COLORADO STATE BOARD OPPOSES SENATE BILL THAT REQUIRES COMMITMENT TO A TESTING CONSORTIUM — A week after the Colorado State Board of Education voted to oppose a measure that would require it to join a multi-state assessment consortium, the Colorado Senate passed proposing that very mandate. While the state board is participating in both the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Careers, the consortia dedicated to developing assessments tied to the Common Core State Standards in math and English, Colorado is not a governing member. While that stance allows the board some input in test development, it also allows the state to use different exams if it so chooses. The bill contains an “escape clause” that would allow the board to withdraw from the consortium to which it committed after Jan. 1, 2014 if it does not like the test that was developed. Last fall, the board asked for a $26 million appropriation to update the state’s own standardized tests to match current standards, but the governor opposed the request and lawmakers only allocated $6 million to update tests in non-Common Core subjects. Source: EdNews Colorado (4/28, 5/1/12)

MARYLAND STATE BOARD OVERTURNS DISTRICT’S ZERO-TOLERANCE-BASED DECISION TO SUSPEND STUDENTS — The Maryland State Board of Education reversed the suspensions of two high school lacrosse players disciplined a year ago for carrying pocket knives and a lighter to repair their equipment. In addition to reversing the suspensions by the Talbot County board, the state board also ordered the students’ discipline records expunged. The items were packed as part of the students’ playing gear when their team bus was searched for alcohol by school administrators. As part of the district’s zero-tolerance discipline policy, the boy with the knives was arrested and his teammate with the lighter was suspended after officials deemed the lighter “an explosive device.”  According to the state board, “this case is about context and about the appropriate exercise of discretion.” The board is expected to vote on a new state policy this summer that would reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions and address racial disparities. If passed, it will provide advanced guidance for districts on how to handle student misconduct. Source:  Washington Post (4/28/12) 

DELAWARE GOVERNOR NOMINATES ED. REFORMER AS NEXT EDUCATION SECRETARY — Gov. Jack Markell nominated Mark Murphy, the director of Vision Network, an education reform organization that works with 26 Delaware schools, as the state’s next education secretary. The appointment must be approved by the state Senate. Murphy, who also has experience as a principal, teacher, and assistant principal in Maryland schools, would replace Lillian Lowery, recently hired to be Maryland’s next superintendent. Source: DelawareOnline.com (4/27/12)

FEDERAL UPDATE
U.S. Department of Education Provides School Improvement Funding to Five Additional States — The U.S. Department of Education provided five states with additional funding from the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program to turn around their chronically low-performing schools. California, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming are required to implement one of the Department’s four school improvement options in order to receive the funding. Further information can be found at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/sif/index.html, including press releases from each of the five states. Source: U.S. Department of Education press release (4/30/12)

U.S. Department of Education Provides $24.4 million to Improve Instruction for English Language Learners  The U.S. Department of Education awarded colleges and universities more than $24 million in grants to improve instruction for English language learners. The Department is providing the five-year grants, with one exception, to higher education institutions that must work in this subject area with one or more local school districts or state education agencies. The grants will support professional development activities for teachers and other education personnel who work in elementary and secondary school classrooms with English learners, particularly in the fields of math and science. More information can be found at http://1.usa.gov/IGYsWr. Source: U.S. Department of Education (5/2/12)

ALABAMA GOV. GETS BILL TO LOWER MANDATORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE AGE — Alabama legislators sent a bill to Gov. Robert Bentley that would lower the age for compulsory school attendance from 7 to 6. While opponents said the measure interferes with parental choice, the bill includes an amendment that would allow parents to write their local school board to ask for an exemption. The state has fully funded 1st grade since 1835 and kindergarten since 1985, but attendance is not required by state law. An amendment to lower mandatory attendance to 5 years of age was rejected by the state House, 49-30. Source: Montgomery Advertiser (5/2/12)

UNACCREDITED MISSOURI DISTRICTS NOT ACCOUNTABLE FOR COSTS OF TRANSFERRING STUDENTS, JUDGE RULES — A St. Louis County Circuit Court judge said Missouri’s mandate that unaccredited school districts pay transfer expenses for students who want to attend school in an accredited district is unconstitutional. Judge David Lee Vincent III said the payment requirement is an unfunded mandate and that students do not have the right to transfer to nearby accredited districts for free. The state’s school transfer law requires unaccredited districts to pay transportation and tuition costs for students wishing to transfer to accredited districts, which has already been upheld by the state Supreme Court. This judgment, however, focused on the ability of the unaccredited districts to comply with the law. Vincent ruled the law is in violation of the Hancock Amendment of the state constitution, which prevents the creation of unfunded mandates. Families with students in the unaccredited St. Louis district brought the case to court five years ago to seek reimbursement for their tuition bills to the nearby Clayton district. In 2008, Vincent ruled for the defense, but his ruling was overturned by the state Supreme Court, which sent the case back to him in 2010. The state attorney general’s office plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Source: News Tribune (Jefferson City) (5/1/12), stltoday.com (5/1/12)

TEXAS CHIEF STEPPING DOWN AFTER FIVE YEARS IN CHARGE — Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced he is resigning his post as of July 2, five years to the day from his appointment by Gov. Rick Perry. Scott, who has held multiple positions in the Texas Education Agency since 1994, did not give a reason for stepping down. Source: Texas Education Agency press release (5/1/12)

** ANNOUNCEMENTS **

MATERIALS FROM NASBE’S MONTHLY MAILING—including a teacher induction discussion guide and a state-by-state education governance chart—are now available online at http://nasbe.org/monthly-mailing/april-2012/.

THE NATION’S REPORT CARD FOR SCIENCE will be released Thursday, May 10 at 10 a.m. Follow this link to register for the live webinar.

FIND OUT WHAT “GREEN CLEANING” CAN MEAN FOR SCHOOLS in the latest issue of NASBE’s award-winning journal, The State Education Standard. Read “Green Cleaning Schools” to learn just exactly what “green cleaning” means, how to recognize certified green products, examples of how states have implemented green cleaning policies, and more! Go to http://goo.gl/js1hU to purchase copies or examine downloadable articles. 

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