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59th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference

Chair's Report


Mobile, Alabama

July 30 to August 3, 2005

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Chairman's Report of Activities of the Education Committee

at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference


Mobile, July 30-August 3, 2005

 

October 7, 2005

                The SLC Education Committee convened on Sunday, July 31, for a program session and on Monday, August 1, for a business session during the 59th SLC Annual Meeting.  The following is a summary of the speaker presentations and Committee activities from each of these programs.

Program Session
Sunday, July 31

I.              Making the Most of Technology
                Bill Thomas - Director, Educational Technology, Southern Regional   Education Board (SREB), Georgia

Background
                Technology offers states the chance to expand learning opportunities for all students.  In recent years, schools have extended their use of online resources to create virtual schools and classes which can be taken by students who are geographically distant from their instructors.  As this trend has continued, schools and students are beginning to realize the promise that online technology has to offer for learning.

Presentation
                Mr. Thomas began his presentation by noting that the goal of the SREB Educational Technology Cooperative is not about technology but using technology to achieve educational goals.  The Cooperative operates Evalutech, a resource on a variety of educational technology materials for teachers, administrators and staff.  The Cooperative has undertaken a number of activities including the Electronic Campus, which was started in 1996 to offer online college courses.  Another activity is the AT (Accessible Technology) Alliance, which is a national procurement project working with the other regional educational compacts to get the best technology contracts and services for schools and universities.  A third project is MOPED (Multi-State Online Professional Development), which provides training to staff in departments of education to introduce them to alternative professional development approaches that are not face-to-face workshops.  Two very new initiatives are the Sharable Content Objects Repository for Education (SCORE)--an online database of content modules created by faculty and staff in participating K-20schools --and Guidelines for Technical Learning Content, which is a how-to manual for faculty developing online educational content. 

                In the late 1990s, Mr. Thomas continued, states began to be interested in the potential to offer high school students the opportunity to take courses online, something that was just becoming available to college students.  Florida, he added, took the lead with the creation of the Florida Virtual High School (now renamed the Florida Virtual School). 

                To understand how virtual schools work, it is necessary to understand what an online course is and what a state-sponsored virtual school is.  An online course is a password-protected Web-based course featuring solid content.  Students need to have access to computers and the Internet to take the course.  Courses have content and may or may not have a textbook alongside digital materials.  Students are given responsibilities to explore the content and study and are expected to interact with the teacher and one another regularly, albeit virtually. 

                Virtual schools, Mr. Thomas explained, are entities to deliver online courses to students in the state.  These broaden the class offerings available to every student and extend the possibilities for students to have high quality teachers in a wide range of courses, regardless of where the student lives.  These courses are taught by very highly qualified teachers, who extend their expertise to students across the state.  He further emphasized that virtual schools are not intended to replace brick and mortar schools. 

                Mr. Thomas noted that the original focus of virtual courses was on higher level math and science but the concept is equally well-suited to all levels of learning.  Virtual learning has been applied in several places to meet basic core requirements.  As an example, West Virginia, where a legislative mandate to provide all middle school students a foreign language elective came up against the reality of the large number of small middle schools in the state that did not have the staff to offer any foreign language course.  To resolve this problem, the state turned to virtual courses, with the assistance of Florida Virtual School, to provide access to all interested students to foreign language instruction online.

                Finally, Mr. Thomas noted that outcomes for virtual classes were often comparable or superior to those of conventional classes, again citing West Virginia’s experience with online foreign languages.  Students that seek these courses out, he acknowledged, may be more motivated, but there is also a student population that needs the opportunities that virtual schools provide. 

II.            Stopping Bullying
                Diana Paulk, Ph.D. - Research Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology,University of Alabama at Birmingham

Background
                In the past, many people within and outside schools dismissed bullying as an everyday part of growing up.  Recent research and events have transformed our view of the behavior and its prevalence, impact and outcomes.  Furthermore, the No Child Left Behind Act requires states to report on schools that are persistently dangerous, with the affect being that schools with high incidences of bullying behavior are being singled out.  Many schools and states are now coming to terms with bullying with a variety of innovative programs. 

Presentation
                Bullying Dr. Paulk began, is aggressive behavior that intends to cause harm or distress.  This behavior typically is repeated over time and occurs in a relationship in which there is an imbalance of power or strength.  Bullying can be either direct (hitting, kicking, shoving, taunting, verbal harassment, threatening, etc.) or indirect (getting another person to bully someone, spreading rumors, deliberately excluding someone or cyber bullying).

                Dr. Paulk noted that bullying is relatively common, with nearly one in five children reporting bullying others sometimes, and one in 10 bullying others weekly, rates that are nearly identical to the percent of children who report being bullied.  Boys bully more than girls, although this may not be entirely accurate because bullying behavior among girls is much harder to observe and detect.  Boys are likely to be bullied by boys, whereas girls are more likely to be bullied by both boys and girls, she explained, although boys are more likely to be physically bullied than girls.  Bullying tends to happen in places where there is little adult oversight, including the playground, halls, and bathrooms.  

                While bullying is a continuum of behavior, Dr. Paulk noted that children for whom bullying is a chronic problem in frequency, intensity or duration tend to get labeled as bullies or victims.  They have unique sets of circumstances, she noted.  Children who bully are more likely to get into frequent fights; be injured in a fight; steal or vandalize property; drink alcohol; smoke; be truant or drop out of school; experience poorer academic achievement; perceive a negative climate at school; and carry a weapon.  In a longitudinal study of children who bullied, Dr. Paulk noted, 60 percent of middle school bullies had at least one conviction by age 24, with 40 percent having three or more convictions.  Children who were bullied had lower self esteem, higher rates of depression, higher absenteeism rates, and considered suicide more often.  Indeed, children who were bullied report a wide range of health problems at rates much, much higher than children who are not bullied. 
                A special category exists for those children who are both bullies and victims, she noted.  These children have the problems of both ends of the behavior spectrum.  These children tend to be the least popular children with poor relationships with classmates and tend to have the highest levels of suicidal thoughts and depression.  These also are the children others want to avoid the most, she noted.

                Bullying is related to school violence and, specifically, school shootings, Dr. Paulk noted, with three-quarters of attackers in targeted school violence episodes feeling persecuted and being bullied before the event.  One-third of the attackers were characterized as loners, and one-quarter socialized with students who were disliked by most mainstream students. 

                Many students don’t report being bullied to school staff, Dr. Paulk added, out of fear that it will make the behavior worse.  Older children and boys are least likely to report being victimized.  When bullied children do report being bullied, two-thirds respond that staff responded poorly.  Adults overestimate their effectiveness in identifying bullying and intervening, she noted.  Many children question the commitment of teachers and administrators to stopping bullying.  Children who observe bullying are equally ineffective, however, with two-thirds responding that when they see a fellow student being bullied they either do nothing because it is not their business or want to help but do not, she added. 

                Schools’ responses to bullying run the gamut, including awareness-raising efforts, reporting and tracking, zero tolerance, social skills training for victims, individual and group treatment for bullies and victims, mediation and conflict resolution, and curricular approaches.  Dr. Paulk identified four principal misdirections in bullying prevention and intervention:  zero tolerance approaches, conflict resolution, group treatment for children who bully, and simple, short-term solutions.  Instead, she encouraged a change in the school climate and in norms for behavior.  This requires a comprehensive, school-wide effort involving the entire school community. 

                Dr. Paulk concluded by describing the national Stop Bullying Now campaign, the goals of which are to raise awareness, prevent and reduce bullying behaviors, identify appropriate interventions, and foster and enhance linkages among partners.  The campaign draws upon existing research on bullying as well as focus groups and in-depth interviews and input from a youth expert panel to devise strategies.  The campaign offers an array of resources for schools, parents, students and community members. 

                Finally, Dr. Paulk observed that children exist in a dynamic social hierarchy that is always in flux.  Because of this, children respond to threats to their status, and act to improve their status by bullying.  In this context, bullying is a natural, if undesirable, behavior of establishing social status.  While stopping bullying may not be a possibility, there are concrete actions states and policymakers can promote to reduce it and its impacts.

Business Session
Monday, August 1

I.              Two-Year Colleges in the Spotlight
                Roy Johnson, Ph.D. -
Chancellor, Alabama College System

Background
                Two-year colleges are becoming an increasingly important component of public education systems and state economic development plans.  These institutions offer an affordable and convenient option for those needing to pursue higher education and skills development to a wider and wider audience.  As their role grows, so do the challenges they face. 

Presentation
                Dr. Johnson began his remarks to the Committee by asking what role the two-year college system should play in economic development.  The bulk of students in the system are in the academic transfer programs, and his chief advice for all states is to make sure that they have a good articulation program in place so students can transfer from two-year to the four-year colleges and universities.  Having said that, he noted that the Alabama State Board of Education set forth a vision of how the state should transform community colleges to make them an important part of the workforce development program. 

                Legislatures are uniquely positioned to guide this process because they have the stability to create and support long-range plans that transcend the terms of any governor.  The State Board of Education in Alabama had the idea that if the two-year colleges were to be a force in economic development, they had to consolidate all of the entities doing workforce development.  Each of these entities receives state and federal dollars without any coordination, he noted, so fusing these entities into a cohesive, efficient workforce delivery system became the top priority for the two-year college system, something that could not have been accomplished without the support of the Legislature. 

                Dr. Johnson noted that low-tech jobs with low wages are going to move somewhere else in the global economy.  This is an opportunity for the South to pass on to the next generation a higher technology, higher wage economy, but only if a system is in place to prepare the workforce for these jobs and leave the low-tech economy behind.  This requires developing the right tools and making the right investments in the right places.  Those states that do prepare their workforces and have a coherent, sensible, efficient plan will be successful in attracting new and better jobs. 

                Dr. Johnson’s advice to the Committee was to create legislative oversight panels and good solid committees with good solid charges that could take an honest assessment of the state’s strengths and weaknesses in the workforce development system.  This will help to identify how the state can focus energy on necessary skills and emerging needs not only for new industry, but to improve the services available to incumbent business and workforce.  All of this begins to tilt state programs toward workforce development.

                There is a transformation underway for two-year colleges from academic transfer programs to an economic force to train the skilled workforce, Dr. Johnson observed.  This cannot be done by maintaining the status quo in community colleges.  Community colleges must change, he noted, just as the economy must change.  Too many programs take too long to complete with a degree and are too costly and too slow to train the workforce.  There needs to be more entry and exit points so that the person who loses their job “midcycle” need not wait for an academic schedule to start retraining.  There needs to be a way to shorten the training, make it more intense, and give people the job skills to get back to work and then bring them back later for longer term programs where they see a need. 

                To this end, Alabama created an adult skills division to serve adults who were not eligible to be admitted to college or were not interested in a degree program.  Dr. Johnson noted that while there certainly were programs that would require two-year certificate-length cycles, there were other areas in which shorter-term options would serve to put people to work, or back to work, more quickly.  Part of the solution is creating short-term intensive certification programs, he added, that sit alongside the academic transfer programs and more intensive certificate programs.  Wherever economic activity is occurring, he emphasized, community colleges should be a part of it. 

                Dr. Johnson concluded by noting that states cannot neglect high school vocational education programs.  Many existing programs have closed because they were viewed as irrelevant and those that did exist were dumping grounds for young people who were low achievers.  He noted that many of the programs at two-year colleges could be shifted to high schools, so that students can leave a vocational high school program for a skilled job. 

II.            Election of Officers
                Representative Spicer called upon the Nominating Committee, chaired by Representative Priscilla Dunn, Alabama, to make recommendations for the position of chair and vice chair of the Committee.  It was the recommendation of the Nominating Committee that Representative Terry Spicer, Alabama, and Senator Gerald Theunissen, Louisiana, be re-elected to serve as chair and vice chair, respectively.  With no candidates introduced from the floor, Representative Spicer and Senator Theunissen were elected by acclamation.

SLC Staff Contact:              Jonathan R. Watts Hull, phone: (404) 633-1866; e-mail: jhull@csg.org


Attendance List
Southern Legislative Conference 59th Annual Meeting
Education Committee
July 30 – August 3, 2005
Mobile, Alabama

 Alabama
                    
Senator Bradley Byrne
                Representative Priscilla Dunn
                Representative Laura Hall
                Senator Ted Little
                Representative Yvonne Kennedy
                Representative Bryant Melton
                Representative Terry Spicer
                Representative Pebblin Warren
                Robert Boothe, Department of Postsecondary Education
                Noopie Cosby, The Cosby Company
                Debbie Dahl, Host State Treasurer
                Randy Fulmer, Super Computer Program/Computer Sciences Corp.
                David Ivey, Super Computer Program/Computer Sciences Corp.
                Chancellor Roy Johnson, Department of Postsecondary Education
                Stephen Martin, Alabama Education Association
                Sallie Owen, Mobile Register
                Dave White, The Birmingham News
                Lisa Woodard, Super Computer Program/Computer Sciences Corp.

Arkansas
                Representative Johnnie Bolin
                Representative Leroy Dangeau
                Senator Gene Jeffress
                Senator Jimmy Jeffress
                Representative Janet Johnson
                Representative George Overbey
                Representative Beverly Pyle
                Kim Chavis, Bureau of Legislative Research
                Janelle Evyan, Bureau of Legislative Research

Georgia
                Senator John Douglas
                Representative Bobby Reese
                Senator Nancy Schaefer
                Judith Costello, Canadian Consulate
                Angie Fiese, Senate Research Office
                Gale Gaines, Southern Regional Education Board

Kentucky
                Senator Denise Angel
                Representative Walter Blevins
                Representative Tom Burch
                Senator Julian Carroll
                Representative Jim DeCesare
                Representative C.B. Embry
                Representative Russ Mobley
                Representative Lonnie Napier
                Representative Darryl Owens
                Senator Jerry Rhoads
                Senator Dick Roeding
                Senator Jack Westwood
                Senator Ken Winters
                Stephanie Kirtley, Senate Chief of Staff
                Steve Lynn, Department of Criminal Justice Training
                Lyla Pryor, Kentucky Heritage Council
                Ken Schwendeman, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
                Brian Wilkerson, House Staff

Maryland
                Senator John Giannetti
                Delegate Pauline Menes

Mississippi
                Senator Hillman Frazier
                Senator Alice Harden
                Senator Joseph Thomas
                Representative Sara Thomas
                Representative Charles Young
                Evelyn Griggs

Tennessee
                Karen Garrett, Staff Attorney
                Alexandria Honeycutt, Senate Research Analyst

Virginia
                Senator Emmett Hanger
                Becky Covey, Senate Finance Committee
                Sarah Dickerson, Senate Finance Committee

West Virginia
                Senator Jon Hunter
                Delegate Marshall Long
                John Morgan, Comptroller of the Treasury
                David Thurman, State Budget Office

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