New Federal Special Ed. Chief Aims to Foster Partnership With States

New Federal Special Ed. Chief Aims to Foster Partnership With States

Education Week logoThe selection of Johnny Collett, confirmed in December to oversee special education for the U.S. Department of Education, was a rare point of agreement between the Trump administration and the disability-advocacy community.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was tripped up on disability-policy questions during her confirmation hearing last year, and her staunch support of school choice options has left some advocates worried that parents may not understand that choosing private schools means losing the rights guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But Collett’s special education bona fides were not in question: A former special education teacher, he has served as a special education director for Kentucky and was the director of special education outcomes for the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Four months into his tenure, Collett, the assistant secretary for the office of special education and rehabilitative sevices, is trying to position the department as a supportive partner to states.

In an interview with Education Week, Collett discussed a wide range of issues involving special education responsibilities, including the Education Department’s oversight of the Every Student Succeeds Act; discipline and discrimination; school choice and students with disabilities; and the department’s leadership role.

He talked about the complex interplay special educators face between complying with federal law, supporting high expectations for all children, and recognizing each student’s individual educational needs.

Collett’s comments have been edited for space and clarity…

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Why Public School Teachers, Administrators Cheat

Why Public School Teachers, Administrators Cheat

Public schools in the nation’s capital recently reported that the graduation rate for 2017 was the highest in the school system’s history.

According to school officials, about 73 percent of Washington public schools’ students graduated on time, another record high for a school system that had struggled years ago to graduate even half of its students.  The graduation rate marked a four-point rise from the previous year and a 20-point gain from 2011, when just over half of D.C. Public School students graduated within four years.

In response, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proudly described the school system as the “fastest improving urban school district in the country.

“These graduation rates are a reminder that when we have high expectations for our young people and we back up those expectations with robust programs and resources, our students can and will achieve at high levels,” Bowser said in a statement.

But it was all false.  A report by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education shows more than one of every three diplomas awarded to students were not earned. The report found that 937 out of 2,758 graduates of D.C. public schools did not meet the minimum attendance requirements needed for graduation. Teachers even admit to falsely marking students present.

Washington is the latest of a series of public school systems found guilty of widespread cheating.  Similar cheating was found in public schools in Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles, Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta.

The perpetrators in these scandals weren’t the students but the administrators and teachers.  Both have admitted to falsifying records on standardized tests, graduation requirements and student grades.

In response, some teachers have been fired and stripped of their licenses to teach again.  In other places like Atlanta, teachers and administrators have gone to jail. In Washington, D.C., Antwan Wilson, District of Columbia schools chancellor, resigned Feb. 20 after it was revealed he used his position to get his daughter into a preferred school.

The real culprit in these cheating scandals, according to education experts and teachers, is the increased — and some say unfair — pressure on education officials from the government to meet a certain level of student performance.  If they don’t meet the mandated standards, school systems could lose funding, and with less money to pay for staff and supplies some people could lose their jobs.

President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 and former President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top created an “accountability system,” education experts said, linking student performance to Title I funding, which are federal grants given to schools with a high percentage of low-income students.

No Child Left Behind was the first law requiring federally-mandated tests to measure student performance.  Prior to the law, states and cities used achievement tests to measure what students were learning to decide how effective their instruction was and what changes they might make.

Harvard professor Dan Koretz, author of the book The Teaching Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, said cheating by teachers — in many cases sanctioned or encouraged by administrators — is fueled by the misuse of standardized tests to measure school performance which has pressured teachers to raise scores beyond what is reasonable.

“Some cheat and, ironically, all of these shortcuts undermine the usefulness of tests for their intended purpose—monitoring what kids know,” Koretz said.

Koretz and other education experts believe standardized tests can be a useful measure of students’ knowledge, when used correctly.

survey by the Washington Teacher’s Union and EmpowerED echoes Koretz’s assertion that teachers feel pressure to cheat. The survey found that almost 60 percent of teachers said that they’ve felt pressure or coercion from superiors to pass undeserving students.

“There has been strenuous pressure to hit specific targets regardless of student performance or attendance,” an anonymous D.C. public school teacher said on the survey.

Another teacher said, “Administrators, parents, and teachers just want good grades so the school system and the student look accomplished on paper.”

A study conducted by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization, showed that over 45 percent of Black students nationwide attend these low-income or high poverty public schools. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of White students attend these same schools.

Education expert Morgan Polikoff, a professor of education at the University of Southern California, said the result is that cheating is found primarily among majority-Black schools, which lack the educational tools and support they need in order to adequately serve their students.

“There are teachers who’ve felt pressure because they don’t feel that they have the capacity or support to achieve expectations through realistic measures,” Polikoff said.

Koretz said the cheating underscores the fallacy of rewarding and punishing schools based on standardized tests.

The answer “is to reduce the pressure to meet arbitrary targets,” he said. “Another is to routinely monitor how schools are reaching their targets. Yet another is to broaden the focus of accountability in schools to create a more reasonable mix of incentives.”

The post Why Public School Teachers, Administrators Cheat appeared first on Afro.

OPINION: Kane: States and Governors Must Collaborate as They Again Learn to Drive Education Under ESSA

OPINION: Kane: States and Governors Must Collaborate as They Again Learn to Drive Education Under ESSA

THE 74 — Originally published April 24, 2017

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, Congress tossed the keys for K-12 education back to states and school districts. However you feel about the expanded federal role in K-12 education since No Child Left Behind was signed in 2002 — whether you saw it as a necessary nudge or federal overreach — that era has officially ended. Our schools need state and local leaders to take the education wheel now. But after 15 years of complying with federal regulations, their driving skills may be a little rusty.

Now is not the time for steering clear of the hard stuff. Now is the time to rekindle local leadership, to invite superintendents, principals, and teachers to think ambitiously about ways to improve schools. Now is the time to foster collaboration among local districts when they confront similar challenges, and to work together to identify what’s working and what’s not. With the evidence needed to bring others on board, we can finally break the cycle of faddish starts and stops, and generate staying power for effective reform.

The most valuable parting gift that Congress included in ESSA was the opportunity for state leaders to allocate certain federal dollars competitively, rather than by formula. By exercising that option, state leaders can use federal dollars both to jump-start a new wave of local educational innovation and to identify more impactful ways to spend their own taxpayer dollars in the future…

Read the full article here:

Thomas Kane is the Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard University and faculty director of Center for Education Policy Research. Through its Proving Ground project, CEPR will be supporting districts to find solutions to chronic absenteeism and improving the use of educational software.

NNPA Publishers Address Equity in Education in their Newspapers

NNPA Publishers Address Equity in Education in their Newspapers

Today, more than ever before, parents, educators and stakeholders around the country are learning about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the opportunities it presents for school districts to innovate learning in their classrooms and to address academic achievement gaps—through the pages and websites of the Black Press.

“It’s critical for [Black] parents to be involved and the Black Press is strategically embedded in our communities, so that we have more opportunities to get the word out about ESSA,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). “The NNPA is pleased to partner with and applauds the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for working to raise public awareness throughout the United States about equity in education.”

Chavis continued: “Bridging the academic gap in education, in particular for African American students and others from disadvantaged communities, is of critical importance.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with the National Newspaper Publishers Association to create a three-year, multi-media public awareness campaign focusing on the unique opportunities and challenges of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Dr. Elizabeth V. Primas, the project manager for the NNPA ESSA awareness campaign and a life-long educator, said that ESSA was established to help increase the effectiveness of public education in every state.

ESSA, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA) and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, received bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015.

Under ESSA, states have more flexibility to craft elementary and secondary education programs designed to improve educational outcomes in the nation’s public schools. The law also ensures that every child, regardless of race, income, background, or where they live, has the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.

“Education is the pathway out of poverty,” Primas said.

Since receiving the Gates Foundation grant, the NNPA has engaged its 211-member publications in more than 60 markets across the country in a campaign designed to heighten public awareness about ESSA, and to focus on efforts and policies aimed at closing the achievement gaps for students of color and low-income students.

Due to the importance of education in the Black community, NNPA members have paid particular attention on the NNPA ESSA awareness campaign; three NNPA members were rewarded for that engagement at the Mid-Winter Conference for their relentless reporting on ESSA.

“I do believe that the last chance anybody has to hold anybody down is education,” said Bobby Henry, the publisher of the Westside Gazette in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who was one of those publishers that received an award for his engagement with the awareness campaign. “The state of Florida is not doing too well in educating our children, so I thought it was out of duty and respect that we do our due diligence to bring awareness to our readers.”

Henry added that the ESSA law and reporting on it helps to hold school districts accountable and he said that it’s also important that more teachers of color are recruited and hired.

Brandon Brooks, the managing editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel, said that education is the key to helping to end poverty in the Black community and all NNPA members are a testament to that.

Danny Bakewell, the publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel was also rewarded for his newspaper’s engagement with the NNPA ESSA awareness campaign, and Brooks accepted the reward on behalf of the Sentinel.

For numerous reasons, Brooks said he didn’t hesitate to run articles about ESSA and educational equality in the Los Angeles Sentinel—in print and online.

“The content [produced by NNPA Newswire] was there and it was rich and educational and informative. Running the articles has never been too much of a directive, especially when I got the green light,” Brooks said.

Brooks continued: “The goal of the Black Press has always been to advocate for justice for Black people. ESSA is a campaign for social justice and equality in education. It’s our duty to reach out to our students, our kids and to make sure that they have the information to succeed. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be doing my job.

Freddie Allen, the Editor-In-Chief of the NNPA Newswire, called NNPA publishers “MVPs” of the NNPA team for their work in publishing stories about ESSA.

“Education is a civil rights issue and we must be engaged,” said Allen. “Imagine the Civil Rights Movement without the Black Press. Where would we be today? So, imagine the future of education without the Black Press. That’s why we have to get involved and stay involved with this issue.”

Indiana Department of Education Announces Recipients of 2018 School Improvement Grants

Indiana Department of Education Announces Recipients of 2018 School Improvement Grants

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) announced today recipients of the 2018 School Improvement Grants. Over $5.3 million will be allocated to six schools and are made available to support student achievement in Title I schools.

“School Improvement funding is critical in supporting high-poverty schools in addressing low student achievement,” said Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. “I am grateful to our awarded recipients as we work together to create academic success for Indiana’s students.”

School Improvement Grants are federally funded and were enacted under No Child Left Behind. Alternate school improvement funding streams will be utilized in the future in accordance with Indiana’s Every Student Succeeds Act. Funds were awarded through a competitive process to eligible schools who demonstrate a strong commitment to raise low student performance.

For more information regarding the 2018 School Improvement Grants, including a list of grantees, please visit:

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

By Stephen Sawchuk, Alyson Klein, and Andrew UjifusaEducation Week logo

EDUCATION WEEK — This week, Education Week is bringing its trademark analysis to the remaining state plans for fulfilling requirements of the Every Student Succeeds law. On Monday, we had a look at the states’ proposed “school quality” indicators, €”the required but nonacademic portion of each state’s plan to judge schools. Today, we’re going to take a look at states’ goals for raising student achievement and their timelines for doing so in the plans awaiting federal approval.

One thing we’ll keep stressing again and again this week: how far federal policy has moved since the days of the No Child Left Behind Act (ESSA’s predecessor). Read on.

So, what kinds of goals are states setting?

Some states chose fixed goals that aim for all students, and all subgroups of vulnerable students, such as those qualifying for subsidized school lunches or English-language learners, to reach the same target (such as 80 percent proficiency). What’s nice about this kind of goal is that it sets the same endpoint, making it easier to see over time how achievement gaps are expected to close. States in this category include: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, (grades 3-8 only), Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Rhode island, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Source: Education Week Politics K-12

5 Reasons Why Every Policymaker Should Fight To Save Title IIA – Learning Forward’s PD Watch – Education Week Teacher

5 Reasons Why Every Policymaker Should Fight To Save Title IIA – Learning Forward’s PD Watch – Education Week Teacher

Education Week logoBy Stephanie Hirsh

As most readers know, I live in Texas. My elected representatives are quite conservative on issues related to federal involvement in education.

Their point of view is grounded in the U.S. Constitution, which places control over education firmly in the hands of states. It also finds expression in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reversed what many saw as the No Child Left Behind Act’s efforts to assert federal control over everything in K-12 education, from school accountability measures to definitions of highly qualified teachers.

However, elected representatives on both sides of the aisle recognize that the federal government can and should help improve K-12 education by providing funding to ensure that all students receive an appropriate education.

Title IIA, a program that supports educator recruitment, training, mentoring, and induction via poverty-weighted formula grants, represents one serious effort by the federal government to ensure that every student has access to well-trained teachers every day. All of us at Learning Forward believe that Title IIA’s annual investment in teachers is vital, and we are working hard to make sure that Congress and the Administration understand this program’s value and support funding it adequately. From my perspective, proposals to deeply cut or eliminate Title IIA, which Congress is currently mulling, would be devastating.

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.


What’s in Store for States on Federal ESSA Oversight

What’s in Store for States on Federal ESSA Oversight

Education Week logoWith the 2018-19 school year in full swing, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has finished approving nearly every state’s plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. But in some ways, the federal government’s work on ESSA is just beginning.

The federal K-12 law’s hallmark may be state and local control, yet the Education Department still has the responsibility to oversee the more than $21 billion in federal funding pumped out to states and districts under ESSA. That will often take the form of monitoring—in which federal officials take a deep look at state and local implementation of the law.

And the department has other oversight powers, including issuing guidance on the law’s implementation, writing reports on ESSA, and deciding when and how states can revise their plans.

Even though ESSA includes a host of prohibitions on the education secretary’s role, DeVos and her team have broad leeway to decide what those processes should look like, said Reg Leichty, a co-founder of Foresight Law + Policy, a law firm in Washington.

Given the Trump team’s emphasis on local control, “I think they’ll try for a lighter touch” than past administrations, Leichty said. But there are still requirements in the law the department must fill, he added.

“States and districts shouldn’t expect the system to be fundamentally different [from under previous versions of the law.] They are still going to have to file a lot of data,” Leitchy said.

But advocates for traditionally overlooked groups of students aren’t holding their breath for a robust monitoring process, in part because they think the department has already approved state plans that skirt ESSA’s requirements…

Read full article click here, may require ED Week Subscription

What’s the Future of Teacher Evaluation in the ESSA Era?

What’s the Future of Teacher Evaluation in the ESSA Era?

Back during the Obama administration, many states were working to tie teacher evaluation to student test scores, in part to get a piece of the $4 billion Race to the Top fund, or to get flexibility from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Then Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the feds were totally barred from monkeying around with teacher evaluation. So have a ton of states dropped these performance reviews? And what has happened in the ones that didn’t?

So far, six states, €”Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, €”have dropped teacher evaluations through student outcomes, according to the National Council of Teacher Quality. And other states have kept performance reviews, but made some modifications. Florida, for instance, has kept the student-growth measures, but allows districts to decide how they are calculated. More in this story from Liana Loewus…

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.