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The Connection Newsletter, brought to you by National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators

This week’s newsletter begins with some housekeeping. Going forward, this newsletter will be weekly (every Thursday), punchier and more entertaining. We understand you get a lot of newsletters, so we aim to make it well worth your time.

We also want this to be a two-way communication. We will continue to ask you questions about how you manage your programs and policies, and what you would like to learn from others. We will dive into the topics driving the policy discussions at the national level, unless you ask for something different.

NAFEPA Wants to Know

This week we want to know how you fund your professional development programs, because the Senate has new language in the proposed ESEA reauthorization bill (see a Senate bill Title II cheat sheet here) and because how this money is spent is a big mystery to many of those trying to shape national PD programs and policies. The survey will take 3 minutes. Click here to participate.

Federal Insights

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) just released its State of Preschool 2014 report, which shows increasing momentum and funding behind early learning across the states. The Senate’s proposed reauthorization of the ESEA includes an amendment that would authorize competitive planning grants to help states expand quality early childhood education (read about it here). Does this mean that the time has come for early learning? We spoke to Laura Bornfreund, the deputy director for New America’s Early Education Initiative about it.

 Yes, districts should get more serious about the issue and many have been. There are many districts that have been using Title I funding, because – as you know – that is an allowable and an encouraged use of Title I dollars. Some districts are capitalizing on the opportunity. They recognize that serving 3 and 4 year olds is a good investment for the kids and the district. The students tend to be more ready for learning and academic growth over the long term. The districts could see benefit from costs savings, such as reduced costs for special education, reduced suspensions and expulsions, fewer remediation costs and more student retention. And these are just some of the benefits. Unfortunately, [ED]does not require districts to report the use of the funds for early learning, so we do not have a clear picture of how it is being used, but we know that there are many good examples.”

“There are many states doing good work, and it has become a bipartisan issue. Oklahoma is doing a very good job, for example. So are Georgia, North Carolina, and New Jersey. These states have received a lot of attention for their work and they are worth looking at as examples. There are also examples of cities and school districts doing good work. Washington D.C. is leading the nation in access for 3-year-olds, according to the NIEER report. Tulsa has a strong record in Oklahoma. So does Boston in Massachusetts. Other newer local programs getting started are those in San Antonio and Seattle. Their early work is worth checking out. I would look to those states and programs to see who is doing this well.”

If NAFEPA members want to dive deeper into the issue, take a look at New America’s Ed Central page ( Take time to read the January 2014 report Subprime Learning: Early Education in America Since the Great Recession and its “next steps” follow-up, Beyond Subprime Learning: Accelerating Progress in Early Education. You can get them here.

Are you paying attention to data privacy yet? You should be. It may become one of the most critical aspects of your work in the near future (if it is not already). Congress sure seems to care about it, as three recent bill indicate. First, Representatives Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced HB 2092, the Student Data Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015, on April 29. We have your summary and cheat sheet on the issue and bill right here. Second, Senators Markey (D-MA) & Hatch (R-UT) introduced a bill to revise and update FERPA on May 13. Read about it here. Third, Senator Vitter (R-LA) is planning to introduce his own (more restrictive) revision to FERPA soon.

ED will give New Mexico a waiver on requiring all classrooms to have “highly qualified” teachers. Instead, New Mexico will be able to categorize as highly qualified any teachers who receive “effective,” “highly effective,” and “exemplary” ratings according to the state’s new teacher evaluation system. Officials at the New Mexico Public Education Department say that the waiver will allow the state more flexibility in teacher requirements, and will help rural school districts with limited resources meet wider federal guidelines. The state’s current system requires district and charter schools to design their own evaluation plans, but they must also use student achievement to count for 50% of teacher evaluations if the teacher has three years’ worth of student data on growth. Besides the standard classroom observation, districts can also use surveys or attendance in their evaluation plans. This waiver is one of the first of its kind under NCLB – read more here.

Audit News

Lunch room troubles. A recent audit of schools in several states, including Florida, found that many families whose children receive free or reduced lunch or breakfast at school may not actually qualify for the programs. According to the USDA Office of Inspector General, Florida has the fourth highest number of children participating in the free and reduced lunch program in the country, with more than 1.6 million participants in 2014. Read more about it here

An audit finds overpayment issues in Connecticut. “[The superintendent]blamed the overpayments in part on the district’s practice of paying employees two weeks in advance. That caused two teachers to be overpaid when they resigned or retired on payday, he said. Another teacher was paid at a master’s degree rate when they didn’t have the degree, he said.” Read more about it here.

There is a bit of an internal control issue in San Benito, California. According to the coverage, quoting the auditor: “‘So the county treasurer is saying you have $1.2 million dollars more than you have in the ledger,’ explained David Randel, the certified public accountant who presented a report to trustees Monday. ‘And that makes me kind of nervous.’” I would think so. Read more about it here.

Good Reads

CCSS, PARCC, Smarter Balanced, Next Generation Science, testing

Competency based learning, blended learning, alternative education

Education technology, ed tech

Data privacy, student data, FERPA, COPPA

Early childhood, special ed, ELL

Federal – Senate HELP, education bills, elections

Social/Emotional Learning

State (and DC) news