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Aurora Institute

iNACOL Policy Update – States and Congress and #SOTU, Oh My!

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Harness Opportunities in ESSA, State Policy, Create Pilots and Innovation Zones

Welcome to the fourth installment of the iNACOL Policy Update. January is proving to be a busy month, with many state legislatures coming back into session, ESEA reauthorization activity picking up in Congress, and several education mentions in the President’s State of the Union address. 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

  • Alaska and New Mexico convened for session on January 20, 2015.
  • An Arizona bill would create a statewide program for students to access courses online, provide for performance-based funding, and open pathways for competency education.
  • A bill in Missouri would establish a statewide Course Access program, while another bill would allow any resident student to enroll in an online course or program outside of his or her school district or at a charter school.
  • A bill in Connecticut would require the Department of Education to issue professional certification to a teacher who is properly certified in a neighboring state and has at least two years of teaching experience.
  • Bills in Indiana and Mississippi would create districts of innovation for the purposes of improving students’ educational performance.
  • A bill in New York would direct the Commissioner of Education to establish a permanent online learning advisory committee to make recommendations for the establishment of a statewide online and blended learning program.
  • In Oregon, a bill would require each school district to use formative, interim-growth assessments.
  • The Rhode Island Senate has proposed a bill that would require the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt a competency-based/proficiency-based learning policy.
  • In Virginia, a bill would establish the Open Education Resources Innovation Council.
  • A bill in West Virginia provides for the creation of charter schools; however, prohibits the authorizing of virtual charters.

Federal Policy Highlights

  • State of the Union: During the State of the Union Address this week, President Obama stated that he “intend[s] to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.” The President also spoke on the topic of privacy. He stated that he “urge[s] this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.” One notable omission from the speech was a call to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Read Susan Patrick’s blog on the State of the Union for more information.
  • Senate ESEA Reauthorization Hearing: On Wednesday, January 21, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held its first hearing for ESEA reauthorization in the 114th Congress. The topic of the hearing was “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability.” Witnesses included Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, who has led that state’s transition to competency education and the implementation of a next generation accountability and assessments system and Tom Boasberg, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, which is implementing blended learning and performance assessments. You can watch a video of the hearing, see a full witness list, and read their testimonies here.

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.