Inside the Beltway

What’s going on in Washington?

Last Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services met to mark up their FY 2017 appropriations bill. The full Appropriations Committee marked up the bill on Thursday. NASSP’s David Chodak was present for both markups and has been following appropriations closely, meeting with staff from the committee’s membership over the past month.

Why should principals care?

The draft appropriations bills contain both positives and negatives for principals. First, Title II, Part A, the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (previously called Teacher Quality State Grants), have been proposed at $2 billion, a $200 million decrease from its FY 2016 allocation and $239 million less than Congress authorized in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). But on the bright side, NASSP’s advocacy efforts were instrumental in securing report language in the education appropriations bill that calls on the U.S. Department of Education to issue guidance to states on the new 3 percent set aside for school leadership activities.

In the Press

Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination, GAO Report

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has found that the number of schools with students who are overwhelmingly poor and Black or Hispanic is growing, and these schools share a number of challenging characteristics. From 2000–01 to 2013–14, the percentage of all schools with a high percentage of poor and Black or Hispanic students grew from 9 percent to 16 percent. These schools had disproportionately fewer math, science, and college prep classes, coupled with higher suspension rates. The GAO report also looks at three case studies of districts that made policy changes that lead to fewer segregated schools in their district.

NASBE State Policy Database, NASBE

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) published a searchable database of state policies related to college and careers. The database divides policies in this area into two categories: student learning standards and assessments, and educator effectiveness. The first category includes regulations for implementing academic content standards, graduation requirements, and student assessments. Policies can be explored by category and by state. For example, you can look up the graduation requirements for Missouri and how educator performance is evaluated in Texas.

Teaching to the Test Is OK, U.S. News & World Report

In this opinion piece for the U.S. News blog Knowledge Bank, Michael Hansen of the Brookings Institution argues that teaching to the test may not be the great danger to learning that some claim it to be. He argues that standardized tests may not work for judging all teachers, but they function like speed traps, identifying those teachers who have become too autonomous and have strayed from the set of standards. They also help to identify groups of students who are not being served as well as others. Important to his argument is that the tests must be rigorous and test a high standard of learning agreed to by educators, so that teachers are striving to the level required and not disregarding the tests.

Making the Grade: A 50-state Analysis of School Accountability Systems, Center for American Progress

This report focuses on the structure of school accountability systems at the state level, examining the number of indicators, how they are weighted, the type of things measured, and other pieces in the context of the new ESSA law requiring states to add a nonacademic indicator to their systems and develop a single comprehensive score or grade for each school. The Center for American Progress urges states to set a vision for their accountability systems and carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a simple system versus a more complex system of accountability.

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