Federal Audit Adds Clarity to Competency-Based Education Policies for Colleges and Universities

August 18th, 2016

CBE photoIn the postsecondary world there is growing interest in Competency-Based Education (CBE), a strategy that organizes learning around mastery rather than seat time. CBE is already considered a promising strategy in secondary Career Technical Education (CTE) because it allows students to learn at their own pace in a flexible environment and helps them develop the skills necessary to be successful in their future careers. However, a newly published audit from the U.S. Office of the Inspector General shows that, in order for CBE programs to thrive, the higher education community will need to ensure that students receive regular, substantive interaction with their instructors.

The target of the audit is the Senior College and University Commission (part of an accrediting agency called the Western Association of Schools and Colleges), which reviews and accredits postsecondary programs in California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. Among the Commission’s responsibilities is evaluating course content to ensure that the purposes, methods of delivery and measurement of learning are aligned with federal policy. These evaluations carry a lot of weight — programs are eligible to receive federal grant funding under Title IV of the Higher Education Act depending on the results of the evaluation — which is why the Inspector General audited the Commission’s review process.

While CBE has enjoyed bipartisan support, the Federal Government’s priority is to ensure that CBE programs are held to high standards of quality. That is why the Higher Education Act restricts federal funding depending on the way that educational content is delivered. Traditionally, academic content has been delivered in a classroom environment, which is considered “campus-based education.” Non-traditional methods of delivery can still qualify for federal funding, but the amount of funding is contingent on the quality of instruction.

CBE courses that are delivered off-campus and are supported by “regular and substantive interaction between the instructor and student” are classified as distance education. In contrast, courses in which education is self-paced and interaction between the student and instructor is limited are considered correspondence education. Correspondence education has implications for funding because students enrolled in such courses are only eligible for a half-time Federal Pell Grant Award.

At issue in the Inspector General’s audit is the way that the Commission classifies courses as distance or correspondence education. The audit found that the Commission did not sufficiently evaluate whether courses would be considered correspondence education, meaning that some courses could have been classified incorrectly. While the Commission does not have the authority to approve correspondence courses — this authority is outside of the Commission’s scope — it is still responsible for identifying them. After receiving the Inspector General’s audit, the Commission revised its policies and procedures to ensure that students in CBE programs receive regular and substantive interaction with their instructors.

The Shared Vision for the Future of CTE calls on states and institutions to “embrace postsecondary competency-based education models … to expand access for more learners, and provide more flexibility so all individuals can get the skills they need when they need them.” While the Federal Government has already created avenues to promote CBE in higher education, accrediting agencies should consider how they evaluate the methods of delivery for CBE programs in order to realize this vision.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Report Explores State Requirements for Dual Credit Teachers

August 9th, 2016

In Missouri and Other States, Experience Counts

ECS dual creditMany states allow students to earn credits in high school that can be applied towards a postsecondary degree or credential — a strategy known as dual, or concurrent, enrollment. While dual enrollment makes it easier and more affordable to obtain a postsecondary credential, states must pass policies to ensure students are receiving this advanced instruction from qualified teachers.

To further explore this challenge, the Education Commission of the States last month released a 50-state report exploring the requirements that states are using to approve dual enrollment faculty. The report finds that most states (35 in total) require dual enrollment instructors to meet the same qualifications as faculty at postsecondary institutions. Other states only require a combination of graduate credits or work experience related to their subject of instruction.

Interestingly, some states, such as Missouri, permit Career Technical Education (CTE) instructors to teach dual credit courses without meeting postsecondary faculty qualifications as long as they demonstrate experience through “working in the field, industry certification and years of experience.” In addition to detailing faculty qualification policies, the report highlights strategies that states are using to train their existing teacher workforce to teach dual enrollment courses. Such strategies are critical for providing students with seamless pathways to postsecondary credentials and future jobs.

From the States: Investments in CTE, Workforce Training Programs

In other policy news, three states are taking steps to invest in CTE and workforce training programs. In Massachusetts the legislature passed a comprehensive economic development bill that includes $45.9 million to establish, upgrade and expand CTE and training programs that are aligned to workforce development priorities.

Meanwhile, Kentucky is now accepting applications for the $100 million Work Ready Skills Initiative, a bond-funded grant program to galvanize regional cross-sector partnerships and bring CTE facilities up to industry standards. The initiative was authorized in a recent budget bill and requires a 10 percent match from local partners.

Virginia residents can now earn a high-demand credential at a third of the cost under the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant program. The grant, which was passed in March, is designed to increase access to noncredit workforce training programs in high-demand fields. Under the program, the state Board of Workforce Development is required to publish a list of noncredit workforce training programs related to high-demand fields each year, which it has already done here for 2016.

As the new school year approaches, so do new opportunities to expand high-quality CTE across the states. Keep an eye on this feed for more updates.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Summer Round-Up

August 2nd, 2016

United States CapitalPerkins Reauthorization Wrap-Up

With Congress adjourned for an extended summer recess, it’s important to take stock of what’s been happening on Capitol Hill these past few months, particularly with regards to Career Technical Education (CTE). Before their break, Congress took formal steps to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins), continued to oversee ESSA implementation, and has made efforts to advance funding legislation for the coming federal fiscal year (FY).

On June 28th, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released a much anticipated bill to reauthorize Perkins—the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 5587). Sponsored by Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA), the bipartisan legislation was marked up by the full committee on July 7th and subsequently approved by a margin of 37-0.

“We are encouraged by this important step towards reauthorizing Perkins,” said Kimberly Green, Advance CTE Executive Director, at the time the bill was introduced. “We appreciate the bipartisan efforts that went into drafting this bill and look forward to working to ensure the reauthorized bill helps increase access to and success in high-quality CTE programs.”

The bill seeks to align Perkins to other federal legislation such as ESSA and WIOA while streamlining the requirements of the law to more effectively support high-quality CTE. Many elements of Advance CTE’s Perkins priorities can be found in H.R. 5587 and the organization supported the advancement of this legislation through committee. Advance CTE’s letter of support for H.R. 5587 can be found here.

We expect the full House to consider this legislation when Congress reconvenes later this autumn. In the meantime, Advance CTE and the Association for Career Technical Education (ACTE) have developed a comprehensive summary and analysis of H.R. 5587 which can be accessed here.

Many additional resources including the archived webcast of committee markup, members’ written statements, and considered amendments can be found here.

While this bipartisan effort in the House to reauthorize Perkins is encouraging, there is still much that must be done for the legislation to make its way across the finish line before the end of the 114th Congress. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has continued behind-the-scenes discussions on its own Perkins legislation. It is therefore still possible to see additional Perkins-related activity later this year, but with a limited number of legislative days left on the calendar full Perkins reauthorization will still require a concerted effort from lawmakers in both chambers. As these efforts continue to take shape be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis.

Congressional Appropriations Committees Approve FY 2017 Spending Bills

Lawmakers overseeing federal funding bills have also been working on legislation to fund federal programs, including the Perkins Act. In June the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHSED) appropriations bill on a party-line vote. The legislation would level-fund the Perkins basic state grant program at $1.118 billion. However, this result for Perkins is important to keep in context—this year saw the return of budget caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These tight caps resulted in $220 million in cuts to education programs in the LHHSED bill making the maintenance of existing Perkins funding an important achievement for the CTE community. Notably, the bill would also restore year-round Pell grants which is a key Advance CTE postsecondary priority.

Following suit, the House Appropriations committee approved its own LHHSED FY 2017 funding bill. This legislation would also provide level funding for Perkins’ basic state grant program. However, much like with the Senate, the committee’s decision to maintain Perkins funding is best understood in context— other education programs under this bill were cut by even more than in the House proposal. Unlike with the Senate, the House bill does not restore year-round Pell grants although it would increase the maximum Pell award to $5,935 annually (a move that is also mirrored in the Senate proposal).

Despite these efforts, it is unlikely that either of these LHHSED bills will be advanced individually any further prior to the start of 2017 federal fiscal year set to begin on September 30th. It is therefore highly likely that Congress, as it has done for the past several years, will pass a “continuing resolution” (CR) which would temporarily extend current funding levels into the next fiscal year. Be sure to check back as efforts to fund federal programs, including Perkins, continue to firm up.

ESSA Implementation

As we have shared previously, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has been developing rules and regulations to govern the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In the spring, the law’s mandated negotiated rulemaking committee met to determine how to regulate ESSA’s “supplement, not supplant” and assessment provisions. These efforts brought about a great degree of disagreement between USDE, which ultimately made a series of proposals on these issues, and Congressional Republicans, who viewed these proposals as being outside the allowable scope of ESSA.

Disagreements over how to appropriately implement ESSA’s provisions have continued to chew away at the bipartisan consensus that helped move ESSA across the finish line late last year. This has become even more apparent in a series of congressional hearings where Republican lawmakers and U.S. Secretary of Education John King have increasingly been at odds over these issues (more on that here, here, and here).

In June, USDE released additional draft regulations—known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)—on the law’s accountability, public reporting, and state plan provisions. Of particular note are how the draft rules address ESSA’s newly required state accountability indicators of “school quality and student success” which allow states the opportunity to measure and value indicators of student postsecondary and career readiness. Advance CTE and ACTE provided comments to USDE on these aspects of the regulations which can be viewed here.

USDE has continued to update its own resource page with helpful materials to support the law’s ongoing implementation process. Recently the department circulated a Dear Colleague letter highlighting ways in which states and communities can support a “well-rounded education”—a key concept of the new law that now includes CTE. Additionally, the Council of Chief State School Officers has produced an extremely useful guide for engaging stakeholders during ESSA plan development and the Collaborative for Student Success, a new website, collects state-specific information on states’ efforts to implement the new K-12 law.

Odds & Ends

  • After a six month delay, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services released final regulations for the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The most consequential set of rules for the CTE community can be found here which addresses state WIOA state planning, the performance accountability system, the one-stop system, and the sharing of one-stop center infrastructure costs.
  • USDE released a Dear Colleague letter providing guidance and clarification on gender equity within CTE. The letter focuses on requirements found in the Perkins Act as well as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded programs, including Perkins. Read the letter here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Election 2016: Where the National Parties Stand on CTE

August 1st, 2016

With the Democratic National Convention now over, both major parties have officially selected their nominees for the 2016 election. Coinciding with the nomination festivities, each party voted on and approved a party platform that outlines its priorities for the coming years. Once again, both Republicans and Democrats have affirmed commitments to Career Technical Education (CTE) through their respective platforms, demonstrating that CTE remains a solidly bipartisan issue.

Republican Party Platform Promotes CTE, Work-based Learning

The GOP’s position on education echoes much of what we’ve been hearing in Congress with regards to local-control over matters of education. Nevertheless, the platform promotes CTE as one of “the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement.” The platform further urges “school districts to make use of teaching talent in the business community, STEM fields, and the military,” to leverage non-traditional expertise in support of student learning. The party also promotes technical colleges and work-based learning, and advocates for public policies that “recognize that a four-year degree from a brick-and-mortar institution is not the only path toward a prosperous and fulfilling career.”

Democrats Aim to Expand Access to Middle Class Jobs

In the Democratic camp, the party approved a progressive platform calling for increased access to high-quality education and more pathways to the middle class for students of all backgrounds. The platform targets high costs and “predatory for-profit schools” as barriers to achieving this vision. It proposes to “make community college free” and crack down on for-profit schools that don’t “enable students to complete their degrees and prepare them for work.” The party also commits to investing in “high-quality STEAM classes [and] computer science education” as well as expanding “linked learning models and career pathways” across the country.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2017 Perkins Funding Bill as Stakeholders Review Newly Proposed ESSA Regulations

June 10th, 2016

United States CapitalYesterday, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $161.9 billion funding measure for federal programs falling under the jurisdictions of the U.S. Departments of Labor (Labor), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education (ED) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The overall allocation of funding made available for this bill, known as a 302(b) allocation, was $270 million below FY 2016 levels. This meant that programs falling under this part of the budget all faced reductions in order to stay within the new FY 2017 cap even before individual funding decisions were made by the committee this week.

The legislation, as passed yesterday, would provide level funding for state formula grants under the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins)— approximately $1.117 billion overall for law’s Title I program or the same amount the program has received since FY 2014.

The bipartisan bill, the culmination of negotiations between Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) is the first time Labor-HHS-ED funding legislation has passed the full Senate Appropriations Committee since 2009.

Overall the bill reduces ED’s budget by $220 million from the previous fiscal year although this figure does not take into account changes that would be made to the department’s largest program—federal Pell grants. A key piece to understanding the committee’s decision-making on this legislation date back to March when, at that time, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a $7.8 billion surplus for Pell grants in the coming fiscal year.

In light of these additional funds, Senate appropriators have proposed to use a portion of this year’s Pell surplus to reinstitute “year-round Pell”— a provision the Obama Administration scrapped in 2011 as a cost savings measure which allows students to use their Pell awards during the summer months and accelerate their postsecondary studies. The bill also increases the maximum Pell award for the 2017-18 academic year to $5,935 although year-round recipients are capped at 150% of that maximum.

The Senate Appropriations Committee however took another chunk out of this surplus by also proposing to use a significant portion of it to fund other non-student-aid items in the budget, including a $2 billion proposed funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many higher education organizations, as well as the Congressional Tri-Caucus, voiced strong opposition to this proposal saying, in part, “Students cannot afford to continue subsidizing other areas of the budget.”

Advance CTE agrees with these concerns and believes that any additional funding freed up as a result of a Pell surplus should be used exclusively for education. However, such a move by lawmakers further underscores the importance of increasing or dissolving current “budget caps” that have been in place for several years as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, legislation that constrains the amount of resources available for important investments in our nation’s education system among other vital national priorities.

In addition to these provisions, the recently passed bill also proposes to cut Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state formula programs by 3% or $73.8 million while providing a 10% increase for USDOL’s apprenticeship grant program to $100 million overall.

With the Senate’s work on a Labor-HHS-ED bill complete for the time being, attention turns to the House of Representatives where the appropriations committee in that chamber is widely expected to consider their version of the bill before recessing in mid-July. Although the deadline for all FY 2017 funding legislation is September 30th, the limited amount of legislative days left on the Congressional calendar will likely necessitate a temporary stop-gap funding measure—known as a continuing resolution— to put difficult (and final) federal budget decisions for FY 2017 until after the Presidential election this November.

Nevertheless, these appropriations bills will likely be used as a starting point for future negotiations on federal spending later this year. They are important mileposts for what the CTE community should expect with regards to education and workforce development funding for the coming fiscal year, but it is important to keep in mind that this legislation has not been enacted.

Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis on the federal appropriations process as events continue to unfold.

U.S. Department of Education Releases Proposed ESSA Rules

As part of the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), legislation that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a draft version of rules outlining proposed requirements for state plans, accountability systems, and reporting responsibilities.

This new batch of proposed regulations— known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)— is open for public input and comment until August 1, 2016. Overall the NPRM hews closely to the newly passed law, providing substantial new flexibility to states and locals with regards to implementation. By comparison, another departmental proposal on so-called “supplement-not-supplant” regulations was met with far more concern earlier this month as we shared previously.

Interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback to the department for how to improve upon this proposal by the above deadline. A summary of the rules can be found here, the full proposal is over this way, and comments can be submitted via this portal.

Odds & Ends

  • Earlier this week, Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a new legislative agenda aimed at tackling poverty and ensuring economic opportunity for more Americans. The report offers four broad recommendations for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Read more here starting on page 27.
  • Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke at length on the Senate floor this week about a high-quality CTE program in his state and encouraged his colleagues to continue their efforts to reauthorize the Perkins Act. Watch his remarks here.
  • Last month USDE announced the 44 postsecondary institutions selected as part of its “experimental sites” initiative for Pell grants. The efforts will, on a limited and piloted basis, allow an estimated 10,000 students to use $20 million in Pell Grants to take dual and concurrent enrollment courses. Read the list of institutions here and more information on the effort can be found here.
  • USDE has announced another delay in the ongoing implementation of its “gainful employment” rule which aims to hold certain postsecondary institutions accountable for their students’ debt-to-earnings ratios. The hold-up relates to USDE’s release of “completers lists”— data that is necessary to determine these ratios. This interim step was originally slated for release last winter and has now been delayed until “later in June”. More on the delay from the department is available here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

State Policy Update: Iowa Passes Bill to Modernize CTE (and More!)

June 2nd, 2016

Since our last update, an additional nine states have completed their legislative sessions (16 states, five US territories and DC remain in session), locking in a new wave of policies related to Career Technical Education (CTE). While it’s too early to determine any national trends, we can certainly highlight a few new pieces of legislation. In this edition, we share some state policy updates as well as a few helpful resources.

In Iowa last week, Gov. Terry Branstad signed HF 2392 into law, supporting his Future Ready Iowa goal of ensuring 70 percent of the state’s workforce has postsecondary education or training by 2025. This new law, which passed the state legislature unanimously, codifies recommendations from the Secondary CTE Task Force and updates the state’s framework for CTE that has been in the Iowa Code since 1989. The major policy changes that the law enacts include:

  • Reorganizes CTE into six service areas;
  • Directs the state CTE advisory board to adopt standards for the CTE service areas as well as standards for establishing and operating regional planning partnerships, which are also established by the law as “an efficient, effective and economical means of delivering” high-quality CTE;
  • Directs school districts to develop an individualized career and academic plan for students in grade eight with an emphasis on work-based learning.

Meanwhile Georgia, building off of the 2014 Work Based Learning Act, passed a law incentivizing employers to offer work-based learning opportunities for students aged 16 and older. The law provides a discount for workers’ compensation insurance policies in an effort to reduce the burden on employers.

In Missouri, the state legislature passed a combined bill that directs the board of education to establish requirements for a CTE certificate that students can earn in addition to their high school diploma (notably, with a provision to ensure that students are not “tracked” based on academic ability). It also modifies the composition of the state’s Career and Technical Education Advisory Council and permits the commissioner of education to appoint members. The bill has passed the legislature and awaits Governor Nixon’s signature. Once signed, the CTE certificate requirements will go into effect during the 2017-18 school year.

And with Colorado’s 2016 legislative session now closed, all is quiet on the western front. The Colorado legislature passed four bills originating from the bipartisan Colorado 2016 Ready to Work package, including the creation of the Career Development Success Pilot Program, which provides financial incentives to school districts and charter schools for each student who completes “industry-credential programs,” internships, apprenticeships or Advanced Placement coursework in high-demand fields.

Odds & Ends

While that concludes our legislative update, we would be remiss to deny you these resources and papers from some of our partners:

  • The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) launched a state policy database that includes regulations and practices governing college, career, and civic readiness in all states and territories.
  • A new report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) provides a brief history of state governance policies in higher education.
  • Interested in mitigating teacher shortages? A five-part series, also from ECS, examines common teacher recruitment and development strategies across states.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Advance CTE Legislative Update: House Education Committee Holds Perkins Hearing while Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Career Pathways Briefing

May 19th, 2016

United States CapitalOn Tuesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to discuss ways to improve and modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Due for reauthorization since 2013, the law has been in the early stages of consideration by the committee since an earlier subcommittee hearing last October.

The hearing gave a platform to four witnesses to provide perspectives on how Perkins could be strengthened through future legislation:

  • Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Paul Tse, Project Manager, Shapiro & Duncan Inc.
  • Jason Bates, Manager, Toyota— Bodine Aluminum Inc.
  • Monty Sullivan, President, Louisiana Community and Technical College System

Chairman John Kline (R-MN) started the hearing off by emphasizing the bipartisan nature of Perkins and Career Technical Education (CTE), outlining a set of priorities he sees as important to a Perkins reauthorization effort.

During his written testimony, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke at length about his passion for CTE and centered his remarks around several pieces of legislation he has introduced in the Senate to strengthen Perkins and bolster support for CTE. In particular, Sen. Kaine stressed the importance of defining and supporting high-quality CTE programs of study in the next Perkins Act, as he and his colleagues have proposed to do in the Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act (ETWA). He also emphasized the significance of appropriately aligning Perkins to the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)— a key theme throughout the day.

Another topic that was repeatedly touched upon on Tuesday related to the need to strengthen other federal programs, such as federal financial aid programs in Title IV of the Higher Education Act, to more effectively support postsecondary CTE programs. While outside the direct scope of Perkins reauthorization, several witnesses as well as members of the committee highlighted this issue as something that would further strengthen postsecondary CTE.

This last point was underscored in particular by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) who pointed out that Perkins funding has depreciated by 24 percent since 1998. Other members of the committee echoed the need for additional funding for Perkins, while others argued that improvements should be made to Perkins to more efficiently make use of the federal investment in CTE. Dr. Sullivan for instance made a compelling argument that future Perkins legislation should focus on incentivizing program and student outcomes, rather than measuring program inputs for the purposes of accountability.

Witnesses also touched upon the importance of strengthening relationships between employers and programs. Jason Bodine of Toyota for instance highlighted his company’s participation in the Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) program— a partnership between Jackson State Community College and a consortium of area employers.

Other subjects that came up in the hearing included strengthening supports for career guidance and advisement and the need to increase awareness of CTE opportunities at earlier stages in a student’s life. At the hearing’s conclusion Chairman Kline expressed optimism about the prospects for Perkins reauthorization in this Congress and underlined the need for bipartisan cooperation as discussions continue to take shape on the committee.

All witness testimony and the chairman’s opening remarks can be found here. To watch the archived video of the hearing, click here.

Career Pathways: Exploring the Partnership Pipeline

Last week the Senate CTE Caucus, in conjunction with the Alliance for Excellent Education, hosted a briefing dedicated to exploring partnership opportunities to develop and expand career pathways. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who opened the panel with brief remarks, framed the nature of the problem with a jarring statistic: with 300,000 individuals out of work in Ohio and 160,000 jobs unfilled, closing the skills gap is “incredibly important work right now.”

And just how do we go about equipping young people with the skills to fill these high-demand positions? Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), described how career pathways could fan out from a 2-year degree program, enabling students to either pursue additional postsecondary education or enter the workforce after obtaining a certificate in a high-demand field like cybersecurity.

Over on the West Coast, Superintendent John Snavely described Porterville Unified School District’s (PUSD) Linked Learning approach. This model combines rigorous academics, career-based classroom learning, work-based learning, and integrated student supports to propel students through relevant career pathways. With support from third-party intermediaries like Innovate Tulare-Kings, which engages regional business partners in Central California to connect students with experiential learning opportunities, PUSD has been able to continue the learning experience outside of the classroom.

The panel discussion can be viewed in its entirety here (beginning 22 minutes in).

Odds & Ends

  • The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a useful FAQ resource for states as they make the transition to ESSA over the coming year.
  • USDE, along with 11 other federal agencies, re-released a letter of support for career pathways systems development. The letter has been updated to reflect WIOA’s statutory definition for a career pathway, reiterates the six key elements of a career pathway system, and provides a useful toolkit for implementation. More here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager and Austin Estes, Policy Associate 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: CTE Presidential Scholars Announced as ESSA Implementation Continues and Obama Administration Makes Skills Announcements

May 5th, 2016

United States CapitalYesterday the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced the 52nd class of U.S. Presidential Scholars that, for the first time since the program’s inception, now counts Career Technical Education (CTE) students among the nation’s highest achievers.

“We’ve added 20 more slots to honor our highest achieving students in career and technical education, reflecting the Department’s belief that a quality education must be a well-rounded education that prepares students for college, careers and any other civic service,” USDE Secretary John King said in a statement yesterday.

As we have shared previously, President Obama signed Executive Order 11155 last June— a move that expanded the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students as part of the program. Created in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. Presidential Scholars program identifies the nation’s highest-achieving students and honors them at an annual award ceremony in D.C. Advance CTE applauded the CTE expansion of this program and will continue to urge policymakers to raise the profile of CTE through efforts and initiatives such as this.

More info can be found here and a full list of Presidential scholars can be found here.

ESSA Implementation Continues

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— a law that replaced No Child Left Behind and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act— states, districts, USDE, and other stakeholders have been busy figuring out the best way forward for implementing the new law.

While the defining theme of ESSA has been a devolution of policymaking authority from the federal level to the jurisdictions of states and local districts, USDE is still responsible for facilitating the development of a limited set of regulations to assist in the law’s ongoing roll-out. Known as “negotiated rulemaking”, this is a collaborative process by which a panel of stakeholders and USDE negotiate the terms of specific regulations required for ESSA implementation.

The panel was tasked with coming to consensus on issues affecting student assessments and the law’s “supplement, not supplant” requirement— a provision that requires that federal funds from ESSA not take the place of existing state and local spending, but rather supplement those efforts.

The panel was able to reach consensus on the issues related to assessment, but unfortunately not on supplement, not supplant rules. As a result, USDE will now write its own regulations on this issue setting up a likely fight with Congressional Republicans who have been vocally opposed to USDE’s proposals for the rule to date. Before publishing these rules for public comment, ESSA requires a fifteen day Congressional review period where these disagreements will likely be highlighted further.

Separate from the formal rulemaking process, USDE is also planning to develop non-regulatory guidance to further assist states, districts, and other stakeholders in implementing the new law. Although ESSA makes clear that such guidance cannot be “legally binding”, USDE hopes that this guidance can help the public understand the law better, provide a window into how the department interprets ESSA, and to provide examples of best practices to support implementation. The department is asking for input from the field on what topics this guidance should cover and recommendations can be submitted to essa.guidance@ed.gov. Comments must be submitted by May 25, 2016.

Advance CTE will continue to monitor and engage with implementation of ESSA in the coming year. A helpful timeline for that process can be found here.

White House Announces $100 Million in Free Community College Grants

On April 25, Vice President Joe Biden announced a plan to expand upon their America’s College Promise initiative with a $100 million competitive grant. The effort, which President Obama first proposed during his 2015 State of the Union address, aims to provide two years of free community college to eligible students — an ambition that has already spurred some 27 free community college programs across 15 states. Details about the timing and process for awarding grants are forthcoming, though the White House did release a fact sheet with information about its investments in postsecondary education and its wider skills agenda.

Department of Labor Launches $90 Million ApprenticeshipUSA Program

Separately, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) announced that it is now accepting applications for ApprenticeshipUSA, a $90 million grant competition to increase “job-driven” apprenticeships in the U.S. The first competition, which closes on May 15, makes available $9.5 million for State Accelerator Grants — state-level grants to expand access to and diversify participation in Registered Apprenticeships. States wishing to apply for an Accelerator Grant can find information such as the timeline and process for awarding grants here. USDOL plans to make an additional $50 million available to states later this spring and will invest the remaining $30 million to help employers launch and grow apprenticeship programs.

Odds & Ends

  • Recently, USDE circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter outlining various available funding streams that can be leveraged to support STEM education. The letter was sent to states, districts, schools, and other stakeholders and references the several permissible used of funds within the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) that can be used to support STEM education.
  • USDE also released a guidance letter that further clarifies its position on higher education accreditation following an executive action by President Obama last November that sought to improve upon current accreditation practices. The letter encourages accreditors to use standards that are based on student outcomes such as graduation, retention, and employment rates.
  • USDE announced the second round of its “Performance Pilot Partnerships” (P3), an initiative that waives certain requirements for some federal programs, such as the Perkins Act, to allow entities to braid funding and test innovative strategies targeted at disconnected youth. State and local governments, along with other stakeholders, are encouraged to express their intent to apply by May 26, 2016 and applications are due June 27, 2016. The full application announcement can be found here and USDE plans an informational webinar May 9th.
  • In partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, USDE announced $5.7 million in new grants aimed at providing CTE programs, reentry services, and training opportunities for students involved in the criminal justice system. USDE has also released a new toolkit for educators to support successful reentry of these students.

 Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager and Austin Estes, Policy Associate 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Secretary King Continues to Make Rounds on Capitol Hill as a Bipartisan Group of 150 Lawmakers Express Support for Perkins Funding

March 28th, 2016

cherry-blossoms-at-jefferson-150x150Although Congress is out of session until the first week of April, lawmakers continued to examine the Obama Administration’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget just before their “Easter Recess” was set to begin late last week.

Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education John King appeared before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee last week to discuss his department’s proposed spending priorities contained in the President’s FY 2017 budget.

As we have shared previously, the Obama Administration proposed flat-funding for the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— approximately $1.118 billion at current levels. Rather than proposing to fully fund the core formula grants that compose Perkins (which are still $5 million below “pre-sequester” levels) the Administration renewed its call for a new competitive grant program known as the “American Technical Training Fund” (ATTF).

Thus far Congressional lawmakers have met this proposal with measured skepticism. Members have been raising a number of concerns related to the ATTF and the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) other proposed CTE-related spending priorities, all of which would be made at the expense of fully investing in the Perkins Act.

During the House hearing last week Rep. Roby (R-AL) echoed these sentiments saying, “Rather than funding a large competitive grant, it seems to me that these funds would be better used to support state formula grants which would ensure more students are able to benefit from the CTE experience.” Rep. Womack (R-AR) also reiterated these concerns, questioning why USDE was proposing to fund a “new and unproven program” while failing to fully invest in its existing CTE commitments like Perkins.

The full hearing and related testimony can be viewed here.

Although the CTE-related spending priorities in the President’s FY 2017 budget have been disappointing, a group of 150 lawmakers have taken the opportunity to champion Perkins funding in the upcoming budget and appropriations cycle. In the House 118 members of Congress signed on in support of “pre-sequester” funding levels for the Perkins basic state grant program— a record number of signatures from both sides of the aisle. In the Senate, 32 Senators signed-on in support of a similar letter calling for the same funding levels in the upcoming appropriations process.

Advance CTE applauds these lawmakers for formally expressing their support of Perkins funding and a special note of thanks goes to House CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) who lead these efforts in their respective chambers.

The letters can be viewed here and here. If your member of Congress signed-on in support of either of these appropriations letters, we encourage you to visit ACTE’s Action Center to send your lawmaker a note of thanks!

Perkins Reauthorization Efforts Continue

As we shared last October, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began to formally consider the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. While these efforts have been overshadowed by higher profile issues such as the federal budget, the Supreme Court nomination process, and the upcoming Presidential elections, the committee’s consideration of Perkins has continued behind-the-scenes for much of this year. HELP Committee members have been working to expand upon the bipartisan Perkins reauthorization principles they released last fall and it is possible that this work could culminate in a draft bill as soon as the next few weeks.

In the House, formal consideration of Perkins is still in the early stages but it remains a significant priority for the House Education and the Workforce Committee this year.

As this work continues, Members of Congress have been working on smaller pieces of legislation that they hope will inform the wider reauthorization process. One such bill, the CTE Equity and Excellence Act (S. 2718), introduced by a handful of Senators on and off the HELP Committee proposes to amend Title II of Perkins to fund high school reform efforts by harnessing the potential of CTE to support greater student achievement. Advance CTE looks forward to working with these offices on a wider reauthorization effort where proposals such as this can be thoughtfully considered in the context of the entire legislation.

Odds & Ends

  • Congress passed the “Evidenced-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016” this month which would establish a committee to make recommendations for how the federal government can use data to evaluate federal programs and more effectively spend public resources. More coverage of the bill can found on the Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s blog. Read the full bill here.
  • The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing this month to explore current federal policies related to education research and student privacy. This hearing is part of a wider effort to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). More info can be found here and here.
  • USDE convened the first round of negotiated rulemaking this month to develop regulations to govern the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A number of topics are being discussed as part of these negotiations, most notably for the CTE community specifics related to ESSA’s new assessment framework and the implementation of the law’s new “supplement-not-supplant” spending requirements.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Senate HELP Committee Moves Forward with John King Nomination as USDE Announces New Grant Opportunity

March 11th, 2016

United States CapitalOn Wednesday March 9th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted to advance President Obama’s nomination of John King to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. King has been in this position in an acting capacity since December 2015. As we shared earlier this week, King recently appeared before the committee to discuss the details of his nomination and make his case to members directly. The committee voted on a 16-6 margin to move forward with his nomination.

Later that same day, King visited the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center in Baltimore, Maryland to formally announce the U.S. Department of Education’ (USDE) new “Career and Technical Education (CTE) Makeover Challenge”. This competition will be administered by USDE to support the creation of “maker spaces”— dedicated space in high schools where students “have access to the tools to design, build, and innovate.” The competition is offering $200,000 in total prize money to 10 award recipients for this purpose and is being funded by USDE’s national programs funding via the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

The deadline for applications is April 1, 2016 and more information on how to apply can be found here.

During this announcement, Acting Secretary King also called on Congress to renew the Perkins Act saying, “It’s time for Congress to reauthorize the Perkins Act so that every student, in every community has access to rigorous, relevant, and results-driven CTE programs.”

Gainful Employment Regulations Survive Second Challenge

On Tuesday March 8th, a federal appeals court upheld USDE’s gainful employment regulations— rules that seek to hold career education programs accountable for students’ levels of debt and earnings.

The court rejected a second challenge from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, ruling that USDE has the necessary legal authority to promulgate rules that measure students’ debt-to-earnings ratios and hold colleges accountable for those levels of student earnings and debt.

A previous iteration of this rule was struck down in federal court in 2012, forcing USDE to recraft them into their current version. Gainful employment regulations have been in effect since July 1, 2015 and this most recent decision by the courts makes it much more likely that the rules will stay in effect for the foreseeable future.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager  

 

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