Dear Colleagues:

We have finally made it to mid-term election week. Congress remains on recess until after the elections, but important work continues. It is my hope that by the end of the week we will have the complete results of the mid-term elections and I will provide an analysis on the makeup of the 118th Congress in our next Washington Update.

1. Administrators’ Union Calls for New Vision for American Education System

Last week, the American Federation of School Administrators sent a letter to President Biden requesting a new vision for education. In the letter, the administrators’’ union President, Leonard Pugliese wrote: “It’s time to move the nation’s public education system forward and serve the children of the United States in a modern and individualized way…” To meet this objective, the group urged President Biden to convene a group of assemble educators, parents, academics and students who would establish initial recommendations for the future path of American education.

“Our students’ historically poor showing on the 2022 Nation’s Report Card was no surprise to school leaders…Now, we must use this crisis to reexamine longstanding educational structural and enthusiasm gaps and find the best solutions…The nation’s focus over the past decades on the basics and testing to ensure competence negatively impacted innovative and creative teaching, constrained course selection and undermined meaningful learning for our students… It’s time to write a new vision for education — one that is better informed by educators, parents and students, and that contains recommendations that allow compelling teaching and the joy of learning to flourish…Convening stakeholders to make strong recommendations on realizing this vision is an important first step in this process. We urge you to take that step.”

The group urged a nonpartisan response, underscoring the difficulty of finding common ground, especially as midterm election campaigns have exploited divides over education to rally voters.

2. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Focused on Race-Inclusive College Admission Practices

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases focused on race-inclusive college admission practices at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)- marking what appears to be the beginning of a new chapter in higher education. The plaintiffs in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, allege that UNC and Harvard discriminate against Asian American and white applicants because the institutions give racial preferences to Black and Latino applicants. Some data has suggested admitted students of Asian descent have higher test scores and lower acceptance rates. Supporters, however, say affirmative action benefits many Asian Americans, particularly those who belong to underrepresented ethnic groups or those who’ve experienced hardship as people of color.

After the arguments, analysts believe the Conservative learning court appears to be slated to overturn its ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 landmark decision that held colleges can consider race and use holistic reviews as long as their affirmative action programs are narrowly tailored.

Justice Bret Kavanaugh, brought up the need for a “logical end point” for Grutter. “The opinion didn’t say until you reach a point where you’re satisfied that diversity has been achieved or something vague like that, it said 25 years in there.” he said. “And so I want to hear how you address that part of the Grutter precedent because, as I understand your answer, you would extend it far beyond 25 years — indefinitely.”

Several education and civil rights advocacy groups fear ending the use of race in admissions will exacerbate inequality for years to come. “Nearly 70 years later, the promise of Brown v. Board of Education remains unfulfilled… Without the fair shot that holistic, race-conscious admissions enables, an entire generation or more of promising, hardworking and highly qualified Black, Latino, Native American and AAPI students will be shut out of selective colleges and universities through no fault of their own,” said Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

It will take several months for a decision to come from the Court.

3. Arizona Congresswoman introduces a Constitutional Amendment to Guarantee Parents’ Rights to be Involved in their Children’s’ Education

Last month, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) introduced a Constitutional Amendment  to guarantee parents’ rights to be involved in their children’s education. In a statement, Rep. Lesko said the goal of the amendment is to, “protect parents from far-left school board officials and government bureaucrats in the Biden Administration who have actively worked to undermine parental rights and eliminate educational choices for their families.” The proposal is supported by the Alliance defending Freedom and both organizations which support codifying parental rights to school choice and look to ensure parents have the ability to “direct the upbringing, education and care of their children is a fundamental right.” While the bill is unlikely to move, it does offer insight into Republican priorities for the 118th Congress.

4. GAO Releases New Report on Critical Shortage of Teachers and the Department of Education’s Response to the Crisis

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report examining the critical shortage of educators across the nation and identifies gaps in the Department of Education’s response to this crisis. The report entitled K-12 Education: Education Should Assess Its Efforts to Address Teacher Shortages suggests that while overall teacher shortages are primarily confined to geographic areas such as the western states, rural, urban, and high poverty communities; special education teacher shortages extend throughout the United States. The GAO suggested two general recommendations to the Department of Education to support improving the Department’s strategic plan to increase teacher recruitment and retention. The recommendations include that the Department develop a more comprehensive strategy to execute its vision. “Absent easily accessible resources that address the full range of major challenges contributing to shortages, Education’s efforts to assist states and school districts address their recruiting and retention issues will contain gaps,” the accountability office report said. Secretary Cardona should build on the department’s efforts to raise public awareness about the value of teachers by developing time frames, milestones and performance for its strategies, the GAO said. In the report the GAO notes that the Department has neither agreed or disagreed with its recommendations.

5. TED/HECSE Annual Meeting to be held this week at TED Conference in Richmond

If you will be in Richmond, please join us at the Annual TED Conference  on Wednesday, November 9th from 2:00-3:30 pm in the James River Salon CD for the TED/HECSE Annual meeting. This year’s meeting will include our infamous round robin introductions as an opportunity for faculty to share current and upcoming job openings as well as for doctoral students to introduce themselves as potential job candidates. Faculty are welcome to bring flyers with job opening details for circulation. Additionally, we have a great panel moderated by Kait Brennan, HECSE/TED’s Senior Policy Advisor, focused on Upholding Standards for Comprehensive Educator Preparation in an Era of Increasingly Relaxed State Certification Requirements. Panelists will include Drs. Frank Dykes (TED President), Corey Pierce (HECSE Vice President), Kyena Cornelius (TED Executive Board Member), Lucky Mason-Williams (TED Executive Board Member), and Sarah Nagro (HECSE Executive Board Member and TED Executive Board Member).

6. In the States: A Southern Region Analysis

States and districts around the country continue to scramble to fill teaching positions with fully certified, profession ready educators. A recent analysis from the  Southern Regional Education Board of 2019-20 data in 11 states found roughly 4% of teachers — which could be up to 56,000 educators – were uncertified or teaching with an emergency certification.  By 2030, the number of uncertified teachers or those teaching with an emergency certification is expected to balloon. The Southern Regional Education Boards projects that upwards of 16 million K-12 students in the Southern region of the country could be taught by an unprepared or inexperienced teacher. While the pandemic certainly exacerbated the problem, it is not new and has steadily gotten worse over the last decade.  For example, in Texas school districts’ reliance on uncertified new hires increased significantly over the last decade. In the 2011-12 school year, fewer than 7% of the state’s new teachers – roughly 1,600 – didn’t have a certification. By last year, about 8,400 of the state’s nearly 43,000 new hires were uncertified.

In Alabama, nearly 2,000 of the state’s 47,500 teachers — 4% — didn’t hold a full certificate in 2020-21, the most recent year for which data is available. That’s double the state’s reliance on such educators from five years earlier. An additional 7% of Alabama teachers teach in classrooms and content areas outside of their certification fields, with the highest percentages in rural areas with high rates of poverty. Prior to 2019, an emergency certificate in Alabama could only be used for one year. But after a teacher shortage task force recommended changes, lawmakers changed to a two-year certification and gave educators the option to extend an additional two years. The exclusion against using such certificates in elementary school was lifted, too. Since then, the number of teachers holding emergency certificates increased dramatically across the state but disproportionally impacts those living  in rural, urban, and low-income areas. To put this into content, the highest percentage of uncertified teachers, teaching on an emergency licensure in Alabama during the 2020-21 school year was in rural Lowndes County in an elementary school where seven of 16 teachers — 42% of the teaching force — had an emergency certification.

Earlier this month, in response to the states lowering the standards for entry into the profession, the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) sent a memo to State Directors of Special Education focused on the personnel qualifications under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Even prior to the pandemic, over 25,000 special education teaching positions were filled by individuals who were not fully qualified for those positions. In the state of Nevada 20.44% of those serving as special education teachers were not fully qualified; in Louisiana 18% and in Oklahoma 15% were not fully qualified; in Texas 5800 individuals serving as special education teachers were not fully qualified to do so.

7. New Resources for Educators

  • The National Education Policy Center released a critical policy analysis tabulating racial disparities in early childhood education quality and funding, tracing them back to historical inequities.
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report examining equity and safety in school dress codes. The report notes that schools that enforce strict dress codes enroll more Black or Hispanic students and are more likely to remove students from class—which can be detrimental to their development and learning.

Until next time, see you on Twitter (or the TED Conference),