Posts Tagged ‘Betsy DeVos’

And They’re Off! Early ESSA Plans Signal Enthusiasm for Career Readiness

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), reauthorized in 2015 under President Obama, affords states great opportunity to promote career readiness by updating state accountability systems, providing supports for teachers and leaders, and ensuring students can access a “well-rounded education,” including opportunities such as Career Technical Education (CTE). With the first submission window for ESSA plans now officially open, several states have stepped up to the plate, signaling a new era of career readiness.

Amid Transitions in Washington, States Move Forward as Planned

This week’s submission window comes after recent changes to the ESSA plan submission process threatened to derail the timeline. After Congress exercised its rarely-used Congressional Review Act authority earlier this year to revoke certain ESSA regulations, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urged states to stay the course and continue their implementation efforts as planned. Earlier in March, Sec. DeVos released an updated template reorganizing the structure of the state plan and eliminating a few requirements from the Obama administration’s version, providing additional flexibility to states. While this reduced the turnaround time for states to prepare their final plans, states are permitted to submit plans as late as May 3 to provide the governor 30 days to review the final version, as required by statute.

States took these changes in stride, though some are reconsidering their approach to public data reporting. The accountability regulations repealed by Congress earlier this year encouraged the use of a “summative rating” to differentiate school performance. Now that the rule no longer applies, many states are rolling back A-F school report cards in favor of multi-measure dashboards. These changes are largely a response to criticism from local superintendents and other stakeholders who claim that summative reporting is overly simplistic and fails to provide a nuanced picture of school quality.

At Least Ten of First Eighteen States to Count Career Readiness in their Accountability Systems

Eighteen states have signaled they will submit ESSA plans during the initial review window, which opened on April 3. Of those, nine have already submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education. While Montana and Ohio originally opted to submit by the April 3 deadline, they have since delayed their plans to allow more time for stakeholder engagement. They, along with the remaining states, will submit in September.

A review of draft public-comment plans reveals some promising strategies to strengthen CTE and career preparation opportunities. Of the 18 states submitting plans this week, at least ten plan to use some form of career readiness indicator in their accountability systems. These include:

Other states such as Colorado plan to adopt additional indicators a later date once better systems have been developed to reliably collect and report data. Colorado plans to convene its accountability workgroup again this spring and will explore possible measures of career readiness, including completion of advanced coursework, students graduating with college credit or an industry credential, and post-graduation employment. 

Additional career readiness strategies are present throughout state draft plans. In North Dakota, state policymakers singled out ESSA’s “well-rounded education” requirements to promote CTE, competency-based learning, personalized learning and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) programs. The state plans to use ESSA’s Student Support and Academic Achievement Grants (authorized under Title IV Part A) to strengthen well-rounded education opportunities and prepare students for postsecondary success.

And in Maine, the Department of Education plans to continue its ongoing Intersections Workshops, which bring together academic and CTE teachers to identify intersections across different content standards. This work was originally started after the state adopted a competency-based education system in 2012.

The first round of state ESSA plans indicates enthusiasm and willingness to leverage federal policy to support career readiness. And even states that do not currently have the technical capacity to do so are taking steps to adopt such measures. With months remaining until the second submission deadline in September, we encourage states to examine ESSA’s increased flexibility and seize the opportunity to strengthen career readiness systems statewide.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Betsy DeVos on CTE: Students Need to Have a Full Menu of Options

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

On Friday, Donald Trump is scheduled to be sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. While the Senate has yet to hold a floor vote to confirm any of the President-elect’s cabinet nominees, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing Tuesday evening for Mrs. Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education.

While much remains unknown about President-Elect Trump’s education agenda and his priorities for the coming year, during her opening statement DeVos stated that we need to “embrace new pathways of learning,” by “support[ing] all postsecondary avenues, including trade and vocational schools and community colleges.”

Later in the hearing, Sen. Tim Scott (R-NC) pressed her again on increasing flexibility for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. A lifelong advocate for student choice, DeVos responded that “students really need to have a full menu of options,” including “technical schools, community colleges [and] apprenticeships.”

DeVos is not new to CTE. She and her husband Richard “Dick” DeVos Jr., billionaire entrepreneur and heir to the Amway enterprise, co-founded an aviation-themed charter school in Grand Rapids, MI. West Michigan Aviation Academy opened in 2010 and includes a rigorous curriculum that integrates both academic and technical education. According to the school’s website, Aviation Academy also hosts regular job shadowing events, during which industry professionals come to campus to speak with and mentor students.

The hearing was not without disagreements, however. While Republicans on the HELP Committee largely praised DeVos’s philanthropic background and advocacy for school choice, Senate Democrats pressed her on outstanding conflicts of interest (DeVos has yet to disclose all of her financial engagements to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics) and her position on issues such as accountability, campus sexual assault and guns in schools.  

A confirmation vote is tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday, though Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) assured concerned Democrats on the Committee that they will have an opportunity to submit additional questions to DeVos prior to that date. He also said he would delay the vote if DeVos’s ethics review letter is not available from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics by that time.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in News, Public Policy
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