Two K12-related coalitions sent open letters this spring to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. In its letter, the Coalition for Student Achievement, a new group comprised of 32 organizations ranging from the Business Roundtable to the National Council of La Raza to the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, expressed its overall support for the education provisions in the ARRA but outlined some concerns:
? “While we appreciate the speed and efficiency by which the Department is delivering these much-needed funds, we want to be on record expressing our view that speed and efficiency must not trump reform and improvement.”
? “With respect to the ‘Race to the Top’ initiative, we believe it is essential to encourage collaboration between the states and the districts to leverage the new funds to scale best practices more broadly.”
? “We urge that future directives regarding these funds give much stronger, clearer direction to states and local education leaders about how to meet the assurances and demonstrate measurable outcomes.”
Go to www.coalitionforstudentachievement. org to read the letter as well as a response from Duncan (and see the sidebar below on the Coalition’s new report).
In the second letter, the Dignity in Schools Campaign, launched by a group of 24 organizations that includes the National Association of School Psychologists, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, appealed to the DOE to encourage school districts to apply stimulus funds to Positive Behavior Supports (PBS), restorative practices and other innovative approaches to improving student behavior. The letter affirms a strong connection between behavior and academic achievement and claims that “safer schools are higher achieving schools.” It decries the use in many schools of zero-tolerance approaches to discipline, which rely heavily on suspension and expulsion to maintain school discipline and safety.
The letter further suggests that the DOE take these four steps:
? “Highlight Positive Behavior Supports, restorative practices, and the ability to improve school climate in the list of ‘smart’ uses for ARRA funds.”
? “Provide innovation awards to entities that model best practices for improving school climate and supporting student engagement.”
? “Consider states’ disciplinary data in rewarding ARRA incentive grants.”
? “Require states to develop longitudinal data systems that collect disciplinary data.”
Thirty-one individuals also signed the letter, which is available at www.dignityinschools.org.