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Leading to Reform: November 18

This week we highlight the pending cuts in federal funding for public schools, impact of soft skills on college readiness, the importance of focusing on early reading and a more optimistic view on hiring for 2013 college graduates. We link as always to an array of columns and pieces spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership and reform. Note: We are taking a break for the Thanksgiving holiday. Look for the next Leading to Reform in early December. Have a great Thanksgiving.

How Education Could Fall off the Fiscal Cliff
Sequestration. The word strikes fear in the hearts of school boards and administrators nationwide, and with good reason. What does it mean? The term refers to the across-the-board budget cuts that will automatically occur in federal programs in January 2013, unless Congress reaches an agreement by the end of this year on reducing the deficit.

What kind of cuts will this mean for education? First, each school district wills likely see and 8% cut in the revenue supporting their school budgets. Second, the neediest schools will be hit harder, expanding the gap between the have mores and have lessees. Third, it provides an opportunity to redeploy current spending so those who have the least can get more funding while districts that can afford to do with less, do.

American Association of School Administrators (AASA) estimates the reductions would amount to over $4 billion. That would plunge education funding into pre-2003 levels, according to the National Education Association.

Why is that so scary? Part of the reason is that America’s schools have added 5.4 million new students to their rolls since 2003, and costs have risen about 25%. Budget cuts triggered by the fiscal cliff could potentially affect millions of students and teachers by reducing programs and services and increasing class sizes.
According to Deborah Rigsby, director of federal legislation for the
National School Boards Association, if sequestration happens, each school district could lose more than $300,000 for every 5,000 children enrolled.

Sequestration will hurt school districts and ultimately students. Many school board members and administrators are not aware of the impact of Sequestration and more so, continue to assume more revenue is on the horizon for schools rather than about the same. The time of easy money for schools is over – until school leaders change with the times.
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Soft Skills Pushed as Part of College Readiness
To make it in college, students need to be up for the academic rigor. But that's not all. They also must be able to manage their own time, get along with roommates, and deal with setbacks. Resiliency and grit, along with the ability to communicate and advocate, are all crucial life skills. Yet, experts say, many teenagers lack them, and that's hurting college-completion rates.

"Millennia’s have had helicopter parents who have protected them," said Dan Jones, the president of the
Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors and the director of counseling and psychological services at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. "They haven't had the opportunity to struggle. When they come to college and bad things happen, they haven't developed resiliency and self-soothing skills."

College enrollment is growing, but graduation rates remain flat. Among industrialized nations, the United States ranks ninth in the world in enrollment but last in completion rates, according to an analysis of 18 countries´┐╝ by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
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From The Sunday Papers...

Duncan Hints Staying on for a Second Term
After a week of speculation about the composition of President Barack Obama's second-term cabinet, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan implied in a Friday speech that he intends to stay in his position. Duncan said to expect more of the same. "Our basic theory of action is not going to change," he said Friday, according to prepared remarks. "Our job, in a second term, is to support the bold and transformational reforms at the state and local level that so many of you have pursued during the last four years."

Specifically, that means continuing "to provide incentives and supports" for states to implement the administration's favored reforms, which might be a tough haul, given the response at the ballot box to similar reforms during last week's elections.

Time will tell regarding the reforms and ability of state and local leaders ability to implement the vision of change President Obama has for our nation’s public, charter and choice schools.

Election Day Brings Lots of State Ballot Measures on Education
Despite little discussion of education issues in the presidential campaign, education was actually quite a hot topic in a number of states, with ballot measures in 38 states. The results were a mixed bag for education reform. It will likely take time to decipher what it all means for low-income students and students of color.

Michigan States Annual University Employment Survey Says New Grad’s Can Expect Slight Rise in Hiring
Modest good news for college students: An annual survey predicts employers will increase hiring of new 4-year college graduates about 5 percent in the coming year. Demand for graduates with associate's degrees is expected to increase more sharply -- by about 30 percent compared to last year's survey -- while MBA hiring appears headed for an unexpected decline.

The 42nd annual survey out today from Michigan State University's College Employment Research Institute collects responses on hiring plans from more than 2,000 U.S. employers. It paints a mixed picture reflecting an improving economy but also uncertainty over whether Congress and the White House will carry the country off the fiscal cliff in January, potentially sending the economy back into recession.

Articles for the Week:

“Some people never grow or adapt but only become more of what they were, ending up caricatures of themselves. Throughout his life, Obama has shown a capacity to adapt, to learn from his experiences and mistakes and to become something more than he was.” --David Marinis

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