K-12 Education

While technology has opened new doors for teachers, the use of innovative technology in the classroom has resulted in the collection of sensitive student data. Many state lawmakers are now acting to secure vulnerable student information, while also allowing for the educational edge technology provides.

CSG Midwest
Three big developments in education finance occurred in the Midwest over the past few months — a major state Supreme Court ruling in Kansas, a new school-funding formula in Illinois, and a change in the retirement plans for Michigan teachers. Here is a brief look at what happened in each state.
CSG Midwest
Before state education officials sent off Minnesota’s plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act to the federal government, Rep. Sondra Erickson wanted to make sure one important constituency got the chance to hear about it and weigh in. That group was the state’s legislators, who four years earlier had revamped how Minnesota evaluates school performance.
The Legislature dubbed this new system the “World’s Best Workforce,” which focuses on getting students ready for success in the K-12 system (all third-graders reading at grade level, for example) and for life after high school. It measures the progress of each of the state’s schools in four main areas — standardized test scores, the closing of achievement gaps, college and career readiness, and graduation rates.
“What was important to me was that our system for federal accountability [under the ESSA] align with our existing state accountability system,” says Erickson, chair of the Minnesota House Education Innovation Policy Committee. “We don’t want to have teachers, parents and students conflicted.”
To that end, Erickson not only requested a legislative hearing on the ESSA in the 2017 omnibus education bill (HF 2), she included statutory language that the implementation plan be “consistent and aligned, to the extent practicable,” with World’s Best Workforce.
Erickson likes what she learned about the plan, saying it will provide for “continuity and consistency.”
A central tenet of the 2015 federal law was to give states more flexibility on education policy, and the ESSA has not supplanted changes made by states to their accountability systems. Instead, state ESSA plans mostly incorporate some of the new federal requirements (such as accounting for progress made by English language learners and including a measure of “school quality”) into their accountability systems.
CSG Midwest
In the coming years, the Midwest’s legislators are likely to hear much more about and be asked to act on a range of issues surrounding education accountability.
How well are elementary and middle schools doing on our state’s measures of academic growth among all students, at all learning levels? Are our high schools adequately preparing young people for success in college and/or careers? Do our schools provide for a well-rounded education and a climate conducive to learning? How prevalent is chronic absenteeism among our state’s students, and what policies can reduce it? What type of state interventions have helped turn around the lowest-performing schools? These issues aren’t new, and certainly policymakers have tried to tackle them in the past, but they will get even more attention because of the Every Student Succeeds Act and, in particular, new state plans in this region to implement it.
This 2015 federal law (along with some of the waivers granted to states under its federal predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act) has ushered in a new era in the state-federal relationship on education — more flexibility for states, including new options for evaluating schools and intervening in low-performing ones.
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Ohio Representative Bob Cupp is addressing the pervasive issue of achieving better academic results for children in low-income households through a legislative task force. In July, Representative Cupp established the Ohio Education-Poverty Task Force to review policies that could lessen the effect of the achievement gap between low income students and their wealthier counterparts, and help students from all schools succeed. The ten-member task force hopes to generate information that will be useful in the Ohio General Assembly’s discussions on education policy, and to derive some proven strategies that can be practically implemented by state policy.

While STEM education has captured policymakers’ attention, few states have taken a systemic approach to STEM policymaking to ensure program coordination, reach, sustainability and return on investment. However, a few states have taken strides to establish statewide coordination, adequate and reliable funding, and evaluation. Those states have demonstrated results, including increased recruitment of female and minority students. Public-private partnerships and structures to formalize the role of business and industry in developing and implementing STEM programs are additional means to enhance these efforts and ensure alignment with employment trends.

CSG South

A vital tool for policymakers across the region, Comparative Data Reports (CDRs) offer a snapshot of conditions on a number of issues. Published annually, the CDRs track a multitude of revenue sources, appropriations levels, and performance measures in Southern states, and provide a useful tool to state government officials and staff.

CSG Midwest
One high school in North Dakota might want to launch a “technology academy” where its 12th-graders intern and earn credits toward graduation at a nearby Microsoft campus. Another school could change the way it awards credits, moving away from required “seat time” and toward a model based on students’ mastery of the subject area or on their practical learning experiences. Or perhaps some middle schools would like to create “accelerated learning environments,” where students can earn high school credits in subjects such as 
Algebra I.
Whatever the idea, if it has the potential to advance education, the North Dakota legislature wants to make sure the state’s statutes and regulations aren’t standing in the way, Sen. Nicole Poolman says.
Charters

The Trump administration is making school choice expansion a cornerstone of their education policy. In a recent speech, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promised “the most ambitious expansion of school choice in our nation’s history.” Charters and other school choice options are...

CSG South

This SLC Regional Resource examines initiatives in Southern states to increase the number of qualified teachers in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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