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Legislative Update: Senate Rejects FY 2012 Budget Proposals, House Committee Votes to Cut 43 Education Programs, Bills Introduced

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Senate Rejects FY 2012 Budget Proposals

The Senate voted on four separate FY 2012 budget plans yesterday, and each of the plans was rejected. The budget plans set the overall spending caps for Congress and, in most cases, allocate funds to the subcommittees.

The budget rejections signal that passing an FY 2012 budget will again be a drawn-out process.

House Committee Votes to Cut 43 Education Programs

The House moved forward with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) yesterday by voting to cut 43 education programs identified in a bill proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) two weeks ago.

The measure, the first in a series of ESEA bills, would cut many programs that were defunded in the FY 2011 budget, those consolidated or eliminated in Obama’s proposed FY 2012 budget, and those that have not been funded recently.

Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), stated his support, “[The bill] is a starting point that helps us narrow the role of the federal government while making sure that taxpayer dollars can be dedicated to the most efficient K-12 programs.”

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) agreed that some programs should be consolidated, but argued that removing programs completely would cut off valuable resources and harm students.

The measure will be unlikely to gain support from the Democratic Senate, as Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate’s education committee, and other Senators have strongly opposed many of the program cuts.

Encouraging Engineering Education in K-12

Rep. Paul Tonko (NY) introduced H.R. 1951, a bill to award planning and implementation grants to schools to enable them to integrate engineering education into K-12 instruction and curriculum. The legislation would also provide evaluation grants to measure the effectiveness of the programs.

Post 9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act

Sen. Tom Petri (WI) introduced H.R. 1947, the Post 9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act, to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The legislation would update the Troops to Teachers program to increase the number of schools eligible to participate, and would make more retiring servicemen and women qualified to participate. Since 1993, over 12,000 retired members have brought math, science and foreign language expertise to schools through the program.

Bill to Address Nursing Shortage

Rep. Sensenbrenner (WI) introduced H.R. 1929, a bill to provide relief to the projected nurse shortage. The bill would create a career ladder for nurses, encourage pipelines for nursing education, and encourage the participation of public and private employers and other organizations. The goal is to encourage current healthcare workers to become nurses.

By Kara in Legislation, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Improve STEM Proficiency, Lifelong Learning Accounts, Community College Energy Training, STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The House is in recess until May 23rd. The following bills were introduced recently:

Education Agenda to Improve STEM Proficiency

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) introduced S. 969, an innovation education agenda as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill would award planning and implementation grants to state educational agencies to implement activities integrating engineering into K-12 instruction and curriculum. Additionally, evaluation grants would be provided to assess the performance of the program. The bill aims to graduate more STEM students, attract more STEM teachers, and raise science proficiency to restore America’s competitiveness.

Lifelong Learning Accounts Act

Rep. John Larson (CT) and several others reintroduced H.R. 1869, the Lifelong Learning Accounts Act (LiLA). The bill promotes continuing education as a way to improve job skills and promote workers’ marketability. LiLA would create worker-owned, employer-matched savings accounts to incentivize career-related skill development and to promote a competitive workforce through lifelong learning.

Community College Energy Training Act

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM) introduced H.R. 1881, the Community College Energy Training Act, to help community colleges provide clean energy workforce training. The bill would require the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Labor to establish a program at community colleges for workforce training in sustainable energy. The legislation currently has 24 cosponsors.

STEM for Girls, Underrepresented Minorities

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA) reintroduced H.R. 1903 to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide schools with grants to encourage girls and underrepresented minorities in fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Woolsey says that it’s important to address gender and racial gaps in the STEM field to provide more opportunities for all students, and also as a smart economic strategy for the country.

By Kara in Public Policy
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New Report Says Expand and Promote CTE

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Career Technical Education (CTE) should be expanded and promoted to address the skills gap and to staff the American workforce, according to a new report.

The HR Policy Association, an organization representing the chief human resource officers of major employers, produced the report to lay out specific changes to ensure the competitiveness of the American workforce and fulfilling careers for job seekers.

The organization’s members recommend the following changes that can be addressed through CTE:

The report states that “Americans are not being educated in sufficient numbers to meet the demands of today’s highly technical work processes and products.” Our country increasingly relies upon ever-changing technology, and workers need skills to develop, repair, and maintain it.

CTE provides a solution. Comprehensive CTE programs prepare students to be college and career ready and to effectively fill vacancies for skilled jobs.

By Kara in News, Resources
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Vermont to Host National Association for Workforce Improvement STEM Conference May 24 & 25

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Vermont to Host National Association for Workforce Improvement STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Conference May 24 & 25, Burlington Hilton

On May 24 and 25, Vermont will host an annual conference of the National Association for Workforce Improvement (NAWI) at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington, VT.  NAWI is a professional organization of high school and community college career and technical education administrators, faculty, business and government from across the United States and as far away as Hawaii, California and Florida.  Between 100-150 professionals are expected to attend some or all of the two day conference.  The event is co-sponsored by the Vermont Department of Education.

The conference will focus on the future of STEM education.  The afternoon of May 24 participants will discuss what STEM education should look like in 5 years.  There are more than 18 one hour workshops, keynote speakers from Washington DC and elsewhere, several interactive sessions the afternoon of May 24 followed by a reception for educators, government and businesses.

To see the program listing and register, go to http://www.nawionline.org/conference/index.html

This information was submitted by Douglas Webster, Career and Technical Education Coordinator, Vermont Department of Education. Douglas can be reached at 802-578-7738 or
doug.webster@state.vt.us.

By Ramona in Meetings and Events
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NAEP Results: More Students Choosing Challenging Courses

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Findings from a recent National Center for Education Statistics report suggest a strong relationship between the rigor of a high school student’s coursework and the student’s academic achievement.

The report, America’s High School Graduates: Results from the NAEP High School Transcript Study, analyzed student transcripts for coursework taken, credits earned, and grade point average (GPA). Specifically, the connection between courses taken and student achievement was considered.

Based on a representative sample of 37,700 public and private high school graduates, the analysis of the 12th grade NAEP assessment reveals that students taking more challenging coursework earn higher math and science scores. On average, 2009 graduates earned more credits, including those in career technical education (CTE) courses, than any previous graduating class. Additionally, the overall GPA for students taking classes in areas like CTE increased from 3.03 to 3.39.

Students taking Algebra I before entering high school scored 31 points higher on the math portion of the NAEP than those who did not take Algebra I until high school. Additionally, the study indicates that students taking basic or mid-level curriculum can greatly increase the rigor of their studies simply by adding more challenging science classes. Girls were found to take less science coursework than boys.

The report describes that students taking the most challenging or “rigorous” level coursework earned proficient-level scores on the NAEP test. On average, students taking “mid-level” curriculum or “standard” curriculum (the lowest level of coursework) received basic-level scores on the NAEP exam, indicating only partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for success in 12th grade math and science.

The report states that, on average, high school students are taking increasingly challenging coursework, and the increased rigor leads to higher student achievement. We can continue this trend by increasing the rigor of CTE programs of study and by ensuring that CTE students are taking rigorous math and science courses.

By Kara in News, Research
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Creation of ARPA-ED Agency Would Catapult Science and Technology Education Research

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

In his January 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama expounded upon his goals to out-innovate other nations through ground-breaking education initiatives leading to increased college completion rates. Part of the President’s strategy includes strengthening educational technology research and development, and his FY2012 budget proposes adding a new agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED), to press forward with such initiatives.

The Department of Education states that “ARPA-ED will aggressively pursue technological breakthroughs that have the potential to transform teaching and learning the way the Internet, GPS, and robotics… have transformed commerce, travel, warfare and the way we live our daily lives.” Based on the innovative Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ARPA-ED will focus on funding transformative projects in the areas of teaching and learning. Some projects to be pursued include:

Aside from improving K-12 and postsecondary learning, the Department also suggests that projects will deliver fast-paced learning opportunities to help retrain displaced workers for workforce reentry.

To read more, visit the Department of Education’s Winning the Education Future: The Role of ARPA-ED.

By Kara in News, Research
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Study: Out-of-School Time STEM Programs for Girls

Friday, March 4th, 2011

A recently updated Harvard report credits out-of-school time (OST) programs for increasing middle school and high school girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – areas that are a part of many career technical education programs.

The study evaluates six OST programs that engage female students (some also include male students) in STEM subjects through mentoring, field trips, afterschool programs, and other activities. Initial evaluations of the six OST programs reveal positive academic and behavioral outcomes for girls. The researchers conclude that female participants thrive in a “non-threatening and non-academic environment for hands-on learning that is collaborative, informal, and personal.” They also suggest that these and similar OST programs may be an effective way to lead more females into STEM careers.

To read the report, visit the Harvard Family Research Project’s Research Update 5: STEM Out-of-School Time Programs for Girls.

By Kara in Research
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Legislative Update: Budget, Jobs Hearing, ESEA, Fast Track to College Act

Friday, January 28th, 2011

House Republicans Set Budget Levels for FY11

This week the House passed House Resolution 38, which directs Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (WI) to issue budget allocations for FY 11 non-security discretionary spending at FY 08 levels or lower. The House approved the resolution by a vote of 256-165, with all Republicans and 17 Democrats voting for it. Allocations at FY08 levels would mean a 13.6 percent cut in federal programs across the board, and would result in a $9.42 billion reduction in spending for education programs from the current funding level.

Chairman Ryan is slated to provide the House Appropriations Committee with figures the week of February 7  that they can use to prepare a continuing resolution (CR). House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) wants a vote on the CR the week of February 14 before the current CR expires in March. President Obama is also scheduled to release his FY12 budget the week of February 14.

House Holds Hearing on American Workforce

The House Education and Workforce Committee held its first hearing of the 112th Congress this week, State of the American Workforce, which focused on the current state of the U.S. workforce and strategies to encourage the private sector to hire new workers. In his testimony, Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA) spoke about his state’s goal to graduate an additional 100,000 postsecondary students, especially in high demand STEM fields. During questioning, Rep. Bobby Scott (VA) asked if “vocational education opportunities” would be part of this plan, and McDonnell stated that two-year certificates and Associate degrees will help individuals obtain well paying jobs.

Administration and Senate Vow to Work Together on ESEA This Year

On a call with media this week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (IA), ranking member Sen. Mike Enzi (WY), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), the ranking member of the subcommittee overseeing K-12 policy, said that they intend to move quickly and in a bipartisan manner on a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Some areas of agreement included: changing the AYP system, focusing on the lowest performing schools, advancing teacher evaluation systems, and disaggregating data by subgroups.

Harkin stated that he would like to have a bill ready for mark up by the Easter recess, and on the floor by the summer. He said the committee is going begin writing the legislation, without further hearings (the committee held 10 hearings last year).

Fast Track to College Act

This week Herb Kohl (WI) introduced S. 154, Fast Track to College Act, which would authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to support early college high schools and other dual enrollment programs in an effort to reduce high school dropout rates and improve access to college for students.

By Nancy in Legislation
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State of the Union Focuses on Education, CTE Student Sits with First Lady

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

In his second State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama set a broad agenda for improving the economy and maintaining the United States’ status as a global super power. Calling this our “Sputnik moment,” the President urged Congress, private businesses and the American people to work together to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.

Recognizing that the world has changed and that a high degree is no longer sufficient to earn a family sustaining wage, Obama focused on the ways that education can help turn around the economy. First, he cautioned against “pour[ing] money into a system that’s not working” and highlighted the ways that his Race to the Top grants have reformed education through the adoption of new standards. He also stated that Race to the Top should be the foundation for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind this year. Among the other education priorities that he addressed were: raising the status of the teaching profession, increasing the number of STEM teachers, making postsecondary more accessible and affordable, and training individuals for new careers and new jobs.

He also stressed the importance of community colleges in meeting the demands of out fast-changing economy and singled out Kathy Proctor, a student at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina who is earning her degree in biotechnology at the age of 55 because the furniture factories in her town have disappeared.

However, despite the President’s call for greater investment in things like innovation, education and infrastructure, last night he proposed a five-year freeze on non-defense discretionary spending beginning this year. This comes after House Republicans have pledged to return appropriations levels to FY08 or FY06 levels. So while we don’t know what spending levels will look like after the CR expires in March, it seems certain that there not be any funding increases this year.

On a brighter note, Brandon Ford, a junior at the Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering at West Philadelphia High School was invited to be a guest in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box last night. Brandon was recognized for his participation in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition, in which teams from across the globe compete to create production-ready, highly fuel efficient vehicles. Brandon and his team went up against corporations, universities and other well-funded organizations from around the world, advancing all the way to the elimination round.  Congratulations, Brandon!

By Nancy in News, Public Policy
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ACE Mentor Program Provides STEM-Related Experiences to Students

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The ACE Mentor Program (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) is a mentorship program for students interested in careers in architecture, construction, and engineering, and provides students with early career exposure as well as scholarship opportunities. The program is a nationwide, bi-weekly after-school activity for high school students led mostly by volunteer teachers and industry professionals. Classes are regularly supplemented with guest speakers and site visits, providing students with real exposure to the field.

At a time when secondary to postsecondary transitions are in the spotlight, the ACE Mentor Program offers an impressive model of experiential learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields. A recent article, Mentor Program Introduces Students to STEM-Related Fields, examines the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Washington Inc., and describes the program and its impact on high school students across the D.C. metropolitan area. Program highlights included the students’ visits to construction sites, hearing about the experiences of a recent STEM graduate, and a discussion of building design.

According to teachers and ACE alumni, the program has been successful in recruiting students to pursue careers in architecture, construction, and engineering. A 2009 ACE Mentor Program survey of recent alumni (from 2002-2009) suggests that most alumni were influenced to pursue an ACE career path as a result of participating in the mentorship program. Additionally, there is evidence the program encouraged students to perform better academically. While the national high school graduation rate is about 73 percent, ninety-seven percent of ACE students graduated from high school. Additionally, while 68 percent of all U.S. high school students enroll in college, ninety-four percent of ACE students reportedly enrolled in college.

In the previously mentioned article, White House policy analyst Kumar Garg states, “Exposing students to different types of careers and how to get there has a powerful impact on their motivation in school and getting good grades, whether their interest is in science and technology, and what they do to get there.” The ACE Mentor Program is a powerful tool for students. Alumni bode well with a high graduation rate, high college enrollment, and student interest in the ACE field. ACE programs such as this may provide students with exposure and knowledge in areas they may not have previously considered, increasing interest in STEM fields and easing the secondary to postsecondary transition for students.

By Kara in News
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