On Thursday, June 21, the Coalition for College and Career Ready America and the Alliance for Excellent Education sponsored a Webinar, “Moving Toward College and Career Readiness for All Students: Major Developments and Trends in 2012 State Legislative Sessions.” Facilitated by Liz Schneider of the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Webinar began by briefly discussing federal policy, including projected federal appropriations and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver applications. Three staff members from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) then reported on the state policy landscape.
The state legislative reports were organized into seven different topics: Common Core State Standards implementation, state budgets, teacher evaluation systems, parent empowerment and choice, digital learning, time and learning and compulsory school age. Most of the conversation centered on state efforts to implement the Common Core Standards and teacher evaluation systems. Some topic highlights from the Webinar include:
Common Core State Standards: According to the NCSL, 100 bills that focused on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were introduced in 36 states for the purpose of addressing challenges such as alignment of assessments, K-12 curriculum, and other issues relating to K-12 and higher education. Several bills addressed the cost of implementation of the CCSS and required that states slow down their implementation of the new standards. NCSL staff also identified a number of important challenges that remain at the forefront of state legislation, such as the costs associated with professional development; the fact that new assessments and teacher evaluation systems are undergoing change simultaneously; the need to conduct policy audits to achieve coherence in the state; and the need for state education agencies to communicate with legislative staff regularly.
Teacher evaluation systems: Between 2010 and 2012, 34 states reformed their teacher evaluation systems, with most states placing more emphasis on student achievement as one measure of teacher performance. Several states created agencies to develop thoughtful measures and acknowledged the need for agencies to work together to refine human capital management systems. Several challenges remain, including developing measures for teachers of untested subjects (which is most teachers); integrating these systems with other initiatives (such as implementation of the CCSS); and addressing principal training to conduct the evaluations.
Compulsory school age: Sonny Deye of the NCSL noted that mandating the compulsory school age to 18 was a popular conversation during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. The attention given to raising the compulsory age can be attributed to President Obama’s 2012 call for all states to raise the mandatory compulsory age to 18. Fourteen states deliberated raising the dropout age to 18 years old, but it was seen as a “tough pull”1 because it can be expensive to keep more at-risk students in school for a longer amount of time. Thus, only Rhode Island (2011) and Maryland (2012) changed the compulsory school age to 18, though the decision to do so is also pending in three other states. Though it can be expensive, the NCSL Task Force on Dropout Prevention and Recovery found that raising the compulsory school age to 18 can curtail dropouts and lead to other positive results.
Other issues addressed in the Webinar included parent empowerment and choice such as parent trigger laws, the emergence of more online, blended learning opportunities and oversight of online learning, as well as competency-based credit accrual. The full Webinar may be accessed via http://media.all4ed.org/webinar-jun-21-2012.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.