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The last couple months' worth of ECS' e-Connection may be accessed below. Please note that key items from previous issues appear in various places on the ECS website. For example, "Good Reads" have been placed in the "Research and Readings" category of the Education Issue sites to which they pertain. Items from "What States Are Doing" also appear in the Education Issue sites under the category by the same name.

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April 8, 2015

New from ECS

Charter school laws vary widely
The first charter school law surfaced in Minnesota in 1991, and since, 42 additional states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have passed laws governing charter schools. Yet still today, details within those state laws vary significantly and seven states do not have a law at all. This ECS policy analysis is a compilation of key questions for states to consider when creating or modifying charter school laws.

What States Are Doing

UT bill creates career and tech ed board
Utah passed a bill that created a career and technical education (CTE) board and tasked it with doing a comprehensive study of what’s going on in the state and assessing business’ and industries’ needs for skills that will be taught in CTE classes.

Defining career and technical education
In Virginia, the General Assembly amended its definition of “career and technical education” to require most programs to be aligned with state or national program certification and accreditation standards, if such standards exist for the sequence of courses.

Good Reads

Voucher programs taking off
Only four states have statewide voucher systems: Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana. A new brief finds they have grown in the past five years as never before. States are expanding the number of vouchers available and all of the programs have either increased or eliminated enrollment caps. (Center for Evaluation & Education Policy)

What constitutes success?
Half of Indiana’s 2010 high school graduates who enrolled in a public state college that fall were successful according to three indicators of success: enrolled in only nonremedial coursework in the first semester, earned all attempted credits and persisted to a second year of college. Although high school academic preparation and student behavior were related to indicators of college success, most of the variation in college success across students remains unexplained. (REL-Midwest)

Regulating student privacy
As of March 26, 2015, state legislatures in 41 states have introduced a combined 160 student privacy bills, some of which contain roadblocks and unintended consequences. Here is a list of elements that are recommended for inclusion in state policies or laws. (NASBE)

 

April 1, 2015

New from ECS

Goodbye to the wasted senior year
Forty-seven states are using college and career readiness assessments to overcome two challenges – the “wasted” senior year and high postsecondary remediation rates. This ECS Education Policy Analysis delves into how states identify 12th-graders in need of remediation and put interventions in place so  they can use their senior year to prepare for placement into credit bearing coursework. Additionally, 11th-graders demonstrating college readiness can do advanced coursework, earning college credit while still in high school.

What States Are Doing

Updating math skills for elementary teachers
The New Mexico Senate passed a resolution calling for a revisit of required math competencies for entry-level elementary teachers. A unique component of the resolution includes requesting that the secretary of education bring in stakeholders to review competencies that include postsecondary faculty, both from colleges of education and colleges of arts and sciences, as well as district-level leaders in math instruction.

Computer science course in every high school
Arkansas may become the first state in the country to require all high schools to offer a computer science course if this bill is enacted. The bill also creates a Computer Science and Technology in Public School Task Force to study and recommend changes to existing computer science and technology standards, and to study the state’s current and projected computer science and technology needs.

Good Reads

Inequities in student funding
Nationally, the highest-poverty school districts receive about $1,200, or 10 percent less per student in state and local funding than the lowest poverty districts, according to this study. Districts serving the most students of color receive about 15 percent less in state and local funding than those serving the fewest. While some states provide more funding to their highest poverty districts, others provide substantially less. (Education Trust)

Teacher experience pays off
A look at the effects of middle school teacher experience on a broad range of student factors reveals large returns in higher test scores and improvements in students behavior, with the clearest behavioral effect being reduced student absenteeism. The overall findings indicate that teachers can and do learn on the job and recommendations for policy makers include ensuring schools recruit high quality teachers and provide working environments that are conducive to their development. (CALDER)

Community colleges play a big role in four-year completion rates
In the 2013-14 academic year, 46 percent of students who completed a degree at a four-year institution were enrolled at a two-year institution in the previous 10 years. Researchers found in 17 percent of cases, the two-year enrollment occurred within the last year of study before earning the degree. Over half these students completed the four-year degree within three years of leaving the two-year institution; three quarters of them did so within five years. (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)

The costs of college
Concerned about families who believe in the value of postsecondary education, but also worry about the price, the Higher Education Opportunity Act required the U.S. Department of Education to publish college net prices, tuition and fees. Public two-year students had the lowest average total price of attendance, $15,000. Four-year institutions averaged $23,200. Most undergraduates enrolled full-time received grant aid. (National Center for Education Statistics)

 

March 25, 2015

New from ECS

ECS and experts examine state-level ELL policy
As English language learner (ELL) populations multiply, state policy leaders search for best practices to provide these students with solid academic foundations. ECS convened a group of national experts to reflect on available research, practice and state policy concerning ELLs and to make recommendations in areas where potential impact at the state level is the greatest. This report summarizes those recommendations and is accompanied by a 50-state database.

ECS Blueprint: Discussion on transfer policy
Listen to the first installment of the ECS Blueprint webinar series — Transfer Policies: Students on the Move. This webinar reviews the findings of the ECS Blueprint for College Readiness Transfer Policy report and 50-state analysis. It features two state policy leaders who share the latest in transfer and articulation from Colorado and Florida.

What States Are Doing

Personalized learning initiative
Twenty New England schools in the League of Innovative Schools have been selected to participate in a new initiative to help them develop personalized learning experiences that address the distinct learning needs, interests and aspirations of individual students, according to a release by the New Hampshire Department of Education. Twelve of the schools will begin implementation in 2015-16; eight will launch in 2016-17.

Sudden cardiac death
Silent cardiac abnormalities can lead to the rare, sudden death of a student athlete. New Jersey has a law that mandated creation of a professional development module that will be used to supplement the cardiac assessment skills of physicians, advanced practice nurses and physician assistants. Health care providers may access the newly available module on the Department of Education’s website.

Enhancing teacher leadership
Hope Street Group will select a cadre of Tennessee teachers this spring to participate in a 12-month fellowship to improve teacher leadership opportunities, the Tennessee Department of Education announced. Fellows will attend professional development trainings, engage with colleagues and collect feedback from teachers, ultimately influencing positive change at local, state and national levels.

Good Reads

Fascinating facts and trends
The NEA’s state rankings book is out and it really is a good read. For example, states with the greatest growth in enrollment from fall 2012 to fall 2013 are Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Colorado. Fifteen states experienced declines, and the greatest declines were in Michigan, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont. Over the decade from 2003-04 to 2013-14, in constant dollars, average public school teacher salaries declined by 3.5 percent.  (NEA)

Technology in rural areas
To tap the potential of technology, policymakers will need to rethink the idea of education delivered within classrooms of 20 to 30 students led by a single teacher. In this paper on technology's use in rural areas, the authors recommend expanding broadband to schools lacking it, including out-of-school access; creating a corps of teachers who can digitally teach students across the state and providing districts and schools with the flexibility to develop new staffing and use of technology models. (Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho)

 

March 18, 2015

New from ECS

2015 National Forum on Education Policy
The leading education policy event of the year, this year’s National Forum on Education Policy — a 50th anniversary celebration — will be held June 29 through July 1 in Denver.  Join us to network with the nation’s top education leaders, learn from expert speakers and increase your knowledge on innovative education policy from early learning to postsecondary education. Register by April 15 to take advantage of our premier package, including a guaranteed room, access to ECS’ 50th anniversary reception and a chance to win one of three iPads.

What States Are Doing

Increasing persistence
Although Rhode Island's college graduation rate is higher than the national average, when state policymakers look over their shoulders, they see a looming Latino population whose graduation rates lag. This report shows achievement gaps at state colleges, lists best practices in academic and financial services and offers recommendations so Rhode Island can take a more strategic, proactive approach to increasing postsecondary achievement. (Providence Children and Youth Cabinet)

Targeting young children’s least-developed skills
Texas launched a free online pre-K learning platform that will be available at no cost to the state’s public school districts, charters and Head Start programs. Developed by the University of Texas Health Sciences Center and the Texas Education Agency, the platform features child progress monitoring assessments that identify children at risk for school failure, supplementary lessons to target children’s least developed skill areas and professional development courses.

Chronic absenteeism in the South
Mississippi KIDS COUNT issued a report that revealed almost 75,000 Mississippi students missed at least 18 school days during the 2013-14 school year. The report marks the first time data provided by the Mississippi Department of Education has been used to discover which areas had high rates of chronic absenteeism, defined as 10 percent, or missing 18 or more days of a 180-day school year.

Transitional kindergarten
In 2010, California's S.B. 1381 established a new grade level for students who turned five between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 called transitional kindergarten (TK). The first year of a two-year kindergarten experience, TK offers children learning, social and emotional development; most parents were happy. There was an economic advantage as well: full-day programs provided more hours of schooling for children, most helpful for working parents. (AIR)

Good Reads

Raising community college grad rates
The City University of New York increased graduation rates for full-time students at community colleges by offering tuition waivers, free Metro cards and comprehensive advisement. Researchers concluded the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative was well implemented, improved student outcomes and the cost per degree was less than the control. (MDRC)

Engaging students in the era of assessment
Backing teacher preparation and professional development that empowers staff to facilitate more engaging student experiences is only one step to creating a vibrant system; a study group also  recommends: promoting measures of success that emphasize student engagement, advancing school climate guidelines conducive to engagement,  revising where, when, by whom and how learning is delivered and encouraging stakeholder collaboration to meet student needs. (NASBE)

 

March 11, 2015

New from ECS

Funding for students with disabilities
Facts — and myths — surrounding the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are outlined in a new ECS release, along with how its passage has made state policymakers think differently about how they fund their public schools.

What States Are Doing

Free online AP classes
The Maine Department of Education opened registration for free Advanced Placement classes this week. AP4ALL allows all publicly funded high school students access to the year-long courses and covers the cost of books and materials. In less than a decade of AP4ALL’s existence, the number of online AP courses offered has jumped from six to 22, significant for a rural state like Maine where an individual high school may not have enough students interested in taking an AP course to allocate a teacher.

Grants to reduce testing
More than $425,000 was awarded to Connecticut school districts last month to help them spend less time testing students and more time teaching. Gov. Dannel Malloy announced the initiative in September. The grants will help districts comprehensively analyze their tests to ensure that they reflect district priorities, align with state standards and are not redundant with other assessments.

Good Reads

Developing the adult workforce
Seven strategies are proposed for improving conditions that create and perpetuate poor literacy, numeracy and problem solving among adults. Based on shared responsibility, they include raising awareness and transforming opportunities to assess, among several others. (U.S. Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education)

Classroom observation in Southern states
An analysis of classroom observation policies in SREB states, this report offers a look at how states frame observations, train observers, ensure quality and build a culture of educator support. It outlines recommendations on how states can move forward based on promising practices taking place in the SREB region, with a focus on creating a culture of professional support and growth. (SREB)

 

March 4, 2015

New from ECS

Opting out of assessments
Confusion is growing as parents increasingly want to opt their children out of state tests. Some state policies are clear on this issue, but many are still working through the process. This ECS Education Trends report highlights the myriad ways states are addressing this hot-button issue.

Organizational climate and early learning
The author of this study found a significant association between organizational climate in preschool centers and overall classroom quality. Findings suggest that policies should focus less on structural influences on quality in early childhood education (such as teacher-child ratios), and more on process quality and organizational climate. Professional development efforts might be key to overall classroom quality. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Tops in dual enrollment
One in four community college students in Iowa is a high school student, according to the Joint Enrollment Report 2014. A release from the Iowa Department of Education announced Iowa leads the nation in offering college-credit opportunities to high school students. The number of jointly enrolled students rose to 42,996 in fiscal year 2014. In 2013-14, students enrolled in an average of 7.8 credit hours; 58 percent of the courses were in arts and sciences, 42 percent in career and technical education.

Addressing the workforce skills gap
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker launched the process of bridging the workforce skills gap. Signing an executive order, he established the Workforce Skills Cabinet chaired by Ron Walker, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. The cabinet will develop goals, objectives and metrics, implementing regionally to improve alignment among state policies, programs and resources.

Good Reads

Gifted students and the Common Core
How will the Common Core affect gifted students? Four points to keep in mind: Don't let the Core be an excuse to ditch gifted services. State and local leaders should get rid of policies that hurt gifted and talented students and strengthen those that help them. Schools should work harder to make differentiation "real." And schools should make use of existing materials that help teachers adapt the Core for gifted students. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Completing college, a state-level view
First-time-in-college degree-seeking students who started college in fall 2008 have a completion rate of 55.1 percent, including 13 percent who completed at an institution different from their starting institution. So according to this research, one in four students who complete a degree finished at an institution other than the one where they first enrolled, problematic because traditional graduation measures only include graduates who finish where they started. (National Student Clearinghouse)

Design contest: building a better school report card
Working off an ECS brief, a school report card design contest was launched with $35,000 in prizes. Results of the challenge are featured here, with the conclusion that such an effort is no easy task.  They learned user-centered design should include information summaries, drill-down access, customization, translation and multiple modalities. Functionality should empower action, allow easy navigation and provide comprehensive and comparable information. (Foundation for Excellence in Education)

 

February 25, 2015

New from ECS

Governors' education issues
So far, governors in 37 states have presented their 2015 State of the State addresses, and improving education from preschool to college was, without a doubt, a top priority. This ECS Education Trends report highlights the top six education priorities for governors in 2015: Early learning, school finance, school choice, teaching quality, workforce development/career and technical education, and postsecondary funding, affordability and access.

How reliable is the civics test for immigrants?
Using questions from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the author of this study administered the test to unprepared citizens and noncitizens on the Michigan State University campus. If these had been real citizenship test forms, nearly one in four would have passed or failed depending on which test form they happened to take. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

Retained students have an effect on their classmates
The greater the percentage of retained students in a classroom, the more their classmates have unexcused absences. Most vulnerable were non-retained lower ability students, high-poverty students and, to a slight extent, non-retained boys, according to this study. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

No penalty for starting college at two-year institutions
No apparent penalty for starting a four-year degree at a community college was found in this test of the assumption. In an era when community colleges are playing an increasing role in four-year degree pathways, community college students were found to be just as likely to complete a  bachelor’s degree as four-year rising juniors after controlling for precollege and environmental factors. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

German auto supplier supports competency-based learning
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced  a new collaboration between the state and German manufacturer Dr. Schneider Automotive Systems, which will use apprentices who get credit for competencies learned at the Russell Springs plant. High school students can earn up to half of their apprentice hours before graduation.

Scholarships for high-need industries
In-state and out-of-state students are invited to apply for 300 scholarships at one of South Dakota’s four technical institutes, according to an announcement by the Build Dakota Scholarship Board. Tuition, fees, books and equipment will be covered. Students must enroll full-time, complete on schedule and commit to stay in South Dakota at least three years. High-need industries include energy, automotive, construction, engineering, health, precision manufacturing and welding.

Good Reads

Keeping better teachers
Contemplating a teacher compensation redesign? A look at 10 districts yielded recommendations: differentiate compensation and pay increases based on roles and responsibilities, set starting salaries to meet market demand, align redesign with proven evaluation systems, shift pay away from experience and advanced degrees, use incentives to attract effective teachers to hard-to-staff schools and subjects, accelerate timeline to maximum salary and allow teachers to opt in to the redesign within a set time. (Center for American Progress)

Characteristics of early high school dropouts
Among ninth graders in 2009, 2.7 percent didn't make it to the 11th grade, according to a federal report. Early dropout rates for Black, Hispanic and White students were 4.3 percent, 3.5 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively. Males and females had about the same dropout rate. The biggest gap was between the haves and have-nots, with 5 percent of early dropouts in the lowest socioeconomic fifth compared to 0.6 percent in the highest fifth. (National Center for Education Statistics)

Scaling developmental reform
Juxtaposed against a history of post-recession financial stress is the desperate need for states to redesign developmental education. This paper looks at four states – Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia – to give higher education agencies ideas about how they might accomplish the seemingly impossible. (Jobs for the Future and Completion by Design)

 

February 19, 2015

New from ECS

Dual enrollment database update
The 2015 update to ECS’ dual enrollment database is now live. Check out this database to see how your state compares nationally on 20 data points related to program basics, access, finance, ensuring quality, and transferability of postsecondary credit. This brief provides an overview of key dual enrollment trends in 2014.

In-state tuition policies for vets
Recent revisions to federal statute have shifted the policy landscape for veterans’ tuition. Beginning in July 2015, states are required to offer in-state tuition prices to veterans and their families as part of the enacted (Choice Act). State legislative sessions are a crucial time for governors and lawmakers to determine state policy compliance with federal law. This ECS Policy Analysis provides state and postsecondary leaders with a review of requirements, key information on deadlines, considerations for evaluating state policy for compliance and examples of policy actions.

Join ECS’ webinar on transfers
ECS recently released a 50-state report, The Blueprint for College Readiness, on 10 key policies states are pursuing to improve students’ success in transitioning from high school to college. At the same time, with half of all college students transferring at least once, current legislative sessions are paying attention to improving that process. To make sense of all this, ECS is hosting a webinar from 1-5 p.m. March 5, which will be archived on the website. To RSVP, email Emmy Glancy at ecs@ecs.org or eglancy@ecs.org.

What States Are Doing

From Harlem to Vermont
Modeled on the federal Promise Neighborhood program, itself modeled on Harlem’s Children’s Zone, Vermont is launching its own Promise Community initiative. Gov. Peter Shumlin made the announcement this month and said the initiative would coordinate services across education, health care, private, public and community sectors. Applications are due March 18; funding will come from the state’s Early Learning Challenge — Race to the Top grant.

Bureau of children's justice
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris launched the Bureau of Children’s Justice by sending a letter to county officials outlining their legal responsibilities with regard to foster youth. The bureau will work with local, state and national stakeholders to increase support for vulnerable children. “We simply cannot let down our most vulnerable children today, then lock them up tomorrow and act surprised,” Harris said. Among Harris’ previous efforts youth was reducing chronic absences and suspension.

Good Reads

There are standards … and there are standards
Content standards, not performance standards, have been almost the sole focus of state policies. If states adopt rigorous content standards, but retain low performance standards, the number of students identified as "proficient" will give a false-positive picture of knowledge acquired. This paper recommends a five-step process that guarantees more rigor and allows cross-state comparability. (AIR)

Equity at scale
High performing charter school networks — multiple schools affiliated with the same third-party service provider — can offer centralized services to support affiliates, including special education support. This brief offers ideas for strengthening special education offerings for students enrolled in networked public charter schools and gives examples of innovative practices. (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools)

Charter schools open, close
More than 500 new public charters opened in the 2014-15 school year, but more than 200 closed. Low enrollment could have caused closures, along with financial concerns and low academic performance. California led the new charter list at 87, followed by Florida (56), Texas (56), Arizona (31), North Carolina (25) and Wisconsin (22). California also led the closed charter list (34), followed by Florida (28) Texas (28), Ohio (27) and Wisconsin (23). (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

 

February 11, 2015

New from ECS

Multiple measures for college readiness
Approximately one-third of U.S. high school graduates do not move on to college soon after earning a diploma for reasons ranging from concerns over cost to work obligations. Many of these students want to continue their education; this new ECS Education Trends report stresses the need to turn this aspiration into action by making the transition from high school to college a policy priority for states.

Postsecondary access for undocumented students
Since 2001, 18 states have taken policy action to redefine eligibility requirements for in-state tuition that make undocumented students eligible. With a backdrop of such federal actions as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Immigration Accountability Executive Action from President Obama, five states offer financial aid, according to a new ECS brief.

Dual enrollment database update
The 2015 update to ECS’ dual enrollment database is now live. Check out this database to see how your state compares nationally on 20 data points related to program basics, access, finance, ensuring quality, and transferability of postsecondary credit. This brief provides an overview of key dual enrollment trends in 2014.

Conservative inroads into education policy
The conservative movement has used both conservative think tanks and the media to gain entry into the field of education policy. This study finds that conservative think tanks are cited more often than centrist or progressive think tanks in media coverage of education policy. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Country's first statewide PLA initiative
Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges launched the first statewide Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) initiative in the country this month.  Adult learners in the Pennsylvania community college system will be able to earn credit for learning through training and work experiences; standards for such credits will be established by the system.

Assessments Task Force
Charged with studying the implications of Colorado's assessment system, a task force agreed that while assessments provide valuable data for holding schools and districts accountable, state and local assessments create too many demands on time, logistics and finances. Where possible, changes must be made to the type, frequency and use of assessments. The task force recognized federal requirements restricted the state's ability to change the system.

Making college transfers easier in California
Passed in 2010 and amended in 2013, the Student Transfer Act was intended to create clearer pathways from California Community Colleges to the California State University system. This month, a legislative analysis found 33 model curricula covered majors selected by 80 percent of transferring students. However, many students remain confused and, while most colleges have some degrees left to develop, a handful lag far behind.

Good Reads

Transfers from community college to four-year institutions
Most students entering community college intend to transfer to a four-year institution. It can be a good route, especially for underserved students, but there are barriers, particularly a loss of credits. Researchers believe the transfer process may be improved by ensuring credits can be transferred efficiently with the potential to raise college attainment and contribute to students' upward mobility. (Community College Research Center)

Aligning higher education with workforce development
By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require some postsecondary education and training, up from 28 percent in 1973. To produce and retain greater numbers of individuals with adequate education and training to fill labor market gaps, states have enacted a variety of legislation from career-specific pathways to longitudinal data systems.  This summary describes legislation enacted in 2013 and 2014. (Lumina and ECS)

 

February 5, 2015

New from ECS

Most dual enrollment classes taught by high school teachers
Because dual enrollment classes tend to be taught in high schools by high school instructors, it is critical for states to ensure that course content and instructor qualifications align with those for traditional postsecondary courses, according to this new ECS report. Further, colleges must ensure high school instructors are grounded in the curriculum and have the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver postsecondary content.

Teacher quality on the rise
A 2014 study suggests that federal, state and local efforts to improve teacher quality are working. In New York state, the SAT scores of newly certified and newly hired first-time teachers increased after the state implemented state teacher reforms in the late 1990s. Improvements were even larger for teachers in hard-to-staff subjects (such as math and science), in low-income schools, and from minority groups. (New to the ECS Research Database)

Instructing ELLs
When instructing English language learners, the quality of instruction matters. This conclusion is becoming increasingly accepted and is supported by a 2012 literature review of studies on reading and language instruction methods for ELLs. Researchers also identified several effective reading interventions for ELLs and found that allowing ELLs to use their language skills every day is an important part of developing reading skills. (New to the ECS Research Database)

How school finance reforms impact adult outcomes
Does money matter? School finance reforms have raised many questions about their effects on student outcomes. Previous studies have produced conflicting results. This study looks specifically at the impact of court-ordered school finance reforms on long-term, adult outcomes. (New to the ECS Research Database)

What States Are Doing

What works in Pre-K professional development?
Evaluating two of Georgia’s Pre-K professional development models, researchers found Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI) was more effective than My Teaching Partner. MMCI also lent itself more to scaling up. However, improvements were small and instructional support remained in the low-to-middle range, and the conclusion was, advancements in early childhood professional development still are needed.

Leveraging financial aid for completion
Recent policy changes in Indiana aim to leverage financial aid as a means to encourage college completion. In Reforming Student Financial Aid to Increase College Completion, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education posits that adding credit accumulation milestones, requiring institutions to provide students with degree maps, and allowing students increased flexibility to access state aid in the summer may be promising strategies to use financial aid dollars to promote college completion.

Good Reads

States ranked by charter law
Minnesota remained at the top of an annual list of states ranked by flexibility in charter school laws; Maryland remained last. South Carolina moved up from 16 to 10 because a new law allows multiple authorizers while Massachusetts moved down six because of new data relating to funding equity. (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

Teacher pension funds vary in fairness
Claims of pension boards and other groups about pension plans' cost-effectiveness, fairness and flexibility are challenged in this report. The plans still are in place in 38 states and this brief includes a report card on each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with a detailed analysis of state teacher pension policies. Alaska comes in first, Mississippi last. (NCTQ)

 

January 28, 2015

New from ECS

Closing the achievement gap: Four states' efforts
A new ECS report highlights the efforts of four states -- Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin -- to reduce their achievement gaps through state-level task forces or commissions and other legislative action. These four states historically boast average or strong academic achievement levels, but all are facing achievement gaps, some of them significant.

What States Are Doing

Support for early learning and development standards
Georgia launched a series of television spots to increase awareness about the Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards (GELDS). The state’s Department of Early Care and Learning collaborated with Georgia Public Broadcasting to produce the 12-spot series called Play to Learn. Each spot focuses on a different skill outlined in the GELDS. Georgia is also implementing a plan to support the state’s young dual language learners through a partnership with WIDA.

Reducing time on tests
Ohio students, who now average 19.8 hours a year taking tests plus an additional 15 hours practicing for tests, may see a reduction, according to a report by Richard Ross, Ohio superintendent of public instruction. He recommends limiting tests and test practice, eliminating student learning objectives in preK-3 teacher evaluations, eliminating the fall third-grade reading test and eliminating the requirement that students in grades 1-3 get math and writing tests.

Gains but room for improvement on ACT
Tennessee students continue to achieve gains in math and reading but still lag in meeting all four ACT college readiness benchmarks. This report highlights four priorities: select and implement high-quality assessments, ensure continued and improved implementation of Tennessee's State Standards for English language arts and math, elevate the teaching profession and transform instruction through high-quality leadership.  (State Collaborative on Reforming Education)

Good Reads

Principal Pipeline Initiative
Part of an ongoing evaluation of the Principal Pipeline Initiative, this report's objective is to analyze implementation of the required components and then to assess the results achieved. The initiative follows six districts: Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC), Denver Public Schools (CO), Gwinnett County (GA), Hillsborough County (FL), New York City and Prince George's County (MD). New measures districts are implementing include systematic support for assistant principals. (Wallace Foundation)

Arts for math and science
Betting that implementing high-quality arts education program could improve overall achievement in the lowest performing schools, researchers found seven out of the eight observed schools improved their overall reading proficiency rates and six out of eight schools improved math rates. They had higher rates of improvement than comparable school improvement grant schools and higher rates of improvement than their districts. (President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities)

 

January 21, 2015

New from ECS

Pre-K funding for 2014-15
Most states now view access to high-quality preschool programs as a critical long-term economic investment in the future workforce. For the third year in a row both Republican and Democratic policymakers are making significant investments in state-funded pre-K programs. State Pre-K Funding: 2014-15 fiscal year, a new ECS analysis of 2014-15 appropriations by the 50 states, found that 28 states plus the District of Columbia increased their investments in pre-K; state investment rose by 12 percent.

State policies
As demographics of the nation’s schools continue to shift, state-level policy surrounding English language learners (ELLs) becomes increasingly important. Information regarding the various methods of funding of ELL students can be confusing and difficult to locate. This ECS report provides a clear and detailed description of the ways states finance ELLs and allows policymakers to evaluate their own funding models against those from other states.

What States Are Doing

A funding formula for Philadelphia
A funding formula is in the works for Pennsylvania, one of three states without one, so the Education Commission of the States was commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts to review funding formulas in other states, analyze their impact on big-city districts and determine how a formula might impact the School District of Philadelphia. ECS researchers determined a formula probably would reduce variations in education revenue in the state and would likely mean more revenue for perpetually broke Philadelphia.

STEM recommendations
To bolster the economy and engage more students in math and the sciences, New Hampshire’s STEM task force issued its final report, making eight recommendations to Gov. Maggie Hassan. Among them: creating multiple math pathways to fulfill the four-year math requirement, coding classes and early college residential academies, open to rural students, girls and CTE students.

Good Reads

Longitudinal data systems across state lines
Public policy is better informed when the movement of students and graduates across state lines is factored into the setting and achievement of state workforce and educational attainment goals. This brief discusses a five-year-old pilot in which four states – Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington — tested how cross-state collaboration and data sharing might inform important questions about the development and mobility of human capital. (WICHE, December 2014)

States launch new standards assessments this year
Almost every state in the country will test students against new standards this year. Are they ready? In this brief, the author found states do appear ready though having enough broadband to test large numbers of students at once is a challenge. She recommends preparing the public for lower scores and believes states that have committed to them should stand their ground on keeping PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments.  (Center for American Progress, January 2015)

 

January 14, 2015

New from ECS

Trends in teacher certification
To make sure that they are up to the task, several states now require that early education teacher candidates pass a reading instruction test before being licensed. This is a shift in focus, according to a new ECS report. Typically, states have concentrated on the student rather than the teacher by pursuing policies that identify struggling readers for special instruction.

Retaining first-graders
Though many U.S. schools retain first-graders to improve academic success, evidence to support the practice is weak. This study explores a secondary effect of retention – that parents of retained students had lower expectations of their children and that effect lasted. (New to the Research Studies Database)

Teaching to the test
While the phrase “teaching to the test” means different things to different people, researchers took one definition — predictability — and found the design of state tests used to hold schools accountable created incentives for teachers to perform one variant of teaching to the test: focusing on predictably tested content. (New to the Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Rescuing adult dropouts
Ohio has 1.1 million citizens 22 years of age and older who dropped out of high school. This week, the Ohio Department of Education launched a $2.5 million pilot program at five institutions to find them, assess their current knowledge and get them into a chosen career pathway involving an earned high school diploma and an industry credential. Tuition will be free.

Building schools’ technology infrastructure
Massachusetts schools districts will receive $5 million in grants for technology infrastructure to improve students’ access to digital learning, according to a release from the administration of Gov. Duval Patrick. Forty-seven schools — 13 rural, 16 suburban and 18 urban — in 14 districts will get the grants, impacting some 25,000 students.

Microsoft IT Academies in 25 high schools
High-level information technology academies are coming to Maryland schools, courtesy of Microsoft and the Maryland State Department of Education. Students in 25 high schools in 10 districts will get access to online classes and tutorials; teachers will receive unlimited access to instructional tools. All students in Maryland Public Schools can download Microsoft Office’s 365 ProPlus.

Good Reads

Higher ed in state legislatures
Look for these issues to provoke considerable activity in state legislatures in 2015: tuition policy, state appropriations for higher education, campus sexual assault, veterans’ education benefits, undocumented students, guns on campus, secondary-postsecondary alignment, state student aid programs, performance-based funding and tuition-free community college. (AASCU)

Dynamic use of labor market information
States are encouraged to use labor market information in an ongoing way in this brief, making it quickly available to community colleges and other stakeholders. That means state-level data systems need to be strengthened and institutions' use of labor market information should be supported by technical assistance and professional development. (Jobs for the Future and Achieving the Dream)

 

January 7, 2015

New from ECS

College counseling in high schools
The latest issue of The Progress of Education Reform explores current state approaches to college advising that may not provide the hoped-for gains in college-going, recent research on approaches correlated with increased postsecondary enrollment, including approaches with traditionally underrepresented students, and promising state approaches to triage counselors’ efforts with other means to provide college counseling.

States lag in college counseling
High schools that send more students to four-year postsecondary institutions have different practices and counselor attitudes than those high schools sending fewer students to four-year institutions. There are high-impact, low-cost approaches that can especially help low-income and first-generation college goers.

Supporting transitions from high school to postsecondary
Alignment between K-12 and postsecondary systems can reinforce and support student transitions. ECS identifies seven strategies, grounded in policy analysis and research, as options to increase the likelihood of successful transitions from K-12 to postsecondary education.

Teachers who enter education from outside the profession
Have midcareer entrants — teachers who enter the profession from careers outside of education — reduced the gender imbalance among first-year teachers nationally? A recent study in the journal Educational Policy is the first to use national data to assess the potential of midcareer entrants to diversify teaching, staff public schools and fill vacancies in high-need subjects. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Free work readiness modules
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe launched workforce readiness modules with the first five of 21 courses identified by the University of Virginia as needed by employees for career entry and advancement. They are applied mathematics; reading for information; locating information; Internet use and safety/digital citizenship; and understanding health, wellness and safety.

North Dakota launches preschool proposal
A state that hadn’t funded preschool, North Dakota lawmakers decided on a bipartisan basis to end that policy with a proposal for a $6 million plan to pay for half the cost of preschool for an estimated 6,000 4-year-olds.

Good Reads

Evaluating teacher prep
Looking at teacher preparation evaluation, researchers found all seven central states (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming) have evaluation procedures for approving and reauthorizing teacher preparation programs. Six were implementing or planning changes to their evaluation procedures. Other changes included statewide data collection tools, investing in data systems and exploring new approaches for reporting findings. (REL-Central)

Progress and challenges in implementing new standards
Whether they adopted the Common Core or implemented their own standards, states are using similar strategies to implement college- and career-readiness standards, namely professional development, curricula and assessments aligned with the new standards. Challenges include concerns about the technology needed to administer tests and falling test scores. (GAO)

Next-generation assessments
In 1996, Cisco Systems, a networking corporation, discovered a shortage of qualified candidates to design, build, manage and secure computer networks. So they founded an academy at 64 educational institutions that now has grown to 9,000 worldwide. In so doing, they developed an inexpensive online formative assessment system partly based on traditional assessment, partly based on simulation tasks and game-based assessments. That system holds hope for K-12. (Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation)

When districts go to multiple raters for teacher evaluation
Evidence suggests making principals solely responsible for teacher observation isn't effective. Moving toward better teacher observation systems, several districts use multiple raters to evaluate teacher performance. This report looks at the design, implementation and challenges of multiple rater systems in 16 districts. (Taylor White, Carnegie Foundation, December 2014)

Early college for all
In one of the most impoverished districts in the county — Pharr-San Juan-Alamo in south Texas — students are graduating from high school and going to college at a record rate. It happened by changing the relationship between the high school and South Texas College, in which the lines between the two were blurred, an early college-for-all strategy. (Jobs for the Future and Educate Texas)

State higher ed funding
State funding for all public colleges decreased by 12 percent from fiscal years 2003 to 2012 while tuition rose 55 percent, according to this report. Federal support for higher education is primarily aimed at funding student financial aid rather than at programs involving states. Several potential approaches the federal government could take to expand state incentives to improve affordability include creating new grants, providing more information on affordability or changing federal student aid programs. (GAO)

 

December 17, 2014

New from ECS

The more things change …
“Here we are in the 1990s, witnesses and actors in one of the great dramas of this century. ... Wouldn't it be ironic if at this wonderful moment the United States could no longer participate as a world leader because we were not well-enough educated?” Frank Newman, highly regarded former president of ECS, included these words in a memorable commencement speech in 1991. Prior to beginning a new year, it seems like a good time to read and reflect on what Newman had to say nearly 24 years ago. (published by Worcester Polytechnic Institute — WPI, May 1991)

What States Are Doing

Graduation rate ahead of schedule
Alabama’s high school graduation rate rose to a record high of 86 percent, the State Department of Education announced this week. PLAN 2020, the state’s plan for public education reform, which calls for a graduation rate of 90 percent by the year 2020, expected to reach 86 percent by 2018. The 90 percent goal will not only help youth become college and career ready, but also contribute to the state’s economy.

Two high school and college programs to launch in 2015
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that two more integrated high school and college programs will open next year. Called Connecticut Early College Opportunity (CT-ECO), the Grade 9-14 experiences will allow students to earn an associate degree in addition to a high school diploma. Located in Windham and New London, the Eastern CT-ECO programs represent partnerships among local school districts, two community colleges, and the Eastern Manufacturing Alliance.

Good Reads

Aging out
Some 26,000 youth in foster care will turn 18 and “age out” annually, facing such obstacles as homelessness, unemployment, difficulty accessing higher education and financial instability. This brief highlights best practices and policies and makes recommendations to support youth in transition from foster care in three areas of need – sustainable social capital, permanency supports and access to education. (American Youth Policy Forum)

New teachers unprepared to get students college and career ready
This edition of the NCTQ’s Yearbook finds states haven't done enough to prepare new teachers responsible for teaching to the college and career standards states adopted. A state-by-state review is provided, as well as a policy issues overview. In overall ratings, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas led the pack. (National Council on Teacher Quality)

Postsecondary enrollment continues decline
At a time when policymakers are trying to ratchet up the number of college graduates, university enrollment continued to drop, led this fall by private, for-profit colleges. Overall, the skid down was about 1.3 percent from a year ago and included two-year colleges; part of their slide occurred because some were reclassified as four-year institutions. (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)

 

December 10, 2014

New from ECS

State-by-state third-grade reading policies
If children do not have proficient reading skills by third grade, their ability to progress through school and meet grade-level expectations diminishes significantly. Well aware that all students should be reading at grade level by the end of third grade, many state policymakers have enacted three possible solutions: indentifying deficits, providing interventions and retention.

State standard setting
Academic standard setting, whether it’s by states or under the Common Core, has been a bone of contention of late, and the 2015 legislative season promises more of the same. This brief describes state standard-setting processes and provides profiles of eight states’ standard-setting and review processes, as well as the measures used by those states to validate their standards.

Few ELLs wind up in advanced placement
ELLs in high school are often confined to low-track core subject courses with little access to the high-level courses important for college preparation. High school ELLs’ underachievement will persist until they are given greater access to advanced coursework. In the school examined, staff assumptions about students’ abilities to succeed in high-track courses and ingrained school systems effectively blocked ELLs from participating in more rigorous coursework. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

$10 million for mentorship
Ohio community organizations, faith-based groups and businesses are being asked to partner with each other to form mentorship programs. Applications are being taken through February 20 by the Ohio Department of Education for programs in those districts having a high percentage of students in poverty and a high number of students not graduating on time.

High school career tech courses expanded
The Louisiana Department of Education announced the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has approved new Course Choice providers which include, for the first time, TOPS Tech Early Start providers as required by Act 737 of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session. Through Act 737, TOPS-Tech Early Start provides tuition for high school juniors and seniors to pursue an industry-based occupational or vocational education credential in a top-demand occupation while still in high school.

Good Reads

Latticing school leadership
After taking a look at how different leadership development systems in the United States and England responded to similar challenges, Jonathan Supovitz argues the English system may be valuable in a U.S. context. Vertically, England school leadership consists of school principals, senior leaders and middle leaders; laterally, school networks allow for exchanges, hence the phrase "lattice for school leadership." (Consortium for Policy Research in Education)

States failing to protect juvenile records
Although juvenile court has been viewed as a court of second chances, many states fail to protect juvenile records, thus impeding successful transition to adulthood for millions of youth. A state-by-state analysis of laws concerning public access to juvenile records, this report also provides a national overview and proposes standards to mitigate collateral consequences of exposure. (Juvenile Law Center and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia)

Moving up the teacher pay scale — or not
A look at 113 districts examines which districts push teachers up the salary schedule the fastest. Assuming teachers live where they work, San Francisco and New York City lost points on cost of living. Rochester looked good with a top salary of $120,582, but it would take 48 years to get there. Boston scored for taking only seven years to reach $75,000. (National Council on Teacher Quality)

Helping school choosers
K–12 school choice policies' success largely depends on school choosers who may have limited information about their options, limited resources to commit to conducting a search, and limited capacities for processing information and making informed decisions, according to this report. Governments and organizations can help inform families by broadening the set of schools to consider and indicating school performance amid school profiles. (American Enterprise Institute)

Public charters' popularity grows
More than one in five school children attends a public charter school in 43 communities, up from 32 last year. According to the ninth annual survey regarding public charters, the three largest urban communities with public charters are New Orleans (91 percent of students enrolled), Detroit (55 percent) and Washington D.C. tied with Flint, Mich., (44 percent). (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

 

 
 
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