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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.


November 12, 2014

New from ECS

ID'ing students ready for algebra in 8th grade
Some states want to encourage all students to complete algebra I by the end of grade 8. Research suggests this strategy does not work for all students, and properly identifying students ready for algebra I in grade 8 is crucial. A study of middle school students in California found that scores from a state math assessment and newly available diagnostic math test can be helpful tools in determining an 8th grade student’s likelihood of succeeding in algebra I and also in making decisions about students’ grade 8 math placement. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

Risky health behaviors vs. student achievement
The authors of this study reviewed 122 articles from peer-reviewed journals to synthesize evidence about the link between risky health behaviors and academic achievement. Unsurprisingly, nearly 97 percent of the articles they reviewed found statistically significant inverse relationships. Equipped with this evidence, the authors suggest interagency coaction is the key to better outcomes for students. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Which candidates ran for, against the Core?
Gubernatorial races viewed through the Common Core prism reveal that support for and opposition to the Core were fairly evenly split, mostly across party lines. Candidates in opposition cited the federal government; supporters emphasized economic advantages and increased rigor. (Consortium for Policy Research in Education)

Thousands use vouchers
Nearly 7,000 Louisiana students used the Louisiana Scholarship Program to attend a school of their family's choice in the 2013-14 school year, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. Eight-nine percent of participants are minority; 43.2 percent received scholarships for the first time. Between 2010 and 2014, the percentage of students in the program scoring basic or above progressed from 31 percent to 44 percent.

A push for increasing college-going rates
Nebraska is running a pilot to determine whether administering the ACT to all 11th graders in public high schools would increase college-going rates, especially for those who, in the past, have been overlooked among those students considered to have the potential for going to college. Here’s how they structured the pilot and a recent report on progress to date.

October's report card
District of Columbia Public Schools and the Office of the State Superintendent for Education won an A+ and A, respectively, in October’s program, according to a release from Mayor Vincent C. Gray. During October, more than 2,100 reviews of district agencies were logged by residents and visitors, an interesting concept for gathering input on state agencies.

Good Reads

Emerging best practices for turnarounds at the state level
With chapters written by leading researchers and practitioners (including Montana State Superintendent and ECS Commissioner Denise Juneau), this publication examines the role of state education agencies in school turnaround efforts. You can download the complete edited volume or individual sections. Before you hit the print button, know that this document is 274 pages. (The Center on School Turnaround)

Evidence-based system for teacher prep programs
A more public, rigorous and evidence-based approach to the evaluation of teacher preparation programs is advocated in this report, which discusses current efforts and proposes a new, largely outcomes-based framework for assessing preparation program strength, the Key Effectiveness Indicators (KEI). The report includes an appraisal (with documentation) of the extent to which the efforts of fifteen selected states align with the KEI. (Teacher Preparation Analytics for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation)

Evaluating teacher prep programs, an additional perspective
Because there is little uniformity among state licensing agencies regarding standards for teacher prep program approval, researchers examined data sources that can serve as a gauge: results of standardized tests administered to students, teacher performance as measured by observation, and surveys of graduates, their employers and graduates' students. (American Psychological Association)

Higher teacher salaries, more teacher planning time
Given the shortage of effective STEM teachers, a model of how to use them to reach more students is offered that includes multi-classroom leadership, elementary specialization, time swaps and use of paraprofessionals. Teachers have more time to plan and collaborate and their salaries are higher without costing their districts any more. (Opportunity Culture)


November 5, 2014

New from ECS

STEM in rural areas
When it comes to teaching STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — in remote rural areas, intractable problems can become brilliant solutions. For example, Idaho is in the midst of taking the Khan Academy to every school in the state; its corrections system is using KA Lite for prisoners who have no access to the Internet.

Learning English in country towns
As English language learners arrived in waves, many rural schools and districts quickly went for low-incidence to high-incidence of ELLs. Here is how rural areas have responded.

Delaying kindergarten starts not helping?
A new study predicts the extent to which delayed, on-time or early kindergarten enrollment influences children’s future academic achievement. By following students’ progress from kindergarten to third grade, the authors find that academic success depends on socio-demographic factors and the relative age of other kindergarteners in the same class. They suggest that delaying kindergarten enrollment is not an effective way to improve long-term achievement. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Thousands apply to college
Alabama is going all out for college application. November 3-7 is College Application Week, according to the Alabama Department of Education. Last year, the inaugural year for the event, 10 high schools participated. This year, 179 schools have registered to participate, helping thousands of students clear that initial application process hurdle, especially those who are low-income and first-generation college-goers.

Broadband for digital, blended learning
The Georgia Department of Education voted to contribute more than $14.8 million in bond funds toward grants that will allow 103 local education agencies to improve their Internet infrastructure, part of a larger effort to ensure all classrooms have the high-speed broadband access required for digital and blended learning.

Good Reads

Making data accessible
Publicly reporting data, though it could be a powerful way for states to promote transparency, now mostly responds to state and federal laws. This brief recommends ensuring data are accurate and safeguarded, maintaining coordination across P-20/workforce entities, ensuring data meet the needs of all stakeholders and ensuring that it is accessible. (Data Quality Campaign)

Teacher pay in an opportunity culture
To reach more students with excellent teaching, leaders must change how teaching roles are organized then align pay to support that reorganization. This brief overview and graphics show how career paths and pay work at a glance. (Public Impact)

Are districts ready for standards assessments?
States that have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will begin testing students' progress later in this school year. A survey of districts found the vast majority are making plans to target support services for students who may need additional assistance to pass the tests and most foresaw technological challenges. (Center on Education Policy)

How many have changed curricula to fit standards?
While more than 80 percent of districts in Common Core-adopting states report they’re already teaching math and English language arts aligned to the Core, only about a third say they’ve introduced Core-aligned curricula in all schools, according to a survey. Ninety percent of districts indicate identifying Core-aligned materials has posed a major (45 percent) or minor (45 percent) challenge. (Center on Education Policy)


October 29, 2014

New from ECS

Blueprint for College Readiness
ECS launched the Blueprint for College Readiness initiative to provide guidance and support to the growing number of states working to improve student success and transition from high school into postsecondary. Designed by state leaders for state leaders, the Blueprint features a menu of 10 critical policies promoting college readiness and success. A 50-state analysis explores the extent to which states are pursuing these policies. Accompanying resources, technical assistance and online database are designed to respond to the unique needs of states.

Effectiveness-focused teacher preparation
This issue of the Progress of Education Reform explores why obtaining meaningful information on how well teacher-preparation programs are preparing our nation's teachers often remains such a challenge. Moving in the direction of effectiveness-focused preparation is presented as an effective strategy and one that a number of states already have initiated.

Maybe textbooks weren't getting easier after all
The authors challenge the assumption that reading textbook difficulty and sophistication has trended downward over time in this study. After surveying hundreds of textbooks from third and sixth grade, the authors find that difficulty and sophistication have either increased or remained consistent over the past three-quarters of a century. (New to the ECS Research Database)

What States Are Doing

Exploring the Iowa Core
Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck launched Iowa Core this month to increase public understanding of the Iowa Core standards and to help educators put those standards into practice. The website has three components: Explore the Iowa Core allows users to search the standards by grade and subject, Parents and Community explains what students should know and how parents can help them and Educator Resources includes a collection of more than 8,000 resources for teachers.

Making postsecondary less of a gamble
Tennessee also has launched a new website,, to provide Tennesseans with education outcome information — by institution, wages, labor supply and demand — associated with bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, certificates and diplomas. Among the trends: median wages of individuals with associate degrees and long-term certificates often exceed those with bachelor's degrees, at least for five years.

What business can do
Educate Maine is a business-led education advocacy organization championing college and career readiness and increased education attainment. The organization was formed by the merger of the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education and the Compact for Higher Education in December 2011. This is its second annual report on a set of 10 indicators for the state.

Good Reads

Transforming professional development with the Common Core
Professional development has been viewed as the "ugly stepchild" of education reform, according to this report. But the Common Core, with its focus on content and instructional shifts that support delivery of that content, could be the vehicle to transform professional development. This executive summary links to three briefs. (Education First)

Districts attitudes on new standards
Ninety percent of district leaders in states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards agree the new standards are more rigorous than their state's previous standards in math and English language arts. In addition, about three quarters of them believe the Common Core will improve students' skills. (Center on Education Policy)


October 22, 2014

New from ECS

Initiatives from Preschool to Third Grade: A Policymaker's Guide
A new reference primer addresses effective strategies to support children on their path to third-grade academic success and details the foundations of effective P-3 approaches. "There are many candidates across the country running for gubernatorial and legislative seats, and many are running with early childhood as a key component of their education platform," said Bruce Atchison, director of ECS' Early Learning Institute. "This document will be an excellent resource for the newly elected officials and for professionals currently working the field of early childhood."

How long is a year?
This 50-state report provides the minimum number of instructional days or hours in a school year and the start dates prescribed by law, where specified. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia allow local districts or regions to determine when the school year begins.

Does it matter where you go to college?
How much of a difference does it make whether a student of a given academic ability enters a more or a less selective four-year college? A recent study examines the effect of college selectivity on graduation to understand if selectivity is more influential than the student's personal attributes. (New to the ECS Research Database)

What States Are Doing

ScholarCorps expands
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has expanded its statewide ScholarCorps program to 20 colleges to increase on-campus support and success rates for students enrolled in the state's 21st Century Scholars program. The 21st Century Scholars program is a need-based, early-promise scholarship program that provides students the opportunity to earn up to four years of paid tuition at an Indiana college.

Good Reads

States' differing expectations
A look at considerable variance in state performance standards exposes a large gap in expectations between states with the highest standards and those with the lowest, as much as three or four grade levels. Using international benchmarking to compare what students are expected to learn, this report also found success under No Child Left Behind is largely related to setting low performance standards (states with the highest numbers of proficient students had the lowest standards). (AIR)

A chance to grow the middle class
The growing availability of middle-skill STEM jobs has the potential to provide good wages to American workers, including those who come from previously underserved communities. According to this brief, states are in a unique position to implement significant reforms and link students and programs to local labor markets. Authors provide five recommendations for a middle-skill STEM state policy framework. (Jobs for the Future and Achieving the Dream)

Regional STEM collaboratives
Recognizing the large number of jobs in STEM fields that don't require a college degree, an initiative has turned to three community colleges to build STEM Regional Collaboratives. These are charged with bringing together colleges, state partners, employers and K-12 partners that will use highly structured STEM pathways to build efficient pipelines. (Jobs for the Future and Achieving the Dream)

Most states haven't gone back to pre-recession school funding
At least 30 states are providing less funding per student for the 2014-15 school year than they did before the recession hit. Adjusted for inflation, 14 of these states have cut per-student funding by more than 10 percent, according to this report. Most states provide more funding per student than they did a year ago, but the increase isn't enough to make up for previous years' cuts. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

Opt-out policies may not be such a great idea
As concerns grew about longitudinal data systems and student privacy, some policymakers advocated for opt-out policies in which parents could pick and choose what information about their children would go into statewide systems. This brief explains why those policies are problematic and offers alternative recommendations. (Data Quality Campaign)


October 15, 2014

New from ECS

Determining teaching quality
This study presents new evidence from experimental studies of the Rapid Assessment of Teacher Effectiveness (RATE) that suggest bigger, faster, cheaper observations are possible. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Making progress on personalized learning plans
The Vermont Agency of Education and the Vermont Personalized Learning Plan Work Group have developed a series of resources to help schools consider ways in which they can plan for and implement the Personalized Learning Plans that were required by Act 77 in mid-2013.

Bulletin on missing children to public schools
California’s recently enacted S.B. 1066 requires the attorney general to distribute a missing children and at-risk adults bulletin on a quarterly basis to local law enforcement agencies, district attorneys and public schools.

Good Reads

Dropout rate hits record low
According to data from the Census Bureau, last year just 7 percent of the country’s 18- to 24-year-olds had dropped out of high school; in 2000, that number was 12 percent. At least in part, the decline has been driven by fewer Latino and African-American youth dropping out of school. (Pew)

Federal voucher program
The only voucher program created and funded by the U.S. Congress, the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) was changed at its reauthorization two years ago. This report suggests those changes have not drawn more private schools into the OSP and that participating schools are now more likely to report tuition rates above the OSP amounts and to have less diverse populations. (Institute of Education Sciences)

Educational assessment needs to change
The time is ripe for a major shift in educational assessment. State and federal policymakers should reconsider their overreliance on standardized tests, and they should embrace the use of multiple measures that, in combination, provide much deeper and more useful information about students’ readiness to succeed after high school. (Jobs for the Future)

What’s up with educational service districts?
States, districts and schools should consider educational service agencies like Washington's Educational Service Districts (ESDs) for more coordinated and efficient instructional services. This descriptive study finds: 1) funding is almost evenly divided between instructional and non-instructional programs; 2) the number of districts served and expenditure per district vary and 3) ESD staff say the most important services don't always get the most funding. (REL Northwest)

Competency education as it operates abroad
An analysis of ways high-performing countries are investing in a shift toward personalization and competency education favors competency-based learning as it is embedded in national and regional policy. Since U.S. states and districts enjoy relative independence in education policy, they can learn from other countries and adopt what appeals.  (iNACOL and Competency Works)

October 8, 2014

New from ECS

Algebra for all not a cure-all
Policies that require algebra for all ninth grade students can increase opportunities to take algebra for students who have previously enrolled in remedial math. However, little has been known about how schools respond to these policies in terms of organizing math classrooms to accommodate curricular changes. This study found that although many students enter high schools with very weak math skills, the algebra-for-all policy did not offer additional supports for struggling students to master algebra or professional development for teachers around how to teach algebra in mixed-ability classrooms. Simply mandating a college-prep curriculum for all students is not sufficient to improve the academic outcomes of all students. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Strong support for parents and students
By going to Alabama’s Department of Education site for parents and students, both groups encounter engaging “standards of the week,” which give an idea of learning at different grade levels. Each reads “DO YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO KNOW AND BE ABLE TO DO THIS? If your answer is YES, get involved in your local school and support Alabama’s College- and Career-Ready Standards.”

Ensuring access to career/tech ed
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed SB 66 last week, ensuring students be told how career and technical education courses fit into their curriculum requirements. The Michigan Department of Education will provide districts with information including the role of tech/ed in a personal curriculum, examples career opportunities, career tech programs available throughout the state.

Good Reads

Chaotic state policies for dual language learners
One in three Head Start students was a dual-language learner (DLL) in 2013 and, in 2011, nearly 22 percent of preK-12 students spoke a language other than English at home. However, few states have designed policies to serve DLLs well and determinations on when to exit DLLs from services vary widely, according to this 50-state scan. (New America Education Policy Program)

New security risks with computerized testing
A check of testing manuals of 16 states that administer at least one mandatory computer-administered assessment revealed issues with storage and secure materials, test access, testing windows and student workstations. This paper recommends a statutes- and regulations-update reflecting the shift to computer-based testing. (ACT)

Deeper learning
A "deeper learning" movement has been swelling in the United States and this is a series of three reports looking at high schools organized around the promotion of deeper learning — their strategies, opportunities and outcomes. (American Institutes for Research, September 2014)

Ways charter schools can finance facilities
An overview of current financing options from foundations and nonprofit financing organizations, this report also provides a description of the tax-exempt bond market for charter schools. It details federal and state policies as they concern charter school facilities, including tax credit programs, credit enhancement and loan programs.  (Local Initiatives Support Coalition Educational Facilities Financing Center)


October 1, 2014

New from ECS

Federal education policy evolves
Political insider Christopher Cross updates his critically acclaimed bestseller, Political Education: Setting the Course for State and Federal Policy, with new chapters and important new insights into future education policy. Cross draws on his own experience in Washington, along with research and interviews, to present a highly readable history of federal education policy, from WWII to the Obama administration. ECS President Jeremy Anderson and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, 2013-15 ECS Chair, wrote the foreword for this edition.

What States Are Doing

Downturn in coal market led to SOAR creation, interest in education
SOAR, intended to help Eastern Kentucky respond to the coal market downturn, was created last year by Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers. Last month, the two announced approval of a $160,000 grant to be used to develop county-based Work Ready plans in conjunction with SOAR. Two hundred participants from 13 counties will develop the plans which, by raising education levels, are intended to attract business and industry.

Future teachers need more classroom time
A survey of more than 6,000 educators indicates that teacher preparation should include more classroom time under the guidance of outstanding teachers, according to an announcement by the Louisiana Department of Education. The survey also found that more school systems and teacher prep programs should collaborate to design teacher prep curricula to address essential knowledge and skills, and address teacher shortages in specific subject areas.

Public-private partnership
States are increasingly supporting public/private partnerships and seeking avenues to prepare students for advanced careers in manufacturing. In Illinois, this recently enacted legislation brings both those worlds together.

Good Reads

Middle school climatology
Researchers found the California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey of students and staff reliably and validly reports different school climate measures such as safety and connectedness, meaningful participation, bullying and discrimination, and caring staff-student relationships. All school level measures were associated with school-level student academic performance and suspensions.  (REL-West)

Boosting community college completion
It may be time to abandon single interventions for small numbers of students and redesign the whole system to scale up better outcomes, according to this report, which focuses on identifying and implementing high-impact practices in community colleges. For example, developmental students whose instructors clearly explained class attendance policies were nearly three times more likely to complete a remedial math course. Student success courses offered a big edge in completing developmental English course and if students registered for all courses before the first day of class, they were more likely to persist. (CCCSE)

Investing wisely in Latino children
One in four American children is Latino and that percentage is growing. While there are troubling trends in Latino child demographics, there are also strengths upon which to build. This report from Child Trends’ new Hispanic Institute points out that while many Latino children live in poverty, they enter school on a par with or even exceeding their non-Latino peers in social-emotional skills and, from early childhood to college, they are making gains in education.  (Child Trends)

Moving turnaround to the lower grades
Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies and the previously released Framework for Rethinking Education Accountability and Support Birth Through High School address how current K-12 turnaround and accountability policies create a disincentive to local investment in early learning and K-2. To date, accountability and turnaround policies have focused on student test scores third grade (and up) as the primary measure of progress, ignoring what goes on in the early learning and K-2. But it's the first years of life that are the most important to a child's development. (Ounce of Prevention)


September 24, 2014

New from ECS

Open-source textbooks can halve the cost of college
There is growing national and international interest in postsecondary-level Open Educational Resources (OERs) as a way to reduce costs and save students money. This ECS document defines OERs, looks at how state policies have supported their use and profiles some non-legislative approaches.

Expectations for future schooling
A study comparing African-American and Hispanic teenagers’ expectations for future schooling and work found a disconnect with the actual schooling and work obtained as adults. Supporting youth with high educational goals and increasing expectations for those with low goals appears to be especially important for increasing educational attainment of minority youth. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

State DOE audits
State department staff frequently ask ECS about how other state education agencies are structured and function. Some states conduct performance audits of agencies, and we find such reports fascinating. Here is one from Ohio. If your state produces similar audit reports, ECS would love to see them.

Connecting high school, college and industry
Ninth-graders led Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on a tour of the state’s first IBM-affiliated early-college program this month, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). Norwalk Early College Academy, a collaboration of IBM, Norwalk Public Schools and Norwalk Community College, allows students to earn a high school diploma and a free associate degree in six years. A grade will be added each year. Nationally, there are 27 P-TECHs; IBM hopes to have 40 serving 40,000 students by September 2015.

Tools of the trade
To support construction and industrial trade apprentices across the Wisconsin Technical College System, Great Lakes Higher Education expanded Tools of the Trade Apprentice Scholarships. Because apprentices may earn low wages without financial aid for as long as five years, and the cost of a welding helmet could hold up certification, Great Lakes committed $170,000 for the 2014-15 academic year to keep apprentices equipped.

Good Reads

CTE students graduate from high school at a higher rate
Ninety percent is the graduation rate for career/technical education (CTE) students, compared to the national rate of 75 percent; 85 percent of CTE students plan on going to college, according to a national survey of about 51,000 students and 900 teachers. A third said they’d gotten the chance to earn college credit, a certificate, or a degree for their CTE work. However, CTE teachers said their programs face funding challenges. (ACTE)

Moving turnaround to the lower grades
Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies and the previously released Framework for Rethinking Education Accountability and Support Birth Through High School address how current K-12 turnaround and accountability policies create a disincentive to local investment in early learning and K-2. To date, accountability and turnaround policies have focused on student test scores third grade (and up) as the primary measure of progress, ignoring what goes on in the early learning and K-2. But it’s the first years of life that are the most important to a child’s development. (Ounce of Prevention)

Needs-based grant aid on the rise (slightly)
In the 2012-13 academic year, states awarded about $11.2 billion in total state funded financial aid, an increase of about 1.3 percent, but a decrease of 0.6 percent in constant dollar terms. Eight states — California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington and North Carolina — awarded about $5 billion in undergraduate needs-based aid, accounting for 70 percent of all aid of this kind, according to the 44th Annual Survey Report on State-Sponsored Student Financial Aid.  (NASSGAP)

Engaging Latino students in Georgia
Latinos comprise 8 percent of the Georgia workforce, but Latino students still graduate at a rate 9 percent lower than the Georgia rate overall. Their potential has not been cultivated as thoroughly as possible, according to this document which offers new information on resources, unaccompanied minors, dual immersion schools, the Georgia Coalition for English learners and school-parent engagement strategies.


September 17, 2014

New from ECS

Extra time can help resolve math struggles
When students' math skills fall short of expectations, some public schools have begun increasing the quantity of time that struggling students spend in math class with the hope that students will catch up to expectations. Existing, but limited, evidence finds students do make meaningful gains under this kind of remedial intervention. This study explores the question of whether the gains persist. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Alternative education
To meet the requirements of a new law, the Maryland DOE needed a definition and asked the Mid-Atlantic REL for some research. How do states define alternative education? Alternative education programs -- educational activities that fall outside the traditional K-12 curriculum -- serve students who are at risk of school failure, mostly because of behavioral problems. Literature suggests the definition should include target population, setting, services and structure; 43 states and D.C. have formal definitions. (REL Mid-Atlantic, September 2014)

Mid-Career Outcomes of Graduates
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has produced new reporting tools of graduate wage outcomes out to 20 years post completion. These reports are available at the statewide level by program discipline (two-digit level of the Classification of Instructional Programs). The data suggest that reported wages increase by level of degree and that there is significant variation within degree levels by discipline. Technical and professional disciplines generally show higher wages than disciplines in the liberal arts and humanities. (State Council of Higher Education for Virginia)

Good Reads

Access to education expands
Highlights of the popular annual report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) compendium of international education statistics provides  data on topics including: education levels and student numbers; higher education and work; economic and social benefits of education; paying for education; and the school environment. Among the findings: access to education continues to expand worldwide, and the proportion of adults highly skilled in literacy continues to grow; however, socio-economic divisions also are growing because of the advantages education and skills confer. Close to 40 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds now have some postsecondary education, 15 percentage points more than among 55- to 64-year-olds. (OECD)

Reframing tenure, other employment protections
The recent verdict in Vergara v. California found California's teacher tenure laws unconstitutional -- affirming that consistently ineffective teachers remain in the classroom year after year because laws make it virtually impossible to replace them. This brief proposes a middle road on tenure reform: lengthen the probationary period and tie tenure to performance, focus hearings on students' interests, stop tolerating cases of egregious misconduct and dismiss without license revocation. (TNTP)

Circumventing barriers to blended learning
Even in highly regulated states like California, barriers to blended learning such as staffing requirements can be avoided. For example, one superintendent dealt with the requirement that elementary school teachers must teach multiple subjects by having all teachers teach one English Language Development block daily -- even though one is a math specialist, another an English Language Development specialist, etc. This brief abounds in clever solutions to seemingly intractable problems. (Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, September 2014)


September 10, 2014

New from ECS

Common Core and the (not so) new state standards
There has been a flurry of activity around the Common Core State Standards, and the while it seems the landscape is changing all the time, there has been very limited change in state standards. A new report from the Education Commission of the States captures a snapshot of where the states currently stand in regard to those standards.

An awareness of difference improves everybody's college experience
Researchers tested an intervention intended to improve prospects for freshmen college students who were first in their families to enroll in higher education. They found an awareness of background differences improved outcomes of first-generation students but also the outcomes of students whose parents had attended college. (New to the ECS Research Database)

What States Are Doing

Career/Technical education
What did legislators across the country do in 2014 to improve career and technical education? Click here specifically for apprenticeship or career academy aspects.
Facilities: What did legislators do in 2014 about funding school facilities? Click here for other aspects of facilities:
State Longitudinal Data Systems: Finally, the 2014 legislative season was bubbling with changes to state longitudinal data systems: Click here — and here.

Good Reads

15-credit strategies
Because most full-time college students aren't taking enough credits for on-time graduation, colleges are trying a variety of approaches to get students to sign up for 15 credits a semester.  This report provides an overview of the issue and underscores the idea that incentives only target students on the margin because there will always be students who enroll for 15 credits and there will always be students who don't have the time and resources to do that. (Community College Research Center)

State lotteries not necessarily a boost for college affordability
Lotteries tend to replace rather than supplement state higher education appropriations and their actual proceeds rarely match projections, according to a new report. High administration costs result in only 34 cents of every dollar collected winding up in state coffers. And because would-be scholarship students often have to apply for Pell grants before getting any state aid, the state may well wind up spending lottery funds on wealthier students, reducing access. One recommendation is to funnel lottery funds through a trust to reduce volatility. (American Association of State Colleges and Universities)

Webinar: Dual enrollment in rural schools
Consider signing up for the free webinar on the unique challenges rural schools face in providing dual enrollment programs that will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern September 18. Hosted by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment, presenters are Jennifer Dounay Zinth of the Education Commission of the States, Pamela Allen from the Office of P-16 Partnerships, Ohio Dominican University and Spencer Barzee, Superintendent of the Westside School District in Idaho.

Learning the Common Core and English at the same time
Called ELD 2.0, this English Language Development framework is anchored in the language demands of the Common Core. There are two critical elements. One is focused language study - a dedicated time to spend on English; the other is discipline-specific, academic language expansion which takes place across the day by all teachers and is integrated into all subjects. Subject area teachers must learn how to assist English language learners in the ways of thinking and expressing ideas in their fields. (Council of the Great City Schools)

Common Core myths dispelled
Three common myths about the Common Core assessment consortia get busted in this brief. The first is that the consortia are federal or require some data to be handed over to the federal government. The second is that the consortia won't adequately protect student privacy and will share student data indiscriminately. The third is that such personal questions as family religion and income will be part of the assessments. No, no, no. (Data Quality Campaign)


September 3, 2014

New from ECS

Why is tuition outpacing inflation?
Price discrimination in the form of tuition discounts account for an ever-increasing share of tuition at public college and universities. Tuition discounts are financial incentives that public colleges and universities award to particular students, often in the form of merit award or needs-based grants. However, because the practice requires institutions to inflate tuition rates, the strategy may diminish access for underserved students.

Elementary teachers’ science knowledge not set in stone
Research suggests that elementary teachers’ level of science knowledge is the main factor in how well a student performs on science tests, but many teachers have large gaps in their science knowledge. In a study of fifth-grade teachers and their students, researchers found that intensive professional development and the use of a fifth-grade science curriculum greatly improved teachers’ science knowledge which, in turn, had a significantly positive effect on their students’ performance. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

English language learners and parental support
While previous research has examined the influence of school supports on the academic outcomes for English language learners, few have considered the relationship between school support and parental school involvement, both important components linked with academic achievement. This 2014 study examines the relationships among school support, parental school involvement, and academic and social-emotional outcomes for children who are English language learners. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Push for more STEM
Although Colorado's need for STEM-educated workers is expected to exceed average national requirements over the next 10 years, the state's STEM pipeline isn't currently producing the numbers needed. A document released last week stressed building support for STEM education, increasing its presence in the earliest grades, and exposing more girls and diverse students to the sciences. (Colorado Education Initiative)

Good Reads

Percentage of non-teachers grew exponentially
From 1970 to 2010, the number of non-teaching staff in the United States grew by 130 percent, now comprising half of the public-school workforce. Teachers' aides are the largest individual staff position, outside of teachers. Non-teaching staff salaries and benefits absorb one-quarter of public school budgets. The United States spends more than double most of its economic peers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on nonteaching staff. Money-saving Recommendations are included. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Absences hurt
Students who miss more school than their peers consistently score lower on standardized tests, a result that holds true at every age, in every demographic group and in every state and city tested, according to this state-by-state analysis. Researchers used data from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It compares attendance rates and NAEP scores for every state and for 21 large urban areas. (Attendance Works)

Common Core’s ground ever shifting
Here is a 50-state glance at how each state is dealing politically with Common Core State Standards. For instance, Alabama: “The state school board folded Common Core into the state’s College and Career Ready Standards for public schools and has been defending the decision ever since. Legislators introduced bills in 2013 and 2014 to repeal the standards.  The repeal movement drew support from tea party groups, but Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican, blocked the bills. …” (Associated Press)


August 27, 2014

New from ECS

Reading intervention in early, later years
Schoolwide models for extensive literacy instruction and intervention, such as “response to intervention” models, have proved effective in improving reading skills for children in kindergarten through third grade. An evaluation of the effects of those same interventions on students in grades 4 through 12 finds that the effects are far smaller, indicating that accelerating reading growth in the upper grades may be more challenging than in the earliest grades. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Blended learning goes statewide
The Learning Accelerator, a nonprofit organization supporting implementation of high-quality blended learning in school districts and states across the country, and the Rhode Island Department of Education announced an initiative to make Rhode Island the first fully blended learning state in the nation. Blended learning is the combination of traditional face-to-face teaching with elements of personalized online and proficiency-based learning.

Prevention and intervention for young readers
Mississippi starts the school year with a launch of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, which puts reading coaches in targeted elementary schools and will mandate holding back third graders who read below grade level. To identify reading problems, teachers will assess K-3 students’ reading ability at the beginning and end of the school year. Students who are behind will get intensive reading instruction, and their families will be given tips for at-home work.

Good Reads

ACT Scores on Improvement's Cusp
For the 10th straight year, the number of students who took the ACT reached new records. While it's disappointing that scores remained flat, the good news is that many high school graduates were close to college readiness levels — 15 percent were within two points of the science benchmark, for example. Earlier identification of academic deficiencies might elevate scores. Data show encouraging growth in the eight states that administer the ACT to all students. (ACT)

Accountability Fix
Calling for a greater role for state education agencies, Marc Tucker writes that our current system of accountability is punitive to the point that teacher morale is low, teachers are leaving for more rewarding, lucrative professions, and fewer students are applying to education schools. His solution is to test less and use test data to identify struggling schools which state education agencies then would help turnaround. Teachers wouldn't be judged by students' scores but would be part of a professional team, helping each other toward greater student achievement. It is a model used by more successful education systems in other countries. (National Center on Education and the Economy)

Early Childhood for Principals
Early childhood content isn't a required element of principal preparation or professional development in most states. In this brief, CEELO recommends that principal preparation include a wide range of experiences, including classes on child development. There should be incentives to include early childhood content in school administrator licensure and professional development. Selected state examples of early childhood focused principal professional development models provide real-world examples. (Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes)

Sharing of State Longitudinal Information Systems
A pilot project looked at whether and how states might share data from their longitudinal systems to learn more about higher education and employment outcomes without compromising confidentiality. Known as the Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange (MLDE), the pilot used data from Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and proved the MLDE is feasible, data sharing provided more comprehensive information than individual state systems could yield, and offered the possibility of better workforce planning.  (WICHE)

Later School Start Times Advised for Adolescents
Early school start times — before 8:30 a.m. — are strongly implicated in adolescent sleep deprivation, according to a statement released this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Chronic sleep loss among teenagers has increasingly become the norm due to several factors, including a later release of melatonin, lifestyle choices and academic demands. Later start times, however, are the easiest and cheapest solution. (American Academy of Pediatrics)


August 20, 2014

New from ECS

Reading intervention in early, later years
Schoolwide models for extensive literacy instruction and intervention, such as “response to intervention” models, have proved effective in improving reading skills for children in kindergarten through third grade. An evaluation of the effects of those same interventions on students in grades 4 through 12 finds that the effects are far smaller, indicating that accelerating reading growth in the upper grades may be more challenging than in the earliest grades. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Blended learning goes statewide
The Learning Accelerator, a nonprofit organization supporting implementation of high-quality blended learning in school districts and states across the country, and the Rhode Island Department of Education announced an initiative to make Rhode Island the first fully blended learning state in the nation. Blended learning is the combination of traditional face-to-face teaching with elements of personalized online and proficiency-based learning.

Prevention and intervention for young readers
Mississippi starts the school year with a launch of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, which puts reading coaches in targeted elementary schools and will mandate holding back third graders who read below grade level. To identify reading problems, teachers will assess K-3 students’ reading ability at the beginning and end of the school year. Students who are behind will get intensive reading instruction, and their families will be given tips for at-home work.

Good Reads

Back to school with the U.S. Census Bureau
Folks at the Census Bureau may be number crunchers, but they’re often interesting numbers. For example, Back to School: 2014-2015 reveals that back-to-school clothes shopping cost roughly $8.6 million in August 2013. Twenty-six percent of the entire population aged 3 and older are enrolled in school. Seventy-four percent of those with a STEM bachelor’s degree were not employed in a STEM occupation. And in October 2012, one in four students elementary through high school age had at least one foreign-born parent. (U.S. Census Bureau)

How has the teaching force changed in recent years?
Authors of this report were surprised to find: 1) PreK-12 teachers, who make up the largest occupational group in the nation, ballooned in number in the two decades prior to 2008, then decreased a little during the recession; 2) the number of teachers in private schools has grown faster than in public schools, despite a sharp decrease in private school students; and 3) the trend of teacher retirements causing a teacher shortage is pretty much over. The portion of teachers 50 years or older has decreased since 2008, as have the number retiring. (Consortium for Policy Research in Education)

Help for English language learners
Looking at the 2013 career- and college-readiness status of linguistically diverse high school students, ACT found 45 percent did not meet any of ACT's college-readiness benchmarks. That's compared to 31 percent of all high school graduates. Results point to the need for special attention, including out-of-school support on Saturdays, during summer and after school. Communities are encouraged to take advantage of federally funded programs like TRIO and GEAR UP, and districts are urged to track these students with longitudinal data systems. (ACT)

Compendium of research on the Common Core
Fulfilling the need for a synthesis of existing research on the Common Core State Standards, this compendium will inform policy discussions and implementation as well as future research. Each research summary includes focus, methodology, key findings, a URL when available or a citation. The studies have been categorized into nine areas: communications and public opinion; comparison of CCSS content to wide-scale assessments; content, curriculum and alignment; cost analysis; governance and leadership; implementation; teacher preparation; professional development and testing and assessment. (Center on Education Policy)


August 13, 2014

New from ECS

Are Healthier Students Better Learners?
Schools are increasingly involved in efforts to promote health and healthy behavior among their adolescent students, but are healthier students better learners? A recent study found that healthy eating habits and team sports participation have positive effects on adolescents' school grades. Early sexual activity, alcohol use, smoking, bullying and screen time have more complex relationships with academic achievement. The authors suggest that these effects are not straightforward but interact with, or are mediated by, factors such as socio-economic status and psychological and social problems. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Free Associate Degree, First in Line for a Job
A new round of funding for New York's P-TECH program was announced this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. P-TECH brings together public school districts, employers and higher education to create a pathway in which high school students study an industry-aligned curriculum, earn an associate degree at no cost, then are first in line for jobs with participating companies. Sixteen schools funded in the first round will open in September, serving more than 6,000 students across the state.
Digital Teaching Grants
Grants to four Alaska school districts will strengthen digital teaching and learning within the districts and across their boundaries. The grants will deliver high-quality interactive distance courses to middle and high school students, increase student access to a wide variety of courses, empower teachers to reach beyond their classrooms, train teachers to use blended learning and expand districts' infrastructure, technology and staffing. The Digital Teaching Initiative was proposed by Gov. Sean Parnell and funded by the legislature for three years.

Does Your State Audit High School Activities Associations?
A performance audit of the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) found that:
• The Association's realignment policy can be improved
• Creation of six football classifications has increased costs
• The eligibility application process can be enhanced
• Transfer appeal hearings can be improved.
(Utah Legislative Auditor General)

Good Reads

Full Day, Half Day -- What Do They Mean?
Nobody knows how many hours children in pre-K and kindergarten spend in school because of widely varying definitions of full-day and half-day, according to this report. One full-day program could be twice as long as another, depending on how many hours in the day and days in the week fall under a district or state definition. Nobody knows what time "dosage" is best for children because half-day and full-day definitions thwart research. The author recommends requiring districts and states to report number of hours per week and year. (New America Education)

Corporations Engage with Students
The National Academy Foundation and 10 corporations have crafted a solution to a nationwide problem -- high school graduates unready for college or career and businesses unable to hire applicants because they're unqualified. The foundation and companies formed NAFTrack Certified Hiring , a credential earned by students' rigorous academic work, intensive internship, work-based learning projects and industry-vetted assessments. That credential will win students advantages in interviewing and hiring with any of the 10 corporations which include AT&T, Verizon and Xerox.

Framework for the Shift to Blended Learning Statewide
State policymakers such as education agencies, boards of education, governor's offices, legislatures and foundations have a role to play in shifting traditional education to blended learning. This framework offers seven "levers" that leaders can use to help get things moving. (Learning Accelerator)

Interactive Online Learning v. Face-to-Face
Due to cost savings possible with interactive online learning, researchers looked at whether students participating in online courses performed as well as students in face-to-face classes. They compared seven undergraduate classes and found students in both types of classes performed equally well, and that students in hybrid classes answered more exam questions correctly than students in traditional courses. A quick review determined the study met What Works Clearinghouse standards with reservations. (What Works Clearinghouse)


August 6, 2014

New from ECS

School Report Cards
Have a look at how different states present school accountability “report cards.” Nine states and the District of Columbia are highlighted, with links. 

College Dropouts
More than 40 percent of full-time, four-year college students fail to earn a bachelor's degree within six years, and many never complete their education. A new study examines dropout patterns in an attempt to better support students as they make enrollment decisions. Findings suggest that while preparation in secondary schools needs to improve, it is also important to encourage students with weaker academic preparation to consider starting college at a two-year institution (about a third of four-year college dropouts would have a higher chance of bachelor’s degree completion, had they begun there.) Find out more here. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Strengthening Communication between State Agencies and Tribes
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order last week to strengthen government-to-government relationships between the state and eight sovereign tribes. The goal is to improve education and employment rates among tribal members.

Teacher Advisory Council
Nine current finalists for Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year plus three Grand Division winners from 2013-14 will comprise the new Teacher Advisory Council formed by Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. Members will offer insight, feedback and advice on issues that impact teachers across the state. Members also will communicate with teachers in their regions.

Good Reads

How to Reduce Time- and Credits-to-Degree
Excessive time-to-degree is worsening, according to this paper, not just from part-time enrollment, but also from excess credits. Strategies to improve time-to-degree are divided into demand-side and supply-side ideas. For students, authors offer intrusive advising, degree roadmaps and information campaigns. For institutions, remedial education reform, simplifying degree requirements and improving course availability. Concrete examples are given with assessments on student impact, financial feasibility and ease of implementation. (HCM Strategists)

Online 4th Grade Writing Samples
A study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to find out if fourth graders were computer-savvy enough to take a digital writing assessment concluded their abilities varied. As a result, NAEP modified the test, presenting one instruction at a time; for example, rewriting directions using fewer words and changing the text-to-speech icon from a person with a speech bubble to an ear with sound waves. Forty-seven percent of student responses received a three or four, which represents developing or adequate writing skills. (National Assessment of Educational Progress)

Marc Tucker’s Remarks at the ECS National Forum
Education reformer Marc Tucker links the halt in access to education in the 1970s to growing income inequality and a stalled economy when he accepted the James Bryant Conant award at the ECS National Forum. The education system we have now is archaic, Tucker asserts: “If you look at the American system with fresh eyes, it is easy to see what we did when we designed the system we have now. Because we needed only a few graduates who could go on to the relatively few colleges we had, we did not need highly educated teachers. But we needed lots of them. So we built our system around cheap teachers.” For those who prefer video, here it is.

Pathways to Postsecondary
In its second year, Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education is a five-year initiative in New Jersey, North Carolina and Michigan to educate prisoners and improve their chances to succeed in college and be employed upon release. Colleges, prison and parole officials, community and business leaders work together to give students access to postsecondary in prison and immediately after. (Vera Institute of Justice)

Competency-Based Education Could Save Money
Advocates of competency-based education argue that with traditional post-secondary education. "Time is fixed, while learning is variable." This paper explores the possibility that competency-based systems could increase learning and lower costs to students and institutions alike. Authors look at Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire and the University of Wisconsin System. They remind systems considering implementation that they'll require startup dollars and considerable faculty buy-in. ( HCM Strategists)


July 30, 2014

New from ECS

Value-Added after Only One Year
Measuring teacher effectiveness is increasingly important as school districts make decisions about contract renewals. Often, decisions concerning beginning or probationary educators need to be made with only one or two years of evaluation data. This recent study shows how using a model that employs existing data across multiple subjects can more accurately predict teacher value-added, even when limited data are available. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

ELLs’ Long-Term Progress
The progress of English language learners (ELLs) is tracked at the state and federal levels for two years after reclassification as English language proficient. This analysis of California data found that ELLs' achievement levels decline over time because each successive grade "skims off" the most successful ELLs through reclassification. However, the authors found that this overlooks the high achievement of reclassified ELLs, particularly in secondary grades. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Free Tuition Senior Year
Vermont legislation enacted this summer creates the Vermont Strong Scholars Program, allowing students who go to college in Vermont to get their last year of college for free under the conditions that they will be employed in economic sectors critical to the state and agree to stay in the state after they graduate. Here is the bill. Strong Scholars text starts on page 80.

Good Reads

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out, examining how U.S. kids have fared in 16 indicators since 1990. Nationally, children made gains in health, education and safety, but they lost ground in poverty rates. The top three states in child well-being were Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa. See where your state ranks. (Annie E. Casey Foundation)

What Works for NYC’s Small Schools of Choice
When New York City’s high school graduation rate was hovering at 50 percent more than a decade ago, reforms were launched, closing some large, comprehensive high schools and opening hundreds of “small schools of choice.” This report looked at 25 of the most effective to discover the roots of their success. Personalized learning, high expectations and flexible teachers were often cited. (Research Alliance for New York City Schools)

Online Professional Development
A handy tool to help educators evaluate the quality of online professional development opportunities, this checklist first lists general principles of effective practice in online professional learning. It then breaks into the possible variations with a list of criteria to judge each one: webinars, hashtag Twitter chats, online conferences, MOOCs, e-courses and online communities of practice. (Office of Educational Technology)

College and Career Readiness Definitions Vary
What does it mean to be college and career ready? Among the 36 states plus the District of Columbia that composed readiness statements, the definition varies. In 33, one definition is used for both college and career, assuming the skills required for each are essentially the same. Three quarters of the definitions determine readiness based on future outcomes so they can't be used to serve students in need of help to graduate on track for postsecondary success. (American Institutes for Research)

Increasingly Rigorous Exams
States’ new assessments are being designed to include more critical thinking and complex items than previous standardized tests. While better assessments are welcome, a growing worry is that states will use these as exit exams. Authors of this report suggest using them toward final course grades instead. (New America Education Policy Program)

Year-Round Schools
Year-round schools reorganize the traditional school year so there are no extended breaks in instruction, such as the 10-week summer vacation. This brief reviews the schools' growing popularity, the inconclusive research on their efficacy, and their pros and cons. There were about 410 year-round schools serving 350,000 students in 1985, and that number grew to 3,059 schools serving 2.2 million students in the 2011-12 school year. (Congressional Research Service)


July 23, 2014

New from ECS

Where ELLs Do Best
The number of English language learners (ELLs) is increasing nationwide, but many of these students are taught by teachers without adequate training or specialization in the skills needed to help ELLs succeed. According to an analysis of the 2009 NAEP reading assessment, fourth grade Hispanic ELLs performed best in states that require ELL teachers to have specialist certification and training in English as a Second Language teaching methods. However, most states with rapidly increasing numbers of ELLs do not require specialist certification for ELL teachers.

Time Makes a Difference, but Not the Way Some Thought
While some education reformers argued a longer school day or year would raise student achievement, this study found it's subject-specific instructional time — only one or two hours a week — that can make a huge difference. Such an increase could dramatically reduce inequalities between high and low socioeconomic students, according to the author.

What States Are Doing

Giving Students a High-Tech Edge
West Virginia high school students gained access to information technology certification this month, the result of a collaboration between the West Virginia Department of Education and Microsoft. Microsoft's IT Academy will be in high schools, career and technical schools and the Virtual Schools program. The department has also launched Microsoft Office 365 for use by students and teachers. It is provided to students at no charge through Microsoft's Student Advantage program.

Dyslexia Intervention
Pennsylvania launched a pilot program to identify kindergartners with dyslexia and, with parental permission, to intervene.  At least three school districts will participate, agreeing to screen all kindergartners and looking for such potential risk factors as low phonemic awareness, low letter and symbol naming and inability to remember sequences. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the program into law last month.

School Safety and Security
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick released a school safety report last week that includes 29 recommendations. One of the most important, according to the report, is to prevent intruders by having only one main entrance, which is monitored at all times. Schools should have a crisis response team, a plan in place and they should practice and improve their plan.

Good Reads

Dual-Generation Support
Early childhood programs are one thing and education for adults another, but rarely do the two go hand-in-hand. However, disparities between children whose mothers had not graduated from high school and those whose mothers had a college degree are enormous, researchers found, and results from dual-generation programs can be impressive. One is CareerAdvance in Tulsa, where Early Head Start/Head Start children's parents are linked to career pathways. A nursing track starts with a Certified Nurse Assistant certificate and end with a Registered Nursing degree. (Foundation for Child Development)

Low-Income Students Need Extra Help with College, Career Readiness
Students from low-income families need college- and career-readiness policies that address their particular needs. A recent report found that 95 percent of students from low-income families wish to pursue some form of postsecondary education, compared to 87 percent of all students. However, only 59 percent of them immediately enroll in postsecondary education, compared to 71 percent of all students. Twenty percent of low-income students meet at least three of four ACT academic benchmarks, compared to 62 percent of students from high-income families. (ACT and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships)

Statewide Online Curricula Provides Wider Variety
Here is a partial solution to hand-wringing about lack of funds, hard-to-staff schools and difficulties with disabled students or those learning English. Touting state-wide digital programs that provide students with expanded course offerings across learning environments, this report reviews the few statewide programs that already exist, shows the way for states implementing such programs and introduces the idea of programs that cross state boundaries. (Digital Learning Now and EducationCounsel)


July 16, 2014

New from ECS

The Evolution of Charter School Laws
A growing number of states have enacted legislation on the oversight and performance of charter schools in an effort to establish standards for the semi-autonomous public schools. While most states have charter school laws, more states are concentrating specifically on authorizers and the role those entities play. "Trends in State Charter School Laws: Authorizers, Caps, Performance-Based Closures and Virtual Schools" summarizes laws in 50 states and an accompanying database outlines findings in policy areas such as accountability, autonomy, teachers and finance.

State Legislative Policies Related to Veterans
"Veteran and Military Students," a new state-by-state summary report from ECS, describes policies that align with the Lumina State Policy Agenda: developing lower-cost pathways to degrees, ensuring availability of competency-based programs and re-enrolling adults with some college and no degree.

What States Are Doing

50-State Look at Arts Education
With summer soon giving way to a new school year, ECS tends to get questions about arts policies. The Arts Education Partnership recently launched an update of the 2005 ECS 50-state database on arts education policies. Please visit the ArtScan links below for information on:
• Arts Education Instructional Requirements
• High School Requirements for Arts Education
• Arts Requirements for Educator Licensure
• Arts in Core Academic Subjects, Assessment, & Accreditation
• Surveys of Arts Education
Learn more about ArtScan and explore an analysis of the findings in A Snapshot of State Policies for Arts Education.

Good Reads

Making Sense of the Common Core and Core Assessment
An updated guide from ETS answers questions concerning the various state assessment consortia, including consortia support plans for states and districts. The state consortia include the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced), two alternate assessment consortia: the Dynamic Learning Maps Consortium (DLM) and the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) Consortium. There also is an English language consortium with several partners working on a next-generation, technology-based English language proficiency assessment that will be ready in the 2015-16 school year.  (The K-12 Center at ETS)

Couch Potatoes?
Although experts recommend no more than two out-of-school hours of TV/computer screen time for young people a day, most do more. In 2012, 27 percent of youth aged 12­15, had two hours or less of TV plus computer daily. Girls were more likely to use the computer two hours or less daily (80.4 percent) than boys (69.4 percent). As weight status increased, the percentage of youth who reported two or fewer hours of screen time decreased. (Centers for Disease Control)

American Teens Fuzzy on Financial Knowledge
American 15-year-olds landed in the middle of the pack in an international test of financial literacy. Shanghai-China and the Belgium-Flemish Community scored highest on the first assessment of knowledge in managing money administered by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Average score was 500; the United States' was 492. Countries with the lowest scores were Italy and Colombia. About 29,000 students in 18 countries and economies took the test. For an OECD slide presentation on the test, go here. (National Center for Education Statistics)


July 9, 2014

New from ECS

Chaos Rules in States' Remedial Education Reports
A review of state-level practices that identify, track and regularly report the numbers of students identified for remedial instruction shows remarkable inconsistencies. In writing this report, ECS hopes to begin a national dialogue regarding if and how states could share information about students' referral to and success in remedial and college-level courses.

Framework for Remedial Reporting
In December 2013, ECS convened a steering committee of state education policy leaders from across the nation to discuss implications of the inconsistent remedial education reporting practices in the states. After the conversation, the Remedial Reporting Steering Committee, which included elected officials, chief state school officers, state higher education executive officers and numerous education policy experts, advanced two recommendations.

What States Are Doing

Safe and Healthy School Hours
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill that requires a study of safe and healthy school hours for students in the state's public schools, including a review of school systems that have shifted their hours to better accommodate students' sleep needs. In May, a brief from ECS on the same subject said researchers have found that early start times, especially for adolescents, cause chronic sleep deprivation that damages their education and health.

Increasing Minority and Female Enrollment in STEM Fields
New York will recruit African-Americans, Latinos and women who are in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes, according to an announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Co-sponsored by non-profits, Cuomo's STEM Incentive Program will offer full State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) scholarships to high school students who pursue high-demand, high-tech careers, fields in which they currently are underrepresented.

REACH NC Expands
A Web portal that connects North Carolina government officials, researchers and citizens to experts in higher education, REACH NC, now has been expanded to include universities' non-human assets and resources. REACH NC Resource Finder allows users to locate wet labs, service labs, scientific instruments, open software and clinical trial participation opportunities at UNC Chapel Hill, four additional UNC campuses and Duke University.

Good Reads

Will Minority-Serving Institutions Take a Hit from Performance Funding?
More than half of all students of color enrolled in public institutions of higher education are attending Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This report addresses ways in which state-level decisions on use of performance funding can differentially impact MSIs. Recommendations: include MSI leaders in policy development, reconsider the utility of commonly used metrics, make sure metrics are responsive to input factors (like low-income minority students), address data capacity before implementing policy, and use performance funding policies to address racial and ethnic equity. (Southern Education Foundation)

Making Sense of Data
A positive relationship exists between data use and student improvement. Here is a framework to understand the benefits and limitations of data, know which data are relevant for decision making and know also how the date are to be appropriately used. It is presented as two figures: one providing a generalized theory of action of how data-driven decision making can lead to improved student success, and the other that maps the decision-making process at different levels of the system. (Mathematica)


July 2, 2014

New from ECS

Toward a More Engaged Citizenry
States have taken a variety of steps to counter the decline in civic education: mandated task forces, accountability structures and mandated assessments for civics, statewide initiatives, administrative directives and initiatives of secretaries of state. "Different Paths to a Common Goal: Preparing Students for Civic Life" explores the similarities of these efforts around the country.

What Works for English Language Learners
A longitudinal look at what works for English learners (ELs) reveals a surprise. ELs who enter kindergarten in dual immersion programs (which include English speakers) test lower in the second grade than ELs in other programs. However, another look at eighth grade shows dual-language students even with or ahead of their counterparts in other programs. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Budget Bill Includes Student Charges for Dual Enrollment
Education figured prominently in Ohio's mid-biennium budget review legislation signed into law by Gov. John Kasich. HB 487 created three pathways to high school graduation: pass a series of end-of course exams, score high enough on sections of the ACT or SAT, or complete a workforce diploma which would include a passing score on a jobs skills assessment and a certification or license for a specific vocation. The bill also included changes to dual enrollment -- students not qualified for reduced lunch programs could be charged. And the percentage of student growth factored into teacher evaluations was reduced.

Streamlining College Application
Louisiana legislation created a common admissions application for all public postsecondary institutions in the state which accredited independent institutions in the state would also be able to use. A student could complete a single application and submit it to as many institutions as he or she wished to apply to, either electronically or in paper format.

More Healthy Kids in New Jersey
Results of the 2013 New Jersey Student Health Survey show positive trends. Released by the New Jersey Department of Education, the survey shows use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs declined significantly over the past decade and school violence is on the decline. On the other hand, students' reports of bullying have not changed much since 2009 and many driving-age students continue to text or talk while driving.

Good Reads

Pay More, Earn Less: Is College Worth It?
Getting a college degree -- associate or bachelor's -- is still worth it, at least according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Even though college costs more than ever and even though college graduates' salaries are declining, both degrees still earn an average return on investment of 15 percent. How could this be? Those without degrees earn even less. Returns vary within the 15 percent: engineering yields a 21 percent return and, at the bottom, is education with a 9 percent yield.

Statewide Impact of Opportunity Culture
Using North Carolina as an example, statewide use of Opportunity Culture could give students an average 3.4 more years of learning, teachers leading teams could make $848,000 more in a 35-year career, state income tax revenue would be up to $700 million higher over 16 years of implementation and state domestic product would increase by $4.6 billion to $7.7 billion over 16 years, according to this estimate. Opportunity Culture models extend the reach of excellent teachers for more pay within budget. (Public Impact)

Use Data to Tell Whether a Student Is on Target for Readiness
The experiences of Kentucky, New York, Florida and the District of Columbia indicate states seeking to raise proficiency standards should reinforce why college and career readiness for all is a good thing. Further, states should set proficiency standards using data that show whether a student is on target for college and career readiness, and they should develop a communication plan to prepare the public for a short-term decline in scores as a new baseline is being established. (ACT)


June 25, 2014

New from ECS

Secretaries of state promote civics
Among the responsibilities of individual secretaries of state in this country, the oversight of elections within their respective states plays a large role. These chief election officers actively work to maximize registration of eligible voters and help educate the public in regard to general voter information. Many secretaries of state attempt to go further and have started initiatives focused on civic learning and engagement — efforts that are designed to continue even after they leave office. (Secretaries of State Make Impact, Lasting Impression in Civics)

High-stakes accountability's influence on classroom quality
This examination of classroom quality and high-stakes accountability finds that it is important to design accountability policies that are explicitly intended to improve classroom quality. One way to do this might be to hold schools and teachers accountable for more than just test scores and to broaden the metrics of school quality to include the quality of the classroom environment.

What States Are Doing

Credit where credit is due
Following approval of a Board of Regents Policy in March 2014, Kansas joined 19 other states issuing associate degrees to students who have transferred to four-year institutions, boosting graduation rates. Presidents of the state’s public  postsecondary institutions signed a resolution presented to the Kansas Board of Regents recognizing that reverse transfers add to a seamless education system. Within transfer students’ first semesters, universities will notify them if they are eligible for a degree or what courses are necessary to get one.

'Pop Tart' bill
In a move away from zero tolerance policies, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that declares students may simulate a firearm while playing without fears of disciplinary action or referral to criminal or juvenile justice systems. Children may now "aim" fingers at each other as if they were holding hand guns and "brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm or weapon" also may no longer result in punishment. Kids in several states have gotten in trouble for similar play.

Good Reads

Apprenticeships could expand the middle class
A robust apprenticeship training program could reduce youth unemployment, improve the transition from school to career, upgrade skills, raise wages of young adults, strengthen a young worker's identity, increase U.S. productivity, achieve positive returns for employers and workers, and use limited federal resources more effectively. So argues this brief, the seventh in a series of 14 proposals offering evidence-based strategies for combating poverty in the United States. (The Hamilton Project at Brookings)

Teacher-prep programs need to try harder
While the United States is taking a harder look at how its teacher preparation schools are improving teacher quality, more needs to be done to expand the pool of teachers prepared to meet classroom challenges, according to this ranking of teacher-prep programs. The ranking includes alternative programs which generally were rated low except for Teach for America. Of 1,668 programs (housed in 836 institutions) ranked in the review, only 26 elementary programs and 81 secondary programs made the list of top ranked. (National Council on Teacher Quality, NCTQ)

Performance funding to fight poverty
States should partially base public college funding on graduates' reported earnings five years after graduation, and, if possible, on whether the colleges are providing courses that are important to the local economy. Such a plan could lift low-income families out of poverty, reduce reliance on safety nets and improve local economies, contends this proposal. (The Hamilton Project at Brookings)


June 18, 2014

New from ECS

Early Science Improves Reading
Recent research shows that early mathematics skills and general knowledge in science and social studies might be important for school achievement, not just in math and science but in reading as well. Knowledge of the natural and social worlds seems to be more predictive of reading achievement than are early reading skills. (The Progress of Education Reform: Science in the Early Years)

Advancing Civics Education without Legislation
Legislating civics education initiatives can be an arduous process that takes time and resources and requires buy-in from various stakeholders. Some state officials — including superintendents of public education and chief justices — have used their authority to more quickly advance civics education initiatives and programs without legislation. California and Montana, through the leadership of their state judiciaries and superintendents of public instruction, have taken steps to expand civics education.  (States Address Civic Learning with Administrative Authority)

What States Are Doing

Teacher Prep Reforms
New Mexico is launching a series of reforms to improve the quality of the one thousand teachers produced annually by its six schools of education. Those schools will be graded based on several factors, including how well their perform in the first three years of their careers. Also, academic standards will be raised for would-be teachers. Currently, one of the main requirements to become a teacher is to pass a teacher assessment of basic skills, an eighth-grade level test with a passing score in the 16th percentile.

$1 Billion in Software Grants
Virginia's community colleges and universities will get more than $1 billion in software grants for manufacturing programs from the Siemens corporation, according to an announcement from the office of Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The goal is workforce development in a state that has shipbuilding as its economic core.

Good Reads

Children's Internet Protection Act Filters Learning
Overreach in the implementation of the Children's Internet Protection Act comes in for criticism by the American Library Association. Passed in 2000, the CIPA was meant to block adults and minors from accessing online images deemed harmful to minors, but as the Internet evolved, the CIPA didn't, says the ALA. Instead it has become a barrier to learning and acquiring digital literacy skills to those who most need them, children and adults who have no Internet at home. (American Library Association)

Alternative Education: Good Options for All Students
Eighty-five percent of Massachusetts' high school students graduate in four years, but for some at-risk young people, traditional education isn't a good fit. This report looks at alternative education both nationally and in the Commonwealth — education that aims to rescue youth at risk for dropping out with options like flexible scheduling, multiple ways to earn credit and personalized learning. It suggests the divide between traditional and alternative education is a false one and all students would benefit from a similar individualized blend of opportunities and services. (Rennie Center)

Stay-at-Home Dads on the Increase
More fathers are staying home with their children, up to 2 million in 2012. While the Great Recession contributed to increases because of unemployment, other reasons include childcare and illness or disability. Stay-at-home fathers are less well-off financially and have lower educational attainment than their working counterparts. They also tend to be older than stay-at-home mothers. (Pew Research Center)

Community Volunteers Boost Literacy
Reading Partners, a literacy program delivered by volunteers to struggling readers from kindergarten to the fifth grade, increased reading comprehension, fluency and sight-word reading by one-and-one-half to two months of growth. The program involved participation twice a week for 45 minutes and lasted five months to a year or longer. (MDRC)


June 11, 2014

New from ECS

States Moving from Accreditation to Accountability
More states are holding public schools and districts accountable with efforts such as school report cards, in some cases by discontinuing accreditation processes entirely or folding them into their existing accountability systems. A 50-state analysis found that state lawmakers are assuming a stronger role in school accountability, resulting in a shift away from state-administered accreditation systems. While 26 states have accreditation systems, all 50 have accountability systems.

States Act on Guided Pathways
Guided pathways can include degree maps or plans and support services from high schools, postsecondary institutions or both. Between 2011-14, 18 states have created, or attempted to enact, legislation to create or expand guided pathways. The ECS summary provides details.

What States Are Doing

Advanced Placement in Rural Schools
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that creates a pilot to expand access to Advanced Placement classes (AP) for 475 students in rural schools and enhance participation in AP programs by students who are served in school lunch programs. To be eligible, a rural school must require all 10th-grade students to take a precollege entrance exam. The school must have an AP program; online classes and programs are acceptable. Schools get $500 for each student who takes an AP class and the exam.

Driving Down the Cost of Broadband
Virginia was selected to participate in a pilot project to help school divisions lower the cost of high-speed Internet access. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that EducationSuperHighway (ESH), a nonprofit based in San Francisco, chose the commonwealth because it pays more than the national average for Internet access and network connectivity. Average monthly megabit-per-second costs for Virginia school divisions are $26 for access and $7 for connectivity, while national averages are $22 and $3, according to ESH.

Good Reads

Improving Promise Neighborhoods
To improve educational and developmental outcomes for children in distressed neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Education developed the Promise Neighborhoods grant program. Community-based organizations were to work with local partners to implement and evaluate a cradle-to-grave continuum of services. After analysis, GAO's recommendations for this initiative are that the U.S. Department of Education communicate grant expectations more clearly, identify federal resources that can help and devise an evaluation strategy. (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

Keeping Up with STEM Demands
Both the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees and the number of jobs in STEM fields increased in recent years. The number of STEM degrees awarded grew 55 percent from 1.35 million in the 2002-03 school year to more than 2 million in 2011-12, while degrees awarded in non-STEM fields grew 37 percent. The number of STEM jobs increased 16 percent from 2004-12, while there was little growth in non-STEM jobs. It is difficult to know if STEM graduates are aligned with workforce needs because demand fluctuates. (U.S. Government Accountability Office)


June 4, 2014

New from ECS

Dual Enrollment in Rural Areas
Research shows that students who participate in dual enrollment are more likely than their peers to finish high school, enter college and complete a degree. This means dual enrollment can greatly benefit students in rural areas, which report lower college-going and postsecondary attainment rates than other locales. However, rural areas face unique challenges in providing high-quality dual enrollment programs. This report discusses how states are rising to these challenges.

Dual Enrollment Participation
In 2005 Virginia modified dual enrollment policy with the goal of expanding access. This study evaluates that change, finding that while overall access to and participation in dual enrollment courses increased, the increase was not uniform. Minority groups remained significantly underrepresented when compared with their representation in the general student population. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

School Grades
States are struggling to create school accountability systems that are easy to find, meaningful to parents and filled with the data experts recommend, according to a review of school report cards in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Florida and Illinois: Two Different Civic Initiatives
Florida and Illinois have created a network of academic institutions committed to providing students with opportunities to gain skills necessary to be effective participants in democracy. This ECS report from the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement illustrates the states' different approaches, both accomplished without legislation. Illinois' initiative is targeted at high school students through the state's Democracy Schools. The Florida College System Civic Literacy Initiative is viewed as a long-term project that will impact college students as well as communities served by participating colleges.

School Accountability in the Waiver Era
Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have received waivers of the school accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. How do the waivers stack up? This study finds a mixed bag — some states have made large improvements and others have not. Overall, the authors conclude that states missed opportunities to design more effective school accountability systems that would minimize unintended consequences. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

School Readiness for 3- and 4-Year-Olds
Vermont's 3- and 4-year-olds are now eligible for 10 hours a week of high-quality, publicly funded preschool because of a new law. Parents may opt for preschool in their communities, or they can enroll children outside the community to be closer to their jobs.

Districts with a Large Percentage of ELLs Will Get Help
Iowa created a $500,000 English language literacy grant program for districts with a large percentage or large number of English language learners, and for districts with exceptional diversity in languages of origin. A grant may be awarded up to three years with a performance agreement identifying clear literacy achievement goals and an accountability system that measures student performance.

Good Reads

Get an Associate Degree before Transferring
Community college students who transfer to four-year colleges with an associate degree are more likely to earn a bachelor's degree than students who transfer without one, a study finds. Students in the study attended college in a state that has an hours-will-transfer agreement, leading to the notion that if states encourage community college students to get an associate degree and guarantee those hours will transfer, they might significantly raise bachelor's degree completion rates. (Community College Research Center)

Redefining Teacher Support, Evaluation
California's regulatory framework and most of the state's district teacher evaluations systems undermine efforts to improve teaching and learning, concludes this report. After a look at seven schools systems piloting new ways to evaluate and support teachers, recommendations are made for state and local levels. (The Education Trust-West)

Implementing High-Quality Initiatives
Four roadmaps provide a look at how every state can improve its use of education data. The first links teachers to students by course so state policymakers can understand the connection between student achievement and teacher training. That is followed by a roadmap about including data-use skills in teacher-prep programs. The next concerns high school feedback reports on how a class of high school graduates fares on graduation. Last, teachers’ access to data allows individualized instruction. (DQC)


May 28, 2014

New from ECS

Teacher Evaluations Used in Key Employment Decisions
An increasing number of states are using teacher performance, as measured by evaluations, in key employment decisions about who gets -- and keeps -- tenure and who gets laid off. A 50-state review of laws related to K-12 teacher tenure or non-probationary status also found a small but growing number of states attempting to eliminate continuing contracts for educators altogether. ECS released three short reports providing an overview of trends in state tenure laws since 2011, an examination of tenure and reduction-in-force policies and a look at teacher evaluations and decisions to grant or remove tenure.

States Address Civics with Mandated Task Forces
By coincidence or not, Massachusetts, Illinois and Virginia created civic education task forces not long after national test results showed a dismal understanding of the subject matter across all grade levels. While 4th graders posted their highest civics scores since 1998, scores for older students were flat or declining. Results of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed just 25 percent of all test-takers in grades 4, 8 and 12 demonstrated a "proficient" grasp of civic knowledge, according to this brief from the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement at ECS.

What States Are Doing

Suicide, Violence Prevention
Oklahoma lawmakers sent a bill to the governor that requires teachers, counselors, principals or other school personnel to notify parents or legal guardians immediately on determining that a student is at risk of attempting suicide. H.B. 1623 also ensures that school staff aren’t liable for calling 911, police or human services if they believe a student poses a threat to themselves or others, or if a student has committed a violent act, has been the victim of a violent act or has been the victim of a threat.

Kindergarten Readiness for Foster Children
Connecticut passed a law that requires the Department of Children and Families to enroll each preschool-aged child in the department's custody in a high-quality preschool program.

For Every 4-Year-Old, a Preschool
Maine now requires school districts to offer every resident 4-year-old the opportunity to attend a public preschool program. Each district not currently offering a prekindergarten program must develop and submit a prekindergarten implementation plan to the department by January 2015.

Good Reads

Leaving School
Young people don't stop going to school for a single reason, it's a cluster that becomes too much: care giving for siblings or parents, bouncing around in foster care, homelessness. Interviews and survey responses of youth who quit, reengaged, or were in school continuously also indicate navigating hostile toxic environments at home, school or in their neighborhoods is a threat to school, that youth seek relationships that can lead them to or away from graduation, that they are resilient but need help. (America’s Promise Alliance and Center for Promise)

Financing Public Education
Public elementary and secondary education revenue declined in FY 2012 for the first time since 1977, when the Census Bureau began collecting education finance data. This report offers figures on revenues, expenditures, debt and assets of school systems, including statistics on spending -- instruction, transportation, salaries and employee benefits -- at the national, state and district levels. State governments were the leading source of revenue closely followed by revenue from local sources. Of the largest school systems, highest spender per pupil in 2012 was New York City at $20,226. (U.S. Census Bureau)


May 21, 2014

New from ECS

Completion May Depend on Number of Credits Transferred
A recent analysis finds that too many community college students are losing credits when they transfer to a baccalaureate program. This notable report points to the relationship between the number of credits that transfer and the likelihood that a student graduates. Find out which transfer policies your state has in place through ECS' May 2014 Transfer and Articulation Database.

What States Are Doing

Crosscutting Actions
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signed the Education Opportunity Act last week, which pledged $300 million of additional support for education to be distributed over three years. About $150 million will go into the Base Student Allocation, the state's funding formula. HB278 eliminates the Alaska High School Qualifying (exit) Exam, provides additional support (including increased bandwidth) to charter schools and distance learning programs and gives a substantial boost to the acclaimed Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program. 

Future Depends on Expanding Bandwidth
Arkansas's Quality Digital Learning Committee released a report to the legislature this month that says current high-speed Internet connectivity on the K-12 education network is inadequate to meet instructional and administrative needs in some schools and there are significant variances in bandwidth capacity, contract terms and service availability. Centralized management of broadband to all the state's schools is one recommendation to level the playing field for all students, especially those in rural areas.

Ensuring Successful Re-Entry
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed an executive order creating a task force to develop recommendations for ensuring appropriate services are available when youth return to their communities from secure custody. According to a release, the idea is to make sure positive momentum continues while reducing their risk of reoffending. Among 107 students in the state's six facilities, the average reading gain was 72 points and the average math gain was 73 points.

An Assessment Study Relevant to Other States
The Colorado Department of Education released results of an Assessment Implementation Study that examined the issues associated with implementation of the state assessment system. Based upon the findings, four implementation approaches are proposed for consideration: 1). Stay the course and implement the transition plan as scheduled; 2). stay the course with added supports and policy adjustments; 3). purposely delay parts of the system; or 4). strategically eliminate specific assessments.

Good Reads

Status of Rural Education in the 50 States
Rural school enrollment is growing faster than urban and suburban districts' and more than 20 percent of the nation's students live in rural areas. Increasingly, their numbers include low-income, minority and special education students, according to a report released this week. (The Rural School and Community Trust)

Course Choice: A Game Changer
Choice has become more than changing schools. When that isn't an option or when a child's present school is fine except for a few drawbacks, choice may now mean a choice of classes taught either online or from unconventional providers. Louisiana, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin have moved in that direction, says this course-choice guide. See this report for ideas related to funding levels, what courses should  be offered, which students are eligible and accountability for providers and students. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Preschool Funded by the States
Forty states and the District of Columbia had state-supported preschool in 2012-13, serving 1.34 million children, according to this First Look. Total enrollment decreased by 4,319 from the year before. Cost per child varied from the District of Columbia at $14,700 to less than $2,500 in nine states. State funding per child declined in 21 of 41 states. (National Center for Education Statistics)

Postsecondary Advisory Services for Vets
Questions have arisen about whether some colleges and universities recruit veterans inappropriately, providing inaccurate information — on estimated student loan debt, for example — leading some veterans to exhaust their benefits before their goals are reached. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides some counseling, it's been determined that the VA has to step up those efforts to help veterans make more informed postsecondary choices. (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

Dealing with Bias in Teacher Evaluation
This report takes a look at four urban districts and finds teachers with students with higher incoming achievement levels receive scores higher than those received by teachers whose incoming students are at lower achievement levels. The solution? Adjust teacher scores based on student demographics. (Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings)

Making Time for Teachers
Expanding time for collaboration, peer coaching, learning new content and student data review can boost teacher effectiveness and student achievement. A report looked at 17 high-poverty schools averaging 300 more school-year hours than the national average of 1,170. Teachers at these schools taught 60 percent of the time as opposed to the 80 percent averaged by U.S. teachers. The international average for countries reporting to the OECD is 67 percent. (National Center on Time and Learning)


May 14, 2014

New from ECS

Value-Added Scores May Vary with the Test
Designers of performance evaluation systems need to understand the factors that can affect the validity and reliability of value-added results based on student assessment data used to evaluate teacher performance. This study aimed to provide new information on the degree to which value-added estimates of teachers differ by the assessment used to measure their students' achievement growth. (New to the ECS Research Database)

State responses to increasing student mobility
ECS reviewed transfer and articulation policies in the 50 states to get a sense of how policymakers are responding in law to these changes. In the modern postsecondary environment, it is clear transfer policies are more important than ever.

What States Are Doing

Pay for Successful Outcomes
To give a boost to at-risk youth who are in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn last week launched Pay for Success (PFS), a model from the United Kingdom. PFS invests private dollars in proven social programs which are then paid back by the state when results are achieved and long-term savings realized. Illinois follows New York and Massachusetts in the endeavor.

Inmates Go to College
A consortium of public and private universities across New Jersey are providing access to college for qualified incarcerated students while assisting in their transition to college life when they are released, according to a release from Gov. Chris Christie’s office. Currently, nearly 500 inmates participate in the program in six of New Jersey's 13 facilities with an eventual goal of 2,000. Applicants exceeded capacity. Students admitted to Rutgers University under the program perform as well or better than their peers, both academically and socially. Funders for the NJ-STEP program are the Sunshine Lady and Ford foundations.

Keeping Rural Schools Viable
In Wisconsin, the Speaker's Task Force on Rural Schools has come up with recommendations for the legislature which may interest other states. Grade sharing would allow two districts, for example, to keep their elementary schools, but have one middle school for both in one district and one high school for both in the other, an alternative to consolidation. They also recommended flexibility in teacher licensing, increased aid for transportation and more help for English language learners.

Good Reads

What Made College Grads Happy in Work?
A survey of 30,000 college graduates found that if graduates remembered having a supportive professor, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled. However, only 14 percent of respondents reported having had that. If their college experience included deep learning — a research project or internship — that would make work more engaging, but only 3 percent recalled having all six of the formative college experiences that indicate they had emotional support and deep learning. (Gallup and Purdue University)

States Interpret Race to the Top’s Teacher Evaluation Policies
Congress appropriated $5.05 billion for Race to the Top between 2009 and 2012, the largest competitive grant program ever administered by the U.S. Department of Education. That initiative invited states to implement six core policies, including teacher evaluation. Most states required less than half of eight teacher evaluation policies aligned with Race to the Top. Many aligned with policies requiring multiple evaluation measures and annual evaluations. Few aligned with using evaluation to make promotion and compensation decisions. (National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance)

Republican, Swing Voter Support for the Common Core
Results of a national survey on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) indicated that, while a large percentage of voters have never heard of the Common Core, when it is explained in simple, neutral language, support soars to a two-thirds majority. "All the dangers that come from being associated with the national Republican brand — being exclusive, Anglo-only, anti-woman, anti-Hispanic — are in play here and Republicans would be wise to think of [CCSS] in a broader context," warned the surveyors, McLaughlin & Associates. "Anti-Common Core positions may be inviting in the short-term, but looking to November supporting state standards that elevate school achievement have far more upside." (McLaughlin & Associates)


May 7, 2014

New from ECS

Later School Start Times
The earlier a student's first class of the day begins, the worse the student fares in that class and in all other classes that day. Opening school doors — sometimes as early as 7 a. m. — negatively affects the health and overall education of adolescent students in the United States, says a noted British sleep researcher who is urging American policymakers to consider later start times. This ECS brief summarizes the latest research, explores policy options and sets forth the recommendation that education start times be adjusted for U.S. adolescents.

What States Are Doing

Extending HOPE to Technical Students
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a bill that would provide full tuition for technical college students who qualify for the HOPE grant and maintain at least a 3.5 grade-point average, Deal's office announced. House Bill 697 created the Zell Miller Grant, an $11 million expansion of the lottery-funded HOPE grant. The grant will help 16,000 students. Deal included $5 million in the budget to expand the Strategic Industries grant, which pays full tuition for HOPE recipients pursuing high-demand fields.

Mandatory Kindergarten
Kindergarten will now be mandatory for Hawaiian children who will be at least 5-years-old on or before July 31 of the school year. Because Hawaii started state-funded prekindergarten and because the Common Core State Standards start in kindergarten, requiring kindergarten made sense to policymakers, according to the press release announcing Gov. Neil Abercrombie's signature on Senate Bill 2768.

Good Reads

Hiring Turnaround Partners
A guide for state education agencies, this brief focuses on how to attract, recruit and develop best organizations to turn around low-performing districts and schools. Sought-after lead partners offered their views on what kind of regulatory environment they need to accomplish their best work. Then advice is given on crafting a request for proposal that will solicit and help evaluate applicants. (Mass Insight Education)

How 15 States Handle the Common Core
The Southern Regional Education Board provides a look at how 15 states — 12 in the SREB region — are doing with the Common Core. All 15 states are teaching Core standards and seven administer Core-aligned assessments. Leading states are Kentucky and New York; other strong states are Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina. The report goes on to evaluate teaching resources, professional development, evaluation of teachers and leaders and accountability.

Beyond State Assessments for Teacher Evaluation
While many states now evaluate teachers based on student growth, using state student assessments is problematic — they are typically administered in grades 3-8 and only in math and reading. This report looks at alternative student growth measures, first alternative assessment-based value-added models that use end-of-course assessments or commercially available tests, then student learning objectives which are determined by individual teachers and approved by principals. (REL Mid-Atlantic)


April 30, 2014

New from ECS

Career and Technical Education
The latest issue of The Progress of Education Reform explores recent policy trends intended to expand the number of skilled workers trained to fill high-need labor market shortages. Of note, 2013 alone saw at least 78 substantive policy changes via legislation, substantive state board rules and executive orders specific to CTE and workforce development.

Comparing Principal Evaluations and Value-Added
Policymakers are revolutionizing teacher evaluation by attaching greater stakes to student test scores and observation-based teacher effectiveness measures, but relatively little is known about why they often differ so much. Researchers found that some principals give high value-added teachers low ratings because they exert too little effort and are "lone wolves" who work in isolation and contribute little to the school community. (New to the Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

From Suicide Prevention to Tornadoes
Teachers and related personnel in Nebraska's public school system will spend an hour annually in suicide prevention training, and their schools will get help with building security in the event of shooters and tornadoes, provisions in a bill passed by the legislature. In charge of all this will be a state security director in the Department of Education, a position also created by the bill. Finally, the bill has a "return to learn" policy for concussed athletes who may need accommodations and medical monitoring.

Paid Teacher Internships
Oklahoma is transitioning from traditional licensure to a teacher residency program. A bill directs the Teacher Preparation Commission, the Regents for Higher Education and teacher preparation programs to develop guidelines for paid teacher internship. Students enrolled in teacher prep programs may participate after they've completed non-salaried student teaching. Support, mentorship and coaching are required. In 2014-15, school districts may participate; the following year, it's required.

Focus on the Middle Years
To build a stronger foundation for high school and make an earlier connection between learning and career, Maryland is turning its attention to middle school. "A New Mission for the Middle Grades," published by the Southern Regional Education Board, was the inspiration for a task force created by the legislature to study improving the middle school experience. Teachers as well as education and legislative officials will serve; they will make recommendations by Dec. 1, 2014.

Good Reads

Calls for College Leaders to Defend Common Core
Dan Greenstein and Vicki Phillips, both with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, make a case that leaders in higher education should engage in the debate over the Common Core State Standards. (Inside Higher Education)

Data Empowers Parents
User-friendly data can help parents answer questions about their child's education and make crucial decisions: Is my child on track for career and college readiness? How does my child's school compare to others? Schools and districts provide such information to parents but states also can ensure accessible data. For example, 44 states provide growth reports, but only 22 tailor reports for parents. (Data Quality Campaign)

Income-Driven Student Loans
The complex federal student loan system is ripe for streamlining, the authors argue, mapping out pros and cons of income-driven repayment plans (IDRs) and passive repayment systems such as paycheck withholding. Requiring IDRs for all borrowers may have unintended consequences. On the plus side, they could help make monthly payments manageable, thus reducing student debt defaults. The downside might be that IDRs can increase the amount of time borrowers have debt, which might reduce access to other forms of credit. (The Institute for College Access and Success)

Formative Assessment in the Early Years
Formative assessment, a process that is one component of the comprehensive assessment system, allows teachers to observe and interact with their students, learning daily about their development. Each child gets individualized instruction, a particular challenge with young children because they develop at different rates and their learning patterns can be uneven and rapid. This report provides a guide for policymakers considering formative assessment and issues involved in implementation. (Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes)


April 23, 2014

New from ECS

Help for College Freshmen Who Need Remediation
Efforts underway in at least 25 states to reduce the need for college remediation and improve college readiness and success are showcased in a resource guide for policymakers published by the Education Commission of the States and the Southern Regional Education Board, with assistance from Education First. The 50-page Developmental Strategies for College Readiness and Success is intended to provide an overview of the many initiatives underway in states to help students who enroll in college but are deemed not yet ready for college-level work.

First States to Test Civics Knowledge
Students in Florida and Tennessee this year began taking civics assessments that carry consequences for themselves and their schools. ECS has released the first in a series of reports that will examine state initiatives related to civic education. Florida and Tennessee are the first states to approve legislation that factors student performance on civics exams in the calculations for state school ratings.

Measuring the Impacts of Teachers
One method of measuring the quality of teaching is to evaluate teachers based on their impacts on students' test scores -- the value-added (VA) approach. Advocates argue that selecting teachers on the basis of their VA can generate substantial gains in achievement, while critics contend that VA measures are poor proxies for teacher quality. Do teachers who raise test scores improve their students' outcomes in adulthood or are they simply better at teaching to the test? This study finds that high-VA teachers have substantial long-term impacts on students. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Children in Child Welfare to Get Referrals for Child Care, Early Learning
Washington passed a law that requires a family assessment worker from child welfare to provide referrals for high-quality child care and early learning programs when appropriate. It directs the Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Early Learning to jointly develop recommendations on ways the two departments can better partner to ensure children in the child welfare system have access to early learning services and developmentally appropriate child care.

Head Start for High Schoolers
Gov. Nathan Deal signed a law this week that reframes Georgia's Youth Apprenticeship Program as a work-based program. It allows public high school students to enroll in pre-approved, for-credit job; the idea being that students, employers and Georgia's economic health all will benefit.

Comprehensive School Counseling
The West Virginia Board of Education put into place requirements for a PreK-12 comprehensive developmental guidance and counseling program for West Virginia schools that reflects the American School Counselor Association National Standards. Schools must implement a three-level system, including universal prevention for all students, targeted intervention for at-risk students and intensive interventions for the most at-risk students.

Good Reads

Dismal State of Education for Kids in Custody
Students in the nation's juvenile justice systems are getting a bad education at a time in their lives when they need good education the most. Juvenile justice's failure comes at great cost to youth and to society. Reorganization of its mission is required so it can become a vehicle for education, argues this report. Standards should be no lower than they are for regular K-12 schools. Testing should be effective and timely, and each student should have an individualized plan. (Southern Education Foundation)

Redesigning Financial Aid
By redesigning financial aid programs, states can attain greater access, affordability and success for their students in higher education. The authors of this paper looked at the shared-responsibility concepts of Minnesota, Oregon and Idaho to come up with proposals that include determining eligibility and award amounts by expecting key players to contribute what they can: the student, his or her family, the federal government, state government and the institution. Incentives should be embedded for the student and the institution in the redesign. (WICHE)

Higher Achievement's Lasting Impact
A report on the Higher Achievement program was reviewed and found to be well-executed. Higher Achievement is a multi-year summer and after-school program for incoming 5th and 6th graders in at-risk communities. Higher Achievement academies feature academic classes, electives, field trips, volunteer mentors, homework help and dinner. The report found that four years later, participants had higher standardized test scores in mathematical problem solving and were more likely to be admitted to and matriculate at private high schools. (What Works Clearinghouse)


April 16, 2014

New from ECS

When Rater Reliability Isn't Enough
In an era that will undoubtedly see major expansion in the number and use of observational instruments, the authors of this study argue that practitioners and researchers need to more carefully examine the sources of variation in observational scores and consider their implications for how these ratings are used. Their analysis demonstrates the hazard of using a common metric -- 80 percent interrater agreement -- as a sole measure of the reliability of a classroom observation system. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Significant Positive Impact of Teacher Evaluation
Fully implemented in 2011-12, Tennessee's teacher evaluation system continues to evolve and improve. Responding to feedback and analysis, the Tennessee State Department of Education included students with disabilities in teacher value-added scores and added legislative change for teachers with the highest scores on student growth in 2012-13. Teachers' perceptions of the system improved across every major indicator. In 2013-14 additional changes were made, including a more rigorous certification exam for all evaluators.

Apprenticeships as Postsecondary Credentials
Oregon H.B. 4058, signed into law in March, allows apprenticeship programs to count toward the state's 40-40-20 goal. The goal is that by 2025, at least 40 percent of adult Oregonians will have earned a bachelor's degree or higher; at least 40 percent will have earned an associate degree or post-secondary credential; and the remaining 20 percent or fewer will have earned a high school diploma or equivalent as their highest level of educational attainment.

Filling the Skills Gap
Under H.B. 1003, Indiana schools will get grants to develop and implement partnerships with businesses, allowing those schools to offer students internships and apprenticeships and dual high school-college credit all while getting paid. Participating businesses will get tax credits, not to mention a well-trained employee.

Scholarships for Future Skilled Workers
Alabama enacted H.B. 384 this session, providing a state income tax credit to individuals and businesses who contribute to a scholarship program for high school students dually enrolled in community colleges to become welders, electricians, mechanics or other types of skilled work.

Good Reads

Turning Apprenticeships into Credit Hours
The historic division between career/technical education and college continued to blur with the launch last week of a national consortium of colleges, employers and unions creating a skills acquisition continuum from Registered Apprenticeship to college with gainful employment. Called Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium (RACC), the program will use the American Council on Education and the National College Credit Recommendation Service to provide colleges with recommendations on translating apprenticeship experience to academic credit. (U.S. Department of Labor)

How Reliable Are Preschool Observations?
As more states fund pre-K to enhance school readiness, accountability becomes a greater issue in terms of cost and program quality. In the absence of standardized tests, classroom observation of preschoolers takes on greater importance. Which protocol is used? How capable are observers of generating reliable data? How often should these observations take place? This report provides a detailed analysis and description of classroom observation policies for 27 state-funded programs from the 2012-13 school year. (Educational Testing Service)

Align Learning Strategies with Human Nature
Students who strongly agree that their school is committed to building their strengths and that they have a teacher who makes them excited about the future are almost 30 times as likely to be engaged learners as their peers who strongly disagree with both statements, this poll finds. But less than half of students strongly agree that they get to do their best every day, and nearly seven in 10 K-12 teachers are not engaged in their work. (Gallup)

Do School Boards Matter?
Many school board members do not give top priority to improving student learning although students do better academically in districts where school board members have that focus. Researchers found board members tend to be shaped by their professional backgrounds. Former teachers or other school system employees are less knowledgeable about true district conditions than their colleagues who are not former educators. Further, at-large, on-cycle elections are linked with districts that beat the odds. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Cheering Up Adjuncts for Their Students' Sake
Part-time faculty far outnumber full-time faculty at most colleges; part-timers teach 58 percent of U.S. community college classes while making less money and getting few benefits, if any. While adjuncts are one way colleges save money, it's difficult to prevent their unhappiness from affecting students. This report suggests supporting adjuncts by including them in discussions, creating pathways to full-time work and, when possible, paying them more. (Center for Community College Student Engagement)

Men's Earning Gaps Widen
The gap in earnings between more educated and less educated workers has widened over time, but also the gaps are wider among younger men, according to this report. Men with a high school diploma or less experienced decreases in annual and cumulative earnings, those with some college experienced stagnated earnings and largest gains went to those with advanced degrees. The highest-earning quartile of high school graduates out-earns a hefty share of those with some college and four-year degrees. Along with rising tuition, this may explain why college completion rates haven't risen rapidly. (Urban Institute)


April 9, 2014

New from ECS

Value of Value Added
The use of value added (VA) measures to determine teacher quality is on the rise despite several arguments against their use for this purpose. A core argument about VA measures focuses on whether the measures are biased by student sorting. The authors found that their replicable value-added model, which controlled for student characteristics including prior year test scores, is not biased by student sorting and can provide accurate forecasts of teachers' mean impacts on achievement. (New from the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Statewide Education Vision
Lawmakers on Nebraska's Education Committee will seek new long-term goals for the state's K-12 schools and colleges. Gov. Dave Heineman signed a bill last week that acknowledges individuals and businesses often make decisions about where to locate based partly on quality of education, a quality-of-life indicator for the present and the future. In seeking a "statewide vision," the committee will reach out to all interested parties. At least three public meetings will be held.

Support for Veterans' Tuition Gaps
Utah enacted a bill that would help qualifying veterans when their federal benefits for completing a bachelor's degree have been maximized. Veterans in need will get their grants on an ongoing basis, but the money will be distributed one quarter or one semester at a time, with continuing awards contingent on the veteran maintaining satisfactory academic progress.

Good Reads

Teaching English Language Learners in Mainstream Classrooms
A guide on teaching both academic vocabulary and content material in science, history and mathematics to English learners in regular classrooms, this report has four recommendations: teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days, integrate oral and written English language instruction into content-area teaching, provide regular opportunities to develop written language skills and provide small-group intervention for struggling students. (What Works Clearinghouse, April 2014)

High-Achieving At-Risk Students Lose Ground in High School
Tens of thousands of students of color and students from low-socioeconomic backrounds start high school in the top quarter of all students in math and reading. However something happens in those four years. They leave high school with lower AP exam rates, lower SAT/ACT scores and lower GPAs than their high-achieving white and more advantaged peers. Schools can serve these kids better, authors say. (Education Trust)

Rural Turnarounds
Rural schools that received federal School Improvement Grants reported teacher recruitment and retention and parent involvement were problematic because of the schools' remote locations and large catchment areas. Long teacher commutes and isolated communities weren't attractive to many prospective teachers. Lack of access to transportation and distance between schools and homes sometimes limited parent involvement in school-based activities. (IES/National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance)


April 2, 2014

New from ECS

50-State Kindergarten Database
More than half the states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to administer kindergarten entrance assessments as policymakers continue their emphasis on school readiness. ECS released a 50-state database on kindergarten policies, reporting on indicators ranging from compulsory school age to standards to student/teacher ratios. The database builds on earlier work by ECS.

What States Are Doing

Service and Science for Reading Readiness
AmeriCorps tutors are working one-on-one with Minnesota's youngest students using evidence-based interventions to improve reading outcomes. A recent evaluation found the average kindergartener with an AmeriCorps tutor performed twice as well as students without one. The average 1st grade student performed 26 percent better than the expected level for on-track students. Called the Minnesota Reading Corps, the replicable program reaches more than 30,000 annually.

Figuring Out Bottom Line College Costs
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a new tool to help students and families interpret college financial aid awards and get costs before making a final decision on an institution. The tool generates side-by-side comparisons, highlights net costs and estimates the full two- or four-year cost of each college. It also notes potential income generated by the student's chosen field of study, some of which will go to paying back student loans. 

Teacher Cabinet
A 15-member Teacher Cabinet was created by the Wyoming Department of Education to weigh in on policy decisions that affect them, their schools and their students. From a cross section of geographical locations, grade and subject levels, the cabinet will also support statewide communication efforts, contribute to a new-teacher newsletter, maintain a blog and assist with recruitment for teachers and leaders needed for professional development.

Addressing Unemployment Now and in the Future
With an unemployment rate of 9 percent -- 2 percentage points higher than the national average -- and employers reporting a growing inability to find skilled workers, the Rhode Island Senate moved to address both problems. Policymakers created an action plan called Rhode to Work that includes codifying the Governor's Workforce Board to be a single, seamless, cohesive training system, expanding the number of internships and apprenticeships, eliminating waiting lists for adult learners and reducing costs for high school equivalency test-takers.

Good Reads

Which States Pay Teachers the Most?
Jammed with interesting factoids, the NEA's Rankings & Estimates tome has been released. For example: from 2010 to 2011, states with the highest population gains (indicating relative demand for public education) are Texas (2.1percent), Utah (1.9 percent), Alaska (1.8 percent) and Colorado (1.6 percent). The percentage of K-12 revenue from the federal government ranged from 3.1 percent (New Jersey) to 18.4 percent (Mississippi). Nationally, the average teacher salary was $56,103, with New York averaging $75,279 at the high end to South Dakota averaging $39,018 at the low end. (National Education Association)

College and Career Readiness for African American Students
Nearly all African American students (86 percent) report they aspire to postsecondary education, but 62 percent of them did not meet any of the four ACT college readiness benchmarks. Only 10 percent met at least three benchmarks. After high school, 63 percent immediately enroll in postsecondary education, but only 62 percent of those students who complete a year persist into the second year. These findings indicate a need to improve readiness for African American students and to address challenges to persistence. (ACT)


March 26, 2014

New from ECS

Benefits of Postsecondary Co-enrollment
The prevalence of co-enrollment -– the simultaneous enrollment at multiple postsecondary institutions during the same academic term -– is rising among college students. Findings from a recent study suggest that co-enrollment had a significant positive effect on educational attainment and postsecondary persistence for students who began at community college and for those who began at a four-year institution. Researchers conclude that co-enrollment should not be regarded as a red flag but rather an alternative pathway that may in fact provide some significant benefits. (New to the ECS Research Database)

What States Are Doing

Ka Hei: Capturing the Sun
By installing sustainable energy systems in every school in the state, the Hawaii Department of Education will be a pioneer among the nation's school districts in becoming self-reliant for its energy needs. But the program, named Ka Hei for a snare used by the Hawaiian god Maui to capture the sun, is more than cost-efficient. A pillar in the state's STEM education efforts, Ka Hei will include living laboratories, energy conservation hands-on learning, green energy simulators and STEM career exposure, according to the DOE.

Leveraging Federal Money for District Broadband
Gov. Mike Beebe and the Arkansas General Assembly have approved a one-time $5 million transfer from the general fund to help districts improve Internet connectivity. This grant will be leveraged at the district level for up to an additional $20 million in federal E-Rate funding, reports the Arkansas Department of Education.

100 Teachers to Join Dream Team
The Connecticut State Department of Education is seeking 100 teachers from across the state to join the Connecticut Dream Team, a Common Core training and coaching program. The Dream Team will participate in a two-and-a-half-day intensive professional development event this April. In the months following, they will return to their districts to work in virtual learning groups with peers and coaches, producing high-quality Common Core resources for use throughout the state and country.

For Districts Slipping toward Provisional Accreditation, State Support
In Missouri, when a district loses accreditation, students are allowed to transfer to other districts. This elevates the importance of improving district performance far ahead of its becoming provisionally accredited or unaccredited. The Missouri State Board of Education gave approval to a plan that allows for earlier support and intervention, if necessary, when district performance begins to slip.

Good Reads

Check Out Your Neighborhood School or District
The 2011-12 civil rights survey of every public school and district in the country –- including Pre-K -– has been released. Readers can find out what fraction of a school's teachers were absent more than 10 days a year, along with their average salaries. Compared to overall enrollment, discover the racial breakout of students enrolled in calculus, chemistry or physics; of student retention; of rates of suspension/expulsion; of preschool enrollment.  It's all there.  (U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection)

Exploring State Policy on Arts Education
Capture a state's laws involving arts education in 14 policy areas with this newly reworked website. Create custom side-by-side comparison reports, analyze policies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia or take a look at 13 arts education policies that are in code or statute in all states. A brief on the site provides a national analysis of the state of arts education. (ArtScan)

Digital Report Card
In the annual rating of digital learning quality, Utah and Florida were the honor students (A grades). Nevada, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia and Virginia got Bs. States are graded by 10 elements: student eligibility, student access, personalized learning, advancement, quality content, quality instruction, quality choices, assessment and accountability and infrastructure.  (Digital Learning Now)

Meetings & Events

Registration Is Live for the 2014 ECS National Forum
Join ECS in the nation's capital this summer for the 2014 National Forum on Education Policy, the only conference focused on state-level education policy from early learning to the workforce. Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada will chair the three-day conference, which kicks off June 30 and wraps up July 2. Register now to reserve your spot!


March 19, 2014

New from ECS

State of the States
An analysis of 2014 state-of-the-state addresses shows education continues to be a top priority for the nation's governors, with proposals ranging from expanding preschool to restoring K-12 funding to freezing tuition rates. The review of the annual addresses from 42 governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia reveals an emphasis on early learning, with at least 14 governors and D.C.'s mayor highlighting preschool proposals focused primarily on expanding access through increased funding, universal pre-K and public-private partnerships.

All States Now Have Concussion Laws
As of January, all 50 states are addressing concerns about concussions in youth sports through legislation that emphasizes education for coaches, mandates removal of players suspected of head injuries and requires a health professional's approval for return to play. An ECS report summarizes states' legislation, much of it modeled after a 2009 Washington law named for Zackery Lystedt, a young athlete permanently disabled after sustaining multiple head injuries in a football game and returning prematurely to play.

Value-Added Valuable However You Cut It
Teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement. Some value-added models gauge teacher effectiveness by comparing student test scores in one subject over time, and others compare student test scores across subjects during one time period. While the estimated effects of teacher quality on student performance vary from one value-added model to another, this research suggests that estimates of teacher effectiveness from any value-added model predict future student achievement better than other teacher credentials. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

Reducing Violent Crime, Improving School Graduation
An intervention program in rough areas of Chicago consisted of regular exposure to pro-social adults, after-school programming and — perhaps the most novel ingredient — cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-duration intervention from psychology that helps people recognize and reduce unhelpful automatic behaviors and biased beliefs. Program participation reduced violent-crime arrests during the program year and generated sustained gains in schooling outcomes. Most surprising: The size of gains in schooling outcomes given the investment required. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Workforce Development in Higher Ed
Using casino license fees, Ohio is plowing nearly $11 million over the next two years into workforce development at state community colleges, universities and technical centers. Some 2,500 students will benefit from new or expanded internship and co-op programs, while key Ohio industries get a preview of the talent available and become a part of the higher education/workforce dialogue as talent investors rather than talent receivers.

Community-Based Mental Health Action Plan
An action plan developed by District of Columbia agencies, non-profits, service providers and youth groups aims to better support early mental health identification and prevention for youth and families. The plan encourages increasing in community awareness of mental health issues to reduce stigma, teaching youth to take charge of their mental health, expanding mental health curricula to non-mental health providers and supporting youth in transition toward greater economic independence.

Good Reads

Suspension Rates Driven by Ineffective Policies, Not 'Bad Kids'
The achievement gap will never be closed until the discipline gap is closed, according to a panel that has been studying suspension/expulsion rates. The panel found students of color, especially African American students, and students with disabilities are suspended at hugely disproportionate rates. LGBT students also are over-represented. Further, disparities in suspension are worsening. When misbehavior does occur, they recommend restorative justice, and warn that putting police in schools is problematic. (Equity Project at University of Indiana)

Testing and Accountability Reform
California schools are on the brink of dramatic changes to their testing and accountability system, driven by Common Core State Standards, reform of the state's school finance formula and a new assessment system. This report clarifies the complex timeline for events, identifies eight essential principles for student success and makes recommendations. While the report is California-specific, the issues and decisions described are ones that many states are confronting at the moment. (EdSource, a California-based, independent nonprofit)


Education for the Future
One in five Georgia youth is foreign born or the child of parents who are immigrants or refugees. Policymakers who struggle with meeting this population’s needs may be interested in a webinar hosted from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (ET) March 20 by members of the Migration Policy Institute with Pedro Portales, executive director of the Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education at the University of Georgia and Elizabeth Webb, director of ELL programs for Gwinnett County Public Schools. Register for call-in and web coordinates.


March 12, 2014

New from ECS

Dual Enrollment that Includes Career and Technical Education
Dual enrollment programs are expanding — and so are dual enrollment programs with a career and technical education (CTE) focus. This ECS analysis looks at state policy elements that are necessary for ensuring access to CTE dual enrollment programs and for promoting the quality and transferability of the courses.

What States Are Doing

Transition Courses Can Help Avoid College Remediation
In response to growing concerns about college readiness, Kentucky has been working to increase the number of students who are ready for college when they graduate. This federally funded study looks at outcomes from student participation in Kentucky’s college preparatory transition courses (voluntary courses in math and reading available to grade 12 students who test below state benchmarks on the ACT in grade 11).

Percentage of Suspension/Expulsion Drops but Disparities Persist
More than 35 years of research indicates a national discipline gap between minority and white students. Recently, a similar gap between special education students and other students also has been highlighted. Using data from the Maryland State Department of Education, this federally funded study found the percentage of Maryland students receiving out-of-school suspension or expulsion had dropped from 2009-10 to 2011-12. However, because the decrease was more rapid for whites, the white-black gap increased. Statewide, black and students with disabilities were removed at twice the rate of whites.  (IES/REL Mid-Atlantic)

Good Reads

Moving Beyond What Students Do — to What They Understand
A must-read per ECS staff: If teachers cannot effectively analyze students' thinking, it is not likely that they will formulate effective instructional responses. Researchers at CPRE developed an innovative new instrument to authentically measure teachers’ formative assessment practices in mathematics. The Teacher Analysis of Student Knowledge (TASK) is a grade-specific, online assessment which measures important components of instructional knowledge. The takeaways gleaned from use of the tool provide insight into the current state of teachers’ capabilities in helping kids learn. For instance, in grades K-2, nearly half of teacher responses focused on procedures for solving addition or subtraction problems rather than underlying concepts. Across all grade levels, the vast majority of teacher responses were procedural, focusing on what the student did to solve the problem rather than commenting on the student’s underlying conceptual understanding. This work — and its emphasis on evaluating students’ conceptual understanding — could begin to help improve how we better prepare teachers, provide professional development, and evaluate teacher effectiveness. (Consortium for Policy Research in Education — CPRE)

Testing for Deeper Learning in the Common Core
Anticipating that the Common Core State Standards may increase assessment of deeper learning, researchers looked at six national and international tests which were generally more cognitively demanding than state achievement tests. Their findings will serve as a benchmark to compare the cognitive demands of new Common Core tests under development by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. (Rand)

State of American School Infrastructure
According to this First Look at America's public school facilities, the average age of instructional buildings is 44 years, and 53 percent of public schools need to spend money on repairs and renovations to put the school's buildings in good overall condition. (National Center for Education Statistics)

How States Use Student Learning Objectives in Teacher Evaluation
One way to measure teacher impact is with student learning objectives (SLOs) — an alternative to the more generally used value-added modeling with standardized test scores, which may not be available or appropriate for all teachers and subjects. This report presents information on the use of SLOs in 30 states and aims to inform policymakers involved in creating or supporting the use of evaluation systems that include SLOs. (IES/REL- Northeast & Islands)


March 5, 2014

New from ECS

Safe Schools
School safety policies are constantly evolving, often in response to fatal events. After several high-profile and tragic shootings over the past 15 years, school safety has become a major focus for parents, school officials, policymakers and the public nationwide. ECS conducted a scan of school safety-related laws passed in 2013 legislative sessions to better understand trends in policy. This report highlights the ongoing efforts of lawmakers to provide students with safe places to learn.

Students with Mental Health Problems
ECS surveyed enacted legislation from the 2013 legislative sessions to capture the ongoing work of lawmakers on the need to address mental health issues in educational settings. This report provides summaries of 17 bills from 13 states that illustrate the diversity of mental health-related legislation passed in 2013 legislative sessions. In addition, it highlights other ECS resources related to mental health and suicide prevention.

Service-Learning May Influence Attendance, Performance
In its fifth Schools of Success report, the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement looked at the relationships between students' participation in service-learning and academic performance and school attendance. Overall, students who participated in service-learning did not have higher attendance levels than comparison students who did not participate in service-learning. However, there were notable exceptions.

What States Are Doing

Challenge: Prepare Students to Be Ready for College, Career
Minnesota renewed its determination to create a career- and college-ready workforce with a set of recommendations for the legislature. Chief among them is that every student have a career plan that would include course taking, career assessment information showing interests and aspirations, post-secondary plans aligned to career goals, financial planning strategies for postsecondary education and training, and ongoing documentation of career and college readiness skills. That plan must be electronic, portable and universally designed. (Minnesota Career Pathways and Technical Education Advisory Task Force)

Lock Those Doors!
To build local capacity to assess safety and security threats and to capture a snapshot of the state's school vulnerabilities, Idaho adapted a multi-hazard threat assessment and applied it to 74 randomly selected schools. Among their findings was that in 71 of 74 schools, unauthorized entrance to the school was achieved through an entryway other than the main entrance. In 66 schools, multiple points of entry were available. In 71 cases, the kitchen door was not secured. In 29 secondary schools, a gym door was propped open.

Good Reads

Not for Selling Snacks or Games
Students' privacy protection guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education seek to help schools and districts take advantage of rapidly evolving learning technology while not jeopardizing the privacy of students who use it. The advice is non-binding but comes amidst an atmosphere of growing urgency over the issue with several state and federal legislators poised to introduce legislation. A baseline standard is that student information should only be used for educational purposes, not to sell snacks or video games.  (Privacy Technical Assistance Center)

State of the States' Early Childhood Data Systems
Most states cannot answer basic questions about their own children: are they on track to succeed in school, do they have access to quality early care, is the early care workforce adequately trained? Data on young children are in multiple, uncoordinated systems. Based on a survey of 50 states and the District of Columbia, analysts concluded that in 49 states and the District of Columbia, data on children across different programs aren't linked. Only Pennsylvania can link across systems. (Early Childhood Data Collaborative)

What Works in Prevention, Intervention for Children with Reading Difficulties?
Eight years of IES-funded research into prevention and remediation of reading difficulties yields ways to identify and help children before their problems become entrenched. IES identified critical component skills that support proficient reading, found ways to assess these skills and developed and tested interventions for children at risk of developing reading difficulties, including children who are deaf or hard of hearing or those who have intellectual disabilities. (Institute of Education Sciences)

Why Some Degrees Pay Better than Others
While much has been written about the earnings gap between those who have only a high school diploma compared to those who have a four-year degree, this brief explores variations among individuals, types of credentials, occupations and geographical locations. It emphasizes the advantage of degrees beyond high school but recognizes not all outcomes are advantageous. Also, to focus on recent college grads may lead to an underestimation of the returns. (Urban Institute)


Feb. 26, 2014

New from ECS

Interstate Bank Deregulation and College Choice
A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research examines how credit conditions, an individual's ability to benefit from college and a family's financial and educational circumstances combine to shape college decisions. Research findings show that interstate bank deregulation that lowered interest rates boosted the probability that individuals with particular abilities and family traits attend college. (New to the ECS Database)

What States Are Doing

On-Time Graduation Is Exception, not Rule
Indiana's Commission for Higher Education released a college completion report last week that found on-time completion is the exception, not the rule. Less than one in 10 students finishes a two-year degree in two years, and three out of 10 students finish a four-year degree in four years. An extra year could cost a Hoosier student $50,000 in extra tuition, lost wages and related costs, according to the report. 

Model Plan for Safe Schools
This month, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee released a Model School Safety Plan that incorporates best practices and state requirements that school districts can adopt or modify to meet their needs. Components included mitigation and prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

How to Watch Schools Progress
Summary reports of teacher and administrator performance for the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years have been made available by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. They are intended to be a resource for parents, educators and community members to evaluate schools and districts, according to the department's press release, which links to the reports. It establishes a clear baseline for observing progress in educator effectiveness. The reports do not include information on individual teachers or administrators.

Good Reads

Assessing Virtual Schools
In assessing progress and accountability in virtual schools, a new report concludes that the same protocol should be followed for all schools: focus on outcomes and track student growth throughout the year. Because students may be highly mobile, use on-demand assessments and because they may be overage and under-credited, schools should create accountability systems that are rigorous but sensible, according to the report. The report adds that schools should make sure student data can be portable from school to school and that positive and negative consequences attached to performance be ramped up. (National Charter School Resource Center)

Does Corrections Education Pay?
More than 2 million adults are incarcerated in the United States. Annually, 700,000 of them leave state and federal prisons but 40 percent will have returned within three years. A contributing factor is their lack of education: 37 percent didn't have a high school diploma in 2004 and 16.5 percent had only a high school diploma. Researchers found inmates who participated in education programs had a 43 percent lower chance of recidivating, a considerable savings on re-incarceration costs. Authors of this report offer other findings, conclusions, key trends and recommendations. (Rand Education and the Bureau of Justice Assistance)

Put African Americans and Hispanics on the Engineering Pathway
Some 690,000 engineering jobs will open by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the United States cannot supply all the engineering talent it needs to remain at the forefront of innovation without students of color.  Detailing this looming issue are a brief and an infographic from Vital Signs, a series of reports on the condition of STEM learning in the country. (Change the Equation)

Performance Funding I and II
Over the years, 32 states have implemented some form of performance funding. This brief distinguishes between PF1.0, which involves a bonus on top of regular state funding, and PF2.0, which typically retains enrollments as one funding driver. Based on studies of PF1.0 (PF2.0 is still in its early days), performance funding  led to changes intended to improve student outcomes, but those changes didn't work. The brief reviews obstacles and unintended impacts, then offers possible solutions. (Community College Research Center)

Community Colleges' Economic Impact
In 2012, the net total impact of community colleges on the U.S. economy was $809 billion in added income, equal to 5.4 percent of GDP. Over time, the U.S. economy will see greater economic benefits, including $285.7 billion in increased tax revenue as students earn higher wages and $19.2 billion in taxpayer savings as students require fewer safety net services, experience better health and lower rates of crime, according to this report. For every one dollar a student spends on his or her community college education, he or she sees a return on investment of $3.80. (American Association of Community Colleges, February 2014)


February 19, 2014

New from ECS

Rapid Growth of Virtual Charters
A rapidly growing number of virtual charter schools is forcing states to re-evaluate their school finance formulas, with several opting to pay less per student to fund these cyber charters. An ECS analysis of this new type of public education, which delivers 100 percent of courses online, outlines key funding differences between virtual schools and traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

States Grapple with Autism's Rising Tide
Autism Spectrum Disorders are the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. As states have struggled to respond to the phenomenon, they have formed task forces, created pilot programs and launched resource and support services. This report highlights some of what states are doing to address the issue.

Effective Leadership
Scholars have long argued that principals should be instructional leaders, but few studies have empirically linked specific instructional leadership behaviors to school performance. This study  examines the associations between leadership behaviors and student achievement gains using a unique data source: in-person, full-day observations of approximately 100 urban principals collected over three school years. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

School WATCH Act
To improve access to school financial data in Pennsylvania using the Internet, the legislature passed a bill requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Education to post annual financial statements and final budgets of districts, charter schools, regional charter schools, cyber charter schools and area vocational-technical schools. It is called the Public School Web Accountability and Transparency (School WATCH) Act.

Good Reads

Public Charter Schools Grow in Number
Approximately 600 new public charter schools opened in the school year 2013-14, adding 288,000 students to the charter school roster; 200 closed. Using information from state departments of education, this brief estimates there are now 6,400 public schools enrolling 2.5 million students nationwide. (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

AP Moves Forward with Better Access and Higher Scores
Advanced Placement has increasingly broadened high school students' access to higher education and more of them are scoring high enough on the AP tests to get college credit. In the 10th Annual Report to the Nation, the news is that the number of students who've taken AP classes has nearly doubled in the past decade, and the number of low-income students taking AP has more than quadrupled. (College Board)

How Much Do Superintendents Make?
The 2013 Superintendents Salary and Benefits Study is out, and superintendents will be interested to see where they stand on the salary spectrum. Male superintendents outnumber females by slightly more than three to one, but in most cases, females have a slightly higher median income. Nearly half of respondents view their districts as economically stable, while more than four in 10 believe their districts are in decline. (AASA, The School Superintendents Association)

Don’t Blame Faculty for Rising Cost of Higher Ed
Assuming that higher education's workforce must be considered in any analysis of skyrocketing costs, this report looks at employment changes over the past two decades. While the education workforce grew by 28 percent, higher education's growth was in administrative jobs and new professional positions, rather than executive and managerial positions. Colleges and universities invested in professional jobs that provide noninstructional  student services, not just business support. Meanwhile the number of faculty and staff per administrator continued to decline. Part-time faculty and graduate assistants account for at least half of instructional staff.  (Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research)

School Discipline Law
In response to the U.S. departments of Education and Justice release last month of a voluminous compendium of U.S. laws relating to discipline, here is an analysis of that compendium, exploring commonalities and recent trends. The report analyzes rules on truant students, the ability of teachers to remove students, policies concerning suspension or expulsion and more. (AASA, the School Superintendents Association)

Can Good Principal Supervisors Make a Difference?
The Wallace Foundation is launching a $24 million initiative to finance more training and support for principal supervisors in up to six large urban districts. Wallace will also support an independent $2.5 million study to help answer such questions as whether and how boosting the supervisor post leads to more effective principals. Also, if principal supervisors in large, complex districts shift from overseeing compliance to sharpening principals' instructional leadership, and if they are provided with enough training, support and number of principals to supervise, would this improve principal effectiveness?

Wider Earnings Gap between College-Educated, Less-Educated Millennials
The cost of not going to college is going up, according to this brief.  There's a wider earnings gap between college-educated and less-educated millennials compared to previous generations, and those grads are more satisfied with their jobs.  College majors matter. Science and engineering grads are most likely to say their current job is closely related to their field of study and least likely to say that a different major would have better prepared them for the job they wanted. Here's the full report. (Pew Research Center)

Latino Higher Education Success
Examples of Excelencia in Education is the national data-driven initiative focused on identifying and recognizing programs or departments with evidence-based practices that increase Latino student success in higher education. Nominations are being accepted through April 25 for such programs; winners will receive $5,000, recognition at the annual Celebracion de Excelencia on Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., and an invitation to serve on a plenary panel the day after the Celebracion.


February 12, 2014

New from ECS

Increasing Access, Success in Dual Enrollment
ECS identified 13 model state-level policy components to increase student participation and success in dual enrollment programs. These components fall under four broad categories: access, finance, ensuring course quality and transferability of credit. Highlights of state laws containing these components are incorporated throughout this report.

What States Are Doing

The Local Control Funding Formula, Explained
California opts for more local control, greater transparency and fairness with its new school finance system. Districts will each get a base grant plus additional funds for students with greater educational needs — low income, English learner and foster youth students. Here is a comprehensive look at the formula, including a quick primer, 10 FAQs, a full explanation of how it works, implementation timeline and additional resources. (EdSource)

Retaining Third Graders
Oklahoma's Superintendent Janet Barresi provides a replicable model for communicating clearly with families about potential retention of third graders who don't meet reading proficiencies. Barresi points out retention is a last resort, offers examples of good-cause exemptions and writes that a child's inability to read could translate into academic struggles, limited opportunity and a lower quality of life.

Good Reads

Where Are We with STEM?
The good news is that interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is high — almost half of high school students tested expressed an interest and/or revealed a STEM affinity in an interest inventory, according to this national study. Of concern is the 8.5 percent of students with a STEM affinity who have no interest in pursuing a STEM major. Math and science achievement levels were highest among those students who had both expressed an interest and showed an affinity in the interest inventory. Here is an interactive map to check out individual state results. (ACT)

Dos and Don'ts for Extraordinary Authority Districts
For states considering new EADs — Extraordinary Authority Districts in which states gain legal authority to take over and operate underperforming schools or districts – early implementation states offer insights into takeover authority, funding and operations, and long-term viability. They are Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Tennessee. For those in the midst of implementation, advice is offered on best strategies for school operations, central office design, nonprofit partner roles, school selection and exit strategy. (Public Impact)

Sexual Abuse by School Personnel
Ways and means to prevent sexual abuse by school personnel vary widely across the states and from district to district. Among the variables found are the nature of background checks, awareness and prevention training, and reporting requirements. Recommendations include joint efforts by the U.S. departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services to disseminate information to the states and to identify a way to track abuse prevalence. For policy-related actions, see the ECS State Policy Tracking Database: Background Checks and School Safety—Sexual Harassment and Assault. (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

Paying for Longer School Days and Years
With new research and examples of how increased learning time can yield better outcomes, more schools are looking to join the 1,500 that have gone down that path. But how to pay for it? This brief identifies five district schools that answer key questions: 1). How much do schools pay for expanded time, specifically how much per hour and per student? 2). How are costs allocated across categories of school expenditures? 3). What are key sources of funding to cover each model? 4). What are the benefits for teaching and learning? (National Center for Time and Learning and The Wallace Foundation)

Streamlining Teacher Evaluation
In response to complaints of inefficiency and burdensome costs, many states and districts have begun to alter their original, one-size-fits-all evaluation processes to bring greater quality and efficiency to their evaluation systems. For example, Tennessee and others replaced their original approaches with more differentiated models, using past performance data to determine which teachers should be evaluated with more or less intensity in following evaluation cycles. (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching)

Building Guided Pathways to Completion
New postsecondary students often enroll with no idea what to study or why. Those students who embark on a defined program the first year are much more likely to complete a degree or move on to a four-year institution than students who don't enter a program until the second year or later. This paper describes how a growing number of colleges and universities have redesigned academic programs and support services to create guided pathways and increase the rate at which students enter and complete. (Community College Research Center)

Upcoming Webinar

Dual Enrollment State Policies
A Thursday webinar, "Dual Enrollment: The Role of Policy in Promoting Quality Pathways to Postsecondary Success," focuses on how state policies impact dual enrollment, national trends and model policy components. Resources and on-the-ground experiences will be shared. Presenters include ECS Senior Policy Analyst Jennifer Dounay Zinth, National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships Executive Director Adam Lowe, Vermont Department of Education Deputy Commissioner John Fischer and Vermont Community College President Joyce Judy. Register here.


January 29, 2014

Correction: In an announcement about recruiting American Indian students for college, last week’s e-Connection should have said South Dakota instead of North Dakota.

New from ECS

First-Year College Dropouts
A recent study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research uses a new, dynamic model to understand factors other than financial constraints that contribute to a student's decision to drop out of college. NBER's study attributes 45% of the dropout that occurs in the first year of college to what students learn about their academic performance. To learn more about the policy implications, check out the study here. (New to the ECS Database)

Answers to the Top 5 Questions of 2013
ECS analysts field questions every day on topics from preschool to postsecondary and beyond, with callers ranging from harried legislative staffers to anxious parents. Kathy Christie and Jennifer Dounay Zinth, co-directors of the ECS Information Clearinghouse, compiled the top five questions they received in 2013:

  • No. 5: How many states require Algebra 2 for graduation?
  • No. 4: Are more states dropping high school exit exams in favor of end-of-course exams?
  • No. 3: Which states assign letter grades to schools?
  • No. 2: Are states using student achievement in evaluating teachers?
  • No. 1: How does our state funding formula stack up nationally?
  • Bonus (top question from parents): When can kids start kindergarten?

And the answers are. …

Math and Science Teacher Turnover
Few educational issues have received more attention in the past two decades than the challenge of staffing classrooms with qualified math and science teachers. One of the most prominent explanations focuses on teacher shortages, but less attention has been paid to the role of turnover. According to this study, and contrary to conventional wisdom, turnover rates for math and science teachers have not been consistently different than those of other teachers. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

Service-Learning as a Graduation Requirement
An update of state policies on service-learning showed that only Maryland and the District of Columbia require high school students to complete a specified number of hours in a service-learning or community-service activity to graduate. The policy scan was conducted to determine the degree to which service-learning has been institutionalized in the states.

What States Are Doing

Attracting Veterans
Iowa created a working group to find ways to make the state more welcoming to veterans leaving the armed services. Launched by Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, the task force is to: see how consistently veteran/students get academic credit for their military training or experience, develop strategies at Iowa's three universities and 15 community colleges to recruit veterans and promote educational benefits provided to veterans at each institution, and create a data plan to track enrolled veterans and those awarded credit for military training. Veterans, their spouses, and dependents get in-state tuition at Iowa universities, and this month the State Board of Education extended that policy to community colleges.

Bringing Curriculum to Life
To create innovative programs and partnerships linking rigorous academic standards to career pathways, the California Department of Education launched Career Pathways Trust fund. With $250 million allocated in the 2013-14 legislative session, the Department invited grant applicants—including school districts, county education offices, charter schools, and community college districts—to create sustained career pathway programs that connect businesses, K-12 schools, and community colleges. The idea is to make education meaningful, keep kids in school, and further economic growth.

Good Reads

How Are the Children?
Five years after the height of the Great Recession, the authors of "Subprime Learning" looked at an array of indicators in policy, funding, family well-being, and achievement for children from birth through third grade. The analysis shows progress in home-visiting programs, infrastructure-building, standards, and accountability across many states and federal policies. It also shows, however, more child poverty, a dearth of attention to the growing population of dual-language learners, and widening achievement gaps between rich and poor. (New America Education Policy Program)

Not a Lot of Evidence on What Works in Math Teacher Professional Development
Of 643 studies conducted in the United States related to professional development interventions for teachers of K-12 math, researchers found only five met the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse standards with or without reservations. Of those five, two showed positive effects on students' math proficiency. REL Southeast researchers concluded that there is limited evidence to guide districts and schools in selecting an approach or to support developers' claims. (National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, REL Southeast)


January 22, 2014

New from ECS

Segregation of English Language Learners in Texas
Despite two decades of high-stakes testing and accountability as systemic reforms, Texas English-language learners (ELL) continue to be segregated. The authors suggest several possible reasons: residential segregation in urban neighborhoods and—increasingly—suburban neighborhoods, as well as segregation in race, poverty, and language proficiency. (New to the ECS Research Database)

Proven Practices for Civic Learning
The National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement at ECS created a guidebook to serve as a resource—a what's next?—for teachers, administrators, policymakers, and other education leaders who want to put the "Six Proven Practices for Effective Civic Learning" in place but are not sure how to begin.

College-Student Mismatches
A new study reports that a majority of students are mismatched in college—the quality of the college they attend does not match their academic ability. Mismatch has implications for the design of state higher education systems and for student aid policy. Learn more here. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What Is Accommodation?
Schools must use teaching accommodations to help students with emotional behavior disorders (EBDs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to achieve their educational goals. However, researchers looked at numerous research studies about different types of accommodation strategies and found little evidence that commonly used accommodations are effective. (New to the ECS Research Database)

What States Are Doing

Recruiting American Indian Students
Indians are a growing demographic in South Dakota, and the state's Board of Regents made Indian recruitment and success in academia a priority for public universities. A focus group of 49 American Indian undergraduates said that financial challenges, lack of mentorship, fear of leaving home and family, and fears of culture shock and alienation were holding back would-be college students. Recommendations for improved access and success included better outreach to high schools, more grant aid, expanded Indian centers, and developing services that better reflect the family-centered orientation of tribal life.

Performance Funding Metrics
A performance funding model developed by the Board of Governors for Florida universities begins in 2014-15 and includes seven metrics which will be used to determine allotment of state funds.  Measured by excellence or improvement, the metrics are: percentage of bachelor's degree graduates employed and/or continuing their educations, average wages of employed graduates, cost per undergraduate degree, six-year graduation rate, second-year retention rate with GPA above 2.0, bachelor's degrees awarded in areas of strategic emphasis (including STEM), and access rate (percentage of Pell grant students).

Teacher Preparation Program Performance
Ohio's 51 teacher-preparation programs get an annual performance report and the second in a series has just been released by the Board of Regents. While the reports do not include a ranking of programs or assign a letter grade, regents use the metrics for performance review and approval. Prospective students, parents, education advocates, policymakers and teacher-preparation faculty can glean valuable information about graduate teachers and principals, including: number of field/clinical experience hours required, a survey of teachers concerning the quality of their preparation, and value-added data representing 68% of teachers of reading and math in grades 4-8.

Good Reads

Upping College Readiness
When states crank out Common Core assessments—or similar tests—a lot of 11th graders are going to find out they're not college ready and, barring some kind of intervention, are headed for remedial college classes which are expensive and offer no credit. This two-page brief, based on a longer study, discusses potential ways to help students avoid that costly, unrewarding path. Some states, districts, and schools already offer 12th-grade transition classes, but of the 38 states who assess college readiness in some way, not all provide an intervention. Transition curricula are offered in 29 states; of these, eight are statewide initiatives. (Community College Resources Center)

Truancy Crisis
To be smart on crime, combating truancy must be a core goal of California public safety policy, argue the authors of this study on truancy and absenteeism in that state. One out of five elementary school students—691,470—were reported truant in the 2011-12 school year. Statewide, 38% of all truant students were elementary school children. Estimates for 2013 indicated 1 million elementary school children were truant, 83,000 chronically truant—missing 10% or more of the school year. Levels of intervention and recommendations for stakeholders are identified. Print selectively—it’s 158 pages. (California Attorney General)

Districts' Response to Waivers
Analysts looked at district-level responses to Massachusetts' February 2012 waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, a waiver that included greater flexibility with Title I funds. Districts took the opportunity to support low-income students and turn around under-performing schools by extending instructional time through longer school days and years and summer programming. Also, they used new monies to hire data coaches to better identify low-performing students and schools or paid for teachers to learn data analysis. (Rennie Center)


January 15, 2014

New from ECS

State School Accountability 'Report Cards'
More than a dozen states will assign A-F letter grades to schools by 2015, among the trends highlighted in a first-of-its-kind database published today by the Education Commission of the States. The online database shows which indicators states are considering in gauging school performance and how state leaders are publicly reporting on that performance to parents and others.

Banner Year for Pre-K Funding
State funding for pre-K increased by $363.6 million to a total of $5.6 billion in the 2013-14 fiscal year, in most cases surpassing pre-recession levels, an ECS analysis found. Of 40 states with pre-K programs mostly for 4-year-olds, 30 states and the District of Columbia increased funding. Three states decreased spending, but by no more than 7.3%. Mississippi made a $3 million first-time investment in pre-K, while Massachusetts nearly doubled its budget to address the waiting list of low-income children.

Do Charter Schools 'Push Out' Low-Performing Students?
As publicly funded schools, charter schools are expected to serve all types of students; however, there has been concern that not only do charters lure the best students away from traditional public schools, but they "push out" the lowest achieving students. This study finds that low-performing students are neither more nor less likely to transfer out of charter schools than out of traditional schools. (New to the ECS Research Database)

What States Are Doing

Student Fees Hike the Cost of Public Higher Education
A resolution directed the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study the cost efficiency of the Commonwealth's institutions of higher education and to identify opportunities to reduce the cost of public higher education in Virginia. This is the second (released September 2013) of a series of reports. One finding: "Between 2001 and 2011, auxiliary enterprise spending (intercollegiate athletics, recreation, student housing and dining) was the largest single contributor to spending increases at Virginia's institutions." A recommendation: institutions clearly list the amount of the athletic fee on their website's tuition and fees page. Print selectively; it's 150 pages.

Does Your State Check Up on Implementation?
Minnesota commissioned a statewide survey to determine where schools were in implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, also known as Response to Intervention. All schools were invited to participate. Surveyors got a 46% response and found that most participating schools implemented at least some of the critical features.

Physically Healthier, but More Depressed
Maine youth in grades 5-12 reported in a biannual anonymous survey that they were making healthier choices—like smoking and drinking less—but increasingly they struggle with thoughts of sadness and hopelessness, according to this release from the Department of Education. At the 7th and 8th grade level, 16.8% said they'd considered suicide; at the high school level, it was 14.6%. In 2013, Governor Paul R. LePage signed a law requiring school staff to participate in suicide prevention training. Though 85% to 89.1% of students said they felt safe in school, depending on their grade, about half the students in grades 5 through 8 and a quarter of high school students reported being bullied, an increase over 2011.

New Funding Formula Will Consider Poverty
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley unveiled a state plan for reforming public education that will cost around $160 million, most of which would come from additional tax revenue expected this year. The proposal includes consolidating funding for several programs, adopting a 3rd grade retention policy while dramatically increasing investment in reading coaches and summer reading camps, improving schools' bandwidth and computing devices, paying 10 additional teachers in the state Virtual Schools program, adopting a funding formula that factors in poverty and investing in the state’s charter school facilities loan program, established in 2012 but never funded.

Good Reads

Restraint and Seclusion Rates Much Higher for Students with a Disability
Across school districts there were 2.6 instances of restraint for every 100 students with a disability for the 2009-10 school year compared to 0.1 instances for students without a disability, researchers found, using data from the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection and the 2009 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. The majority of U.S. school districts do not restrain or seclude students with a disability. However, low-poverty, low-diversity districts use restraint and seclusion more than twice as often as high-poverty, high-diversity districts. The authors conclude, "One compelling explanation for the tremendous range in rates of restraint and seclusion is profound differences in policy." (Carsey Institute)

Whatever Happened to Those Kids?
Ten years after they were high school sophomores, those who'd gotten at least a bachelor's degree were less likely to have lost a job since January 2006 (19%) than those with only a high school credential (40%). In a longitudinal study shedding light on how key markers affect life outcomes, researchers also found that among those who began their postsecondary education within three months of high school completion, 42% had earned a bachelor's degree by 2012; among those who began their postsecondary education 13 or more months following high school completion, 6% had earned a bachelor's degree by 2012. (National Center for Education Statistics)

School Improvement Grants' Impact
To get an idea of the impact from federal School Improvement Grants, researchers compared low-performing schools that got the grants with similar schools that didn't. They looked at three inter-related levers for school improvement: decision-making power, state and district support for turnaround, and state monitoring. In almost all operational areas, they found less than half of both groups reported having primary responsibility for decision making. Most states, districts and schools reported providing or receiving some turnaround support, and most states reported that monitoring involved site visits and analysis of student data. (Mathematica Policy Research)


January 8, 2014

New from ECS

Top 5 Questions Fielded by the ECS Information Clearinghouse
Analysts at the Education Commission of the States' Information Clearinghouse field questions every day on education topics from preschool to postsecondary and beyond. Over a year's time, the questions provide a sense of what's trending across the country, from the Statehouse to the playground, with callers ranging from harried legislative staffers to anxious parents. So what was hot in 2013? Kathy Christie and Jennifer Dounay Zinth, co-directors of the Clearinghouse, compiled the top five questions they received.

One in 10 Students in U.S. Schools Is an English Language Learner
The latest issue of the Progress of Education Reform explores the research and data underscoring the urgency of better serving the growing English-language learner (ELL) population and highlights research and approaches that may inform state responses.

How Good Are Home Language Surveys?
Most states require some form of state- or district-created Home Language Survey (HLS) for determining English-language learner status of students. To date, however, there is little evidence about the validity of HLS as a method for identifying potential English language learners. For instance, the number and phrasing of HLS screening items varies widely and may or may not provide valid and reliable information, raising issues of equity. Because of the fundamental role these surveys play, their use and the instruments themselves need further scrutiny. This study concludes with recommendations for federal- and state-level action. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Statewide Math and Science Initiative Expands AP Participation
Kentucky students who enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses as part of the AdvanceKentucky initiative earned more qualifying scores on AP math, science and English exams compared to students taking the same AP courses nationwide, according to a release from the Kentucky Department of Education. A statewide math and science program, AdvanceKentucky expanded participation in AP, especially among traditionally underserved and underrepresented students. Qualifying AP scores can earn a high school student college credit.

Improving Math Remediation
In Massachusetts, 60 percent of community college students, 22 percent of state university students and 10 percent of students at the University of Massachusetts must take at least one remedial course, most often math. So the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted to encourage campuses to improve remedial math education and to design academic pathways, including math sequences, for different groups of majors: social sciences, liberal arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Last fall, the board voted to allow campuses to use high school GPAs in lieu of placement exams because they are better predictors of college-level math readiness.

More In-Class Teacher Preparation
Louisiana launched a plan that would put future teachers into classrooms for longer periods of time. Teacher candidates now are required to spend only one hour a day in a classroom for a school year. Believe and Prepare will fund innovative approaches to educator preparation, including preparation programs designed and led by schools or districts; redesigned coursework that takes place through apprenticeships; and partnerships between schools, districts and preparation programs that lead to co-designed and co-led courses of study for prospective teachers and leaders. Five grants of up to $150,000 will be awarded.

Good Reads

Everything You Need to Know about Common Core Aligned Assessments
This primer on Common Core assessment is for state policymakers, advocates, educators and other stakeholders who are transitioning to new systems that measure student achievement under the new standards. Goals of the Common Core are explained as well as how those goals affect the new assessments. Comparisons are made with current state tests, ACT Aspire, PARCC and SBAC. (Education First)

How School Accountability Changed in States with Waivers
States with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers are using school accountability systems based on relative rather than absolute measures of performance, according to this report. Waivers allowed thousands of schools to be removed from "corrective action" lists. The author argues that NCLB's measures and methods to identify low-performing schools weren't very good ones and recommends research to discover if waiver implementation really is improving school, educator and student performance. (New America Education Policy Program)

From Early Childhood to High School, What Predicts Postsecondary Success?
Intended to help policymakers and educators identify qualities that predict postsecondary success, this brief summarizes research on the subject from early childhood to high school. At the lower levels, predictors mostly leapfrogged to achievement at higher levels—for example, kindergarten readiness correlating with 3rd-grade reading proficiency. At the high school level, there were numerous indicators and predictors reflecting a breadth of research. (American Institutes for Research)

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