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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.


June 17, 2015

New from ECS

The Civics Education Initiative of 2015
Ensuring all students are taught basic civics and learn to be ready for active, engaged citizenship is a goal that both sides of the aisle can agree upon. The means to that goal is hotly debated. A new report from Education Commission of the States takes a look at what is happening in the states.

What States Are Doing

Increase in funding for math and science teachers
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced a 20 percent increase in funding to hire, support and retain math and science teachers in rural and low-income schools. The STEM investment is now at $2.4 million.

Charter school accountability
North Carolinians can now review charter school performance in key areas of academics, finance and operations, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction announced. This is the first time information about financial aid and operational expectations for each school has been provided in a comprehensive way.

Grants to support career technical education
Grants totaling $28 million will be available to support Career Technical Education (CTE) systems across the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced. A multi-agency collaboration will accept, review and select qualified applicants to help create new pathways to skilled jobs with livable wages for students.

Good Reads

How fair is school funding?
Public school funding in most states continues to be unfair, especially to students in poverty. Unlike other nations, public education here is a state responsibility — the federal government pays only about 10 percent — and most states use formulas that are inequitable. This report lists only Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware as having fair funding. (Education Law Center at Rutgers)

Four states illustrate decades of disinvestment
Colorado, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and South Carolina provide compelling evidence of unfair school funding, even for students within the same state. Students in rural and urban areas vividly lack the same access as their peers in better-funded school systems to the same academic courses, before- and after-school programs, extracurricular activities, well-qualified teachers and principals and transportation. (The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Education Law Center at Rutgers)

Highly qualified teachers in alternative programs
Alternative certification or licensure is intended to expand the pool of potential teachers, especially in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. For Congress, the Department of Education looked at the degree to which states and districts use highly qualified teachers enrolled in alternative programs. The answer is a small degree — overall across 48 states and the District of Columbia 1.5 percent of highly qualified teachers were enrolled in alternative programs. (U.S. Department of Education)

English learners by language and location
Spanish was the most common first language spoken by 71 percent of English Language Learner (ELL) students. Chinese was second, with 4 percent of ELLs, followed by Vietnamese (3 percent) and French/Haitian Creole (2 percent). About 4.85 million English Language Learners (ELLs) were enrolled in public schools during the 2012-13 school year, representing nearly 10 percent of the K-12 student population. While ELLs are spread across the country, Western states had the largest shares of ELLs.  (Migration Policy Institute)


June 10, 2015

New from ECS

What’s happening at Education Commission of the States
Have you seen the recent slate of reports issued by Education Commission of the States? We’ve released 24 papers so far in 2015, from investments in state-funded pre-K programs to the expanded role community colleges are playing in awarding bachelor’s degrees, and a host of topics in between. Here are three popular reports on ECS’ Twitter page: State-level English language learner policies, State-level English language learner policiesand State approaches to funding dual enrollment.

What States Are Doing

West Virginia adopts reverse transfer
Undergraduate transfer from West Virginia community and technical colleges has increased by nearly 40 percent over the past few years, according to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, which voted unanimously to adopt a reverse transfer policy. Reverse transfer allows students who have gone from a community college to a four-year institution without getting an associate degree to receive that degree after earning credits in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Check out a recent ECS analysis on reverse transfer by policy analyst Lexi Anderson.

Highlighting skilled trades
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced a new campaign to acquaint students with skilled trade opportunities. To interest middle and high school students in skilled trades, videos will be produced on opportunities in tool and die, health care, information technology, construction, advanced manufacturing and welding. For younger students, videos will feature food, agriculture and natural resources; manufacturing; health care; art and design; and science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and information technology.

Good Reads

Per-pupil spending highs and lows
State per-pupil spending nationally is $10,700, but the low is $6,555 in Utah and the high is $19,818 in New York. Look at the largest 100 school districts – the spread is Jordan, Utah, at $5,708 and Boston, Mass., at $20,502. Such factoids abound at the U.S. Census Bureau's Public Education Finances: 2013.

A million teachers headed this way
If the 1.5 million teachers entering the profession in the next decade are poorly prepared, they could block efforts to reform education. Some teacher prep programs are doing a better job than others and some candidate qualities predict better teaching. This brief advises choosing teacher candidates better, reaching consensus on desirable skills, demanding well-prepared mentors for student teachers and requiring rigorous assessments for licensure. (American Institutes for Research)

Aligning and coordinating services for infants and toddlers
As communities work to align infant and toddler services by increasing access to available programs and resources, creating centralized intake systems and targeting interventions to specific populations, federal policy should support them by increasing investments and providing long-term and continuous funding, according to this article. It should initiate a permanent cross-agency office at the federal level that would focus specifically on infants and toddlers. (Center for American Progress)


June 3, 2015

New from ECS

Vergara v. California
The court’s decision in Vergara v. California asserts that some teacher job protections don’t support an environment that provides the most effective teachers to all students. While the decision would completely eliminate these job protections, other policy options exist for improving teacher quality argues this ECS policy analysis. Retaining current tenure laws or eliminating protections represent two extremes. However, understanding the debates playing out in Vergara and similar lawsuits can help prepare state policymakers and education leaders for similar discussions.

What States Are Doing

More children get access to pre-K
Demand for pre-K in Alabama has far exceeded supply, so Gov. Robert Bentley’s announcement that 200 more grants will provide access for more than 3,600 additional 4-year-olds was welcome. In his Education Trust Fund, Bentley recommended a $10 million increase for the voluntary pre-K program and the legislature approved it.

CA awards CTE-related grants
California State Supt. Tom Torlakson awarded $244 million in grants to 40 programs that blend academic and career technical education, connect employers with schools and train students for jobs in such high-demand fields as  health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology and software development. The grants are provided through the California Career Pathway Trust.

Good Reads

Fact-packed report to Congress
Good news in NCES’ annual report to Congress on all levels of U.S. education: in fall 2010, about 26 percent of kindergartners were rated by their teachers as having positive approaches to learning behaviors “very often,” and 47 percent were rated as demonstrating these behaviors “often.” Swinging to an older demographic, in 2014, some 91 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had received at least a high school diploma or equivalent. It’s a heavy tome (320 pages) so a highlights version is offered as well as an at a glance version. (National Center for Education Statistics)

National data on school safety
Almost all (93 percent) of public schools report controlled access to buildings, according to this study of school safety and discipline. Eighty-eight percent have procedures to follow in the event of shootings. Student bullying was reported to occur at least once a month at 37 percent of schools and, overall, 65 percent of schools reported at least once violent incident during the 2014-13 school year. (National Center for Education Statistics)

On the forefront of developmental reform
Community college systems in Virginia and North Carolina lead in statewide efforts to improve developmental education. Both states redesigned their remedial English and math courses, their assessment instruments and placement policies to decrease the number of referrals, reduce the time students spend in remedial classes and align developmental education across colleges and with college-level courses. This report provides preliminary results. (Community College Research Center)


May 27, 2015

New from ECS

Federal education policy as shaped over time
Christopher Cross presents an overview of major events in federal education policy history, events that shaped today’s individual opinions and current federal jurisdiction. With the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act being one of the most significant K-12 policy events in history, this report includes a synopsis of the current state of waivers, extensions and possible next steps for ESEA reauthorization.

What States Are Doing

Parents get closer to the process
South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly M. Spearman formed a Parent Advisory Council to provide feedback from a parent’s perspective on education in South Carolina’s classrooms. These parents represent public, private and homeschooled students. Spearman wanted parents to see firsthand the success and challenges students face in and out of the classroom.

Postsecondary in the heartland
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed an omnibus higher education bill that addresses a broad array of issues, including strategies to support timely completion of degrees and certificates, establishing postsecondary attainment goals for the state and counseling for college student loan debtors.

Good Reads

Kindergarten age and 2nd grade achievement
A snapshot of children who were first-time kindergartners in the 2010-11 school year and in second grade in 2012-13: there were no significant differences in reading knowledge and skills, by age of entry. However, children who were 66-71 months when they entered kindergarten had higher average math scores than those who were younger than 60 months at kindergarten entry. (NCES)

High school graduation rate goes up again
For the third year, the nation remained on pace to meet the goal of 90 percent on-time graduation by 2020; the national high school graduation rate hit a record high of 81.4 percent. This sixth annual update on America’s high school dropout challenge shows these gains were made by raising graduation rates for students who have traditionally struggled to earn a high school diploma. (Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins School of Education)

Innovation in rural education
State education agencies have an instrumental role to play in supporting the work of rural education, according to this report. While rural schools are asked to stretch their dollars further, they are more likely to face limited economies of scale, difficult teacher labor markets and inadequate access to time and money-saving technologies. Yet rural schools and districts are innovative in how they manage these problems and much can be learned from them. (Edvance Research)

Accountability in authorizing charters
State policy provisions on authorizer accountability recommended by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools are examined in this brief along with the extent to which states have adopted them. Then the author presents experiences and lessons from four states – Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and Ohio – that have taken action on authorizer accountability in diverse policy and authorizing environments. (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

Teachers need better feedback
For more effective teachers and better-prepared students, high-quality feedback following teacher observation is essential. This report suggests that observers go beyond accurate assessment and identify specific and actionable next steps for teachers to improve their practice. States and districts must give principals training, support and resources to help teachers improve through feedback, and then hold principals accountable for doing so. (Reform Support Network)


May 20, 2015

New from ECS

Who pays for dual enrollment?
While states are increasingly committed to the idea of dual enrollment, they haven’t consistently eliminated financial barriers to participation, according to this policy analysis. States that have done that see larger proportions of minority and low-income students participating.

P-20 data sharing and reporting webinar
On May 28, 1-2 p.m. (EST), Education Commission of the States is hosting a professional development webinar designed to enhance education leaders’ and policymakers’ ability to measure students’ college and career readiness. A P-20 data system emerges when state agencies have compatibility that enables seamless data sharing. Register now! After registering, you will receive a confirmation email and instructions for joining the webinar.

Learning, social and emotional
There is increasing interest in social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, which help students develop skills like social awareness and responsible decision making but little is known about their impact on student achievement. The authors of this study found that generally, students receiving SEL instruction did not show significant improvement in performance. However, a small group of students showed academic gains when their teachers used the curriculum exactly as it was designed. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Montana signs tribal languages bills
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law two bills that will preserve and promote the state’s tribal languages. Sponsored by Rep. George Kipp, HB 559 will extend the Montana Indian Language Preservation program. SB 272, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, encourages school districts in Montana to create Indian Language Immersion programs on their campuses.

Good Reads

Diversity in early childhood
Racial, ethnic and economic disparities persist in preschool classrooms across America. This report calls for policymakers to focus on the value of diversity in early education classrooms to increase equity and quality. It finds children from low-income families and Hispanic children are less likely than high socioeconomic and non-Hispanic children to be enrolled in center-based early childhood programs. Most children in public preschool programs attend classrooms that are segregated by family income and often by race/ethnicity as well. (The Century Foundation and Poverty & Race Research Action Council)

Two-generation approach for English learners
Since the majority of labor-force growth in the United States over the next four decades will come from immigrants and their children, investing in these two populations is critical to the success of families and the economy. This brief looks at the U.S. ELL population, explains why a two-generation approach is a valuable strategy and presents case studies of promising approaches for educating ELL students and parents while providing critical wraparound services. (Center for American Progress)

The Pre-K yearbook
The good news: state funding for Pre-K increased by nearly $120 million in 2013-14. The bad news: programs have yet to fully recover from the impacts of half a billion dollars cut in 2011-12, according to The State of Preschool 2014. Enrollment growth grew modestly by 8,535, nearly half of which went to recouping 4,000 seats lost in 2012-13. State Pre-K quality standards improved. Mississippi started a program in January 2014 and simultaneously met all 10 NIEER benchmarks. An analysis of each state is featured. (NIEER)


May 13, 2015

New from ECS

Reverse transfer could raise completion rates
Higher rates of degree completion for students in higher education cannot be reached without innovation, for example reverse transfer. A unique process for awarding associate degrees to students who have transferred to four-year institutions from community colleges, reverse transfer policies and programs allow students to combine credits they earned at two- and four-year institutions. They earn an associate degree while also working toward a bachelor’s degree. 

Expanding the age range of attendance
More and more, state policymakers are exploring options to increase the age range that a student is required to attend school -- with goals of boosting high school graduation rates and producing a better prepared workforce that can meet the needs of modern employers.

How does instructional alignment predict effective teaching?
The authors of this study found that the correlations between instructional alignment and indicators of effective teaching were much smaller than expected. The findings raise questions about the validity of inferences made on the basis of value-added assessment data and suggest that policymakers should consider whether state tests should be used to differentiate effective from ineffective teaching. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database) 

What States Are Doing

Dual enrollment increases college completion, decreases dropout rates
A growing number -- about 31,000 Colorado students -- participated in dual enrollment programs in 2013-14. Since dual enrollment’s inception in 2009, the programs have diversified and now resemble the composition of public high schools. One program, ASCENT, allows students to tack on a fifth year of high school, enroll in free community college courses and graduate from high school with an associate degree, according to a report by the Colorado Departments of Education and Higher Education.

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that expands the age at which high school students can participate in dual-credit programs, Running Start and College in the High School programs. Previously, only juniors and seniors could take dual-credit classes. Now, 10th graders can participate in College in the High School. Students can use Guaranteed Education Tuition units to pay costs associated with both programs.

In April, the Rhode Island Board of Education adopted regulations that provide all high school students access to college level work while still in high school. Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Prepare RI Dual Enrollment Fund, if approved by the General Assembly, will cover the cost of tuition and fees. 

Good Reads

Policy wonks rejoice
The National Center for Education Statistics released its Digest of Education Statistics, chock full of every imaginable factoid concerning things educational from preschool to graduate school. There’s good news: fall 2013 marked a new record for public elementary enrollment, which will continue increasing; dropout rates declined from 12.1 percent in 1990 to 6.6 percent in 2012; Americans are completing more years of education. (NCES)

Completion for homeless students
Since the College Cost Reduction and Access Act was signed into law in September 2007, the issue of college access for homeless youth has garnered increased attention. Among other provisions, the CCRAA confers independent student status on unaccompanied homeless youth, helping to ensure that they have access to the financial support necessary to pay for college. Gaining entry to college and securing financial aid are only the first steps to degree completion. This brief explores how colleges are supporting their homeless student populations.  (National Center for Homeless Education)

Target high schools to improve readiness
Nearly 75 percent of recent high school graduates who enrolled in an Oregon community college took at least one remedial course. Research suggests the influence of school-level quality on college readiness persists over time and continues to influence academic preparedness. Findings also indicate a direction for improving students' college readiness: targeting academic weakness at the high school level, well before students graduate. (REL-Northwest)

Turnaround isn’t easy
Most states reported prioritizing turnaround as a statewide education policy in spring 2012 and spring 2013. However, they also reported that turnaround was one of their three most difficult policy goals to achieve. Factors contributing to this difficulty may include significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround, which 21 of these states reported in both spring 2012 and spring 2013. (National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance) 


May 6, 2015

New from ECS

Free and compulsory school age requirements
More and more, state policymakers are exploring options to increase the age range that a student is required to attend school -- with goals of boosting high school graduation rates and creating a better prepared workforce that can meet the needs of modern employers. A new 50-state review examines how states address the issue.

What States Are Doing

First free English training in the nation via mobile phones
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of a unique program to provide free English language training to hundreds of immigrants in the state who may lack regular access to a classroom, a computer or the Internet. Learners will gain access to self-paced audio and text lessons through their personal phones.

Comparing charters to traditional public schools
More than half of charters authorized by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission are among the top performing public school options in their communities. The commission found the charters were in good financial shape and all were in good standing operationally. However, charters tended to have lower enrollments of non-white, low-income, special education and English language learners than traditional public schools.

Helping dyslexics
Indiana legislation passed this session is aimed at better supporting students with dyslexia. Among other provisions, it requires teacher preparation programs to teach teacher candidates to recognize that a student not progressing in reading at a normal rate may need a referral to the school’s multidisciplinary team to determine the student’s needs, including learning needs related to dyslexia.

Good Reads

A different ranking of colleges
Arguing that earnings are an important measure of well being, this study focuses on economic outcomes, mid-career earnings, occupational earnings and student loan repayment rates. It isn’t just the nationally recognized universities – Cal Tech, MIT and Stanford – that are high value-added, but also Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana, Colgate in upstate New York and Carleton in Minnesota. (Brookings)

Displaced by closures, urban Ohio students fared better
An examination of school closures in Ohio's Big Eight urban areas reveals that students displaced by closure were disproportionately black, economically disadvantaged and low achieving. On average, displaced students ended up in more effective schools populated by higher achieving students. Overall, closing schools and charters in Ohio's urban districts had a positive impact on displaced students' academic achievement. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Teachers can smooth Common Core’s path
Teacher leadership can play an important role in ensuring the success of the Common Core. This paper describes districts throughout the country that smoothed Common Core's path by involving teachers in various ways, including using them in district and school governance, giving them special assignments, giving them time for collaboration, and having them write, develop and choose instructional materials. (Center for American Progress)

Digital learning supports proven competencies
States are graded in overall digital quality and in 10 elements: student eligibility, student access, personalized learning, advancement (students progress based on demonstrated competencies), quality content, quality instruction, quality choices, assessment and accountability, funding and delivery (infrastructure supports digital learning). (Digital Learning Now)


April 29, 2015

New from ECS

A redesign for state financial aid
Changing demographics and shifting expectations for higher education create fertile ground for states to redesign and re-conceptualize financial aid programs. A new paper from Education Commission of the States advances the idea that such a redesign should be student centered, goal driven and data informed, timely and flexible, and broadly inclusive of all students’ educational pathways.

What States Are Doing

Specialized instruction, hands-on training, college credit
Fifteen Delaware high schools will share $500,000 in grants to implement career and technical education in biomedical science, computer science, culinary arts and hospitality management, and engineering beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The program, a partnership between districts, higher education and employers, is part of Gov. Jack Markell’s Pathways to Prosperity initiative.

Do well on PARCC and skip remedial
Illinois community college presidents joined several other states that will accept scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to determine a high school student’s readiness for college-level courses. This raises the possibility of students avoiding time and money spent in remedial classes for no credit, according to the Illinois Department of Education.

Good Reads

Condition of future teachers declining
A national study on future educators finds the number of students interested in becoming educators continues to drop significantly. Those students who are interested in going into education have lower-than-average achievement levels, especially in STEM areas. There is a general lack of diversity among future teachers and they tend to be female. Recommendations include recruiting high-achieving students who are undecided about their future careers, promoting alternative pathways to teaching and improving benefits. (ACT)

Data can better prepare students for jobs
Data can inform improvements to the variety of routes young people take through education and career pathways, according to this brief. By sharing information about how graduates fare as they move from education into the workforce, the K-12, postsecondary, and workforce sectors can identify best practices or make adjustments to programs or curriculum. Forty-three states link K-12 data with postsecondary data, 19 states link K-12 and workforce data and 27 states link postsecondary and workforce data. (DQC)


April 22, 2015

New from ECS

Community colleges expand role
A growing number of states allow community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees as one strategy to meet workforce demands, address affordability and increase access to educational opportunities. A new ECS Education Policy Analysis examines state policies that allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees, summarizes arguments for and against and offers key policy considerations related to community college bachelor’s degree programs.

It’s about time
Expanded-time district schools, those that provide learning time for seven-plus hours per day, outnumber expanded-time charter schools for the first time. Largely in urban communities, these schools serve more than a million students in at least 10 states. A joint report from the National Center on Time & Learning and Education Commission of the States identifies more than 50 laws related to school time.

High school computer science tends to be white, male
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 37.5 percent growth from 2012-22 in computer systems design and related services, in 2013, 81 percent of exam takers in AP Computer Science A were male and 82.5 percent were white. A new ECS Education Trends report identifies states that are allowing or requiring districts to apply computer science coursework toward graduation requirements in math, science or foreign language.

What States Are Doing

MT STEM mentors
Montana’s STEM Mentors Initiative surpassed its goal of 100 STEM mentors who agree to provide guidance for women and girls interested in pursuing a career in the STEM fields. The announcement was made by Lt. Gov. Angela McLean and First Lady Lisa Bullock, a software engineer. Studies have shown that a contributing factor to the gender pay gap is underrepresentation of women in STEM fields.

AR workforce development
Arkansas’ Workforce Initiative directs the Department of Higher Education to seek requests for proposals from alliances of K-12, postsecondary and workforce partners. Planning and implementation grant proposals will include dual enrollment courses that can be applied to a certificate or degree aligned with local industry sectors and skills.

IA Reading Corps for preschoolers
Iowa legislation authorized creation of the Iowa Reading Corps program to provide AmeriCorps members with a data-based, problem-solving model of literacy instruction to use in tutoring preK-3 students who are not proficient in reading.

Good Reads

Guided pathways to reform
College students are more likely to complete a degree in a timely manner if they choose a program and develop an academic plan early, have a clear road map of the courses they need to take for completing a credential, and receive guidance and support to help them stay the path. This brief describes the guided pathways reform model and summarizes evidence supporting its design principles. There are two companion pieces: one on implementing guided pathways, and a case study on implementation at Miami Dade College. (CCRC)

Trends in state funding for higher education
The Great Recession cut state revenue and ended the growth in state and local support for higher education achieved between 2004-08, according to this annual report on higher education finance. In 2014, for the second year in a row, state and local support for higher education increased, but still was below 2008-11 levels. Enrollment at public institutions increased over the past 25 years, but has declined in each of the last three years. (SHEEO)

District facilities and charter schools
Access to facilities is often a challenge for charter schools. So far, 27 states have enacted policies that make it easier for charters to access district buildings. This brief summarizes state activity and advocates for creating an entity that collects and shares information on available buildings, giving charters first refusal rights, determining what price – if any – charters will pay to lease or acquire buildings and determining who will pay for upkeep. (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)


April 15, 2015

New from ECS

Workforce development policies
States are introducing and enacting an increasing number of bills targeted toward workforce development and career and technical education. A new ECS Education Policy Analysis offers a review of enacted legislation from 2012-14 across the country and provides several state examples.

What States Are Doing

Alternatives to state tests
Fifteen Ohio districts and schools were chosen to develop alternatives to state standardized tests. The pilot will allow these schools to use locally selected or developed assessments to match their specific educational programs. Results could change testing policies statewide. The Ohio Department of Education will seek a waiver for the alternative tests from the U.S. Department of Education.

Year-long teacher apprenticeships
The Louisiana Department of Education announced 26 district-recipients for the second cohort of Believe and Prepare Educator Preparation grants, adding to seven recipients already implementing innovative models for teacher training. This second cohort of grant recipients will operate April 2015 through June 2016. Cohort 2 pilots will build on Cohort 1’s most promising practices.

Development grants for career education
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the first career education grants awarded this year to eight schools and districts stretching from Tehama County to San Diego County. Funding the planning process needed to implement career programs the following year, the grants are especially helpful to rural areas where there are fewer career education programs.

Schools to get fitness centers
Three Arkansas schools will get $100,000 fitness centers. After a nomination process in which applicants are judged by innovative ideas to implement student health and fitness, the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils will nominate the winners. The announcement was made by Foundation chair Jake Steinfeld, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Education.

Good Reads

Rural teacher supply and demand
Adding to the rural education knowledge base, this report finds rural schools were not more likely to report teacher vacancies, except when it came to English language learner positions; vacancies and turnover weren't as big a concern as who is hired to fill those vacancies. Rural teachers were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, except for salaries, which can be low in rural areas. The report sees hope in grow-your-own strategies and increasing use of technology. (Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho)

AmeriCorps preps preschoolers
AmeriCorps members within the Minnesota Reading Corps PreK program significantly boosted emergent literacy skills of PreK students aged 3, 4 and 5. In this evaluation, they helped 4- and 5-year-olds meet or exceed spring targets for kindergarten readiness in all five assessed areas. By the end of the school year, 3-year-olds significantly outperformed students in comparison classrooms in rhyming words and picture names. ( Corporation for National & Community Service)

Educator evaluation evolves in Tennessee
In its third year, Tennessee's educator evaluation system continues to evolve, using a variety of metrics. The rigor of evaluator certification was increased and there was continued expansion for non-tested grades and subjects. In the 2014 legislative session it was decided the person being evaluated could select the 15 percent achievement measure to use in the evaluation and additional evaluation coaches were added. (Tennessee Department of Education)

Events and Webinars

NASH and SHEEO present: Advancing Educator Preparation
NASH and SHEEO are pleased to invite you to the third installment of their co-hosted webinar series, "Advancing Educator Preparation." The upcoming webinar, Linking Research and Practice Across the UNC System: Using Data to Assess and Improve the Effectiveness of Educator Preparation, featuring Tom Ross, president, and Alisa Chapman, vice president for Academic and University Programs, of the University of North Carolina System, will be held on Wednesday, April 22, between 2-4 p.m. (ET). To RSVP, please send your name, title, organization, and email address to If you have any questions, contact Sharmila Mann at


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)

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