Saturday, July 15, 2006

ASCA Legislative Update July 14, 2006

Reprinted from the American School Counselor Association
The ASCA Legislative Update
July 14, 2006

Executive Summary:
Budget and Appropriations Update
STEM Education Update
House NCLB Hearing Focuses on LEP, Students with Disabilities Practitioners Discuss Strategies for Literacy Coaches in Secondary Schools Vallas Discusses Strategies to Increase Student Achievement In Brief New Publications In the News

1. Budget and Appropriations Update

With the new fiscal year fast approaching and only 23 working days left in the congressional calendar, the Senate slipped into high gear with consideration of appropriations legislation this week. Mark-ups were held for the bills funding the District of Columbia and the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and the science agencies (NSF, NASA, NOAA). These bills will be ready for floor consideration next week. After countless hearings and events devoted to efforts to restore America's competitive edge by improving science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM), it was disappointing to see the that programs supporting these initiatives were minimally increased, frozen-or worse-in the measure that will be voted on by the Senate. The bill has slightly less funding for NSF than its House companion and despite strong rhetoric from Senator Domenici (R-NM) and others, no new funds are included for the important K-12 NSF programs that education advocates support.

On the floor of the Senate, debate focused on a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. Democrats were anxious to increase spending in this bill for transportation and security programs that they felt were not adequately funded in the bill. All amendments failed on the basis of a mostly Republican commitment to staying within the budget caps and respecting Subcommittee allocations. Again, this does not bode well for education advocates who were disappointed by the $2 billion allocation shortfall for the bill funding Labor, Health and Human Services and Education programs and who remain hopeful that amendments will be offered to increase this spending. The Senate LHHS and ED bill will be unveiled next week in Subcommittee and Full Committee mark-ups. Floor action, however, is not anticipated until after the November elections, assuring the need for a continuing resolution for several months of the next fiscal year.

In the House, where all FY 2007 appropriations bills have been passed, with the exception of the LHHS and ED measure, attention focused on resolving differences regarding an extension of the Voting Rights Act. The LHHS and ED bill has tied the GOP leadership in knots over an amendment to increase the minimum wage. Despite the adoption of a resolution supporting higher pay for workers that will be considered by the conferees on the Carl Perkins Act, no real progress has been made to resolve this issue. The House appears to agree with the Senate and is willing to wait until after the fall elections to take up the measure.

Both the House and Senate Majority Leaders-Representative Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Frist (R-TN) announced adjournment plans this week. Mr. Boehner said he intends to get the Congress home for campaigning by July 29th. He also reiterated his view that a long lame duck session will drag well into December. Senator Frist is also anxious to leave town in early August, but wants to restrict the lame duck session to a modest 10-day period.

2. STEM Education Update

This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) and the full Appropriations Committee marked-up the FY 2007 appropriations bill. The bill funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several other science-related agencies. The bill (technically H.R.

5672) passed unanimously out of subcommittee and full committee. While exact program funding numbers are not known, some broader figures are:

overall funding for NSF is $5.99 billion, a $410 million increase over FY

2006 and slightly less than the FY 2007 number in the House; and funding for the Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR) is $835.75 million, a

$39.06 million increase over FY2006 and $3.3 million greater than in the House bill.

In statements made during the two mark-ups, Senators Shelby (R-AL), subcommittee chairman; Mikulski (D-MD), subcommittee ranking member; and Domenici (R-NM) praised aspects of the bill that provide funding for programs, particularly education programs, recommended in the "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report by the National Academies. Further, despite rumblings from some in previous hearings, there were no statements that questioned the NSF's role in K-12 education. It is not clear when the bill will be considered on the Senate floor.

Also this week, the National Governor's Association (NGA) made a press announcement encouraging students to apply for the new Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACGs) and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants. Together, it is these two programs will provide $790 million in grant aid to postsecondary students this coming school year.

3. House NCLB Hearing Focuses on LEP, Students with Disabilities

On Wednesday, July 12, the full House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing entitled "No Child Left Behind: Ensuring High Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students and Students with Disabilities."

The purpose of the hearing was to focus on the importance of continuing to include students with disabilities and limited English proficiency (LEP) in state accountability systems under NCLB, as well as to examine the impact the law has had on the academic achievement of students within these subgroups. Witnesses included: Dr. Margaret McLeod, Title III director and director, Bilingual Education, District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, D.C.; Keith Buchanan, coordinator, English for Speakers of Other Languages Office, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fall Church, VA; Rachel Quenemoen, senior research fellow, National Center on Educational Outcomes, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN; Kristine Neuber, professional faculty member and coordinator, Assistive Technology, Graduate School of Education, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA; and Don Soifer, executive vice president, Lexington Institute, Arlington, VA. This marked the third in a series of hearings the Committee has held to help lay the foundation for work scheduled to begin next year on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

4. Practitioners Discuss Strategies for Literacy Coaches in Secondary


While literacy coaches are often discussed, conversations rarely address the day-in day-out strategies that make them successful in secondary schools across the nation. On July 10, the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) convened a forum to address this issue. Participating were Diane Innes, a secondary literacy coordinator in the Pasadena, California unified school district; Lauren Greenberg, a senior consultant at the Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE); and Elizabeth Primas, director of Literacy for Washington, DC public schools.

Innes and Greenberg shared their experiences at both the classroom and district level that made literacy coaches successful in Pasadena. In the classroom, positive experiences included nation-wide collaboration with fellow teachers; usage of several research-based curriculums instead of one curriculum designed to meet all needs; the creation of a friendly environment for teacher walk-throughs; and the integration of literacy into all subjects. Innes also discussed how important effective literacy "triage" was to provide adequate supports to "regular" students as well as to those who need strategic interventions (defined as students who are reading one or two years below grade level) and intensive interventions (defined as students who are several years below grade level).

At the district level, Greenberg discussed several necessary factors for success, including professional development; adequate funding for staff; and teacher recruitment/retention activities. Also critical at the district level is setting a class schedule where students can succeed. With the advent of block scheduling, taking students out of classes for literacy interventions can hamper student performance in other areas. Therefore, constructing a schedule that can accommodate struggling students without setting them back in other areas is essential.

Providing the counter-point to the success in Pasadena was Primas, who discussed some of the pitfalls in using literacy coaches in the DC school system. Problems included under-funding and overextending the few existing literacy coaches. Also, Primas discussed the necessity of constructing clear goals and standards for literacy coaches before integrating them into the system - a process that the DC system failed to complete, forcing them to play catch-up.


5. Vallas Discusses Strategies to Increase Student Achievement

Addressing a full room - which included three members of Congress - in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Dr. Paul Vallas discussed the strategies he has utilized as Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia school district to increase student achievement. It should be noted that prior to his work in Philadelphia, Vallas garnered national attention and acclaim for his success in improving the Chicago Public School system.

Setting the stage for Vallas' presentation, a member of Congress with a distinguished track record in education, Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), discussed the inequities encountered by urban schools and praised Vallas for his work in providing the students of Philadelphia with quality teachers and a rigorous curriculum. Fattah stressed the importance of having qualified teachers in urban areas and the need to move away from the "warm body" approach of merely having a teacher in the room, regardless of their qualifications. Also in attendance were Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Donald Payne (D-NJ).

Vallas stated that while he appreciated the warm welcome and accolades, he has only leveraged the good ideas of others along the way. He does not believe that one needs to be an incredible innovator to improve urban school districts, but rather must have the ability to find what strategies work well, and must secure financing for those strategies and then bring them to scale.

Vallas outlined four reasons why students fail in high school: (1) Students are not academically prepared for high school; (2) They feel that college is financially out of reach, resulting in little drive to achieve at high levels; (3) High school course work has become increasingly irrelevant, causing general disinterest; and (4) Students often feel intimidated by school size.

To address these issues, Vallas has implemented a series of reforms that are geared toward making schools more rigorous and reassuring students that there is an academic future for them after high school. To increase academic rigor, Vallas has streamlined the K-12 curriculum so that it is connected from year to year and has increased opportunities to benefit from Advanced Placement courses. Staff use data to drive decision making with frequent benchmark testing to ensure that students are progressing. To assure students that college is an obtainable goal, Vallas' schools also have dual enrollment programs and offer multiple scholarship opportunities for students.

"What Works for Urban High Schools" was hosted by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Council of La Raza and the National Urban League.


6. In Brief

Briefing Addresses Summer Learning Opportunities On July 13, the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University (CSL) hosted a briefing titled, "Creating Opportunities for High-Quality Summer Learning." Testimony came from representatives of four model programs around the nation: Tiffany Cooper of Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL); Richard Berlin of Harlem RBI; Kate Sullivan of Trail Blazers; and Maureen Holla of Higher Achievement, who was joined by Christian Smith, a 15 year old student of Higher Achievement. The programs had many common elements, including an intense focus on reading skills, science, math, and enrichment programs, which may include the arts and physical education; a nutritional focus; and an intensive focus on parental involvement.

CAP Holds "Campus Progress" 2006 National Student Conference On July 12, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) delivered the keynote address for the Center for American Progress' (CAP) Campus Progress National Student Conference to over 1,000 students from around the country. The one-day conference aimed to increase political discussion on campuses and featured remarks by leading office-holders, activists, journalists, and policy experts; issue discussions; training sessions on communications, media, and other skills; networking opportunities; hands-on activism to take back to campus; and other events. For more information, visit

7. New Publications

The American Council on Education (July 2006). "Gender Equity in Higher

Education: 2006."


8. In the News

The Washington Post (07/13/06). "Upper Grades, Lower Reading Skills."

NPR (07/06/06). "California Schools Could Lose Aid over 'No Child' Law."

The New York Times (07/12/06). "Teachers, and a Law That Distrusts Them."

USA Today (07/12/06). "No educators left behind?"

The Washington Post (07/12/06). "Summer Vacation of Our Discontent."


This memorandum contains links to Internet sites for the convenience of World Wide Web users. ASCA is not responsible for the availability or content of these external sites, nor does ASCA endorse, warrant or guarantee the information, services, or products described or offered at these other Internet sites.


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