Posts Tagged ‘ESSA’

Leveraging Federal Policy to Strengthen Rural CTE

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

New Resource from Advance CTE Identifies Key Leverage Points

Today Advance CTE released a new cheat sheet to help state leaders identify and leverage federal policy to strengthen rural CTE. The brief, developed as part of Advance CTE’s CTE on the Frontier initiative, examines policy and funding intersections between the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins), the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The resource is designed as a conversation starter to help state leaders align supports and services in their states.

Rural America is home to 9.1 million K-12 students and more than half of the nation’s school districts. Many of these students do not go on to earn a postsecondary credential or degree. Only 28 percent of rural adults above the age of 25 held at least a 2-year degree in 2015, compared to 41 percent of urban adults.

CTE can help close this gap and prepare rural learners for the world of work. Already, states are adopting creative measures to ensure programs are high quality, connect rural learners with authentic work-based learning experiences, expand the breadth of options available in rural institutions and strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline. Many of these efforts are supported with state and local funds, but states are also leveraging Perkins reserve funds as well. 

The reserve fund is one of many leverage points in federal legislation that states can use to strengthen CTE in rural areas. Under the Perkins Act, states can set aside up to 10 percent of local funds to provide formula or competitive grants to recipients with either rural populations, high numbers of Career Technical Education (CTE) students or high percentages of CTE students. In Montana, state leaders have used the reserve fund to strengthen Big Sky Pathways in rural schools and focus dollars and supports on state priorities such as expanding dual credit opportunities.

According to a recent survey from Advance CTE, 38 state CTE directors reported using the reserve fund option in 2017, and 27 of those said that supporting rural students is one of the focus areas for their reserve funds this year. States can change their reserve fund priorities from year to year, but the fact that more than half are using the fund to augment rural CTE efforts is a testament to the need in rural communities.

Another example of how federal education programs can be leveraged to support rural communities is the Rural Education Achievement Program under ESSA, which provides supplemental funds to rural schools and districts that can be used to support other local activities. With ESSA’s renewed focus on career readiness and well-rounded education, schools and districts can use these funds to design and expand CTE programs of study, provide professional development for CTE and academic teachers, expand dual credit opportunities, and more. By braiding funds, aligning policy priorities, coordinating service delivery and working to remove barriers across programs, state leaders can better meet the needs of rural learners.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Publications, Resources
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States Can Strengthen Career Readiness Under ESSA; Will Round Two States Seize the Opportunity?

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Nearly two years of planning came to a head on Monday as states hit the second plan submission window under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Under the law, states are required to engage in stakeholder consultation and develop a comprehensive, statewide strategy for spending and holding districts and schools accountable for billions of dollars in K-12 federal education funding.

Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Education Department is now responsible for reviewing and approving state implementation plans. However, review of the first round of state plans is still ongoing and four round two states have been granted an extension due to this year’s catastrophic hurricane season. Since the initial submission window in April of this year, Sec. DeVos has publicly approved 14 out of 17 plans, with Michigan, Massachusetts and Colorado still waiting for approval. The department is expected to approve those plans shortly. Among the states scheduled to submit plans this week, Texas, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina — each still reeling from the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — have been permitted to submit their pans later this fall.

Not all state plans have gone without controversy either. The extensive plan development process surfaced differences of opinion between various policymakers and stakeholders. In a few cases, state governors refused to sign their state plans before they were submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. While states are required to provide the governor 30 days to review and comment on the plan, ESSA does not explicitly require the governor’s approval.

Career Readiness in ESSA

As Advance CTE has discussed at length, there are several leverage points within ESSA — most of them new in this version of the law — that policymakers can use to drive career readiness in their states. The primary leverage points include:

While 11 of the first 17 submitted state plans included (or plan to include) a career-focused measure in their high school accountability rating systems, states overall missed the opportunity to fully leverage ESSA to maximize career readiness. Only five states describes specific state-level activities to support career readiness, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) and/or dual enrollment under Title IV, Part A. And only two states identified opportunities to support blended academic and technical professional development under Title II, Part B.

Nevertheless, there is still flexibility for state and local leaders to go beyond what is specifically laid out in their ESSA plans to adopt career readiness strategies and prepare learners for post-high school transitions. Local education agencies must develop their own strategic plans for using ESSA funds. Depending on their local context, school districts may elect to prioritize work-based learning, credential attainment and CTE programs of study.

In the coming months, Advance CTE will review the 34 remaining ESSA plans to determine where and how states are making connections between ESSA and career readiness. This analysis, to be released later this year, will update this summer’s “Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans” report.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
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In Ohio, Policymakers Modify Graduation Requirements, Expand Credential Options

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

When Ohio state legislators passed HB487 in 2014, their intention was to increase flexibility, strengthen the rigor of high school examinations and provide more opportunities for learners to graduate ready for careers. Among other reforms, the bill formalized three pathways to graduation that would go into effect for the graduating class of 2018 (those students starting grade 12 this fall). These pathways include earning a remediation-free score on a college entrance examination, earning a cumulative passing score on seven end-of-course exams, or earning certain state-approved industry-recognized credentials.

But when local superintendents raised concerns about the policy earlier this year, state policymakers made critical last-minute changes and adopted additional graduation options. The concern was largely rooted in the idea that new end-of-course examinations were more difficult than previous versions and that many students would fall short of the full points needed to earn a diploma. Local leaders worried that the state graduation rate would fall by as much as a third under the new requirements.

In responses to this concern, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and the State Board of Education identified a temporary solution that would provide additional flexibility and delay full implementation for a year. That modification was officially adopted and authorized by the legislature in the fiscal year 2018-19 operating budget, passed in June. Under the policy change, students in the class of 2018 will have two additional opportunities to earn a high school diploma. Under one pathway, students will still have to earn 20 course credits and take end-of-course exams, but they can also graduate by meeting at least two of the following:

An additional pathway allows students to earn a diploma by completing end-of-course examinations, finishing at least four courses in a state approved CTE program of study, and either earning a proficient score on technical skill assessments, earning an industry-recognized credential or completing 250 hours of work-based learning. While these changes only apply to the graduation class of 2018, the state hopes to develop a long-term solution soon.

Ohio Students Now Have More Options to Earn Industry-Recognized Credentials

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Education expanded options for students on the credential graduation pathway by adopting 49 new industry-recognized credentials. The current list spans 13 career fields ranging from health to hospitality and tourism. To be added to the list, credentials must either be aligned with in-demand occupations in Ohio or be submitted for consideration by members of the public.

To help learners take full advantage of the industry-recognized credential pathway and cross the finish line with credentials in hand, Ohio is also implementing a senior only credential program. The program is designed to help high school seniors who have met most of their graduation requirements round out their senior year and graduate career ready. Participating students can choose from several credentials — such as the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America Approved Veterinary Assistant credential or the American Medical Certification Association Phlebotomy Technician Certification — that can be earned within a year or less. The senior year credential program is a key piece of Ohio’s career readiness strategy under the New Skills for Youth initiative.

Elsewhere, States Authorize New Grants, Modify Course Requirements and Finalize ESSA Plans

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
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In Round 2 ESSA States, A Clear Vision for Career Readiness Helps Anchor Implementation Strategies

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to articulate long-term goals for student academic achievement, graduation rates and English language proficiency. Yet some states have opted to go beyond federal requirements to describe a comprehensive vision for the future of K-12 education. In some cases, this helps anchor the plan and provides opportunities for cohesion across different title programs.

As the remaining 34 states prepare for next month’s submission deadline, several — including Pennsylvania and South Dakota — are taking the opportunity to refine their statewide vision. These states are leveraging the ESSA stakeholder engagement and planning process to chart out a new, aspirational future for education, one that puts career readiness front and center.

Pennsylvania Aims to Increase CTE Enrollment to Prepare All Learners for Postsecondary and Workforce Success

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), for example, describes its mission as preparing all learners for “meaningful engagement in postsecondary education, in workforce training, in career pathways, and as responsible, involved citizens.” PDE goes on to elevate the importance of career ready pathways for student success. This framing sets the tone for the rest of the state’s proposed ESSA plan, and is echoed through the state’s accountability, technical assistance and grant administration strategies.

Under accountability, Pennsylvania calls for a career readiness indicator to measure the implementation and completion of career exploration activities in elementary, middle and high school. Additionally, the state proposes a new public-facing report card called the Future Ready PA Index that will monitor and report out a variety of career readiness metrics. Metrics identified through stakeholder engagement include participation in advanced coursework (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment), and the number of students earning industry-recognized credentials.  The inclusion of these metrics in Pennsylvania’s public reporting and accountability system demonstrates the state’s commitment to career preparation at all levels of education.

The plan also identifies funding sources through different ESSA title programs and outlines strategies to braid funds and promote certain career preparation activities. These strategies are organized around four guiding priorities, one of which is to ensure well-rounded, rigorous and personalized learning for all students. Specifically, the plan proposes to increase participation in advanced coursework, promote access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education (STEM), and support meaningful career pathways, aiming to increase enrollment in state-approved CTE programs by five percent annually. With this clearly articulated vision, PDE urges local education agencies to braid funds through Title I, Title II and Title IV to support related efforts. Specific encouraged activities include hiring and training qualified career and college counselors to help learners make informed decisions about their career paths.

South Dakota Plans to Expand High-Quality CTE Pathways

Similarly, preparing all graduating high school student for postsecondary education and the workforce is one of four K-12 milestones identified in South Dakota’s ESSA plan. The importance of CTE and career preparation is not lost. In fact, South Dakota commits to providing learners with multiple pathways to demonstrate readiness for college, career and life after high school.

Like Pennsylvania, South Dakota plans to use its accountability system to achieve this vision. The state aims to refine it college and career readiness indicator, originally adopted in the 2012-13 school year, to value learners who graduate ready for both college and careers. The indicator includes two metrics — assessment of readiness and progress toward a post high school credential  that count students completing advanced coursework such as CTE, AP and dual credit as well as those earning passing scores on college entrance examinations.

What is notable about South Dakota’s ESSA plan is that CTE is drawn out as a strategy throughout different parts of the plan, illustrating the extent to which CTE is core to South Dakota’s vision. For one, South Dakota plans to provide technical assistance to schools identified for comprehensive or targeted support and improvement to help them develop and expand high-quality CTE pathways. The justification for this strategy is that CTE students have higher graduation rates. Additionally, South Dakota aims to launch pilot schools that provide work-based learning experience, early postsecondary opportunities and robust career guidance and supports for students. And, under Title IV, Part A (the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants), South Dakota plans to set aside state funds to help local education agencies expand high-quality CTE pathways.

ESSA gives states a clear opening to reorganize their priorities and vision for K-12 education. Newfound flexibility under the law allows for state-appropriate strategies that reflect stakeholder input and are aligned with other statewide initiatives. However, ESSA plans will only be as effective as states make them. By setting clear goals and connecting efforts and strategies, states can organize their ESSA implementation efforts to support career readiness and success.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
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Top Findings from Reviews of State ESSA Plans

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

How long does it take to read through and analyze 17 state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? Two months seems to be the sweet spot for many of the nation’s education thought leaders. Since the first submission window closed this spring, a number of groups, Advance CTE among them, have released their takes on the first round of state plans.

Federal education policy inevitably draws opinions, advice and criticism from all corners of the country, and states’ planning around ESSA implementation has been no exception. Below we round up some of the latest takes and summarize conclusions from the first round of submitted plans.

ESSA: Early Observations on State Changes to Accountability Systems (Government Accountability Office)

Purpose: The GAO was requested by Congress to study and report on states’ progress and approaches toward amending accountability under ESSA. To conduct the report, GAO policy researchers interviewed national stakeholders and met with education officials in California and Ohio, two states that were identified as taking different approaches to accountability.

Key Findings: The report finds that states are taking advantage of increased flexibility under ESSA, though the degree of change ranges by state. The authors classify ESSA accountability development by four dimensions: 1) determining long-term goals, 2) developing performance indicators, 3) differentiating schools and 4) identifying and assisting low-performers.  

ESSA Equity Dashboards (Alliance for Excellent Education)

Purpose: To highlight strengths and draw attention to growth areas in ESSA plans, the Alliance for Excellent Education is developing ESSA Equity Dashboards that rate key components of state plans. Dashboards are available for five of the first 17 plans, with the remaining expected in August. The dashboards examine long-term goals, support and intervention, and accountability.

Key Findings: The Alliance for Excellent Education highlights Louisiana’s plan for its focus on academic outcomes and the design of the state’s “Strength of Diploma Indicator.” Reviewers flagged Colorado’s long-term goals for math and reading performance.

ESSA Leverage Points: 64 Promising Practices from States for using Evidence to Improve Student Outcomes (Results for America)

Purpose: This analysis from Results for America examines the first 17 submitted ESSA plans and evaluates the degree to which states aim to use evidence-based practices in certain parts of their plan. The analysis is based on 13 key ESSA leverage points identified by Results for America and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Leverage points include monitoring local education agency implementation, allocating school improvement funds, monitoring and evaluating school improvement, and more.

Key Findings: The reviewers found that:

An Independent Review of ESSA State Plans (Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success)

Purpose: To supplement the Department of Education’s peer review process, Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success convened a peer review team of their own, drawing together more than 30 local, state and national experts to review and rate state plans. Their analysis focused on nine key elements.

Key Findings: The results of the peer review are broken down by state at https://checkstateplans.org/. Overall, the reviewers found that:

Leveraging ESSA to Promote Science and STEM Education in States (Achieve)

Purpose: This analysis from Achieve examines 17 round 1 state ESSA plans through the lens of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, pinpointing how states are leveraging assessments, graduation requirements and other goals to promote science and STEM.

Key Findings: Achieve’s analysis finds that, among the 17 round 1 state plans:

Making the Most of ESSA: Opportunities to Advance STEM Education (Education First)

Purpose: Education First, with support from the Overdeck Family Foundation, examined 25 state plans (including 17 submitted plans and an additional eight draft plans) to identify leverage points for STEM education and review whether and how states are taking advantage of these opportunities. Their review focused on four key dimensions of state plans: inclusion of state science assessments in accountability systems; including of Career Technical Education (CTE) indicators in accountability systems; inclusion of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate indicators in accountability systems; and STEM elements in 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Key Findings: The reviewers found that:

Reflections on State ESSA Plans (American Institutes for Research)

Purpose: Researchers at the American Institutes for Research reviewed 17 submitted plans and three additional draft plans to get a broad perspective on how states are prioritizing certain strategies. Their analysis covered plans for accountability, STEM, school improvement, technology and more.

Key Findings: Notably, the researchers at AIR found that, among the 20 plans reviewed:

Overall, reviewers seem impressed with states’ efforts to include more comprehensive indicators of student success in their accountability system. However, states were light on details about how their plans will be implemented and how schools will be supported to improve student performance. The remaining two-thirds of states planning to submit plans in September can draw on these findings, along with Advance CTE’s report on career readiness and ESSA, to ensure their plans are robust and sufficiently leverage all that ESSA has to offer.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

By Austin Estes in Public Policy, Research, Resources
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Despite Federal Budget Constraints, States Forge Ahead with ESSA Planning

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Earlier this year, 16 states and the District of Columbia submitted plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the Department of Education, detailing strategies to strengthen standards, accountability, teacher effectiveness and student supports. Since then, the remaining 34 states have continued work drafting their own plans. Despite uncertainty from Washington, DC, states such as New York and California are taking advantage of ESSA’s increased flexibility to promote career readiness, specifically through new accountability systems.

Despite lawmakers’ intentions to expand local flexibility, state planning has been somewhat constrained by the federal budget process. In May, Congress approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2017 that fell short of the authorized funding for certain ESSA programs. Specifically, the Title IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program — which consolidated a basket of categorically-funded initiatives in order to expand state flexibility — was funded at only $400 million for the year, far short of the authorized $1.6 billion (the program is eliminated entirely under the President’s proposed FY18 budget). As such, lawmakers decided to give states the option to distribute grants competitively rather than through a formula, as is prescribed in the law. It is not year clear if states will take this opportunity, though switching to a competition may discourage smaller districts from applying.

Under ESSA, at least 95 percent of SSAE funds are to be awarded to local education agencies for one of three priorities: supporting a well-rounded education, fostering a safe and healthy school climate and providing for the effective use of technology. These funds can be used to strengthen or enhance local Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, which are covered under the statutory definition of “well-rounded education.” Although funds go primarily to the local level, states have leeway to signal how they should be used. They can also expend state set-aside funds under Title IV-A to administer technical assistance in certain priority areas. While SSAE grants provide a clear leverage point to promote CTE statewide, many states are approaching the opportunity with caution, leaving it up to local education agencies to determine how such funds will be spent.

In the Wake of April’s Submission Window, Five States — Including New York and California — Release Draft Plans

In addition to the 16 states and D.C. that submitted plans during the first window, another 20 states have released draft plans or guidelines as of June 2017. The newest states to release draft plans include Arkansas, California, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Below we examine different approaches that New York and California are taking to leverage ESSA in support of statewide career readiness.

New York’s Plan Envisions Success in College, Careers and Citizenship

Building on the state’sgraduation pathways work, one of the key threads throughout New York’s first ESSA state plan draft is ensuring all students graduate “prepared for success in postsecondary education, careers, and citizenship.” The plan envisions a K-12 system that provides rigorous instruction, positive learning environments, and appropriate opportunities and supports so that all students can succeed.

One area in the plan where this priority is reflected is the state’s accountability system, which adopts a measure of College, Career and Civic Readiness as one of two School Quality and Student Success indicators at the high school level. ESSA requires states to adopt at least five accountability indicators, four that are loosely prescribed and a fifth measure of school quality that is up to a state’s choosing. As we’ve reported in the past, many states are seizing the opportunity to measure not only college preparedness but career readiness as well.

In New York’s case, the proposed College, Career and Civic Readiness Index encourages both college and career preparation and awards bonus points for students who surpass the minimum Regents or Local Diploma requirements. Under the proposal, schools will receive full points for students who earn a standard diploma, an additional half point for students who enroll in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or dual credit courses, and a full two points for students earning a CTE endorsement, an industry-recognized credential or a passing score on an AP or IB exam (among other options).

Furthermore, the plan explicitly encourages local education agencies to use SSAE grants to offer multiple pathways to graduation and career readiness. The state plans to use up to 4 percent of its permitted set-aside funds to support local education agencies to implement this, and other, priorities. And while the plan is light on details, the state promises to support student access to extra-curricular opportunities, including “community-based internships and … sports and arts.” New York’s state plan is still in the public comment stage and subject to change prior to the September submission deadline.

In California, Local Control Accountability Plans Will Drive ESSA Implementation

California meanwhile is approaching ESSA’s increased flexibility as an opportunity to supplement ongoing state efforts. In 2013, the Golden State transformed the way it funds education using a Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to consolidate state education funding and empower local education agencies to create and implement their own strategic priorities. Under the policy, local districts are required to create Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) to set goals and plan their delivery strategies. Additionally, California last year adopted a new multi-measure accountability system aligned to the LCFF to hold local districts accountable for using state education funds effectively. Just this year the state Department of Education released a school accountability dashboard that illustrates student performance on a variety of different measures.

California’s state plan proposes to use LCFF as a vehicle to implement ESSA. The plan, appropriately titled “The California Way,” proposes to map local ESSA planning efforts against the current LCAP to create a “single, coherent system that avoids the complexities of having separate state and federal accountability structures.” Local education agencies will submit an LCAP addendum as a supplement to address additional requirements under ESSA.

So how will California’s ESSA plan support career readiness? For one, the current accountability system includes a career and college readiness index. Interestingly, and unlike most other state proposals thus far, the index will count toward the state’s academic success indicator, along with student performance and growth on assessments. While the State Board of Education has blessed the indicator, it has yet to determine how it will be measured. Current considerations include dual enrollment, AP exam performance, IB exam performance and CTE pathway completion. Additionally, California’s plan points to other recent initiatives — such as the state’s three-year, $900 million CTE Incentive Grant Program — that are designed to enhance and expand regional CTE pathways in the state.

What New York’s and California’s ESSA state plans tell us is that states are taking full advantage of newfound flexibility to align federal initiatives with their own efforts. In the case of California and New York, both states have undergone work in recent years to revise graduation and accountability policy to better promote career readiness in high school. Others should consider how to align opportunities under ESSA to support their own state and local initiatives.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in News, Public Policy
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States Enhancing Career Preparation through Work-based Learning, Accountability and Graduation Pathways

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

It is possible that 2017 will be a pivotal year for Career Technical Education (CTE). With planning underway to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 recently introduced in the House, states are taking advantage of a policy window to advance new legislation and enhance CTE quality. 

At the moment, Advance CTE is tracking more than 200 bills, regulations and actions across the states that are relevant to the CTE community. Although it is too early to identify major trends — or even know for certain if the proposals we are tracking will ever cross the finish line — what is clear is that there is an evident and growing interest in strengthening CTE at the state level. Recently, new laws in Maryland, Indiana and Arizona aim to strengthen apprenticeships, accountability and alternative pathways to graduation.

Maryland Aims to Expand Apprenticeships and Measure Completion through Accountability System

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan approved the More Jobs for Marylanders Act of 2017. A jobs Act, the legislation aims to strengthen the state workforce by

Additionally, the law requires the state board of education to establish career readiness performance goals for CTE program completion, industry-recognized credential attainment and completion of a registered or youth apprenticeship. The state board must also work on a method to value apprenticeship completion in the state accountability system. Under the legislature’s recommendations, completion of a state-approved apprenticeship would be valued the same as earning a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement exam.

The More Jobs for Marylanders Act is part of Gov. Hogan’s Maryland Jobs Initiative, which aims to strengthen Maryland’s workforce and create new jobs. Under the initiative, Gov. Hogan also plans to expand Maryland’s Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) program, which was launched last year with the opening of two locations in Baltimore. Another bill passed by the legislature this year specifies requirements for the program and establishes a planning grant to help districts design and launch P-TECH programs.

Arizona State Board Approves Seventeen Measures of College and Career Readiness

Over in the Grand Canyon State, the Arizona State Board of Education approved a comprehensive (albeit somewhat confusing) college and career readiness indicator to include in the state’s accountability system. The indicator (details start on p. 75 of the state board’s meeting minutes) will make up 20 percent of the overall accountability score and will include no less than seventeen separate measures of college and career readiness. Measures will include (but are not limited to)

The indicator will also include college readiness measures such as earning a passing score on the SAT or earning dual credit. The total college and career readiness score for a school will be calculated across the entire graduating student cohort, with schools able to earn additional points for students who complete both college and career readiness activities.

Indiana Students Will Have More Graduation Options Starting in 2018

Meanwhile, Indiana’s newly-elected Governor Eric Holcomb ushered in a few CTE reforms during his inaugural legislative session. SB198 restructures the state’s CTE funding schedule using a three-tiered classification system that recognizes wages and industry demand for the specified pathway. The law requires the Department of Workforce Development to set the wage threshold and classify the types of CTE programs eligible to receive funding at each level.

Furthermore, the bill creates a pilot program to integrate career exploration activities into the eighth grade curriculum using the state’s Career Explorer system. The program will be piloted in 15 schools, with the aim of expanding statewide beginning in the 2018-19 school year.  

Gov. Holcomb also signed HB1003, which, in addition to replacing the state’s ISTEP test with a new program (ILEARN will be implemented in the 2018-19 school year), establishes alternative pathways to graduation. Starting June 30, 2018, students that meet the Indiana Core 40 requirements and demonstrate college and career readiness — to be determined by the state board of education — will be eligible to receive a high school diploma. Previously, students were required to complete a graduation examination. Former State Superintendent Glenda Ritz praised the measure, saying it would give “students many options to achieve an Indiana diploma tailored to their graduation goals.”

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
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In Kentucky and Arkansas, Lawmakers Authorize New ESSA Accountability Plans

Thursday, 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:

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:

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Legislation, Public Policy
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And They’re Off! Early ESSA Plans Signal Enthusiasm for Career Readiness

Thursday, 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:

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

By Austin Estes in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Measuring Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems: Where to Start

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) affords states the chance to strengthen their accountability systems by adopting multiple measures of school success rather than relying on an antiquated test-based system. Buoyed by this flexibility, state agencies across the country are exploring strategies to integrate career readiness indicators into their accountability systems. While some states have made considerable progress in this arena, others are left wondering where do we start?

To help states navigate this new territory, Education Strategy Group and the Council of Chief State School Officers convened a workgroup of accountability experts and tasked them with identifying and recommending robust metrics to measure career readiness. Their recommendations, released earlier this month in a brief titled Destination Known: Valuing College AND Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems, detail four possible measures of student career readiness:

The brief further outlines strategies for measuring and valuing each of these measures, demonstrating how states can implement and gradually increase the sophistication of their measurement indicators. Lessons are also drawn from states such as Ohio, Kentucky and California that have made headway toward adopting and implementing career-focused accountability indicators in recent years.

Moving forward, JPMorgan Chase & Co. aims to support state efforts to adopt these recommendations and enhance their career-focused accountability through New Skills for Youth, a cross-state initiative to dramatically increase the number of students who graduate from high school prepared for careers.

Expanding Access to Postsecondary Learning

Separately, students who earned dual credit in Oregon schools were more likely than their peers to graduate from high school, enroll in college and persist through their first year. That’s according to new research from the Research Education Lab at Education Northwest examining dual credit participation between 2005 and 2013. While the study reveals a correlation between dual credit attainment and positive outcomes, the authors note equity gaps in participation across student subgroups. Dual credit earners in the study were more often white, female and not on the federal free and reduced lunch program.

Equitable access to higher education is not a new issue, but it can often be exacerbated by performance-based funding formulas. Without careful design, such formulas can encourage two-year and four-year colleges to be more selective with who they admit into their programs. According to the Center for Legal and Social Policy (CLASP), states should adjust their postsecondary formula weights to counteract selectivity and encourage more open access to postsecondary education.

Odds and Ends

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Research, Resources
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