The Week Ahead in Education Politics: ‘A Nation at Risk’ Turns 35, the Opioid Crisis, Assessments & More

THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION POLITICS publishes most Saturdays. (See previous editions here.) You can get the preview delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter; for rolling updates on federal education policy, follow Carolyn Phenicie on Twitter @cphenicie.

INBOX: TAKING STOCK — Many of the biggest names in federal education policy past and present gather in D.C. on Thursday to discuss the progress made since “A Nation at Risk,” the landmark report that launched the modern education reform movement, was released 35 years ago.

Elected officials, former education secretaries, and education advocates will gather at a day-long event organized by the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Institute. The 74’s Romy Drucker will moderate the first panel of the day, a conversation between Janet Napolitano, formerly the secretary of Homeland Security and governor of Arizona and currently president of the University of California, and Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and provost of Stanford University.

Leaders will have some new data to assess those three and a half decades of progress: the Tuesday release of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), a.k.a. the Nation’s Report Card. The test takes stock of fourth- and eighth-graders’ performance in math and reading in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the schools run by the Defense Department. There will also be results for 27 big-city districts, some for the first time.

The most recent results, from 2015, showed a drop in scores, with education leaders citing implementation of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards as one possible cause.

State education leaders have raised fears that results in up to 10 percent of test administrations may artificially skew lower because students who took them had less experience with technology.

MONDAY: FIRST LADY — D.C.-area middle schoolers will meet with First Lady Melania Trump at the White House. They will discuss issues facing children today and will “have the opportunity to speak with the First Lady about their day-to-day lives, including their personal triumphs and struggles,” according to a press release from the White House. The Trumps’ son Barron is a middle schooler at St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Potomac, Maryland.

WEDNESDAY: OPIOIDS — The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee holds a hearing on the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. The bill aims to attack the opioid crisis from a number of angles, including creating an initiative on drug prevention for children and young adults and a grant program to “increase student support services and better integrate mental health care in schools,” according to a committee summary of the bill.

THURSDAY: PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT — The Learning Policy Institute, a research group led by Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, holds a briefing on Capitol Hill on performance assessment, or assessing students’ learning and thinking skills through means other than traditional standardized tests. Education leaders and representatives of civil rights groups will hold a discussion, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire, will make remarks. New Hampshire has been trying out alternative competency-based performance assessments for several years.

FRIDAY: CHICAGO — The Center for American Progress and Education Trust hold a panel discussion on the recent success of Chicago schools, declared by some measures to be the fastest-improving district in the country. Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice K. Jackson and Rep. Danny Davis, Democrat of Illinois, will give remarks.

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