Friday, April 21, 2017

AV#160 - The Governors' State of the State - on Education - 2017

Glad/Jealous - Second annual report from Washington, D.C.

Priorities for our next governor?

“The Democratic field of Colorado gubernatorial hopefuls is firming up — and education promises to play an outsized role in the race.”  (Chalkbeat Colorado, April 11, 2017)[i]

1.   Our lowest-performing schools
2.   The teaching profession
3.   Students’ reading skills
This week the Colorado Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) is here in Washington, D.C., attending the annual national conference of the 15 states with EPFP chapters.  Over 300 Fellows, including our 8 Colorado Fellows (see Addendum A) in this year’s program, take part in the Washington Policy Seminar, April 23-26. (    

It is a privilege to be part of a national conference where we can listen to and learn from other states—our “laboratories of democracy,”[1] as Louis Brandeis called them (see Addendum B)—facing similar challenges for their K-12 education system.  

So again, to offer my fellow Coloradans a similar opportunity, I use these pages to create my own “cross-country tour.”  As I did last year, I look to the recent state of the state addresses from the nation’s governors in order to see what they hope to tackle to improve their schools. 

This year, less: Why I’m glad we’re not ….  I’ll just say I am grateful we’re not …  Oregon!  Gov. Kate Brown’s address included this critique: "Our schools continue to be among the nation's leaders in all the wrong categories—the largest class size, the shortest school year, and the highest drop-out rate.”

 As a man inclined, unfortunately, to jealousy, what follows is more: Darn, I wish we could hear our state leader say that!  Especially on three fundamental topics: our lowest-performing schools; the state of the teaching profession; and students’ reading skills.  

Caveat #1: Regular readers of Another View should not be surprised by this Independent voter’s distress over our Governor’s perfunctory remarks on K-12 education in his state of the state.  (See Addendum C for Education Week’s summary of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s speech – all about broadband and internet access.  I add an excerpt—his passage about Colorado as “a national model for matching education with skills based training.” (If you too find that less than inspiring, see my satirical AV#155 – on schools as “training centers for the workplace.” Are we redefining the very purpose of public education?)

I have come to accept that Gov. Hickenlooper has other priorities than improving our schools.  At least we have a decent man representing our state, a person who can articulate our fear and grief after the Waldo Canyon Wildfire, or after the killing spree in an Aurora theater.  Decency… highly prized in 2017….

But for those of you who wish to succeed Hickenlooper in 2019, take note of the attention to specific K-12 issues we hear from other governors.  I am not always jealous of the specific positions they take.  I hope to avoid revealing my bias on the positions advocated here.  My emphasis is on the degree to which, as the highest elected officer in their state, their speeches focused on K-12 issues. True, mere words.  But an indication—is it not?—of interest, perhaps even commitment.  And leadership.

Caveat #2: Another View is merely one individual’s perspective; it is not intended to reflect the views of Colorado EPFP, which I coordinate. EPFP is a non-partisan organization; in its own words, it “does not engage in advocacy (and) does not take positions on education and/or policy issues on any level.”

Governors’ State of the State Addresses – Education – 2017

[All taken from Education Week’s summaries of state-of-the-state addresses given by governors this winter.  Found in Education Week’s issues of Jan. 11, 18, 25, and Feb 8, 15, March 1.]

1.       I am jealous when other governors … focus on their lowest-performing schools.

   The Colorado Department of Education lists 104 schools/programs (roughly 5% of our 1,900 schools) eligible in 2017 for federal TIG funds “to support schools identified as chronically low performing schools as indicated by state assessments.”[ii]   
If the state believes it has on obligation to provide an equitable education to all its students, it is necessary (both No Child Left Behind and the new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act, concur) to make an extra commitment to address its 
lowest-performing schools, those in the
bottom 5% on state ratings.
Hence my jealousy when the governor speaks of the state’s responsibility to confront the sad truth that far too many low-performing schools fail to make significant improvement, in spite of large grants and innumerable efforts. In our “laboratories,” we have pursued a wide range of strategies to turn these schools around.  Given the poor results—so far—in most states, how sad that we do not do more to learn from each other on what is and is not working.  At least these governors assert: we must tackle this problem.  The state will act

Georgia - Gov. Nathan Deal (R) – “… said he would work with leaders of Georgia's GOP-controlled statehouse to craft legislation to address ‘chronically failing schools,’ particularly at the elementary school level. The vast majority of Georgia's lowest-performing schools serve those grades, he said. The importance of helping those schools should be clear, including to ‘those in the education community who so staunchly support the status quo,’ the governor said.”

Idaho - Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) – “Other funding would go toward leadership training of principals in low-performing schools….”

Massachusetts – Gov. Charlie Baker (R) - “encouraged the state’s board of education to use its power to take over ‘struggling districts.’  Existing takeovers of three districts have demonstrated that state takeovers can offer significant benefits to students, parents, and teachers in schools that need our support.’” 

Illinois – Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) - “Education was a significant piece of the governor's annual address to legislators, in which he outlined 10 long-term goals including expanding school choice for children attending academically struggling schools….”

Maryland – Gov. Larry Hogan (R) - “He also advocated passage of a bill that would facilitate charter school approvals in Maryland, and pushed to add $2 million to a $5 million voucher program that lets low-income students attend private schools. That investment would help children who are ‘trapped in persistently failing schools,’ Hogan said.”

(Voucher opponents will protest, but I would ask: how well is your state addressing its chronic low-performing schools?  Where we see little attention to this issue, and almost no progress, one of the policy options to help poorly served students might well be vouchers.  Who is to blame when that happens?)

2.       I am jealous to hear so many governors focus on … teachers and the teaching profession.

“America has a teacher shortage, and a new study says it’s getting worse” Washington Post, 9/14/16
“State’s teacher shortage affecting Aurora-area school districts, too” Aurora Sentinel, 12/9/16
Arizona – Gov. Doug Ducey (D) - “Signaling that schools will be a top priority during the upcoming legislative session, Ducey outlined plans for an education-heavy agenda, including statewide teacher pay raises, … and a $1,000 signing bonus for new teachers who take jobs in low-income districts…. To ease a teacher shortage, Ducey wants state universities to provide free tuition for prospective educators as part of a program that would also guarantee jobs for graduates....”

Georgia - Deal (R) – “The governor told lawmakers in his in his annual speech that he will propose granting teachers a 2 percent pay increase, in addition to merit-pay raise.”

Idaho - Otter (R) - “The governor called for an increase in spending on public education of more than 6 percent … as he made education the cornerstone of his address…. The largest share would be an ongoing $58 million to continue implementing the career ladder pay model for public school teachers. That would be added to the $75 million invested over the past two years in this area, he said.”

Kansas - Gov. Sam Brownback (R) – “Brownback also proposed reforming the state's teacher certification requirements to ‘create a pathway bringing more teachers to Kansas,’ as well as creating a scholarship program for Kansas students who want to become teachers ….” 

Missouri - Gov. Eric Greitens (R) – “Missouri also ranks 47th in starting teacher pay, he said, and ‘our great teachers deserve to be paid more.’”

South Carolina - Gov. Nikki Haley (R) – “The governor pointed to updating the state's school funding formula …, as well as an initiative to boost education technology in rural districts and give bonuses to teachers who committed to go to high-needs schools.”

West Virginia - Gov. Jim Justice (D) – “Justice proposed a 2 percent raise for teachers and said he was ‘ashamed’ that it couldn't be more.” 

3.  As I wrote last year, I am jealous when other governors focus on ... our youngest students, especially their reading skills.    

UNITED STATES – READING SKILLS 2015, “36% of 4th grade students and 34% of 8th grade students perform at or above the Proficient level in NAEP reading.” [iii]
         New Mexico – Gov. Susana Martinez (R)  – “… the governor used her 45-minute address to resume her push to hold back struggling 3rd graders who are not reading at grade level.”

  In 2016, after the 3nd year of full implementation of the READ Act, 39,014 (nearly 15%) of our K-3 students were identified as significantly deficient readers.[iv]
  In 2016, only 37.4% of the 63,385 3rd graders met or exceeded expectations on the PARCC assessment in English.
  For 9th graders, much the same: 37.2%[v].
  In 2015, on the National Assessment of Progress, only 39% of Colorado 4th graders performed at or above proficient in reading.[vi]
  The Readiness Report from Colorado Succeeds notes that since 2007, “4th grade proficiency rates have been stagnant….”[vii]
So. Carolina – Haley (R) – “She also noted that the state now requires students to read on grade level to be promoted beyond 3rd grade.”                                     
But that’s it - for any comments on reading - from the highlights of speeches by 34 of the nation’s governors.  Why focus on something as old hat as reading (Isn’t “Why Johnny Can’t Read?” a headline from the Eisenhower Administration?), when we can be so much more in vogue and placate the business community and emphasize the critical need for … are you ready? … computer science.

Yes, reading is now a distant second to computer science.  Although only briefly reflected in Education Week’s summaries (Gov. Gina Raimondo “garnered applause from the legislature” by announcing that “Rhode Island will be the first state to offer computer science classes in every public school.”), computer science appears to be all the rage in governors’ offices. (See Addendum D, a summary from the Education Commission of the States - Computer Science, STEM Gain Traction in 2017 State of the State Addresses.)  Hop on the bandw ...idth!

I would simply ask: but what if today’s Johnny, Jaime, and Jakaya can’t read?

Are you running for Governor? See Addendum E, from KIDS COUNT IN COLORADO 2016 - Colorado Child Well-Being Index: Fourth-Graders Not Proficient in Reading.  If I had one page to hand every gubernatorial candidate for 2019, here it is.

Leadership - Keep our eye on the ball

Of course computers matter.  All I learn about the many unmet needs to provide equity for our rural schools makes me sympathetic to all the plans from governors—including from our governor (again, Addendum C)—to expand broadband to rural schools (examples from state of the states, Addendum F).  And yet I am skeptical when state leaders can say nothing about reading or writing skills but exhibit remarkable enthusiasm for career tech-programs, training for jobs—and all things technological. As Addendum G shows, we saw plenty of that in the governors’ speeches this winter.

Good schools try to do so much, but they are clear that they cannot do it all.  It is why having a clear mission and staying true to their central purpose and chief values matters (see my next newsletter). 

Policymakers do not help when they, too, react to the latest buzz and take our attention away from the most critical issues.

Governors can help their states focus, even (especially?) when they were last year’s key policy issues. 

What is the best strategy to turn around low-performing schools? 

How can we recruit, support, and keep good teachers?

How to ensure more kids read at grade level? 

Three priorities … for Colorado’s next governor?

Addendum A

Colorado Education Policy Fellowship Program  –  2016-17
Alyssa Rafa
Policy Researcher
Education Commission of the States
Heather Furman
Investment Management Analyst
Charter School Growth Fund
Andrea Helaine

Instructional Designer, Project Manager
CSU-University’s Global Campus and Walden University
Joellen Kralik
Policy Associate,
Education Program 
National Conference of State Legislatures 
MaryGrace Longoria
Education Organizer, Family & Community Engagement
Stand for Children
Riley McIntyre
Program Director
Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation,
Ruby Hill Site
Carol Schneider
Community Partnership Program Manager
Department of Extended Learning and Community Schools, Denver Public Schools 
Marita Whalen
Math Teacher
West Leadership Academy,
Denver Public Schools

Addendum B

“The individual states in the United States are sometimes called ‘laboratories of democracy’ because they can experiment with innovative policy ideas. This allows other states and the nation as a whole to see if the new ideas work or not before they adopt them.”

Addendum C

From Gov. Hickenlooper’s State of the State

Education Week’s summary of the points made on K-12 schools in his address on Jan. 12, 2017:

   The governor introduced a goal of giving 100 percent of Colorado access to high-speed internet by 2020. Every school, hospital, clinic, and home should have high-speed internet, Hickenlooper said. Currently, 70 percent of households have access, and he hopes the creation of a broadband office will lift that figure to 85 percent before he leaves office.
   "Tonight, somewhere in one of these communities, a high school student will sit in a parked car outside her town library. She'll huddle over her laptop, face glowing from the screen as she tries to finish her paper, because it's the only place she can get Wi-Fi," he said. "This isn't right."

Additional excerpts from Hickenlooper’s State of the State Address:

                And quality of life starts with a good job.
    From high school students wanting to work as apprentices--to the many Coloradans who want a new career--either from passion or necessity--these jobs should be available for everyone.
    If we do this right, there should be an opportunity for thousands of Coloradans to acquire skills either in classrooms or on the job that are career-focused and transferrable to different industries in the future. …
    Today, we are a national model for matching education with skills based training.
Sean Wybrant is Colorado’s Teacher of the Year. He has been teaching for 11 years at Palmer High in Colorado Springs, as he said, to “change the world.” And he’s changing it by focusing on the one-third of our kids who won’t go on to four year or two year colleges. He’s preparing the next generation for the career and technical jobs of tomorrow.
    Tim Kistler is the Superintendent of the Peyton School District in El Paso County, where he helped open the Woods Manufacturing Program in an empty middle school. It teaches students cutting edge skills needed in the woodworking industry.
    We thank both Sean and Tim for helping to close the skills gap, and for making sure all students realize their potential.
    Closing the gap means giving students a solid foundation for success at every step of their education, as they move from preschool through K-12, toward college, certificate, or apprenticeship and onto a good job.

Addendum D

From the Education Commission of the States –
Computer Science, STEM Gain Traction in 2017 State of the State Addresses

So far in 2017, STEM and computer science continue to capture governors’ attention as they look for ways to better align education with projected workforce demands. Here’s a quick look at governors’ computer science and STEM proposals in 2017 State of the State addresses: 
·         Arizona: Gov. Ducey proposed a statewide computer science and coding initiative, coupled with an effort to connect rural schools to high-speed internet. His State of the State also proposes loan forgiveness for STEM teachers.
·         Idaho: Gov. Otter urges continued support for the STEM Action Center and its groundbreaking Computer Science Initiative. He also notes that some of his higher education budget priorities focus on workforce development and expanding programs at public four-year institutions and community colleges that support such in-demand career fields as computer science.
·         Indiana: Recently inaugurated Gov. Holcomb announced his intent to invest $1 million each year to lead a statewide effort to better coordinate K-12 STEM education throughout Indiana.
·         Iowa: Gov. Branstad declared that he and Lt. Gov. Reynolds are launching a comprehensive computer science initiative. They’re encouraging every high school to offer at least one high-quality computer science course, every middle school to provide exploratory computer science, and every elementary school to include an introduction to computer science. Program initiatives prioritized for the 2017 session also include:
-Establish high-quality computer science standards.
-Create a computer science professional development incentive fund to train teachers.
-Convene an advisory group to recommend how to count computer science as a math credit toward high school graduation.
·         Michigan: Gov. Snyder expressed his desire for the state’s schools to improve in computer science, computer education and cyber security.
·         And New York’s Gov. Cuomo has unveiled a number of proposals at a series of regional State of the State addresses. A set of proposals specific to the 21st century workforce includes:
-An additional $5.3 million to expand early college high school programs, such as the nationally recognized Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program to include pathways to education and employment in the tech sector, with an emphasis on computer science education.
-$2 million to create a new cohort of 115 K-12 teachers in the NYS Master Teacher Program, specifically in computer science. Current master teachers will help mentor the new cohort to ensure the most innovative teacher practices in the STEM fields are shared across all grades and regions.
-Launching a public-private partnership to help train educators across the state to teach computer science. The state will offer professional development opportunities for teachers, and modernize the curriculum to advance computer science education across the state. 

Addendum E


Fourth-grade reading proficiency is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development and a strong predictor of future academic success. By fourth grade, children must use reading skills to learn other subjects, making mastery of reading critical to their ability to keep up academically. Children who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who are reading proficiently.

Data Highlights
·         In Colorado, 58 percent of all fourth-graders were reading below grade level in 2015, according to the CMAS English language arts assessment.
·         The percent of fourth-graders not reading at grade level varies across the state. Among Colorado’s largest counties, Montezuma County had the highest percentage of fourth-graders not reading at grade level (76 percent). Routt County had the lowest, with 43 percent of fourth graders not reading at grade level.

National Achievement Gaps in Fourth Grade Reading

While states use their own assessments to measure proficiency in core subjects, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is currently the only standardized assessment that allows for comparisons of student proficiency across states. Often called “the nation’s report card,” the NAEP assesses randomly selected students in grades 4, 8 and 12 from across the nation to help provide a picture of nationwide student achievement over time. Like the CMAS, the NAEP also illustrates the achievement gap between low-income students and higher-income students, as well as between white students and students of color.

Data Highlights
·         In 2015, Colorado had the 12th-largest fourth grade reading achievement gap in the nation; only 21 percent of low-income students scored proficient or above in reading on the NAEP, compared to 54 percent of higher-income students.
·         The income-based achievement gap in Colorado is widening over time. Between 2003 and 2015, the gap in reading proficiency levels between low-income and higher-income students grew by 27 percent.
·         While fourth-graders in Colorado scored slightly higher than the U.S. average, not all students fared equally. Only 20 percent of Colorado’s Hispanic students and 27 percent of black students were reading at grade level in 2015, compared to 51 percent of white students.

Addendum F

Broadband and rural schools

Arizona - Ducey (D) - “on his to-do list… connecting rural and tribal school to high-speed broadband.”

Montana -Bullock (D) – “asked the legislature … to invest $2 million toward internet connectivity in schools.

Nevada – Sandavol (R) – “Sandoval also proposed $2 million to establish a … Nevada Connect Kids Initiative, to expand high-speed-broadband internet access in schools, particularly in rural areas.

So. Carolina- Haley (R) - “pointed to … an initiative to boost education technology in rural districts.”

Wisconsin - Walker (R) - “… pledged to boost support for improved internet connectivity for schools …  The governor called for $36 million in new spending …to upgrade broadband technology, which will also support tech training for teachers from small and rural districts.” (1/10)

Addendum G

Technology, Training, and Virtual Classes

Idaho – Otter ( R) – “Classroom technology also would receive a boost of $10 million a year, starting in fiscal 2018.”

Indiana- Holcomb (x) – “He called … streamlining state funds for science, technology, engineering, and math programs; and creating a skilled workforce to replace retiring baby boomers and to prepare for new jobs that will be created.”

Missouri -Gov. Eric Greitens (R) - “We need to expand course-access programs, so that every child in Missouri can use technology to get the education they need," he said.

North Dakota - Burgum (R) – “Education is one of the areas that ‘demands change,’ Burgum said in his first State of the State speech after being elected last year. ‘We can't prepare our kids for the 21st century using a 19th-century model.’  “To illustrate the old vs. new contrast, the governor cited a couple of examples in his speech. Burgum, who sold a software company to Microsoft and was an executive there, noted that he did an internet search for ‘online courses for free’ and received 51.6 million responses.

Oregon- Brown (D) - “She also highlighted investments in technical and career training and said she would continue to support that work. (Jan 9)

Virginia - McAuliffe (x) - “He said he aims to provide full-time virtual instruction to every Virginia student in 2017.”


[1] COMMENT: Don’t we all wish the idea of “laboratories of democracy” were not the exception to the rule?  What prevents us from studying and learning from good efforts in other states?  Or from avoiding miss-steps by seeing what is not working elsewhere?  Another reason for conferences like the Washington Policy Seminar - and this issue of Another View.

[iv] Figure came from CDE in an email to me, April 4, 2017.  Full report on 2016 results will be made public.  CDE explained that the numbers have climbed from 2015 in part because “the reporting requirements changed between 2015 and 2016.” On example: “the 2016 data includes students with disabilities who were exempt from taking a READ assessment in 2015 and in prior years because tests were not accessible.”
[v] CMA PARCC Spring 2016 Achievement Results,

[vi] Colorado Succeeds - Colorado’s 2015 NAEP Results,