DeVos’ Team: Arizona Could Lose $340 Million For Skirting ESSA’s Testing Requirements

DeVos’ Team: Arizona Could Lose $340 Million For Skirting ESSA’s Testing Requirements

By Alyson Klein

Education Week logo

Arizona could lose $340 million in federal funding because the state hasn’t followed the Every Students Succeeds Act’s rules for testing its students, Frank Brogan, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, told the state in a recent letter.

This spring, Arizona allowed its districts a choice of offering the ACT, the SAT, or the state’s traditional test, the AzMerit test, at the high school level.  ESSA allows states to offer districts the option of using a nationally-recognized college entrance exam in place of the state test, but first they must meet certain technical requirements.

For instance, states must make sure that the national recognized exam (such as the ACT or SAT) measures progress toward the state’s standards at least as well as the original state test. They also must make sure that the results of the nationally-recognized exam can be compared to the state test. And they have to provide appropriate accommodations for English-language learners and students in special education. All of this is supposed to happen before the state ever allows its districts the option of an alternate test.

Arizona “hasn’t provided evidence that it has completed any of this work,” Brogan wrote.

The department has other, big concerns about Arizona’s testing system. The state passed a law allowing its schools a choice of tests, at both the high school and elementary level. That is not kosher under ESSA, which calls for every student in the same grade to take the same test, in most cases, Brogan wrote…

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Youth and Education Commission Recruitment Underway

Youth and Education Commission Recruitment Underway

The city of Phoenix Youth and Education Office is currently seeking passionate and committed individuals interested in advising the Mayor, City Council and city management on how to enhance educational strategies and positive youth development approaches within city programs and the community.

The Youth and Education Commission is comprised of no more than 17 members from local businesses, youth-serving organizations, secondary/postsecondary institutions and the Arizona Department of Education.  The goals of the commission include:

  • Creating and strengthening partnerships and communication between the city and secondary/postsecondary institutions.
  • Assisting in establishing policies, developing educational initiatives, and securing resources for school readiness, high school transition to postsecondary education and career readiness.
  • Providing quality educational television programming targeted to educators, youth and learners of all ages.

The Youth and Education Office is also seeking youth from each council district to be part of the commission to assist in advising the city on opportunities and challenges related to youth.

Commissioners meet a minimum of once per quarter. For more information or to complete an application, visit

This article originally appeared in The Arizona Informant.

COMMENTARY: Teachers Are Organizing. But What About Teachers’ Unions?

COMMENTARY: Teachers Are Organizing. But What About Teachers’ Unions?

Education Week logoBy Bruce Fuller, Opinion Contributor

Bruce Fuller, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, works on how schools and civic activists push to advance pluralistic communities. He is a regular opinion contributor to where he trades views with Lance Izumi, on the other side of the political aisle.

This blossoming spring of teacher uprisings—marching on state capitols, winning hefty pay raises—cheers any citizen who knows that robust societies depend on vibrant schools.

But arid summers may await the nation’s educators, as the Trump-tweaked U.S. Supreme Court seems ready to eviscerate these same teacher associations who battle each day for better schools.

While hearing oral arguments in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 case in February, justices voiced skepticism over compulsory union dues, the life blood of local associations that mobilize the nation’s 3.2 million teachers.

Still, it’s the wildcat strikes moving across the nation—ignited mostly by young and passionate teachers—that may reshape the future of labor unions…

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West Virginia Educators Take Their Power to the Polls

West Virginia Educators Take Their Power to the Polls

“It was a great feeling watching the returns come in!” said Jonas Knotts, a high school teacher and president of the Webster County Education Association, an affiliate of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA). “People and educators are really starting to see the power that they possess. We have a voting bloc that, if we turn out to the polls, can outvote anybody. Teachers are realizing this. It’s something that fills us with a very empowering feeling.”

Early this spring, WVEA members kicked off what NEA President Lily Eskelsen García has called an “education spring” with a statewide, nine-day strike that brought red-shirted educators from every one of the state’s 55 counties to the state Capitol.

Their massive show of solidarity, which ended with significant pay raises for all public workers, including teachers and education support professionals, and the establishment of a state task force to address public-worker health insurance, inspired educators across the nation and has been followed by statewide educator walkouts in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky, and huge Capitol demonstrations in Colorado and North Carolina.

Now, WVEA members are modeling what happens next: They’re taking their energy and passion for public education to the ballot box. In this May’s primary races, WVEA endorsed 115 pro-public school candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and the state’s House of Delegates and Senate. Of those, 99 candidates—or nearly 90 percent—won. One state lawmaker who had called union members “free riders” was shown the door.

This is exactly what public-school educators across the nation have promised to do in the mid-term elections this November. With this latest show of union strength, WVEA members have shown how it can be done—and how good it feels.

“This election was a huge vindication for the power of the movement because, of course, the opposition was saying ‘they’re going to forget, they’re going to stay home,’” said Knotts. “But we know it’s only one victory in a long war. We have to keep up those conversations, we have to keep people engaged, we have to show them how we’re working to improve everybody’s status—from teachers to support personnel to students to communities…”

Read the full article here.

Betsy DeVos Loves School Choice. But You Don’t See Much of It in ESSA Plans

Betsy DeVos Loves School Choice. But You Don’t See Much of It in ESSA Plans

Education Week logoU.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a big cheerleader for school choice. And way before she came into office, states around the country were adopting tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, and more.

So has all that translated into a big bonanza for school choice in states’ Every Student Succeeds Act plans? Not really.

To be sure, ESSA isn’t a school choice law. School choice fans in Congress weren’t able to persuade their colleagues to include Title I portability in the law, which would have allowed federal funding to follow students to the public school of their choice.

However, the law does has some limited avenues for states to champion various types of school choice options. But only a handful of states are taking advantage of those opportunities, according to reviews of the plans by Education Week and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

School Improvement: At least 12 states say they want schools that are perennially low-performing to consider reopening as charter schools to boost student achievement. Those states are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

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VIDEO: Fed Up With Low Pay, Oklahoma Teachers Prepare to Walk Out

VIDEO: Fed Up With Low Pay, Oklahoma Teachers Prepare to Walk Out

Education Week logoDuncan, Okla.— Few educators here say they want a statewide teacher strike to happen. And yet there’s overwhelming agreement from educators that it’s the only way forward.

Union leaders have given the Oklahoma state legislature an April 1 deadline to pass a funding package that includes a $10,000 pay raise over three years for teachers and a $200 million boost to public schools. If that doesn’t happen, teachers across the state will walk out of their classrooms, and will not return until they get what they’re asking for, union officials pledge.

Oklahoma teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, and many work second jobs to make ends meet and to save for their future.

“I don’t like that [a walkout] seems to be the only course of action—I think if there was something else, we would all jump on that, but I just think we all feel at a loss,” said Kara Stoltenberg, a high school English teacher in Norman, Okla., who also works at a clothing store to help pay her bills. “It’s so disheartening. … I want to believe the best in people, I want to be optimistic. It just feels like with one thing after another, that hope is being crushed.”

Oklahoma’s shutdown proposal came on the heels of the nearly two-week-long teacher strike in West Virginia, which concluded when the legislature there passed a bill giving all public employees a 5 percent pay raise. After that stunning victory, teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona began to ask: “What if we did that here?”

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Jason Jones Named Riverside County Principal of the Year

Jason Jones Named Riverside County Principal of the Year

Arizona Middle School Principal, Dr. Jason Jones, was summoned to the school’s brand new library building on the morning of Monday, March 5, because there was some kind of a “problem.” The truth was, the still empty building was where his staff had huddled with Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White to surprise Jones with the 2018 Riverside County Principal of the Year award.

“This is crazy. I usually have bunches to say. Now I don’t know what to say,” Dr. Jones said in response to the cheers of his staff. “It’s such a joy being here at Arizona. I love this school and I love this community. I appreciate all of you (staff). I couldn’t do it without you.”

The surprise was made even more special because the county superintendent handing him the award was Jones’ teacher when he was in middle school. The two have kept in touch ever since.

“I’ve known her since I was just a kid. To have her here to give me this award is so exciting,” Dr. Jones said.

Dr. White, noting that Jones was much shorter when he was in her middle school class, read comments from Jones’ colleagues that included how proud they were that their Alvord Unified School District middle school is an AVID National Demonstration School, and gave him credit for the school’s “robust” after-school program.

“Some people serve as principals and they are leaders, but we also want to congratulate you for making an impact on the community,” Dr. White said.

Alvord USD Board President Julie Moreno said the smiles on the faces of the school staff were proof that Jones is well-liked.

“Your staff’s happy faces and their joy means you are their leader,” Moreno said.

A resident of Beaumont, Dr. Jones has served in education for more than 15 years, and as principal at Arizona Middle School for three years. During his brief tenure as principal at Arizona Middle School, Dr. Jones has not only increased student academic performance at a rate far above the state average, but he has also improved student attendance, reduced suspensions and expulsions, enhanced after-school learning, and developed a mentorship program for at-risk students with the Riverside County District Attorney’s office.

“I have always believed in education and educational access for all. As a result of this confidence, I understand the need for leadership that calls people toward a vision of possibility and hope,” Dr. Jones wrote in his application. “I am committed to serving as one who labors daily toward equitable opportunities for all students and communities.”

The full list of categories and honorees for the 2018 Riverside County Educators of the Year is as follows:

  • School Counselor – Jodi Spoon-Sadlon, Elementary School Counselor, Murrieta Valley Unified School District (named on February 21, 2018)
  • Site Support Employee – Susan Hall, Teacher on Special Assignment, Murrieta Valley Unified School District (named on February 21, 2018)
  • Confidential Employee – Cheryl Anderson, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, Riverside Unified School District (named on February 26, 2018)
  • Principal – Dr. Jason Jones, Principal, Arizona Middle School, Alvord Unified School District (named on March 5, 2018)
  • Certificated Administrator – Dian Martin, Director of Learning Support Services, Perris Union High School District (named on March 1, 2018)
  • Classified Employee – Lindsay Brancato, Attendance Technician, Val Verde Unified School District (named on March 1, 2018)
  • Classified Administrator of the Year – Karl Melzer, Instructional Publication Center Manager, Hemet Unified School District (named on February 15, 2018)

The Riverside County Educators of the Year are selected from the more than 36,000 educational employees in the county. The rigorous application process starts with nominations by teachers, classified employees, and school district administrators throughout the county. Applications are then submitted to the Riverside County Office of Education, where an outside selection committee selects the honorees before the county superintendent announces the honorees.

Along with the 2018 Riverside County Teachers of the Year, the Educators of the Year will be honored at the Riverside County Celebrating Educators Luncheon at the Riverside Convention Center on Tuesday, May 22.

Few States Want to Offer Districts Chance to Give ACT, SAT Instead of State Test – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Few States Want to Offer Districts Chance to Give ACT, SAT Instead of State Test – Politics K-12 – Education Week

The Every Student Succeeds Act may have kept annual testing as a federal requirement. But it also aims to help states cut down on the number of assessments their students must take by giving districts the chance to use a nationally-recognized college entrance exam, instead of the regular state test, for accountability purposes.

When the law passed back in 2015, some superintendents hailed the change, saying it would mean one less test for many 11th graders, who would already be preparing for the SAT or ACT. Assessment experts, on the other hand, worried the change would make student progress a lot harder to track.

Now, more than two years after the law passed, it appears that only two states—North Dakota and Oklahoma—have immediate plans to offer their districts a choice of tests. Policymakers in at least two other states—Georgia and Florida—are thinking through the issue. Arizona and Oregon could also be in the mix.

That’s not exactly a mad dash to take advantage of the flexibility.

Offering a choice of tests can be a tall order for state education officials, said Julie Woods, a senior policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States. They have to figure out how to pay for the college entrance exams, design a process for districts to apply for the flexibility, and find a way to compare student scores on the state test to scores on the SAT, ACT, or another test.

That’s “potentially a lot more work than states are currently doing,” Woods said. “States have to decide what the payoff is for them…”

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AASL sets new standards with  National Conference & Exhibition, providing school librarians with tools to think, create, share and grow

AASL sets new standards with National Conference & Exhibition, providing school librarians with tools to think, create, share and grow

Jennifer Habley
Manager, Web Communications
American Association of School Librarians

PHOENIX – The American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) closed the curtain on a landmark National Conference & Exhibition Nov. 9-11 in Phoenix, Arizona, after introducing new standards school librarians will use for years to come.

Attended by more than 2,500 school librarians, administrators and exhibitors, the conference affirmed and strengthened the common beliefs of school librarians as they carry on their mission to make the school library the hub of a learning community that prepares learners for college, career and life.

Themed “Beyond the Horizon,” the event brought together school librarians, educators, authors and exhibitors at the only national conference dedicated solely to the needs of school librarians. Attendees participated in preconference workshops, author events, more than 100 concurrent sessions and access to an exhibition featuring companies relevant to school libraries and their users.

The major event was the launch of the “National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries.” The Standards, the result of a research-based approach with feedback from more than 1,300 school librarians and stakeholders, proclaim the role of school librarians in modeling, promoting and fostering inquiry. It also points to the school library’s value in bridging digital and socioeconomic divides.

“The National Standards demonstrate a long-term commitment to our profession that provides guidance for school libraries, school librarians, and the communities and learners we serve,” said AASL President Steven Yates. “The standards editorial board, led by Marcia Mardis, and the implementation task force, led by Mary Keeling, deserve fist bumps and high-fives for their monumental efforts.”

Local school libraries opened their doors to conference attendees for tours. They included a stop at Casa Grande Union High School. This school had plans to eliminate the school library program, but students successfully advocated for the program to be kept open. The tour also stopped at Vista Grande High School library, a joint-use library with a brand new maker space and a gaming space.

Attendees took advantage of such networking events as IdeaLab, a best-practice showcase featuring tabletop video displays several topics, among them blended learning, flipped classrooms and STEM/STEAM. In addition, an Unconference offered an opportunity to examine the National School Library Standards in a structured World Café format.

Concurrent sessions focused on pertinent topics for combating fake news, going beyond makerspaces and meeting the needs of autism spectrum disorder students in the school library. Several concurrent sessions were dedicated to the new AASL Standards, broken down into related foundations: inquire and include, collaborate and curate, and explore and engage.

Jaime Casap. served as Opening Keynote speaker. Google Inc.’s chief education evangelist preached the power and potential of technology and Web as enabling and supporting tools in the pursuit of inquiry-driven project-based learning models.

Jason Reynolds, award-winning author of “Ghost,” a National Book Award-finalist and the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor, the Walter Dean Myers Award and the Kirkus Award, regaled those who attended the Saturday General Session, with his love of stories and his concern about reluctant young readers.

Special events included Authors in the afternoon, featuring Christian Robinson, author of such award-winning books as “Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker,” Jordan Sonnenblick, who wrote the acclaimed “Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie” and Sarah Dessen, author of “Once and for All,” who was awarded the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

The conference celebration on Friday night was held on Corona Ranch, an authentic Phoenix treasure, with a mariachi band and rodeo entertainment,,

Reporters from Publishers Weekly, American Libraries and School Library Journal were onsite and provided conference coverage.  AASL President Steven Yates published an opinion in the Arizona Republic on the dire need for school librarians in the state. Yates was also interviewed on the same topic by Phoenix’s KTAR-FM for a recurring news segment that aired Thursday and Friday.

For more information regarding the AASL  National Conference & Exhibition, please visit

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library program services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning.

How School Choice Can Solve States’ Huge Debt And Pension Woes

How School Choice Can Solve States’ Huge Debt And Pension Woes

By , The Federalist

In 2011, Arizona became the first state to adopt the most flexible school reform yet, an education savings account (ESA) plan. It provides parents who believe their child is poorly served in the local public school with an annual budget they can spend on a wide variety of accredited alternatives—not just private or parochial schools, but tutoring, online academies, special-needs services, and even computer equipment for home schooling.

More recently, five other states have followed Arizona’s lead: Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and just this year North Carolina. Initially these programs were designed to better serve learning-disabled children, but with the realization that most of its students could be educated independently for a fraction of public-school per pupil spending, Nevada authorized a plan open to any of that state’s children in 2015.

To date, Democrats in the Nevada legislature have held up funding for about 10,000 applicants, but nearly all of Arizona’s K-12 children are now eligible for an ESA worth 90 percent of their district’s per pupil spending.

With this history in mind, Marty Lueken, director of fiscal policy and analysis at the EdChoice Foundation, and I decided to calculate how much ESAs could help a financially troubled blue state, where the longstanding alliance of teacher unions and liberal politicians has created per pupil costs that are three, four, and even five times what is needed to independently educate. Our goal was to see how much the taxpayers of Illinois, New Jersey, Kentucky, California, or Connecticut might benefit if just a small percentage of public school families were funded to take charge of their own children’s schooling…

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