Education Week - January 6, 2016 - (Page 24)

Curtain to Rise On Legislatures CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23 scores are not accurate ref lections of a teacher's abilities. A task force in New York recently recommended that the state place a four-year moratorium on factoring tests into teachers' evaluations. The state board of regents followed suit, and The New York Times has reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who once advocated that scores be incorporated into evaluations, could call on the legislature to permanently decouple evaluations from state tests. And South Carolina's state superintendent, Molly Spearman, proposed late last month that teachers be judged on incremental tests taken throughout the year rather than one end-of-year test, the Associated Press reported-a response, Spearman said, to the passage of ESSA. Legislators in California, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin are studying ways to pacify anxious teachers who are leaving the classrooms in droves, causing staffing shortages. "The researchers say there's no silver bullet in fixing teacher shortages," the NCSL's Exstrom said. "One area that kept coming back over and over is that teacher working conditions have to be steadied. We have to understand what makes teachers leave." Testing, Standards Showdowns Lawmakers in states such as Colorado and New York will be looking to quell opt-out movements led by parents who are demanding fewer high-stakes tests. At least 16 state task forces that convened in 2015 recommended that legislatures make BLOGS dramatic changes to the tests they give and how often they give them. Massachusetts' board of education decided in November to mix its state assessments with questions from PARCC and local standards, a move Peisch said the legislature will review this session. "We have not completely abandoned common core," she said. Indiana replaced PARCC last school year with its homemade ISTEP exams, but several district superintendents called the scores "botched." After an Indianapolis Star investigation revealed a possible testing glitch, House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican, said he will push to scrap the test this year. While states will still be forced to track how well minority and disabled students perform on tests, states can now determine how much to factor those scores into school, district, and teacher assessments. That has civil rights organizations on edge. "I'm excited about states having more autonomy, but we need to make sure we don't move backward," said Joyce Elliott, a former NCSL education chairwoman and an Arkansas representative who is leading a task force to study new indicators to measure. At least 19 states are in the process of reviewing their state standards after parent advocates complained that their common-core standards were not locally designed. Oklahoma is in the process of a full rewrite. And in West Virginia, legislators said they would review recently passed standards to make sure they are different from common-core standards. Education takes up a lot of states' budgets, and with 30 of the 50 statehouses controlled by Republicans, many of them looking to cut taxes in 2016, school funding will likely dominate the discussion in many capitols. In Pennsylvania, GOP legislators and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf were still struggling to hammer out a long-overdue budget for the current fiscal year-a standoff that's lasted since July and has districts taking hundreds of millions of dollars out in emergency loans and, in some cases, laying off staff. Several oil-dependent states, such as Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas, last year dipped into reserve funds to avoid cuts to their education departments. But many of those funding pools are now empty, and with tax revenues off because the oil industry is still hurting, legislators in Louisiana and Oklahoma will have to decide whether to make cuts or raise taxes. Money Issues A recently released study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a center-left think tank, says at least half the states still provide less education funding than they did in 2008, before the recession took hold. And a handful of states will look to make major changes to their school funding formulas. On the legal front, Washington and Kansas are still attempting to answer their state supreme courts' demands to craft a new funding formula after districts there successfully sued. Washington is being fined $100,000 a day by its state supreme court until it can come up with a new formula. In Delaware, Montana, and Nebraska, task forces recently recommended drastic changes to their funding formulas to more equitably distribute state funding. The fiscal picture is not all gloomy, however. One standout example: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, proposed in December adding $1 billion to the state's $17 billion K-12 and higher education budget, in part to hire at least 2,500 new school teachers. "Overall ... it's going to be a good year, not a great year," said Michael Griffith, who tracks school finance at the Education Commission of the States. "For the rest of the states, you're going to see increases in spending in education. The question is how much is it going to be?" N.Y. Panel Scraps Use of Student Scores In Teachers' Evaluations-for Now TEACHER BEAT | A committee of New York state's board of regents has approved plans to scuttle the use of test scores in teachers' performance reviews for four years, delaying them until at least the 2019-20 school year. It voted last month in favor of the emergency regulations just a week after a panel set up by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to advise the state's implementation of the Common Core State Standards favored the delay. Under the regulations, teachers will still receive a growth score based on tests, but it won't count toward consequences, such as whether they'll be granted tenure or brought up for dismissal. Instead, they will receive a "transition" score based mainly on teacher observations. The shift comes less than a year after Cuomo successfully pushed in budget legislation to increase to 50 percent the weight given to test scores in teacher evaluations and appears to have been prompted at least partially by the opt-out movement. One in 5 students sat out state standardized tests during the past year. -STEPHEN SAWCHUK | Some Mass. Title I Aid at 'High Risk' Over Lack of Single Statewide Test POLITICS K-12 | The U.S. Department of Education has placed some of Massachusetts' Title I funds on "high risk" status over its decision not to administer a single statewide exam this school year. In its Dec. 21 letter to state schools Commissioner Mitchell Chester, the department said the state must show that it administered the same test statewide in English/ language arts and math to students in grades 3-8 by May 31, 2016, or potentially lose a portion of its Title I funds. For the 2014-15 school year, the state allowed | 24 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 6, 2016 | STATES TO WATCH With their legislative sessions about to launch, state lawmakers nationwide are taking aim at a range of education-related issues. Among the hotspots of expected activity and the forces behind it: FISCAL SQUEEZE (Wyoming, Alaska, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia) Several states that have tied their education funding to coal and oil revenue have in recent years dipped into their slush funds to avoid education cuts as oil prices have plunged and the coal industry has largely collapsed. But now those coffers are emptying and state officials will have to decide whether to raise taxes or send down cuts to school districts. FUNDING FORMULAS While most states regularly make periodic adjustments to their funding formulas that determine how they distribute state education dollars among districts, some are scrapping their school funding formula wholesale or making significant changes. Washington: The state's supreme court is fining it $100,000 a day until the legislature can figure out a more equitable way to fund the school system. Kansas: Legislators last session ditched the state's funding formula in response to a lawsuit and replaced it with temporary block grants until it comes up with a new formula. The governor has said he wants the legislature to put those grants into a permanent formula but stopped short of saying block grants are a long-term solution. Delaware: A special commission is expected to deliver to the state's board of education a report that will recommend fundamental changes to the state's funding formula, which has gone largely unchanged since the early 1940s. The state faces a $100 million deficit this year. districts to decide whether to administer the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, known as MCAS, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams. The state board had been slated to pick one of those tests that Massachusetts would use statewide going forward. Instead, last month, the state board declined to require a single statewide exam for all districts for the 2015-16 academic year and committed to developing a hybrid test that will draw on both MCAS and PARCC for the 2016-17 school year. Massachusetts had 10 business days, starting from Dec. 21, to appeal the high-risk status.  -ANDREW UJIFUSA Nebraska: A legislative committee recommended in December several changes to the state's funding formula after farmers and ranchers complained about soaring property taxes. Several legislators have already proposed new bills. W.Va. Board Rejects Controversial Plan Involving Fayette School Facilities (Oklahoma, Indiana, Wisconsin, and California) Several states are struggling to recruit and retain teachers, resulting in thousands of students stuck with long-term substitute teachers. Lawmakers in some places have discussed easing demands on their teachers by tweaking certification requirements or making wholesale changes to teacher evaluations. | STATE EDWATCH | A West Virginia funding agency has shot down a controversial proposal by state schools Superintendent Michael Martirano to close several dilapidated schools in Fayette County and build a new $56 million high school. The state has run the rural county's school system for the past five years and came up with the plan after residents couldn't agree on how to consolidate when thousands of students left the district amid the collapse of the coalmining industry. The agency, known as the School Building Authority, was asked to fund $39 million of the construction costs over three years. (See Education Week, Dec. 9, 2015.) But the agency's board members said last month that the price tag was more than triple the average cost of new school construction projects and exceeded the agency's available funds. Board members also said they were bombarded by phone calls and letters from community members who didn't support the plan. Only two of 11 board members supported it. The county hasn't passed a school bond since 1973, and its facilities, more than a half-century old, are at risk of caving in, according to engineering reports.  -DAAREL BURNETTE II Montana: A legislative commission is reviewing ways to address several funding issues brought to the state in a 2005 lawsuit and could make recommendations as soon as 2017. TEACHER SHORTAGES ASSESSMENTS At least 16 states' legislatures created assessment task forces in 2015 to make recommendations on what tests should be used to measure how well their students grasped learning standards. Legislators in Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Tennessee are expected to debate those recommendations in 2016. SOURCES: Education Commission of the States; National Conference of State Legislatures

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 6, 2016

Education Week - January 6, 2016
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Wash. Ruling Could Inspire Charter Opponents Elsewhere
As New SAT Looms, Anxious Students Ramp Up Testing
Digital Directions: U.S. Ed-Tech Plan Calls Attention to ‘Digital-Use Divide’
Standards for Principals’ Bosses Sharpen Focus on Role
Blogs of the Week
Inside ESSA
High Stakes in Union-Fee Case Before Supreme Court
New K-12 Law Adds to Buzz as State Legislatures Set to Convene
Ed. Dept. Budget Sees Slight Boost In FY 2016 Deal
Blogs of the Week
Amanda VanDerHeyden, Matthew Burns, Rachel Brown, Mark R. Shinn, Stevan Kukic, Kim Gibbons, Ggeorge Batsche, & W. David Tilly: RTI Works (When It Is Implemented Correctly)
Ron Wolk: To Change Education, Change the Message
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Paul Herdman: As Feds Step Back, The First State Steps Up

Education Week - January 6, 2016