Legislative Action Team Advisory

Friday, November 16, 2007

Legislative Update November 16, 2007

Quick Report
Override Vote

The House of Representatives by a vote of 277-141 failed to override the president’s veto of the Appropriations for the Departments of Labor/Health and Human Services/Education for the current fiscal year. The Senate will not push for a vote. There is a plan circulating in the Senate to redraft the spending plan splitting the difference between what the Congress proposed and vetoed and what the President’s budget outlined. In round figures this results in a loss of about $2.25 billion in funds from the Congressional proposal. Currently, the government is functioning under a continuing resolution which expires on December 14.

House Committee Action on Higher Education Act

The House Education and Labor Committee passed, 45- 0, a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. It is expected that this bill will be acted on by the full House when they return in January. During the debate, which stretched over two days, the Committee accepted 12 Republican amendments.

Head Start Reauthorization Going to President’s Desk

The House and Senate have agreed to the same set of changes to Head Start and the legislation now goes to the president for his expected signature. In this revised Head Start is a new focus on literacy. A background memo is being prepared to brief IRA members as to the new literacy sections of this Act.

NAEP’S 2007 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA)
NAEP’S 2007 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) was released Thursday, November 15, 10:00 am. (The participating urban districts’ scores in reading and math are reported separately from the NAEP states results.)

Reading scores for 4th and 8th graders are generally the same or have increased slightly since 2002, when the TUDA began collecting these statistics from volunteer urban public school districts. The exception: Houston’s 4th grade reading scores dropped since 2005 to the same level recorded for 2002. Only Atlanta and DC posted reading gains in both 4th and 8th grade.

The Nation’s Report Card Reading 2007: Trial Urban District Assessment and the Nation’s Report Card Mathematics 2007: Trial Urban District Assessment are at http://nationsreportcard.gov/

National Assessment of Title I: Final Report

This Congressionally mandated two-volume report, “Summary of Key Findings,” presents findings on the implementation and impact of the Title I program. Volume I contains key findings on the implementation of the program under No Child Left Behind, and Volume II reports on follow-up findings from Closing the Reading Gap, an evaluation of the impact of supplemental remedial reading programs on the achievement of 3rd and 5th grade students. For the summary and full report go to:http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20084012/index.asp

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Register Now! IRA Government Relations Workshop, February 21 and 22, Washington DC

You are invited to participate in the 2008 Governmental Relations Workshop hosted by the International Reading Association and the Government Relations Committee in Washington, D.C. The workshop will be held on February 21, from 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm and February 22, from 8:00 am - 3:00 pm.

The goals of the workshop are to strengthen your and your council’s ability to impact legislation by providing training and information. The 2008 Legislative Workshop will focus on training workshop participants to be effective advocates on both federal and state issues. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with their Members of Congress and/or their staffs on Capitol Hill.

This is a no-cost workshop to IRA members. There is a fully refundable $50.00 registration fee which is returned on notification of cancellation or when attending the conference. This policy is to provide an accurate count to IRA. We will provide lunch on Thursday and breakfast and lunch on Friday. All other expenses are the responsibility of the attendees. Many participants receive funding from their state councils to help pay for costs. The workshop will be held at the Hall of the States building on Capitol Hill. We have a block of rooms at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill. The rates are $289.00 single and $314.00 double. The hotel telephone is 202-737-1234. Be sure to mention you are part of the IRA group. The cut-off date to reserve a room is January 21st.

Questions? Call 202-624-8800 or e-mail irawash@reading.org

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

House Mark-up of Higher Education Act

As reported earlier, the Higher Education Act (HEA) is scheduled to be reauthorized. The House Committee on Education and Labor has released its most current draft and is planning a mark-up (the time when the committee opens the text to change by members of the House Education and Labor Committee) for Wednesday, November 14th. The Senate has a separate bill. There are several sections of the Higher Education Act that are of significant interest to IRA. This short note is to highlight those sections.

General background on the Higher Education Act Amendments of 2007
The House Education and Labor Committee announced introduction of an HEA reauthorization bill and intend to mark it up in committee on November 14. A press release announcing the bill’s introduction asserts that the bill would:
· Streamline the federal student financial aid application;
· Make textbook costs more manageable for students;
· Expand college access for low-income and minority students;
· Increase college aid and support programs for veterans and military families;
· Create safer college campuses for students and faculty;
· Ensure equal college opportunities and fair learning environments for students with disabilities; and
· Help strengthen our nation’s workforce and economic competitiveness.

The term “literacy coach” is defined in the new HEA and means “a professional ‘‘(A) who ‘‘(i) has teaching experience and a master’s degree with a concentration in reading and writing education; ‘‘(ii) has demonstrated proficiency as determined by the principal of the individual’s school in teaching reading and writing in a content area such as math, science, or social studies; ‘‘(B) whose primary role with teachers and school personnel is to ‘‘(i) provide high-quality professional development opportunities for teachers and school personnel related to literacy; ‘‘(ii) with respect to the areas of reading and writing, collaborate with paraprofessionals, teachers, principals, and other administrators, and the community served by the school; and ‘‘(iii) work cooperatively and collaboratively with other professionals in planning programs to meet the needs of diverse population learners, including children with disabilities and limited English proficient individuals; and ‘‘(C) who may provide students with ‘‘(i) reading or writing diagnosis, instruction, and assessment; and ‘‘(ii) reading and writing assessment, in cooperation with other professionals (such as special education teachers, speech and language teachers, and school psychologists).”

Of particular interest to IRA is Title II of the HEA – specifically, the Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants – which enables K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to form partnerships for improving teacher preparation. This Title includes:
· LITERACY TRAINING – “Developing and implementing a program to strengthen content knowledge and teaching skills of elementary and secondary school literacy coaches that - ‘‘(A) provides teacher training in reading instruction for literacy coaches who ‘‘(i) train classroom teachers to implement literacy programs; or ‘‘(ii) tutor students with intense individualized reading, writing, and subject matter instruction during or beyond the school day; ‘‘(B) develops or redesigns rigorous evidenced-based reading curricula that are aligned with challenging State academic content standards, as required under section 1111(b) (1) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and with postsecondary standards for reading and writing…(D) provides training and professional development for principals to prepare them to understand the teaching of reading, guide instruction, and foster school improvement.”
· TEACHING RESIDENCY PROGRAMS – “Evaluation of teacher effectiveness
shall be based on observations of such domains of teaching as the following: (V) “Evaluation of teacher effectiveness for choosing mentor candidates who will be mentoring current or future literacy and mathematics coaches or instructors, “appropriate skills in the essential components of reading instruction, teacher training in literacy instructional strategies across core subject areas...”

It is important to note that certain definitions in HEA Reauthorization Act are reliant on the meanings given the terms in section 1208 the ESEA Act of 1965 (which are expected to be changed when NCLB is reauthorized):
· ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF READING INSTRUCTION - The term essential components of reading instruction' means explicit and systematic instruction in — (A) phonemic awareness; (B) phonics; (C) vocabulary development; (D) reading fluency, including oral reading skills; and (E) reading comprehension strategies.
· READING- The term reading' means a complex system of deriving meaning from print that requires all of the following: (A) The skills and knowledge to understand how phonemes, or speech sounds, are connected to print. (B) The ability to decode unfamiliar words. (C) The ability to read fluently. (D) Sufficient background information and vocabulary to foster reading comprehension. (E) The development of appropriate active strategies to construct meaning from print. (F) The development and maintenance of a motivation to read.
· SCIENTIFICALLY BASED READING RESEARCH- The term scientifically based reading research' means research that - (A) applies rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge relevant to reading development, reading instruction, and reading difficulties; and (B) includes research that - (i) employs systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment; (ii) involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn; (iii) relies on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and observations; and (iv) has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective, and scientific review.

The House Education and Labor Committee’s higher education subcommittee is interested in whether the HEA and NCLB laws are working together at the federal, state and local level, and whether they are aligned with respect to teacher preparation. Title II of NCLB provides grants to states to improve teacher quality. The reauthorization of the two laws will provide Congress an opportunity to consider the relationships between the goals for each.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Government Relations Update - November 7, 2007

There are three issues addressed in this update, the funding bill and what happens next; the status of NCLB and the expected pending action on the Higher Education Act. The backdrop driving all three of these issues is the calendar. The First Session of the 110th Congress is scheduled to adjourn sometime this month. The House hopes to be finished by November 16th and the Senate is planning on coming back after Thanksgiving. This means that there is very little time to finish anything. The second conundrum is that next year is both a presidential and Congressional election year. Interestingly enough, after the first week of February, both parties may know who their presidential nominee will be. There may be a bit of a window for Congressional action on several measures including the re-write of NCLB.

The House and Senate Conferees met and came to an agreement on funding for school year 2008-09 (Fiscal Year 2008). The president has said that he will veto this spending level when it is presented to him. Congressional leaders are creating a funding bill that will include not only the traditional Labor/Health and Human Service/Education spending bill with two other spending bills, Military Construction and Veterans. This large appropriations bill will most likely be vetoed and the Congress will then move for an override. The bill originally passed the Senate with enough votes to override a veto but not enough to override in the House. The override fight will be in the House. A chart from the IRA supported Committee for Education Funding can be viewed at www.reading.org/association/advocacy/updates.html.
Please note several key points: first, Title I funding is increased; Reading First is decreased, as is Even Start; Striving Readers received a small increase. It is expected that the entire education, health, and other communities will push for a veto override because this bill increases funding over all for education. The president’s spending recommendations were over $2 billion less than this measure.

If the override vote isn’t successful, then Congress is likely to pass another emergency spending bill that will keep the spending levels at last year’s levels for at least the next three months.

The House and Senate Education Committee chairs have acknowledged that moving a reauthorization of NCLB this year will not happen. At the same time, Senator Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Enzi (R-WY), the chair and ranking member on the Senate Education Committee, have said that they will be moving a proposal early in the new year. Senator Kennedy has said they might have until the spring of 2008 to finish it. The Senate Education Committee has released a draft proposal, but without the sections of Title I, covering literacy, adequate yearly progress, growth models, and other controversial areas.

Higher Education
The House and Senate Education committees have announced that they are now going to focus their time for the balance of the session on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. We are expecting new language to be introduced in the next week and will update you on the literacy sections.

Next Steps
The next big step for the education community will come if the president vetoes the education spending bill. While the veto may not be overridden, the amount of attention it gets is. It is important to get members of Congress on record as to whether or not they support funding for education programs. Please watch the IRA Legislative Action Team blog for updates at http://www.latadvisory.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reading First and Funding

The House/Senate conference to decide on the funding of Reading First is scheduled to begin today, Thursday, November 1st. The House appropriators cut the funding level from $1billion to $400 million, the Senate to $800 million. Last year Reading First provided funds for over 100,000 teachers to participate in professional development activities. While we realize that in several states the IRA community has had significant disagreements with how Reading First has been implemented, we also know that most states haven’t had those problems. We are also aware that the US Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General has issued several reports highly critical of the US Department of Education and how it administered Reading First. IRA has been working with the US Department of Education to support the changes that they are making in the process of administering Reading First. We have been invited to attend meetings, been given copies of documents, and generally are seeing a much more open and above board process in how Reading First is being administered at the federal level. In addition, we have been talking with the state Reading First directors about Reading First and have again found the process to have significantly changed in most states.
When the House appropriators voted its deep cut to Reading First, they did so saying that they would restore the funds when the changes outlined by the Inspector General and agreed to by the US Department of Education we made in the legislation itself. We have been working with a member of Congress who has drafted legislative language and are expecting it to be added to the reauthorization of NCLB. Unfortunately, the funding is being decided on before NCLB is rewritten.
We are asking you to contact your Senator (202-224-3121) and ask them to support the $800 million spending mark for Reading First in order to continue reaching the teachers who need and deserve continued professional development resources.
If you have any questions or wish to give us feedback from your conversations, please feel free to contact us at 202 624-8800 or (rlong@reading.org).
To see the IRA position on Reading First please go to: http://www.reading.org/resources/issues/positions_reading_first.html