New year, new edu

With help from Bernie Becker, Allie Grasgreen Ciaramella, Kimberly Hefling and Maggie Severns

NEW YEAR, NEW EDU: It’s a new year— the Obama administration’s last—and Morning Education has received a flood of predictions across the education spectrum. Implementing and regulating the new law replacing No Child Left Behind will be a big focus for states and the Education Department. Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners said it’s still early to see new state policies put in place since ESSA’s accountability provisions don’t fully kick in until 2018, “but I suspect we’ll see trial balloons and the start of lobbying efforts in state capitols.” But Aldeman expects that states might ease the rigor on teacher evaluations. “I think we’re going to start seeing implementation delays, reductions in the weighting of student growth, and possibly outright rollbacks,” he said. “The federal pressure for teacher evaluations ended the day the president signed ESSA into law, and I think we’re going to start seeing the consequences of that almost immediately.”

— Education Post’s Peter Cunningham, once a staffer for former (first time we’ve said that!) Education Secretary Arne Duncan, said his biggest fear is that states will backslide on accountability. But he hopes states will “use the new federal law as an opportunity to invest in teachers and principals around implementation of high standards and that the teaching profession will be seen as a more attractive and appealing career choice for 2016 college graduates,” he said.

— Consultant Jane West predicts that the Education Department will take into account ESSA’s changes and revise its proposed teacher preparation regulations, releasing a new version in January that does not rely on K-12 student assessments. The department’s proposed rule, unveiled [] in November 2014, received criticism for its focus on student test scores, requiring states to measure the impact of new teachers on students’ learning as measured by student growth, teacher evaluation or both.

— David Deschryver, co-director of Whiteboard Advisors, said he anticipates that assessments will take a new turn under ESSA. The law “opens the door for some fresh thinking on assessments and accountability,” he said. “No longer will states be bound by the single summative annual assessment for accountability.”

— Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander said: “I predict 2016 will see an important change in direction for students, parents, and teachers in 100,000 public schools as the new law that fixed No Child Left Behind is implemented.” Alexander said he intends “to oversee that implementation so that the law does exactly what Congress means for it to do: Restore responsibility for schools from Washington, D.C., to states, communities, and teachers.”

— With ESSA signed into law, many are shifting their gaze to the Higher Education Act. Most observers have lost hope that Congress will pass a comprehensive bill this year. The postsecondary education team at the Center For Law & Social Policy said “the issue areas still up for debate in the HEA are too large, complicated, and numerous to be settled (or to agree which ones to table for now) based on the number of days Congress is in session next year.” But one optimistic education policy watcher said the House and Senate will “advance HEA reauthorization with some focus on higher education regulation — perhaps more importantly for some deregulation.”

— Morning Education has lots more predictions to share, so stay tuned throughout the week. Or send one in if you haven’t already!

WELCOME BACK! IT’S MONDAY, JAN. 4. It’s also my birthday! [] I’m looking forward to using one of my presents later this month: A cooking class on making fresh pasta. [] Don’t forget to send your tips, clips and amusing GIFs to or @caitlinzemma. Send events to: And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

A LOOK AHEAD AT HIGHER ED: Throughout his time in the White House, President Barack Obama has talked a huge game on higher education reform. With a year to go, Obama’s Education Department, under new Acting Secretary John King, has a lot left to do to nail down his higher education agenda, including figuring out how to handle debt forgiveness for tens of thousands of students misled by their colleges, fine-tuning the new College Scorecard, ramping up scrutiny of accreditors and getting experimental sites underway. And that work will have to fight for attention with the effort to implement the new law replacing No Child Left Behind.

— If Congress tackles the Higher Education Act, which has been due for reauthorization since 2013, it could torpedo the department’s plans. In the meantime, watch for the department to leverage transparency to encourage colleges to both admit more needy students and provide the support they need to graduate. Mitchell said that in 2016, the department remains committed “to driving completion, innovation and accountability as a means to improve outcomes for all students.” Allie Grasgreen Ciaramella has a look for Pros at some of the major items on the administration’s plate:

** Presented by AFT’s Share My Lesson, a one-stop web platform to help educators meet any challenge. AFT’s Share My Lesson lets educators all over America download over 300,000 free lesson plans and share ideas. Learn more at **

KING FOR A YEAR: John King is now in the driver’s seat as acting education secretary and one of the first things he’ll do in office is welcome students back from winter break at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Tuesday. He’ll also “travel to multiple states this month to hear stories, experiences and insights about what’s working from students, educators and families in communities across the country,” Education Department spokeswoman Dorie Nolt told Morning Education. In an email sent to staff today, King will say, “‘I can’t wait to get to work,’” Nolt said. “His top three priorities include a sharpened focus on equity and excellence at every level to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable students; supporting and lifting up the teaching profession, including more robust teacher preparation; and extending the Department’s focus in higher education beyond enrollment to completion, ensuring more students earn an affordable degree with real value.”

— His predictions for 2016 highlight a number of the Obama administration’s priorities in its final year. King predicts that more than 20 states will increase spending for high-quality preschool, 10 million more students will have high-speed Internet access and America’s high school graduation rate will once again reach a record high. He also said “100 more colleges will implement innovative approaches to help students — especially those who are most vulnerable — complete their education” and “one million more users will access the College Scorecard.”

— The most delicate task of King’s career may be designing regulations for the new law, which pares back the education secretary’s authority and gives states broad flexibility in making decisions for students, teachers and schools. King could have a huge influence in how much sway over states his successors will have. And in many ways, he has been preparing for the top job in the American education system his entire life. He learned about the effect that teachers can have on their students through the deaths of his educator parents when he was young. He bounced around with family and got kicked out of boarding school before getting back on track, living with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey. At Harvard — where he graduated in three years — King designed curriculum modules on Puerto Rican history in his dorm room for fun, read the New York Times every day and was a “public service nerd.” As freshmen, he and a friend raised $40,000 to run a summer camp for kids from a Boston housing project. “Even now, just the notion of being able to help students feels right and feels both morally urgent. It feels like an opportunity to pay forward the opportunities I had,” King said. I have more on King’s past and how it shaped him for the year ahead:

— The Obama administration is pushing thousands of new regulations in 2016. POLITICO Pro has a look at teacher preparation and all the rest:

STATES LOOK TO NEW LAWS: The new year brings a host of new state education laws, including several in California meant to help the state’s most vulnerable students, the Los Angeles Times reports. One California law set to take effect allows community colleges, which are typically commuter campuses, to expel or discipline a student for a sexual assault that happens off-campus. Also taking effect: a law that requires school districts to ensure black and Latino students have adequate access to advanced math classes and a law requiring the state department of education to focus on foster students’ rights:

— After passage of a new “campus carry” law in Texas, universities are weighing a dizzying array of questions like whether to allow guns in science labs, dorms, or even nursery schools housed on their campuses, our own Kimberly Hefling reports. The fight over whether guns have a place on college campuses and in public schools flared again and again in state capitals and courtrooms in 2015. And the latest mass shootings will likely bring more heat to the conflict in 2016. The Florida House is poised to vote early this year on a widely-opposed campus carry law. And in Missouri, state Sen. Bob Dixon has pre-filed campus carry legislation for the coming legislative session, invoking the 2007 killings at Virginia Tech. The story:

— An Alabama state senator plans to resurrect a bill this year that would award grants to school systems that want to enhance their programs for gifted students, TimesDaily reports:

— The Star Press in Indiana has a look at five education bills to watch this year, including one that would bring cursive writing back to every school district and one that would prevent transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity:

SCOTUS WATCH: Student loan guarantor USA Funds plans to ask the Supreme Court today to take up a case in which its ability to assess collection fees was challenged by a borrower in default seeking to have her student loans refurbished. A federal judge ruled in USA Funds’ favor, but a three-judge panel ruled against it. If the high court opts to hear the case, the outcome could affect all government agencies because USA Funds is challenging a long-standing doctrine that gives federal agencies wide latitude to interpret regulations. Several justices have suggested that they may want to overturn the case that established that doctrine.

NO CANDIDATE LEFT BEHIND: Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary Clinton at an organizing event today at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire.

— Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush praised Nevada’s voucher-style Education Savings Account program in a telephone town hall meeting with Nevada voters. The Associated Press reports that Bush said states should be allowed to use Title I or special education funds to pursue their own custom reforms:

— Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan writes for POLITICO’s “The Agenda” that the 2016 candidates need to be asked five questions, including: “What’s your goal for preschool access in the next five years?” More:

HIP HOP HOORAY: Taylor Bell, the high school student whose first amendment case could be taken up by the Supreme Court, has new allies in the form of hip hop scholars and celebrities including Killer Mike, T.I. and Big Boi. Bell was suspended and sent to a new school after writing and posting a violent rap song, focused on coaches at his school that, friends said, had sexually harassed students. Bell sued, but the Fifth Circuit ruled against him, finding the lyrics “threatening, harassing, and intimidating.”

— But in a brief that gives the aging SCOTUS judges a brief history of hip hop and violent language, the scholars and artists argue lyrics Bell used “are commonplace in rap and reflect some of the genre’s most basic conventions,” and that “the Fifth Circuit’s decision effectively denies First Amendment protections to rap music, arguably the most influential musical genre of the last 50 years.” (“He performs as Killer Mike—but for this brief, in particular, it probably is worth noting that he has never actually killed anyone,” the filing notes.) [h/t: Derek Black:]

A TAXING PROVISION: The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities said recently that it found “problematic” a new provision in the year-end tax-and-spending package that would force more information reporting out of schools []. Karin Johns of NAICU said the provision would force colleges to report actual payments of tuition and expenses, not just the amounts billed. One of the problems with that, Johns said, is that the software colleges have been using is set up to process the amount billed. Johns added that the timing of when a family pays tuition would also make it more difficult for colleges to track. NAICU says it wants to work with lawmakers to address its concerns, and Johns said advocates have worked with Congress before to make reporting requirements easier on colleges. But the new provision is meant to help combat fraud connected to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the incentive for education championed by Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats that was made permanent in the agreement. Democrats and Republicans butted heads quite a bit over those so-called integrity provisions.

ICYMI: Morning Education contributor Cogan Schneier explored how admissions processes are evolving as more schools make standardized test scores optional. The trend has snowballed, with more than 30 colleges and universities telling prospective students that they no longer have to submit standardized test scores when they apply. But the motives behind the change are hotly debated, with schools saying they want to diversify and offer more opportunities to underprivileged students and critics arguing that it’s an easy way for colleges to move up in rankings:


— Oregon expects teens to flock to “free” community college. The Oregonian:

— How business got schooled in the war over the Common Core. Forbes:

— UW-Madison under review for handling of 3 sexual assault complaints. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

— Kentucky governor touts charter schools to pastors. The Courier-Journal:

— Not only China’s wealthy want to study in America. The Los Angeles Times:

— Philadelphia schools will remain open past Jan. 29, but beyond that, not much else is certain. The Philadelphia Inquirer:

— Looking ahead, unresolved matters and new issues will mark year in education. NJ Spotlight:

— Community gets voice in Nashville schools director hunt. The Tennessean:

— New expense for college football programs: Looking good. USA Today:

— Turns out monkey bars and kickball might be good for the brain. NPR:

So this is the new year [] with the Pro Education team: @MLBombard or, @CaitlinZEmma or, @alliegrasgreen or, @khefling or, @MaggieSeverns or, @NirviShah or

** Presented by AFT’s Share My Lesson, a one-stop website to help educators meet any challenge. AFT’s new Share My Lesson web platform gives educators all over America free access to download over 300,000 lesson plans and share ideas. Since its creation in 2012, Share My Lesson has grown to over 900,000 members and more than 10 million downloads.

No matter the challenge, AFT’s Share My Lesson helps teachers teach and students learn. Learn more at **

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