Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wisconsin: "Vocational Diploma" under debate

There has been a lot of discussion in the press and the blogosphere about Wisconsin's Sept. 2011 Special Session S.B. 18, a proposal that would allow a high school student to substitute vocational courses for the 13 credits specified in statute. As indicated on the legislative Web site, the bill is supported by certain business interests, and opposed by Disability Rights Wisconsin and various membership groups representing educators.

I'll throw my hat in the ring and note that while many states are making efforts to engage CTE students in their high school experience, some states have been much more specific in what those approaches look like. A few examples:
  • Virginia legislation calls for the state standards to be incorporated into CTE courses, as appropriate. Students may substitute a traditional academic end-of-course exam required for graduation with an industry certification or state licensure exam, again where appropriate. The legislation also directs the state board to "develop a plan for increasing the number of students receiving industry certification and state licensure as part of their career and technical education. The plan shall include an annual goal for school divisions. Where there is an accepted national industry certification for career and technical education instructional personnel and programs for automotive technology, such certification shall be mandatory. " The legislation also creates a division within the department of education to help districts incorporate these standards into local CTE curricula, provide professional development for CTE teachers, and elicit business and industry representatives' input on the "content and direction of career and technical education programs in the public schools".
  • Alabama, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia have all created a diploma or endorsement (in the case of Alabama, two diplomas) that are designed specifically for CTE students who want to strut their stuff. These diploma options generally allow a student to substitute only a small number of specified credits with CTE credits; some states also require students to earn an industry credential.
  • Numerous states allow students to substitute a CTE credit for traditional academic credit for completion of graduation requirements, provided the credit meets state-specified criteria. There are also various efforts afoot (Math in CTE, teacher certification provisions as two examples) to help ensure the rigor and quality of CTE programs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Last in, first out" employment policies on the way out in some states

I was recently asked how many states have done away with "last in, first out" policies--policies that require districts to make layoff or reduction-in-force decisions based on criteria other than seniority. It appears that 9 states--Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Utah--have adopted such provisions. With the exception of Arizona, which adopted its legislation in 2009, all these provisions were enacted in 2011.

In addition, in 2005 Arkansas enacted legislation that required districts to “have a written policy on reduction in force based upon objective criteria for a layoff and recall of employees.” However, the legislation does not define “objective criteria.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

How many states have anti-bullying policies?

All too often I am seeing incorrect information on the # of states with anti-bullying policies. 48 states and Guam have anti-bullying policies--46 states (and Guam) have established these through legislation, while two states--Hawaii and Montana--have policies only in administrative code.

However, as on so many other issues, simply saying that 48 states have anti-bullying policies is not particularly meaningful, as states vary widely on the level of detail in state policy. For example, some states simply require local boards to "address" bullying but do not explicitly prohibit bullying.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bullying: How to define it in state policy?

The debate in Michigan over defining "bullying" in legislation has reached national attention, as a revision to language on the victim attributes that might lead to bullying would permit actions reflecting "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction", according to a Detroit Free Press article.

While it's true that anti-bullying policies need to provide for a state or local definition of bullying--we can't prohibit what is not defined--developing a list of characteristics that may lead to bullying is not the only way to get there. Below are other approaches states have taken:
  • Leaving the "particular characteristics" to model state policy or related local policies: Some legislatures have decided to leave to someone else the business of defining the victim characteristics that may lead to bullying. Alabama, for example, requires the department's model policy prohibiting harassment, violence and threats of violence to include “A procedure for the development of a nonexhaustive list of the specific personal characteristics of a student which may often lead to harassment.” The statute adds that based on experience, local boards may add--but not remove--characteristics from this list.
  • Focusing on prohibited student actions rather than victim attributes: This is the approach many states have taken. Rather than trying to create even a nonexhaustive list of characteristics, legislation is silent on this point and instead describes the activities that constitute bullying, or environment that the bullying activity creates (i.e., gestures, or written, verbal or physical acts or threats that are severe, persistent or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for a student; acts that interfere with the learning environment).
  • Leaving a role for local policy: In some cases, legislation defines prohibited student actions, then requires local boards to adopt local definitions of bullying that are at least as comprehensive as those adopted by the legislature (so local definitions may or may not get into the victim characteristics that may spur bullying). In other states, policy does not even define bullying, and leaves the definition of bullying entirely to local discretion.
  • Making clear that the list of victim characteristics in legislation is not comprehensive: Colorado statute, for example, states, “Bullying is prohibited against any student for any reason, including but not limited to any such behavior that is directed toward a student on the basis of his or her academic performance; or against whom federal and state laws prohibit discrimination upon any of the bases described in 22-32-109(1)(ll)(I)”.

Watch for more details in a forthcoming ECS report on this issue.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

STEM: Focus more on producing mid-level skill STEM workers

The STEM report released last month by Anthony Carnevale and his team at Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce notes, "The most obvious weaknesses in the American education
system relate to the production of workers, especially STEM workers, at the sub-baccalaureate level. ... More than half of American workers have not obtained any postsecondary certificate or
degree. Yet, American high schools offer very little career and technical education or any substantial on-ramps to postsecondary career and technical education. As a result, students
who don’t get career and technical preparation in high school and don’t succeed in the transition to postsecondary programs are left behind."

We are beginning to see some states develop programs to enhance the number of young adults with the types of skills and credentials the report talks about. A couple examples were adopted this year in the Texas legislature (yes, if you're not sick of hearing me talk about Texas yet you may be soon, as there is plenty to talk about with the numerous innovations they adopted in their 2011 legislative session). H.B. 2910 (see pages 3-5) creates the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (T-STEM) Challenge Scholarship program. Institutions eligible to participate are public junior colleges and public technical colleges that admit at least 50 students into a STEM program each year and develop partnerships with business and industry to identify local employment needs in STEM fields and provide part-time jobs for students in a STEM program.

Eligible students must have graduated high school with at least a 3.0 GPA in math and science courses (I wonder if this also applies to applied math and science courses--the legislation doesn't specify this) and agree to work up to 15 hours a week at a participating business. To keep the maximum two-year scholarship, a student must stay enrolled in a STEM program at the institution, maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, keep up the ≤ 15 hours of work/week at the business, complete at least 80% of credits attempted each semester, and earn at least 30 credit hours each academic year. Institutions, to maintain their eligibility beginning with the 2nd year after program implementation, must show the higher education coordinating board that at least 70% of the T-STEM Challenge Scholarship graduates, within 3 months of graduation, are employed by a business in a STEM field or enrolled in upper-division courses leading to a 4-year degree in a STEM field.

The catch is that at least 50% of the scholarship funds must come from private funds. Will businesses pony up scholarship funds in a difficult economy, in hopes that students will pan out as employees? Or will businesses be fearful that students will jump ship and work for the company down the road after gaining two years of work experience during their degree program? It is intriguing, though, that the program does allow students to get their feet wet in a STEM field while they are still working toward their degree--so that they know whether the field is a fit for them before they complete their credential.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Interdistrict choice for bullying victims

I was asked last week how many states have open enrollment policies that allow students who have been bullied to transfer to another district. The answer? Texas requires, and California permits victims of bullying to transfer districts after a bullying victim's parent requests such a transfer, while both Texas and Georgia have provisions related to the transfer of bullies into other classrooms, districts or programs.

Texas statute specifies that, upon parental request, a student who has been bullied must be transferred to (1) another classroom at the campus to which the victim was assigned at the time the bullying occurred; or (2) a campus in the school district other than the campus to which the victim was assigned at the time the bullying occurred. The school district is not required to provide transportation to a transfer student under these circumstances.

California permits two or more district boards to enter into interdistrict transfer agreements. Per new provisions just enacted last month, effective July 2012 a student who has been a victim of bullying and who attends a district that has established a transfer agreement must be given priority for interdistrict attendance. If the student's district has not established an interdistrict transfer agreement, the student must be given additional consideration for the creation of an interdistrict attendance agreement.

Texas also allows a board of trustees to transfer the bully to either (1) another classroom at the campus to which the victim was assigned at the time the bullying occurred; or (2) a campus in the district other than the campus to which the victim was assigned at the time the bullying occurred, in consultation with a parent or other person with authority to act on behalf of the student who engaged in bullying.

In Georgia, a student in grades 6-12 found to have engaged in bullying 3 times in a school year must be transferred to an alternative school. As in Texas, the district is not responsible for transportation for a student sent to an alternative school under these circumstances.