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60th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference

Chair's Report

Louisville, Kentucky

July 29 to August 2, 2006.

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September 14, 2006

TO:      Members of the Executive Committee  
FR:       Representative Terry Spicer, Alabama, Chair, SLC Education Committee
RE:      Report of Activities of the Education Committee at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, July 29-August 2, 2006

            The SLC Education Committee convened on Sunday, July 30, for a program session and on Tuesday, August 1, for a business session during the 60th SLC Annual Meeting.  The following is a summary of the speaker presentations and Committee activities from each of these programs.

Program Session
Sunday, July 30, 2006

I.          Teacher Quality and Merit Pay  
Tricia Coulter, Ph.D
., Director, Teaching Quality and Leadership Institute, Education Commission of the States, Colorado

            There is a remarkable body of evidence that underscores the importance of high quality teachers to the achievement of school children.  A number of districts and states have begun experiments in merit-based compensation to reward teachers for excellence.  These programs are not without their critics, however, and the issue often is very controversial. 

Dr. Coulter’s Presentation
            Dr. Coulter began her presentation by describing what is the long-standing tradition in teacher compensation:  the single-salary schedule.  This approach considers two principal elements in calculating pay for teachers:  education and experience.  Teachers could expect pay increases at specific intervals of their tenure and for meeting specific educational milestones.  She noted that the system was developed to support equity and parity in teacher pay and to eliminate gender, race and other biases from the salary equation.  The system has the added benefit of being very easy to administer and implement.   
Recently, however, priorities have shifted from equity issues to a greater emphasis on student achievement and accountability, Dr. Coulter added.  Because teacher quality is the most important factor for educational achievement, educational systems have begun to focus attention on accountability for student achievement.  The assumption now is that quality people follow quality money.
Part of the issue is that teacher salaries have not risen appreciably in a decade, even as pay for other professions has gone up.  Dr. Coulter noted, however, that across-the-board pay increases do not reward quality, which is where the early merit pay programs got their start.  These early programs most often amounted to a pool of money that was distributed to principals who, in turn, were to distribute it to teachers.  The problems with such a model are fairly evident.  There was no clear guidance on how teachers could improve their performance to earn additional compensation, distribution often could be subjective, and the limited nature of the pool of money meant that performance awards were limited, which bred competition among teachers.  Often these funds were fairly limited, so it was possible to be a highly effective teacher but not be rewarded if the merit pay funds already had been exhausted.  Finally, there was little evidence that these programs improved teacher quality or student performance.  Because of the shortcomings of these early efforts, merit pay has a bad reputation.
Contemporary reform efforts have built from these earlier experiences and are now more typically called “diversified compensation.”  The programs are not subjective and do not draw from a limited pool of funds.  Because of this, teachers clearly understand what they need to do to improve their performance, and all teachers who meet the goals of the program are compensated.  Furthermore, the program is part of a larger system designed for teacher improvement.  The goal of modern compensation reform efforts, Dr. Coulter added, is to recruit and retain the most effective teachers for all students.
Predictable and increased pay for top performance measured in an objective manner will help to recruit and retain teachers, while reducing the proportion of teachers in transition.  This is a significant goal, since roughly one-third of all teachers are either just entering the field or leaving it altogether.  These programs also upend the traditional pay schedule’s tendency to pay teachers increasing amounts in their later years even as their effectiveness tends to diminish.  Finally, these programs include disadvantaged schools, providing incentives for top quality teachers to work and stay in struggling schools.   
Dr. Coulter added that there are a number of issues to think about when establishing a diversified compensation program.  Among these are questions of who will be eligible and if rewards will be based on school or individual performance.  Among the questions this raises is how support staff participate and what guidance teachers receive on how to improve their performance.  Eligibility for the program is another concern, with reform efforts modifying, rather than replacing, existing systems for teacher improvement.  There also are issues of the basis for the award—whether it should be market-based (limited to shortage areas or schools), connected to professional advancement, or tied strictly to student performance.   
Furthermore, the performance measures used by the system need to be as objective as possible.  Many systems use multiple observation and portfolios, with the assessments being formative, not summative.  One rubric often used, Dr. Coulter said, was Charlotte Danielson’s four domains (preparation and planning, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities).  Within each domain there are several subcomponents, each of which has four levels of performance, leading to a highly nuanced profile of teacher performance.   
Dr. Coulter noted that teachers do not like student performance as a measure, in part because the tests are so unreliable.  Relying on student assessments also leaves out teachers in areas for which there are no assessments.  A partial solution to this difficulty is to use what is now called the student growth model (which a handful of states are piloting under the No Child Left Behind Act) and setting measurable benchmarks for those subjects lacking standardized assessments.  Even with this approach, however, Dr. Coulter cautioned against having student performance as the only measure of teacher performance.  
Regardless of the approach taken, Dr. Coulter continued, diversified compensation makes new demands on data systems, which must be in place before the system can be implemented.  It is part of a larger system with formative evaluation—everyone needs to know the goals and everything needs to be tied to the goals.  Finally, she observed, it is important to involve and communicate with all stakeholders and to support and train everyone involved.  Because these systems inevitably meet some resistance, the degree to which everyone understands the goals, and the paths outlined to meeting them, is the degree to which the system will be able to stay the course.

II.        Math-Science Education Reform
            Stephen Daeschner, Ph.D., Superintendent, Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky

There have been several reports issued in the past six months that have raised concerns about the readiness of American students to compete globally.  One report in particular highlighted the poor performance of American middle and high school students on the biennial international math and science assessment, on which U.S. school children score in the middle of the field.  Improving this situation is seen as vital to maintaining America’s economic health.  The school district for Louisville has stepped up to the challenge of reforming math and science education through a ground-up rewriting of the curriculum.  This major undertaking represents a shift away from the traditional approach to math and science at the middle and high school levels.

Dr. Daeschner’s Presentation
            The role of schools has expanded remarkably over time, Dr. Daeschner noted, but the amount of time allotted for these efforts has remained essentially unchanged for more than a century.  Schools face a wide range of what are essential and important programs, but which, nonetheless, amount to unfunded mandates, including early childhood education, teaching students with limited English proficiency, homeless and exceptional child education, and expanded transportation demands.  Furthermore, the demographics of schools have changed remarkably, a fact that complicates efforts to reform education.
In the Louisville area, the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) serve roughly 80 percent of school-aged children, Dr. Daeschner noted.  The system has seen 823 percent growth in the number of non-English language students since 1990, and a 315 percent increase in the number of homeless students since 1993.  The system faces a host of challenges familiar to any number of urban and rural school systems.   
On the national level, the United States is beset by a number of troubling trends, including a decline in the number of U.S. students pursuing math, science and engineering degrees and a lack of rigor for all students in PreK-12 math and science curricula.  Last year only 4 percent of four-year degrees awarded in the United States were in engineering, compared to 34 percent in China.  Indeed, Dr. Daeschner observed, the United States awarded more degrees in sports therapy than in engineering last year.  Continuing with international comparisons, the United States does comparably well on 4th grade math, but begins to lose ground against other industrialized nations by 8th grade, and drops into the lower reaches of performance on international assessments at the high school level.  
A part of the problem is that the United States teaches more topics, but with less depth, than most other countries—nine times as many as in Germany, and three and a half as many as Japan.  Part of this, he continued, is due to the nature of the textbook industry in the United States.  Only four of 108 standards for 4th grade math were shared among the 10 most populous states, which tend to drive textbook development in this country.  In order to achieve a degree of efficiency, textbook producers tend to include all of the standards required by major market states into one book, resulting in a text that includes considerably more material than what is required by any one state’s standards.  Dr. Daeschner also cited the tendency of schools in the United States to use a “spiral model” of repeating and building on material every year as opposed to teaching to mastery before moving on to a new topic.
To change this situation, he noted, schools must do four things: raise academic standards and expectations; teach fewer concepts at deeper levels so that what is taught is mastered; teach math and science every year; and develop a common assessment for all students regardless of what school they attend.  This will, in turn, require reducing the number of standards, target those that are embraced to world-class levels, and present instruction that is both narrow and focused.   
The Jefferson County Public Schools, thanks to the largest single grant ever given to a school system ($30 million form the GE Foundation), is in the midst of a four-year project to redesign math and science curricula for grades K-8.  Originally, JCPS had investigated a range of existing textbooks, but as nothing lined up with what they knew was necessary, the system set about systemically reinventing math and science instruction.   
The redesign required a narrowing of the standards and a focus on mastery for students, Dr. Daeschner noted.  Furthermore, there was a need to provide substantial professional development support for teachers to overcome weaknesses in these subject areas.  Pedagogy also was improved with an eye toward making the material relevant to students, the lack of which is a frequently cited shortcoming in most traditional math and science curricula.  Instructional materials are being aligned with the new standards and approaches, and assessment is being brought to bear for both diagnostic and accountability purposes.  Finally, the program includes a number of interventions for students that insist on new approaches to material until a student can demonstrate mastery of a topic.  To fully implement this type of program, however, Dr. Daeschner pointed out a handful of significant policy implications, including the need to reform teacher and principal certification, shifting toward a medical model of preparation for both components, as well as the need to focus on global competitiveness and the pressures of unfunded mandates on schools.

Business Session
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

I.          School Nutrition and Student Health
Debra Nigra
, Nutritionist, United States Department of Agriculture Team Nutrition, Washington, D.C.
Stuart Reese, Executive Director, Institute for American Health, Florida
Wanda Violet, Director of Professional Development, i4Learning, Florida

            The United States is in the midst of an obesity crisis that is promising to have far-reaching consequences for the current and future health of millions of Americans.  While the battle against obesity often is seen as a personal one, there is one very important place where state government plays a major role in fighting fat:  our public schools.  Improvements in school nutrition programs, nutrition education programs aimed at children, increasing physical activity for students during the school day, and improving physical education to meet students’ life-long activity needs all are components of this effort. 

Ms. Nigra’s Presentation
            Ms. Nigra observed that a healthy school environment is one in which nutrition and physical activity are taught and supported—in the classroom, the cafeteria, and throughout the school.  A healthy environment provides positive messages that help students develop healthy eating and physical activity habits. It also provides an opportunity to practice these healthy habits.  This includes opportunities to make a choice from healthy food options in the school dining area and at school events, eat in pleasant and comfortable surroundings, and engage in physical activity that is fun.
There are six components which contribute to a healthy school nutrition environment:  a commitment to nutrition and physical activity; quality school meals; other healthy food options; pleasant eating experiences; nutrition education; and appropriate marketing.  She noted that each component is important—and each component makes a valuable contribution to the whole school nutrition environment.

            Ms. Nigra explained that Team Nutrition, the office within the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service with responsibility for school nutrition programs, has several tools to help schools improve their school nutrition environment.  Among these are Changing the Scene and Making It HappenChanging the Scene is a toolkit that addresses the entire school nutrition environment through the six key components previously identified.  The toolkit was developed to help schools and policymakers examine the school nutrition environment in a user-friendly manner, develop a plan for improvement, and put the change into action.  Changing the Scene is accessible to anyone, as well as straightforward enough to demonstrate that there are steps—both big and small—that can be taken to improve school nutrition.

            A “Guide to Local Action” is the centerpiece of the kit.  It gives general guidelines for establishing a team and planning for change; explains each of the six components of a healthy school nutrition environment; provides definitions of success; suggests activities and how-tos; and lists references and resources, among other things.  The kit also includes the School Health Index, a self-assessment and planning guide issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that addresses behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and illness among young people and adults.  A further significant tool in the kit is a school health policy guide that addresses physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco use, and sun safety and skin cancer prevention.

            Ms. Nigra explained that Making It Happen was the result of calls from schools for success stories in improving the school nutrition environment.  The book tells the nutrition success stories of 32 schools or school districts from across the country.  The two key messages from these stories are that students will buy and eat healthy foods and beverages, and schools can actually make money from selling healthy options.  While each school or school district took action in individual ways, Ms. Nigra noted, Team Nutrition identified six key approaches that schools focused on:  establishing nutrition standards; influencing food and beverage contracts; making more healthful foods and beverages available; adopting marketing techniques to promote healthful choices; limiting student access to competitive foods; and using fundraising activities and rewards that support student health. 

            Ms. Nigra then introduced Team Nutrition’s newest effort, the Healthier U.S. School Challenge, which was developed to support the President’s Healthier U.S. Initiative.  The Healthier U.S. School Challenge is a way for schools to showcase their efforts to improve children’s health and to address concerns about obesity and weight.  The Healthier U.S. School Challenge recognizes schools that achieve the goal of meeting voluntary nutrition guidelines established by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. 

            Ms. Nigra concluded by discussing local wellness policies, which were mandated as part of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004.  Under the new law, school districts participating in a federal child nutrition program must develop a local policy that addresses student wellness and the growing problem of childhood obesity by the 2006-2007 school year.  The law requires several components for wellness policies including goals for nutrition education, physical activity, and other school based activities designed to promote student wellness and nutrition guidelines for all foods available on school campuses during the school day. Ms. Nigra noted that local wellness policies put responsibility at the local level, recognize the critical role of schools in curbing the epidemic of overweight childhood, and help school districts create an environment conducive to healthy lifestyle choices.

Mr. Reese and Ms. Violet’s presentation
            Mr. Reese began his presentation by emphasizing the importance of health literacy.  The Institute for America’s Health takes a prevention-first approach to the problem of childhood obesity and overweight.  Reaching youth early, he added, with a whole-child approach will lower health costs and improve student achievement. 

            Mr. Reese noted that, according to the CDC, 30 percent of adolescents are overweight, triple the rate 20 years ago.  The cost of obesity to the United States was estimated at $117 billion in 2000—including $61 billion in direct costs with lost productivity costs due to obesity estimated at $44.6 billion, costs that Mr. Reese observed would only increase over time.  Among youth, Mr. Reese pointed out that obesity-related hospitalizations tripled between 1979 and 1999, rising to $127 million.  In short, in addition to the personal costs, obesity is associated with losses of productivity, increased healthcare costs, and decreased competitiveness for the U.S. economy.  The problem, as Mr. Reese defines it, is that while the United States spends generously on treatment, there is very little money available for prevention. 

            The Institute began to look for research-based programs to help schools and districts meet the new guidelines of the reauthorized Child Nutrition Act and eventually formulated its own, the WAY (Wellness, Academics and You) program.  The approach is an aligned, coordinated student health model that features simultaneous reinforcement of healthy student behaviors.  The model ties together health education, physical education, health promotion, community involvement, nutrition services, and advocacy into a system so that the messages students hear at school are modeled by staff and faculty, reinforced by school policy and community members.  This model has been adopted in Missouri, Arkansas and North Carolina with success, he added.  The Institute’s role in working with states is to suggest legislation and policies as well as identify sources of funding from the private sector. 

            To emphasize the importance of programs like WAY, Ms. Violet noted that a recent study found that obese children register levels of despair similar to those of young cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.  School-based interventions, she added, are among the most efficient means to reduce the four principal threats to student health:  tobacco use, unhealthy eating patterns, inadequate physical activity and obesity.  The WAY program is designed to fit into the K-5 core curriculum with a rich, standards-based academic intervention.  It is important, she noted, that the WAY program integrates into existing curriculum making it much more likely to be used by teachers and easier to reinforce across the course of study. 

            The WAY program includes a teacher’s guidebook with activities to be used throughout the year, a student journal, a kit of manipulatives for students and teachers, video resources, and reference materials.  Ms. Violet concluded by noting that the program has been demonstrated to be effective in making positive shifts in body mass index; increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables; increasing physical activity levels; and improving academic performance; changing behavior at school and home; and affecting positive changes in food choice, physical activity levels, family involvement and communication.

II.        Election of Officers
            Representative Priscilla Dunn, Alabama, gave the report of the Nominating Committee.  Senator Gerald Theunissen, Louisiana, was nominated for chair of the Committee, and Senator Jimmy Jeffress, Arkansas, was nominated for vice chair of the Committee.  The nominations were moved and seconded, and Senators Theunissen and Jeffress were elected by acclamation.   

SLC Fall Meeting
Savannah, Georgia, November 10-13, 2006
All committees of the Southern Legislative Conference will meet during the SLC Fall Meeting in Savannah, Georgia, November 10-13, 2006.  Committee sessions will take the form of open roundtable discussions, with conference wide plenary sessions for all members.  In keeping with the wishes of the SLC appointing authorities, please note that meeting notification does not authorize travel.

Staff Liaison:  Jonathan R. Watts Hull,,(404) 633-1866

Attendance List
Southern Legislative Conference 60th Annual Meeting
Education Committee
July 29 – August 2, 2005
Louisville, Kentucky

            Representative Priscilla Dunn
Representative John Knight
Senator Ted Little
Representative Howard Sanderford
Representative Terry Spicer
            Frank Caskey, Legislative Reference Service

            Representative Dawn Creekmore
Representative Marilyn Edwards
Senator Jimmy Jeffress
Representative Janet Johnson
Representative Wilhelmina Lewellen
Senator Sue Madison
Representative Betty Pickett
Representative Beverly Pyle
Senator Shawn A.Womack
            Kevin Anderson, Bureau of Legislative Research
Kim Arnall, Bureau of Legislative Research
Willa Black-Sanders, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Bill Goodman, Senate
Roger Norman, Division of Legislative Audit
Charles Robinson, Legislative Joint Audit

            Tricia Coulter, PhD., Education Commission of the States

District of Columbia
Philip Clark, FEMA
David Thorp, American Beverage Association

Lynn Mulherin, University of Phoenix
Linda Owens, The College Board
Stuart Reese, Institute for America's Health
Wanda Violet, i4Learning

Representative Tommy Benton
Representative Donna Sheldon
Asenith Dixon, Senate Staff
Susan Gibson, U.S. Army
Jonathan R. Watts Hull, Southern Legislative Conference
Jim Ledbetter, University of Georgia
Jim H. White, ACT, Inc.

            Representative Mike Cherry
Representative Gilbert Collins
Representative James Comer
Representative Jon Draud
Representative Derrick W. Graham
Representative Darryl Owens
Senator Jerry P. Rhoads
Representative Tom Riner
Representative Arnold Simpson
Senator Ken Winters
Representative Addia K. Wuchner
Representative Brent Yonts
            Martin Bell, Jefferson County Public Schools
Laura Coleman, The Council of State Governments
Jena Collins, Apple
Dr. Stephen Daeschner, Jefferson County Public Schools
Lori Davis, Kentucky Community and Technical College System
Mary Dusenberg, The Council of State Governments
Michael Fontaine, University of Phoenix
Chad Harpoole, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Robert Mille, Commerce Cabinet
Kenneth D. Schwendeman,
Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
John Warren, KEA

Senator Gerald Theunissen
Senator J.Chris Ullo

Representative Willie Bailey
Senator Alice V. Harden
Representative Wanda Jennings
Representative J.B. Markham
Senator Joseph C. Thomas
Representative Sara R. Thomas

North Carolina
Nicole Darmody, University of Phoenix

South Carolina
Candice Morgan, University of Phoenix

Wanda Arnaud, University of Phoenix
Dale Sims, Office of the Treasurer
Charlie Sorrells, Eastman
Ellen Tewes, Office of Legal Services
David Thurman, State Budget Office

            Senator Royce West
            Chad Bandy, University of Phoenix
Andrew Wise, Microsoft Corporation

Senator Harry Blevins
Delegate Phil Hamilton
Senator Edd Houck
Senator Jack Westwood
Dick Hickman, Senate Finance Committee  
Jim Mallor,  Lexis Nexis
Debra Nigra, USDA
Julie Smith, Division of Legislative Services

West Virginia
            Delegate Bob Beach
Senator Jon Blair Hunter
            Aaron Allred, Legislative Services
John Perdue, Office of the Treasurer

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