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.

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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

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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This year’s school year in Minnesota was marked by at least one big change for some families in the state — access to full-day kindergarten. The Legislature is spending about $134 million to provide a full day of programming.
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Over the past seven years, every state in the Midwest has established policies that aim to prevent bullying in the schools. But how detailed and far-reaching should these policies be? On that question, there is considerable variation among the states, especially in light of new laws now in place in Minnesota and IllinoiIn both of those states, the legislatures chose this year to significantly expand the role of states — and their local school districts — in bullying prevention and intervention.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—The UPS headquarters in Louisville, Ky., has found a way to attract good workers and connect those workers to higher education. UPS/Metropolitan College covers the cost of tuition, books and academic bonuses to employees who work in the UPS overnight air operation while they’re attending school. The company partners with the University of Louisville, one of the largest universities in Kentucky, and the Jefferson County Community and Technical College to offer the program, Nick D’Andrea, director of state government affairs for UPS, told attendees at the Aug. 13 session, “Linking Education, Workforce Development for More Competitive States,” during the CSG National and CSG West Annual Conference.

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