Puerto Rico’s Outgoing Education Secretary: ‘We Need the Help…’

Puerto Rico’s Outgoing Education Secretary: ‘We Need the Help…’

Education Week logoBy Julia Keleher

Seventeen months ago, and eight months after I became the secretary of education in Puerto Rico, the worst hurricane in over a century decimated much of the island, dislocating thousands of families and bringing daily life here to a halt. Our school buildings were no exception; those that weren’t destroyed suffered damage ranging from power outages to missing roofs. We continue to wait for approval from FEMA to address most of our physical infrastructure needs and are hopeful that the federal government will honor its promise to ensure all students have access to a safe, healthy, and engaging learning environment.

The storm created an opportunity for the world to see the challenges confronting Puerto Rico’s schools. Hurricane Maria and its economic repercussions exposed the negative impacts of poor decision-making and the politicization of the public education system. The operation of the public schools was largely ineffective and inefficient and characterized by a mass exodus of students and teachers. Over the years, the system neglected to prioritize the provision of basic resources, such as books and technology, or allow for the development of innovative and more effective instructional practices.

Since then, Puerto Rico has made dramatic improvements in the quality of its public education system. Dedicated families, communities, teachers, and students have made it possible for great things to take place since the hurricane left our shores.

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Federal Flash: The Education Question Betsy DeVos Can’t Answer

Federal Flash: The Education Question Betsy DeVos Can’t Answer

By Rachel Bird Niebling

During a wide-ranging hearing held by the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified on a wide range of Education Department priorities.

Federal Flash covers the controversial exchanges during the hearing, including one question that DeVos struggled to answer.

The House Education and Labor Committee hearing this week examined the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Education. It was the first oversight hearing for Secretary DeVos to testify before the Committee since Democrats regained control of the House. While members asked questions on a variety of topics ranging from student loan debt to affirmative action to the rights of transgender students, many focused on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

In one heated exchange, Representative Jahana Hayes from Connecticut pressed Secretary DeVos about an Education Department memo she obtained citing that the Secretary does have sufficient authority to block states from using ESSA Title IV funds to buy guns for schools. Our viewers may recall that funding for Title IV, or the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, was hotly debated last year when Secretary DeVos said she did not have the power to block states from using Title IV funds to purchase firearms. The memo Representative Hayes presented, however, stated exactly the opposite.

While the exchange between Representative Gregorio Sablan from the Northern Mariana Islands and Secretary DeVos may not have received as much attention, Representative Sablan raised a very important issue regarding the Department’s approval of state ESSA plans that do not consider the performance of historically underserved students…

Read the full article  in Alliance for Excellent Education
DREDF Rejects Attempt by Trump Administration to Reverse Progress on School Safety

DREDF Rejects Attempt by Trump Administration to Reverse Progress on School Safety

On December 18, the Trump Administration’s Federal Commission on School Safety released its recommendation to remove 2014 guidance issued by the Education Department and the Department of Justice to eliminate disparities in school discipline. This guidance came about after a comprehensive review and study and talking extensively to all stakeholders seeking to interrupt the disgraceful and disproportionate suspension of students of color and disabled students from school.

For more information on Breaking the School To Prison Pipeline, read the report DREDF authored for the National Council on Disability.

The guidance the Administration seeks to withdraw created minimum standards and basic protections for children with disabilities and other at-risk students from discriminatory practices that feed the school-to-prison pipeline. Withdrawl not only harms students, but also families, communities, and our nation. Data shows, and DREDF sees firsthand, that often students of color, foster kids and children with disabilities—many students fit into all of these categories—are subjected to the most punitive and exclusionary discipline. The administration’s regressive recommendations would reverse hard fought improvements to correct these established, irrefutable disparities.

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COMMENTARY: Arne Duncan: Betsy DeVos Turns a Blind Eye to Injustice

COMMENTARY: Arne Duncan: Betsy DeVos Turns a Blind Eye to Injustice

Education Week logoBy Arne Duncan
Originally published September 4, 2018

I am deeply troubled by the waves of distressing and insensitive policies emanating from the office I once occupied. Some recent ones even have Republicans shaking their heads.

While the U.S. Department of Education has sent mixed signals, it appears the department would tacitly approve the use of federal education funds by districts to buy guns. That’s a long way from the 1965 law that brought the federal government into the world of education.

The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act was part of a package of civil rights laws aimed at advancing equity and justice in the classroom. It followed a decade after the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision to end legal segregation. It was America at its best, raising our sights and uniting us behind common goals.

Secretary Betsy DeVos’ position on the use of guns is part of a pattern that takes us backwards. In recent days, she has announced plans to roll back guidance we issued on campus sexual assaults. More than 1 in 5 young women and more than 5 percent of men, report being assaulted; yet, she acts more concerned with the rights of the accused than the rights of victims…

The Trump administration also weakened protections for student borrowers and reversed the rules we developed for holding for-profit schools accountable. Our young people are drowning in debt, delaying home purchases, and filing for bankruptcy, but DeVos seems more concerned with protecting for-profit colleges that are ripping them off.

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

SBOE ESSA Task Force to Explore New School Report Card

SBOE ESSA Task Force to Explore New School Report Card

Washington, DC – On Tuesday, December 11, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) will hold its next Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Task Force meeting at 6 pm in Room 1117 at 441 Fourth St. NW. Task Force members will convene to explore the new DC school report cards released today. Representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) will join the meeting to assist in navigating the site and respond to any questions that arise. 

Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the launch of the first annual DC School Report Card and School Transparency and Reporting (STAR) Framework. The new interactive data-driven website provides students, families, and educators clear and detailed information to better understand how every DC public and public charter school is performing. DC families now have access to easy, clear, and meaningful information about schools in order to make the best decisions for their children. The State Board of Education and its ESSA Task Force worked with OSSE over the last year to bring parents and families together to help create the report cards.

Members of the public may attend and observe all task force meetings, but are not permitted to speak or participate during these sessions. Individuals and representatives of organizations may submit written testimony or information for consideration by the task force by emailing sboe@dc.gov. The task force meeting will be streamed live via Periscope for those community members who are unable to attend in person. For the latest updates on the task force’s work, please visit sboe.dc.gov/essa.

About the SBOE

The DC State Board of Education is an independent agency within the Government of the District of Columbia that advises the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the District’s state education agency. The State Board is comprised of nine elected representatives, each representing their respective wards, with one member representing DC at large, and two appointed student representatives. The State Board approves statewide education policies and sets academic standards, while OSSE oversees education within the District and manages federal education funding. More information about the SBOE can be found at sboe.dc.gov.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Names New Members to National Assessment Governing Board

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Names New Members to National Assessment Governing Board

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Five leaders from around the country have been appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board to serve four-year terms, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today.

This year’s Governing Board appointees include four new members and one re-appointed member—the Board’s current Vice Chair Tonya Matthews. The appointees’ terms begin on Oct. 1, 2018, and end on Sept. 30, 2022.

The appointees will help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. NAEP offers to the public and to education policymakers at the national, state and local levels, objective data on student performance in nearly a dozen subjects. The information NAEP provides helps education stakeholders evaluate the progress of American education. The 26-member nonpartisan, independent Governing Board determines the subjects and content of NAEP tests, sets the achievement levels for reporting and publicly releases the results.

“I’m pleased to welcome this diverse group of leaders from across the country to the National Assessment Governing Board,” Secretary DeVos said. “The board plays an important role in assessing student achievement, and I am confident that their collective experience will be a valuable asset as we work to ensure that all students have equal access to a great education that gives them the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.”

The appointees and the roles they represent on the Board are listed below:

  • Paul Gasparini, Secondary School Principal: Gasparini is the principal of Jamesville-DeWitt High School in Dewitt, New York, a position he has held for 17 years. Gasparini chairs the Central New York High School Principals Consortium, and his accolades include being named state high school principal of the year by the School Administrators Association of New York state.
  • Julia Keleher, Chief State School Officer: Keleher was appointed as Puerto Rico’s secretary of education in December 2016. She has more than 20 years of experience in education at the federal, state, district and school levels. Keleher is also an adjunct professor at The George Washington University, where she teaches graduate-level courses in the Business School and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
  • Tonya Matthews, General Public Representative: Matthews joined the Governing Board in 2014. She is the founder of The STEMinista Project—an initiative to engage girls’ interest in science and technology careers. Mostly recently, Matthews served as president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Science Center, a science museum for children and young adults in Detroit.
  • Mark Miller, Eighth-Grade Teacher: Miller is a mathematics teacher and chair of the mathematics department at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Miller has more than 20 years of experience teaching mathematics at the junior-high level. Miller is a National Board Certified Teacher and serves on a standard-setting panel for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. His accolades include being nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science.
  • Nardi Routten, Fourth-Grade Teacher: Routten is a fourth-grade teacher at Chester A. Moore Elementary in Fort Pierce, Florida. She has taught third- and fourth-graders in St. Lucie County for more than 20 years. Routten, a National Board Certified Teacher, has received local and national recognition for her excellence in teaching, including the Milken Educator Award in 2014.

“We are excited to have such a breadth of talent and expertise join the Board and contribute to a group of leaders who are dedicated to maintaining NAEP’s rigor and quality, while making the assessment useful and relevant for the public,” said Lisa Stooksberry, deputy executive director for the Governing Board.

Every year, the Governing Board conducts a nationwide search for Board nominees. After the nominations period ends, the Governing Board narrows the pool of nominees to a list of finalists from which the U.S. Secretary of Education selects Board members.

The Governing Board is now accepting nominations for Board members whose terms will begin Oct. 1, 2019. To learn more about the open Board positions and the nomination process, visit http://bit.ly/JoinTheBoard11. Nominations are due by 5 p.m. EST on Oct. 31, 2018.


The National Assessment Governing Board is an independent, nonpartisan board whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988 to set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. For more information about the Governing Board, visit www.nagb.org.

Federal Flash: Are States Shirking ESSA Responsibilities?

Federal Flash: Are States Shirking ESSA Responsibilities?

Are states shirking their responsibilities around two of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) most important provisions for historically underserved groups of students? A new analysis says yes. Federal Flash delves into the findings, plus a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation and the latest on the bill funding the U.S. Department of Education. 

A new Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) analysis finds that many states are not fully implementing the letter–or the spirit–of the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA. All4Ed released the analysis ahead of a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation, which we’ll cover later in this post.

All4Ed previously created “ESSA Equity Dashboards” for most state ESSA plans. These dashboards assess states on fourteen equity-focused policies in the law. In terms of actual outcomes for kids, however, not all of our indicators are created equal. That’s why our new analysis summarizes the two most important equity policies from the dashboards: (1) inclusion of subgroups in school ratings and (2) definitions of “consistently underperforming” subgroup used to identify schools for targeted support.

Unfortunately, the results are mixed, with many states at risk of masking the performance of historically underserved students.  In other words, a school could receive an A rating, but have a graduation rate for African American or Latino students of only 60 percent – which is hardly an A. And in many states, low-performing students may not receive the assistance they need to excel because their schools are not identified for support.

Specifically:

12 states are red because they don’t include subgroups of students in all school ratings. Another 23 states get a yellow because they don’t include all of ESSA’s subgroups in ratings or are at risk of obscuring subgroup performance on school report cards. Just 17 states get a green rating for including all ESSA subgroups in all school ratings.

On the second indicator, 16 states are red because they are at risk for under-identifying schools for targeted support. 30 states earn a yellow because students will likely need to fail across multiple indicators before the school is identified for support. In other words, it won’t be enough for a subgroup to simply be below grade level in reading. Students would need to struggle in reading, math, and other areas before being identified.  Only 6 states get a green for using a definition of consistently underperforming where subgroups receive support if students are struggling on a few key measures – like achievement and/or growth.

Read the full chart and analysis.

These two issues – school ratings and school identification – were major concerns raised by senate democrats in this week’s committee hearing.

But ESSA accountability wasn’t the only issue raised. Democratic senators called on Secretary Betsy DeVos to use her authority to prevent states from using federal funds for guns. Republican chairman Lamar Alexander, while he dislikes the idea of arming teachers, said states have the flexibility to use funds under Title IV of ESSA as they see fit.

Finally, the fiscal year 2019 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Education and several other agencies passed both chambers of Congress this week and President Trump has said he will sign it.

This is the first time since 1996 that the bill funding for the Department of Education has been signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year. This is notable because it allows states, districts, and schools to know what funding they will have for certain education programs prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.

This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the September 28 episode of Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s five-minute (or less!) video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. The video version is embedded below. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at alliance@all4ed.org.

Education Department Gets Small Funding Hike

Education Department Gets Small Funding Hike

Education Week logoDespite past pledges to shrink or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, the spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law provides a small boost to the department’s budget for this fiscal year.

The increase of $581 million for fiscal 2019 brings the Education Department budget to roughly $71.5 billion. It’s the second year in a row Trump has agreed to boost federal education spending—last March, Trump approved spending levels that increased the budget by $2.6 billion for fiscal 2018.

The spending deal for fiscal 2019, signed late last month, includes relatively small increases for Title I (the main federal education program for disadvantaged students), special education, charter schools, career and technical education, and other programs. Although fiscal 2019 began on Oct. 1, the agreement mostly impacts the 2019-20 school year.

In addition to Education Department programs, funding for Head Start—which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services—now stands at $10.1 billion, a $240 million increase from fiscal 2018. And Preschool Development Grants, also run by HHS, are level-funded at $250 million.

Read full article click here, may require ED Week Subscription

Betsy DeVos Shifts School Choice, Privacy Offices at Education Department

Betsy DeVos Shifts School Choice, Privacy Offices at Education Department

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team are moving forward with parts of a department-wide reorganization proposal unveiled earlier this year, including elevating the office charged with helping to advocate for the private school community within the federal bureaucracy, and changing the way privacy policy is handled.

The office of nonpublic education, which was previously part of the soon-to-be-defunct office of innovation and improvement, will now report directly to the office of the secretary. DeVos is a longtime advocate for vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and other forms of private school choice.

That move and other reorganization changes were first reported by Politico. Education Week logo

The remainder of the office of innovation and improvement will be moved to the broader office of elementary and secondary education, Education Week reported earlier this year.

DeVos is also planning to move the department’s budget office, which she has reportedly sought to eliminate, into a new office of finance and operations. That office’s other jobs will include finance, accounting, budgets, contract management, personnel, business data analysis and more.

And she will make changes to the way privacy policy is handled within the department. The department will continue to have a chief privacy officer, who will be housed in the office of the chief information officer. The chief privacy officer will be in charge of privacy legislation, privacy safeguards, and information collection and clearance. Subject matter experts in the family policy compliance office will provide student privacy technical assistance, and investigate Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act violations, said Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Read full article click here, may require ED Week subscription.

COMMENTARY: Emmett Till, Violence, Voting Rights and Education Policy

COMMENTARY: Emmett Till, Violence, Voting Rights and Education Policy

Emmett Louis "Bobo" Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955). He was a fourteen year old African-American from Chicago, Illinois who went to stay for the summer with his uncle, Moses Wright in Money, Mississippi. (Photos: Wikimedia Commons)

Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955). He was a fourteen year old African-American from Chicago, Illinois who went to stay for the summer with his uncle, Moses Wright in Money, Mississippi.

By: Lynette Monroe (NNPA Newswire Guest Columnist)

August 28th, marked the day, 63 years ago, when Emmett Till was savagely beaten and lynched in Mississippi. It is the same day, 8 years later, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech. Ten years ago, on that day, then candidate Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. On August 28th of this year, Florida elected its first Black gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Despite the horror of Emmett Till’s murder in 1955, August 28thhas marked a date of victory and progress for Blacks in America. Many of these victories were obtained by Blacks showing up to the polls.

However, these change-making triumphs were — and often still are — met with retaliation from those that benefit most from the status quo.  Therefore, we must remain vigilant in securing unprecedented Black voter participation in the 2018 elections by exercising our constitutional right to vote — a right the current administration has failed to protect.

During the White House’s first press briefing following President Trump’s visit to Helsinki, April Ryan questioned Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about voter suppression and election meddling. The White House failed to state a clear position.

It is up to each of us as Americans to decide whether or not the United States will protect from foreign and domestic adversaries. Ensuring that our right, as citizens, to vote in free and fair elections is secure. However, history reminds us that the U.S. has a poor record of protecting those rights for all of its citizens — especially when those citizens are African Americans.

Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed. Our opponents have not changed their tactics. The enemies of justice have always known this fact that education is inextricably tied to freedom: Our right to read is as fundamental as our right to vote.

Brown vs. the Board of Education, the famous Supreme Court decision which declared school segregation unconstitutional, was rendered in 1954. In 1956, just two years after Brown, Look magazine published the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the men acquitted for the brutal murder of Emmett Till. In the article, Milam indicated that school integration and voting rights were motives for his violent behavior.

“As long as I live and can do anything about it,” Milam said, “Niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain’t gonna vote where I live. If they did, they’d control the government. They ain’t gonna go to school with my kids.”

While the tactics and techniques employed are no longer as violent and blatant as Milam and Bryant’s, the intent to suppress Black votes and simultaneously limit access to an equitable education continues into the 21stcentury.

In 2012, measured against the population, the percentage of Black voter participation surpassed that of Whites. In 2013, just one year later, the Supreme Court voted to void section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, allowing nine, mostly southern and historically discriminatory states, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Immediately, Texas re-enacted a previously blocked voter identification law and began making plans for redistricting.

In 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. ESSA is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and is designed to ensure access to high-quality education for all children regardless of the color of their skin, geographic location, or socioeconomic status. A major distinction between this law and earlier reauthorizations is that it grants each state the power to develop the academic standards and evidenced-based interventions that best fit the needs of their population.

ESSA represents an opportunity to establish a more equitable playing field but the Trump administration’s 2019 federal budget proposes cutting $3 billion from the Education Departmentwhile investing over a billion dollars in school choice programs. The risk to equitable education: More than 90 percent of students in the United States attend public schools, and, as of 2014, attendance in America’s public schools is majority-minority.

In June of this year, the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s right to purge voting rollsif voters have failed to participate in recent elections and fail to respond to a notice from election officials. Nationwide initiatives to clear inactive voters from the rolls are thinly veiled attempts to reduce “widespread voter fraud,” enacted by several Republican-controlled legislatures, despite overwhelming datathat establishes that voter fraud I essentially non-existent.

Opponents of justice realize that access to education enhances the prospect that citizens will exercise our voting rights. The ethical lapses and physical violence that often arise as a result of progress in these areas is no coincidence. To combat voter suppression, the National Newspaper Publishers Association  (NNPA), in partnership with other civil rights groups, has launched a campaign to drive 5 million additional Black voters to the polls.

In his remarks to the attendees of the NAACP’s convention in San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., NNPA President and CEO, remarked that much of what is happening in Washington, D.C. today, “is in reaction to our going to the polls and voting. Voter suppression is taking place because weare voting.”

Lynette Monroe is the program assistant for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign and a master’s student at Howard University. Her research areas are public policy and national development. Follow Lynette on Twitter @_monroedoctrine.