The ESSA mission at the Federal Level is to foster maximum participation of non-public school students and teachers in Federal education programs and initiatives. As implementation of the new ombudsman role begins to take shape, private school educators from across the country met in DC this week.  WFIS and other state CAPE’s learned from ONPE’s Jenay Morrisy about the general changes which will begin to affect private schools as an equitable share of LEA funds are outlined for private schools each fiscal year.  Agreement on how this money should be used to best serve students will be determined through consultation with the yet-to-be established ombudsman. The discussion raised questions about how will be funds determined, if services must be provided directly, and when will services be provided.  ESSA leaves open the potential for services to be consolidated, but what will the pooling of funds look like between public and private schools?

Conference participants heard a panel discussion on the School Culture and Student Formation Project  facilitated by Ryan Olson (Director of Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia and President, ASC Foundation) describing the national study of character and citizenship formation in American high schools. The landmark study will examine character formation in 10 school sectors:  independent, Catholic, Protestant evangelical, Jewish, Islamic, urban public, rural public, charter, pedagogical, and home schools.

Kathryn Wiens (Director of the Schools for Applied and Innovative Learning, Delaware County Christian School) offered a summary from research “reviewing the moral ideals and tensions in six sample high schools”.  The findings outline growing tensions between building moral character and the heavy emphasis on achievement in America’s private and independent schools.  How is moral character represented in curriculum, a school website, every day conversations, and parent expectations?  The report’s analysis perceived mixed messages on the importance of character, in that the reputation of school is defined by achievement, including most college acceptance. And honor code of a school is too frequently relegated to a contract signed at the start of the year with minor correlation made following test evaluations.  The project’s final report will include similar qualitative studies for each of the 10 sectors along with findings from a telephone survey of 3,000 parent/student pairs.

WFIS will have more to share with members schools and the WFIS board of directors in the weeks ahead.