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State Actions – Policies and Progress Across the Nation, September 2016



AlabamaAlabama


The Alabama Public Charter School Commission approved the state’s first charter school application this month. The Mobile Area Education Foundation applied to open Accel Day and Evening Academy, which will serve students 16 and older who have dropped out of school or have fallen behind academically. Accel plans to open in August 2017, with an estimated initial enrollment of 300 students. In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to pass a charter school law.

 

ConnecticutConnecticut


Two lawsuits have garnered a significant amount of attention over the last few weeks.

Last month, Jessica Martinez filed a suit on behalf of her son, Jose, alleging that Connecticut’s restrictions on the number of magnet schools and charter schools, plus its cap on school choice programs, are unconstitutional. Together, these limits have forced thousands of low-income and minority students to remain in underperforming or failing schools. The lawsuit alleges that in addition to the restrictive cap on the number of magnet and charter schools, the state has also reallocated funds away from cash-strapped local education agencies and toward more affluent regions.

This month, Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher issued a strongly-worded ruling on a decade-old public education funding formula case. In his ruling, on Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding vs. former Governor M. Jodi Rell, the judge directed the legislature to make significant changes to Connecticut’s funding formula. The judge specifically directed the state legislature to create a “rational, sustainable, and verifiable” funding formula to ensure all students have equal opportunity to a quality education. He gave the legislature and the Connecticut State Department of Education 180 days to develop a plan for compliance with his order. The State has filed an appeal.

The judge ended his written ruling with a simple, but impactful truth: Schools are for kids.

 

FloridaFlorida


On Monday, the Florida Education Association (FEA), along with other groups, took their challenge of the Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship Program to the Florida Supreme Court. A circuit court and First District Court of Appeals have both dismissed the case. Currently, there are more than 92,000 students benefitting from the scholarship making this the largest private school choice program in the nation.

 

MichiganMichigan


Last week, the Michigan House and Senate passed HB 4822, bipartisan legislation that brings a command focus on early literacy to all Michigan elementary schools. This legislation will ensure every Michigan child can read before leaving third grade and a student’s promotion to fourth grade will be based on reading proficiency.  The bill also includes language to create a network of literacy coaches and to provide reading intervention programs for all students in grades K-3. The bill now moves to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

 

MississippiMississippi


On September 28, Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Dewayne Thomas ruled that a group of parents, the Mississippi Charter School Association and a charter school can intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center challenging the constitutionality of charter school funding in the state. Judge Thomas’ ruling means that these groups will be heard during legal proceedings and can share their own positions on how charter schools are helping Mississippi students.

 

NevadaNevada


Yesterday, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are constitutional. Nevada’s ESA program is the most expansive educational choice program in the nation.

Specifically, the court agreed with the state that the primary constitutional arguments brought by plaintiffs against ESAs are without merit. Although the court ruled against the state on a funding issue, it laid out a clear blueprint for addressing the funding technicality so that the 8,000 parents who have applied for an ESA are able to take advantage of greater educational opportunities for their children.

 

North CarolinaNorth Carolina


Earlier this month, North Carolina’s State Board of Education released 2015-2016 school accountability data, including A-F letter grades. This is the third year North Carolina has provided comprehensive A-F school grades to parents and policymakers. A-F grading provides transparent and objective information about school effectiveness in an easy-to-understand format.

 

OhioOhio


Last week, the Ohio Department of Education released statewide report cards, assigning A-F grades for schools and districts on multiple performance standards. An effective A-F School Grading policy measures what matters: overall student performance and progress, with extra focus on struggling students, graduation rates and college and career readiness in high school.

 

OklahomaOklahoma


Last week, the Oklahoma State Department of Education released statewide assessment results for the 2015-2016 school year. The results show moderate gains, particularly among third grade students. The percentage of third graders meeting the criteria for the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), which requires that students read at grade level and determines if students need intensive reading remediation before advancing to fourth grade, has increased from 83 to 88 percent during the past two years. The percent of fifth grade students reading at or above the proficient mark rose by 9 percent, which is important considering these students were third graders when the RSA was applied. This shows that with the necessary interventions, supports and proper measurement, students can achieve academic success.

 

TennesseeTennessee


This month, the Tennessee Department of Education kicked off a year-long program that will help teachers in 90 local school districts learn how to better instruct students in reading. The Read to be Ready literacy coach network, part of a $9 million investment in this year’s budget, will train and support 200 reading coaches who will, in turn, train classroom reading teachers across the state. The goal is to increase the number of students reading on grade level from 50 percent today to 75 percent in 2025.

 

UtahUtah


This month, the Utah State Board of Education released its 2015-2016 A-F school grades, with more than half of all elementary schools and 43 percent of all high schools earning a grade of “A” or “B.” Overall, fewer schools earned an “A” this year under a more rigorous grading scale, yet academic achievement among the state’s 628,000 students is on the rise.