Dec
16
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 16-12-2015

Many of us today received our special pink letter from Dickey County informing us of our annual tax obligation.  In an effort to help each of you understand how your school is spending each of the dollars you are providing it I would like to offer you this letter.  Within it you will find a short explanation of how each of you dollars, sent to the school are split up and used.

The letter can be found at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/2015-2016Budget&Tax_DollarSplit.pdf

 

 

Dec
14
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 14-12-2015

Earlier this month the US House passed their version of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This passage moved to the President’s desk the first major revision to US education policy since the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002.  It would appear, based on initial reports, that the Congress has been hearing the rising concerns about NCLB from teachers, parents, school administrators, and school boards.  With the passage of ESSA they are proposing some positive changes to education policy in our nation.  Some of the positive changes, in my view are:

  • States are now given control of setting their own goals for student performance.  NCLB set the ambitious goal of 100% of all children proficient in reading and math by 2014.  No state ever met that goal, and understandably so.  Now North Dakota officials will have to determine what success is in our schools and how that success will be measured.
  • Now not all schools are identified as failing.  The focus is now shifted to the bottom 5% of schools in each state.  This threshold will eventually be determined by the states but federal monies will be targeted more to helping that bottom 5%.  I am ok with this as the monies from the federal government should be focused on protecting civil rights of students.  If students are trapped in low performing schools these funds should be focused to change that.
  • States are now allowed to choose their own testing tools, even choosing multiple tools.  However, part of NCLB was not replaced and that is the requirement that mandated performance testing must take place in grades 3-8 and once in high school.  I am hopeful that in North Dakota we can have an honest discussion about what tests are best and eventually even give districts options as to which of several tests they would like to use and when.   These results must continue to be released publicly so stakeholders can follow the progress of their school.  I am ok with that.
  • It is my understanding that ESSA will put a great emphasis on identification and supports for homeless children.  This is not a rampant issue in Ellendale however we do identify students each year as being homeless.  Often this is due to multiple families living in one home.  By federal definition one of the families is considered homeless.  We will have to wait and see how the new legislation affects services for these students
  • The federal government cannot mandate a set of standards.  ESSA specifically provides that power to state and local entities.

I am very pleased to see that NCLB is ending and some legislation, perfect or not, is coming out of D.C.  The logger headed battles over everything on the hill has been frustrating since 2007 when the bill was to be reauthorized.  With the lack of reauthorization it has been a continual battle of the executive and legislative branch as to how to fix and re-write NCLB without actually doing it.  Passage of ESSA is a positive change, but if you allow me to look into the crystal ball, I am going to predict a few items that I believe will haappen before I retire….

  • State and locals will spend millions writing state standards only to have big business testing and textbook companies deep in the pockets of state level decision makers.  Not saying they are not in the same pockets at the national level now.
  • School will eventually be pressed by community stakeholders that students are too transient and need more regional or national standards. We will again hear the concerns that there are certain things every American child should know.
  • At some point a study will come forth showing a sub-group of American students is being under-educated.  It is eventual unless local school boards and state officials keep vigilant to ensure all students are getting a fair shake.

NCLB was a bipartisan bill promoted by a Republican President and administered by a republican Dept of Ed Secretary.  It lived through a Democratic President and DOE Secretary to eventually be re-reauthorized in a strong bi-partisan fashion this month.  Both sides made mistakes with NCLB.  I am just hopeful that maybe politics can be set aside enough, in the future, that we don’t have to wait thirteen years to fix ESSA this next go around.