Feature                                                   Pages 23-29


Front-Line Advocacy 

Four school system leaders on working to effect legislative change and federal support

EDITOR'S NOTE: School Administrator invited four veteran school system leaders who’ve been active in legislative advocacy, often in conjunction with AASA, to describe a particular aspect of their experiences and what makes them productive players in the advocacy arena.

Making Sense of Conflicting Grades


Margaret Smith

My community, which includes parents of the 62,000 students who attend schools in Volusia County, Fla., has been baffled over the conflicting nature of Florida’s school grading system of A, B, C, D, F based on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and the federal system of pass or fail. While many of the 80 schools in my district received a state grade of A, the same schools were considered failing under No Child Left Behind’s annual yearly progress system.

Even with our school district’s focused communication efforts, parents and public have struggled to make sense of this dichotomy.

Contributing further to the confusion of rating schools by two different standards has been Florida’s high standing in elementary reading on the National Assessment for Educational Progress — even while a myriad of elementary schools are failing under the federal NCLB standards. Press releases from the Florida Department of Education have touted our state’s success on NAEP reading scores, which have perpetuated this mixed message.

Well Apprised
Through my attendance at AASA conferences and meetings, as well as the updated information in the legislative section of the AASA website, I’ve kept current on what is happening with congressional reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the U.S. Department of Education’s waiver request initiative. I’ve found my participation in AASA’s legislative advocacy conferences particularly instrumental in staying abreast of the federal issues and the urgent need for changes. I’ve visited congressional offices in the U.S. Capitol to provide input on desired changes in federal laws and regulations.

Meanwhile, AASA’s public policy staff — Bruce Hunter, Noelle Ellerson and Sasha Bartolf — are always accessible, and Executive Director Dan Domenech has presented updated details at a Florida superintendents conference.

I have used these learning experiences to share important information about NCLB’s annual yearly progress with my school district instructional staff, the 10 Florida school districts of the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition, and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. I’ve urged them to contact federal education officials and congressional leaders about the pressing need for change in NCLB/ESEA. I provided these groups with AASA’s electronic All Children Can Learn resolution for adoption and the Call to Action sample letter for use in contacting elected members of Congress.


Front-Line Advocacy, Grimesey

Front-Line Advocacy, Goering

Front-Line Advocacy, Gooden

Bruce Hunter on AASA's message deliveryman

A Strong Push
As a Florida representative on the AASA Governing Board, I worked with our state association to push the Florida Department of Education to request the NCLB flexibility waiver. The Florida department prepared an excellent application, which the state’s commissioner of education submitted. School districts anxiously await the outcome.

AASA has performed outstandingly on two fronts, in front of both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education, making a difference in moving to one set of robust and reasonable standards for measuring student proficiency. The strong position of AASA in supporting U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s call for flexibility in NCLB has provided states with a chance to apply for that waiver. Meanwhile, AASA continues its work with Congress on reauthorization of ESEA. I hope my small involvement has contributed to effecting the desired changes.

Peg Smith is superintendent of the Volusia County Schools in DeLand, Fla. E-mail: 



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