Even More ESEA!

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In addition to the summary from last week and updated in a blog post this morning, here’s what you need to know about what happened in ESEA Land last week, and what to expect moving forward.


  • First, please note there were clarifications re: SIG and ed tech funding in the memo. The memo was updated to reflect that the state set aside in Title I (when SIG and Title I are consolidated) is 7%, a sum of the current 4% set aside and the approx. amount of the SIG allocation. Also, the memo is updated to reflect that the cap on education technology device purchases within the Title IV block grant is 15%, not 5% (typo, apologies).
  • The highly qualified teacher (HQT) provisions are eliminated.
  • You can access the AASA summary here. You can also access a handy run down of the programs included with in the ESEA framework and their authorized funding levels.
  • The conference committee met on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, before voting to move forward with the conference report. Legislative language for the bill, called Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) will be available Nov. 30. There is a leaked version currently available (here) and that is a good place to start in terms of reviewing the bill.
  • The Conference Committee considered nine amendments. Seven were adopted and two were rejected. AASA had weighed in on the amendments (read our conference committee letter) and the two we supported were adopted.
  • Rep Thompson Title I Study Amendment – Rep Thompson (PA) is the long-time champion of the Title I formula rewrite on the House side. His complete rewrite was filed and not offered, and instead, he advanced this study, which would require the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director to complete a study of the effectiveness of the formulas and weighting of formulas under Title I within 18 months. The goal of the report is to provide information on if funds are going to the neediest students, and evaluating the efficacy and equity within number and concentration weighting.
  • Sen Mike Enzi Early Childhood Amendment – The amendment would require a review and report to Congress within two years from enactment on possible elimination, overlap, and duplication of early childhood programs.
  • Other Adopted Amendments:
    • Rep Bonamici STEM Amendment – To expand the list of allowable activities under Title IV, including allowing an integration of STEM and the arts and support for other interdisciplinary programs.
    • Sen Bennet Overtesting Amendment – To allow states to place a target cap on the amount of time spent on testing. It is important to note that this is permitted, but not required.  
    • Rep Messer Title II Amendment – To allow Title II funds to be used in support of educating teachers in the use of student data.
    • Rep Wilson DropOut Amendment – To help schools improve dropout and prevention programs by creating an additional use of Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) funds to provide schools funding for dropout prevention.
    • Rep. Polis ELL Amendment – To add an allowable use of Title III funds to provide dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment opportunities for English Language Learner (ELL) students to take college courses or earn an associate's degree. 


ESEA Reauthorization: Summary of Conference Framework and Call to Action

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This blog post is longer than usual and is two-fold: The first half details what we know about the framework and the second half is a call to action. At this point, the proposal is something that AASA would endorse, should the outline mirror what is in the statute. The call to action is designed to support your advocacy—your outreach to your entire Congressional delegation—as a way to educate them on the importance of supporting an ESEA reauthorization and why this proposal is a very strong starting point.

You can access a printable version of this summary here. (WORD)

AASA has worked with hill staff, reporters and advocates to piece together what we know about what is (and isn’t!) in the proposal. The summary here within is subject to change, given that this is based on conversations and summaries, and there is not yet an actual bill. 

TOPLINE: This conference framework is an improvement over current law. It takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription—rampant in current law—and returns autonomy and flexibility to the state/local level/ With this flexibility comes great responsibility, as state and local education agencies will have a much more explicit say in the structure—and ultimate success—of their accountability workbooks. The framework represents a compromise between the very partisan (Republican) House bill and the bi-partisan Senate bill. IN reconciling those differences, a very basic way to look at this framework is as ‘somewhere in between a very conservative House bill and the moderate Senate compromise’. As AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said in his press release about the framework, “We applaud Congressional leaders for moving such a bipartisan framework. One of the biggest benchmarks of bipartisan legislation may be when everyone is a little unhappy, because nobody got everything they wanted. By that metric alone, this framework lays a solid foundation for a successful conference process.” 


  • Assessment: The framework maintains annual assessment, meaning testing every child in grades 3-8 in math and ELA each year and once in high school, and three assessments in science (one per grade span). 
  • Standards: You have to high standards. The state and locals make a decision. There is no federal role or incentivization for a specific set of standards. The state can choose Common Core, can use Common Core but call it ‘UnCommon Core’, can acquire another set of generated standards or can work to make their own standards.  
  • Accountability: This is where a lot of the ‘whittling back’  of federal overreach can be found: 
    • These plans would go into effect for the 17-18 school year. The 15-16 school year would be the last year states and LEAs would have to submit data as currently required. This means that the 16-17 year could serve as a soft/trial run for all or pieces of the new/proposed state accountability workbook. 
    • States must continue to disaggregate data by student sub group and must continue to calculate graduation rates using the adjusted cohort graduate rate as established in the 2008 regulations. 
    • There are two additional buckets in accountability that will trigger action:
      • States must identify and intervene in schools in the bottom 5% and in high schools that graduate less than 67% of their students. States will generate this list every three years, and states will establish the exit criteria (meaning if you can improve student learning/achievement in one year, you could—if the state structures it this way—be off the list in one year, rather than being stuck there for three). 
      • States must include provisions related to intervention in consistently underperforming schools. For LEAs in this bucket, as determined by the state the LEA will come up with a plan for improvement. The state will determine the number of years an LEA with this designation can go without showing improvement, and then the state will require additional supports/intervention. There are NO prescribed turn around models; states and LEAs determine those options/combinations. 
    • The state accountability plan must include sub-group performance targets. This is NOT annual measurable objectives in that the data on these targets is merely reported; it triggers no action. That is, a school that struggles to meet these targets will NOT trigger intervention. These targets will be long-term and interim, and must include targets for graduation rates, reading and math scores and English Language proficiency for English Language Learners.  
    • The accountability construct empowers state and local education agencies to shape their accountability workbooks in a way that diminishes continued overreliance on high-stakes, one-time standardized testing. In designing an accountability workbook, academic factors must represent more than half (at least 51%)  of all indicators, meaning that up to 49% of the accountability construct can be focused on whole-child and other critical, non-academic, indicators.  
  • Title I:  
    • School Improvement Grants are consolidated into Title I. The funds previously available under SIG will flow through the regular Title I formula. There will be a set-aside of approx. 7%, representing the current 4% set aside for school improvement under Title I PLUS the state's SIG amount. States must move at least 95% of that 7% to schools for innovation. States can choose whether to allocate these innovation dollars through competition or formula.  
    • Portability IS OUT. 
      • The framework does include a weighted student formula for Title I. This proposal will allow an LEA to aggregate its state and local dollars with its federal dollars (From Titles I-IV) This pilot program will apply to 50 LEAs, who can use these pooled dollars and design their own allocation formula in a manner that allows them to better target dollars to the neediest schools. This is NOT portability. This pilot will NOT change allocations at the state or district level. Rather, it allows districts greater authority over where the dollars flow in their schools. There is a requirement LEAs participating in this pilot demonstrate that needy schools receive at least as much under the weighted formula as they did before the pilot. 
      • We anticipate Republicans will tout this as ‘backpack funding’ or portability. While this is an increase in local control of spending, it is at the district level. True portability would have the money follow the child to the school of their choice regardless of actual need or levels of concentration, and the placement of that child would be determined by the family. In this pilot, the LEA is the entity allocating the dollars and will factor in concentrations of poverty with the added caveat of ensuring that the neediest schools don’t see an exodus of funding. This is in stark contrast to actual portability, where dollars would be diluted to a per-pupil level and allocated blindly to the schools based on enrollment, not concentration of poverty.  
    • Maintenance of Effort is IN. The House bill had eliminated this critical element and we are pleased to see that state and local education agencies will continue to have to invest at least 90% of what they did the year before in order to receive federal dollars. 
    • The Title I formula will be unchanged. Both the House and Senate proposals included formula rewrites, neither of which made it through. This means that Title I dollars will continue to be allocated in a manner that allows larger, but less poor, districts to receive a higher allocation of Title I dollars per child than their actual concentration of poverty would indicate. That said, we are OK with the status quo because we had reservations about what a compromised formula rewrite would look like. 
      • We are fairly confident the bill will include a requirement for Congress to do a study of the Title I formula, taking a very critical look at the issue of number and percentage weighting, and its impact on small, large, urban and rural schools. This is the exact research we have been advocating with in our efforts on the Title I formula and we are pleased to see formal movement by Congress. 
      • Precedent in ESEA reauthorization would include an update of the quintiles in the Title I formula. The quintiles are the enrollment ‘buckets’, where each threshold represents approximately 20% of the nation’s students. We had deep reservations about updating the quintiles without reworking the formula, because the threshold for the upper bound would have fallen by 10,000, meaning that more larger (bot not necessarily poorer!) districts could max out under number weighting, further exacerbating the impact of inequitably allocating dollars away from smaller, poorer schools. No update of the quintiles reinforces the pressure to accurately address the very real, but unintended, consequences of the current formula. 
    • Rural Education
    • AASA helped pen the original Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) in 2001, and we are pleased to see that the changes we have long advocated are reflected in this bill. In a reauthorization that consolidated and eliminated many programs, it is wonderful to see REAP remain as a stand-alone program.  
    • The US Education Department will have to do a study to evaluate how they are <not> serving rural schools. 
    • Also, Rural School Consolidated Grant Applications are in, meaning that small, rural schools can coordinate to submit consolidated applications. This may be through their local education service agency.  
  • Funding Caps: The bill includes funding caps, though those numbers are written to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which would be there is room for small increases in the years of this authorization. This authorization is for four years.
  • Early Education: ESEA will now include an early education component. This will be administered jointly through the Health/Human Services Department and US Education Department, with HHS acting as the fiscal agent. This program is in addition to Head Start and Child Care Development Bloc Grants. 
  • Alternate Assessment: AASA’s preferred position was no cap on alternate assessments. That is, we think that the local IEP team is best positioned to determine which students qualify for/need an alternate assessment. We are pleased with the compromise in the framework. Alternate assessments will be capped at 1% at the STATE level. Local IEP teams will work to make their determinations as driven by IDEA. There are explicit prohibitions on both the Secretary and the state from forcing a local cap (as in current practice). LEAs will have an alternate assessment rate determined by need and the state is responsible for monitoring LEAs individually to determine the overall state level. Should a state find it has an alternate assessment rate above 1%, the state can pursue a waiver.  
  • Student Privacy: FERPA is out. The proposed commission to analyze/study student data and privacy is also out. That is, no student data/privacy reauthorization reference in this bill. 
  • School Climate: Programs in Title IV are consolidated into a bloc grant. This bloc grant will be formula to state and formula to local. LEAs must use at least 20% of this allocation for well-rounded education and at least 20% for safe/healthy programming.  Technology is an allowable use in this title. Spending on technology devises/equipment/software would be capped at 15%, but LEAs could use up to 60% of their grant under this program for technology-related activities, including  training teachers to use technology, blended learning, personalized learning, buying content, etc. 
  • Foster Care: Foster care provisions are what was included in the Senate bill, which in my understanding is that any additional transportation costs to be incurred would be assumed by the LEA only if they were being reimbursed by the child welfare agency, agreed to share the costs with child welfare or if the district decided to cover those costs.  
  • Expanded Data Collection Under Title IX (Gender Equity): Eliminated. 
  • Title II Formula: The Title II formula WILL be revamped. It uses the Senate-adopted version, with tweaks to  change the poverty population to a sliding scale, and to include the ramp down/hold harmless.  
  • Background Checks: The framework includes language related to the unfavorable practice of ‘pass the trash’ but stops short of the high level of prescription and redundancy with current state/local practice that had been considered. This is language we are ok with. 
  • Comparability: Maintained current law (We were opposed to a proposal to include teacher salary in the calculation).  

CALL TO ACTION: When it comes to advocacy on this proposal and the related legislation, we subscribe to ‘better safe than sorry’. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the entirety of your Congressional delegation (your Representative and both Senators) to urge them to support the conference proposal to reauthorize ESEA. Top-line talking points are embedded below, and we can share a Congressional Directory with email addresses for the education staffer in each office as well as phone numbers. When it comes time for the final rush, it is important to email not only the education staffer (they are the ones who inform the boss of the policy) but also to call the front desk (the interns are inundated with calls and are merely tallying Yes and No). 

You can see, based on a quick review of our conference letter alone, that this proposed framework includes many AASA priorities. This proposal is a significant improvement over current law and we are comfortable with supporting it moving forward and anticipate that we will be in a position to support the legislation, pending final review (The devil is always in the detail). 

    • Contact each of your Congressional offices. Urge them to support ESEA reauthorization. You can use the Congressional Directory shared by AASA or find your member of Congress here: http://aasa.org/legislative-action-center/# (Scroll to “Find Your Elected Officials”) 
    • Talking Points: You can craft your own talking points or a summary of the proposal based on the content in this memo. You can also refer to some of these more general talking points: 
      • Reauthorization is crucial to providing the nation’s schools with relief from current law, which is both broken and lacking in the flexibility states and local school districts need to support student learning and achievement 
      • This proposal is a strong step in the right direction because it restores a more proper balance between federal, state and local government in public education. 
      • This framework takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription and places it more squarely in the area of state and local expertise and autonomy. 
      • This effort recognizes the importance of empowering state and local leaders to use their professional knowledge and proximal location to make the decisions necessary to successfully adhere to their educational missions. 
      • This is not a perfect bill, but it gets far more right than it gets wrong, and our nation’s schools and students deserve a complete reauthorization and to be free from the limited, conditional nature of ESEA waivers.   

AASA Policy Priorities for Perkins CTE Reauthorization

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The Senate is beginning to work on a bill to update the Perkins CTE Act. The re-authorization of Perkins provides Congress with a critical opportunity to reinforce the importance of effective, high quality CTE programs in schools that are aligned with college-and-career-readiness standards, as well as the needs of employers, industry and labor. AASA believes every adolescent should graduate from high school prepared for college or fulfilling careers, but Congress must increase the federal investment in career and technical education programs as well make important changes to the Perkins Act if we hope to accomplish this goal. Below you will see a summary of the recommendations we submitted to the Senate Education Committee as they consider the reauthorization of Perkins. The full document is available here

AASA Priorities


  • When contemplating any updates to the Perkins program, it is essential to consider the federal funding context for Perkins first and foremost. To propose extensive new mandates for districts when there is little likelihood that Perkins will receive an influx of new federal funding would be foolish and unfair.
  • While AASA appreciates the funding needs of post-secondary institutions, critical partners in fulfilling the career pathway partnership, we firmly oppose any efforts to mandate funding set-asides for post-secondary at the federal or state level or allowing regional entities the discretion to determine the secondary/post-secondary allocations.
  • AASA strongly supports greater efforts to engage business and industry sectors in our CTE programs. Employers must be critical partners in evaluating the areas in which district CTE programs must improve and to assist districts in ensuring they are using the relevant standards, curriculum, industry-recognized credentials and current technology and equipment necessary to align with skills required by local employment opportunities.
  • AASA supports encouraging districts to direct greater funding to providing career planning and counseling to all students. Greater career counseling and planning would ensure that local CTE programs effectively reach traditionally under-enrolled students and assist them in understanding their options, creating a plan for coursework, laying out goals, and accessing the information they need to make knowledgeable decisions about their future career plans.
  • In light of the funding dynamics, AASA believes it is essential that a reauthorized Perkins law place less emphasis on compliance and reporting and instead focus on incentivizing best practices and relevant secondary program performance goals. We caution the committee from considering new accountability measures that are neither easy for districts to collect nor easily comparable between districts and states.
  • Perkins is an education program, not a jobs program. The goal for our CTE programs is undoubtedly to have as many students complete programs of study as possible, but any attempts to frame the Perkins accountability system in a way that discourages students from taking one or more CTE classes is educationally unsound. 



How are current IDEA MoE provisions hurting students?

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On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/673183.pdf 

There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act--that we highlighted in an earlier blogpost. Below are a few examples from the GAO report of how the current IDEA MoE provisions are negatively impacting students. 


  •  A Michigan district said that when they had difficulty hiring a staff psychologist they had to contract for psychologist services, which turned out to be less costly than what the district spent on those services previously, causing challenges in meeting MOE. 
  • An official in one Texas district said that although their special education director recommended expanding their integrated athletics program for children with disabilities, they chose not to because they did not want to commit to the increased costs in an environment of ongoing budget uncertainty. 
  • A Virginia state education official said that districts feel penalized for complying with IDEA’s directive to serve more students with disabilities in general education classrooms since this more inclusive model can be less costly than placing all these students in special education classrooms; yet the MOE requirement is not flexible enough to allow for this without putting districts at risk of failing to meet MOE. 
  • Several district officials noted that protecting special education funding does not necessarily equate to protecting or improving special education services. For example, a Minnesota district official said the 100 percent MOE requirement may discourage districts from striving to make students with disabilities as independent as possible if such actions would reduce special education spending. He was concerned that not enough attention was being given in the IEP process to encourage greater independence and inclusion and that the process was being driven by maintaining expenses rather than responding to the evolving needs of students. 
  • A New Jersey district official said his district failed to meet MOE after reorganizing to share the cost of a special education director with another district. 





MOE can discourage efforts to implement efficiencies that could help reduce costs and can lead to unnecessary spending to comply with the requirement. For example, one Wisconsin district official commenting on the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013 NPRM said that because of state legislative changes that required reductions in their contributions to teacher benefits, they had to find other ways to spend money on special education to meet MOE regardless of whether the expenditures were needed. 

AASA Joins NSBA and Others in Signing Amicus Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court Case Fisher vs. the University of Texas

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AASA joins the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and six other state, national and international organizations in signing an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Fisher vs. the University of Texas case. We are hopeful that it will assist the Court in making a positive decision for America’s school children. Read the filing.

Organizations joining AASA and the NSBA on the brief include:

  • Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund
  • American School Counselors Association
  • Associations of School Business Officials International
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • PDK International

AASA has also signed on to an earlier iteration of this amicus brief.

Tweeting on Federal Education Policy

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Today's blog entry comes from AASA's Deanna Atkins, online technologies and advocacy specialist, the newest member of the AASA advocacy team.

Policy influencers, EPFP alumni and educators tuned in to EPFP’s Twitter chat on federal education policy on Tues., Oct. 27. The conversation was led by EPFP alumni Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director, policy & advocacy, AASA, The School Superintendents Association and Mary Kingston Roche, director, public policy, Coalition of Community Schools, IE, and additional tweeters chimed in during the discussion from a variety of organizations using the hashtag, #epfpchat.

Questions were based around ESEA reauthorization, education funding and the 2016 presidential campaign season, which made for an exciting and extremely important conversation detailing what House Speaker John Boehner's departure means for ESEA reauthorization; why Education Secretary Arne Duncan's departure is less consequential when it comes to ESEA reauthorization; what the next big federal education policy topic will be after ESEA; why education issues have a limited role in the presidential debates; and more.

If you missed the Twitter chat, you can view the archived conversation here and check out highlights from the discussion below. Should you have any further questions, please contact Noelle Ellerson.

Flurry of USED Resources

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In the last few weeks, USED has flexed its paper-pushing muscles, releasing a variety of ‘Dear Colleague’ letters/resources/documents. We’ve captured a handful of them here in an effort to get them on your radar:


  • Chronic Absenteeism: The administration announced Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. It is designed as a joint effort among the White House, U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ) to combat chronic absenteeism. It will call on states and local communities across the country to join in taking immediate action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning in the current school year (2015-16). The available resources include a Dear Colleague letter, a resource toolkit, and a fact sheet. Read related press release.
  • Testing: In a rather unanticipated move, the Administration release its Testing Action Plan, a push for ‘fewer and smarter assessments’. Keeping in mind that this is the same administration that had a line in the sand over maintaining annual assessment in ESEA reauthorization discussions, they are now messaging about ways to reduce over-testing. USED will review its policies to address any places where the Administration may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time. They encourage state and local education agencies to work in a similar manner, and message on ESEA, suggesting a cap on testing time, better information for parents, use of multiple measures and supporting state/local assessment audits.   Read AASA’s response to the proposal. You can read full detail and the fact sheet here.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Resource Guide: USED released this set of resources to help educators, schools leaders and communities/community organizations better support undocumented youth. The effort is aimed at debunking misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The reality is that the action of K12 schools here is pretty clear: you cannot ask a child their legal status. The impact of this resource guide is more notable for higher education actors. Read the Superintendent Dear Colleague Letter. Read the DACA Press Release.
  • Graduation Rates: USED released updated graduation rate information, showing that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners. States that saw the biggest gains include Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois. Through the press release, you can access the provisional data files for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
  • USED Statement on Learning Disabilities: In a blog post, released guidance to state and local education agencies clarifying that students with specific learning disabilities — such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia — have unique educational needs. It further clarifies that there is nothing in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in a student’s evaluation, determination of eligibility for special education and related services, or in developing the student’s individualized education program (IEP).  We read this as ‘You are neither mandated to do this, nor forbidden from doing this. As you were, unless you want to change.’ If anything, it gives cover to those IEP teams who wanted to go further in clarifying/identifying these specific disabilities in an IEP, and clarifies when that is appropriate.
  • Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: The department also released information about an experimental dual enrollment project today. In this pilot, the Department would allow students to use Pell grants for dual enrollment courses while in high school. The courses must apply toward a potential post-secondary (Bachelors or Associates) degree to be eligible. This is part of the administration's efforts to keep college costs down and increase access to post-secondary opportunities.