What are the high school graduation rates for SLC member states?
High school graduation rates across the nation continue to rise to new heights, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. The nation's high school graduation rate hit 82 percent in 2013-14, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago.
Since 2010, states, districts and schools have been using a new, common metric to promote greater accountability, reduce dropout rates, and increase graduation rates. For four consecutive years, graduation rates have continued to climb, which reflects continued progress among America's high school students.
For a number of years, the SLC Comparative Data Report on Education, prepared annually by legislative staff in West Virginia, has tracked graduation rates in SLC member states, among other key figures. This year’s report shows that the average graduation rate for SLC member states is slightly above the national norm, at 82.5 percent versus 82.3 percent, with Texas leading the Southern region, with a high school graduation rate of 88.3 percent for the 2013-14 school year.
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What is the percentage breakdown of higher education funding in SLC member states?
Note: Graph outlines direct state support and tuition revenue for public higher education institutions only, and does not include special-purpose, research, and medical appropriations or account for tuition revenue dedicated to capital or debt service.
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|State||State Support for Public Higher Education||Percent State Support||Local Support for Higher Education||Percent Local Support||Net Tuition||Percent Funding through Tuition||Total Support|
2015 Update on Common Core in SLC Member States
This SLC recent research is a brief update to the February 2015 SLC Regional Resource, and includes short summaries of any developments that have occurred in the SLC member states in relation to Common Core up to October 19, 2015. As it stands, the majority of states have adopted 90 percent or more of Common Core and customized them to invididual state-specific learning environments and priorities. For complete details regarding SLC member state developments related to Common Core, please refer to the SLC Regional Resource.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on November 20, 2011, after a year of reviewing the needs of Alabama students, the Board adopted Common Core along with a set of additional state-specific standards, collectively referred to as the Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards (CCRS) for Mathematics and English Language Arts. Legislative efforts (e.g., SB101 of 2015) to repeal Common Core continued during the 2015 legislative session, but did not succeed. The Alabama College- & Career-Ready Standards continue to be used throughout the state.
How do SLC member states evaluate teacher effectiveness?
Trends in Teacher Evaluation: How States are Measuring Teacher Performance, a report from the National School Boards Association's (NSBA) Center for Public Education, provides a thorough state-by-state analysis of state government approaches to teacher evaluation regulations. Out of the 15 SLC member states, nine (Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) practice high to medium state involvement, meaning that the state mandates the requirements and components of the evaluation system (high) or provides model evaluation systems that districts can either adopt fully or adapt to some degree (medium). Of these nine SLC member states, six (Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee) recommend or require that quantifiable student achievement indicators comprise half of a teachers' evaluation.
NSBA identified two common approaches to quantitative teacher evaluations: the value-added model (VAM), which attempts to measure the impact a teacher has on students' academic growth in relation to other causal variables, and student growth percentiles (SGP), a measure of how much progress a student has made relative to other students, each with particular advantages and disadvantages. Of the six SLC member states with similar quantitative teacher evaluation methods, only three (Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee) practice the VAM method for linking teachers and student achievement.
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|State||State's Level of Involvement in Evaluation Systems||Student Achievement as Measure of Teacher Effectiveness||Statistical Model for Evaluation|
|Alabama||Low||Not specified||Not specified/other|
|Arkansas||Medium||50 percent||Student Growth Percentiles|
|Florida||Low||50 percent||Value-Added Model|
|Georgia||Medium||50 percent||Student Growth Percentiles|
|Kentucky||Low||Not specified||Student Growth Percentiles|
What are the governing entities for higher education in SLC member states?
from Online Database for Postsecondary Governance, Education Commission of the States (ECS)
|Alabama||The Alabama Commission on Higher Education, the statutory coordinating agency for public postsecondary education, was established in 1969. The Commission is composed of 12 members, 10 appointed by the governor and 1 each by the lieutenant governor and speaker of the house. All are subject to confirmation by the Senate. No more than 2 members can be from any one congressional district and each is charged with representing the state as a whole. Commissioners serve 9-year terms. The statutory authority of the Commission includes planning, coordination, budget review for individual institutions, recommendations of a consolidated budget and program review for the state's public senior and junior institutions. Program review involves new program approval authority for all public postsecondary institutions. The Commission has advisory authority relative to the review of existing programs. The commission also has approval authority for off-campus instruction and programs offered in the state by out-of-state institutions. |
The State Board of Education is a constitutional entity with responsibility not only for K-12 but also for governing 1 upper-division college, 3 junior colleges, 18 community colleges and 7 technical colleges.
|Arkansas||The Arkansas Department of Higher Education, established in 1971, functions as a statutory cabinet department of the state government and is charged with the coordination of postsecondary education in Arkansas. The department administers the policies set by the Higher Education Coordinating Board, which replaced the State Board of Higher Education in 1997. Consisting of 12 members who are appointed to 6-year terms by the governor, the Higher Education Coordinating Board has statutory responsibility for the planning and coordination of public 4-and 2-year institutions. The Board also has statutory authority for budget review and recommendation, approval of institutions role and scope, and the review and approval of new or existing degree programs for public postsecondary institutions. The executive officer of the agency is appointed by the Higher Education Coordinating Board with substantial input from the Presidents Council and is confirmed and serves at the governor's pleasure.|
Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) with a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) Clause Related to Higher Education Buildings
Ongoing fiscal pressures on state budgets are increasingly causing states to focus on P3s as a means to generate funds to initiate essential infrastructure projects. Despite this growing reliance on P3s for major infrastructure projects, few states have offices dedicated solely to reviewing the feasibility of different P3 projects. Among the limited number of states with these independent offices, several SLC states stand out: Florida, Texas and Virginia. While P3s related to transportation infrastructure have gathered the most attention in recent years, a growing number of state and local governments also are authorizing P3s – with a DBFOM provision – in the arena of higher education-related infrastructure investments.
Specifically, seven states have laws pertaining to public-private partnership funding for state-level educational facilities: California, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The following sections outline the provisions of those laws and, where relevant, applications of the law to provide private funding for university facilities generally. In addition, the American Institute of Architects offers a Legislative Resource Guide on Public-Private Partnerships for Public Facilities.
California law has provided for P3s for transportation infrastructure since 1989, and expanded its application and authorized public entities since. In 1996, the state granted local governments authority to enter into fee-producing infrastructure projects and the broad definition of local government includes university systems:
What are the minimum number of school days per year in SLC member states?
|State||State Code Section||Number of Days||Minimum Hours for Instructional Day|
|Alabama||[ALA. CODE § 16-13-231(a)(1) and (b)(1)(c)] |
|180 or hourly equivalent||6 hours (Excludes lunch and recess)|
|Arkansas||[ARK. CODE ANN. § |
|178||6 hours/day or 30 hours/week|
|Florida||[FLA. STAT. ch. |
|Georgia||[GA. CODE ANN. § 20-2-168(c); GA. COMP. R. & REGS. r. 160-5-1-.02(2)||180||Grades K-3, 4.5 hours; grades 4-5, 5 hours; grades 6-12, 5.5 hours|
|Kentucky||[KY. REV. STAT. ANN. § 158.070; 702 Ky. Admin. Regs. 7:140]||170 (185-day calendar that includes 170 instructional plus four days for professional development)||N/A|
|Louisiana||[LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 17:154; LA. ADMIN. CODE tit. 28 pt.,CXV § 333, 1103]||177 (Includes two days for staff development)||6 hours (Excludes recess)|
|Mississippi||[MISS. CODE ANN. § 37-13-61, 63,67]||180||5.5 hours|
|Missouri||[MO. REV. STAT. § 160.041, 171.031]||N/A||N/A|
|North Carolina||[N.C. GEN. STAT. § 115C-84.2(a)(1),(d)]||185||N/A|
|Oklahoma||[OKLA. STAT. tit. 70, § 1-109, 111]||180||6 hours|
|South Carolina||[S.C. CODE ANN. § 59-1-425]||180 (Plus three days for mandatory professional development, up to two days for professional development and up to five days for planning, parent conf., etc. to total 190 days)||6 hours (Elementary includes lunch; secondary excludes lunch)|
What are the Pre-K quality standards of SLC member states?
As the evidence builds for the benefits of early childhood education, states are struggling to expand opportunities for 4-year-olds to participate in high quality programs. Program design, participation, and funding remain areas of consideration and concern for state policymakers. Further, the development of appropriate educational standards remains a top priority for Southern lawmakers.
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|State and/or Program||Comprehensive early learning standards||Teacher has BA||Specialized training in pre-K||Assistant teacher has CDA or equivalent||At least 15 hrs/yr in-service||Class size 20 or lower||Staff- child ratio 1:10 or bett||Vision, hearing, health, and one support service||At least one meal||Site visits|
Which SLC states offer in-state tuition to veterans?
Blue - States that meet all the following criteria:
1. State law or state school system provides student veterans an exemption from in-state residency requirements for the purposes of tuition and fees;
2. The exemption applies to all state public schools (2-year and 4-year); and
3. The law can be referenced and read easily.
Tan - States that have introduced legislation in their current legislative session that addresses the "Blue State" criteria.
Grey - States where there is no state law that exempts the residency requirements for student veterans, however, a state school system or individual schools within the state have an established policy exempting student veterans. Or, there are further specific criteria that student veterans need to meet to receive the exemption.
Georgia - University System of Georgia has a policy allowing out-of-state tuition differential waivers and assess in-state tuition to any member of a uniformed military service of the United States who, within 12 months of separation from such service, enroll in an academic program and demonstrate an intent to become domiciled in Georgia. This waiver may also be granted to their spouses and dependent children.
Kentucky - The governing board of a Kentucky public university may adopt a tuition policy whereby any veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or National Guard who is eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits who enrolls as a student in the university as a non-Kentucky resident is charged no more than the maximum tuition reimbursement provided under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to public universities for eligible Kentucky residents.
Mississippi - Institute of Higher Learning policy provides and exemption to veterans who meet the following criteria: (1) The nonresident student was born in the state of Mississippi but subsequently relocated and resided outside the state as a minor under the care of the minor’s father or mother, or both. (2) Veteran served in armed forces. (3) Student is domiciled in Mississippi no later than six months after the nonresident student’s separation from service.
What are the early graduation policies in SLC member states?
Passing (on) the Test: The Future of Common Core Assessments
During the past year, states' continued pursuit of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has garnered considerable attention, and not a little criticism. Among the most often raised concern is with the assessments that are considered part and parcel of the new standards. Specifically, critics are worried about the cost, practicality, frequency, and number of new consortium-crafted assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards.
States are required by federal law to assess students annually in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8, and once in high school, and publicly report the results of these assessments. School, district and state level reporting must be done on an aggregate and sub-group level, providing the public and policymakers with a snapshot of how schools are performing.
Under current federal law there has been considerable pushback over assessments, including criticism of their validity, impact on instruction, and the amount of time students spend on testing. There also are concerns that tests designed to measure student progress or diagnose children's learning needs are being applied in ways that they were not intended, most particularly to measure teacher performance.
As states implement the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, new assessments based upon these learning frameworks are necessary in order for states to accurately gauge student learning. A selling point advantage of the new standards was to be that states could share costs for a variety of educational services, including assessments and, thus achieve cost savings over the current model. Equally, it was envisioned that new assessments would deliver better data on student learning to help teachers adjust instruction, offer targeted supports, and plan early interventions before significant learning deficits occur, as well as provide a better picture of how prepared students are for college or careers.
How many children are enrolled in preschool in the SLC member states?
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|State/Region||Percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Percent of 3-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Percent total (3s and 4s) enrolled in state prekindergarten||Number of 4-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Number of 3-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Total number (3s and 4s) enrolled in state prekindergarten||State 3-year-olds population||State 4-year-olds population||Total State 3- and 4-year-olds population|
The Higher Education Disconnect
Last year, Florida Governor Rick Scott told radio host Marc Bernier that the state "[w]e don't need a lot more anthropologists in the state...I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees." In a follow up discussion with the Sarasota Herald Tribune he elaborated that he wanted to use taxpayer dollars for education that would create jobs, and specifically, not anthropology.
The issue was not anthropology per se (Scott's daughter earned a degree in anthropology from the College of William and Mary), but in the utility of an anthropology degree. Governors across the region have begun to call into question the value of college degrees in the liberal arts. More recently, Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina echoed the complaint that state universities offer courses of study that do not lead to employment. While singling out different disciplines, his remarks signaled an interest in making support for higher education conditional upon how institutions support broader public policy objectives. The governors are not questioning degree programs in the liberal arts themselves, but the need for state subsidies for liberal arts students. According to both Scott and McCrory (and others), there is a disconnect between higher education and businesses, and it is in the state's interest to fix it.
In the SLC member states, what percentage of males and females aged 18-34 are completing post-secondary education?
There exists a growing consensus that states need to increase the proportion of their workforce with post-secondary education. As the United States has shifted from a manufacturing to knowledge-based economy, states seek competitive advantages through a more skilled population. A likely legacy of the historic professional options available to men and women has led to an imbalance in the percentages of individuals with post-secondary degrees between genders. In almost every state in the country, a higher percentage of women have associates or bachelor's degrees. Among those individuals who are most likely to have completed their education and entered the workforce during the shift to an information economy (individuals between 18 and 34), the national gap for associates degrees is 10 percent; for bachelor's degrees the gap is about 20 percent. In other words, for every 10 women with bachelor's degrees, there are eight men.
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|State||% males with some college or associate degree||% males with bachelor's degree or higher||% females with some college or associate degree||% females with bachelor's degree or higher||some college or associate degree male to female ratio||bachelor's degree male to female ratio|
Higher Education Finance Reform
States are confronting a gap in the skills workforce needed to remain competitive in the emerging economy. Even as states slowly emerge from the devastation of the Great Recession, research has indicated that those workers with the least skills and education were the most affected and are having the hardest time bouncing back. Indeed, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland raised concerns two years ago that low educational attainment actually was slowing the recovery. It has long been recognized that educational attainment correlates with income and employment. To close the skills gap and improve their economic prospects, states must find a way to increase the proportion of their population with postsecondary certificates and degrees.
States' interest in increasing college completion rates faces a very major hurdle, however: increasing costs. Participation spiked in recent years, particularly at two-year colleges, as more students sought security in college or to make themselves more competitive in the worst job market the United States has seen in generations. But this wave of students has somewhat passed, as they return to work or reach a limit on their willingness to borrow to pay for their degrees. Over this period, costs associated with college, which had been skyrocketing, leveled out slightly as the Great Recession took hold. According to the College Board, which has tracked this data for years, prices are on the rise yet again, signaling increasing difficulty for states to increase college completion rates. Higher college costs presents a dual problem of diminishing access and depressing completion, two drivers that are in direct opposition to state interests.
The Stafford Loan Crisis in Perspective
Last-minute Congressional action seems poised to stop interest rates on subsidized federal Stafford loans from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. The legislation, passed along with a the extension of the highway bill that faced the same deadline, pays for the $6 billion cost of the plan by shortening the eligibility time for the subsidy (to six years for programs intended to be finished in four years, and three years for those intended to be finished in two), as well as through new fees on federally-insured pensions and changes in how companies calculate money set aside for pension programs, essentially cutting their deductions.
Stafford loans are low-interest loans for undergraduate and graduate students at accredited post-secondary institutions. The loans are available directly through the U.S. Department of Education and are among the lowest cost means for paying for college. The Stafford program includes both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, with students demonstrating financial need eligible for reduced interest rates and delays in the charging of interest.
The Budget Control Act of 2011, approved by Congress and signed into law in August, 2011, eliminated the subsidized loans for Stafford Loans on July 1 as part of the sweeping deal designed to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis. Extending the subsidies on Stafford Loans carries a price tag of $6 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. Under current budgeting rules, continuing the subsidy would require either cuts of the same magnitude elsewhere in the budget or increased revenue. In April 2012, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have extended the subsidy, funding the measure by cutting funds to a preventative healthcare program, a move rejected by the Senate and the Obama administration. Legislation to extend the subsidy for a year proposed in the Senate would have paid for it by changing a law that permits some wealthy taxpayers to classify their pay as dividends to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes on it, a move that did not meet the required 60 votes needed to reach the floor. The stalemate in both chambers has placed the continuation of the Stafford loan subsidy in jeopardy.
Tuition Deregulation in Higher Education
Across the country, state support for public colleges and universities was cut significantly during the recent economic downturn. Even as state revenues return to their pre-recessionary levels, economic shifts and deferred expenditures in a range of areas continue to dampen appropriations for higher education in many states. Between 2006 and 2011, per full-time student state support for post-secondary education dropped an average of 10.4 percent regionally, slightly less than the national decline of 12.5 percent. Economic pressures and budgetary demands in some states in the region resulted in reductions in state support for higher education by more than 20 percent over that five-year period.
Higher education is in a unique position with respect to funding, however, insofar as losses in state support often can be replaced by increased revenue from tuition. This period of sustained reduction in state support has resulted in an overall average increase in tuition per full-time student rising regionally by 11.2 percent and nationally by 15.8 percent. The divergent trends between state support and tuition revenue have increased the share of revenue from tuition from 36.6 percent regionally in 2006, to 41.9 percent in 2011. At the national level, the increase was slightly greater, rising from the same point (36.6 percent) in 2006, to 43.3 percent in 2011.
The table below illustrates some of these trends.
|State||State appropriations per |
full time equivalent student
|Tuition per |
full time equivalent student
revenue from tuition
How are local-level superintendents chosen in the SLC member states?
In most of the SLC member states (12 of 15), local-level school superintendents are appointed by their school board. Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are the three exceptions, where some superintendents are appointed and others elected.
|Alabama||There are 128 local superintendents. There are city superintendents and county superintendents. City superintendents are appointed by city school boards. Twenty-seven county superintendents are appointed by county school boards and 40 are elected.|
|Arkansas||There are 310 local superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Florida||There are 67 county superintendents. County superintendents are elected, although local electors may choose to make county superintendents appointed by county school boards. In fact, 44 county superintendents are elected and 23 are appointed by county school boards.|
|Georgia||There are 181 local superintendents. There are city superintendents and county superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Kentucky||Local school board members are elected. There are county superintendents and independent superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Louisiana||There are 68 local superintendents. There are parish (county) superintendents and city superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Mississippi||There are 152 local superintendents. There are consolidated school district superintendents, county school district superintendents and municipal school district superintendents. Some local superintendents are elected, while other local superintendents are appointed.|
|Missouri||There are 524 local superintendents. There are metropolitan superintendents, seven director superintendents, special superintendents and urban superintendents. Local superintendents are apponted by local school boards.|
NCLB Waivers, Part Three
In an announcement yesterday, President Barack Obama awarded 10 states, five from the South (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee), waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The states will receive relief from requirements in the law in exchange for implementing reforms around standards, teacher effectiveness and accountability.
Three state waivers, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma, are conditional upon the states adopting policies or legislation that completes the reforms outlined in their applications. For the most part, however, these conditions relate to parts of the plans that are not yet in place but are in process.
The other five states earning relief are Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The Department of Education is working with New Mexico (the only state applying for a waiver in the first round that was unsuccessful) on completing its application. Taken together, the 10 states represent nearly 24 percent of all American students.
In exchange for receiving a waiver, states must to agree to adopt specific changes to their educational programs. For the most part, these changes mirror the expectations of the Race to the Top Grants that were announced by the Administration last year. To earn a waiver, states must:
Student Loan Debt: The Rising Risk to the Recovery
President Obama announced a plan to ease the student loan debt burden for low-income graduates this week in a speech at the University of Colorado's Denver Campus. The president announced a change in the income-based repayment plan, reducing to 10 percent of their discretionary income (from 15 percent), two years ahead of schedule, the cap on graduates' federal student loan repayments. The program also provides a handful of procedures for the forgiveness of loan balances following a history of on-time payments. The proposal also allows some graduates with multiple student federal loans to consolidate them into one, potentially lowering their interest rates. The president's announcement could provide relief to a potential 6 million borrowers. The final component of the announcement is the "Know Before Your Owe" project, which is being developed by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a tool to help students and parents compare aid packages across institutions.
While student loan debt has been a slowly simmering issue for the past few years, it has recently picked up steam. As the economy has continued to slog along with very slow growth, colleges are graduating record numbers of certificate and degree-holders who have accumulated record amounts of debt. In much the same way that securities backed by essentially worthless mortgages undermined the economy in 2007, the exploding levels of student loan debt could prove to be another threat to the economy. In accelerating the student loan debt relief, the Obama Administration is hoping to defuse this risk by leaving more money in the pockets of recent graduates and expunging debt that remains after a reasonable amount of time in the workforce has passed.
Rising Student Debt and Delinquencies
NCLB Waivers, Part Two
Following the recent announcement of waiver's from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, several states immediately indicated their intention to seek relief from the Act. The immediacy of the response by states is indicative of the degree to which the law, now four years past the date when it was supposed to have been renewed, is in need of revision. Congressional inaction on the reauthorization means that, as noted in a previous Ednotes on the Issues, school districts have two years to bring all students to proficiency in math and reading. Given current trends, no district will achieve this target, placing nearly every school district in the country under some form of federally mandated sanction
While states will have multiple opportunities to submit for waivers by the end of the current school year, states wishing to have responses prior to the beginning of the 2012 legislative session must apply by November 14. For states unable to meet the November 14 deadline, but desiring to apply for waivers, the U. S. Department of Education will allow them to hold their accountability targets constant for a year while they assemble their applications. States seeking relief from the Act's provisions, including the 100 percent proficiency target, must adopt specific reforms proposed by the Deparatment. In much the same manner as with the Race to the Top grants, but to an even greater extent, the Department is using the waiver procedure included in the Act to, for all practical purposes, bypass Congressional prerogative in establishing education policy. The president acknowledged that the law needed to be revised, or states would be faced with an untenable situation.
Higher Education Performance and Accountability
The Texas Board of Regents approved a sweeping plan last week to increase accountability for the University of Texas System. The changes are intended to enhance the system's efficiency, improving cost factors while simultaneously increasing the quality of education across all 15 units of the UT System. The framework for implementation features nine focus areas, including undergraduate student access and success; faculty, administrative, and staff excellence; research; and productivity and efficiency. This plan builds upon an existing accountability system and measures to close gaps and increase excellence in the System established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
A similar accountability proposal announced last week by Missouri governor Jay Nixon would allocate state funds to institutions of higher education based on meeting performance measures and academic goals, including the number of degrees and certificates conferred. The governor's plan allocates future funding increases using a model based on statewide- and institution-specific goals that accounts for the differences between two- and four-year institutions.
What are the suspension rates for students in public elementary and secondary schools in SLC member states?
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|State||Student Population||Total Suspensions||Percentage|
Summer Heat and Fall Sports
Students in many districts across the South are starting school next week or are already in session. An early start to school gives students a jump start on academics, athletics and activities. This year, the start to school has coincided with a scorching heatwave that has covered much of the South and Midwest, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees for weeks, and humidity keeping nighttime temperatures in the upper 70s or low 80s.
This heat is more than an inconvenience, however. Heat is suspected of being a contributing factor in the deaths of four high school football players this month (including two from Georgia, one from Florida, and a 14-year-old player from South Carolina) and in the death of a Texas football coach. While few in number, these events point to heat-related stress among athletes that can lead to other health complications. A study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited heat illness during practice or competition as a leading cause of death and disability among U.S. high school athletes, with football responsible for a rate of illness 10 times higher than the average rate.
Race to the Top Round 3
The U.S. Department of Education announced at the end of May that it was opening up a new round of Race to the Top grants worth $700 million, with $500 million dedicated to a new Early Learning Challenge Program with the additional funds available to the nine states that were finalists but failed to win in the second round of grantmaking (Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and South Carolina).
South Carolina has declined the offer on the grounds that the funds would come with too many conditions. The eight remaining states will be offered grants to support parts of their original Race to the Top applications. As South Carolina's decision to opt out of the third round of Race to the Top highlights, states are viewing with some skepticism the model being promoted by the Department of Education. For its part, the Department of Education has acknowledged this, noting that the awards for the K-12 part of the program are to "investments" on reforms these states have already made, not rewards or inducements to do new things. Nonetheless, states are leery of assuming the potential increased fiscal obligations of federally encouraged reforms such as enhanced student data systems and teacher performance evaluations and compensation without significantly more funds than the limited grant will afford, as these programs could require continued fiscal support at a time when finances already are tight.
How much are SLC member states allocating toward higher education?
As states have reeled from the Great Depression, Americans are pursuing post-secondary education at record levels. The importance of higher education to the kinds of jobs most observers maintain will dominate the post-recession economy is relatively clear. States recognize the necessity of a well-trained and ‐educated workforce to their future competitiveness and have generally provided the means for these systems to meet current demands and future needs. Nonetheless, the recession affected state allocations for higher education across the region, reducing state monies for this purpose from a high of nearly $4 billion in FY 2008 to only $3.6 billion in FY 2011. The decline in real terms to state higher education systems was mitigated in large part by stimulus spending, which injected more than $3.8 billion in the region's higher education systems and institutions.
As states pull out of the recession, there are signs of recovery in state support for higher education. Indeed, 11 of the 15 states in the SLC have increased their support for higher education over the past five years by significant amounts, and only three have experienced declines.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State / Region||FY 2006 State Support b||FY 2007 State Support b||FY 2008 State Support b||FY 2009 State Support b||FY 2010 State Support b||FY 2011 State Support b||Percent Change FY 2006 - FY 2011|
Post-secondary Access and Affordability
Last week's EdNotes featured an article highlighting a peculiarity of the current economic downturn: while the employment impact was relatively democratic in nature the nascent recovery has, for the most part, failed to gain traction for those individuals who lack post-secondary education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school graduates in 2010 was 10.3 percent, for those with some college, but no degree, it was 9.2 percent, while for individuals with a bachelor's degree, unemployment was 5.4 percent (individuals with associate degrees had a 7.0 percent unemployment rate). The employment gap is mirrored by an income gap as well, with high school graduates earning roughly 60 percent of the earnings of an individual with a bachelor's degree (those with some college fare only slightly better at 68 percent).
Looked at through a closer lens, however, the prospects for most college graduates appear to be fading. While they continue to enjoy an employment advantage, a study out this week from Rutgers University indicates that while those individuals who graduated before the Great Recession took hold were mostly able to find work, nearly half of graduates in the class of 2010 had found employment by this spring. Moreover, while 80 percent of all graduates in the classes of 2006 through 2010 are employed, the report found that median starting income for most recent graduates is lower than for those who graduated just before the recession.
This situation exists in part because at least 40 percent of these graduates took jobs that do not require a college degree. Additionally, the economic downturn created an "employment latency" that contributes to a very competitive job market, particularly for recent graduates with limited or no work experience. This situation appears to affect most sectors, including teaching and nursing, two fields that have heretofore been viewed as "recession proof."
Schools and Natural Disasters
A strong band of storms ripped through the South last week, spawning the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1932, with at least 329 people reported dead across seven states, including 238 dead reported in Alabama alone. Among the hardest hit areas of Alabama was Tuscaloosa, home to the more than 30,000 students of the University of Alabama. The storms displaced thousands more and laid waste to homes, businesses, schools and other civic buildings.
While spared a direct hit from the Tornados, the University opted to close weeks ahead of schedule and allow students, many of whom hail from areas also affected by the storm, to return home. Other schools in the state also were affected, including 18 that suffered heavy damage. The Alabama Legislature quickly approved legislation to allow the state superintendent of schools to shorten the school year for districts affected by the storms. The Legislature also approved by voice vote a resolution promising to appropriate whatever funds were needed to repair or rebuild tornado-damaged schools. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal ordered a review of the state's severe weather warning system to ensure that the system was fully operational and to determine gaps, if any, in coverage.
Changes in Teaching as a Profession
There have been signs that the teacher supply system has been broken for years. Every year, schools of education produce thousands of graduates who enter the profession only to leave it after only a few years. Teacher turnover created such significant shortages that states have embraced alternative paths to teacher certification as a means to fill shortage areas and support schools struggling to fill teaching positions.
The recent economic downturn has changed this dynamic at a critical moment in the teaching profession. Alternative pathways for teachers are maturing into a viable alternative to traditional schools of education. Teach for America, the largest and most visible of these alternative programs, had more than 8,000 teachers in the field in the 2010-2011 school year. Across the country, alternative programs have been seen as a complement to traditional programs to prepare teachers for hard-to-find specialties (science, technology and math, in particular) and hard-to-staff schools.
This year, however, teachers are facing a very tough job market. This is not a surprise. Teaching is highly responsive to ups and downs in the economy, and its reputation as a "safe" profession with health and pension benefits attracted a number of individuals during the last recession. In the economic upswings that followed the two most recent recessions, teaching shortages returned shortly after the economy improved, due to increased attrition of in-service teachers and diminished intake of new teacher candidates as college students chose other professions over teaching.
School Choice and Charter Schools
School choice has been at the center of the discussion of education reform across the region for several years. Charter schools received a prominent boost from the Obama administration during the Race to the Top process, where the selection scoring criteria afforded more potential points for support for charter schools than any other single category with the exception of securing local support. This policy preference effectively shut out the 10 states without charter laws (including Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia) from the $4.35 billion fund.
School Budgets Feeling the Pinch
It should not be a surprise that education budgets are feeling the pinch this year. As the economy continues its slow climb out of the Great Recession, state budgets are showing incremental signs of recovery. But for education, states are facing the end of federal stimulus money that pumped about $100 million into schools, mostly to avert teacher layoffs. While the federal government asked states to spend the recovery money in ways that did not create a gaping hole when the funds ran out (states are required to commit all recovery funds by the end of fiscal 2011), a 2010 study from Teachers College of Columbia University noted that most states spent 70 percent of their fiscal stimulus funds in fiscal 2010. As state and local revenues for education continue to lag, a number of states are facing a precipitous funding "cliff." State legislatures in general work very hard to avoid cutting K-12 education funds, but as the recession has dragged on and reserves begin to be depleted, education budgets are feeling the pinch.
In Alabama, where education is funded through a separate account generated largely through sales tax, the governor announced proration for school funding in the current fiscal year to cover a $165 million projected shortfall in collections. The action reduces funding to schools from the state, and sets up a budget debate in the Legislature over school funds for the coming fiscal year that will reflect diminished funds. The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee this week approved a House bill to limit the growth of spending from the Education Trust Fund, putting surpluses into a reserve account that would then be available when the Fund is unable to meet required outlays, diminishing the potential for future prorations.
Changes to HOPE Scholarships
When Georgia created the HOPE scholarship Program (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) in 1993, the goal was to curtail the flow of the state's best and brightest high school graduates to out-of-state colleges, and to provide the means for every academically outstanding high school graduation an opportunity to pursue higher education. The lottery-funded program provides a full scholarship to cover tuition, approved fees and up to $300 of books a year for students who graduate high school with a B grade average or higher. To remain eligible, students need to maintain a B average in college.
The program has been highly successful in encouraging Georgia high school students to remain in state and is largely credited with increasing the standards and quality of the state's top-tier universities. HOPE is also credited with improved performance for students at Georgia's colleges. At least a dozen other states have followed Georgia's lead, creating similar merit scholarships for students who remain in state for college.
Because the HOPE Scholarship Program is funded by a state-sponsored lottery, it operates at no cost to the state treasury and has in fact built up a large cash reserve, as lottery proceeds have exceeded scholarship awards. Lottery proceeds have leveled off in recent years, however, and college costs as well as college participation rates have climbed, resulting in a fiscal crunch for the program. According to the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the program has awarded 263,603 scholarships valued at $649.3 million dollars for the current fiscal year. Given current trends, the program now gives out more money than it takes in, and is projecting a $244 million shortfall for this fiscal year, and $314 million for next year.
Fixing this is a priority for Gerogia governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly. A number of proposals have been investigated, including:
What are the retention and completion rates of college freshmen in the South?
Recent reports have highlighted the need for the United States, and the South in particular, to produce more college graduates in order to be more competitive globally. Other research has highlighted the costs to state governments of college students who begin college, but do not return to school for their second year. The South lags the rest of the nation slightly in both first year retention and college completion rates, although not by a significant factor. These two measures are closely related, as the first-to-second year transition is considered critical to higher education persistence. Virginia has the highest first-year retention and six-year graduation rates in the region at nearly 80 percent and 63 percent respectively. Oklahoma has the lowest first year retention rate in the region at 64.4 percent. Louisiana's 40.8 six-year graduation rate is the lowest in the region. For more information on higher education persistence, see Dr.Vasti Torres presentation and a summary of her remarks from the 64th SLC Annual Meeting in Charleston.
|State||Overall First-Year RetentionRate (%)||Six-Year Graduation Rate|
State Policy on Compensation for Chief State School Officer
What are the enrollment and state expenditures for preschool in the South?
In the 2008-2009 school year, 1.2 million children were enrolled in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs in the 38 states that fund preschool.Total state spending nationally on preschool was in excess of $5 billion, with an average per pupil state expenditure of $4,143.The South leads the nation in preschool enrollment, with more than half (599,048 out of 1,046,752) of all 4-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool served by programs in the 15-state region.Unsurprisingly, the region also spends more on preschool than any other region, with state expenditures of $2.3 billion in 2008-2009, although the region's average per-pupil expenditure of $3,912 is below the national average of $4,143.When ranked by the percentage of 4-year-olds served by some preschool program (state Pre-K, special education and Head Start), the South has seven of the top ten states (Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, West Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, and South Carolina).Oklahoma continues to serve the largest percentage of 4-year-olds at 71 percent, followed closely by Florida at 67 percent and then Georgia with 53 percent. These three states, along with Vermont (53 percent) and West Virginia (51 percent) serve more than half of their 4-year-olds in state pre-K. Only one state in the region, Mississippi, does not have a state-funded preschool program. The table below provides the percentage and number of four-year-olds enrolled and total state expenditures for the South.
(Click header to sort each column)
|STATE||PERCENT OF 4-YEAR-OLDS ENROLLED IN STATE PRE-KINDERGARTEN (2008-2009)||NUMBER OF 4-YEAR-OLDS ENROLLED IN STATE PRE-KINDERGARTEN (2008-2009)||STATE $ PER CHILD ENROLLED IN PRE-K||TOTAL STATE PRESCHOOL SPENDING IN 2008-2009|
What education benefits are available for National Guard members in the SLC states?
|Alabama||Tuition reimbursement of $500 per semester or quarter, up to $1,000 annually.|
|Arkansas||Up to $5,000 per year in accredited Arkansas institutions, based on student status and available funding.|
|Florida||100% tuition at any state college or university, for undergraduate degree only. Members also can apply for a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the National Guard Officers Association of Florida (NGOA-F).|
|Georgia||Up to 100% tuition not to exceed $2,790 per year; $1,395 per semester; $116.25 per semester hour; or $77.40 per quarter hour.|
|Kentucky||100% tuition at any state college or university or vocational school in pursuit of undergraduate degree or completion certificate, respectively.|
|Louisiana||100% tuition at any state college or university, including 46 vocational technical schools, for up to 15 semesters.|
|Mississippi||Up to $4,500 per school year at any state college or university.|
|Missouri||Up to 100% tuition assistance. All members can take up to 15 credits hours per semester for 10 semesters at University of Missouri.|
|North Carolina||Up to $4,500 per year for tuition and books for members attending colleges or universities in North Carolina.|
|Oklahoma||100% tuition at any state college or university. Must be at least part-time student.|
|South Carolina||Up to $4,500 per year toward repayment of student loans while currently enrolled in college.|
|Tennessee||Yearly $1,500 scholarship competition by the National Guard Association of Tennesee (NGAT).|
|Texas||100% tuition reimbursement for up to 12 hours per semester for 10 semesters.|
|Virginia||Up to 100% tuition at any state college or university.|
|West Virginia||Up to 100% for in-state tuition and fees rate at any state college or university. In-state rates for out-of-state students at state-supported institutions.|
What are the student loan default rates in the SLC states?
The FY 2007 national student loan default rate increased to 6.7 percent, up from the FY 2006 rate of 5.2 percent. As a historical comparison, in FY 1990, nearly one in four borrowers defaulted on their federal loans when default rates set an all-time high of 22.4 percent. The rate dropped to record low of 4.5 percent in FY 2003. Schools with excessive default rates may lose eligibility from one or more federal student aid programs.
Half of the ten states with the highest default rates are in the South--Texas (9.3%), West Virginia (9.3%), Arkansas (9.0%), Kentucky (8.8%), Mississippi (8.8%), Colorado (8.6%), Louisiana (8.6%).Six Southern states – Maryland (6.3%), Georgia (6.3%), Missouri (6.0%), North Carolina (5.7%), South Carolina (5.4%), Virginia (5.3%) – had default rates below the national average.The table below provides default rates for SLC member states.
|State||Number of Eligible Schools with Loans||Number of Borrowers in Default||Number of Borrowers Entered Repayment||Borrower Default Rate|
How much education funding are the Southern states receiving from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009?
Below are estimates of the amount of education funding that each state will receive from certain aspects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The estimates show that SLC states will receive a total of over $16 billion in education funding in the initial release of ARRA funding. However, these are estimates only based on available and current data and may not reflect exact allocations that states or school districts receive when these funds are actually allocated.
Grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the largest elementary and secondary education program, supplement state and local funding for low-achieving children, especially in high-poverty schools. The program finances the additional academic support and learning opportunities that are often required to help disadvantaged students progress along with their classmates.
ARRA also appropriates significant new funding for programs under Parts B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part B of the IDEA provides funds to state educational agencies (SEAs) and LEAs to help them ensure that children with disabilities, including children aged three through five, have access to a free appropriate public education to meet each child's unique needs and prepare him or her for further education, employment, and independent living.
The IDEA funds under ARRA will provide an unprecedented opportunity for states, LEAs, and early intervention service providers to implement innovative strategies to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youths with disabilities while stimulating the economy. Under the ARRA, the IDEA funds are provided under three authorities: $11.3 billion is available under Part B Grants to States; $400 million is available under Part B Preschool Grants; and $500 million is available under Part C Grants for Infants and Families.
How many students complete high school in the SLC states?
The averaged freshman graduation rate provides an estimate of the percentage of students who receive a regular diploma within four years of entering ninth grade. The rate uses aggregate student enrollment data to estimate the size of an incoming freshman class and aggregate counts of the number of diplomas awarded four years later.
How large is the disabled student population in the South?
Students with disabilities are served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The number of students served under this program has grown faster than total school enrollment, resulting in greater percentages of students eligible to receive special services though schools. In the 1990-1991 school year, 11.6 percent of students in the South were served under IDEA. By the 2005-2006 school year, this figure had grown to 13.4 percent of all students, slightly below the national average. The number of students served through IDEA has grown by 44.6 percent in the South, ahead of the national average (due to greater increases in the general student population.
|State||1990-91||As a percent of public school enrollment, |
|2005-06||As a percent of public school enrollment, |
|Percent change in number served, |
1990-91 to 2005-06
What are the number and enrollment figures for charter schools in the South?
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have been provided waivers from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to similar school in exchange for some meeting specific accountability targets, laid out in the school's charter. The charter school movement traces its history to the late 1980s, with the first state charter legislation passed (by Minnesota) in 1991. Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia have the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signed into law charter school legislation. A total of 1,122,367 students are enrolled in 3,909 school across the country.
|Year Law Passed||Number of Charter Schools||Number of Students Enrolled|
What states in the region have air quality policies for schools?
Seven state in the SLC have some policy concerning indoor air quality for schools. The table below provides details:
State-by-State Air Quality Policies
|Alabama||No state policy.|
|Arkansas||No state policy.|
|Florida||Statute 1001.42(16)(a) (2004) requires the district school board to maintain a system of school improvement and education accountability. This system shall be consistent with, and implemented through, the district's continuing system of planning and budgeting and requires the board to annually approve and require implementation of a school improvement plan for each school in the district. Plans must address certain state educational priorities and student performance standards and be based on an analysis of student achievement and other school performance data. This statute was amended by Chapter 2004-255, Laws of Florida, to require school improvement plans to address other issues including indoor environmental air quality.Statute 235.06 (1999) requires the Commissioner of Education to adopt and administer rules prescribing safety and health standards for occupants of educational and ancillary plants as part of the State Uniform Building Code for Public Educational Facilities. Each board shall prescribe policies and procedures establishing a comprehensive program of safety and sanitation for the protection of occupants in the educational and ancillary plants. The requirements include annual fiscal year inspection of each facility to determine compliance with standards of casualty safety as prescribed in the rules of the commissioner. Furthermore, a provision provides for annual fire safety inspections by a Certified Fire Marshall with the subsequent report outlining a plan of action as well as the schedule for corrective action. In addition to each board, the statute also allows safety or sanitation inspections to be conducted at any time by the Department of Education or any other state or local agency of any educational or ancillary plant. Statute 235.26 (1999) further emphasizes that all public educational or ancillary plants must conform to the State Uniform Building Code for Public Educational Facilities Construction and such educational plants are exempt from all other state, county, district, municipal and local building codes. Each board is required to provide for periodic inspection during the construction phase of educational plants. It is the responsibility of each district school board and community college district board of trustees to ensure all plans and educational and ancillary plants meet the standards of the Uniform Building Code and to provide enforcement of this code. Inspectors are required to be certified under chapter 468 to administer and enforce the provisions of the code. Deviations from the adopted standards require the district school board to conduct a public hearing to quantify and demonstrate comparative costs as well as provide an explanation for the proposed deviations from the adopted standards.Before a contract has been let for construction, the department and the board must approve the phase II construction documents. The board may not occupy a facility until the project has been inspected to verify compliance with statutes, rules and codes affecting the health and safety of the occupants. The board shall maintain a record of the project completion and permanently archive of phase III construction documents. The Commissioner of Education has final review of all documentation involving the Uniform Building Code and any objections by the inspector or department must be submitted in writing.|