Tag Archives: federal role in education

Immigration is an Education Issue

Read more live coverage of #EDlection2016 via Bellwether and The 74’s Convention Live Blog.

The DNC kicked off Monday night with two parallel stories of immigration that are meaningful, especially for those closely watching education issues. Karla Ortiz a 10-year-old American citizen spoke along with her mother, Francisca Ortiz, who is undocumented.

Another speaker, Astrid Silva identified on the schedule simply as “DREAMer” is the organizing director at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. She is also undocumented. Although these speakers highlighted the importance education played in their personal stories, it might not be immediately obvious that momentum around immigration reform in the federal executive office is explicitly connected to our schools.

The appearance of these speakers on night one suggests that the Clinton campaign intends to bring renewed energy to passing the DREAM Act, now more than six years old. And while this statute is a federal immigration law, it has enormous implications for state education programs.  Since 1982, undocumented students have been entitled to attend a public K-12 school; they also cannot be excluded from public college or university. But what they still can’t do is qualify for in-state tuition or get federal grants or loans to pay for it. Some states have taken up the cause and created their own state funding opportunities but programs vary wildly with different eligibility requirements and benefits available.

By leading with two stories that are about both immigration and education, the DNC sets the stage for some high-level ideological and policy friction between the federal government and the states. Immigration policy belongs to the federal government alone (even though we’ve seen lots of states try to assert their power and lose). Education policy is primarily a state responsibility, even though the federal government can offer incentives for states to adopt preferred policies or practices. But the recent passage of ESSA shifts even more decision-making power to the states, while still providing them with federal dollars.

There’s also the matter of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals): a separate federal executive action that applies to this same category of undocumented people: young people ages 15-31 who are enrolled in, or recently graduated from, high school. DACA acts as an interim measure while the DREAM Act winds its way through Congress, protecting eligible students’ continued U.S. residency by allowing them to apply for a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation.

The success of DACA, however, rests on our public K-12 schools.

In order to qualify for DACA protection, students must prove that they are attending (or have graduated from) a U.S. high school. That requirement means more than just gathering the paperwork, it also means that we’re trusting our schools have the capacity to support these students through high school.

Threading the needle not only on immigration and education, but also state and federal authority is going to be a tricky task. But the Clinton campaign seems to be gearing up for it.  We’ve gotten a lot of the “why” now I think we’re all ready to hear the “how.”

Don’t Hold Preparation Programs Accountable for Inputs – But Outcomes Aren’t Much Better

Chad Aldeman and I released two papers on teacher preparation this morning. Both papers look at efforts to improve the quality of educator preparation programs and, consequently, future educators. il_570xN.836150536_3mo4

Some background context: to date, states have tried to affect teacher preparation in one of two ways. Continue reading

Real Autonomy, Real Accountability: Pacts Americana

We had an idea.

It started with two really depressing facts. NCLB hadn’t worked. But the pre-NCLB era hadn’t worked either–that’s why we got NCLB, for goodness sake.

But instead of obsessing about the weakness of both (we and everyone else had done plenty of that already), we started thinking about the strengths of both. Before NCLB, states and their districts and schools had lots of flexibility. They could develop policies and practices that fit local needs, and they could change courses swiftly when things went wrong. Education leaders were in charge of their standards, tests, and accountability systems, so they felt a sense of ownership over their state’s system of public education.

In the NCLB era, we got an increased focus on student achievement. We were able to track the performance of all kids, and we were assured of meaningful school and district interventions when students were falling behind. We also enjoyed an unprecedented increase in accountability for billions in federal taxpayer funds.Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.39.57 PM

Our question became: Is it possible to marry the best of both eras? We started sketching something out.

We eventually hit upon what turned out to be The Big Question–the one that ultimately brought about “Pacts Americana,” the report we’re releasing today: Does the education world have some kind of time-tested system–something could be brought to bear on ESEA reauthorization–for combining real accountability with real autonomy?

Yes, we realized. That’s precisely what chartering is all about. Continue reading

The Hand-off of a Lifetime for Native American Students

This is the first post from our newest team member, Senior Advisor Allison Crean Davis.

Inasmuch as an hour and a half can sufficiently examine an issue that exemplifies “a long history of broken promises” (per Chairman John Kline), last Thursday’s Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on Native American schools provided a public mea culpa from a government that has consistently failed to provide quality education for Native American students. While the hearing, entitled “Examining the Federal Government’s Mismanagement of Native American Schools,” allowed us a peek into the challenges at hand and emphasized hope moving forward, nagging questions remain.

First, let’s talk about what was clear. There were an abundance of grim words used to describe the longstanding status of Indian education: “bungling bureaucracy,” “bleakest outcomes,” and “individual and national economic tragedy.” As cited during the hearing, approximately 93% of Native children attend traditional public schools and 7% attend schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), part of the Department of Interior. Within the public schools, only 69% of Native American children graduate high school. For those in BIE schools, the number is barely 50%. There is a long list of BIE school facility issues documented over a decade ago and still being addressed, which includes heating problems, gas leaks, buckling floors, and popping circuit breakers. There are also the problems of mobility: students and families move frequently, there have been 33 BIE Directors in the past 36 years, and a heap of restructuring attempts has left educators in the system chasing moving targets.

The jury’s out on what’s required to provide adequate financial support for schools serving Native American students both on reservations and in our towns. At first blush, BIE schools have the highest per-student spending in the country at over $20,000 per year. That’s nearly double the national average. Then how is it possible that there are crumbling walls in these schools? As BIE Director Charles Roessel suggested, some of these schools are so remote they have to allocate their own resources to areas typically covered by city and town infrastructure, such as water and fire safety. We also know that funding formulas for rural education may not sufficiently address these additional and necessary supports.

It is indisputable that change is needed. Generations of Native American students have failed to thrive academically within the public school and BIE systems. The consensus during last week’s hearing was that this change needs to address a fundamental yet long neglected concern: the need to better integrate the rich history, languages, and cultures of Native American students into the educational content and process to bolster a stronger sense of identity. How to do so? Transfer control for the education of these children to their tribes. Continue reading

The Estrangement of Rural Schools and Uncle Sam

Today, a group of outstanding scholars gathers for the fourth time to continue the multi-year rural education-reform initiative known as ROCI.

Sponsored by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, chaired by Dr. Paul Hill, and supported by the Bellwether team, this task force is meeting in Boise, Idaho to review an impressive series of second-year papers focusing on rural students and post-secondary enrollment and attainment.

Photo from ed.gov

Photo from ed.gov

At the same time, in Washington, D.C. Congress continues its multi-year effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). More than 2,000 miles separates the two cities, and, unfortunately, a similar yawning gap stretches between the projects of these two groups. That is, for entirely too long, federal policy has underserved rural America.

Continue reading