My experience as a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Ambassador Fellow (TAF) has been life-changing. I learned that I should be bold and always look for opportunities to elevate the voice of teachers. In June 2015, I joined an amazing family of Fellows with a wide range of experiences to bring to the table. Some of our common themes of passion included racial equality, fair and quality student assessments, teacher leadership, student efficacy, student advocacy, and a commitment to ensure all teachers not only had a voice but an intentional seat at the table in education discussions.
My Exciting Life as a TAF…
As a fellow, I had a unique opportunity to raise my voice regarding issues that impacted my profession and share stories from my classroom. In the fellowship, we were charged with conducting outreach to solicit feedback from teachers to inform the Department’s work. I was glad to see that educational decisions were not being made without including the qualified voice of a teacher. When I had an opportunity to consult the Office of Special Education Programs, I considered it a personal privilege since I had started my career as a Special Education teacher. Ensuring that there is equity for students with special needs is my passion and a large part of my philosophy on education. Throughout the fellowship I had opportunities to support the Teach to Lead initiative, facilitate calls with Teachers of the Year, and even visit the White House when President Obama awarded Jahana Hayes the 2016 Teacher of the Year Award.
Elevating Teacher Voice and ESSA…
During my fellowship, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. As fellows, we conducted nationwide listening sessions to gain feedback and questions. During my facilitation, I heard stories from teachers about how they were marginalized and devalued based on evaluation policies. I also witnessed teachers empowered by raising their voice on issues that impacted their classrooms. In those sessions, teachers and other stakeholders were able to share their concerns and recommendations for ESSA implementation.
Social Justice and Diversity During my Fellowship…
I had several opportunities to speak with Secretary King regarding our work and what we were hearing in the field. During the 2016 summer, our country was shaken by the killing of Philando Castile. Castile’s death was devastating to the students he served in the St. Paul, Minnesota school where he worked. Secretary King’s visited the school to encourage families to work in their community to heal and talk to their children about how to cope with the loss. As an educator of color, many of the students I teach reminded me of a young Castile. And as an advocate for their futures, I feel it is my responsibility to advocate for social justice, speak up against discrimination and support my students’ development as socially conscious citizens.
Once a Fellow Always a Fellow…
This was a saying I was excited to hear. At the conclusion of my fellowship, I was excited to learn that it would never really end. Sure, I wouldn’t have quarterly visits to Washington D. C. or weekly calls with my cohort, but I would still engage in discussions with the Department and alumni. More importantly, I would continue to be bold and empower teachers to elevate their voices. I strongly suggest educators apply for the Fellowship and make your voice heard at the federal level.
Josalyn Tresvant McGhee currently serves as the Instructional Facilitator for Kate Bond Elementary School in Memphis, TN for Shelby County Schools and was a 2015-2016 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow.
It has been a busy few days since the U.S. Department of Education released the final version of its “State Authorization of Postsecondary Distance Education, Foreign Locations” regulations. You can see Cheryl Dowd’s and my initial take on the final rules, in which we were fine with many of the provisions, but alarmed at the changes regarding reciprocity.
In this post, we thought you would like to see some of the reactions issued thus far…
1) National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements
In a statement released on Tuesday, the organization that manages the SARA agreement, finds the change to the reciprocity definition puzzling:
“A ‘reciprocity agreement’ that would satisfy ED’s definition strikes us as no reciprocity agreement at all.”
We agree. NC-SARA concludes with:
“We will continue to review the implications of these rules and communicate with our partners in the SARA initiative and with others.”
2) Cooley, LLP
Cooley has followed every aspect of state authorization rules for decades. On Tuesday, they joined us in the head-scratching about the Department’s flawed logic in changing the reciprocity definition:
“This approach flies in the face of the very purpose of SARA, (and any reciprocity agreement) which is to provide a common set of authorization laws and institutional standards to which all participating states would agree. This unexpected change could therefore undo years of work to create a streamlined system for state licensure of distance programs, replacing a patchwork of laws, rules, and requirements that were extraordinarily burdensome on institutions and provided many students with substantially less protection than they have now under SARA. And of course ED’s position disregards the intent of the many state legislatures that have passed laws authorizing their state to participate in SARA over the last several years.”
3) Massachusetts Executive Office of Education
So how did all of this happen? Massachusetts officials took credit in a press release on Monday:
“On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced the final state authorization regulations for postsecondary distance education, incorporating recommendations from the Massachusetts Board and Department of Higher Education, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Executive Office of Education to ensure that the final regulations do not curtail a State’s full authority to enforce its consumer protection laws. In the final rule, interstate reciprocity agreements cannot prohibit a state from enforcing its statutes and regulations, including those specific to all or a subset of educational institutions.”
Governor Charlie Baker applauds the Department’s actions:
“Massachusetts has the strongest consumer protection laws in the country, and we are thankful for the partnership with the Attorney General’s office on these efforts.”
What Massachusetts officials fail to mention in the state with the “strongest consumer protection” is that the state has never regulated purely online distance education, whereas SARA requires member states to do so. Where has the concern been for those students all these years?
4) Inside Higher Ed
The history, the conflict, and the potential for the ultimate demise of the Distance Ed Rule were illustrated in a December 21, 2016 article in Inside Higher Ed:
“The rule-making process has been one of fits and starts, complete with court cases, delays and failed negotiations — and then a surprise last-ditch effort this summer. After collecting input on a draft this fall, the Education Department published the final rule in the Federal Register on Monday.
Yet the rule may never go into effect.”
The new regulations’ impact on SARA and the Department’s undermining of the work by state governors and legislatures to collaborate is described as follows:
“While department higher-ups have throughout the rule-making process reassured SARA that the rule would not undermine its work, the final rule includes a change that SARA’s national council on Tuesday described as “puzzling.”
The final rule states that reciprocity agreements can’t ban a state from enforcing its own laws, which SARA said suggests the Education Department will recognize reciprocity agreements that allow states to continue to enforce their own laws — even though they have entered an agreement to share a common legal framework.”
That statement ignores the fact that the governors, legislators, and/or other officials charged with overseeing higher education voluntarily joined the reciprocity agreement. Additionally, The Century Foundation is cited as one of the organizations pushing for the SARA limitations arguing that SARA “opens the door for ‘predatory online education companies’ to take advantage of students’. Yet, The Century Foundation among a few other critics do not acknowledge that without SARA there are more than 25 states that do not provide any oversight of institutions providing online education. Under SARA those students are now protected.
5) This Regulation Will Probably Be Terminated
We had a conversation with a knowledgeable person who assured us that there will be a bill to end this regulation. Using the Congressional Review Act makes the process of undoing this regulation fairly easy when one party controls both houses of Congress and the Presidency. The jubilation in Massachusetts and the Century Foundation is likely short-lived.
Meanwhile, state regulations are still in place and institutions should continue to follow those rules. If you or your institution has opinions on this regulation, you should share them with your Congressional Representative and Senators.
6) ‘Next Steps’ from the WCET State Authorization Network
The two of us had a long discussion about this on Monday. SAN members can expect to participate in more discussions regarding further recommendations on what next steps institutions should be taking. Look for more recommendations in the new year.
In the meantime, there are five important things for all institutions to remember:
- Follow State Laws. All institutions must continue to follow the state’s laws in the states where the institution conducts activities, such as marketing, enrolling distance students, conducting face-to-face workshops, practica, or internships in another state.
- Follow Federal Notification Rules. Federal regulations continue to be in place that require an institution to provide institutional information per 34 CFR 668.43, which includes providing a complaint policy in the states for which the institution participates in activities outside of the home state of the institution.
- Be Sure Not to Misrepresent Your Offerings. Federal regulations continue to be in place to prohibit an institution that participates in Title IV programs from engaging in “substantial misrepresentation” about the academic programs, financial charges and the employability of its graduates. 34 CFR 668.71 * “intent” is not a necessary factor to determine whether a school has engaged in misrepresentation.
- SARA Institutions Follow SARA Policies. An institution participating in SARA that has students in another SARA state must follow the unified policies and standards as agreed to by the states approved by SARA. These policies and standards include additional notifications and disclosures concerning students participating in programs leading to professional licensure.
- Be Student-Centric with Information. Regardless of the requirements previously stated, to best serve students, institutions must provide students with the information necessary for them to succeed with their academic programs and for the credentials earned to then be useful in the location of the student.
We hope that you have happy holidays and a wonderful new year.
State Authorization Network
Director, Policy and Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
If you are not a WCET member, come join us!
District superintendents across the country have taken on a range of bold approaches to improving students’ experiences in public education. Across these innovations, districts have embraced the notion that empowering students and their teachers is an effective way to improve student outcomes.
At a Nov. 15 convening, hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) , our nation’s leading district superintendents overwhelmingly expressed an optimistic sense of purpose. Motivated by their successes with personalized learning across schools in their districts, a ringing call to action for these leaders came out of this Washington summit: give more students and educators the opportunity to experience personalized learning.
The Obama administration’s investment in personalized learning resulted from “a vision and drive for improving how we teach and engage our learners” said Roberto Rodríguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education. “And we need more of that across the country.”
For superintendents, this means enhancing the efforts seeded by ED’s Race to the Top–District (RTT–D) program, connecting with other district leaders who are implementing personalized learning, and scaling up efforts across districts.
“We have transformed the learning for our students and our districts,” said Dena Cushenberry, superintendent of Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Indiana.
Since implementing personalized learning, districts and schools have seen rising levels of student engagement, improved graduation and college enrollment rates, reduced discipline rates and greater teacher retention. All these outcomes have moved the needle towards providing an equitable, high-quality public education for students in schools nationwide. Nadya Chinoy Dabby, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, said, ” Personalization presents a unique opportunity for schools to better understand—and meet—each student’s unique learning needs. Equity goes hand-in-hand with personalization.”
Superintendents identified three areas fundamental to scaling success in personalized learning: creating the right infrastructure, providing meaningful professional development and ensuring sustainability of the changes.
Investment in infrastructure can mean building in time and support for teachers and leaders to embrace the new approaches, and practicing a tenet of personalized learning: trust.
“The most innovative thing we’ve done is trust people,” said David Richards, superintendent of Fraser Public Schools, Michigan. “Give people the time, resources and opportunity to grow on their own. Everybody’s A-B is different on this journey.”
Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin, Superintendent Patricia Deklotz found that they “had to give teachers the opportunity to experience personalized learning” for themselves. This was an effective professional development model and cultivated buy-in from teachers.
“You can’t truly realize the personalized learning vision unless learners actually embrace those competencies and have the personal skills to navigate and engage their own learning,” said Thomas Rooney, superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District, California, an RTT–D grantee.
Superintendents are looking to maintain their progress. There are several relevant opportunities within the Every Student Succeeds Act. Also, districts are tapping into their communities’ assets – like local businesses, service providers and teacher colleges – to best meet the needs of their students, families and teachers.
With a strong foundation laid, district and school leaders are positioned to sustain personalized learning and spread this approach across the nation.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” said Katrina Stevens, Deputy Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. “But one thing that’s clear to me: This work is going to move forward because of the passion and dedication of local leaders.”
Andrea Browning is the Team Lead for the Race to the Top-District program in ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which has invested $500 million in local personalized learning initiatives since 2012.
The post Districts Realize the Personalized Learning Vision, See its Future appeared first on ED.gov Blog.