Highlights from the November State Board of Education Meeting
November’s state board meeting was one for the record books, going down as possibly one of the shortest in recent history owing to no presentations being scheduled. Here is what you missed:
Race to the Top Update-
Three big items were discussed related to Race to the Top. The first was an update on the LEA Support Program, which is the work DOE is doing to help school districts craft their Scopes of Work for years two through four of the RTTT grant. All DOE materials, as well as the original LEA plans, are now available on the DOE website for public access. DOE is also assigning a facilitator to each school district to help them write their plans, and they are putting together an “Exemplar” plan to help LEAs get a better idea of what DOE is hoping to see when the final plans are submitted in April.
The second update covered the RFPs that have been posted for a number of the RTTT initiatives. DOE is in final negotiations for the Development Coach contract and they should be announcing that vendor soon. There are five potential vendors for the Data Coach contract and the decision for that contract should be made in the next few weeks. The goal is to have three to five coaches in schools by as early as February, with the remaining coaches placed by the fall of 2011. They noted that whoever receives the Development and Data Coach contracts will do a significant amount of in-state hiring, with help from DOE staff in recruitment and selection. Secretary Lowery also mentioned that the RFP for the Longitudinal Data System needs to be altered as they were unable to find a vendor that could handle both components they were looking for: creating the behind-the- scenes data system and the interfaces for teachers, parents, and the public. No word yet on how that will play out.
Finally, DOE is conducting final interviews for a few of the open positions they posted last month. They hope to have a new public information officer as well as a few new team members in the Project Management Office in the next few weeks.
The first testing window for DCAS closes today, and DOE was optimistic that they would have 100% participation across the state. While there isn’t any formal data to report yet, a quick look at the numbers was encouraging. Between 30 and 40 percent of students are hitting the proficiency target in math, and between 35 and 50 percent are hitting the target in reading. This is the proficiency target for the end of the year, so these levels in the fall are a good sign, as they are stronger than expected with the raised cut-scores. Formal numbers should be available after the December State Board meeting.
Most of the feedback on the new assessment centers on how to use the data to improve instruction. DOE is planning an initial training on this before the end of December and there will be many more to come. This is also an area where the data coaches will be very helpful when they come online next year.
DOE is also planning a technical meeting for school districts on December 15th to bring them up to speed on how DSAC data will be used for accountability this spring.
One notable regulation change was approved yesterday: the addition of American Sign Language to the list of World Languages available for students to meet the new graduation requirement of at least two World Language credits. This change implements HB345, which was passed this spring to make sure that students with special needs were able to fulfill the World Language graduation requirement. There was concern from the board that college bound students who take ASL as their only World Language might not meet the entrance requirements for some colleges and universities such as UD, which does not accept ASL as a foreign language for admissions. The regulation change passed 4 to 2.
Charter Schools Update-
There was only one formal action from the board this month concerning charter schools. The board voted unanimously to place Reach Academy for Girls on formal review, citing significant change-over in the leadership during the first few months of operation and financial concerns. Reach will now go through the formal review process with the Charter School Accountability Commission.
Eight possible charter applicants attended a workshop on November 10th to learn about the authorization process and the supports that the charter office provides, but it is not yet clear how many of those interested parties will file applications for a charter this year.
The charter school office also reported that they have received a grant from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to do a review of the state’s charter authorization procedures and to make recommendations to improve our system. The total value of the grant will be about $40,000 including technical assistance.
Finally, there are three charters up for renewal this coming year, Campus Community, Providence Creek, and MOT. All are beginning the formal renewal process and you can find meeting dates and information on the process here.