A top federal official outlined the U.S. Department of Education’s priorities and upcoming initiatives at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2013-14 Board of Directors meeting on Dec. 6, 2013.
Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), oversees more than 100 prek-12 programs, including early learning, accountability, mental health, literacy, civic education, and school safety; as well as programs for disadvantaged students, including Title I, and programs for homeless and migrant students.
Delisle emphasized the need for local control and flexibility as she spoke to the group of school board leaders and NSBA staff. She discussed topics including flexibility to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and noted that there currently there are 37 separate accountability systems. She also touched on college affordability and funding; the increasing number of homeless kids in college; and school climate and safety, including the agency’s Project Serve.
Delisle also discussed the disparate suspension rates among students living in poverty and students with disabilities, a topic of interest to NSBA. She referred to evidence in civil rights data collected by the agency–as an example she spoke of a school that suspended an African-American kindergartener for five days for pulling a fire alarm; a similar incident in another school resulted in a one-day suspension for a student who was white.
And Delisle pointed to the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., as an example of the need for enhanced mental health support.
The Department of Education also is examining ongoing “opportunity and expectation gaps,” and the ongoing need to deal responsibly with equity issues, she noted in her remarks.
NSBA is represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in bi-monthly meetings with top Department of Education officials and leading education organizations, which include AASA, the School Superintendents Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The meetings serve as a platform for the groups’ executive leadership to convene to discuss various issues, share new policy and update the entire group on happenings within each organization.