Education

On Thursday, Nov. 20 a group of state legislators and education officials met with staff from the White House Intergovernmental Affairs and representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.  An update on the Administration's priorities, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and critical early education initiatives were discussed.

The language of workforce development is changing and the federal government’s shift in focus presents both some big opportunities and challenges for states. In July, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act—also known as WIOA. It was a reauthorization of the legislation formerly known as the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The act requires regional and statewide collaboration between workforce development programs, industry leaders and educators. Each state will be required, beginning July 1, 2016, to submit a four-year unified strategy that identifies skills gaps with employers and how the state is going to close those gaps.

by Leon T. Andrews, Jr.
President Obama in February launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that focuses on improving outcomes and opportunities for boys and young men of color. My Brother’s Keeper is not a new government program, but an initiative that builds on the momentum in communities across the country to improve life outcomes for boys and men of color.

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Compare the overall test scores or graduation rates of students in the Midwest to the rest of the nation’s, and most states in this region fare quite well — sometimes even at or near the top of U.S. rankings. That certainly is the case for Minnesota, a high-performing state on traditional measures of student achievement. But as Greg Keith, director of school support for the Minnesota Department of Education, notes, that level of achievement is far from uniform among different groups of students.

“We could look at our overall scores and say, ‘We’re in the top five [in the nation], so we’re doing it right,’” he says. “It takes a whole change in our mindset to understand we have to do better for our underserved kids.”

Closing the achievement gap — between white and minority students or low-income and higher-income students, for example — is a top priority right now of Minnesota legislators and school administrators alike.

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Teachers in Iowa are getting a chance at more leadership positions and higher pay under a new system that began to be implemented this year. State legislators established the Teacher Leadership and Compensation system in 2013. When fully in place (in 2016), the system will cost the state $150 million a year. Close to 40 Iowa school districts were selected to participate in 2014

President Barack Obama in July signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is designed to help individuals seeking employment access the needed education, training and support services to be successful in the labor market. This complimentary CSG eCademy session offers an overview of the federal law and its impact on states and explores innovative career pathway programs currently in place.

When North Dakota parents hit the polls on Election Day they will cast their vote on Measure 8, the North Dakota School Year Begins After Labor Day Initiative.  Voters will determine whether or not public school classes will begin after Labor Day.  

The Washington Supreme Court ruled the state wasn't meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education in the 2012 case McCleary v. State of Washington.  The legislature was instructed to provide billions of dollars of additional funding by the 2017/18 school year.  Estimates show the cost to the state is approximately $3.4 billion with an even higher cost to local school districts.  On the November statewide ballot the citizens will decide one piece of the puzzle by determining if class sizes should be reduced prompting a need to hire an additional 15,000 teachers.

Missouri voters will vote on Tuesday on a constitutional amendment requiring school districts to implement new performance evaluations for teachers. Though individual districts would have some freedom in developing evaluation mechanisms, the proposed amendment mandates that a majority of the evaluation must be comprised of quantifiable student growth measures. In other words, Missouri teachers would be evaluated mostly on the performance of their students on end-of-year tests, a practice that has gained national traction among lawmakers and spurred criticism from teacher unions.

On October 1-3, 2014, the Policy Academy on Using Education Data to Improve Workforce Development brought together stakeholders from key states to facilitate discussion about the potential benefits of engaging with the research community when enacting and implementing state policy. The goal was to engage in nonpartisan conversation to utilize education data in creating effective policy to help students graduate with the skills to be workforce-ready.  

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