UTAH BOARD CHANGES STATE’S STATUS IN SMARTER BALANCED CONSORTIUM — The Utah Board of Education voted to change the state’s role in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium from that of a governing member to an advisory member. Since governing members of the Consortium must adopt the assessment it develops, the Utah board decided to change to advisory status to avoid any possible conflict of interests. With the change, Utah will no longer have a vote in decisions of the Consortium. Sources: Utah Board of Education Meeting Summary (5/3/12), “Smarter Balanced Governance” on smarterbalanced.org 

COLORADO BILL REQUIRING STATE BOARD COMMITMENT TO A TEST CONSORTIUM DIES IN SENATE — A bill that would have required the Colorado State Board of Education to commit to one of the Common Core standards assessment development consortia died in the state Senate. The Colorado Constitution requires bills to receive preliminary and final consideration on two separate days, meaning that for the bill to be voted on during the final day of this year’s session, May 9, it would have had to pass preliminary consideration by May 8, but other actions prevented that from happening. The state board previously opposed passage of the bill, with a majority preferring that the state develop its own test (see last week’s Headline Review). A Senate bill that would have repealed most zero-tolerance school discipline rules died for the same reason as the assessment bill. Source: EdNewsColorado (5/9/12) 

MINNESOTA GOV. VETOES TEACHER LAYOFF OVERHAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton rejected a bill that would have ended the current seniority-based system of teacher layoffs for those districts where local contracts don’t already include other considerations. The bill, scheduled to go into effect for the 2016-17 school year, would have put results from teachers’ most recent performance evaluation ahead of seniority. But Dayton argued that those evaluations in Minnesota have not yet been designed and tested, and thus the bill would have wiped out the current system, replacing it “with only vaguely formulated ideas….If teachers’ and principals’ careers are to be decided by those measures, it is imperative that they be accurate, verifiable, and reliable.” A spokesman for the organization StudentsFirst, which supported the bill, said that “[w]e shouldn’t be waiting around to embrace common-sense reforms to improve our schools.” Sources: Minneapolis Star Tribune (5/3/12); Gov. Mark Dayton veto letter (5/3/12)

IOWA’S ‘IMPORTANT FIRST STEP’  ED REFORM BILL PASSES LEGISLATURE — After long debates and many compromises, an education reform package finally reached Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk, who called it an “important first step” that left much “to be done to give all students a globally competitive education.” The measure would require annual performance evaluations for teachers, with two of every three years being evaluations conducted by peers, and gives teachers additional time for collaboration in order to improve their skills. A number of provisions focus on ensuring literacy among K-3 students, including one that requires schools to closely monitor young students’ reading proficiency and provide more help to those who are behind. Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, parents whose child has not demonstrated reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade must either agree to enroll the student in an intensive summer reading course or have the child held back. The bill would also allow school districts to award high school students credits for demonstrating competency in a subject, rather than just successfully completing a course. There is little funding attached to the measure at this point, that being left to next year’s legislative session. Source: Des Moines Register (5/9/12)

CONNECTICUT LAWMAKERS APPROVE EDUCATION PACKAGE — The Connecticut Legislature finally passed an education reform bill after months of sometimes contentious negotiations among legislators, teachers’ unions, and Gov. Dannel Malloy. The bill would initiate a four-tier grading scale for schools based on standardized test scores, and the poorest-performing districts will be subject to state takeover, with the education commissioner appointing a special master to serve as superintendent. In addition, the commissioner would gradually select up to 25 low-achieving schools for inclusion in a special turnaround network. The bill calls for a measured approach to teacher evaluations by starting with 8 to 10 pilot districts where evaluations would be developed in consultation with teachers. Teachers would be able to earn tenure by receiving an “effective” rating and lose tenure by receiving an “ineffective” rating, but certification and pay are not linked to the evaluations. The measure also calls for an annual reading assessment for K-3 students (but does not require third graders who fail to reach proficiency to be held back), increases funding for charter schools, adds 1,000 new slots at state-run preschools, and funds an additional 20 school-based health clinics. In the end, the bill passed with broad bipartisan support and a general feeling that while the legislation is a positive step, “there is more to be done,” as one lawmaker said. Sources: Connecticut Mirror (5/8/12) and Connecticut Post (5/10/12)

HAWAII REPORTS IT WILL RETAIN ITS  RTTT AWARD — Although Hawaii is still in the “high risk” category for failure to implement reforms designated on its winning Race to the Top (RTTT) application, the U.S. Education Department recognized progress made there and allowed the state to retain its federal grant monies. Hawaii, which has about $71 million remaining from its original $75 million award, has been in jeopardy of having to return the funds because of a lack of progress in implementing a teacher evaluation system, among other delays. The state teachers’ union rejected a contractendorsed by the union’s officersthat would have linked evaluations to student performance, and a bill that would have established such a system failed in the legislature. The Hawaii State Board of Education last month approved the evaluation plan, but because it is not law, the terms are still open for collective bargaining. Union leaders are now calling for a re-vote. However, the state did meet budget qualifications for retaining its monies. Department officials said they will review Hawaii’s progress later this year. Sources: Hawaii Department of Education press release (5/10/12), Associated Press (5/4/12), Education Week (5/4/12)

LOUISIANA BOARD TO CREATE PRE-K OVERSIGHT NETWORK — A law signed last month directs the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to create a comprehensive and integrated network to oversee all state and federally funded programs providing early childhood care or education. The law signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal April 18 is designed to coordinate standards and definitions across full- and part-time early childhood health and education state/federal programs, as well as Head Start. As part of the measure, BESE must define kindergarten readiness, set performance targets for children ages 0-2 years, and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds based on kindergarten readiness and aligned to the Common Core standards. In addition, the law calls for a clear and uniform assessment and accountability system for publicly funded programs. Sources: Gov. Jindal press release (4/18/12), S.B. 581

 

** ANNOUNCEMENTS **

 

SCIENCE STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC COMMENT — The draft Next Generation Science Standards will be available for public comment starting May 11 and will be open for three weeks. 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.

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