ED Secretary John King talks with NASBE

Tuesday morning, last day of the NASBE Legislative Conference. US Secretary of Education, John King has come to meet with NASBE members, first with an address, then to sit with Jim McNiece (NASBE President) for a conversation, followed by a Q&A.
The Secretary thanks Jim for his years  as educator and state board member (Kansas)
Thanks Kris [Amundson, NASBE Executive Director] for her leadership and strong voice for NASBE
Lots to celebrate in US: highest grad rate; fewer drop outs
More students accessing HQ preK
Most diverse class just graduating from college
ESSA presents an opportunity to redefine what excellent education means
We know there is much more that we want from a well-rounded education, for people prepared to engage in civic discourse, including science, soc studies, arts, SEL
Opps to define what excellent schooling means; talk to people you know in neighborhoods, states
Move away from one size interventions of NCLB
NCLB interventions didn't match specific challenges - there are new opps with ESSA            
ELLS: opp to focus on PD for teachers, recruit teacher leaders with experience with ELLs; opp to be more strategic
Leverage this law for Excellence
Want to partner with states in this work
Regs on ESSA by late fall so states can launch
He is encouraged that many states have already jumped in to reach out to diverse stakeholders: civil rights, early ed, higher ed, parents, struggling schools
Focus on excellence & equity
Will these initial efforts help or distract?
Goal is equity, to close achievement gaps
AP classes, IB, Dual enrollment
Rigorous evaluations
Integrate within ESSA to build on previous work
Start with ELLs, homeless students, foster students and build from there
Jim McNiece: How do you see your role in terms of helping states?
John King:  Three thoughts: 1.) Regs help to create a framework, prioritize 2.) tech assistance and guidance to states 3. bully pulpit is IMP - call attention to students at risk, getting a well-rounded education; acknowledge narrowed curriculum; wants to use his role to lift up teachers
JMc: We're not going to work with "you" - how do we work with the Dept? How is ED going to change to specifically work with state boards?
JK: lots of enthusiasm about this shift (state as customer); less about silos and grant-funding
JMc: Reality of Opt Out and 95%?
JK: ESSA commitment to student progress, 95%. Controversy around assessments about too much testing. one Q: are there too many? Redundant? Looked at this in NY - - 4 diff reading assessments as more and more leaders added favorites. Are there places where a district is using a low-level multiple choice could be replaced by a science experiment? ESSA allows a reset on this - so that we're not staling from instructional time
JMc: Parents have gotten into the discussion about Quality Assessments, the scores, and how they should be used?
JK: We've got to make the assessments better. To demonstrate problem solving skills; tech can help; tech is a challenge, too. How to shorten the time to get results back? Results are one measure. Should inform evaluation, along with judgments from Supts about leadership.
JMc: Technology. It's a huge issue in the buildings. Can we provide the bandwith? Requires a great deal of infra and support. Can the Dept provide supports? How?
JK: ConnectED, FCC has helped. Opp with ESSA for Title IV - technology to support instruction. Technology for instruction, not assessment. President proposing doubling Title IV
JMc: Teacher evaluation. Huge when it was tied into NCLB. Moving now that evals do not have to include assessments. how to move to E&E?
JK: Very strong consensus on first principles. If it feels like "gotcha", won't work. Has to provide support for practice. Observers must be well-trained. Student learning should be a factor in how we evaluate - - create time and space to make meaningful evals. Must be a collaborative process at the local level.
JMc: How can we help you?
JK: 1.) you all have to be the champs for equity - state boards must be the ones asking how do we ensure high learning no matter the zip code. Lots of kids have gotten less. State boards have to lead. How do all kids get access. 2.) State boards must have big picture across sectors (early ed, K-12, higher ed, CTE). Must be in convos for communication and alignment. Connect with local districts. 3.) We need your voice to convey to us what you need. Where are the rules getting in the way?
JMc: State boards on the front line & local boards are in the trenches...takes Qs from the audience
NE/SBE member: Looking forward to this partnership. Early ed: how do we continue the focus to build capacity for Kindergarten, and how to engage states to connect within ESSA?
JK: A piece of RTTT, Lessons learned in that grant. PreK dev grant expanded access in 18 states. Want to add more states. ROI is high. Opp here. Over 30 states have increased their investment in early ed. Importance of local & state leadership early ed, prek, first & second grade to create enriched learning. How to do preK to prepare kids preK-2. In too many places, preK Ts need to communicate.
MI/SBE member: More about wrap around - - also, being from MI, Flint is front and center about addressing issues that impact health of our kids.
JK: We should be ashamed about what has happened in Flint. It's very hard to explain to my kids [9 & 12 y.o] what happened and why. I think it is a reflection that as a country we have been inattentive to infrastructure. We have to do better. The Edu impact, sadly, is lead poisoning. We want to work with MI. What is happening in Detroit is also a fundamental issue. Impact of a mindset where we value some kids more than we do others. Invest in education the way we would with our own kids. More access to food to children in summer, we're working to expand access.
Missed SBE member: Mindset. ED has a culture and mindset with NCLB. ESSA to change that mindset. Dept is clawing back authority through rulemaking. How do you view change in the Dept?
JK: On standards. ESSA is v clear: they are up to states and they have to be high to ensure college and career. State developed and adopted standards for CCR. ESSA creates space for more state l'ship on defining how resources are used. IMP role for states. ESSA protects civil rights. Prior to NCLB, we were underattending to some students. ED has the responsibility to attend in these matters. Will have to strike the right balance
WA/SBE member: Stakeholder engagement in dev of the plans. We at state level know how long that takes. Can you give us assurances that the time will not be cut short?
JK: Regs finalized by late fall, so states can have til spring and summer of 2017 to submit plans, implement in fall 2017. There may be things states want to do, ultimately, but perhaps not ready to do that by fall 2017 - - may wish to commit, but set implementation for 2019...staged implementation strategy and feedback loops.
DC/SBE member: HS grad rate. How to ensure kids are ready for college and career? Balance remediation?
JK: Important Q. Remediation in some states happens in grade 12. Dual enrollment opps. AP, IB classes opps to engage in college work in HS. CTE has to be re-thought. Opps for advancement. Smart partnerships that prepare kids for high value careers. How to improve, invest in tech ed. We need to be vigilant.
RI/SBE member: Cost of education. Crushing college debt. Your thoughts on where we are going WRT affordability in public & private?
JK: Many students start college and don't finish. They don't have the degree so they can't get the job. We're focusing on completion. PELL dollars. Incentive for students to take 15 credits or more/semester. Focuses students on graduating and focuses colleges on track to graduation. There is a cost and that is very hard to get our arms around. Some of the more elite institutions: decisions to invest in buildings, competitive. Needs consumer demand to shift demand: collegescorecard.ed.gov
JMc: Last word. What message do you have for state board members?
JK: Give us feedback, input. Right framework for your work in states. Schools, literally, save lives. Lost both my parents when young. School was my life. Bring that level of urgency to everything we do: school saves lives. Thank you.