Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dual enrollment: Hot topic in 2012 legislatures

The legislative sessions are still underway in most states, and already at least 7 dual enrollment-related bills in 6 states have either been enacted or sent to the governor's desk. This post will look at just a couple of these legislative developments.

Virginia H.B. 1184 has the potential to greatly enhance student access to postsecondary credit opportunities for high school students in the Commonwealth. It requires every local board to develop a local articulation agreement with a community college (and every VCCS community college to develop articulation agreements with the high schools in the area each serves), specifying student options for complete an associate's degree or one-year Uniform Certificate of General Studies at the same time as a high school diploma. The agreement must specify the credit available for dual enrollment courses. The legislation also amends an existing policy requiring student and parental notification of dual enrollment and other early college credit opportunities to include notification of the articulation agreement. And upping the ante just a little bit more, the legislation directs the department of education, in its guidelines for an award under the Virginia Index of Performance incentive program, to consider the number of high school students completing the one-year Uniform Certificate of General Studies or an associate's degree when they graduate from high school.

Oregon H.B. 4014, meanwhile, creates the 14-member Task Force on Accountable Schools, charged with developing a plan to improve school accountability practices. The task force must recommend, among other components, college- and career-readiness measures that assess dual enrollment and advanced course completion. The performance and rating system the task force must develop must include comparisons to similar schools, which would have the potential to truly shine a spotlight on schools encouraging dual enrollment participation, particularly among schools serving large populations of low-income and minority students, who are unfortunately all too often underrepresented in dual enrollment programs. The legislation requires the task force to submit its recommendations for legislation to an interim legislative committee by November 1, 2012, so we'll need to stay tuned in 2013 to see what becomes of this effort.

A March 2012 post looked at enacted New Mexico legislation creating a state fund to help tribal colleges offer dual enrollment. And I'll likely be unpacking additional 2012 enrolled/enacted dual enrollment legislation in a later post, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oregon: Breaking new ground on P-20 funding, accountability and alignment

As the landmark 2005 report The Governance Divide cogently argues, state funding and accountability structures are obstacles to aligned P-20 systems. Oregon legislation enacted in 2011 and 2012, however, puts the state on the map as the first to centralize funding decisions and accountability within a single entity.

2011 S.B. 909 creates the Oregon Education Investment Board to, among other duties, "[recommend] strategic investments ... to ensure that the public education budget is integrated and is targeted to achieve the education outcomes established for the state." The legislation makes clear that the state's P-20 data system is intended to "[monitor] expenditures and outcomes to determine the return on statewide education investments."

2012 S.B. 1581, just signed by Governor Kitzhaber last month, gives the Chief Education Officer appointed by the aforementioned Oregon Education Investment Board direction and control over specified state-level early learning, K-12 and postsecondary leaders (but excludes the current deputy superintendent from this oversight). Prior to each fiscal year, the new legislation requires an “achievement compact” to be entered into between each "education entity" -- which includes each: (1) school district, (2) education service district, (3) community college district or community college service district, (4) the Oregon University System (OUS), (5) each university that belongs to the OUS, and (6) the health professions and graduate science programs of the Oregon Health and Science University -- and the Oregon Education Investment Board for that fiscal year.

The legislation specifies that the investment board will establish the terms of achievement compacts, but provides that these may include a "description of the outcomes and measures of progress that will allow each education entity to quantify", among other indicators, "completion rates for critical stages of learning and programs of study; the attainment of diplomas, certificates, and degrees; and achieving the high school and post-secondary education goals established in ORS 351.009 and a projection of the progress needed to achieve those goals by 2025[.]" Each education entity's governing body must "identify a target number and
percentage of students for achievement of the outcomes, measures of progress and goals
specified in the achievement compact for the fiscal year."

As reported last week by the Oregonian, the investment board has not wasted any time, already approving "achievement compacts for 197 school districts, 17 community colleges, seven universities and Oregon Health & Science University."

The push for improved alignment among early learning, K-12 and postsecondary seems to be largely driven by Governor Kitzhaber, whose Web site provides more details about these P-20 governance/integrated budget efforts.

To my knowledge this is the only state that has implemented a P-20 funding and accountability approach. There are other states that have partial or full P-20 governance systems, but decisions about which entities get what funding are not necessarily made by a single entity as in Oregon. For example, New York’s Assembly and Florida Senate have separate “Education” and “Higher Education” committees (Florida Senate also has Budget Committee), the Florida House has separate Education and Appropriations committees, etc. Bills that have to do with education funding would bounce between two or more committees in these states—not as streamlined as what Oregon is putting together.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ACT/SAT-for-all: States adding, amending

Just within the last day or so, two states and the District of Columbia have addressed or acted on proposals to administer the ACT or SAT to all students. Things are hopping!

With a vote at last night's city council meeting, DC has joined the ranks of jurisdictions administering the ACT or SAT to all 11th graders, reports the Washington Post.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed S.F. 57, which makes several notable changes to the state program to administer ACT or WorkKeys to all 11th graders. The newly-signed legislation:
  • Repeals a provision that permitted a student with an individual education plan, upon parental request, to be excused from taking the ACT or WorkKeys
  • Overhauls the state accountability system to incorporate ACT or new [to be developed] computer-adaptive college placement assessment.
  • Directs the state superintendent to apply to US DOE for an ESEA waiver, with the ACT to be used to fulfill ESEA testing requirements
  • Makes an appropriation for the statewide administration of EPAS in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and to expand statewide ACT administration to include the writing portion.
And yesterday, Nevada's Legislative Committee on Education met to discuss, among other topics, potential revisions to the high school assessment system, including the state board of regents' December 2011 resolution urging the state to adopt an ACT-for-all approach.

More state changes may be on the way. For example, some states such as Louisiana have included an ACT-for-all provision as the college- and career-readiness assessment component of their ESEA waiver application.

For more on 2012 gubernatorial proposals on college readiness/college entrance exams, see my January 25, 2012 post.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Mexico: Helping tribal colleges offer dual enrollment

2012 S.B. 256, signed by the governor last week, will ease the financial strain on tribal colleges offering dual enrollment programs in New Mexico, and hopefully increase the numbers of dually-enrolled students at these institutions in the state.

Under New Mexico law, postsecondary institutions are required to waive tuition and fees for dual enrollment students--which is great for students and parents, but may create a burden for dual enrollment program participation, especially for small postsecondary institutions such as tribal colleges. The newly-enacted legislation creates the "tribal college dual credit program fund" in the state treasury, to be administered by the higher education department. Monies in the fund will be used only to pay tribal colleges for waived tuition and fees for dually enrolled students, both on the college campus and for those taking courses electronically.

While a small number of states make clear that tribal colleges may participate in statewide dual enrollment programs, I do not recall another state policy that took this strategy in hopes of boosting dual enrollment at tribal colleges. The approach is all the more commendable given the research that low-income and minority students are less likely to participate in dual enrollment programs, yet in some settings reap greater benefits from program participation than their more affluent and non-minority peers. Here's hoping the state will track data to determine whether the program does in fact increase dual enrollment participation at tribal colleges, and address other potential barriers to program access if identified.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Governors: Focusing on the "P" in 2012 state of the states

Early childhood education, all too often left out of discussions on the P-20 education continuum, has certainly gotten substantial play in 2012 state of the state addresses. Governors' proposals are aimed at a variety of P-3 issues, including prekindergarten and school readiness, funding, state governance of early childhood programs, young children's health and mental health, and more. Because so many 2012 state of the state addresses entered the P-3 arena, the following are just a sampling. More 2012 proposals and accomplishments in a subsequent post.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced in his 2012 state of the state address that the Commonwealth will "continue restructuring ... preschool and day-care programs to ensure every child is mentally and physically prepared for kindergarten". The governor urged the legislature to statutorily establish the Early Childhood Advisory Council he created in 2011 through executive order. And Governor Beshear noted Kentucky will continue searching for funding to expand "access to high-quality early education and care programs". (The governor did not mention his prior commitment to finding external funding for early learning programs, including via the issuance of a 2008 executive order creating the state Commission on Philanthropy to explore foundation funding for state challenges, with an initial focus on early childhood education and child health.)

Touting in his State of the District address that D.C. was the first city in the county to offer universal pre-K, and that the city is "now ranked #1 in the nation in pre-kindergarten enrollment", Mayor Gray proposed that D.C. "expand access to universal, high-quality infant and toddler care." The mayor also stated that the state-of-the-art Educare Center will be an incubator for and testing ground "best practices about early childhood development that" will later undergo broader implementation "in a coordinated, citywide strategy."

In his first state of the state, newly-inaugurated Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant proposed initiatives targeted at improving child care quality, including "monitoring the learning opportunities in licensed child care centers". He also proposed combining the functions of the department of health and department of human services to create a division of early childhood learning under the department of human services, to "streamline services and improve [the state's] ability to identify the quality of programs for early childhood learning." However, the governor made clear that he does not want to reinvent the wheel when determining what quality early childhood programs look like. He declared that over the coming year, the state will "gather additional information from ongoing programs such as Building Blocks, Excel by 5, Allies for Quality Childcare Project, and the Quality Rating System, that will give us the metrics we need to determine the best practices for Early Childhood Learning."

Does the preponderance of P-3 proposals portend that early learning will no longer be the ugly stepchild of the P-20 continuum? Perhaps. ECS called it early on in its 12 for 2012 report released last month--the time is ripe to shift our thinking to P-3.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Governors say: Let's improve opportunities for early college credit

A blog post last month noted that many governors' 2012 state of the state addresses include proposals or cite accomplishments related to areas that play a key role in P-20 alignment. One of these areas, dual enrollment, has gotten play in multiple state of the state addresses this year, and in a departure from how many might conceptualize dual credit, some governors' proposals are focused on CTE dual credit and workforce development.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant included among his numerous education proposals a collaborative effort among the department of education, department of employment security and state community colleges to allow potential high school dropouts the opportunity to enroll in community college workforce training programs.

In his 2012 state of the state address, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon encouraged other postsecondary institutions to follow the University of Central Missouri's new Innovation Campus model, which will permit high school students to enroll in college courses, then "participate in high-impact apprenticeships throughout the college curriculum. Corporate partners will underwrite tuition scholarships, and faculty and employers will partner to guide each student."

Meanwhile, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell stated he would "propose innovations to promote greater dual enrollment in high school and community college, so motivated students can get a head start on their college educations", and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin vowed to "propose significant investments state investments in higher education and dual enrollment, all aimed at making Vermont students even more competitive and creating opportunities for employers to recruit the employees they are now seeking."

In terms of accomplishments, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear noted that he signed a dual credit agreement last fall to allow students to earn high school and postsecondary credit for approved courses, including career/technical education courses. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber touted 2011 legislation that expanded learning options for students - dual enrollment, two-plus-two, Advanced Placement and IB (see 2011 S.B. 254 and H.B. 3106).

Will legislatures, state departments of education and postsecondary systems/institutions be game? Let's hope so. Let's also hope that states address critical policy barriers, to make sure less advantaged students, which appear to be underrepresented in many states' dual enrollment programs, enjoy the same opportunities as their better-positioned peers.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Indiana: Amending Core 40 requirements

Indiana, the poster child for state-level efforts to increase high school rigor and improve alignment between high school curricula and postsecondary/workforce expectations, has recently made some changes to high school graduation requirements to further enhance expectations and real-world applications.

Students starting high school this fall who opt out of the "Core 40" curriculum into the "minimum" curriculum will need during their junior or senior year to complete two semesters of either math or "qualitative reasoning" (defined in administrative code as "a high school course that advances a student's ability to apply mathematics in real-world situations and contexts") . Core 40 students, meanwhile, will need to complete 3 years of math after entering high school (credits earned before grade 9 may be applied toward diploma requirements but not toward this 3-credit requirement), and must be enrolled in a math or qualitative reasoning course each year of high school (previous rules called for students to complete either two semesters of math or of physics during the junior or senior year of high school).

Students selecting the Core 40 diploma with academic honors option likewise will be required to be enrolled in a math or qualitative reasoning course each year of high school, and will need to earn 3 of the 4 required math units after entering high school. Students in the Core 40 diploma with academic honors option must already select from one of a handful of additional measures of academic prowess--these additional measures are changing, too. For example, students previously could fulfill this section of the requirements by completing dual credit courses that resulted in 6 transferable college credits. Now students will need to select those dual credit courses from "the priority course list" of liberal arts or "career and technical education courses published by the Indiana commission for higher education"; those courses will need to result in "verifiable transcripted college credits." Students could alternatively previously meet the extra requirement by earning either a composite score of 26 on the ACT or 1200 on the SAT. That won't fly starting with next year's freshmen, either--students taking the ACT will need to earn at least a 26 and complete the written section; students opting for the SAT will now need to achieve a composite score of 1750 and a minimum of 530 on each section.

For the Core 40 diploma with technical honors, students will also need to be enrolled in a math or quantitative reasoning course each year of high school and complete 3 units of math after entering grade 9. Previously students could earn the extra CTE "points" toward the technical honors diploma by earning either a state-recognized certification or a certificate of technical achievement. Effective this coming school year (next year's grads), the certificate of technical achievement is no longer an option. And effective with students entering high school next fall, students will need to show the extra oomph by (1) earning a pathway designated industry-based certification or credential (or pathway designated dual high school and college credit courses from the lists of priority courses resulting in 6 verifiable transcripted college credits), plus (2) achieving specified minimum scores on either Accuplacer, WorkKeys or Compass, or completing one of the "oomph" requirements specified for the academic honors candidates.

I'm assuming that, given Indiana's reputation for high standards, "qualitative reasoning" is not the return of consumer math. And on that point--although states are (I think) trying to increase the real-world applications in rigorous high school math courses as the pool of students required to take these courses becomes broader, this is the first time I've seen "qualitative reasoning" specified as a math option to complete high school graduation requirements. It will also be interesting to see several years from now how the math requirements impact math remediation rates at postsecondary institutions in the state, and if/how the changes to the honors diploma requirements impact the number of students completing these options and their college-readiness. And here's hoping the state will survey employers hiring recent recipients of the new and improved Core 40 diploma with technical honors, to see if the increased expectations make a measurable difference when these diploma holders walk onto a job in their designated field.