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Department of Education Solicits Public Input on Amending Section 504

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.  

After 45 years, the Department of Education has announced plans to update Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Stay tuned for opportunities to provide feedback to stakeholders on what you would like to see. Take a read for more information on that and more below.

Department of Education Announces Plan to Update Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced plans to update Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The forthcoming changes will mark the first update to the regulations in 45 years. The Department’s Section 504 regulations were the first set of regulations issued by the federal government that addressed the treatment of people with disabilities through a civil rights framework, rather than through solely a medical or vocational framework. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public and private programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including schools and postsecondary institutions.

“While the world has undergone enormous changes since 1977, the Department’s Section 504 regulations have remained, with few exceptions, unaltered,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “As we observe the 45th anniversary of these important regulations this month, it is time to start the process of updating them. Just as in 1977, the voices of people with disabilities must be heard and incorporated as we engage in that work.”

Belmont University Announces New Partnership to Recruit and Train Math Teacher

Belmont University logoIn partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education and local public school districts, Belmont University announced a new initiative to recruit, train and support the next generation of mathematics teachers in the Midstate region.

The newly established Belmont University Math Teacher Residency will leverage partnerships with area school systems — including in several rural communities — to enable high-quality potential candidates to become mathematics teachers in secondary schools across Middle Tennessee. 

With $2 million in grant funding awarded to Belmont University through a competitive state grant process, the program will place each teacher candidate in an in-school “residency” — a paid educational position in a classroom where they will learn from and receive support from an experienced mentor teacher. Concurrently, candidates will enroll in high-quality, intensive online coursework at Belmont, deepening their content knowledge and learning effective pedagogical strategies. Belmont professors will work alongside candidates’ mentor teachers to ensure that instruction has immediate and meaningful classroom application.

MDE Awards More than $9.8M in Grants to Five Mississippi Universities

The MDE is using American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to cover the grants.  

The MTR will provide grants to the universities’ educator preparation programs to enroll diverse participants to work toward their graduate degree and Mississippi teacher certification. MTR will include training alongside a mentor teacher, testing support, professional development, ongoing assessment and a commitment to teach in a geographical critical shortage school or district serving low-income children, racial/ethnic minorities and children with disabilities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Mississippi Public Universities Help Mississippi Children Succeed in the Classroom

Mississipi Public Universities

Mississippi Public Universities support the state’s children and K-12 schools across the state in numerous ways. In addition to preparing the teaching workforce through the education academic degree programs, the universities support teachers, students, and schools through outreach efforts ranging from a partnership school for middle school students located on a university campus to a clinic housed at a high school to help teens stay well so they can perform at their best in the classroom and beyond.

The Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program (METP) is a collaboration between the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University to attract top-performing students into the education profession with full financial support, travel abroad opportunities and invaluable professional incentives. METP aims to increase the import—and reduce the export—of talented educators to create a pipeline of new teachers committed to Mississippi’s future. All students who enter the program make a five-year commitment to teach in Mississippi after graduation. Funded by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson, METP is designed to create a unique “honors college-style” learning experience for high-achieving education students and promote collaboration between students and faculty at both universities.

NAEP 2021 Report Card Assesses 13- and 9-Year-Olds’ Reading and Math Scores

The reading and mathematics scores of 13-year-old students fell between 2012 and 2020—the first time in the almost 50-year history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend (LTT) assessment—according to results released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The performance of 9-year-olds remained the same in both subjects compared to 2012.

In both age groups and subjects, the scores of lower-performing students declined since 2012, the previous assessment year, mirroring patterns observed in other subjects assessed by NAEP, also known as The Nation’s Report Card.

Designing Simulations for Science Teacher Preparation: Reflections from the 2021 Convening

AACTE Simulations for Secondary Science Teachers conference

I recently had an incredible learning opportunity to be a part of the AACTE Simulations for Secondary Science Teachers conference. The goal for the convening was to introduce participants to the simulation design process and to support them to create a secondary science simulation scenario in smaller teams. Large group zoom meetings with almost 55 participants provided a valuable opportunity to listen, ask questions, and reflect on matters that concern science teacher preparation. The convening provided just the right amount of stimulation and sense of community that probably many of us were missing due to the recent pandemic. Until now, I saw myself as a user—employing simulations to help my teacher candidates understand and practice core teaching practices. However, being a part of the scenario development team afforded an insider or “behind the scenes’ perspective.” I was able to understand the complexities, affordance, and constraints of the simulation designing process. 

AACTE Teacher Stories: Teachers as Forward-Thinking Frontline Workers

AACTE Teacher Stories is a new series highlighting the experiences of K-12 educators who are attending or alumni of AACTE member institutions.

As an AACTE National Holmes Scholar who graduated from the University of Central Florida, I learned that to persevere I must overcome some fears regardless of how grand they might seem.  After graduation, I opted to take the path of returning to the K-12 classroom as a teacher and reading specialist rather than transitioning to higher education. In the midst of COVID-19, I was uncertain and fearful, like many of my fellow teachers. The new school year highlighted my and others’ fears, forcing us to consider our roles as frontline workers in education. My English class read the text, What Fear Can Teach Us, a speech by Karen Thompson Walker. In her speech, Walker posits “We all know what it’s like to be afraid. We know how fear feels, but I’m not sure if we spend enough time thinking about what fear means.”

Biden Budget Proposal is Historic High-Water Mark for Education Funding

Medal for achievement in education with diploma, hat and books standing on stack of coins on gray backgroundThis blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE. 

Biden- Harris Administration Unveils Massive Budget with Historic Investments in Education

On the Friday before the long-awaited Memorial Day holiday, just as Members of Congress were headed home and the rest of us were finalizing our plans for the long weekend, the White House unveiled the complete version of the Biden-Harris Administration’s full budget proposal for FY 2022.

The budget proposal calls for $102.8 billion for the Department of Education—a $29.8 billion or 41% increase to the Department’s current spending levels. This increase in funding would be the largest increase the Department has seen since its inception in 1979.

PATHS to Tutor Act: Helping Students Overcome Pandemic Learning Loss

Tutor helping student

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

This thought leadership article is written by an AACTE member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has set back learning for millions of students and exacerbated existing educational inequalities countrywide. A recent study by McKinsey Analysis found that Black, Latinx and lower-income students are less likely to have access to high-quality remote learning, resulting in their falling further behind and expanding the achievement gap by 15% to 20%. To help these students overcome pandemic learning loss, the Partnering Aspiring Teachers with High-Need Schools (PATHS) to Tutor Act was introduced on February 25 by a bipartisan group, including Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

Apply by May 5 for the AACTE Simulations for Secondary Science Teachers Conference

AACTE Simulations for Secondary Science Teachers Conference

Teacher candidates benefit from exposure to a range of diverse clinical experiences. Often, the clinical placements teacher candidates experience during their preparation program are limited and do not encompass the variety of settings they will encounter during their careers. While simulations are not a substitute for in-person clinical practice, well-crafted simulations can:

  • expose teacher candidates to student populations that are more diverse in terms of learning needs and socio-cultural experiences than they may encounter in their clinical placement
  • allow candidates to practice pedagogical approaches that they do not have the opportunity to employ in their clinical placements and to receive immediate feedback on their professional practice
  • offer the opportunity to teach courses and/or categories of content beyond the scope of their clinical placements

Applications Deadline Extended for the AACTE Simulations for Secondary Science Teachers Conference

AACTE Simulations for Secondary Science Teachers Conference

AACTE has extended the deadline for interested participants to apply to attend the Simulations for Secondary Science Teacher Conference. The extended deadline is May 5, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

In partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF), AACTE will convene the Simulations for Secondary Science Teachers Conference, June 8-10, 2021, to address the critical need for well-qualified science educators who can teach effectively in a variety of face-to-face and virtual school settings and meet the needs of diverse learners. AACTE received funding from the NSF Discovery Research PreK-12 grant to virtually convene members and strategic partners to advance the use of simulation in science education teacher preparation.

The purpose of this conference is to convene experts across the country to

  1. identify significant gaps in the clinical preparation of science educators;
  2. ideate on virtual environments that help address those gaps; and
  3. develop scenarios through design thinking for EPPs to implement within their programs.

Call for Applications: A Conference to Design Simulations for Clinical Preparation of Secondary Science Teachers

Mature teacher explaining cell model to college students in science lab. Biology professor teaching to girls and guys in school the cell structure. Multiethnic high school students understanding bio structure in biology class in school laboratory.

AACTE is excited to announce the call for applications for the Conference to Design Simulations that Enhance the Clinical Preparation of Secondary Science Teachers. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Discovery Research PreK-12 convening grant, the purpose of this conference is to convene experts across the country to (1) identify significant gaps in the clinical preparation of science educators (2) ideate on virtual environments that help address those gaps, and (3) develop scenarios through design thinking for EPPs to implement within their programs.

The conference attendees will be comprised of current high school science teachers, current science teacher candidates, experts in science education, experts in the use of simulation in educator preparation, experts in culturally responsive teaching practices in the sciences, experts in the Next Generation Science Standards, simulation specialists and representatives from partner organizations. Participants must commit to attending three days of the virtual conference (June 8, 9, and 10) along with three monthly (July, August and September) virtual meetings following the conference.

CoSN Releases Driving K-12 Innovation Reports

COSN logoCoSN, the national association of school district technology leaders, recently released two reports, Driving K-12 Innovation: 2021 Hurdles + Accelerators and Driving K-12 Innovation: 2021 Tech Enablers. The Driving K-12 Innovation reports capture the top nine topics (challenges, mega-trends, and tools), according to an advisory board of approximately 100 school leaders, technologists, educators, and changemakers. AACTE was proud to serve on the advisory board that supported the development of the report for the second year in a row.

Through the Driving K-12 Innovation series, CoSN continues its commitment to sharing high-quality trend reports that support the use of emerging technology in K-12 education to transform learning. In this initiative, a global advisory board of K-12 leaders, practitioners, and changemakers engages in discourse about the major themes driving, hindering, and enabling teaching and learning innovation at schools. Their work is divided into three steps: an initial survey to select the topics for discussion; discussion; and a concluding survey to capture the final thoughts from advisory board members and discern the top topics to feature in each publication. (Learn more at cosn.org/k12innovation.)

What Can We Expect for Education with a Biden-Harris Administration?

This blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Welcome to the world of President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris.

What Might a Biden Presidency Mean for Education?

When President-elect Joe Biden told the nation that educators will have “one of their own” in the White House, a sigh of relief and a whiff of optimism were palpable among the education community. Referring to his wife, Jill Biden—a long time community college professor—he also said that “teaching isn’t just what she does, it’s who she is.”  Thus, the president-elect sets the tone for the next four years of one of the most pro-education administrations in our lifetimes.

Biden named his transition teams this week, including the one for education. Led by Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute and former head of the Obama Administration education transition team, the group is comprised of a number of former Obama appointees as well as union leaders. The team is working on compiling both potential nominees for political positions in the Department of Education as well as fleshing out policy priorities and a timeline. 

Hirono, Booker Announce Legislation to Improve Distance and Blended Learning for K-12 Schools During COVID-19

The following article features comments by AACTE President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone on behalf of the Association in support of the legislation. 

Distance Learning

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with her colleague Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced their plan to introduce the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act (LOAA), which would improve distance and blended learning in our public schools during the coronavirus pandemic. LOAA combats instructional loss, particularly for at-risk and marginalized students, by providing support for professional development and training programs for teachers, tutoring and academic services, research and best practices, and other initiatives to enhance equity and access for all students. Specifically, the bill provides funding to address instructional loss for at-risk and marginalized students, including low-income students, minority students, children with disabilities, English learners, migratory students, homeless children and youth, and children or youth in foster care.

“Over the past few months, I’ve heard from students, parents, and educators across Hawaii who are doing their best to adjust to distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. My own education was fundamental to my success, and this generation of students deserves a quality education—regardless of the challenges the pandemic poses. LOAA provides vital resources so educators can support their students, particularly those who are most at risk for instructional loss. I will continue to advocate for robust funding that supports healthy and safe learning environments for students in Hawaii and across the country,” Senator Hirono said.

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