EDUCATION ISSUES FACING STATES IN 2014

Education Week has a good article outlining education issues facing governors and legislatures in 2014.  This will be a “tricky political climate” for policy makers seeking reelection in the fall.

For many states, this year will be a key juncture for decisions about the standards—and related exams—before their full weight is felt in classrooms, district offices, and state education departments in the 2014-15 school year.

Many lawmakers will be working to help ensure that state accountability and assessment systems lead to students who are better prepared for study and work after high school, said Jeremy Anderson, the president of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.  “For many governors, this transition from secondary to postsecondary is all about the future of the workforce in their states,” he said.

But the large slate of elections this year, including gubernatorial contests in 36 states and legislative races in 46, could tamp down many lawmakers’ enthusiasm for bold policy proposals, Mr. Anderson said.

Indeed, on such issues as the common core and teacher evaluations, many might choose a cautious approach, said Iris Maria Chavez, the assistant field director for the Education Trust, a Washington-based advocacy group.

“There will be a lot of playing defense over legislation that was passed the last several years,” she said. “Some states are trying to do some improvements to them, but acknowledge that it might not happen.”

But the common core won’t take up all the oxygen in statehouses. As the general fiscal environment for states continues its slow improvement, several states could boost their general funding for education or target more specific, high-profile policies.

The article accurately describes what is happening in North Carolina, without mentioning our state, as the State Board continues discussing assessment options tomorrow at the State Board of Education Meeting.

 In 2013, according to the NCSL, a total of 270 unique bills in all states dealt with academic-content standards in some way, a number that could rise significantly this year. In 2012, the total bill count in that area was only 117.

Questions about assessments are likely to dominate common-core legislation in 2014, said Daniel Thatcher, a senior policy specialist with the Denver-based NCSL who tracks legislation related to the common standards in English/language arts and mathematics that all but a handful of states have adopted.

Of the 270 standards-related bills last year, 107 dealt with assessments. Two major multistate consortia are working to develop assessments tied to the standards.

“It’s around assessments where states will make the biggest changes,” Mr. Thatcher said. “The budget is probably one of the best levers that legislators have to influence the direction of this.”

As the composition of the assessment consortia remains in flux, state lawmakers in many cases could look through a financial lens at the question of what test to use. The results could fragment the testing market across states, as officials weigh relatively inexpensive options, or assessments from vendors they have the most experience with.

Other charged issues facing state legislatures around the country:

*School Scores, Ratings – which begins in North Carolina this year.

*Funding – Always an issue, especially teacher’s salaries, and always seems to be on the front burner when it is an election year.

*Pre-school, Early Learning – Little success in Congress, but may enter the picture at the state level.

*Privacy Issues – With the collection of longitudinal data associated with the Race to the Top Grant, many states are considering legislation to protect student data.

Education continues to be a hot issue across the county.  North Carolina is no exception with the State Board of Education considering assessment changes, a legislative committee studying Common Core Standards, and then a short session beginning in May with teacher pay discussions.  Life is not dull!

 

 

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