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ECS e-Connection



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.


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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