2016 – The Year in State Policy
Ed Prep Matters is pleased to bring you this special feature on state policy and AACTE state chapter activity. For prior monthly recap articles, browse the “State Directions” section of the blog.
2016 began with some clear themes for state education policy showcased in governors’ State of the State Addresses. According to a report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), the following issues topped the governors’ lists:
- School finance
- Teaching quality issues – compensation, recruitment, and retention
- Postsecondary affordability
- Career and technical education and workforce development
- School choice
- Early learning
- High school transition – career/college counseling and dual enrollment
State Legislation and Regulations Review
Of course, governors weren’t the only ones interested in these issues. Over the course of the year, these topics received significant attention from state legislatures and state education agencies throughout the country—especially teaching quality and issues related to the educator pipeline.
For example, two states enacted three new pieces of legislation addressing these issues. In Virginia, SB 360 requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and provide school districts a sample questionnaire for teachers who depart the profession. This legislation aims to assist the state in determining some of the root causes for teacher turnover. In Delaware, HB 307 eases teacher recruitment by waiving the $100 initial license fee for applicants who graduated from the state’s public schools and a Delaware educator preparation program. Additionally, Delaware’s SB 199 adds a fourth tier to the state’s licensure system: a provisional license that exempts individuals from meeting the state’s performance assessment requirement.
On the regulatory front, at least a dozen states adopted new rules affecting the educator pipeline. In Nevada, an emergency regulation, which was later permanently adopted, authorized provisional nonrenewable licenses in the wake of the high number of teacher vacancies. In Utah, Administrative Rule R277 created the Academic Pathway to Teaching, an alternative license that allows individuals to apply for a Level 1 teaching license if they hold at least a bachelor’s degree and pass a content knowledge test. In Florida, a new adopted regulation attempts to strengthen the school leader pipeline by creating new requirements for preparation programs, including a partnership with at least one school district and program admission criteria that include a candidate’s instructional expertise and leadership potential. This Florida regulation also obligates school leader preparation programs to guarantee that program completers are qualified and, if completers receive a less than “effective” rating on their evaluation, provide additional training to the completers at no cost to the completer or employer.
Thanks to AACTE’s State Policy Tracker, the Association has been able to track 121 bills over the past year, of which 21 were enacted, and 373 regulations, of which 273 were adopted. We have been working with our state chapters to provide them with accurate and timely information on these bills and regulations.
State Chapter Support for Policy Makers
Over the past year, AACTE state chapters and member institutions have continued to work with their state policy makers to support and educate them about the latest trends and innovations in educator preparation.
One high-profile activity in 2016 was the participation of AACTE Board Chair Jane Bray, of Old Dominion University (VA), in a panel discussion on the Every Student Succeeds Act at the Council of State Governments (CSG) national conference. Additionally, three chapter leaders from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Kentucky participated in webinars and conferences hosted by CSG.
As part of AACTE’s Annual Meeting in 2016, AACTE held a press briefing and a major forum on how educator preparation providers are vital to addressing severe teacher shortages in Nevada. As other states have organized task forces to offer recommendations on how to address similar pipeline challenges, AACTE state chapters have been at the table, including in Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
The Washington Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (WACTE) continued to work closely with the state legislature to support increased funding for efforts to address the educator pipeline. By hosting a group of legislators and offering testimony in support of new spending, WACTE was successful in getting an additional $5.2 million included in the state’s budget in support of teaching residency stipends and mentoring programs.
In another chapter effort, the Alabama Association of Colleges for Teacher (ALACTE) was awarded $55,000 in 2016 by the Alabama State Department of Education under Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This grant supported ALACTE’s work to develop a sample statewide survey of graduates and employers, including convening a retreat to review instruments for the survey.
On behalf of AACTE’s state chapters, the Association also made it a priority in 2016 to cultivate connections with state policy makers. AACTE staff members, including myself, attended national conferences of state policy makers, including the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, National Association of State Boards of Education, Education Commission of the States, National Conference of State Legislatures, and CSG.