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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.


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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