Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

STATELINE: 2002 Highlights and 2003 Predictions

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

STATELINE: 2002 Highlights and 2003 Predictions

Article excerpt

STATE policies enacted in 2002 rode an undercurrent of cultural pride, an appreciation for what is significant, and an ever-increasing understanding that education is responsible for planting, nourishing, and maintaining the seeds of a healthy democracy. While state economies faltered, state legislators, state boards, chief state school officers, governors, and special committees hunkered down to attend to those details of governing over which they had influence and into which they sought to inject improvement.

In the past 12 months or so, state legislatures enacted nearly 2,000 significant education bills and policies. Over 100 of those bills addressed aspects of educational accountability; two dozen required or encouraged patriotic exercises or respect for the flag (18 of those passed after September 11, and one was vetoed); nearly 70 related to early learning; almost 50 bills were concerned with student health or nutrition; about two dozen affected school boards; more than 20 adjusted bilingual education provisions; leadership accounted for 30 bills; 85 addressed school safety; 47 adjusted state special education laws; at least 130 aimed at improving the quality of teaching; and nearly 200 dealt with how we pay for schools and the learning that occurs there.

At the Education Commission of the States (ECS), we break out provisions of omnibus bills into separate subject-related components for tracking purposes, but we also try not to track bills that contain only technical adjustments or "housekeeping" provisions. That said, here are our numbers for significant education provisions passed in the most-active states: Maryland, 179; California, 161; Florida, 166; Arizona, 99; Colorado, 87; Virginia and Kentucky, 81; Iowa, 66; Mississippi, 60; Alabama, 54. Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Washington were all in the forties.

Accountability

Here's a rundown of what we saw on the accountability front:

* attempts to make sure that the means by which schools are measured are accurate and measure the right things;

* a growing understanding that interventions are not easy and not always effective and that we need to discover the best leverage points for improvement (more emphasis on what's working, what is not, and why);

* growth in state infrastructures necessary to better collect and report data for schools, students, and districts; and

* more careful analysis of the capacity of states and districts to provide and sustain assistance.

What did these accountability bills look like? Nearly 20 bills addressed sanctions or interventions; 16 covered reporting on school performance; 34 assessment-related bills passed. Several states established or strengthened oversight commissions or committees. West Virginia's H.B. 4319 created a "Process for Improving Education Council" made up of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability, the governor, and the chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission. The Council has the authority to meet and consult with the state board and to make recommendations on issues related to the performance of students, schools, and the school system.

North Carolina's S.B. 1275 requires the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee to report to the state board if a local board and school are not responsive to its recommendations. If the state board determines that the school and local board have failed to take appropriate steps to improve student performance, the state board is to take general control and supervision of all matters pertaining to that school until student performance meets or exceeds the standards set for it. (The text of the bill is available at www.ncga.state.nc.us/html2001/bills/AllVersions/Senate/S1275vr.html.)

In Kentucky, S.B. 166 made it clear that the Office of Education Accountability has a responsibility to periodically review personnel policies and practices relating to recruitment, selection, evaluation, termination, and promotion of personnel. …

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