows wide variation in score declines among subgroups. In mathematics, the 13-point score decrease among Black students compared to the 5-point decrease among White students resulted in a widening of the White−Black score gap from 25 points in 2020 to 33 points in 2022. Upon release of the scores, NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr acknowledged that there would be “a lot of speculation” about the results of the assessments. She shared, “My hope is that they will provide us, as a nation, with accurate, reliable information to move forward in a positive way to help all students succeed.”

USED Secretary Cardona also responded to the release of the scores, stating, “Our top priority remains to make sure states, schools, and districts are using these funds on strategies we know work like well-resourced schools, high-dosage tutoring and enriching afterschool programs – and directing the most resources towards students who fell furthest behind.” Additionally, Secretary Cardona penned an op-ed in USA TODAY titled, “COVID hurt student academic achievements, but we can recover.” The op-ed speaks to efforts that the Biden-Harris administration is making to help districts, schools, and students recover from the pandemic, as well as the funding opportunities available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Secretary Cardona offered examples of how states and districts are using this funding to support learning recovery, including intensive tutoring in Guilford County, North Carolina, student support centers in Jefferson County, Kentucky, and a new teacher training program in Iowa. He acknowledges the work ahead: “This data should serve as a further call to action for states, districts and communities to use these funds quickly, effectively and on strategies we know work.”
September 1, 2022

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

HHS announces $47 million in new grant funding opportunities for school-based mental health programs: On September 1, HHS, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced $47.6 million in new grant funding opportunities for school-based mental health programs. The first of two grants, Project Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education (AWARE), will provide $37.6 million for schools to develop a sustainable infrastructure for school-based mental health programs and services that promote the healthy social and emotional development of students and prevent youth violence in school settings. The second grant, Resiliency in Communities after Stress and Trauma (ReCAST), will help assist high-risk youth and families by promoting resilience and equity in communities that have recently faced civil unrest, community violence, and/or collective trauma. Grantees will implement evidence-based violence prevention and community youth engagement programs, as well as linkages to trauma-informed behavioral health services. SAMHSA describes ReCAST programs as “community-based coalition of residents, non-profit organizations, and other entities” with could include health and human service providers, schools, institutions of higher education, faith-based organizations, businesses, state and local government, law enforcement, and employment, housing, and transportation services agencies. Both Project AWARE and ReCAST are authorized through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – the bipartisan law signed by President Biden on June 25, 2022 in response to recent mass shootings.
September 1, 2022

Congress:

House:

Ranking Member Virginia Foxx urges USED to withdraw and reconsider Changes in Ownership rule: On August 26, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to USED regarding the proposed Changes in Ownership provisions within the Institutional Eligibility, Student Assistance General provisions, and Federal Pell Grant. Ranking Member Foxx wrote that “this is a complex issue that requires Congressional review and robust discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders.” The letter expresses disappointment that USED is “profiling” for-profit institutions, “perpetuating the falsehood that proprietary institutions have nefarious goals.” Ranking Member Foxx wrote that the proposed rule would not solve the complex reasoning behind delays in change in ownership approvals, which take an average of 390 days for the Department to process. The letter concludes by urging the Department to pull their proposal, as “the absence of consensus by the negotiated rulemaking participants…require further discussion and debate.”
August 26, 2022

Ranking Member Virginia Foxx writes op-ed criticizing President Biden’s student loan cancellation plan: On August 26, House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) wrote an op-ed for Fox News titled, “Students, taxpayers deserve better than Biden’s reverse Robin Hood plan.” Ranking Member Foxx wrote that the Biden Administration’s loan forgiveness announcement “is politics at its worst.” The op-ed calls attention to past publications from economists about potential inflation as a result of loan forgiveness, as well as the critique that the actions would not positively impact Americans who did not attend college. Congresswoman Foxx expresses that loan forgiveness is a not responsible policy, and that “The American people deserve an honest diagnosis of the problem and a real solution.”
August 26, 2022

Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On September 30 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement Committee of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Advisory Council (NAC) will hold a virtual meeting. The agenda for the meeting will include opening remarks by the Chair and a discussion of STEM engagement updates on topics of interest and STEM engagement partnerships, as well as formulation of new findings and recommendations. Meeting information is here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On September 13 at 4:00 pm, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will host an in-person event titled, “A Conversation with Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) on the Republican Vision for Higher Education Policy.” House Committee on Education and Labor Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Beth Akers, Senior Fellow at AEI, will discuss the Biden administration’s actions and policies regarding federal student loans and ways to effectively support the American higher education system. The discussion will consider the Republican response, a “better vision” for federal higher education policy, and how the federal government can target assistance to struggling student loan borrowers while protecting taxpayers and individuals who never went to college. Find more information and registration here.
  • On September 14 at 3:00 pm, the Alliance for Early Success will host a webinar titled, “Human-Centered Design as an Equity Strategy in Early Childhood Policy and Development.” The webinar will provide a background on Human-Centered Design and hear from two recent examples of how it can be applied to early childhood policy: an effort by the New Jersey Department of Labor, in collaboration with New America’s New Practice Lab, to improve its implementation of paid family leave; and an initiative facilitated by Child Care Aware of Washington State to support a team of early childhood educators to design compensation policy proposals. More information and registration here.
  • On September 15 at 1:00 pm, the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE) will host a webinar titled, “A Walk Through the Family Engagement Core Competencies.” NAFSCE recently released the Family Engagement Core Competencies, which are aimed at enhancing, unifying, and amplifying the standards documents and guidance that address family and community engagement in various fields and developmental periods to advance and support more effective and universal practice. The webinar will feature an interactive conversation around the four competency domains (Reflect, Connect, Collaborate, and Lead), a look at a crosswalk aligning the core competencies to standards from 16 existing organizations, and a walk-through of a self assessment tool that can be used to gauge current implementation of the family engagement. More information and registration here.
  • On September 20 at 1:00 pm, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is hosting a webinar titled, “The Civil Rights Road to Deeper Learning.” The webinar will explore the deep-seated inequalities that prevent deeper learning for marginalized young people, which require considerable engagement in civil rights litigation, enforcement, and advocacy, as well as education reform. Speakers include Kia Darling-Hammond, CEO, Wise Chipmunk LLC.; Linda Darling-Hammond, President, Learning Policy Institute; Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel Emeritus, NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Kent McGuire, Education Program Director, Hewlett Foundation. More information and registration here.
  • On September 22 at 2:00 pm, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is hosting a webinar titled, “Measuring Job and Credential Quality – The Role of State P-20W Data Systems.” DQC, in partnership with Credential Engine, Jobs for the Future, and National Skills Coalition will highlight the importance of state data systems in collecting data on program, job, and credential quality, providing timely information to the public, and using data to ensure equitable attainment of quality jobs and credentials. Representatives from two states currently doing this work will discuss their efforts to prioritize data collection and transparent access to information. More information and registration here.
  • On September 22 at 4:30pm, PDK International will host a webinar titled, “Start Recruiting the Next Generation of Teachers Today.” The webinar will examine the implications of the teacher shortage crisis and explore how Educators Rising can help support workforce development initiatives, invest in career readiness, and prepare the next generation of highly skilled educators. More information and registration here.

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On September 1, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, published a new report titled, “School District Spending of American Rescue Plan.” The report features the results of a multi-series survey focused on how district leaders across the country are utilizing American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, address student learning recovery. The survey found that districts’ spending remained consistent from the 2021-22 to 2022-23, focused on improving instructional practices, expanding learning opportunities and learning time, hiring staff, and addressing the social-emotional needs of students. Additionally, district leaders indicated that they are using ARP funding for long-term system changes that will prioritize a shift in expanding whole child supports, including social, emotional, mental, and physical health and development of their students. Nearly half of the respondents reported that a later deadline to spend ARP funding would allow them to retain recently hired staff and extend recently added programs and supports for students that are making a big difference, both in learning recovery efforts and in addressing the social-emotional needs of students.

Legislation:

H.R. 8751
A bill to direct the Director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to submit a report to Congress on the feasibility of reporting data relating to injuries in high school sports to improve the safety of student athletes.
Sponsor: Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX)

H.R. 8753
A bill to ​​amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to update certain requirements related to innovation and modernization grants, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC)

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