Tag Archives: John King

Federal Update: ED releases long delayed teacher preparation rules

U.S. Dept of Education LogoThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a final set of regulations that lay out federal stipulations for states’ teacher preparation programs. The rules have seen delays since 2014, when an initial iteration was released. That initial proposal garnered significant input, and while some revisions are included in the newest version, the original proposal remains largely intact.

Under the newly released regulations, states will be required to develop a rating system aimed at evaluating the success of its teacher preparation programs. One piece of that rating system must analyze how programs’ teachers perform based on a measure of student academic achievement. This was a highly controversial piece retained from the original proposal, which was heavily-reliant on student test scores, but the newer version does provide flexibility with regard to how states determine student success. Ultimately, if programs don’t perform well on the state’s rating system, states will be required to cut off access to federal grants aimed at supporting teachers who teach in high-need certification areas and in low-income schools (or TEACH grants).

Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised HandsThe rating system must also include the job placement data, retention rates, and feedback of programs’ graduates as well as the feedback from their graduates’ employers. Initial reactions to the final version of the regulations have been mixed. While some support the higher accountability to which programs will be held, others have concerns with the unintended consequences that could result, such as the effect a measure of student achievement could have on the support available for teachers going into high needs schools.

As we shared last week, Texas is at the end of a process to revamp its educator preparation accountability system. Much of what Texas has and is in the process of implementing is in line with the standards to be enforced by ED under its new regulations. One missing piece, however, is the inclusion of student achievement. While such a measure is included in Texas law and rules governing educator preparation programs (EPPs), to date, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been unable to find a valid way to measure student outcomes. TEA has, however, included a student growth measure in its new teacher evaluation system, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The new system is in its first year of implementation statewide, but the measure of student growth piece is still in the pilot phase. ATPE and other organizations have filed legal challenges based in part on the inclusion of value-added modeling (VAM) as a element of the T-TESS model. The final commissioner’s rules for T-TESS outline four ways in which schools may assess student growth for purposes of teacher evaluations; VAM, which many consider to be an unfair and unreliable statistical calculation for this purpose, is one of the four options. Despite the pending litigation, the student growth piece of T-TESS  is set to take effect statewide next school year. With the new federal rules for EPPs calling on states to look specifically at the performance of students taught by those programs, it seems likely that Texas will at least consider further extension of the same questionable VAM methodology for EPP accountability.


For related content, read the perspectives of Kate Walsh with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). She highlights her thoughts on the new regulations, including why she doesn’t disagree with ED’s decision to omit the previously required use of student test scores or VAM.


U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King and President Obama have stood by the administration’s new regulations and are joined by those who support stronger regulations for teacher preparation in the United States, but the rules have received criticism from congressional leaders and other stakeholders. As all of this plays out, two things create some uncertainty: 1) regardless of who is elected, it is relatively unknown how a new president would implement these regulations, and 2) Congress has been toying with reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which has a questionable likelihood but would entail fresh laws that could render these new teacher preparation regulations meaningless. Plus, the price tag of implementing these regulations would be high for states (latest estimates from the administration indicate $27 million per year for the next 10 years). Bottom line, the final version of the regulations released today might not be the end of the road. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for more.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: July 8, 2016

We’ve got your wrap-up covering this week’s state and federal education news:


Little children study globeThe Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced this week the 578 recipients of the high-quality prekindergarten grant program, which parceled out a total of $116 million to Texas school systems. The grant program is the result of House Bill 4, legislation initiated by Gov. Greg Abbott and passed by the 84th Legislature in 2015.

Gov. Abbott declared early childhood education a priority ahead of the 2015 legislative session and the legislature responded with the passage of HB 4. ATPE supported the bill, which increased state funding by $130 million for prekindergarten programs that implement certain quality control measures, and its passage was a win for early childhood education advocates.

The passage of HB 4 and this week’s announcement of funding for 578 prekindergarten programs across the state is a welcomed change for programs that had previously seen significant budget cuts and vetoes on bills that supported early childhood education. Still, considering the money is to be dispersed among a large number of school systems, the per pupil dollar amount will be telling in terms of how far the state needs to go to invest in quality and meaningful early education. Recipients of the grant will begin implementing the funding for prekindergarten programs in the upcoming school year.

For a full list of grantees and additional information on the HB 4 High-Quality Prekindergarten Grant Program, visit TEA’s webpage dedicated to the program.


U.S. Dept of Education LogoThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released the draft rule text of two assessment portions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): the rule administering assessments under the law and the rule pertaining to the new innovative assessment pilot established by the law.

The broad assessment provision draft rules are a result of a compromise reached by a committee of stakeholders through the negotiated rulemaking process, on which Teach the Vote reported earlier this year. Negotiated rulemaking is only required for certain provisions of the law; other ESSA provisions, such as the innovative assessment pilot, are written by way of the department’s traditional rulemaking procedures.

The innovative assessment pilot draft rules include a concept supported by ATPE in a letter written to U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. in May and in previous ATPE input provided to Congress. As a means of reducing the time and emphasis placed on standardized testing, ATPE has encouraged Congress and ED to consider allowing states to use a scientifically valid sample of the student population to assess students and report disaggregated state-level data. ATPE’s letter to Secretary King asked the department to give pilot states the option to utilize sample testing and pointed to our previous input to Congress. ATPE is pleased that the department included a version of our input in the innovative assessment pilot, which will allow pilot states to consider exploring this already successfully used method of assessing students.

The department’s draft rule offers seven states the opportunity to implement an innovative testing system in some school districts, with the goal for those systems to eventually go statewide. States must implement high-quality testing systems that match the results of current state-standardized tests and fit within four category types: grade span testing for an innovative assessment, assessing a representative sample of students who take the innovative assessment and the state standardized test, including common test items on both the state standardized tests and the innovative assessment, or a broad option that requires states to demonstrate that innovative assessments are as rigorous as current state assessments. Participating states would have up to five years to pilot systems with the opportunity for a two-year extension.

For more, read ATPE’s letter to Secretary King and ATPE’s comments to Congress on limiting the negative impact caused by the overuse of standardized testing and federal assessment requirements.


The 2016-2017 teacher shortage areas were released this week, and the list looks similar to recent years. This year, TEA identifies six shortage areas:

  1. Bilingual/English as a Second Language – Elementary and Secondary Levels
  2. Career and Technical Education
  3. Computer Science/Technology Applications
  4. Mathematics
  5. Science
  6. Special Education – Elementary and Secondary Levels

ThinkstockPhotos-178456596_teacherAhead of every school year, TEA submits to ED a list of shortage areas in Texas. Once the submission receives approval, state administrators have the ability to offer loan forgiveness opportunities to educators teaching in shortage area classrooms, assuring they meet the minimum qualifications required.

Visit the TEA website for more information on eligibility and how to apply.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 15, 2016

There has been much activity on the education front this week. Here’s a summary of the latest developments from your ATPE lobby team:


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

Earlier this week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson gave invited testimony before the Joint Interim Committee on TRS Health Benefit Plans regarding rising costs of TRS ActiveCare, the health insurance program for active education employees. It was one of three legislative committees that held meetings on Wednesday to discuss various aspects of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). Check out the latest blog post from Josh for more details on the committees’ discussions.


SBECThe State Board for Education Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, April 15. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann will provide a full report for Teach the Vote after the meeting, but meanwhile you can check out the board’s lengthy agenda here. Hot topics for discussion today include planned future changes to the rules pertaining to educator preparation programs (EPPs), final adoption of new standards for obtaining a principal certificate, finalizing a new rule limiting certification candidates to five attempts to pass a certification exam and considering requests for waivers of that limit, approval of accreditation statuses for all of the state’s EPPs, and an update on possible future changes to the design of certain “Core Subjects” certification exams. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates and follow @ATPE_KateK on Twitter for more.

 



Commissioner of Education Mike Morath made news this week with announcement of several new hires at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to comprise his senior staff. Read TEA’s press release about the new employees here. Media outlets were quick to report that Morath’s new executive team hails largely from the charter school environment, and the changes in the organizational structure are marked by the departure of several long-time TEA staffers known for their considerable expertise in complex areas of education policy, such as school finance and student testing. For more, check out a related story from our friend Lauren McGaughy over at the Dallas Morning News.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

In other news pertaining to TEA, we posted an update on Monday to our earlier blog post about STAAR testing and concerns about test administrators being forced to time students’ bathroom breaks. As ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reported, TEA’s newest communication to school districts explains that breaks will not have to be timed for the May administration of the exams. Read more here.

 


We got our first look this week at the commissioner’s final adopted rules for implementation of T-TESS, the state’s new recommended appraisal system for teachers. The adopted rules are being published in the Texas Register this month and will take effect on July 1, 2016. We’ll be posting comprehensive information about T-TESS on our website in the next few days, but you may click here to view the adopted appraisal rules in the meantime.

As we reported recently, the commissioner has also proposed rules for “Innovation Districts” allowed now under House Bill 1842 that passed last year. A public comment period on the commissioner’s proposed rules ends May 2. ATPE has requested and TEA has agreed to hold a public hearing on the proposed rules on April 25.

The new law on innovation districts allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and receive exemptions from numerous state laws. Several school districts are already in the process of considering and developing innovation plans and seeking authority to waive various statutes in the Texas Education Code (TEC) that protect educators, students, and parents. If approved by a school district, waiver authority outlined in a district’s innovation plan could result in teachers losing many of the statutory rights they currently enjoy and parents also losing access to information about their children’s education.

For example, a proposed strategic/innovation plan recently shared by Spring Branch ISD indicates that the district seeks authority to be exempted from most of Chapter 21 of the TEC, which provides for teacher contract rights, the minimum salary schedule, the right to a duty-free lunch, and much more. (The plan states, “SBISD seeks exemption from all permissible provisions of the TEC as allowed in the statute.”) ATPE has encouraged educators in the district to speak out about the district’s proposed plan this month and urge the school board to reject it or rewrite the plan in such a way that educators’ and parents’ rights would be better protected. We’ll be providing additional information about innovation districts in the coming days.

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported this week on the continuations of negotiated rulemaking for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of Education John King also appeared again before a Senate committee to talk about the new federal law. Read Kate’s post from yesterday to learn more.

 


Here are some upcoming meetings and events of interest:

  • On Tuesday, April 19, the Senate Education Committee will hold an interim hearing to discuss digital learning opportunities and barriers. NOTE: This meeting has been postponed. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates when it’s rescheduled.
  • Also on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee will meet to talk about what’s often called the state’s rainy day fund, as well as factors that could impact the Texas economy and state budget, such as declining oil prices.
  • April 25 is the deadline to register to vote in the primary runoff elections taking place in May. Check out our recent blog post on runoff voting to learn more about voter eligibility, or visit VoteTexas.gov to find out how to register to vote. Also on April 25, early voting begins for the May 7 local elections, which are different from the primary runoffs.
  • As noted previously, the Texas Education Agency will hold a public hearing on April 25 to hear public testimony on proposed commissioner’s rules for Innovation Districts.
  • Pastors for Texas Children is hosting three community meetings in west Texas to discuss the value and future of public education. The first is taking place in Abilene on April 25, followed by Amarillo on April 26, and Lubbock on April 27. Note that the location of the Abilene event has moved from Pioneer Drive Baptist Church to First Baptist Church. Click here to register to attend.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: March 11, 2016

Happy Friday! Here’s a recap of this week’s news:


The March 1 Texas primary elections were historic in many ways. Some closely watched races resulted in narrow margins of victory and even prompted recounts and further analysis of the ballots in some instances.

Hugh Shine has prevailed in a recount for Texas's House District 55 seat.

Hugh Shine prevails in recount for Texas’s House District 55 seat.

In House District 55, incumbent Rep. Molly White (R) faced a tough challenge by Hugh Shine (R), who was endorsed by Texas Parent PAC. Shine defeated White in the Republican primary election on March 1, but White asked for a recount. As reported this week, Shine remained the winner by a margin of 104 votes upon completion of the recount, and White conceded her loss to him. Shine will become the new state representative for the central Texas district since there are no Democratic, third-party, or independent candidates on the ballot in November.

Meanwhile, in the closely watched race to succeed Sen. Kevin Eltife (R) in Senate District 1, there is still no answer as to which candidate will earn the second place spot and a right to compete in a runoff against front-runner Bryan Hughes (R). It was initially reported that David Simpson (R) edged out James K. “Red” Brown (R) for second place by only 13 votes, but officials have been busy this week counting all the votes, including provisional ballots and military ballots often submitted by mail from members of the armed services who reside in the district but are currently stationed outside the country. Our friends at The Texas Tribune reported yesterday that Simpson and Brown “traded places intermittently throughout the week as results from provisional ballots across the district’s 16 counties came in. At various points on Thursday, each candidate appeared to have won by a handful of votes as they contended for a chance to face state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, in a runoff to replace retiring state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler. Once official canvassed results are finalized, the third-place candidate will have the opportunity to request a recount.” Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this extremely close race.

Check out last week’s blog post to read more results from the March 1 primaries and previews of major runoffs. Visit the 2016 Races pages to view runoff candidates’ voting records, responses to the ATPE candidate survey, and additional information.

 


ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann contributed the following update on education-related developments in the nation’s capital this week.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) met Wednesday, March 9, to consider the nomination of Dr. John King to serve as Secretary of Education. Dr. King is currently functioning as the acting secretary after serving as the Deputy Education Secretary at the Department of Education (ED) under Secretary Arne Duncan. After being nominated by President Obama to fill the post, the HELP committee convened a confirmation hearing on the nomination in late February where King was asked to weigh in on issues of importance to public education.

In its markup this week, the HELP committee voted 16-6 to advance King’s nomination to the full Senate. In his closing comments, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he hoped the Senate would promptly confirm Dr. King, highlighting the need for accountable leadership as ED works to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The six no votes came from Republican members of the committee, but Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also expressed hesitation. She said she would not be able to support Dr. King’s nomination in the full Senate until she gets answers to her policy questions on student loans and for-profit colleges.

In related news, Dr. King continued his Capitol Hill budget tour this week. King testified Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. We reported late last month that he testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. King is making the rounds to defend President Obama’s FY 2017 budget proposal.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-152142396_preschoolThe Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently posted proposed new commissioner’s rules to implement a major pre-Kindergarten grant program pursuant to Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R-Kingwood) House Bill (HB) 4 that passed in 2015. Under the program, school districts and charter schools that implement certain quality standards for curriculum, teacher qualifications, academic performance, and family engagement may apply for grant funding starting in 2016. The commissioner is required to propose and adopt rules to determine parameters for the grants. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter contributed the following additional information about the rulemaking process that is underway now:

ATPE submitted formal written input on the proposed rules earlier this week. Our comments addressed funding, flexibility, standards, and reporting. First, we suggested adding some simple procedures to give grantees a better sense of certainty on funding levels for budgeting purposes. We called for additional flexibility in choosing or creating instruments to assess the progress of pre-K students. We praised the agency for upholding high standards for pre-K teachers while requesting clarification that grantees can use their grant dollars to help educators meet those higher standards. Finally, we cautioned against making the same mistakes on overemphasis of accountability measures, particularly those driven by standardized assessment data, that have plagued middle and upper grade levels for years, if not decades.

Read ATPE’s full comments on the proposed pre-K rules here.

 


Don’t forget to set your clocks forward this weekend!

ThinkstockPhotos-164065110_clock

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Feb. 26, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_VoteToday is the last day to vote early in the critical 2016 primary election. Election day is Tuesday, March 1. Many races will be completely decided as of Tuesday night, and those outcomes, especially in several legislative primary races, will impact educators significantly in 2017. ATPE urges all educators to get out and vote for pro-public education candidates today or Tuesday.

Read more of this week’s headlines:



Early voting ends tonight. Election day is Tuesday.

There’s still time for the education community to make the difference in this important election. Take advantage of the many resources available to voters from ATPE and Teach the Vote:

  • Know where your candidates stand on public education and vote for candidates who will support your profession and your students! Click on the 2016 Races button now to view candidates’ voting records, their responses to the ATPE candidate survey, lists of their major endorsements, and more.
  • Do you know where to go vote on Tuesday? Get answers to frequently asked questions about primary voting here in our “Things You Should Know…” post.
  • Learn about ballot propositions on the primary ballots that will help shape each party’s platform. Proposition #3 on the Republican ballot is aimed at taking away educators’ right to use payroll deduction for their voluntary professional membership dues. Be an informed voter by reading our recent blog post about the ballot propositions.
  • Visit TexasEducatorsVote.com for additional election resources from our coalition partners. Remind your colleagues of the importance of voting in this primary election, and see if they need help getting to the polls.

 


Congress held several meetings this week related to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed federal education budget, and the new head of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann and our Washington, D.C. lobby team followed all the action and provided a full report. Read Kate’s latest blog post on the federal developments here.


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended and testified at the second meeting of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The commission members heard from elected and appointed officials, invited witnesses, and members of the public about concerns with state standardized tests and curriculum standards.

Read Monty’s full report on the commission meeting here. Check out additional coverage from the Austin American-Statesman here.


Kate Kuhlmann displaying her "I Voted" sticker

Kate Kuhlmann, wearing her “I Voted” sticker

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported earlier this week on the status of teacher evaluation systems. Many states are considering revisions to their evaluation plans now that Congress has reduced the federal government’s role in state education policies. Under ESSA, the federal government can no longer dictate to states what criteria they must include in their teacher evaluation systems.

Texas is still in the process of piloting and rolling out a new evaluation framework that was developed to meet conditions imposed by the federal government before the law was changed. Will Texas follow the lead of other states and reconsider tying teacher evaluations to student growth measures, including standardized test score data? Much may depend on the outcome of Tuesday’s primary election.

Read Kate’s blog post on the state of evaluations to learn more.


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson reports here on the Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees, which held meetings this week in Richardson, Texas.

Much of the Feb. 24-26 meeting dealt with a review of the pension trust fund and investment performance, as well as board policies and procedures. However, there was also a discussion and action taken on the retiree health care program, TRS-Care.

The most pressing portion of the meeting dealt with the financial realities facing TRS-Care. Going into the 2017 legislative session Care is projected to be facing a deficit of nearly $1.5 billion. The TRS board and staff have done a commendable job managing Care given the funding restraints placed on the program by the legislature. In 2011, state funding was reduced by half for one year, and in 2015, the state had to add $768 million to the program simply to sustain it for two more years while a study could be conducted on sustainability of the health insurance program. Legislative hearings will begin on this interim charge and study in late March. ATPE will be participating and will provide updates as they occur.

As we reported earlier, two important assumptions that affect the actuarial calculations of the TRS pension fund have recently been changed. The mortality rate has been adjusted to reflect current life expectancy, and payroll growth assumptions were decreased from 3.5% to 2.5% as a result of trends in the slowing of public education employee compensation increases. Both of these changes have small, negative implications for the fund. Overall, the pension trust fund is valued at $124 billion and is considered healthy.

To maintain the retirement benefits our public education  community earns and relies on, it is crucial that we continue to elect candidates who will preserve the pension system provided by TRS for all current and future public education employees.


As a reminder, there are more opportunities coming up for you to join with members of your community to talk about public education and the challenges and opportunities it faces. The State Board of Education’s community conversation series on student testing and school accountability continues in March with events in Kilgore and Amarillo. The meetings are designed to elicit local community feedback for SBOE members to share with the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability.

The next event will be in Kilgore on Tuesday, March 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Education Service Center for Region 7. Register for the Kilgore event here.

Find additional information about the community conversations here.

 


VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh Background

A week of education-related hearings in Washington, D.C.

ThinkstockPhotos-492905119-USCapIt was a busy week for education in Washington, D.C., as Congress held four hearings on a variety of topics. Two of those hearings were dedicated to oversight as the Department of Education (ED) implements the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), another was focused on President Obama’s education budget proposal, and a final hearing concentrated on the confirmation of current acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King as Secretary of Education.

ESSA Implementation

The Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) kicked the week off on Tuesday with a hearing entitled, “ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from Education Leaders.” Seven invited witnesses delivered testimony on the topic. The witness list included a governor, two superintendents, two think tank representatives, and two teacher union representatives. All panelists welcomed the new law, specifically with regard to more state-controlled decision making, and expressed the importance of quality regulations delivered under an appropriate timeline.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated that the Committee wants states to have plans ready by July 1, 2017, and one panelist hoped that initial regulations would be finalized by this coming fall. While most panelists agreed with the need for rapid response to the law, there was some concern that moving too quickly could mean states will merely tinker with current systems as opposed to taking the time to really rethink the systems in place. The importance of teacher involvement in the implementation process was also discussed. Watch the full Senate committee hearing here.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce also held a hearing dedicated to ESSA implementation. The hearing took place Thursday morning and was entitled “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Upholding the Letter and Intent of the Every Student Succeeds Act.” This is the second ESSA oversight hearing held by the House (read more about the first hearing here). Acting Secretary King was the only witness at the hearing yesterday morning.

While members did ask King about specific issues pertaining to the new law, Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) kicked off the meeting with comments and questioning on the federal government’s role under ESSA. He specifically pointed to comments made by former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan late last year that seemed to imply ED was already looking for ways around some of the new law’s restrictions that limit the department from intervening in states’ policies. King understood the limitations but also assured members that ED would adequately enforce the civil rights aspects of the law. Watch the full House committee hearing here.

Related content: ED released a fairly extensive document today that addresses frequently asked questions pertaining to ESSA. The FAQ document can be viewed here.

Dr. John King’s Confirmation as Secretary of Education

Since Arne Duncan stepped down from his post as the nation’s top education official, one of his previous top advisers, Dr. John King, has served as acting U.S. Secretary of Education. Following a few months on the job, President Obama decided to put forth the acting secretary as his nominee to officially replace Duncan. Such a nomination requires the approval of the U.S. Senate. The process of confirming acting Secretary King began Thursday with a Senate confirmation hearing in the Senate Committee on HELP.

King was asked to weigh in on some issues of major importance to the education community.

  • On ESSA, King said they have begun the negotiated rulemaking process on several pieces of the law and are listening to stakeholders. On the importance of maintaining the civil rights legacy of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), he said that with the added flexibility under ESSA at the state level, states would have the opportunity to focus on increasing equity.
  • On teacher shortages, King said there is an opportunity to reset our conversations around the teaching profession. He recognized that states have their own specific issues with regard to teacher shortages. He acknowledged that compensation is often low and student growth is quickly rising in many areas.
  • On teacher evaluation, King agreed with Chairman Alexander that evaluation systems are to be designed and implemented at the state level, but he pointed to equity plans and federal Title II dollars that can help states build effective evaluation systems and provide equitable access to teachers.
  • On testing, King said that while test participation is important, it is also important to ensure all tests are necessary and beneficial. He believes thoughtfulness on the part of state leaders and flexibility under the new law will give states the opportunity to address the overemphasis on testing. He pointed to new guidance ED has already released on using state and federal funds to review state’s testing regimes and better understand what is appropriate.
  • On vouchers, King stated that he does not personally believe that programs like the DC voucher program cannot be scaled to a larger level as a solution for creating greater and more equitable access to education. Chairman Alexander acknowledged that Congress was unable to pass voucher and school choice amendments, and he asked that King respect that the body failed to come to a consensus.
  • On charters, King said the key is highlighting innovative practices and scaling up strong charter-management organizations.
  • On Common Core, which he oversaw the implementation of in New York state, King promised to adhere to the spirit of the ESSA law and not intervene with state’s standards adoption.

Dr. King formerly served at ED as the Deputy Education Secretary under Duncan. Prior to joining ED, he was the commissioner of New York state public schools, founded a Boston charter school called Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, and worked as managing director for a charter management organization. He began his education career as a high school social studies teacher.

The HELP committee will meet to vote on his confirmation on March 9.

 

President Obama’s Budget

Acting Secretary King was also on the Hill Wednesday, this time to defend the president’s budget request for ED. The request is a 1.9 percent increase over the 2016 appropriation, requesting $69.4 billion dollars. King told lawmakers on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that the K-12 portion of the proposal prioritizes equity and the teaching profession. Chairman John Kline (R-MN), however, was concerned that the proposal flatlines programs like the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

Other Republicans expressed concern that the proposal would cause budget deficits to rise over the long term. The proposal seeks to considerably expand preschool education; Republican members pointed to the hefty price tag associated, while Democrats defended the expanded programs. King also pointed to high graduation rates and waning drop-out rates across the country saying that the budget seeks to build on progress.

Policies centered on the teaching profession were a hot topic of discussion. Acting Secretary King pointed to a billion dollar proposal called “RESPECT: Best Job in the World.” According to ED, the competitive grant program funds could be used to create advancement opportunities for teachers, provide teachers with flexibility to focus on professional development, or improve working conditions. The program would be focused on supporting “comprehensive, locally-developed, teacher-led efforts in our highest-needs schools.”

The president’s budget proposal faces a long and unlikely road to passage.