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New ESSA Guidance

Well it's official now. Congress has acted and the President has signed legislation repealing two sets of Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations—those governing teacher-preparation programs and the school accountability regs—issued by the Obama Department of Education in November 2016. And they've done it using the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used piece of oversight legislation passed in 1996. The CRA requires that a majority in both chambers of Congress must pass a "joint resolution of disapproval," which must then be signed by the President. The joint resolution of disapproval cannot be filibustered, so the process can move fairly quickly. The CRA had been used successfully only one time before, in 2001. Though Congress tried to use the CRA more recently, President Obama vetoed those efforts. There was no question of a veto this time around. Read More »

Trump FY 2018 Budget

The White House released a preliminary version of the President's 2018 Budget request this week. While it largely reflects the priorities the President has detailed throughout his campaign and since taking office, it is still something of a shock to see it all turned into somewhat concrete proposals. "America First: A Budget Proposal to Make America Great Again," which covers only discretionary spending (some 27% of the total), is short on details. The White House says those will come in the full budget, to be released later this spring. It will include the administration's mandatory budget and tax proposals, as well as a full fiscal path. Read More »

New Tool: Evidence for ESSA

It would be a rare week that passes without at least one article or analysis in the education press about evidence. There are those who argue that schools are purchasing and implementing programs willy-nilly, with no regard to whether they have any evidence of effectiveness. Others point out that not much evidence exists—especially for technology-based programs—so the schools are doing the best they can. There are organizations working with schools to help them better understand how to judge the evidence that developers and publishers provide for their instructional programs. And others who work with both schools and vendors to make better use of pilot programs, classroom based research efforts and taking implementations to scale. Read More »

State of the State Education Priorities

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) released its annual summary of the top education priorities identified by 42 governors in their 2017 State of the State addresses. ECS tracks and analyzes governors' addresses, identifying emerging trends and priority issue areas. The report focuses on the top seven most common themes. A complete detailing of each governor's education policy priorities to date can found in Education Commission of the States' interactive database. Read More »

Efforts To Improve Procurement

Several interesting announcements over the past month related to procurement practices in the K-12 market. As public entities school districts are often required to abide by procurement guidelines that mandate competitive bidding and strict contractual agreements. While meant to protect schools and encourage lowest cost purchasing, the process is cumbersome and time consuming. Schools continue to seek ways to purchase that are both more cost effective and efficient. Read More »

Assessment Update

Education Week reports continuing erosion in the number of states planning to administer the assessments created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The SBAC and PARCC assessments were specifically designed to measure student progress on mastering the Common Core State standards. While the Common Core Standards—renamed, revised, and in some locations still reviled—have largely survived, the assessments have not done as well. In some states pulling out of the assessment consortia was the price of seeing the Common Core survive; in most states the assessments also suffered in the general backlash against "too much testing." Read More »

Selecting Quality Instructional Materials

The State Education Technology Directors Association released From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials this week, a toolkit designed to support states, districts and schools with the process of selecting quality instructional materials for learning. State, district and school leaders can use the guide to launch and maintain vetting processes for the selection of quality instructional materials aligned to standards. The guide includes best practice examples from states and districts and national, state and local resources to consider when selecting quality instructional materials. The online resource explains the key steps in this process—planning, budget, selection, implementation, and effectiveness. Read More »

Kids and Reading

Scholastic released its 6th edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report. On the whole it's mostly good news. Kids ages 6-17 report having read 23 books over the past year. The 32% of kids who are frequent readers - kids who read books for fun 5-7 days a week - read 42 books, while the 24% who are infrequent readers - kids who read for fun less than one day a week - read only 7 books. Moderately frequent readers (44%) - kids who read books for fun 1-4 days a week - read 14 books over the past year. When you consider the amount of screen time that children in the age range are logging, I guess one or two books a month isn't too bad. Seven books a year is more worrisome. Read More »

Changes at the FCC

Among the many changes that happen when a new administration takes over the reins of government, the balance of power at the Federal Communications Commission changes. The resignation of Chairman Tom Wheeler on January 20 left President Trump free to appoint Ajit Pai as the new FCC chairman. Since Pai is already a commissioner, his appointment did not need to be confirmed by the Senate, and he is already making staff appointments and will chair his first Commission meeting on Jan 31. He will, however, need to be reconfirmed for another five year term by the end of 2017, though that's something of a formality under the circumstances. Read More »

DeVos Hearing, State of the State Speeches

After a week's delay the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. In general, the confirmation process does not seem up to the task of seriously vetting candidates for their various cabinet posts and that was certainly true for the HELP hearing. To me it was a matter of considerable heat but not much light. Read More »