Whiteboard Notes | Federal Higher Ed Bill Stalled; Early Childhood in CT; New York Considers New Career Pathways for High Schoolers

Federal Commission on School Safety Holds First Meeting: The Federal Commission on School Safety held its first public listening session on Wednesday. The commission was created in March by President Donald Trump in response to the school shooting in Parkland, FL in February. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is the chair of the commission, but was not present at Wednesday’s meeting. In a congressional hearing on Tuesday, however, DeVos told lawmakers that the commission would examine gun violence in schools, but not gun laws.

DeVos Clarifies Stance on Undocumented Students: After telling lawmakers that individual schools should decide how to handle undocumented students in late May, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos clarified her position during a hearing on Tuesday. When a question was raised regarding if school officials were able to report such students to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), DeVos replied “I don’t think they can,” referring to the Department of Homeland Security’s “sensitive location” guidance. Her initial statement had caused anger among civil rights groups, who cited the 1982 Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe which established the right of a child to receive public education independent from immigration status.

HEA Negotiations Stalled: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, And Pensions Committee told reporters that the Higher Education Act will not be reauthorized this year. He had previously promised the bill would be complete by March. Despite the Chairman’s reputation for bipartisanship with ranking member, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Alexander blamed the delay on Democrats who have been pushing for financial aid reform. The U.S. Department of Education has proposed measures to deregulate higher education in lieu of Congressional action.

Senate Confirms Assistant Secretary of Education: The U.S. Senate confirmed Kenneth Marcus as the U.S. Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights. After months of delayed hearings, Marcus received a 50-46 confirmation vote. Marcus, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Enforcement, returns to the department after serving as the president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. 


Connecticut Governor Considers Early Childhood Education Legislation: Governor Dannel Malloy (D) has until June 16 to act on a piece of legislation regarding early childhood education in Connecticut. The bill, HB 5449, would authorize the state’s Commissioner of Early Childhood Education to spend up to two percent of certain appropriated funds each fiscal year to evaluate and improve child care programs. Possible uses of the funding include piloting innovative and results-driven service delivery, interagency coordination and collaboration, and evaluative tools and infrastructure, among others.

Veteran-Focused Higher Education Legislation Moves Through Massachusetts Legislature: Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation that would direct the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Veterans’ Services to study the feasibility of exempting veterans from tuition, fees, and associated costs of attending college in the state. The bill, S2454, directs the department to submit a report on the study to the legislature by December 31, 2019. S2454 passed the Senate on May 3 and the House on May 23.

New York Lawmakers Propose Career and Technical Education Pathway: Legislation regarding career and technical education for high school students in the state is under consideration in the New York State Legislature. The bills, SB 2109 and AB 7972, would establish a career and technical education pathway that would lead to a Regents diploma, but differ from traditional requirements around assessments. Designed for students completing a course of study for a career or trade, the new pathway would consist of a CTE course sequence, work-based learning experiences, and the completion of a work-skills employability profile. SB 2109 advanced to its third reading in the Senate on May 31, and AB 7972 was referred to the Assembly Education Committee on May 23.

Academically Gifted Student Legislation Introduced in North Carolina: Last week, legislation regarding identification of and funding for academically gifted students was introduced in North Carolina. The bill, HB 1048, would require equal access to gifted programs and courses for students who meet a specified cut-score on end of course assessments in grades 3-7. The bill would also increase the per-student funding allocation for academically gifted students from $1,314 to $1,350. The bill is currently pending in the House Committee on K-12 Education.

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Arkansas Board of Education Revises Accreditation Standards: On Wednesday, the Arkansas Board of Education approved a new set of accreditation standards, offering greater control to schools and districts. Some board members worry that the flexibility of the new requirements could cause inequities across the state. The proposed standards will move to a legislative subcommittee next week.

New Hampshire Teacher Developing History Course Through Hip-Hop: A New Hampshire high school teacher and founder of the personalized learning startup, Socrademy, was awarded a year-long sabbatical to develop an American history curriculum through hip-hop. His sabbatical is being funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.   

Texas Schools Effectively Implement Restorative Justice: Several schools in Texas are using restorative justice to improve school climate and decrease the amount of violence and suspensions. Since the implementation of restorative practices, students in the Spring Independent School District report feeling happier, and the number of three-day suspensions has been cut in half within one school year. 


Two California Institutions Improve Retention with Social Justice Curriculum: San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco successfully increased graduation and retention rates by providing wraparound student support services and a social justice-influenced curriculum. Students participating in the Metro College Success Program at SF State had a 60% six-year graduation rate, a significant improvement over SF State’s 53% graduation rate. The program recruits low-income and first-generation local high school students, seeking to improve college retention and completion among underrepresented groups.

Yale Drops SAT/ACT Essay Requirement: Yale University announced they will no longer require applicants to submit the SAT or ACT essay score. In 2016, the essay portion of the SAT was made optional and separate from the main test, yet some schools still require students to submit a score. Yale joins several schools in dropping the requirement, including Harvard and Dartmouth.