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Aurora Institute

iNACOL Policy Update – Off to the Races

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Create Space to Pilot Systems of Assessments, State Policy, Create Pilots and Innovation Zones

The 2015 legislative session is well underway, and new bills are being dropped in the hopper at a fast pace across the nation.

The purpose of this blog is to share policy developments in the field of K-12 online learning, blended learning and competency education – to highlight recent trends and enablers, and to identify barriers and provide an issues update. It includes a snapshot of important education policies, regulations, gubernatorial and legislative affairs.

A summary is below; a more detailed version with additional legislative information is available in the members-only iNACOL Member Forums. We track policy priorities and issues related to the field’s needs as outlined annually in the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks. This report provides background and recommendations for policy issues and more information on the critical policy shifts needed to transform K-12 education.

State Policy Highlights

  • Seventeen state legislatures convened this week: Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Delaware, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
  • A bill in Minnesota would allow fully certified teachers from adjoining states to transfer their certification to Minnesota and receive a full, five-year continuing teaching license without having to complete any additional exams or other preparation requirements.
  • An Oklahoma bill would require the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to establish a process to review and certify supplemental online courses.
  • A bill in Mississippi would authorize the creation of innovation schools and innovation zones focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics in school districts.
  • Another bill in Mississippi would exempt school districts meeting the highest levels of accreditation standards and the licensed employees of those districts from reporting student grades to the Department of Education, submitting reports regarding the type and amount of work done in each grade of their respective school to the superintendent of the school district, and participating in the process of selecting textbooks.
  • A Virginia bill would allow schools to establish a start date earlier than Labor Day if they are providing an experimental or innovative program that requires an earlier opening date.
  • In Kentucky, a bill would establish a charter school pilot project.
  • A bill in Indiana would develop the Rewarding Innovation, Technology, and Excellence (RITE) program to award grants to districts whose schools have exhibited improvement toward benchmarks developed by the State Board of Education.
  • In Iowa, a bill has been introduced which would extend the full-time online school pilot program beyond its scheduled sunset date of June 30, 2015.

Federal Policy Highlights

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization:

  • Draft Bill for Public Comment: On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Lamar Alexander, released an ESEA Reauthorization discussion draft bill. The Chairman invites the public to submit comment on this draft by February 2. A link to the bill and information on submitting comment are available here. iNACOL has released both a statement of support and actionable recommendations for supporting competency education in the ESEA reauthorization discussion.
  • Hearing on Assessments: On Wednesday, January 21, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing examining possible changes to ESEA accountability and assessment provisions, titled “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability.” More information on hearing time, and a link to a live stream video will be available here.

White House Actions on Student Data Privacy: Next week, the President is releasing a new legislative proposal designed to provide teachers and parents the confidence they need to enhance teaching and learning with the best technology — by ensuring that data collected in the educational context is used only for educational purposes. This bill, modeled on a recently passed California law, builds on the recommendations of the White House Big Data and Privacy review released earlier this year, and it would prevent companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to the educational mission and from engaging in targeted advertising to students based on data collected in school – while still permitting important research initiatives to improve student learning outcomes, and efforts by companies to continuously improve the effectiveness of their learning technology products.

Need more information?  Contact Maria Worthen ([email protected]) or Susan Gentz ([email protected]).

Already a member? Access the more detailed legislative highlights through the Membership Forum.

Not yet a member? Join iNACOL to gain access to this Membership Forum, job postings, announcements, grant opportunities, and the latest information from the field.