In Kentucky and Arkansas, Lawmakers Authorize New ESSA Accountability Plans

April 13th, 2017

Education Week last month reported that “as state legislative sessions forge ahead, you’ll start to see states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plans vetted by lawmakers as the new law requires.” This is partly a result of statutory requirements in the law that mandate consultation with the governor and members of the state legislature. But it is also due to the fact that many state ESSA plans promise changes to assessments, accountability and standards that must be made by the legislature or state board of education.

With the first submission window for ESSA state plans now officially open, implementation of the new federal law has been top of mind for many states. As they finalize their ESSA plans, state policymakers have been working in parallel to implement core strategies within their education systems.

Kentucky Plans to Measure Industry Credential Attainment

In Kentucky, for example, Governor Matt Bevin signed a revised state accountability system into law. While Kentucky has been recognized as a leader in career readiness accountability — the state’s Unbridled Learning system uses a weighted point system that values college and career achievement equally — SB1 applies a fresh coat of paint, aligning the system with ESSA requirements and recalibrating the weighted point system to better incentivize relevant career learning experiences. Namely, the law:

  • Adopts a “Postsecondary Readiness” indicator measuring apprenticeship participation and achievement of industry-recognized credentials in addition to college credit, performance on college admissions exams and concurrent enrollment.
  • Directs the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board and the Department of Education to annually produce a list of industry-recognized credentials eligible for credit under the accountability system. Credentials are to be identified by local workforce investment boards and weighted according to industry demand.
  • Eliminates inclusion of the WorkKeys career readiness assessment in the accountability system.

Arkansas Provides Accountability Guidelines for Department of Education

Meanwhile, Arkansas lawmakers passed — and Governor Asa Hutchinson signed — a law authorizing the Department of Education to develop a state accountability system and providing certain guidelines. The law largely mirrors the requirements set forth in ESSA, which requires state to report indicators related to academic performance, growth, graduation rates and English Learner progress. But lawmakers also provided nine suggested indicators for the Department of Education to consider, including one measure of the percent of students earning Advanced Placement credit, concurrent credit, International Baccalaureate credit or industry-recognized credentials.

If the Arkansas Department of Education chooses to pursue this route, it will join several other states that are considering career readiness indicators in their statewide accountability systems. As we shared last week, about half of states planning to submit ESSA plans during the first review window are considering career readiness indicators, including measures of industry credential attainment.

Other CTE-Related Legislation Hitting Governors’ Desks this Session

ESSA-related legislation is inching along in other state houses nationwide. In the meantime, state lawmakers have kept themselves busy, continuing a years-long trend to strengthen and scale relevant career pathways. Though this list is not exhaustive, here is a snapshot of what states have passed so far in the 2017 legislative session:

  • Idaho and Utah saw increases in state-appropriated funding for CTE.
  • Two bills passed in Virginia will allow school districts to waive certain CTE teacher licensure requirements and require community colleges to accept credit for state-approved apprenticeships.
  • Arkansas’ new Future Grant program repurposes $8.2 million to cover two years of tuition and fees for Arkansas students to study at a state technical or community college, provided that their course of study is in a high-demand field and they elect to work in the state for three years after graduating.
  • South Dakota voted to reorganize the state technical college system under the authority of a new Board of Technical Education, following through on a ballot mandate approved by voters in November.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

And They’re Off! Early ESSA Plans Signal Enthusiasm for Career Readiness

April 6th, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), reauthorized in 2015 under President Obama, affords states great opportunity to promote career readiness by updating state accountability systems, providing supports for teachers and leaders, and ensuring students can access a “well-rounded education,” including opportunities such as Career Technical Education (CTE). With the first submission window for ESSA plans now officially open, several states have stepped up to the plate, signaling a new era of career readiness.

Amid Transitions in Washington, States Move Forward as Planned

This week’s submission window comes after recent changes to the ESSA plan submission process threatened to derail the timeline. After Congress exercised its rarely-used Congressional Review Act authority earlier this year to revoke certain ESSA regulations, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urged states to stay the course and continue their implementation efforts as planned. Earlier in March, Sec. DeVos released an updated template reorganizing the structure of the state plan and eliminating a few requirements from the Obama administration’s version, providing additional flexibility to states. While this reduced the turnaround time for states to prepare their final plans, states are permitted to submit plans as late as May 3 to provide the governor 30 days to review the final version, as required by statute.

States took these changes in stride, though some are reconsidering their approach to public data reporting. The accountability regulations repealed by Congress earlier this year encouraged the use of a “summative rating” to differentiate school performance. Now that the rule no longer applies, many states are rolling back A-F school report cards in favor of multi-measure dashboards. These changes are largely a response to criticism from local superintendents and other stakeholders who claim that summative reporting is overly simplistic and fails to provide a nuanced picture of school quality.

At Least Ten of First Eighteen States to Count Career Readiness in their Accountability Systems

Eighteen states have signaled they will submit ESSA plans during the initial review window, which opened on April 3. Of those, nine have already submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education. While Montana and Ohio originally opted to submit by the April 3 deadline, they have since delayed their plans to allow more time for stakeholder engagement. They, along with the remaining states, will submit in September.

A review of draft public-comment plans reveals some promising strategies to strengthen CTE and career preparation opportunities. Of the 18 states submitting plans this week, at least ten plan to use some form of career readiness indicator in their accountability systems. These include:

  • Connecticut, which plans to adopt three measures of college and career readiness, including preparation for coursework, preparation for exams and postsecondary entry. These measures examine preparation for two-and four-year colleges as well as participation and success in CTE courses and workforce experiences.
  • Michigan, where policymakers exceeded federal requirements and identified a total of seven different indicators (ESSA requires five). Under the state’s plan, the accountability system will measure “Advanced Coursework,” to include successful completion of dual enrollment, middle early college, CTE, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate coursework. The Advanced Coursework indicator, along with other non-academic indicators, will together be weighted at 14 percent of the total score.
  • Nevada, which aims to adopt a “College and Career Readiness” indicator measuring ACT assessment scores, completion of college credit bearing coursework (AP, IB and dual enrollment) and industry-recognized credential attainment. That indicator will make up 25 percent of the state’s overall accountability score.

Other states such as Colorado plan to adopt additional indicators a later date once better systems have been developed to reliably collect and report data. Colorado plans to convene its accountability workgroup again this spring and will explore possible measures of career readiness, including completion of advanced coursework, students graduating with college credit or an industry credential, and post-graduation employment. 

Additional career readiness strategies are present throughout state draft plans. In North Dakota, state policymakers singled out ESSA’s “well-rounded education” requirements to promote CTE, competency-based learning, personalized learning and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) programs. The state plans to use ESSA’s Student Support and Academic Achievement Grants (authorized under Title IV Part A) to strengthen well-rounded education opportunities and prepare students for postsecondary success.

And in Maine, the Department of Education plans to continue its ongoing Intersections Workshops, which bring together academic and CTE teachers to identify intersections across different content standards. This work was originally started after the state adopted a competency-based education system in 2012.

The first round of state ESSA plans indicates enthusiasm and willingness to leverage federal policy to support career readiness. And even states that do not currently have the technical capacity to do so are taking steps to adopt such measures. With months remaining until the second submission deadline in September, we encourage states to examine ESSA’s increased flexibility and seize the opportunity to strengthen career readiness systems statewide.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Perkins Reauthorization Top of Mind for House Reps After Hearing on CTE

February 28th, 2017

Earlier this morning, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education held a hearing on secondary CTE, kicking off renewed efforts to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). A recording of the hearing is available here.

Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) in his opening remarks shared examples of CTE’s impact in his home district and charged his fellow committee members to complete its work to reauthorize the Perkins Act, which hasn’t been updated in more than ten years. He recognized the committee’s success in the previous session, during which the committee unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that later sailed through the House with a 405-5 vote. That bill was stalled in the Senate, and the Committee is expected to introduce a similar piece of legislation in the coming weeks.

In his opening statement, Ranking Member, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) stated “ Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act presents this Committee with an opportunity to ensure that CTE programs are of high quality, emphasize equity, align with academic and labor market demands, and provide opportunities for all students – especially those historically underserved – to receive credentials that lead to high-skill, high-wage, in-demand career opportunities.”

Witnesses representing both workforce and education organizations praised the important role Career Technical Education (CTE) has played in increasing access to opportunity and closing the skills gap and urged the committee to renew support for CTE programs nationwide.

Mr. Glenn Johnson, representing multi-national manufacturing company BASF shared about the educational programs and supports his organization provides in various communities across the states, but expressed alarm about the growing skills gap and challenges recruiting individuals into the manufacturing sector. According to Mr. Johnson, 11,000 baby boomers turn 70 every day, contributing to the growing need to prepare the future workforce to fill critical jobs.

The conversation in the hearing then turned to two core issues: ensuring all students have access to high-quality CTE and addressing the public stigma that a four-year degree is superior to technical training.

To the former point, Mimi Lufkin of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity urged the committee to focus on underserved students in its reauthorization efforts, specifically to encourage students to pursue nontraditional fields. She shared examples from Douglas County, Oregon and Morgan County, Ohio where efforts to reach nontraditional students led more girls to enroll in a welding program and increased participation of boys in a health science course. Janet Goble, Board member of ACTE and CTE Director in Canyon County, UT, shared a story from her own school district, where a program aimed at introducing middle school girls to non-traditional occupations increased the participation rate of non-traditional high school students from 26 percent to 53 percent.

Finally, Mike Rowe, television personality of “Dirty Jobs” fame and CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, argued that participation in CTE would stagnate without a concerted effort to address the stigma around vocational education. He argued that promotion of four-year postsecondary education programs comes at the expense of two-year, technical and apprenticeship opportunities that may better equip students with relevant skills and connect them to a high-wage job.

In the question period, which was well attended by committee members from both the subcommittee and full committee, many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle spoke to the need to change the image of CTE and applauded the witnesses’ inclusion of data in their testimony.

Today’s event comes at a critical point in time, when the Trump administration has signaled potentially dramatic cuts to domestic programs including education. If there is any takeaway from this morning’s hearing however, it is that CTE enjoys broad support, not only from members of Congress in both parties  but also the education and employer community as well.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

As Dust Settles from Presidential Transition, A Path for Perkins Emerges

February 22nd, 2017

Transition Update from the Trump Administration

After a contentious confirmation hearing and an unprecedented vote requiring Vice President Mike Pence to break a Senate tie, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education on February 7. In her first weeks on the job, Secretary DeVos reassured state education officials they should move forward with implementing the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) as planned, despite moves from the 115th Congress to eliminate Obama-era regulations on ESSA accountability and teacher preparation. Barring further changes from the administration, state ESSA plans are due on either April 3 or September 18 this year.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted by a narrow 51-49 margin to confirm former congressman Mick Mulvaney to head President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. It is unclear at the moment exactly how Mulvaney will influence the budget and appropriations process moving forward, though he has advocated widespread cuts to federal spending. Mulvaney’s first task will be releasing the administration’s budget priorities for fiscal year 2017 and 2018. While FY18 begins in October this year, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on April 28. Congress will need to either pass a new CR or put together an omnibus budget bill by that date to keep the government running through the fall. Advance CTE has been closely monitoring budget and appropriations efforts and will report back as more information comes available.

Buzz on the Hill around CTE Month

This year’s CTE Month – an annual celebration of Career Technical Education (CTE) – coincides with the 100-year anniversary of the Smith-Hughes Act. On the Hill, there is growing enthusiasm and recognition of the progress CTE has made over the past century. Last week, the Senate passed a resolution praising CTE for helping students develop the skills and abilities they need to be successful in the workforce. The resolution garnered a record 31 co-sponsors before it was passed.

Also, a Valentine’s-Day CTE Caucus event celebrating the past, present and future of CTE drew a crowd. Advance CTE’s very own Kimberly Green spoke on the panel, sharing the history of federal involvement in CTE from Smith-Hughes through today. A video of the event is available here.

Perkins Reauthorization A Top Priority for 115th Congress

Members of the House Education and Workforce Committee are coalescing around a possible springtime reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). In an op-ed for Real Clear Education, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) wrote that passing an updated Perkins Act was a top priority for her committee, one she aims to “finish … in the coming months.” The Committee has scheduled a hearing on strengthening CTE at the secondary level for February 28 and is rumored to be planning to reintroduce a bill that is in close proximity to last year’s H.R. 5587 shortly thereafter. That bill passed the House in September on a 405-5 margin but stalled in the Senate.

Perkins reauthorization is top of mind for the nascent Trump administration as well. Speaking at the 2017 Community College National Legislative Summit, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos remarked:

I know that there are many items on your legislative agenda, from reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the Perkins Act, to ways community colleges can help transform the nation’s infrastructure, to allowing Pell Grants to have flexibility in supporting students working to graduate more quickly. And in the days ahead, I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts and working with you as President Trump’s vision continues taking shape.

As always, subscribe to our Legislative Update blog series for the latest updates on Perkins and other federal activities related to CTE.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Betsy DeVos’s Narrowing Path to Confirmation

February 3rd, 2017

On Tuesday the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee voted to advance Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, out of committee. The vote was narrowly decided along party lines with 12 Republicans voting for and 11 Democrats voting against her nomination.

Since then, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both announced they would not be voting for the nominee, putting Betsy DeVos’s nomination on very shaky ground. That leaves her with just 50 Republican votes, meaning the final decision may fall to Vice President Mike Pence, who casts a vote in the Senate in the event of a tie.

Shortly before the Senate HELP committee vote, DeVos released written responses to 139 questions from Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). Among them was a question related to reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). DeVos called Perkins reauthorization “an important priority,” and added that she aims to work with the HELP committee to update the law to “provide flexibility at the state and local levels” and “ support transparency of data so parents, students, and other taxpayers can see how well their programs are working.”

Early this morning, the Senate voted 52-48 to end cloture, a procedural hurdle that needed to be cleared before the Senate would be able to conduct the final vote on DeVos’s confirmation. The final vote is now scheduled for Monday, February 6.

Trump Appoints Jerry Falwell, Jr. to Task Force for Higher Education

According to the Chronicle for Higher Education, Jerry Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty University, will be advising the Trump administration on higher education policy. He was appointed this week to lead a task force that will study issues related to accreditation, student loan forgiveness, campus sexual assault and more. While Falwell’s positions on such issues are unclear, he has made statements indicating that he aims to scale back the role of the federal government in postsecondary education.

Meanwhile, Lots of Support for CTE on the Hill

Last week, House and Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs received a letter urging them to resume Perkins reauthorization. The letter, which was signed by 85 organizations and businesses, praised Perkins as a tool for meeting the needs of the 21st century economy and helping employers close critical skills gaps. Advance CTE was a co-signer of the letter.

Additionally, Senate Democrats last week introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that aims to create more than 15 million jobs. The bill is an attempt at bipartisanship in response to President Donald Trump’s comments, both on the campaign trail and during his inauguration, that rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure is a priority in the early months of his administration. Included in the bill is $75 billion for school construction projects, which will be disbursed to schools based on need.

In the House, Republicans introduced a resolution on Thursday under the 1996 Congressional Review Act to revoke Obama-era regulations for accountability and teacher preparation under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While the regulations were already frozen temporarily under a recent executive order from the White House, this resolution would revoke the regulations entirely. Further, President Trump’s administration would be prohibited from issuing “substantially similar” regulations, casting uncertainty over the future of ESSA implementation. The resolution must be approved by both the House and the Senate before going into effect.  

Finally, to help celebrate CTE month, the Senate CTE Caucus will be hosting an event that examines the role and impact of federal CTE policy.  Once this event is confirmed, we will share a link so you can participate virtually, as the event will be livestreamed.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate and Kimberly Green, Executive Director

 

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