MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” is the signature slogan at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), led by President and CEO Michael L. Lomax.
Local UNCF offices across the country are mandated to raise funds for the Washington, D.C. office where scholarship funding for students is distributed. Funding comes from varying sources including special events, workplace campaigns, and individuals who are committed to the mission of UNCF.
Laverne McCartney-Knighton took on the initiative of helping UNCF raise scholarship funds in June 2017 as the new regional development director of the Minneapolis location. With 24 office locations in the Twin Cities, each is poised to bring in substantial funding to help students across the nation attend colleges. Since raised funds are distributed through the Washington, D.C. office, local offices can focus on fundraising.
McCartney-Knighton says, “Most of what we do is relational. We build relationships with key executives within corporations such as Medtronic Foundation, Cargill, 3M and so forth.” McCartney admits that this is her first time as a development director but points out that her previous positions have been in developing relationships with companies.
After 13 years at Target Corporation as a community relations executive for cities such as Chicago, Seattle and Detroit, McCartney went to work for a small nonprofit organization in the Twin Cities before taking the position at UNCF.
Here in the Twin Cities, UNCF’s two major funding events are, first, the Marin Luther King breakfast, a fundraiser through a partnership with General Mills that happens yearly on MLK Day. The other major fundraiser is the Twin Cities Masked Ball, which takes place in May of each year and in 2016 raised $770,000 in scholarship funds for students in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. In other states this is called the Mayor’s Masked Ball, and even with these large amounts raised, according to UNCF’s website the funds provide scholarships to only one out of 10 students who apply.
UNCF is clear on its brochure that African Americans continue to show among the lowest rates of college attendance “…due to high costs of college compared to lower African American income levels and to the fact that many African Americans are not given the education before college for success in college.” Students not only receive funding to pay for tuition but can also earn scholarships towards textbooks, housing and other college expenses.
The myth of UNCF, founded in 1944, is that it only provides scholarships to students attending HBCUs. Although it significantly supports students attending one of its 37 member HBCUs, UNCF provides its scholarships to any low-income students regardless of race or ethnicity. In 2017 at the MLK Legacy Scholarship dinner, six students received funds to attend their college of choice.
One recipient, Shamarr McKinney-VanBuren, knew she wanted to stay close to home for college as the first in her family to attend. McKinney-VanBuren applied to three other in-state colleges and chose Augsburg College in Minneapolis to study computer science.
Born and raised in the Twin Cities, McKinney-VanBuren said, “This is a brand new journey for me and my family. As a first-generation college student, I was looking for ways to pay for college and came across UNCF online.”
The Gates Millennium Scholars Programs, one of UNCF’s largest funders, supports all students of color attending any college in the United States. Another myth about UNCF, due to lack of graduate-level programs at its 37 HBCUs, is that scholarships aren’t given out towards master’s and doctoral programs. Koch Scholars started in 2014 at UNCF with a $25 million dollar grant from Koch Industries, Inc.
UNCF has a national program called the Empower Me Tour that kicks off yearly in September coinciding with the school year; the Minneapolis Empower Me Tour is held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. In 2016 Caine Knuckles, a graduate of Southwest High School, left the Convention Center with a $50,000 scholarship to Philander Smith College and is now in his freshman year after being accepted at three HBCU, according to Southwest Journal.
Many students who attend this event across the nation get accepted to HBCUs on the spot, having done work prior to the event through their public high schools in making sure they are armed with their résumés and academic transcripts.
UNCF provides a host of scholarship funds for students of color who want to attend a college in the United States at any level of their academic career.
Visit www.uncf.org to scroll through all scholarships and requirements. For more information, visit Health Fair 11’s website at www.healthfair11.org. This story is made possible by a grant from the Medtronic Foundation.
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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According to a recent report by Education Week, states have largely ignored a critical mandate of the Every Student Succeeds Act that calls for schools to measure the social and emotional competencies of their students.
“Not a single state’s plan to comply with the federal education law—and its broader vision for judging school performance—calls for inclusion of such measures in its school accountability system,” according to Education Week.
However, advocates for measuring social-emotional learning have said that the current tools need more refinement, before the U.S. Department of Education weighs in.
“Existing measures of social and emotional development, which largely rely on students’ responses to surveys about their own character traits, are not sophisticated and consistent enough to be used for such purposes, they have long argued,” the Education Week article said.
Even as school districts in Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Ill.; Nashville, Tenn.; Oakland, Calif.; and Sacramento, Calif., are actively engaged in incorporating social and emotional learning into their curriculums, civil rights leaders continue to encourage Black parents to get involved with the implementation of ESSA.
“We have noticed that, under the Trump administration, there has been a shift in priorities concerning the implementation of some practices of ESSA, since its inception in 2015,” said Elizabeth Olsson, a senior policy associate for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “However, state and district officials still have to comply with the law.”
Olsson continued: “The U.S. Department of Education needs to make sure that it continues to scrutinize state programs to ensure that states are recruiting effective educational strategies, reducing practices that push students of color out of school systems, and identifying support programs, including professional teacher development and funding for alternative classes, like restorative justice.”
Olsson said that restorative justice programs really help get to the root of student behavior.
Liz King, the senior policy analyst and director of Education Policy for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that there are still a lot of open questions about how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is going to implement ESSA.
Earlier this year, after a hearing with a House Appropriations subcommittee, DeVos was roundly criticized by the civil rights community, when she seemed to endorse a state’s right to discriminate against children.
During the hearing, when Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) asked DeVos, if her Education Department would require states, like Indiana, to end the practice of funding schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ students and families, “DeVos didn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Slate.com reported. “She just smiled and stuck to the generations-old cover for violent oppression in America. ‘The states set up the rules,’ she said. ‘I believe states continue to have flexibility in putting together programs.’”
King called those comments “deeply concerning.”
King continued: “What we need to hear from the president and the secretary of education is a commitment to the law, the Constitution, and the rights of all children in the United States, focusing particularly on historically marginalized students.”
King said that the biggest difference between the way that ESSA was handled during President Obama’s administration versus the way the law is being handled now is the commitment to protect the civil rights, dignity, safety and respect for all children in this country. King added that children feel less safe and feel like their rights are being taken away, under the Trump Administration.
In a letter to Senator Patty Murray (D-Was.), DeVos claimed that the way that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) handled “individual complaints as evidence of systematic institutional violations,” under the Obama Administration, “harmed students.” DeVos also promised to return OCR to a “neutral, impartial investigative agency.”
The Education Department has approved ESSA state plans from Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont.
As minorities continue to enroll in schools across the country at higher rates than their White peers, King said that parents and community members need to act now to make sure that the myriad needs of students of color are fully addressed in ESSA state plans, that includes access to advanced English and math courses and addressing the disparities that exist between how Black students are disciplined compared to White students.
“We have to address the issue of ESSA now, because decisions that are being made will have consequences for years to come,” King said. “One thing that is important to remember is that the implementation of ESSA does not happen in a vacuum.”
King continued: “ESSA is the opportunity for parents to work together with various coalitions, the press and grassroots organizations to shape the way the educational system will look for their children and for their futures in their own states.”
Washington – When the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015, there was widespread worry that states would walk away from making sure that particular groups of students, English-language learners, students in special education, and racial minorities, mattered in their school accountability systems.
Now that pretty much every state has filed its plan to implement the law have those fears become the reality?
States are working to make sure that’s not the case, said several state chiefs who spoke on a panel here moderated by Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. (Some advocates are skeptical more…
It’s one of the most controversial questions about the Every Student Succeeds Act and accountability in general: How should schools be graded?
Since nearly all states have at least turned in their ESSA plans, and many ESSA plans have been approved, we now have a good idea of how states are answering those questions. Keep one thing in mind: ESSA requires certain low-performing schools to be identified as needing either targeted or comprehensive support. States have no wiggle room on that. But beyond that, states can assign things like A-F grades, stars, or points. Based on the states that have turned in their plans—and remember, not every state has—We did some good old-fashioned counting and came to the following conclusions, in chart form:
Here are a few notes about that chart.
1) Many states use some kind of points system only as a starting point, since they then use those systems to arrive at final grades or scores that are presented differently to the public…
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team have been approving state plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act at a fast and furious pace: They’ve announced approvals for 13 states and the District of Columbia over the past few weeks.
For those keeping score: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, North Dakota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont have gotten the green light so far. Massachusetts is still waiting on its approval. Colorado got feedback from the Education Department, and then asked for more time to get its revised plan in.
The big ESSA onslaught is yet to come. Thirty-three states are scheduled to turn in their plans on Sept. 18, less than a week from now. (Hurricane-ravaged Texas gets extra time.)
So what did we learn from the first round of ESSA approvals? Here are some big takeaways.
1) The department’s feedback on plans may not be as influential as you’d expect.
The feds flagged certain issues with state plans. But by and large, states didn’t make big revisions in those areas—and got approved any way.
For instance, Connecticut and Vermont got their way on measuring student achievement. Both states will be able to use so-called “scale scores.” Those help capture student progress as opposed to straight up proficiency rates, which is what many people— including, at least initally, the department—said ESSA requires. Connecticut in particular did not stand down on this issue, telling the department that, “Webster’s dictionary defines proficiency not only as a state of being proficient, but also as an advancement in knowledge or skill.”
Tennessee will still get to use so-called “supersubgroups,” which combine different historically overlooked groups of students, such as minorities, English-language learners, and students in special education, for accountability purposes. That’s despite the fact that the department said this was a no-no in its initial feedback to the state.
In its revised plan, Tennessee promised to use both combined and broken-out subgroups in identifying schools for “targeted improvement” under the law. And the state provided some data to explain its reasoning behind having a combined black, Hispanic, and Native American subgroup. Tennesee argued that more schools would actually be identified as needing help using the supersubgroup approach than would be otherwise. That appeared to convince DeVos and her team, which gave Tennessee’s plan the thumbs-up in late August.
ESSA for the first time calls for states to factor into their accountability systems whether English-language learners are making progress in mastering the language. It’s supposed to be a separate component in the accountability system. But Connecticut incorporates English-language proficiency into the academic growth component of its plan. The department told the Nutmeg State to change that. Connecticut instead provided some more information to explain its thinking, and that seemed to work for the feds.
2) States worked the hardest to fix their plans in the areas where the department pushed the most.
3) Some state plans may not be as ambitious as some of ESSA’s architects hoped.
Arizona got approved to give much lower weight to the reading and math scores of students who have only been at a particular school for a short amount of time. Experts worry that it will diminish the importance of kids from transient populations—including poor and minority students.
North Dakota was told it needed to make sure that academic factors—things like test scores and graduation rates—carried “much greater weight” than other factors, such as student engagement and college-and-career readiness. So North Dakota upped the percentage from 48 percent for academic factors to 51 percent, according to an analysis by Chad Aldeman, a principal at Bellwether Education Partners, who reviewed select plans. That may not be what Congress had in mind when it used the words “much greater” weight, he said.
The department also asked North Dakota to be more specific about how it would decide which schools fall below the 67 percent graduation rate, triggering whole-school interventions. The state decided to go with schools where the six-year graduation rate falls below that threshold. That wouldn’t have flown under the Obama administration’s regulations for the law, which Congress nixed.
4) Some things in plans are still TBD, even though plans themselves are already approved.
Illinois is planning to use a mix of school quality indicators, including school climate and chronic abseneteeism. But the state is also hoping to add another unspecified measure aimed at elementary and middle schools, and a fine arts measure. The Land of Lincoln still has to figure out the details on those indicators.
And states haven’t yet had to provide lists of which schools will be flagged as needing extra help—or what kinds of strategies they’ll use to fix them. The lists of schools pinpointed for improvement won’t come out until after the 2017-18 school year.
“For the most part, [ESSA] hasn’t been a wild, crazy laboratory of reform, on how to identify and improve schools, that’s all sort of TBD,” Aldeman said.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Friday afternoon approved North Dakota’s accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In a press release, the department noted the state’s extensive stakeholder-engagement process and the way its accountability system incorporates school climate and student engagement.
Education Week visited North Dakota earlier this summer for a statewide ESSA summit where state education department representatives explained to a conference room full of district teacher leaders, principals, and district superintendents details of the plan that had just been submitted…
Arizona, North Dakota, and Vermont will have to make changes to their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act when it comes to accountability, low-performing schools, and more, according to feedback letters released Thursday.
We read the letters so you don’t have to:
Arizona, like a host of other states, will need to change the way that science factors into its accountability system. Science can be included in the systems but it can’t be part of the “academic achievement” portion of state plans. (More here.) The state also must revamp how schools’ test participation will factor into their overall ratings…
The Dept. of Education responded to North Dakota’s proposed ESSA plan. State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler noted that “Education Department officials have requested additional information on several parts of the state’s plan, and the department’s evaluation of the plan and notes from the expert peer reviewers who examined it will be made public this week.” The state is required to submit a response by August 21. See the Department’s feedback below:
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the primary legislation related to federal K-12 education programs. ESSA replaces many provisions contained in the previous reauthorization—the No Child Left Behind Act—to give states more authority in the design of their school accountability systems and to encourage them to use measures beyond test scores to measure school performance. States, districts, and schools also have greater autonomy to design and implement school improvement strategies for struggling schools.
The law, however, continues to require states and districts to track and respond to low performance of schools and subgroups of students within schools. They must also be able to disaggregate the data they use to determine interventions by race and ethnicity, disability status, English language learners, and income. These critical protections ensure that all students—including the most disadvantaged—cannot be ignored.
Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., submitted their ESSA plans—which cover multiple provisions of the law—to the U.S. Department of Education for review during the first submission window. The Center for American Progress reviewed these submissions for their school classification systems and school improvement plans. The summary provides critical context and methodology. The 17 individual state fact sheets break down each state’s school classification system in addition to school improvement timeline, grant structure, types of schools identified, and key improvement strategies.