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Graduation rates rising, but states have long way to go to reach goals

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The nation’s high school graduation rates continue to rise, new federal data show, though progress has slowed on this achievement indicator — one of the fundamental ways that states will assess the performance of their schools, districts and overall K-12 systems under the U.S. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). More »


Do any Midwestern states require computer science classes for high school graduation?

by Jon Davis ~ December 2018 ~ Question of the Month »
According to the Education Commission of the States, the answer is no. But an ECS report compiled in January 2018 found that many Midwestern states allow computer science classes to be counted as a fulfillment of required math and science credits — for math in Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin; and for either math or science in Iowa, Michigan and Ohio. More »


South Dakota offers in-state tuition to Iowans, reports positive results

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two years ago, four public universities in South Dakota began offering in-state tuition to Iowa undergraduate students. In October, state officials announced that the plan had begun to pay off.
According to the South Dakota Board of Regents, these four schools have attracted a total of 174 full-time equivalent students from Iowa since the reduced rates took effect. Each school has experienced a “tuition and fee revenue gain” as a result of the policy change, the Regents say. Iowa students previously paid tuition equivalent to 150 percent of the in-state rate. This year, some colleges in South Dakota began offering in-state tuition to Nebraska residents as well.
The National Center for Education Statistics regularly tracks the state-by-state migration of students. In 2016, most states in the Midwest had net positive migration — the number of people who came to the state for a postsecondary education outpaced the number of residents who left for schooling elsewhere. Iowa had the highest net gain among the Midwest’s states: 12,537. In contrast, Illinois (-16,628) and Minnesota (-4,608) had net losses. (These state figures include students coming to U.S. institutions from foreign countries.)


In North Dakota, lawmakers eye scholarships, loan forgiveness to deal with workforce shortages

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In North Dakota, two features of the state’s economy have persisted for years now: some of the lowest jobless rates in the nation, and workforce shortages challenging individual employers and entire economic sectors.
“By most estimates, we have over 20,000 unfilled jobs,” notes North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl. Would scholarships or a loan-forgiveness program — with some strings attached — help fix this mismatch between worker supply and demand? And which of these two options would work best? Those questions were explored during the legislative interim and will likely emerge again when lawmakers convene in early 2019. More »


New Ohio law will change how teacher performance is evaluated

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Reflective of a national trend that has states re-examining how they evaluate the performance of teachers, Ohio is moving ahead with a revamped system that relies less on student test scores and places a greater emphasis on professional development. SB 216 was signed into law this summer. More »


What policies do states in the Midwest have in place to ensure students have exposure to the concepts of personal finance?

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2018 ~ Question of the Month »
According to the Council for Economic Education’s “Survey of States,” which analyzes and compares laws across the nation, every state in the Midwest shares at least one policy — the inclusion of personal finance in its K-12 standards. But from there, the policies of states diverge, and they’ve also been changing in recent years due to the enactment of new laws. More »


Ohio establishes grants, training requirements to improve school safety

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ohio has become the latest state in the Midwest to address school safety through a mix of new laws and funding.
Under HB 318, signed into law in August, a $12 million grant program will be established for schools to pursue training in a number of areas, from how to deal with an active shooter to how to help students with mental health issues. Over the next few months, too, the Ohio Department of Public Safety will conduct studies of school security in order to ensure the proper infrastructure is in place to keep students safe.
One particular emphasis of Ohio’s new law is school resource officers. HB 318 establishes new qualifications and training requirements for these police officers working inside schools, while also specifying the type of services that they can provide (for example, fostering problem-solving strategies and contributing to emergency management plans).
Earlier this year, Wisconsin lawmakers established a $100 million school-safety grant program (AB 843). Other recent actions in the region include Iowa’s SF 2364, which requires schools to develop a high-quality emergency operations plan, and a new bonding bill in Minnesota that includes $25 million in school-safety infrastructure grants.


School-based mental health care seen as way to better identify students in need, improve access

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For his first job out of college, psychologist Mark Weist went to work at a mental health center, splitting his time between providing services at the center and a local school. The differences in the two settings were dramatic. “At the mental health center, people weren’t showing up,” Weist, a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina, said during a presentation at this year’s Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting. “We’d be scheduled to see six or seven families in a day, for example, and only somewhere between one and three showed up. “But in schools, there was this tremendous pent-up need for services.” More »


Teacher training, state standards part of computer-science laws

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
One year ago, Iowa legislators passed a bill to advance the instruction of computer science. With the start of the new school year, two key objectives of that measure are in place. The Iowa Department of Education announced in June that new voluntary academic standards and a $1 million fund for professional development had been established. Developed by the State Board of Education, the new standards outline what students in every grade should know and be able to do in the area of computer science. The fund will go to local schools that help staff pursue teaching endorsements or other learning opportunities in computer science.
Meanwhile, at least two other Midwestern states, Indiana and Ohio, have taken major steps over the past year to advance computer science in schools. Under Indiana’s SB 172 (signed into law in March), coursework in this subject area must be offered in every public high school as a one-semester elective at least once a year. It also sets up a grant program for teacher training and requires schools at all grade levels to include computer science in their curriculum.
Ohio’s HB 170 was signed into law late last year. It calls for the adoption of statewide academic standards and a model curriculum, and allows high school students to take computer science as an alternative to Algebra II or a unit of science.


Concerns about cost of college textbooks focus of proposal in Minnesota, new federal grants

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Five years ago, a little more than 2,000 students from 150 different U.S. university campuses were asked the following question: Have you ever decided against buying (or renting) a textbook because it was too expensive? Sixty-five percent of the respondents to this U.S. Public Interest Research Group survey said “yes,” and nearly all of them also noted that they were concerned the decision would hurt them academically. More »


After raise in sales tax, South Dakota teachers get $5,000 boost in pay

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
During the first year of a South Dakota law that raised the state’s sales tax rate in order to boost teacher pay, average salaries increased by nearly $5,000 — to $46,979 in 2016-17. This change means the state no longer has the lowest average teacher salaries in the country; it now ranks 48th, according to the most recent study done by the National Education Association. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard notes, too, that his state ranks 29th when the these averages are adjusted to reflect state and local tax burdens as well as regional price parity data.
In 2016, with passage of HB 1182, the South Dakota Legislature increased the state’s sales tax rate from 4.0 percent to 4.5 percent. This marked the first change in the rate since 1969. (South Dakota does not have a state income tax.)
In the Midwest, two states (Illinois and Michigan) rank above the national average for teacher pay ($59,660). Over the past decade, the NEA study found, inflation-adjusted, average teacher salaries have increased in four Midwestern states: Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
This year, legislation has been introduced in Illinois (SB 2892) to set a a minimum salary of $40,000 a year for full-time teachers.


Kansas to phase in funding boost for schools; court to rule on plan’s constitutionality

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the next five years, the state of Kansas will invest an additional half-billion dollars in its K-12 schools as the result of legislation signed into law earlier this year. “The amount of money that we have committed to spend is, at least, approaching an appropriate level,” says Kansas Rep. Melissa Rooker, noting that legislators already had increased state funding by $300 million during the 2017 session. Finding that “appropriate level,” not only in the eyes of the Legislature but also the state Supreme Court, has dominated discussion in Topeka for the past several years. More »


In Iowa, schools across state will offer yearly training on suicide prevention, ‘postvention’

by Jon Davis ~ April 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
By next year, school districts across Iowa must begin to provide at least an hour of annual training on suicide prevention and “postvention” — the coordinated school response following a student’s suicide — for all licensed personnel who have regular contact with students. More »


Q. What policies have Midwestern states implemented to address K-12 school safety?

by Katelyn Tye-Skowronski ~ April 2018 ~ Question of the Month »
Most states in the region have statutes addressing school safety or emergency preparedness — some more prescriptive than others. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, for example, require schools or school districts to have a comprehensive school safety or emergency plan. More »


New Indiana law emphasizes importance of building ‘soft skills’ among K-12 students

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
One year ago at this time, in a discussion started by a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, Sen. Jeff Raatz began thinking about a policy response to one of the biggest concerns raised about students graduating from the state’s K-12 school system. “How do we help them get the employability skills they need?” Raatz asked. One of the answers was this year’s passage of SB 297, a measure that will have every public school in the state incorporate those types of skills (also sometimes referred to as “soft skills”) into their K-12 curriculum. More »


North Dakota schools soon to get big boost in high-speed connectivity

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
By summer 2019, North Dakota expects to be the first state in the nation to provide all of its school districts with access to 1-gigabit Internet connectivity. This plan for higher speeds in schools is part of a contract agreement between the state and Dakota Carrier Network (owned by 15 independent rural telecommunications companies) to upgrade STAGEnet — the network that serves all state agencies, colleges and universities, local governments, and school districts.
The legislature created this network for delivering broadband services nearly two decades ago.
The pending upgrade will complement several education trends in North Dakota, including a greater demand for laptops and more emphasis on personalized learning.
In announcing a plan earlier this year to boost state funding for high-speed internet in schools, a trio of Illinois state senators said the current digital divide is causing inequities in the classroom, with some students unable to take part in activities such as the streaming of educational videos, participation in online assessments, and remote learning. Their proposal calls for allocating $16.3 million in state dollars, a move that would trigger a 3-to-1 funding match from the federal government to install a fiberoptic infrastructure in schools without it.



What mechanisms do states in the Midwest use to provide funding for preschool programs?

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2018 ~ Question of the Month »

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, 18 states had at least 30 percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool as of 2016. That compares to only two states in 2002. In the Midwest, Wisconsin and Iowa have the highest rates. The Wisconsin Constitution calls for schools to be “free and without charge for tuition to all children between the ages of 4 and 20 years,” and local districts receive state dollars for 4-year-old kindergarten via the K-12 funding formula (aid is equivalent to 0.5 or 0.6 dollars per child). Nearly all of Wisconsin’s school districts now provide voluntary, universal kindergarten to 4-year-olds. Iowa also is among the nine U.S. states that provide districts with preschool dollars via their K-12 funding formulas. More »


Do any Midwestern states have an automatic admissions policy for qualifying students to attend their public universities?

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2017 ~ Question of the Month »
As of February 2017, nine states, including two in the Midwest, had some kind of automatic admissions policy in place, according to the Education Commission of the States. These policies guarantee that an in-state student will be admitted to a public university if he or she meets certain academic criteria. More »


North Dakota revises loan program amid teacher shortage

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
At the peak of North Dakota’s oil boom, some schools in the western part of the state not only were employing teachers, but began housing them as well — in duplexes, triplexes or mobile housing units, Sen. David Rust recalls. This school-as-landlord idea has been one of the more dramatic actions taken in recent years to address the shortage of teachers. More recently, housing costs have subsided in North Dakota’s oil country (“They’re still higher than we would like to see,” Rust says), but the lack of qualified teacher candidates persists there, as well as in many communities across the state. But will they consider going with some more financial incentives? More »


Illinois providing tax credits to help students attend private schools

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois will soon be accepting applications from individuals and businesses that want to participate in the state’s newly created Invest in Kids program. Established this year as part of a larger school finance bill (SB 1947), the program will provide a tax credit for contributions made to Scholarship Granting Organizations. These organizations, in turn, will provide financial assistance for lower- and middle-income students to attend a non-public school in the state.
Up to $75 million in credits can be issued every year under Invest in Kids; an individual taxpayer will receive a credit equal to 75 percent of his or her contribution. The program takes effect in tax year 2018. Tax credits will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis in a geographically proportionate manner based on enrollment in Illinois’ non-public schools.
Indiana, Iowa and Kansas are among the U.S. states that already have similar tax-credit programs in place, according to the nonprofit group EdChoice. Up to $12 million in credits are available every year in Iowa, $12.5 million in Indiana, and $10 million in Kansas.


Iowa gets ideas for advancing computer science instruction

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A work group established earlier this year by the Iowa Legislature has issued a series of recommendations for strengthening computer science education in the state’s K-12 schools. Ideas include:
In addition to creating the work group, Iowa’s SF 274 encourages computer science instruction in every Iowa school by July 2019, creates a professional development fund for teachers, and establishes computer science standards and a new teacher endorsement in this subject area. The national, nonprofit group code.org identifies nine specific state actions related to computer science. They include requiring that high schools offer such instruction, developing statewide standards and certifications, and funding training in this subject area for current and future teachers.


Michigan allowing more communities to become Promise Zones

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Up to 15 communities in Michigan now have the chance to become “Promise Zones,” areas of the state where local students are ensured access to college scholarships. SB 98, signed into law in November, increased the reach of a program that has been in place since 2008. Prior to the new law, the number of communities was limited to 10. One of the new Promise Zone communities will be Flint, where private donations already have been raised. According to mlive.com, three local postsecondary schools will award tuition-free scholarships to Flint students beginning with the high school graduating class of 2018.
Under the state law, a community must provide enough funding to cover the tuition costs of Promise Zone students to at least obtain an associate’s degree. These local financial-assistance plans also can go further and cover the costs of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. For local communities that successfully raise the scholarship money, Michigan then provides extra assistance, using a portion of annual growth in state education property taxes within the Promise Zone.
According to the College Board, average yearly tuition and fees to attend a four-year public university vary from state to state in the Midwest — a high of $13,621 among Illinois’ schools and a low of $8,197 in North Dakota.


Under Every Student Succeeds Act, states retain flexibility in deciding how to evaluate, differentiate performance of their K-12 schools

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A central tenet of the 2015 federal law was to give states more flexibility on education policy, and the ESSA has not supplanted changes made by states to their accountability systems. Instead, state ESSA plans mostly incorporate some of the new federal requirements (such as accounting for progress made by English language learners and including a measure of “school quality”) into their accountability systems. More »


Court decision, two new laws have big impact on school finance in three Midwestern states

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Three big developments in education finance occurred in the Midwest over the past few months — a major state Supreme Court ruling in Kansas, a new school-funding formula in Illinois, and a change in the retirement plans for Michigan teachers. More »


Wisconsin invests in school-based mental health initiatives

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Wisconsin’s recently enacted state budget includes money for schools to improve students’ access to mental health services. Gov. Scott Walker signed the budget bill (AB 64) into law in September. For the first time, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers says, the state will provide funds for mental health training and partnerships between schools and community providers.
The state-funded training will provide school personnel with evidence-based strategies for addressing mental health issues in young people. Schools also will get more money to hire additional social workers. Lastly, a new state grant program will be available for schools that work with local mental-health professionals to improve student access to mental health services. Combined, these three initiatives will cost a total of $7 million, The (Appleton) Post-Crescent reports.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of children between the ages of 13 and 18 have a serious mental illness. That includes anxiety, mood and behavior disorders, all of which often go untreated. Four years ago, the Wisconsin Legislature created an Office of Children’s Mental Health that focuses on policies to improve the delivery of mental health services among young people.


Nebraska hopes to keep pregnant, new mothers in high school

by Jon Davis ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
School districts in Nebraska must have policies in place for the 2018-19 school year to accommodate pregnant or parenting students, under a new law that took effect on Aug. 24. Under LB 427, those policies must, at a minimum, set standards for dealing with pregnancy-related absences and allow students to return to school after pregnancy; provide alternatives to classwork such as tutoring, online courses or accessing coursework from home; provide private lactation accommodations for students who are lactating or breast-feeding; and — for schools that don’t have daycare facilities — help students find nearby childcare providers.
The bill also called on the Nebraska Department of Education to develop a model policy incorporating those steps by Dec. 1. Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature approved LB 427 on May 2 by a 31-7 vote (with 11 abstentions). Gov. Pete Ricketts signed it into law one week later.



Plans for K-12 success: New direction in accountability puts emphasis on student growth, postsecondary readiness and chronic absenteeism

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Midwestern states' plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act show schools will be evaluated on much more than the proficiency levels of students on standardized tests. More »


Ohio provides path for community colleges to offer four-year degrees

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Ohio has become the latest state in the Midwest where community colleges will have the chance to develop and provide bachelor’s degree programs for students. Under HB 49 (the state’s budget bill), these programs must be limited to applied and technical fields and be approved by Ohio’s chancellor of higher education. To get the go-ahead, a community college must show that its four-year program has buy-in from a regional industry or area businesses — for example, they agree to offer work-based learning and employment opportunities to students. In addition, the degree must meet a regional workforce need and fill a void not already met by a four-year college.
According to the Community College Baccalaureate Association, bachelor’s degrees can be conferred by community colleges in five other Midwestern states: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
Under the new Ohio law, the state’s chancellor of higher education is required to study whether the community colleges’ new programs improve student outcomes in the workforce and local industries’ ability to secure qualified employees.


Midwest's lawmakers explore policies that spur innovation in schools, personalized learning for students

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When teachers and local school administrators think of state laws and departments of education, “innovation” is likely not the first word that comes to mind. It’s more likely to be “compliance” — how to meet top-down rules that dictate how young people are assessed, for example, or the size and structure of the classes that students are in. But at a July meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Education Committee, lawmakers learned of new types of state policies that are placing more decisions in the hands of schools, and even the students themselves. More »


Indiana investing more in preschool for low-income families

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the next two years, Indiana will invest an additional $20 million in a pilot initiative that provides low-income families with access to pre-kindergarten programs. First established in 2014, On My Way Pre-K currently serves nearly 2,300 students in five counties.
Additional state dollars will expand the initiative’s reach to 15 more counties. To participate, students must be 4 years old and reside in a family at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level. (For the original five counties, the income thresholds could be loosened.) The state also will provide funding for in-home, online early-childhood education in parts of the state that lack high-quality providers.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, 32 percent of the nation’s 4-year-olds attend a state-funded preschool. These rates, however, vary widely among states. In the Midwest, three states outpaced the national average: Wisconsin, 71 percent; Iowa, 64 percent; and Michigan, 34 percent. Wisconsin’s Constitution calls for schools to be “free and without charge for tuition to all children between the ages of 4 and 20 years,” and for decades, schools have received state funds (via the state-aid formula) for 4-year-old kindergarten.


North Dakota looks to ensure that old rules don’t block new ideas for advancing education

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
One high school in North Dakota might want to launch a “technology academy” where its 12th-graders intern and earn credits toward graduation at a nearby Microsoft campus. Another school could change the way it awards credits, moving away from required “seat time” and toward a model based on students’ mastery of the subject area or on their practical learning experiences. Or perhaps some middle schools would like to create “accelerated learning environments,” where students can earn high school credits in subjects such as Algebra I. Whatever the idea, if it has the potential to advance education, the North Dakota legislature wants to make sure the state’s statutes and regulations aren’t standing in the way, Sen. Nicole Poolman says. More »


Minnesota tax credit provides relief to farmers, greater chance for rural schools to build

by Carolyn Orr ~ May 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In Minnesota, the chances of a local school district getting the money it wants to build a new facility or improve existing buildings can depend greatly on where it is located: In metropolitan areas, most school construction projects get approved by local voters; in rural districts, these proposed tax increases tend to fail. More »


Indiana lawmakers replace unpopular ISTEP+ with new statewide assessment system

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
At a time of general wariness across the country regarding the use of standardized tests in schools (54 percent of respondents to a 2015 national survey said they are “not helpful”), Indiana lawmakers have tried to deal with a particular problem in their state. “It came to a point where the ISTEP had become like the Ford Edsel,” Indiana Rep. Bob Behning says. ISTEP+ is Indiana’s statewide assessment system, and over the past few years, its unpopularity grew amid reports of long delays in getting results, software glitches, scoring errors, and concerns about the amount of classroom time being spent on the test. Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill ensuring that ISTEP+ would indeed go the way of the Edsel. This year, under a bill signed into law in April (HB 1003), lawmakers set parameters for a new assessment system. More »


Policy options for bolstering computer science education include more money for schools, more curriculum choices for students

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
State legislators in the Midwest are exploring a range of policy options this year that would give students greater access to computer-related courses while also providing instructors more tools for teaching in these subject areas. These proposals mostly steer away from state mandates and focus instead on incentives for schools and more choices for students. More »


Illinois relaxes rules on out-of-state licenses as part of efforts to address teacher shortage

by Katelyn Tye ~ March 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the passage of a new law, Illinois has made it easier for educators with an out-of-state license to teach in the state. Legislators hope this change will get more teachers in classrooms and address a shortage in this profession. More »


Leading region in suspended students, Michigan looks to ease schools’ zero-tolerance policies

by Katelyn Tye ~ February 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Starting with the next school year, K-12 officials in Michigan will be required to consider certain factors before suspending or expelling students, under a set of new laws that aim to reduce the number of students who are removed from school. More »


Illinois now requiring some schools to have water tested for lead

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Some schools and day care facilities in Illinois must have their water tested for lead under a bill passed and signed into law in January. The new requirements apply to buildings constructed before 2000 where pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade classes are held.
According to the Illinois attorney general’s office, the lead tests will average $15 per drinking-water sample. If samples exceed 5 parts per billion of lead, the families of students must be notified. SB 550 authorizes community water suppliers to impose a “lead hazard cost recovery fee.” But minus such a fee, the tests will likely be paid by school districts, which can tap into existing funds set aside for safety or legal issues, the Chicago Tribune notes. As part of the new law, too, community water supplies will provide Illinois officials with an inventory of their lead service lines.
Other Midwestern states have also passed new laws in the aftermath of the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich. Ohio’s HB 512 (enacted in 2016) requires water suppliers to test for lead and copper and to map areas being served by lead service lines. It also mandates training on how to identify lead in drinking water and control corrosion. And Michigan‘s HB 5120, signed into law in December, calls on water suppliers to alert the public within 72 hours after they learn that lead levels exceed prescribed “action levels.”


More money, more evidence being used to revamp school aid

by Katelyn Tye ~ January 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
K-12 education consistently makes up the largest share of state general fund spending each year, hovering between 34 percent and 36 percent since 1996, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. And although no two states distribute education dollars exactly the same way, the vast majority of funding formulas are built around a “foundation” or “base” amount of funding that is the minimum each student receives. State formulas then further adjust per-pupil funding depending on the type of student (for example, special needs, English-language learner, low-income) and the wealth of the school district. The systems that work best are based on research — specifically, tying the amount that flows to each school to the cost of providing an education that meets the state’s academic standards, says Michael Griffith of the Education Commission of the States. More »


Iowa’s new Teacher Leadership program showing good results

by Jon Davis ~ December 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System is having a positive impact on classroom instruction and educators’ professional climate, but it’s still too soon to discern the program’s effects on student achievement, a new interim report says. The result of legislation (HF 215) passed and signed into law in 2013, the system provides extra pay to teachers who accept leadership roles such as peer mentoring and curriculum development. The law also raised starting salaries for new teachers.
Each school district establishes a plan for implementing the system — for example, the process for putting teachers into leadership roles and providing help to new teachers. The state’s goal is to attract new teachers, retain effective ones, promote collaboration, and reward professional growth and collaboration. The new system has been implemented over the last three school years. Teachers in the early-implementation schools reported more collaboration among colleagues and greater availability, frequency and quality of leadership roles.
The interim report was commissioned by the Iowa Department of Education and done by the American Institutes of Research.


In Kansas, special fund delivers millions of dollars to children’s programs

by Jon Davis ~ December 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Lost in the din of Kansas’ recent budget woes, an innovative mechanism is quietly funding dozens of early-childhood education and wellness programs across the state. The Children’s Initiatives Fund, Kansas Endowment for Youth and the state’s Children’s Cabinet were created in 1999 to support programs promoting the health and welfare of Kansas children using the state’s share of the national tobacco Master Settlement Fund. More »


Through new statewide goals and policies, lawmakers look to boost education levels of workforce

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two years ago, Gov. Terry Branstad announced that he wants 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025. Since then, he and state legislators have taken a series of steps to meet that goal. Most recently, an alliance of government, business and industry leaders was formed (via a Branstad executive order in August) and charged with developing a statewide plan to meet the state’s new objective. And as part of that plan, which is due next fall, Iowa’s new Future Ready Alliance must develop new metrics to track the state’s progress. More »


Goal of Michigan law is to improve reading in early grades

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Struggling young readers in Michigan will get more instructional help to reach levels of proficiency under a new law that also could keep some of them from entering fourth grade. Signed this fall by Gov. Rick Snyder, HB 4822 requires students to perform well enough on a standardized reading test in order to be promoted to fourth grade. However, the law does provide for some “good cause exemptions,” including if parents and school officials agree it is in the child’s best interests not to be held back.
The Michigan Department of Education will develop a way to screen and assess students in kindergarten through third grade. School districts must then develop individual reading improvement plans for every student who is falling behind. As part of those plans, local schools must bring in an early-literacy coach to provide training to teachers and instruction to students. (Michigan’s intermediate school districts will provide the coaches.)
Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin are among the other Midwestern states where new reading laws have been passed in recent years. In Iowa, for example, struggling third-grade readers will have to take summer school in order to move on to fourth grade. (That state, too, offers some “good cause” exemptions.)


Stay in school: Under Illinois law, districts must first consider non-exclusionary punishment

by Katelyn Tye ~ October 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
This school year, officials of K-12 public schools in Illinois are revisiting their student-discipline policies in accordance with a new law that aims to reduce the number of students who receive out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. “The goal is to ensure that this only happens when absolutely necessary,” says Illinois Sen. Kimberly Lightford, the sponsor of SB 100. More »



South Dakota districts sharing teachers with new grants from state

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Some school districts in South Dakota are using new state incentives that allow them to share teachers and, in the process, expand learning opportunities for their students. As part of a package of bills passed by the Legislature to address a shortage of teachers (HB 1182 and SBs 131 and 133), the state created the Employee Shared Service Grant program. The grants last for three years, with aid to the participating districts gradually dropping over that time period. With these grants, districts are hiring and sharing Spanish, arts, and English-language-learner teachers.
South Dakota’s new law also invests in local projects to expand online learning opportunities, so that qualified instructors can reach students remotely.
The state is facing teacher shortages in various areas. And while part of the legislative response was to boost teacher salaries (via a sales tax increase that will raise average pay from $40,000 to $48,500), lawmakers tried to address the teacher-workforce problem in other ways — for example, funding programs that match new and veteran teachers, as well as professional-development opportunities for new instructors in the summers between their first and second years in the profession.


Big prekindergarten expansion begins across Minnesota

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Thousands of 4-year-olds in Minnesota are attending prekindergarten classes this fall as the result of a $25 million investment made by the Legislature. With this money, the state targets aid for school districts and charter schools that serve high numbers of low-income students as well as areas with limited access to high-quality prekindergarten programs.
These districts and schools then provide free, voluntary prekindergarten to 4-year-olds. Through another program, Minnesota also offers Early Learning Scholarships for low-income families (either directly to families or through grants to highly rated early-childhood programs in the state). Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has said he wants to provide all of the state’s 4-year-olds with access to free, voluntary prekindergarten. A little more than 3,300 students will attend prekindergarten programs as a result of the $25 million legislative investment. However, 60 percent of the requests for state aid from districts and charter schools were denied due to a lack of available funding.
In the Midwest, Wisconsin leads the way in providing learning opportunities to 4-year-olds; more than 95 percent of that state’s school districts offer a “4K” kindergarten program.


With Every Student Succeeds Act, states must prepare to take on more responsibility for turning around struggling schools

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

When the Every Student Succeeds Act got signed into law late last year with bipartisan congressional support, many state education leaders were quick to laud its passage and what it would mean for local control over schools. As the new law begins to be implemented, the federal government will take a step back in some key areas of education policy and rely on states to step up. “That means finding ways to strengthen schools that really need our help,” says Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. More »


Minnesota now requires sexual-assault training for college students

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Starting this fall in Minnesota, college students will be required to complete training on preventing and reducing the prevalence of sexual assault. The mandate is part of a comprehensive law on sexual-assault prevention (SF 5) passed by legislators last year. In addition to requiring students to complete training within 10 business days of their first semester, the law expands the rights of victims, creates a new option to report cases online, and ensures that each school has a walk-in location staffed with trained advocates.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, each campus must now collect data on sexual-assault cases, as well as report how many incidents were investigated and the number that resulted in disciplinary proceedings. In a national survey done in 2015 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post, 1 in 5 women who had attended college within the last four years reported being the victim of a sexual assault.
Two-thirds of all victims (men and women) say they had been drinking alcohol just before the incidents. Under the Minnesota law, the victims and witnesses to a sexual-assault incident receive amnesty for violations of a school’s policies on drug or alcohol use.


Nebraska becomes first Midwest state to offer ‘school readiness’ tax credits to child care providers, workers

by Jon Davis ~ August 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Starting in 2017, the state of Nebraska will begin offering up to $5 million in tiered tax credits annually to early-childhood programs and their employees — the first Midwestern state, and just the second U.S. state, to do so. Under the School Readiness Tax Credit Act (LB 889, passed earlier this year), which is linked to a quality rating and improvement system created three years ago by the Unicameral Legislature, providers receive incentives based on their quality rating, while eligible employees can claim credits based on education levels, training
and work history. More »


New Iowa law will hold local career and technical education programs to a higher standard

by Katelyn Tye ~ August 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Career and technical education programs in Iowa schools will be held to a higher set of standards under legislation passed this spring. CTE programs use work-based learning to prepare students for life after high school, whether that is entering the workforce or attending college. Iowa’s standards hadn’t undergone a major revision since 1989, allowing each school district to evolve CTE programs at its own pace. More »


A life-changing policy opportunity: At MLC meeting, Nobel Prize-winning economist explains why investing in children, families can pay off for states

by Tim Anderson ~ 2016 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »
University of Chicago economist James Heckman made at data-driven case for state legislators to invest public dollars in programs that intervene in the earliest years of a child's life. But he also warned that these investments only should go to evidence-based approaches proven to make a positive difference in young people's lives. More »


Legislators get ideas on how to address rise in teacher shortages

by Tim Anderson ~ 2016 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »
For several years in her home state of South Dakota, Rep. Jacqueline Sly was part of discussions inside and outside the Legislature about addressing the state’s shortage of teachers. Those talks turned into significant legislative action this year, and all of that legwork leading up to the bills’ passage taught Sly, a former educator herself, a lesson about boosting the supply of qualified teachers. “There isn’t a silver bullet,” Sly, co-chair of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Education Committee, said at the start of a July 19 session at the MLC Annual Meeting. But as legislators learned from the session’s three expert speakers, implementing a mix of strategies holds the promise of lessening these shortages. More »



States partner to ease soldiers’ move to civilian life by granting education credit for military work

by Katelyn Tye ~ June/July 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The switch from military to civilian life holds many challenges, but a partnership of Midwestern states is hoping to ease this transition by using a service member’s military experience to increase postsecondary degree completion and streamline pathways for earning professional certification. More »


All Nebraska students will take college exam under new law

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Starting in 2017, all of Nebraska’s high school juniors will take a college admissions exam such as the ACT or SAT. Under the recently enacted LB 930, the state Department of Education can use lottery proceeds to pay for administration of the test.
Lawmakers cited several reasons for making the change. First, students may be more motivated to do well because SAT and ACT results can help them get into college or secure a scholarship. (Students have instead been taking the Nebraska State Accountability assessments.) Second, all 11th-graders, regardless of income, will now have access to a college admission test. Third, the change will provide a clearer picture of whether young Nebraskans are prepared for postsecondary success.
According to Education Week, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are among the U.S. states where either the ACT is administered to all 11th-graders or where all students are given free access to the test. Illinois and Michigan recently switched from the ACT to the SAT. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states can measure high school achievement with college entrance exams instead of standards-based assessments.


Indiana initiative looks to attract adults back to college to finish earning their degree

by Katelyn Tye ~ May 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A new initiative in Indiana is looking beyond the state’s K-12 population as a means to increase the percentage of Hoosiers with education beyond high school. The goal of the “You Can. Go Back.” program is to encourage the 750,000 Indiana adults who completed some college, but left before earning a degree, to come back and finish what they started. More »


First in the Midwest: Almost 180 years ago, Ohio opened the door to bilingual education

by Mike McCabe ~ April 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Few issues related to American education policy have consistently stirred more controversy over as many years as has the question of how best to teach students whose first language is something other than English. In a nation whose history is marked by waves of newcomers arriving from countries around the world, the appropriate language of public education has been debated since the first European settlers arrived in the 17th century, and the pendulum of public opinion on the subject has swung many times. The debate over bilingual education and competing models for the instruction of non-English speaking students may be rooted in our colonial past, but it wasn’t until 1839 that Ohio became the nation’s first state to formally authorize bilingual teaching in public
schools. More »


Indiana sets up new scholarship for state’s future teachers

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Indiana legislators want more of their state’s “best and brightest” to enter the teaching profession, and they plan to spend $10 million on a plan to steer young people in that career direction. HB 1002, signed into law in March, establishes a Next Generation Hoosiers Education Scholarship.
Recipients will be eligible to receive up to $30,000 in tuition assistance; in turn, they must agree to teach in an Indiana school for five years. To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must graduate in the top 20 percent of his or her high school class and score well on an ACT or SAT exam. Over the past five years, the number of initial teacher licenses issued in Indiana has fallen by 30 percent. In response, Indiana education leaders formed a commission last year to develop strategies that address the state’s shortage of teachers.
One commission idea was to create additional scholarship opportunities. Another idea was to develop new career pathways and leadership opportunities, and with this year’s passage of HB 1005, Indiana school districts can establish programs that reward teachers who take on extra roles and responsibilities.


Ohio seeing some progress on remediation rates with new statewide college placement standards

by Katelyn Tye ~ March 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In 2012, concerned about the high rate of students who had to take remedial-level math and English classes during their first year of college, Ohio legislators decided to intervene. And the early results under HB 153 are promising. With this law in place, Ohio now sets college readiness indicators across all of its public colleges and universities. These statewide standards are then used to determine which students are placed into remedial-level versus college-level classes during their freshman year. More »


Incarcerated youths often denied access to educational opportunities, study finds

by Katelyn Tye ~ February 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Each year, tens of thousands of incarcerated youths rely on state residential facilities to provide them with essential services during their time of commitment, including education. But according to a 2015 study by The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, most of these youths lack access to many of the same educational opportunities as their peers in the community — such as credit recovery programs, GED preparation, and career and technical education courses. More »


Minnesota launches refinancing program to relieve student debt

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Minnesotans struggling with high student debt and monthly payments can now get some assistance from their state government. Launched in January, the Self Refi program is the result of legislation (HF 3172) passed in 2014. That law gave Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education the authority to refinance student loans through the sale of revenue bonds.
Five-, 10- and 15-year loans will be available, with current interest rates ranging from 3 percent for a 5-year variable to 6.95 percent for a 15-year fixed rate. According to the Minnesota governor’s office, a graduate with $40,000 in student loans at an 8 percent interest rate could save as much as $200 per month. To be eligible for the program, the borrower must be a state resident and meet certain credit criteria (or have a credit-worthy co-signer). In a 2015 study of student-loan refinancing, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education listed Iowa and North Dakota as other states with similar programs in place.
In every Midwestern state, most students graduate from college with debt. Their average debt load ranges from $25,521 in Kansas to $31,579 in Minnesota, the Institute for College Access and Success reports. Between 2004 and 2014, the average debt for U.S. students rose at more than twice the rate of inflation.


Do any states have programs in place to provide free tuition to students attending community college?

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2016 ~ Question of the Month »


The idea of providing tuition-free community college got a major boost in early 2015, when President Barack Obama included it in his State of the Union speech. The America’s College Promise Act was subsequently introduced this past summer in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. If signed into law, the act would create a new state-federal partnership to waive student tuition and fees at community colleges, with the federal government providing $3 for every $1 invested by a state. As of late 2015, the legislation had not passed out of any congressional committees. A handful of U.S. states, meanwhile, moved ahead with tuition-free plans of their own in 2015, including Minnesota. More »


In Iowa, more K-12 students being exposed to work-based learning

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the past two years, Iowa legislators have deepened the state's commitment to work-based learning, and thousands of young people are taking advantage of the opportunity. Through a bill passed in 2013 (HF 604), lawmakers laid the groundwork for the creation of 15 regional intermediary networks. The goal of these networks is to increase K-12 students' access to career fairs, internships and job-shadowing opportunities in their communities.
With participation from a local community college, each network is responsible for developing a stronger connection between businesses and K-12 schools. The state provides 75 percent of the costs associated with expanding work-based learning opportunities; the rest of the money must be generated from local sources.
According to a study released in December by the Iowa Department of Education, 15,000 students took part in hands-on, work-based learning opportunities in 2014-15. Touring a work site was the most common experience.
With a grant from the National Governors Association, Iowa plans to focus more on work-based learning in careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Legislative proposals seek to fix problem of teacher shortages

by Katelyn Tye ~ January 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a teacher shortage of some kind is happening in each of the 11 Midwestern states. These shortages can take different forms — an inadequate supply of teachers by subject area or grade level, or in a certain geographic area — but they all can adversely impact student learning. More »


Do local school districts charge participation fees for students to participate in extracurricular activities, and do any states ban such fees?

by Laura Tomaka ~ November 2015 ~ Question of the Month »
According to a 2013 survey by the National Federation of High School Associations, school districts in 21 states — including Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin — reported having participation fees in excess of $100 per student, per sport. More »


Ohio law strengthens state oversight of charter schools

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ohio lawmakers approved legislation this fall that will require more accountability and transparency in charter schools, which now educate one of every 10 students in the Buckeye State. Between 2003 and 2013, federal data show, enrollment in these alternative public schools jumped from 3.4 percent to 10.0 percent in Ohio. This increase in their use, along with reports of poor academic performance and fiscal mismanagement in some charters, led to the bipartisan passage of HB 2. Under the bill:
• The state will annually rate the sponsors of charter schools based on several factors, including the performance of students. Ratings of “poor” will result in the revocation of sponsorship authority.
• Low-performing charter schools cannot switch to a new sponsor, unless that sponsor has been deemed “effective” by the Ohio Department of Education.
• Agreements between a sponsor and its governing authority must contain certain standards related to academic performance and fiscal management.
Charter schools operate in all but three Midwestern states: Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Iowa offering teachers new career pathways and higher pay

by Katelyn Tye ~ November 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
K-12 instructors in about one-third of Iowa’s school districts now have the opportunity to further their professional development, take on leadership roles and gain higher-paying positions, under a new system of teacher pay established by state legislators two years ago. More »


What laws and regulations do states have in place regarding schools’ use of restrictive procedures such as “seclusion” and “restraint”?

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2015 ~ Question of the Month »
Over the past decade and a half, via legislation and/or administrative rules, many states in the Midwest have established new standards, training requirements and limits on the use of these procedures, which are typically used in response to serious behavioral problems exhibited by students. More »


Most states in Midwest now part of interstate pact on online higher education

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the past year and a half, nearly every state in the Midwest has joined an interstate reciprocity agreement that holds the promise of improving college students’ access to online degree programs while also simplifying the regulatory environment for participating institutions. More »


New Illinois law ensures students earn college credit for high scores on AP exams

by Katelyn Tye ~ September 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
This summer, Illinois lawmakers approved a measure that ensures the state’s high-performing AP students will get a head start on their college careers. HB 3428, signed into law in August, requires all public colleges and universities in the state to award course credit for AP exam scores of 3 or higher. More »



In response to teacher shortage, North Dakota offers hardship waivers

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With school districts in North Dakota scrambling late into the summer to fill open teaching positions, the state has stepped in to help. As of early August, emergency administrative rules were being developed for districts to apply for hardship waivers. These waivers would allow districts to bring on individuals without education degrees to be teachers. The new hires would instead be “community experts” — for example, an experienced farmer in the community teaching vocational agriculture. According to The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, neighboring Minnesota already has a community-expert program in place.
North Dakota established a task force earlier in the year to address the state’s teacher shortage. A local state superintendent told Education Week that three factors are contributing to the problem: more K-12 students because of the state’s population growth, fewer in-state residents entering the profession due to relatively low wages, and difficulty in attracting out-of-state college graduates.
The North Dakota task force plans to work on finding longer-term solutions. Teacher shortages were also being reported this summer in Indiana, Kansas and South Dakota.


Indiana looking to revise high-school diploma system, explore possible career/technical option

by Katelyn Tye ~ July/August 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In response to a greater demand for high-school degrees that emphasize skills and include a more rigorous curriculum, Indiana high schools can expect to see a revised diploma system within the next few years. More »


State strategies expand student access to Advanced Placement courses

by Katelyn Tye ~ June 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Since its inception in 1955, the Advanced Placement program has been used by millions of high school students who want to experience the rigor of college-level courses before graduation. The long-running program continues to gain popularity. In fact, participation in AP classes by high school graduates in the United States nearly doubled over the past decade. While AP courses are available in many high schools across the country, some states, like Indiana, require every high school to provide students with access to the classes. More »



In Wisconsin, new programs aim to help students with disabilities transition out of high school

by Katelyn Tye ~ May 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A year after they have left high school, 58 percent of Wisconsin students with disabilities report that they have not yet worked, participated in a job-training program or taken a postsecondary course. Rep. Robert Brooks, a first-year legislator in the state Assembly, believes the state and its schools can do better for this population. His plan, introduced at least initially as a budget resolution, calls for new pay-for-performance incentives for school districts to improve their career- and college-readiness programs for students with disabilities. More »


North Dakota, South Dakota OK new policies on civics education

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
How many amendments does the U.S. Constitution have? How old do citizens have to be to vote for presidents? How many U.S. senators are there? Those are among the 100 questions that new immigrants study and learn before taking the test to become a U.S. citizen. Now, some state legislatures are considering proposals to require students to pass the citizenship test in order to graduate from high school. More »


A pioneer in dual enrollment, Minnesota now considering plan to deepen investment in program that brings college courses to high school

by Katelyn Tye ~ April 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In 1985, Minnesota became the first U.S. state to allow and provide funding for high school juniors and seniors to take college-level courses. Thirty years later, the program has evolved and grown, and it may expand once again this year under a plan to improve affordability and accessibility to “concurrent enrollment”: students taking college-level courses at their own high schools. More »


Ohio initiative seeks to match adult high school dropouts with training in high-demand careers

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In Ohio, more than 1 million adults do not have a high school diploma, and they’re twice as likely to be living in poverty. “We need to find a way to raise them up,” says Steve Gratz, a senior executive director at the Ohio Department of Education. “It’s simple economics; it’s good for the whole state.” IIn order to get these undereducated, often underskilled workers on the path to a sustainable career, state policymakers are charting a new course of their own. They have launched a pilot program that links the earning of a high school diploma to job training in high-demand careers. More »


Indiana teachers get $30 million for student performance, gains

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Teachers across Indiana were in line for some bonuses this holiday season as the result of a performance-based grant program included in the state’s budget. According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, more than $30 million went to 1,300 schools across Indiana.
Schools were eligible for the grants if they met certain requirements: 1) Students scored well on statewide tests or showed signs of improvement, or 2) Graduation rates were high or had improved over the last year (growth of at least 5 percent). These schools, in turn, distribute the money to teachers who have been rated effective or highly effective under Indiana’s teacher-evaluation system.
“Pay for performance” models are spreading to more and more states, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. In its latest “State Teacher Policy Yearbook,” the council lists 25 U.S. states as having policies in place to support performance pay. Those states include Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio. Indiana is singled out as one of two “best practice” states. Under a state law that took effect in 2011, a school district’s salary increases for teachers must be based in part on evaluations of their effectiveness. Conversely, years of experience and content-area degrees cannot account for more than 33 percent of the pay calculation.


First in the Midwest: Historic 'firsts' in the development of the nation's unique land-grant universities

by Mike McCabe ~ December 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Some of the earliest land-grant colleges were established in the Midwest. In fact, at least three Midwestern states (Iowa, Kansas and Michigan) claimed historic “firsts” as the land-grant era began. These schools have been lauded as an important innovation in U.S. higher education — one that has helped the nation grow economically while also opening up new opportunities to generations of young people. More »


Minnesota making strides in closing achievement gap

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Compare the overall test scores or graduation rates of students in the Midwest to the rest of the nation’s, and most states in this region fare quite well — sometimes even at or near the top of U.S. rankings. That certainly is the case for Minnesota, a high-performing state on traditional measures of student achievement. But as Greg Keith, director of school support for the Minnesota Department of Education, notes, that level of achievement is far from uniform among different groups of students. And closing the achievement gap — between white and minority students or low-income and higher-income students, for example — is a top priority right now of Minnesota legislators and school administrators alike. More »


Minnesota begins funding ‘all-day K’ across the state

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
This year’s school year in Minnesota was marked by at least one big change for some families in the state — access to full-day kindergarten. The Legislature is spending about $134 million to provide a full day of programming. Prior to this year, the state only funded a half day, which meant student access to “all-day K” depended on the ability or willingness of local school districts or parents themselves to pay for it.
The statewide program, proponents say, will help close achievement gaps and improve educational outcomes among all students. Indiana, North Dakota and Michigan are among the other U.S. states where all-day kindergarten is widely available.
According to the Education Commission of the States, no state in the Midwest requires school districts to offer a full day of kindergarten. Only a half day must be offered, and parents in every Midwestern state except Ohio and South Dakota have the choice of not sending their child to kindergarten. Every state in the region requires that students begin attending school at age 6 (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) or age 7 (Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota), the commission reports.


Illinois, Minnesota expand the scope of anti-bullying laws, seek to crack down on ‘cyberbullying’

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the past seven years, every state in the Midwest has established policies that aim to prevent bullying in the schools. But how detailed and far-reaching should these policies be? On that question, there is considerable variation among the states, especially in light of new laws now in place in Minnesota and Illinois. In both of those states, the legislatures chose this year to significantly expand the role of states — and their local school districts — in bullying prevention and intervention. More »


Closing skills gaps, opening career options: State laws, programs aim to expand availability and use of career and technical education

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Across the Midwest, new state laws on career and technical education are being passed, new programs are being launched, and new investments are being made. It is a policy area that enjoys bipartisan support and that touches on many of today’s top legislative priorities — closing skills gaps, expanding economic opportunities and improving student outcomes. More »


More states in Midwest requiring teachers, school staff to be trained in prevention of youth suicide

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two hours, once every two years. Could that small commitment of time that North Dakota teachers are now being asked to make be the difference between the life and death of a young person? The state’s lawmakers believe
so, which is why SB 2306 passed the House and Senate during their last legislative session without a single “no” vote. More »


What laws or licensing requirements do states have in place to ensure new teachers are prepared to be effective in the classroom?

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2014 ~ Question of the Month »
From the standards they set for becoming a teacher to how they oversee the programs that train the future education workforce, state policymakers can play an important role in teacher preparation. And strengthening that oversight role has been the focus of measures passed in several states — including Indiana and Wisconsin — in recent years. More »


Low-performing schools getting more scrutiny, assistance in Nebraska

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The state of Nebraska is planning to take a more active role in turning around its lowest-performing schools. Under LB 438, the state will designate three “priority schools” based on poor performance in areas such as student graduation rates and test scores. Nebraska’s education commissioner will then establish five-member intervention teams for each of these schools. Each team will submit plans to the Nebraska Board of Education on how to improve performance and to measure progress. A local school district must follow these plans or risk losing accreditation.
According to Students First (the group led by Michelle Rhee, former head of Washington, D.C.’s school system), Nebraska had been one of four Midwestern states without laws allowing for intervention in low-performing schools.
On the flip side, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are listed as having some of the broadest intervention authority in the nation. Illinois and Indiana, for example, have given the mayors of Chicago and Indianapolis control of their local schools. Independent authorities or special management teams (appointed or assigned by the state) can also take over operations of low-achieving schools. Michigan legislators, meanwhile, have created a state-run school district to operate struggling schools in Detroit.


With full-day kindergarten becoming norm, states start to consider full funding as well

by Ilene Grossman ~ April 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Four decades ago, only about one-quarter of the U.S. students attending kindergarten went for the full day. Today, the numbers are essentially reversed — only one-quarter of kindergartners attend a half day, according to Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center. And another change is beginning to occur as well — how states fund kindergarten. More »


Full court pressure: Recent Supreme Court ruling in Kansas serves as a reminder of the judiciary's power to shape state school funding

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2014 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
In the decades-long legal battles over school funding, different states have taken turns in the national spotlight. All eyes were on Ohio in the late 1990s, for example, after its state Supreme Court ruled on multiple occasions that the K-12 funding system was unconstitutional. This year was Kansas’ turn to grab headlines. A state Supreme Court ruling in March not only forced Kansas lawmakers to scramble for a fix by the end of this year’s session, it also could have ramifications in other states. More »



What laws have states passed regarding sports-related concussion prevention and treatment?

by Laura Kliewer ~ April 2014 ~ Question of the Month »
In the span of just two years (during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions), every Midwestern state adopted laws to better protect young people from concussion-related injuries. These so-called “return-to-play” laws had three key components. More »


States study new tuition model — no up-front payments

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two years ago, a class of college students at Portland State University in Oregon came up with an alternative way of paying for college — an idea they called “Pay it Forward.” It has quickly attracted nationwide attention, including in some of the Midwest’s state legislatures. Under this model, students do not make up-front tuition payments. They instead agree to pay a portion of earnings after entering the workforce. The payments are made over a designated period of time.
The Illinois House unanimously passed HB 5323 in early March. It calls on the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to issue a report by Dec. 1 on the feasibility of implementing a pay-it-forward model.
Michigan’s HB 5315 would establish a pilot program of at least five years involving 200 college students. Initial funding would come from the state as well as private and other public sources. Once they enter the workforce, participating students would begin to pay their tuition through a portion of their gross adjusted income (2 percent for community-college students, 4 percent for university students). For individuals who attended school tuition-free for four academic years, these payments would be made over a 20-year period.


State programs in region aim to get entire family involved in early-childhood education

by Ilene Grossman ~ March 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
State-funded programs in states such as North Dakota and Minnesota are focusing on the importance of early learning for the whole family — a goal that goes hand-in-hand with the current push among policymakers to ensure that more students are ready for school and don’t fall behind. More »


In Wisconsin, availability of ‘4K’ — kindergarten for 4-year-olds — now close to statewide

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When it comes to offering 4-year-olds the chance to take part in early-childhood education, few states can boast a program as far-reaching as Wisconsin’s. And the state’s 4K program keeps on growing, according to new Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data. This year, 93 percent of the state’s public school districts that provide elementary education extended instruction to 4-year-olds. Since 2003, the number of districts taking part in the 4K program has more than doubled. More »


Revamped Iowa homeschooling law gives families more options

by Ilene Grossman ~ December 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Iowa families who homeschool their children have some new options as the result of legislative actions this
year that remove reporting requirements and allow parents to teach unrelated students. Included as part of
the state’s major education-reform package (HF 215), the new provisions also allow for parent-taught driver’s
education. More »


Too small to let fail: State support for preschool on the rise as a range of educational, economic benefits come into focus

by Kate Tormey ~ November 2013 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
When Indiana Rep. Robert Behning was recently visiting a preschool, one of the instructors cited some alarming statistics. The teacher pointed to three young African-American students. “She told me, ‘One of the three — if they don’t have the opportunity for a high-quality education in early childhood — [is likely to] end up in the criminal-justice system. Which one are you going to pick?’” More »


North Dakota bucks school finance trends, and reshapes how its K-12 schools are funded

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the past six years, most U.S. states have cut per-pupil funding for education, with double-digit reductions not uncommon. And then there is the case of North Dakota. Lawmakers there have taken advantage of the state’s remarkable economic ascent to completely remake how K-12 education is funded. In doing so, the legislature has accomplished what policymakers in many other states have tried but failed to do — take the burden of paying for schools off the backs of local property taxpayers. More »


Reading instruction continues to be focus of states’ K-12 reforms

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »

This fall, Iowa schools rolled out the state’s new plan to get more of its third-graders reading at grade level. The Response to Intervention program, which has been launched in 10 percent of Iowa schools, assesses students on literacy skills as they enter kindergarten and then adapts instructional interventions based on the students’ individual needs.
Launch of the program came a year and a half after Iowa lawmakers passed SF 2284, which calls for children in kindergarten through third grade to be tested at the beginning of each school year and, when needed, be offered intensive remedial reading instruction.
Other states in the Midwest have also made early literacy a focus of recent K-12 education reforms. Wisconsin is funding a universal reading screener for kindergarten students and requiring prospective teachers to pass a new licensure test on reading instruction (SB 461, passed in 2012). Ohio’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee program (SB 316, passed in 2012) requires school districts to develop an individualized reading-improvement plan for students identified as reading below grade level. In Ohio and Iowa, too, the 2012 laws call on school districts to “retain” some third-graders reading below grade level.



Minnesota enters new era of K-12 testing, without graduation exam

by Ilene Grossman ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
To graduate, Minnesota high school students have had to do more than complete the necessary coursework. They’ve also had to pass a statewide exit exam, one that assessed their skills in certain core subject areas. But that high-stakes test, known as GRAD (Graduation Required Assessment for Diploma), was shelved this year by the Legislature amid concerns that it was focusing students and schools on the wrong objective — passing a test rather than preparing for college and careers — and keeping some students from getting a diploma. More »


First in the Midwest: Two decades ago, the Minnesota Legislature took a step soon followed by many other states — opening the door for charter schools

by Mike McCabe ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the passage of a groundbreaking statute in 1991, Minnesota legislators paved the way for a national charter school movement and triggered a flurry of action in legislatures across the country. More »


New Kansas initiative kick-starts students’ work in high-need jobs

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
This year, some local school districts in Kansas received hand-delivered checks from the governor, while their high school students received a tuition-free education at a technical college. The reason? A 2012 law (SB 155) that The Topeka Capital-Journal says “may be Gov. Sam Brownback’s most popular education initiative.”
To bolster college and career readiness, Kansas is now taking on the costs for students to take part in college-level technical education courses. School districts also receive a $1,000 bonus for each student who earns an industry-recognized certificate in “high-need” occupations identified by the state. During the program’s first year, high school students’ enrollment in college-level technical courses rose 50 percent. The number of students earning industry-recognized certificates increased 28 percent.
According to the Education Commission of the States, legislatures across the country are placing a greater emphasis on high school career and technical education. In Minnesota, high school juniors and seniors already could take tuition-free courses on a college campus. Last year, lawmakers extended this option to 10th-graders (HF 2949). And since 2009, North Dakota has funded career and technical education scholarships of up to $6,000.


States experimenting with competency-based education model to individualize learning experience

by Tim Anderson ~ 2013 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »
Picture a school system with no credits, no grades and no educational units. And rather than graduating from high school after passing a certain number of courses over a set period of time, a student instead demonstrates proficiency in an agreed-upon set of skills and academic content. Sandra Dop of the Iowa Department of Education calls this vision a “CBE utopia.” “CBE” stands for competency-based education, and while states may never reach or even want to reach this “utopia,” the idea of providing more pathways and individualized instruction to students is gaining more interest among state leaders. More »



North Dakota joins states with performance-based model for funding higher education

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ever since he joined the legislature more than a decade ago, North Dakota Sen. Tim Flakoll says, lawmakers have been looking to change how the state funds its higher-education system. This year, he says, “We were finally able to crack the code.” The result: Two-year colleges, regional campuses and research universities will no longer receive dollars based on enrollment or historical funding levels, but instead on the credit hours earned by students. More »


Indiana lawmakers expand reach of school vouchers after court rules that Choice Scholarship Fund is constitutional

by Ilene Grossman ~ May 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
One of the nation’s most extensive state school-voucher initiatives has withstood a constitutional challenge and will be expanded even further as the result of 2013 legislation. More »



Use of charter schools rising, state laws changing: Enhanced oversight and accountability goal of recent measures

by Ilene Grossman ~ March 2013 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
In several Midwestern states, more and more students are attending charter schools, a trend that has placed more scrutiny on both the schools and the state laws that govern them. Legislatures have responded in recent years by passing new laws to improve accountability. More »


Aiming higher: States look for ways to produce more-educated populations to feed economic demand for skills

by Laura A. Tomaka ~ December 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Under a new set of recommendations in Ohio, half of the state’s funding for higher-education institutions would be based on how well they contribute to a key economic goal: boosting the number of college graduates in the workforce. In late November, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a state panel released a higher-education finance framework designed to give greater weight to degree completion in determining funding for the state’s public colleges and universities. More »



What Midwestern states require exit exams for high school students?

by Laura Tomaka ~ December 2012 ~ Question of the Month »
According to the Center on Education Policy, Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio are among the 26 U.S. states that require students to pass an exit exam before they are awarded a high school diploma. More »


Which states in the Midwest require school board members to receive training, and what does the training entail?

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2012 ~ Question of the Month »
Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota are among the 21 U.S. states that require some type of training for individuals elected to school boards, according to a recent survey by the National School Boards Association. More »


What requirements do Midwestern states have for health education in K-12 public schools?

by Laura A. Tomaka ~ March 2012 ~ Question of the Month »

A. Over the last few years, the number of Midwestern states including health education as a requirement for high school graduation has increased — a policy move that reflects growing recognition of the link between healthy kids and academic achievement, and between public health and safer, healthier communities. More »


What standards do states set for the minimum amount of instructional time that schools must provide for students?

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2011 ~ Question of the Month »
According to data collected in April by the National Center on Time and Learning, every U.S. state except Minnesota sets a numeric standard for either minimum instructional days per year or total instructional hours per year. More »


State policies on teachers get major overhaul in Midwest: Changes in tenure, along with new evaluation and pay systems that emphasize performance, mark new era

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2011 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
Tenure and single salary schedules have been a part of the teaching profession for decades, dating back to a turn-of-the-20th-century push for due-process protections and standardized pay for this group of public employees.
There is another reform movement afoot at the beginning of the 21st century — one that could be remembered for dramatically changing how teachers are evaluated and compensated, hired and fired, and retained or laid off.
The Midwest has been at the epicenter of this shake-up in 2011. More »