State Trends in Education - NCSL
COMMITTEE ON JOINT EDUCATION
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07:38 AM -- State Trends in Education - NCSL
Michelle Exstrom, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), introduced herself to the committee. She also introduced her colleague Yilan Shen, who handles most education-related research requests. Ms. Exstrom provided a handout containing an overview of her presentation (Attachment A).
Ms. Exstrom said she would touch on four or five issues that are faced in all the states. She began by talking about teaching quality. Ms. Exstrom said most states are experiencing a major shortage in teachers in certain subject areas -- usually math, science, and special education -- in rural and urban areas. She responded to a question from Representative Merrifield about whether research into this area includes research about why teachers are leaving. She said the research finds that many teachers leave due to working conditions, lack of professional development, and lack of planning time, among other things. Representative Solano asked Ms. Exstrom to comment on a survey of teachers taking place in Colorado.
Ms. Exstrom continued, saying NCSL has tracked over 800 bills on teaching quality around the country over the last five years. She went on to discuss innovative and creative state approaches to the teaching quality issues. She talked about ways to get the best and brightest into the classroom, highlighting policies in Louisiana and New Mexico. Ms. Exstrom also provided brief overviews of policies in Indiana, Hawaii, Utah, Illinois, and South Carolina among other states.
Ms. Exstrom responded to a question from Representative Merrifield about the definition of "success" in Illinois' "Grow Your Own Program." Committee discussion on this issue ensued.
Ms. Exstrom next discussed teacher licensure reform, speaking about tiered licensure programs, which exist in New Mexico and Iowa. She responded to an inquiry from Representative Murray about tiered licensure, describing in more detail New Mexico's licensure system. She responded to a question from Representative Merrifield about funding for salaries for higher-tier licensed teachers. She discussed briefly with Representative Merrifield New Mexico's funds from school trust lands. Representative Benefield commented on this issue as well.
Ms. Exstrom noted that there are a handful of states that are experimenting with teacher compensation reform. Representative Merrifield asked Ms. Exstrom to talk more about support for beginning teachers, including mentoring and induction. Ms. Exstrom talked about the components of a successful support program for beginning teachers. She responded to a question from Senator Bacon about funding for these programs. Senator Hudak asked for additional information about the California induction program, and Ms. Exstrom said she would provide more information to the committee on the California program.
Ms. Exstrom continued, talking about school leadership, noting that leadership is second only to teacher quality among school-related factors that contribute to student learning. She said Iowa and North Carolina are states to look toward in this area. She highlighted state policies around recruiting, preparing, and supporting effective school leaders. Representative Todd asked Ms. Exstrom whether Colorado has looked at which districts or schools in Colorado are strong in these areas. Senator Hudak said there has not been a study of the effectiveness of induction and mentoring programs in the state. She further noted that these programs vary widely across the state. Senator Hudak commented on a bill passed in the 2008 legislative session around leadership, as well as an upcoming bill on educator identifiers.
Representative Summers asked how leaders' impact on learning is evaluated. Ms. Exstrom responded, talking about the indicators that are used in evaluating school leaders.
Ms. Exstrom continued, talking about high school reform. She said that since 2005, states have worked to improve rigor and relevance of coursework and to restructure schools. She noted that almost half of states have significantly increased their high school graduation standards. Ms. Exstrom discussed narrower academic standards and meaningful supports for struggling students. She responded to a question from Senator Bacon about student supports.
Ms. Exstrom talked about innovative and creative state approaches to high school reform, talking specifically about flexible and extended graduation plans, requirements for college or work-preparation courses, and funding of graduation coaches. Representative Baumgardner asked about outcomes with regard to graduation plans. Ms. Exstrom noted that these strategies are quite new and talked about research that is currently being done in this area. She also responded to a question from Senator King about dual enrollment programs.
Ms. Exstrom's presentation continued with discussion around personalizing high school curriculum through individual graduation plans and providing expanded learning opportunities. She spoke specifically about policies in Indiana, highlighting that state's "Core 40" curriculum, consequences for dropouts, exit interviews, annual reporting of school progress, annual review of student career plans, school flex programs, and fast track programs. Representative Todd asked about staff used to deal with dropouts. Ms. Exstrom responded, and said states are grappling with this issue. Senator Bacon commented on the personnel needed to address this issue.
Senator Hudak asked for more information about "Core 40." Ms. Exstrom responded that she would provide more information on "Core 40," saying it is very specific and very rigorous. Committee discussion on the issue ensued. Representative Solano asked Ms. Exstrom to provide more information on whether Indiana has a difficult time finding enough teachers to implement these policies. Ms. Exstrom clarified that policies that work in one state or district may not work in another state or district, and these are just examples.
Ms. Exstrom explained that NCSL is part of an endeavor funded by the Gates Foundation working on the dropout issue. She talked briefly about an NCSL report on actions to improve high schools called "Accelerating the Agenda: Actions to Improve America's High Schools." Representative Murray talked about collaboration among schools, saying there is a lot of good activity is going on around the state, but the information is not being shared. Ms. Exstrom responded and committee discussion ensued.
Representative Baumgardner asked Ms. Exstrom for more clarification around "Core 40" and what happens to students in Indiana who cannot keep up with the standards. Ms. Exstrom responded, talking about the student support that is coupled with the rigor. She talked about what that support must look like. Senator Hudak talked about the work of the National Association of School Boards (NASB) around high school reform.
Ms. Exstrom talked briefly about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), saying test results show that the United States is not staying competitive in these areas. She highlighted some common strategies around STEM, saying there are very few stand alone STEM bills in states. She talked briefly about math and science teacher recruitment and increasing advanced placement STEM courses. She briefly discussed 2008 legislation in Kentucky and Utah. She responded to a question from Representative Massey about whether states have been successful with STEM programs in rural areas of their states. Ms. Exstrom mentioned Kansas and Missouri as examples in response.
Ms. Exstrom talked briefly about higher education, saying states are struggling with access and affordability. She provided a number of statistics about higher education in Colorado from "Measuring Up 2008." Senator King asked about research into transferring from two-year to four-year programs. Ms. Exstrom responded, saying she would provide additional information in this area. Senator King made additional comments about articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions. Senator Bacon talked about the issue of the number of adjuncts teaching in two-year institutions.
Ms. Exstrom talked about NCSL's Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education, and highlighted the project's goals. She noted that the commission's recommendations are listed in her handout.
Ms. Exstrom reached her colleague in Washington DC, Mr. David Shreve, by telephone, to talk about No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Mr. Shreve talked from a handout (Attachment B), which contains a list of six items as follows:
- the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization and regulatory update;
- "full" federal funding for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
- school-based services for special education students;
- IDEA indicators for state performance plan/annual performance reports;
- federal pre-emption of state postsecondary tuition eligibility requirements; and
- the future of federal education policy.
Mr. Shreve began his discussion talking about ESEA reauthorization, talking specifically about the huge number of regulatory proposals around ESEA. He discussed NCSL's response to the regulations, and said the regulations make a uniform graduation rate calculation that must be used by states. In addition, he said, the regulations require states to list NAEP scores on accountability reports. Mr. Shreve discussed what the regulations say about information that must be given to parents.
Mr. Shreve said he believes there will be a lot of talk, but little action, on NCLB noting that only the regulations were likely to be addressed.
Mr. Shreve talked about the possibility of full federal funding for Part B of IDEA, noting there is little chance of this occurring. He highlighted a bill by Congressman Van Hollen, again saying that the federal government's commitment to 40 percent funding of IDEA is not likely to ever be reached.
Mr. Shreve next discussed school-based services for special education students, specifically Medicaid payments for services, talking about the current administration's stand on this issue, and further explained the actions of the Congress in this area.
Mr. Shreve continued with a discussion of IDEA indicators for state performance plan/annual performance reports. He talked about the 20 indicators for states, and the 14 additional indicators for early education. He said Colorado is in the "needs intervention" category, and explained what that means for the state.
He continued, with a discussion of federal pre-emption of state postsecondary tuition eligibility requirements. He discussed the NCSL position on this issue, saying NCSL opposes federal pre-emption of state authority. He explained that there may be federal action on this issue this year.
Mr. Shreve next discussed the future of federal education policy, saying the battle lines are drawn. He talked about groups who support NCLB, and discussed where the lines are drawn. He concluded, by talking about the nominee for Secretary of Education and the important role states play in education.
Senator Bacon thanked the presenters. The committee adjourned.