Principal Evaluations and Equal Opportunities for Students

Principal Evaluation and Training

While many states have been granted relief from No Child Left Behind and its requirement that all students be proficient by 2014, this relief comes in exchange for adopting policies outlined by the Department of Education (DOE), such as adopting College- and Career-Ready Standards and Assessments; Developing Systems of Differentiated Recognition, Accountability and Support; and Evaluating and Supporting Principal and Teacher Effectiveness.

Moving from a test-based system that unfairly evaluates schools to one that unfairly evaluates individual educators is counterproductive and not in the best interest of schools and the students they serve.

Without reauthorization, there is uncertainty about the standards of the current accountability system, under both the current NCLB and its waiver requirements. To solve the issues created by the waivers, the reauthorization of NCLB must fairly and accurately assess the performance of educators.

Meaningful input from principals and organizations representing principals, including AFSA, is critical in the design, development and implementation of educator evaluation systems. The evaluation process must also include constant and clear feedback, with continuous opportunities for growth and improvement. Too often, evaluation systems are punitive in nature and are counterproductive toward improving student achievement. AFSA urges legislative consideration to the following changes in school, teacher, and principal evaluation:

– Using multiple, high-quality assessments and indicators to measure student achievement to ensure all student learning needs are being met, and that educators are being accurately evaluated on their performance.

– Determining the percentage that student achievement factors into evaluations at the local level and ensuring that student achievement does not act as the sole factor in evaluating educators.

– Including leadership rubrics, with clearly defined goals and objectives throughout the evaluation process.

In December 2012, AFSA (President Diann Woodard, Government Affairs Director Nick Spina) met with Eric Waldo and Tyra Mariani, both deputy Chiefs of Staff for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The meeting was both a follow up to the October 2012 AFSA GEB meeting, where Eric Waldo met with AFSA’s leadership, and an opportunity to discuss other key education issues.

During the meeting, President Woodard emphasized the importance of meaningful input and involvement from organized principals in the development of education policy, especially regarding evaluation systems and training programs for school leaders. Waldo and Mariani stated that the Department of Education is making an effort to involve all stakeholders when considering education policy, and expressed interest in hearing AFSA’s education priorities and recommendations for principal evaluation and training. AFSA is currently finalizing recommendations for these areas.

Moreover, the day-to-day demands of school leaders have grown dramatically over the last decade. The job functions for principals and staff are many and varied, with the principal being ultimately responsible for multiple aspects of the job being completed successfully. It is critical that principal preparation programs do a better job training new leaders, assisting them throughout their careers, and mentoring existing leaders. Ideally, a school leader should also spend time as a teacher and assistant principal before becoming a principal.

Investing in Education Funding and Providing Adequate Support for Early Education

AFSA urges Congress to support increasing federal investments toward providing all children with equal opportunities to obtain a high-quality education. Millions of children across the United States, particularly low-income children and children of color, do not have adequate access to educational opportunities because their schools and communities cannot provide the necessary learning conditions.

Furthermore, AFSA urges Congress to support full Title I funding with a fair formula, and federal support to increase access to early learning facilities, tools and services in all schools. Research demonstrates that investing in early childhood education provides significant long-term benefits. Children from disadvantaged areas often do not receive the nurture and support that their peers from more affluent areas enjoy, and are unlikely to receive the necessary stimulating learning environments needed to develop and grow.

This opportunity gap directly leads to the achievement gap that is evident as early as nine months of age and plagues many students’ progress throughout elementary school and beyond. It is essential to prevent the achievement gap at an early age, rather than attempting to provide remedial education later in a student’s life.

High-quality early childhood programs for vulnerable children increases literacy and high school graduation rates while also reducing drop out, crime, and teen pregnancy rates.

There is a clear connection between early childhood education and the strength of our economy. If we are to continue to compete globally with other countries, we must commit as a nation to invest in early childhood education. It is clear that our nation has a moral, ethical, and fiscal responsibility to provide high quality early education and programs for disadvantaged young children that promotes self-development, academic achievement, and active engagement in learning for all children.

AFSA urges Congress to provide children with universal access to early care and education programs. This will help support the needs of working families and those families unable to afford access to high quality early care and education programs. It will also help ensure that all children are prepared to enter kindergarten ready to reach their maximum potential.

AFSA applauds President Obama for his recent call to expand access to preschool programs. The President would invest critical resources where the return on our dollar is the highest: in our youngest children. The President’s plan focuses on Providing High-Quality Preschool for Every Child, Growing the Supply of Effective Early Learning Opportunities for Young Children, and Expanding Evidence-Based, Voluntary Home Visiting.

AFSA is also tracking the following bills in Congress related to Early Learning:

H.R. 426, Race to the Top Act of 2013 by Jared Polis (D-CO). Would institute a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Education, to local and state educational agencies, to support, among other policies, a plan for “supporting, or coordinating with early learning programs for high-need children from birth through third grade.” Latest Major Action: 1/25/2013 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

H.R. 791, The Continuum of Learning Act of 2013 by Jared Polis (D-CO). Would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) to coordinate school improvement and professional development activities with early childhood development and education programs, and require states to create or revise early learning guidelines for preschool age children and early learning standards for children in kindergarten through grade three.

It would also require states to create or revise developmentally appropriate guidelines for early learning and help foster connections and continuity between early childhood and elementary education systems.

Latest Major Action: 2/15/2013 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

H.R. 1041, The Providing Resources Early for Kids Act of 2013 by Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and S.519 by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Aligns with the President’s plan of a federal-state parternshp by directing the Secretary of Education to award matching grants to states to enhance or improve state-funded preschool programs.

Latest Major Action: 3/11/2013 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Latest Major Action: 3/11/2013 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.322, Ready to Learn Act, by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Provdies grants to states and, through them, subgrants to schools, child care entities, Head Start programs, or other community-based prekindergarten providers for high-quality full day voluntary prekindergarten programs that prepare four-year olds for school.

Latest Major Action: 2/13/2013 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.502, Prepare All Kids Act of 2013, by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA). Also similar to the President’s plan, this reintroduced bill from Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) would create an incentive fund that issues grants to encourage pre-K programs to maintain a low student-teacher ratio, use an appropriate research-based curriculum and ensure that teachers obtain a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Latest Major Action: 3/7/2013 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

H.R. 866, Universal Prekindergarten and Early Childhood Education Act of 2013, by Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Awards competitive grants to states to establish full-day prekindergarten programs at public schools.

Latest Major Action: 2/27/2013 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

At the end of last year, Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act, H.R. 8, to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff,” while also delaying sequestration until March 1, 2013, and adjusting tax policy and rates to raise approximately $620 billion toward deficit reduction over 10 years.

Because Congress was unable to reach an agreement to reduce the federal deficit, President Obama issued the sequestration order March 1. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), sequestration will require a 5.0 percent reduction in non-exempt defense discretionary funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. For the Department of Education, this will result in a total cut of approximately $2.278 billion, the largest cuts to education in our nation’s history. For local school districts, especially the largest districts, this could mean millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Meanwhile, Congress agreed to suspend the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until May 19. The measure requires the House and Senate to pass an FY 2014 budget by April 15 or their salaries will be withheld until they pass a budget. In addition, the continuing resolution, which currently funds the federal government, is set to expire March 27, 2013; both the House and Senate are expected to release their FY 2014 budget plans shortly.

There were deep policy divisions among members of Congress as to how to avert the automatic spending cuts. In early February, President Obama called on Congress to delay the pending sequestration cuts though a balanced plan of revenues, entitlement reforms and other spending cuts. The president also said Congress should delay the sequestration for several months if reaching an agreement on a larger package was not possible.

Republicans immediately rejected the idea of any increased revenue, and supported more spending cuts and entitlement reforms to reduce the deficit.

In February, AFSA signed on to a letter with the “nondefense discretionary” (NDD) community calling on Congress to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not make further cuts to discretionary programs, which already have been cut by $1.5 trillion while revenues have contributed only $600 billion.

In addition, AFSA sent out Action Alerts providing members with sample letters to the editor and sample letters for their members of Congress that can be personalized to demonstrate the harmful impact of the cuts on their school, community and students. AFSA will be closely monitoring the debate over sequestration, the CR and the FY 14 budget proposals, and will continue fighting to protect education funding.

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