After ESSA, More Hard Work

December 14, 2015

By Allie Grasgreen at POLITICO Online

AFTER ESSA, MORE HARD WORK: The hard work in Congress is over and lawmakers and their aides are celebrating passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. But the Education Department is facing a whole new, monumental task: making sense of the law and what it means for Washington and the states. President Barack Obama said just before signing the bill on Thursday that the law is only as good as its implementation. But just what implementation will look like is still very much up in the air. Still, there is a sense of urgency, and the agency hopes to answer the most pressing questions from states within the next week or two, a department official told POLITICO. Caitlin Emma has the story:

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 — All states were set to participate in the peer review of state assessments starting next month. The department resurrected that process in September to ensure state assessment systems comply with federal law. But whether and how ESSA will affect that process is unclear. “Those immediate questions are at the top of our list of things to work through,” the department official said. “We know states really need those answers.”

ESSA gives the department wiggle room to streamline the regulatory process in some areas. However, provisions in the bill around academic standards, assessments and the “supplement not supplant” language — which essentially prohibits recipients of federal funding from replacing state or local funds with federal dollars — must go through negotiated rulemaking. Some education policy-watchers expect to see a tug of war between states and federal officials on how to interpret parts of the bill. But Carmel Martin of the Center for American Progress said she doesn’t anticipate that the back-and-forth will be contentious or drag out for too long. The law is largely in line with what’s in state waiver plans from No Child Left Behind, she said. “Although there were bumps in the road under waiver policy, the vast majority of states are moving forward with those plans,” she said. When NCLB passed, states were looking at developing entirely new frameworks. But now, she said, “we’re ahead of the game.”

WILL CHICAGO TEACHERS STRIKE? The Chicago Teachers Union is expected to announce early this week — possibly today — voting results on a strike. The union said Friday that it will share results of the strike vote with its rank-and-file members first. Three-quarters of CTU’s membership must approve the strike. Even then, the actual strike would take place several months down the road, to allow time for some last-resort measures. About 90 percent of CTU’s membership approved the union’s last strike in 2012.

MERRY MONDAY, DEC. 14. Allie Grasgreen Ciaramella reporting for duty with this gem: Santa’s Elves; or, Dogs and Cats Making Toys with Human Hands []. Only 11 days ‘til Christmas! Caitlin’s back Tuesday, so send her your tips, clips and amusing GIFs: or @caitlinzemma. Events: And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

INDIANA TESTING SNAFU? Many ISTEP test scores in Indiana could be wrong because of a computer malfunction that affected the grading of the exam, the Indianapolis Star reports in a story largely based on interviews with unidentified scoring supervisors. An executive from CTB/McGraw Hill, which scores the exam, wrote in a letter to the state that the issue “was very rare” and “did not affect student scores.” The letter was sent after the state’s department of education asked the testing company to investigate, prompted by the receipt of an anonymous letter last month, a spokesman for state Superintendent Glenda Ritz said:

DOUBLING DOWN ON DUAL ENROLLMENT: ACT announced today a multi-year effort at helping policymakers and education leaders increase the number of high school students in dual enrollment programs across the country. A new policy brief lays out recommendations for states to get the work done, including ensuring high-quality instruction for such courses. The Every Student Succeeds Act provides more federal funding to support such programs, ACT notes. The Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association and others plan to work alongside ACT in boosting dual enrollment rates. More:

DUNCAN TALKS CTE BEFORE EXIT: In one of his last major events before leaving office, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will highlight career and technical education in Pittsburgh today. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Duncan’s successor John King, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis, teachers and students will join the discussion. Duncan will start touring classrooms around 11 a.m. ET at Westinghouse High School, “which has several CTE programs for careers in fields such as carpentry, health care, culinary arts and cosmetology,” AFT noted in a release. “The school’s newest program, to prepare students for careers as police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, is supported in part by a grant from the AFT Innovation Fund.”

SPEECH CODE SLUMP: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s annual audit of campus speech codes seems especially noteworthy this year, as students across the country rally against professors, visiting speakers and statements that they find problematic. FIRE reported last week that for the first time in the report’s eight-year history, just under half of surveyed colleges have policies on the books that “clearly and substantially” restrict students’ First Amendment right to free speech []. The speech code decline has been steady 2007, when FIRE red-lighted three out of four campuses. But some of the 440 public and private colleges examined this year are finding other ways to circumvent the Constitution, FIRE argues: by obeying the Education Department’s guidance regarding Title IX and campus assault.

BUDGET BATTLE DOES DAMAGE: Publicly funded schools in Pennsylvania continue to be caught in the crosshairs of the state’s budget woes. On Friday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services withdrew its ratings on Pennsylvania school districts and community colleges based on the state’s aid intercept program, which relies on the strength and availability of state aid when the local government can’t keep up with debt payments. The Pennsylvania legislature’s impasse on its 2016 budget means no state funds are flowing to school districts and community colleges, leaving “no funds to intercept.” Despite the state’s history of late budget adoption, S&P says, in past years, it’s always had enough cash on hand to make debt service payments if needed:

S&P removed the ratings from CreditWatch just as optimism emerged that lawmakers will finally manage to put the $30.8 billion spending plan to bed, PennLive reports:

NO CANDIDATE LEFT BEHIND: Hillary Clinton weighed in Friday on the latest campus racial controversy: After a photo surfaced on social media of cadets at the Citadel wearing costumes resembling Ku Klux Klan hoods, the military college suspended at least eight students. Retweeting a statement by Clay Robinson, a Citadel alum and the state director of Hillary for South Carolina, the Democratic frontrunner said, “Symbols of hate create more hate. It’s time for the Confederate flag to come down from the Citadel” []. The campaigns of her rivals, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, also called for the flag to be removed. But the flag has survived multiple attempts at removal — including a vote in favor from the The Citadel Board of Visitors after the shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston this summer, POLITICO’s Eliza Collins reports:

Campbell Brown, founder of education site the 74 and ex-news anchor, is asking her former television colleagues to ignore Donald Trump for a week. “Please stop,” she writes in POLITICO Magazine. “Just for one week, don’t say his name. As many have already said, no presidential candidate in history has gotten this much free airtime. Let’s stop being complicit in promoting his hateful and harmful demagoguery. Just for one week.” More:


— The expectation that accreditors protect students and taxpayer funds is nothing new, and if accreditors are still incapable of that, policymakers should explore alternative ways of determining which colleges can access federal aid. Center for American Progress:

— Most states have abdicated their responsibility to protect online education students from predatory and illegal practices of for-profit education companies. National Consumer Law Center:


— The third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting is the first to fall on a school day. Associated Press:

— Florida gave $70 million to charter schools that later closed, with little recouped by the state. Associated Press and Miami Herald:

— Ohio charter schools that misspent money still owe the state $6 million. Columbus Dispatch:

— Nonprofit group’s public relations campaign aims to counter criticisms of Teach for America. Washington Post:

— Thousands of Illinois students opted out of standardized testing this spring and students struggled with the tests, even at elite schools. Chicago Tribune:

— University of North Texas cop fatally shoots axe-wielding student. Dallas Morning News:

— University of Wisconsin regents statement affirming freedom of expression stirs concerns. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

— West Virginia lawmakers push for more Common Core changes. Charleston Gazette-Mail:

— Maryland county legislation aims to ease the burden of student loan debt. Washington Post:

— UNC board members suggest faculty who protested Margaret Spellings’ appointment at public meeting be punished. WRAL:

— The $115 billion mountain of student debt, for which taxpayers are on the hook, has provided a stream of revenue to companies at every stage of the loan process. Bloomberg: