Monday, November 29, 2010

District of Columbia's Recent Wellness Policy

Many states are adopting policies in hopes of improving student wellness, via physical activity mandates, higher nutrition standards for school meals and vending machines in school buildings, etc. This past summer, the District of Columbia adopted a comprehensive student wellness policy that includes the usual approaches, as well as more unusual but promising ones. Among the atypical but intriguing elements of D.C.'s policy:

--Requiring schools to collaborate with parents, students, food service providers, and community organizations in the development of wellness policies. (Involving those impacted by the policy to make sure the "customers" are happy while ensuring goals are realistic and attainable.)

--A growing number of states require the adoption of wellness policies that include physical activity and healthful school foods--D.C. will also require local wellness policies to include goals for (1) improving the environmental sustainability of schools; and (2) increasing the use of locally grown, locally processed, and unprocessed foods from growers engaged in sustainable agriculture practices.

More on the less-common but promising components of D.C.'s wellness policy in future posts.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Increasing Efficiencies in Education

Many states are looking into ways to trim K-12 ed. expenses while maintaining program quality. To this end, most states are re-evaluating non-instructional services. However, Rhode Island legislation enacted in 2010 casts an eye at instructional services as an area for greater efficiency.

H.B. 7668 establishes the Cooperative Service Among School Districts Act of 2010. The bill calls for educational collaboratives to submit a plan to the board of regents, for approval by the commissioner of education, to increase efficiencies and economies of scale in providing instructional services. Each plan must incorporate best practices from business, reflect a regional approach and include measures related to (1) Teacher training and staff development programs; (2) Special education programs and diagnostic services; (3) Gifted and talented programs; (4) Programs for students at risk of suspension or expulsion; (5) Development of shared instructional services; (6) Joint purchasing agreements for various non-instructional services (which we are seeing in other states); and (7) Any other consolidation of services and purchasing that achieves efficiencies and cost savings.

Though some might argue that such plans are easier in small states like Rhode Island, there may be an argument for similar efforts in larger states, particularly states with numerous smaller school districts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

College completion has become an area of focus for many states. Illinois legislation enacted earlier this year is using financial aid as a carrot to boost 4-year degree completion rates, including in high-need fields.

S.B. 3699 creates the Community College Transfer Grant Program to award $1,000 scholarships for up to two years or 60 credit hours to students who have completed an associate's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. An additional $1,000 grant is available for students pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, mathematics, nursing, teaching or science.

It will be interesting to see several years from now how many students take the state up on the scholarship, and how B.A. completion rates of scholarship recipients compare against the completion rates of other students transferring to four-year institutions after A.A. completion.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Counseling, in comparison to other areas of high school reform, has seen relatively little meaningful policy change in recent years. Yet, as stated in an excellent report from several years back, Counseling and College Counseling in America's High Schools:

"repeated studies have found that improving counseling would have a significant impact on college access for low-income, rural, and urban students as well as students of color ... Specifically, if counselors begin actively supporting students and their families in middle school in preparing for college, as opposed to simply disseminating information, this will increase students' chances of enrolling in a four-year college[.]"

States need to reconsider policies that simply place more counselors in the schools or provide information with little direction to students, in favor of policies that call for counselors and other school staff to start developing a college-going culture and more individualized supports in the middle grades.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Welcome to ECS Ed Watch!

ECS Ed Watch aims to be your source for innovative, ahead-of-the-curve state policy approaches and the best new research with significant implications for education policy.

Today's tidbit: 2010 Tennessee legislation requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, in conjunction with the Department of Education, to develop and administer a program to pay the cost of licensing tests for adult students with financial need who complete a HS diploma or GED in a CTE program and who are required to take a test to become licensed for a career in their fields of study.