Education Week - July 8, 2015 - (Page 13)

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS Budgets, Testing Issues Took Legislative Stage State legislatures began their sessions this year as they did in 2011, on the heels of a year heavy on state elections--and victories by Republicans. But for the most part, their recent K-12 action hasn't set off shock waves the way Wisconsin lawmakers did four years ago when they and gop Gov. Scott Walker curtailed collective bargaining for public school teachers and most other public employees. Instead, legislatures continued to rebuild and revamp their K-12 budgets during a modest economic recovery, at the same time they re-examined how to deliver educational services and assess students' performance. As of early July, roughly 40 states had or were due to have adjourned their legislative sessions this year. Thirty legislatures are controlled by Republicans, compared with 11 controlled by Democrats and eight with divided power. One is nonpartisan. Overall, the Common Core State Standards fared well despite ongoing political controversy, with no state voting to repeal them. However, federally funded tests that go along with those standards did less well. Legislatures in Missouri and Maine voted to do away with the commoncore-aligned Smarter Balanced assessment, while Ohio lawmakers did the same with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or parcc. The Louisiana legislature also voted to limit the share of test questions from parcc on future exams. And Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, drew headlines when she signed a bill granting parents the right to opt their children out of the state Smarter Balanced exam, de- spite a warning from the U.S. Department of Education that the measure endangered some federal aid. Late last month, Delaware lawmakers approved a similar opt-out bill, and the legislation appeared to have garnered enough votes to override a veto by Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat who has opposed the bill. Diverse Growth in Choice As with 2014 sessions, legislators this year provided several boosts to school choice programs. In several states, parents will have access to new education savings accounts, or esas. In others, by contrast, state leaders will exercise more direct control over some local schools through new state-run districts. "They can work hand in hand," Adam Peshek, the state policy director of school choice for the Tallahassee, Fla.-based Foundation for Excellence in Education, said of the different policies. His group supports charter schools and private school choice. "I don't think they're competing," Peshek said. "I do think they're trying to accomplish two different things fundamentally." Nevada made the most dramatic move to expand school choice by allowing all parents of public school students to use state K-12 funding toward private school tuition, home schooling, and other expenses for nonpublic education. (See Education Week, June 10, 2015.) In addition, Mississippi and Tennessee created new esa programs specifically for special education students, bringing the total number of states with esas to five. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, vetoed a bill to create a similar esa program, although he John Locher/AP By Andrew Ujifusa Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, center, holds a signing ceremony in Las Vegas for a bill that allocates millions of dollars for low-performing schools in poor areas of the state. did allow a bill creating tax-credit scholarships to become law without his signature. That brought the total number of states with tax-creditscholarship programs to 16. Texas lawmakers, meanwhile, again rejected bills to create the state's first private-school-choice program, despite the efforts of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican and a former head of the Senate education committee. In Arkansas, the legislature created a voucher program for special education students. And Alabama adopted a law in March permitting charter schools, becoming the 43rd state to do so. State-Run Districts At the same time, states are also showing an appetite for creating or expanding state-run districts to improve low-performing schools, like the existing turnaround districts in Louisiana and Tennessee. Both Georgia and Nevada have created state-run districts this year. And Ohio has expanded the reach, and ability to authorize new charter schools, of its Academic Distress Commissions, which run struggling districts and have three of their five members appointed by state schools chief Richard A. Ross. The ability of the nation's 31 Republican governors to more directly boost the expansion of charter schools through these districts could explain some of their recent appeal, said Ronald W. Zimmer, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education. But he stressed that state officials need to ensure these districts work with community members, such as engaged parents. "All of this could create some tension at the grassroots level and at the state level," said Mr. Zimmer, who studies school choice. "You re- ally need to do the groundwork to create local buy-in in order for it to be successful." Path to Funding Formulas In many states, the slow or moderate budget recovery for K-12 is continuing. Still, there are signs that the growth in spending on public schools might be a little more sluggish than last year's. A survey published last month by the National Association of State Budget Officers showed that during fiscal 2015, 16 states made midyear cuts to their spending on schools. Although the association projected a 3.1 percent increase in general fund spending for fiscal 2016, that's below the 4.6 percent mark in fiscal 2015. The survey also notes more generally that education "spending pressures" often exceed state revenue growth. "Are legislators trying to get funding back to 2008 levels, or are they PAGE 18 > States Struggle With How To Ensure Good Teachers in All Schools By Alyson Klein The Obama administration declared last year with much fanfare that it would tackle the tricky issue of equitable teacher distribution, calling on states to revise their plans for making sure that high-poverty schools get their fair share of qualified educators. Now most states have answered the call, rewriting plans that initially stemmed from requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act. But it's an open question whether the work that went into these updated plans--some of which are more than 100 pages long and include an eye-glazing level of detail-will actually lead to any real progress. While some states came up with new ideas for improving teacher quality and distribution, others simply restated or repackaged strategies already underway. And it's still unclear how the U.S. Department of Education will hold states to their promises. The good news is that, in general, the plans are "definitely richer this time around," compared to the original batch of nearly a decade ago, said Sonja Brookins Santelises, the vicepresident of the Education Trust, an advocacy organization in Washington that focuses on poor and minority students. The real test will be implementation, she added. "If a strong plan is put in the cabinet as being done, if a strong plan is not adjusted and monitored and revisited, it's not going to yield outcomes for kids," she said. But the department's teacher-equity push, billed as a "50 state strategy" to tackle the longstanding problem of educator distribution, is murky when it comes to how it will hold states' feet to the fire, said Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a consulting organization in Washington, who has studied some of the plans. "I don't see a lot of hard policy changes coming out of this, either from executive action or legislation," said Mr. Aldeman, who served in the department earlier in the Obama administration. This isn't the first time the federal government has asked states to address the teacher distribution question. The nclb law called for states to ensure all teachers were highly qualified by the 2005-06 school year. (States got a oneyear extension.) Equity Push But, early last year, an Education Week review found that fewer than half of states had filed separate equity plans with the department detailing how they aimed to ensure their most qualified teachers were distributed evenly among low- and high-poverty schools. Of the state plans that were filed, many sat on the shelf for years without an update. In 2013, the department announced plans to ask states to address teacher distribution in order to renew the waivers they may have had from provisions of the nclb law. But it ulti- mately scrapped that plan, in part because both the federal agency and the states already had so much on their plates due to the waivers. Instead, the department decided to ask every state, whether it had a waiver or not, to update its teacher-equity plans. In addition, the agency released "equity profiles" for each state to give officials an idea of the scope of their teacherdistribution problems. The Education Department has said it will work with states whose plans don't meet its requirements, which include steps like scrutinizing data to figure out what's driving inequities and reaching out to districts, educators, and their unions to find fixes. And it will continue to release data on teacher distribution every two years to help track states' progress. That could put the next data release in December of 2016, weeks before the Obama administration leaves town for good. But it's anyone's guess whether the department would go further-by withholding federal Title I PAGE 18 > EDUCATION WEEK | July 8, 2015 | | 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - July 8, 2015

Education Week - July 8, 2015
Nev. Moves to Split Clark Co. District
Crazy Quilt of State Responses To Cries of Overtesting
Common Core Trickles Into All States
Advocates Scrutinize Head Start Proposals
Supreme Court To Decide Case On Union Fees
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Ed. School Critic Levine, MIT Partner to Launch Teacher-Prep ‘Lab’
Ariz.’s 20-Year-Old ELL Case May End, But Debate Rages On
Spelling—en Español—Catches On, With Bees in Multiple States
Blogs of the Week
ISTE Conference Examines How Tech Is Reshaping Education
Budgets, Testing Issues Took Legislative Stage
States Struggle With How to Ensure Good Teachers in All Schools
K-12 Issues Fall Within Suite of Recent High Court Rulings
In States, Plenty of Talk But Incremental Action on Early Ed.
Lengthy Floor Debate Looms for U.S. Senate Over ESEA Rewrite
Fresh Entrants in GOP’s Quest For White House
House, Senate Appropriations Bills Would Cut Back Ed. Dept. Funding
What We’ve Learned From a Longer School Day and Year
The Illusion of Closing The Achievement Gap
The ‘Power’ of Adversity
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Scholars: Challenging Racial Injustice Begins With Us

Education Week - July 8, 2015