BILL REQUIRING COLORADO COMMITMENT TO ASSESSMENT CONSORTIA RESCUED AT THE LAST MINUTE — A bill requiring the Colorado State Board of Education to commit to joining one of the consortia developing assessments for the Common Core State Standards was rescued at the last minute and will be sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper for signature. As reported previously, the bill was introduced in the state Senate, despite a vote of opposition by the state board after it met with the sponsoring senators. However, after the measure apparently died in the House due to technicalities (see last week’s Headline Review), it was revived just before the legislature’s deadline for passage. The bill was added on to an omnibus education bill and eventually passed by the House late in the night of the final day of the session. Source: EdNewsColorado (5/9/12)

FLORIDA LOWERS CUT SCORE FOR STATE WRITING TEST — Following a significant drop in the number of students who passed the state’s writing exam, the Florida State Board of Education lowered the passing score. Students had to score at least a 4 on the six-point scale, but after finding only 27 percent of 4th-grade students passed the test this year, down from 81 percent last year, education officials determined that teachers were not told that the tests would be graded more rigorously this year than in the past. Similar score disparities were also found in 8th and 10th grade results. That lack of communication, the board decided, warranted the change in cut score. The alteration in passing scores will allow 80 percent of 3rd graders, 77 percent of 8th graders, and 60 percent of 10th graders to pass. Sources: Tampa Bay Times (5/15/12), TCPalm.com (5/15/12) 

PENNSYLVANIA STATE BOARD ADVANCES PLAN TO REDUCE NUMBER OF HIGH SCHOOL EXIT EXAMS  The Pennsylvania State Board of Education voted 13-0 to reduce the number of high school exams required for graduation, changing a plan it passed in 2010 concerning its state assessments. The approved plan, which needs to go through the regulatory process and one more board vote before it becomes final, would require proficiency on five exams to graduate while making five additional exams voluntary. The previously approved plan called for students to take 10 tests and pass six of them. High school seniors are also able to demonstrate proficiency in alternative ways, including locally validated assessments or project-based assessments to be developed by the state education department. Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (5/11/12)

MICHIGAN EXPANDS CYBER CHARTERS, DUAL ENROLLMENT PROGRAM — With the signing of new laws, Michigan expanded the future number of online charter schools, as well as opportunities for students to earn postsecondary credit while still in high school. The number of cyber charters, which enable students to take all classes online, will be expanded from the currently permitted two to up to five by the end of 2013, 10 by the end of 2014, and 15 by the end of 2015. The law restricts enrollment to 2,500 during the first year and then incrementally increases it in subsequent years and limits the total percentage of the state’s student population to enroll into a cyber charter to 2 percent.

One dual-enrollment law expands to high school underclassmen and non-public school students the chance to take courses at community colleges. Another measure opens the door to these same cohorts of students to take postsecondary career and technical courses. Sources: Detroit Free Press (5/15/12), (Ionia) Sentinel-Standard (5/16/12)

ARIZONA GOVERNOR VETOES ONLINE EDUCATION BILL  Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed increased access to online courses for high school juniors and seniors, established a list of approved courses for online programs, and established a process for evaluating these programs. The governor said she was concerned about the appropriateness of the state approving online courses and curricula. Additionally, online schools would have received more state funding per student for each student who mastered the course and the governor was unsure if the state education department would be able to effectively implement the provision. Brewer said she looks forward to future online learning proposals, as she supports movement toward a mastery-based education system. Source: Associated Press (5/14/12)

NEW ARIZONA LAW EXPANDS SCHOOL CHOICE  A recently signed Arizona law will expand the state’s school-choice program as of the 2013-2014 school year. The law expands the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which provides state funding to parents of special needs students to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. The new law expands this effort to include students enrolled in schools that are underperforming with a state grade of D or F, students of active-duty parents, and foster children. In addition, any money not spent for education expenses in the immediate school year can be saved for college expenses. Researchers estimate student participation in the program will increase from roughly 125,000 students to 230,000 students, or about 20 percent of the state’s student population. Opponents of the expansion fear it will continue to drain already scarce funding for public schools. Source: Associated Press (5/15/12)

TENNESSEE GOV. SIGNS “GATEWAY SEXUAL ACTIVITY” LAW — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a controversial sex-education law that bars teachers from encouraging so-called “gateway” activities that fall short of intercourse. The measure also allows parents to sue contracted groups or individuals who do not obey this law. School personnel, however, are exempt from such litigation. Critics contend the law is so vague in its definition of what “gateway sexual activity” is, it could be a prior restraint on teachers from holding open discussions in sex education or health classes. Supporters said the law helps clarify the definition of abstinence. Source: Tennesseean (5/12/12)

SOUTH CAROLINA LAW EXPANDS CHARTER SCHOOLS — A new South Carolina law clears the way for single-gender charter schools statewide and also requires traditional K-12 schools to allow charter students to participate in extracurricular activities not offered at their schools. In addition, universities will now be allowed to operate their own charter schools. Statewide, South Carolina has 47 charter schools with 17,000 enrolled students, with the number of charters slated to increase in coming years. Source: Aiken Leader (5/16/12) 

ASTHMA MEDICATION TO BE AVAILABLE IN MISSOURI SCHOOLS — School nurses in Missouri would be able to keep asthma medication on hand under legislation awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature. School districts would be responsible for purchasing the medication and nurses responsible for its storage at schools. The bill passed the state’s House and Senate with only one opposing vote. Source: News Tribune (Jefferson City) (5/10/12)

MISSOURI CHARTER SCHOOLS COULD EXPAND BEYOND LARGE CITIES — Charter schools will be permitted in every Missouri school district if Gov. Jay Nixon signs a measure passed this week. Charter applicants would have to create systems for measuring performance before they could gain approval. Rules about who qualifies to be a sponsor will be dependent on a district’s accreditation status, and the state board will evaluate sponsors every three years. The state’s two biggest urban districts, Kansas City and St. Louis, have had charter schools for more than a decade. Source: News Tribune (Jefferson City) (5/15/12)

MULTIPLE EDUCATION BILLS AWAIT GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE IN COLORADO — The Colorado Legislature passed more than a dozen bills that, if signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, would impact education, including an early child literacy bill, a ban on trans fat in school foods, and a reform of zero-tolerance discipline rules. The early childhood literacy program gives additional resources to support K-3 literacy instruction and requires additional parent involvement. The trans fat ban was controversial and ended up becoming weakened throughout the legislative process. It now contains exceptions for food programs that follow federal guidelines, smaller school districts, and fundraisers. The school discipline bill is intended to provide greater flexibility at the school level by eliminating many existing zero tolerance requirements, and encouraging schools to find alternative ways—aside from expulsion—to deal with discipline problems. Source: EdNewsColorado (5/9, 5/10/12)

 ** ANNOUNCEMENTS **

 ASSESSMENTS WEBINAR Join NASBE and the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) for a webinar at 3 p.m. (ET) May 23 that examines the NWEA report, For Every Child, Multiple Measures: What Parents and Educators Want from K-12 Assessments. Discussion points include the conclusion that while year-end, high stakes tests provide a useful snapshot of overall student and school performance, educators prefer more timely formative assessments to track student progress and adjust instruction accordingly.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OFFERS RESPECT PROJECT DISCUSSION GUIDE — The U.S. Department of Education has made available an online discussion guide about its RESPECT Project to use in conversations among educators about the teaching profession. Public comment is also being accepted about the guide.

CONDITION OF EDUCATION WEBINAR — The National Center for Education Statistics will host a live webinar May 24 at 1 p.m. to release The Condition of Education 2012. The full text of the report will be available online on May 24 at 10 a.m. ET.

SCIENCE STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC COMMENT — The draft Next Generation Science Standards will be available for public comment until June. The science standards are being developed by a consortium of 26 states, in collaboration with science teachers, scientists, and expert researchers in the field, with Achieve acting as the operating agent for the development of the standards. The Next Generation Science Standards are voluntary, state-led, and no federal funds or incentives have been used to develop, adopt, or implement the standards. To comment on the draft science standards visit http://www.nextgenscience.org/. 

SUPERINTENDENT AWARDS — Nominations are being accepted for the American School Health Superintendent Leadership Award until May 22. More information is available at http://bit.ly/K2x5nz.

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.

WANT TO KEEP UP WITH NASBE on your Android phone? No problem. Just go to http://bit.ly/pEmZla or search NASBE in the Android marketplace to download and get started with the NASBE Now app!