Music Education Policy Roundup – Oct 21, 2016

Read here for brief updates on policy developments affecting music education around the United States. These news items are compiled periodically by Lynn Tuttle, NAfME Director of Content and Policy, and include federal, state, and local items that may be of interest to music educators.

The U.S. Department of Education is working fast and furiously to issue guidance and rules. We had two new sets of non-regulatory guidance released this week, as well as additional comments on the HEA rules released last week. To learn more on all things regulatory read Tooshar’s post here:

To help sort out the week’s roundup, the top section has a separate header for US ED work in rules and guidance. Enjoy!

U.S. Department of Education – Rules and Non-Regulatory Guidance

Title IV-A Guidance Released by U.S. Department of Education
Politico Pro Education Morning Report by Benjamin Wermund | 10/21/2016 05:49 AM EDT

The Obama administration today is urging states and school districts to use funding through a new block grant created by the Every Student Succeeds Act for a “well-rounded education.” That includes funding to expand and improve technology, music, arts, social studies, civics, computer science and more. The new guidelines come as Education Secretary John B. King Jr., who was once a social studies teacher, visits Coolidge Senior High School in D.C. this morning for a guest lecture on civic engagement and how it’s important for a well-rounded education. King also stressed the importance of civics in remarks at the National Press Club earlier this week.

The Title IV block grant, created by consolidating dozens of federal programs, is called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. Congress authorized the program at $1.65 billion when ESSA passed last year. Advocates have been calling for full funding, but the House, Senate and White House have so far proposed less than that. In new guidance today, the Education Department says the block grant funding “may not be sufficient to independently fund many of these innovative activities.” The department outlines other state and local resources that states, districts and schools can also use to get the biggest bang for their block grant dollars.

The Education Department suggests a number of ways to use the funding. For example, school districts might consider personalized learning or blended learning models. They might use the funds for professional development in STEM or computer science. Or they might ditch traditional textbooks for “open education resources” like openly-licensed courses, digital collections and other materials that exist in the public domain. Find the guidance here.


Politico – regarding the HEA rules reported on in Policy Roundup last week: FIRST LOOK:

By Michael Stratford | 10/20/2016 06:02 AM EDT

With help from Cogan Schneier, Caitlin Emma, Kimberly Hefling and Benjamin Wermund

ESSA AND EARLY LEARNING: The Education Department is releasing more guidelines today to help states and districts as they develop plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act — this time offering guidance on how they can invest in early learning through what’s largely a K-12 education law. ESSA includes a Preschool Development Program, the guidelines note, which is different from the program now operating under the Obama administration with the same name. The new program will be jointly administered by the Education and Health and Human Services Departments, and will provide competitive grants to help states expand early education programs and also improve the coordination among various programs.

— The guidelines clarify that federal Title II dollars for professional development can be used to support early childhood teachers. And federal officials tell states and districts that the law amends the definition of “charter school” under the Charter Schools Program, which provides federal dollars for the expansion of charter schools. The new definition includes charter schools that serve preschoolers. Lastly, the guidelines say that federal Title I funds for poor students can be used to improve health, nutrition and other services for students in a Title I preschool program, among other things. Read the guidance here.

More than two dozen groups representing the nation’s governors, state legislatures, teachers and colleges say the Obama administration’s final rule for overhauling teacher preparation “encroaches on local, tribal, and state decision making, as well as on the academic autonomy of higher education.” In a statement, the coalition says the rule comes amid a significant nationwide teacher shortage. “By requiring student outcome measures as one of the metrics to rate programs, they will disadvantage programs serving the communities that most need well-prepared teachers, such as those with low-income and high-minority populations and students with disabilities,” the groups write, arguing that states just don’t have the capacity to implement the rule. “Setting a precedent of tying access to federal student financial aid to a yet-to-be-determined rating system represents a monumental policy shift which deserves a full vetting with all stakeholders and Congress,” the groups write. Read the full statement here.


ASCD’s read of the New Teacher Preparation Regulations

The long-awaited final regulations governing teacher preparation programs were released last week by U.S. Education Secretary John King, putting in place a new system of accountability and data collection to measure how well these programs prepare new teachers. Teacher prep programs will now be held responsible for their graduates’ performance in the classroom, and will provide potential candidates with information to help them select a school before they apply. The new rules require states to annually rate all teacher prep programs as “effective,” “at-risk,” or “low-performing,” based on indicators such as length of time graduates stay in the teaching profession, the number of graduates hired in high-needs schools, and graduates’ effectiveness as teachers (according to classroom observations and students’ academic performance). Programs that receive the lowest rating must receive additional state support. And, in a move designed to steer candidates toward the top-rated programs, only those programs that achieve an “effective” rating will be eligible for federal TEACH grants (a total of $11 million was awarded to candidates in FY 2016).

The final version of the regulations rejected a controversial proposal to link accountability with the test scores of students taught by program graduates, though states may still choose to make that connection. Instead, the final regulations allow states to use measures “relevant to student outcomes” to determine the effectiveness of a teacher prep program.

Under the new rules, states will create their reporting systems during the 2016–2017 school year, pilot them in the 2017–2018 school year, and implement them in the 2018–2019 school year. TEACH grant eligibility can be rescinded based on program performance beginning in the 2021–2022 school year.


Federal Updates


Schools more segregated today than 70 years ago, says civil rights icon

Politico By Andrew Hanna 10/21/2016 02:07 PM EDT

School segregation is worse today than it was in the era before Brown v. Board of Education, a well-known civil rights pioneer said today.

The comments from Sylvia Mendez — who as a child was at the center of a landmark California desegregation case — came during the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Business Meeting.

Mendez’s case laid the groundwork for Brown v. Board of Education nearly seven years later, with NAACP chief counsel Thurgood Marshall using the case as precedent.

“This court case is all about the struggle for equal education and basic human rights,” Mendez said. “Imagine my surprise when I went around speaking, and I find out we are more segregated now than we were in 1947.”

Mendez said that economic disparity between whites and minorities has led to school districts with almost entirely homogeneous student bodies.

“It’s poverty that keep us so segregated, that’s the primary thing,” Mendez said.

Her call for better support for students in these districts was echoed by the Commission’s Chairman, Marty Castro.

“We have schools that are predominantly minority that have worse infrastructure, lack of resources, both physical and financial, than other schools that are wealthy and more white have,” Castro said.

But, on a positive note, Castro said Mendez’s activism has led to diversity in the leadership of federal agencies, including his own.

“Without Sylvia Mendez and her parents bringing that case, there would not likely be a Chairman Castro,” he said.


Education Secretary King expresses opposition to “arbitrary caps” on charter school growth”

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 10/19/2016 04:23 PM EDT

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said today that he opposes any “arbitrary cap” on the growth of high-quality charter schools.

The comment by King at the National Press Club came in response to a question about whether he agrees with Saturday’s NAACP vote in support of a resolution that says charter schools should be held to the same standards as traditional schools. The NAACP vote also called for a moratorium on charter school expansion.

“I think any arbitrary cap on the growth of high-performing charters is a mistake in terms of our goal of trying to improve opportunity for all kids,” said King, who has a background in charter schools, including helping to found Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston.

But King said that “where states are doing a bad job on charter authorizing, that has to change,” and he noted the department has taken steps to help states strengthen their oversight over charter schools.

Afterward, when asked to elaborate, King said his opposition to what he called “arbitrary caps” applies to both the NAACP vote and to Massachusetts, where voters on Nov. 8 will consider a ballot initiative that would allow the expansion of charter schools in the state.

“There are charters that are not doing as good of a job as they should and they should either improve or be closed,” King said.

He added that “we should encourage the growth and replication” of successful charter schools.

King said the real essence of the “charter compact” is “greater autonomy for greater accountability.”


In controversial vote, NAACP calls for halt to charter school expansion
Politico By Benjamin Wermund 10/17/16

The NAACP on Saturday ratified a controversial call for a moratorium on charter school expansion – despite mounting pressure from charter groups to reconsider.

“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the National NAACP Board of Directors, said in a statement. “Our decision today is driven by a long held principle and policy of the NAACP that high quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.”

The NAACP vote is significant, in part, because charters are popular among many black parents. Roughly 700,000 black children attend charter schools – more than a quarter of charter school enrollment. Black students make up just 15 percent of the nation’s overall enrollment.

Pro-charter groups have long held up charters as a better option for low-income and minority students who have been let down by the traditional public school system. But critics of the sector argue that charter growth has destabilized minority neighborhoods, and prompted massive public school closures in those communities.

The NAACP’s vote is certain to become part of those political debates, and it arrives less than a month before Massachusetts voters will decide on a proposed charter school expansion that is on the state’s Nov. 8 ballot.

Saturday’s vote drew a lot of resistance. The New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards urged the NAACP to think twice before passing the resolution. Charter school groups, such as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, urged their members to call the NAACP and tell them to shoot down the resolution. That pro-charter group joined with the Black Alliance for Educational Options – as well as more than 100 parents of charter school children – to hold a rally outside of the Cincinnati hotel where the NAACP held its meeting.

“We’re disappointed that the NAACP has ignored the evidence in favor of charters and the demand from Black parents for better options,” said Peter Cunningham, the executive director of pro-charter group Education Post, in a statement. “They are out of touch with their members, the community they represent, and with the changing field of education. All parents have the right to find the best school for their child. Given the overwhelming public support in communities of color for choice, this vote means nothing.”


Education Secretary King: Teaching history needs to include a lesson in emphathy
Politico By Kimberly Hefling 10/19/2016 01:00 PM EDT

U.S. students need to have an understanding of history that goes beyond quoting from historical documents if they’re to help society tackle complex problems such as homelessness or the tensions between police and communities of color, said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. today.

“We should teach students that slavery is not just a scar on our national character erased by the Civil War. We should teach them to acknowledge and wrestle with the ways that ugly legacy continues to shape our country and helps explain the treatment of people of color in America to this day,” King said in a speech focused on civics before the National Press Club, according to his prepared remarks.

King said students should read historical documents such as the Constitution and Dr. Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham, Ala., jail, but they should then take it one more step.

“It’s not enough to be able to quote from these documents,” King said. “They need to know why they remain relevant today. They need to be able to put themselves into others’ shoes, and to appreciate the different perspectives that have shaped our nation’s history.”


Feds encourage the use of technology to teach young children

Politico By Kaitlyn Burton 10/21/2016 04:36 PM EDT

The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a joint policy brief today to encourage technology as a tool for early learners.

“The early learning community has been wisely cautious about using technology with our youngest children,” said Libby Doggett, the Education Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Policy and Early Learning. “But technology, when used appropriately with caring adults, can help children learn in new ways — and lessen the growing inequity in our country.”

Among the benefits to young learners outlined in the policy brief: technology can help children improve communication skills, develop strong critical thinking, and learn to explore their natural curiosity.

Research on the educational potential of technology for young children is limited, according to a review by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who also consulted on the brief released today. The brief calls for more studies in this field.

The Departments’ recommendations fall in line with an Obama administration initiative that aims to connect students to free Wi-Fi.


White House touts increase in graduation rates ahead of Obama speech
Politico By Michael Stratford 10/17/16

Obama administration officials today praised increases in graduation rates across the country and especially in the District of Columbia, where the president will tout the gains later this morning.

Despite those gains, nearly one third of D.C. students still do not graduate, the new data show. But officials said that the district had made “significant” progress by increasing the graduation rate from 53 percent in 2011 to 69 percent last year.

“Progress like this doesn’t happen by accident,” said Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, adding that “one of the keys to the district’s success” has been adopting education reforms pushed by the Obama administration. She cited the district’s adoption of “college and career-ready standards” as part of Race To the Top, as well as efforts to change how teachers are evaluated and to focus more on turning around low-performing schools.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. also praised the improved numbers, though he said that “far too many students” still don’t graduate.

“Having a higher graduation rate is meaningful progress, but certainly we share the concern that we have more work to do,” he told reporters.



UCLA won’t renew contract with Smarter Balanced testing group

Politico By Kimberly Hefling 10/18/2016 05:40 PM EDT

The University of California, Los Angeles, has decided it will not renew its contract with the Smarter Balanced testing consortium to be the organization’s fiscal agent after a three-year deal ends June 30, 2017.

The two entities said in a joint statement today that UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies will work with Smarter Balanced to ensure an orderly transition and “to maintain uninterrupted service to members.”

“The joint work was mutually beneficial. UCLA notified Smarter Balanced on Sept. 28 that it would not renew the agreement at this natural ending point,” according to the statement, which was first reported by Ed Week.

A spokesman for Smarter Balanced referred questions to UCLA. A UCLA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

UCLA does tasks for the testing group that include human resources support and processing requests for proposals and contracts. It was paid in the last fiscal year about $385,000 for the work.

Smarter Balanced has about 30 employees. It’s expected that they will move to secure a new fiscal agent. It says its work creating an online, Common Core-aligned assessment system is supported by 15 states.


State Updates


Pennsylvania faculty abandon their strike after three days

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 10/21/2016 04:25 PM EDT

The Pennsylvania faculty strike is over.

The state’s first-ever faculty strike, which began after negotiations on a new employment contract fell apart earlier this week, lasted just three days.

The faculty group representing more than 5,000 state faculty announced today that it has accepted the state’s contract pitch “to preserve quality education,” despite not being happy with the contract. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said in a statement that the group agreed to a salary package that was significantly lower than that of other unions.

“Our primary goals were to preserve quality education for our students, protect our adjuncts from exploitation, and make sure the varieties of faculty work are respected,” APSCUF President Kenneth M. Mash said in a statement. “We achieved every single one of those goals, and the faculty were willing to take less than every other bargaining unit in order to preserve those goals. We are relieved to have an agreement that preserves quality public higher education in Pennsylvania and allows our members to get back into the classroom where they belong.


CA Attorney General Calls for State Actions to Improve Student Attendance
California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday called for the California Department of Education to take over a job that her office has done for the past four years: release an annual data analysis on chronic student absenteeism. (EdSource, Oct. 19)  


— (same story – from Politico) – Chronic absenteeism among elementary school students remains “perilously high” in California, state Attorney General Kamala Harris finds in a new annual report. An estimated 7 percent of elementary school students missed 10 percent of the school year in 2015-16.


NM – State Education Chief Hears ABQ Concerns
Albuquerque parents, teachers, business leaders and elected officials gathered Tuesday to offer their two cents on education.New Mexico’s Public Education Department organized the community meeting to get input on the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, a successor to No Child Left Behind that gives states more policy control. (Albuquerque Journal, Oct. 19)


A Controversial Student Funding System Could Replace MS’s Long-Neglected Spending Formula
The state has brought in a new consultant to examine this system, the New Jersey-based nonprofit, EdBuild. The group has advised several other states on school funding reform and has been hired to propose a plan that would equalize funding between wealthy and poor districts, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a surprise announcement last week. (Hechinger Report, Oct. 18)


Chicago charter school teachers back down from strike threat after last-minute deal
Politico By Mel Leonor 10/19/2016 10:24 AM EDT

Educators and UNO Charter School Network leaders reached a deal on a new contract early today – averting what nearly became the first strike by charter school teachers in the country.

The AFT-affiliated United Educators of UNO were joined at the bargaining table in Chicago on Tuesday by AFT President Randi Weingarten, and the UNO affiliate credited her for “helping set the stage” toward a deal.

“A strike would have been the first in U.S. charter school history, but the issues for educators remain the same,” Weingarten said in a statement.

The tentative deal, which still needs to be ratified, includes an agreement by the network to continue its 7 percent contribution to current teachers’ pensions. The network will cease pension contributions for new teachers, who will receive a 7 percent raise instead – much like the deal reached last week between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union.

The UNO Charter School Network runs 16 schools in Chicago and employs over 500 teachers and support staff.

Charter school union leaders in Chicago hailed the deal as “important marker” for what is possible within the charter school sector, which is still largely union-free.


San Diego Unified School District Has New Plan to Expand Music Education

San Diego Unified School District officials recently unveiled a plan to expand access to dance, music, theater and visual arts instruction for students. Developed over seven months with input from teachers, parents, students and representatives from city arts organizations, the proposal includes the acquisition of musical instruments, collaborations with city arts institutions and allowing more students to attend arts magnet schools. More

NEW POLL IN MASSACHUSETTS CHARTER FIGHT (Politico): A new poll out today for public radio station WBUR finds 52 percent of likely voters in the state say they would vote “no” on a November ballot question that would allow the expansion of charter schools in the state. Forty-one percent of survey respondents said they would vote “yes” and 6 percent said they don’t know or are undecided. The survey, which asked respondents how they would vote if the election were held today, was conducted Oct. 13-16 by MassInc Polling Group.


How Will New Federal Education Law Impact NY State? The State Offers 36 Ideas
On Monday, the state inched towards an accountability framework by releasing a list of 36 “high-level concepts,” which provide slightly more clarity on which tests, subgroups of students, and graduation requirements the state could prioritize under the new law. (Chalkbeat, Oct. 17)


Research and other articles of interest


Black college students are borrowing $25,000 more than white peers

Politico By Benjamin Wermund 0/20/2016 12:44 PM EDT

Four years after graduation, black graduates on average are $25,000 deeper in debt than their white peers, a new report by the Brookings Institution found.

Well-known racial disparities in student debt are actually much worse than previously thought, the report says.

“Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation — almost twice as much as their white counterparts,” the report says.

The bulk of the gap — 45 percent — is driven by borrowing for graduate school. Black students are nearly twice as likely as white students to go into debt during graduate school, the report finds. That is in large part because more black students are going to graduate school. In 2008, nearly half of black students earning a bachelor’s degree enrolled in graduate school within four years, compared to just 38 percent of white graduates.

The debt gap between races is much smaller before graduate school. After earning a bachelor’s degree, black students owe $7,375 more than their white peers.

The report argues that to better understand the disparities in debt, borrowing and repayment statistics need to be tracked by race. In addition, the report says, research and policy on student debt needs to look beyond just borrowing by undergraduates.


New Diversity Research from the League of American Orchestras

As orchestras across the U.S. demonstrate a new will and energy to ensure that the field is inclusive and representative of the communities they serve, the League of American Orchestras has published two new diversity studies. Drawing on four decades of League of American Orchestras data, Racial/Ethnic and Gender Diversity in the Orchestra Field establishes a sound statistical basis for the important discussions currently underway in the orchestra field around workforce diversity. Forty Years of Fellowships: A Study of Orchestras’ Efforts to Include African American and Latino Musicians investigates the influence of orchestra diversity fellowships, from 1976 to the present day. More

Creativity Increased by Arts Study?


In a recent op-ed, author Christopher Bergland cites a study from Michigan State University that found childhood participation in arts and crafts leads to innovation and patents and increases the odds of starting a business as an adult. The researchers found that people who own businesses or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts as children than the general public. More


NEW RESEARCH ON ADJUNCT TEACHING: United Student Aid Funds, the student loan guaranty agency, is announcing today that it’s giving $1 million to the American Council on Education to study ways to improve the teaching skills of adjunct faculty members. The grant will fund research about what college instructors, particularly contingent faculty, can do to boost student learning outcomes.


School District was more likely to rate black teachers as “below proficient”

Politico By Aubree Eliza Weaver 10/18/2016 11:12 AM EDT

When it comes to teacher evaluation ratings, there are patterns in the results based on age, race and gender, according to a report released by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance today.

The study is based on three academic years’ worth of data from an urban public school district in the Northeast that implemented a new educator evaluator system in 2012-13. The report does not identify the school district.

The report found that, in 2012-13, approximately 15 percent of black teachers were rated as below proficient, while just 5 percent of white teachers and 8 percent of other racial/ethnic minority teachers received the same rating. That trend was still apparent in 2014-15, but by a smaller margin. That year, 10 percent of black teachers were rated as below proficient, along with 4 percent of white teachers and 7 percent of other racial/ethnic minority teachers.

There was also a gap between teachers age 50 and older, compared with those age 30-49 and those younger than 30. As of 2014-15, nearly 11 percent of teachers age 50 and older were rated as below proficient, versus 5 percent of teachers age 30-49 and 4 percent of teachers younger than 30.

In addition, there was a difference between the percentage of male and female teachers rated below proficient, but the gap was less than 5 percentage points.

The percentage of teachers whose ratings improved did not show the same demographic patterns and gaps.


50-State Comparison: Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems – Education Commission of the States
With states increasing their focus on supporting successful educational outcomes for students and developing strategies to meet workforce demands, examining data that connects from a student’s early education years to their postsecondary education can allow states to analyze the data in a different and more complex way. However, the structure of data systems and the policies regarding these systems can vary from state to state, with some states not yet having established a Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS).

This new 50-State Comparison: Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems from Education Commission of the States provides a national comparison of how all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., approach policies related to SLDS.

“As states tackle complex policy issues spanning the P20W spectrum – early learning, K-12, postsecondary and workforce – longitudinal data plays a vital role in informing educational policy,” said Brian Sponsler, vice president of policy at Education Commission of the States. “This 50-State Comparison can serve as a comprehensive resource to policymakers as they look to address issues specific to their state through data analysis.”

Some key takeaways from this report:

  • All 50 states plus Washington D.C., have the ability to connect data between systems.
  • Thirty-eight states plus Washington D.C., connect data between at least two of the four core systems – early learning, K-12, postsecondary and workforce.
  • Seventeen states plus Washington D.C., have a full P20W system – a data system that connects data from all four core agencies (as defined in this comparison) across the education spectrum.