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61st Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference

July 14-18, 2007 | Williamsburg, Virginia

Chair's Reports


TO:      Members of the Executive Committee

FR:      Senator Gerald Theunissen, Louisiana, Chair, SLC Education Committee

RE:      Report of Activities of the Education Committee at the 61st Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, July 14-18, 2007

            The SLC Education Committee convened on Sunday, July 15, for a program session and on Monday, July 16, for a business session during the 61st SLC Annual Meeting.  The following is a summary of the speaker presentations and Committee activities from each of these programs.  An attendance list is attached.

Program Session, July 15, 2007

I.          High School Redesign

Donna Nola-Ganey, Assistant Superintendent, Louisiana Department of Education


            Across the region, state education leaders are taking a careful look at the comprehensive high schools created at the turn of the last century and trying to find ways to craft 21st century centers of learning.  Perhaps no state has faced up to that challenge as much as Louisiana, where a state-wide commission has taken up the issue and the Legislature has provided vital resources for the change.

Ms. Nola-Ganey’s Presentation

            Ms. Nola-Ganey began by providing some history on how high school redesign has developed in Louisiana.  The process began with the appointment of a commission in 2004, with the members jointly appointed by the governor, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), the state superintendent of schools and the Board of Regents.  The process got a jump-start in 2005 when the governor committed Louisiana to the American Diploma Project, which commits the state to moving high schools forward.

            The state received a $2 million grant form the National Governors Association to advance the project in its second year, which provided vital resources to move the project forward, Ms. Nola-Ganey observed.  Thecommission issued preliminary Phase 1 recommendations in 2005 and held forums across state to develop public awareness and support.  The public component of this was very important in Louisiana, she noted.  Comments from these hearings were considered in the development of the final recommendations, which currently are being implemented, she said.  The recommendations included three levels of implementation:  one which benefits all high schools; one which targets resources to specific programs and pilots to catch children up who were behind as well as other reading and math programs; and one which provides resources to schools that are demonstrating high levels of success in order for these schools to be “lighthouses” and serve as models for other schools and systems in the state.

            The program took a look at the state curriculum, Ms. Nola-Ganey continued, working on alignment and standards as well as seeking input from the higher education system to ensure that the curriculum provided students with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in higher education.  From this process, the state identified a few gaps in the curriculum, which currently are being closed, she added.  This also has involved developing new courses and end-of-course tests and providing additional support to staff and at-risk students. 

            Among the targeted programs and pilots included in this first phase, the state provided extra support for students schoolwide, as well as personalization strategies, 9th grade academies, early warning systems for students at risk of dropping out and additional opportunities for work-based learning.  The programs also looked at strategies for raising the expectations of students and increasing the rigor of academics.  Ms. Nola-Ganey noted that the funding for Phase I included some general funds and some grant funds.  Phase I, which essentially was the most straightforward component, wrapped up just before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which put the commission and its plans on hold for about 16 months, she noted.

            Phase 2 tackled more difficult issues, including increasing graduation requirements, instituting a more rigorous curriculum, and establishing end-of-course tests.  Because these changes were more involved, there was a greater need for communication with the public.  The state had to iterate that they were not trying to track every student into college, but that the needs for higher skills in the workplace had dramatically increased.  In response, she explained, the state developed a campaign to demonstrate the need for redesigned high schools.  It was important in doing this to involve both post-secondary and business communities in this discussion, as a considerable component of the campaign was outlining the kinds of skills and knowledge high school graduates needed in order to be successful either in college or in the workforce. 

            There were six recommendations from the phase 2 report that released was early in 2007.  These recommendations included an additional year of math (to four years) for high school graduation, beginning with the 2008-2009 freshman class. The commission focused on this, Ms. Nola-Ganey explained, because the highest level of math a student takes is the key indicator of success in post-secondary education.  Furthermore, students who do not take math their senior year lose valuable math skills before graduation, and employers demand more math for their jobs. 

            A second recommendation was that all schools adopt a more rigorous curriculum.  In conjunction with partners in higher education, the state developed the Louisiana Core 4, which demands four courses in math, English, science and social studies courses, with allowances for students on career-tech paths to substitute some of the science and social studies courses with more career-tech related courses.  Students have the option of opting out, with parental consent, of this rigorous curriculum at the end of their second year of high school, although they are informed that this will limit their options in the future.  Currently, students would have to opt into a more rigorous curriculum.  The state also made the career endorsement (which students receive if they pursue vocational and technical courses in high school) on diplomas more rigorous.  Furthermore, she said, the state aligned the goals of the high school accountability system with the high school redesign program.  To do this, the state established a point-based incentive system to encourage schools to guide students toward meeting the more rigorous coursework which has led to more schools offering these courses.  The fifth recommendation was the institution of statewide end-of-course tests, beginning this year with Algebra I, which will establish a consistency of rigor across courses regardless of where a student attends school.  The final recommendation was to invest in dropout prevention and recovery, particularly in the ninth grade year. 

            The 2007 legislative session included the largest amount of money for education in the state’s history, with funding to move teacher pay to or above the regional average, expand early childhood education, as well as a $25 million investment in technology—chiefly for high schools—and $18 million for high school redesign.  This latter allocation will provide for the expansion of Louisiana’s virtual schools, creating some online student tutorials, revising the credit recovery program and instituting some remediation, developing new courses and expanding dual enrollment programs. 

            Finally, Ms. Nola-Ganey said, the state is starting Phase 3 of high school redesign, which will focus on how to serve overage 8th-graders, as well as diploma options for special education students, improving guidance and counseling and strengthening career-tech education.  Through high school redesign, Ms. Nola-Ganey believes Louisiana can better prepare students for college and careers, cut the dropout rate in half, and help Louisiana to be a better place to live and work.

II.        Dual Enrollment Programs

Debbie Mills, Vice President of Partnerships, Center for Occupational Research and Development, Illinois

            Dual (or concurrent) enrollment programs provide high school students access to post-secondary courses prior to graduation.  These options help to make the high school experience challenging and ensure that students are able to find relevant instruction to prepare them for college or career. 

Ms. Mill’s Presentation

            Ms. Mills began by noting that nearly every state has some form of dual enrollment or dual credit program.  Forty-two states have adopted state-level policy related to dual or concurrent enrollment either by legislation or state board policy.  These programs vary widely in terms of the breadth and depth of regulating dual or concurrent enrollment, she added, but these programs all allow students in high school to take courses that earn them credit at both the high school and post-secondary levels.  The biggest issue is who bears the costs—high schools, the state, colleges, pupils and their parents (an option which diminishes the reach of these programs for dropout protection) or a combination of these—which varies among states.  One state – Oregon – has opted to specifically reach at-risk students.

            Ms. Mills noted that the opportunities to earn college credit in high school, which once were limited to a few programs available only to a small percentage of students, have grown dramatically over the last decade.  More and more states are adopting policies designed to create a wider array of opportunities – for a broader range of students – to obtain a head start on college.  They are important because they reduce the average time-to-degree or certification and it increases the likelihood of graduation. 

            These programs are not without their concerns, however.  Ms. Mills noted that among the major concerns are a dilution of quality of the course (particularly for courses delivered at high schools), shutting out low-income and low-achieving students, and there are concerns about the quality of certain high school teachers who are asked to teach college-level courses.

            The majority of students taking college courses for credit take them from two-year colleges, with only 15 percent taking courses from four-year institutions and 8 percent taking them from a high school, Ms Mills said.  However, she noted, they are delivered on high school campuses, with fewer then 25 percent pursuing courses on the campus of another institution (either two- or four-year) and less than 5 percent pursuing distance learning courses.  Seventy percent of high schools in the United States offer dual credit programs, the overwhelming majority of which are academically focused, something she noted was starting to change.  On the post-secondary side, 82 percent of academic courses and 78 percent of career technical education courses were open to high school students. 

            In turning to at-risk students, Ms. Mills emphasized that dual credit was only a part of an overall redesign of schools to serve these students.  An example she drew from was LaGuardia Middle College High School in New York, a school serving primarily at-risk students which has dual credit as a component of its reform program, where 90 percent of the student body graduated high school and went on to college.  At-risk students are more likely to pursue dual credit career technical courses, which makes these offerings good candidates for expanding dual credit among this student population.  There is a need to expand these programs to reach underserved populations, she added, but schools with the highest minority enrollment were the least likely to offer dual credit when compared to schools with lower minority enrollment.

            Ms. Mills noted that most people are aware that out of every 100 ninth-graders, only 18 earn some kind of degree “on time” and, of these, many are underemployed.  The dropout rate, she noted, actually has not budged considerably since the 1970s, but the consequences of dropping out have increased.  The global economy offers very little hope to individuals who drop out of school or who do not pursue some post-secondary coursework. 

            It is common to look at issues in education in isolation, Ms. Mills said, although that is a major mistake.  It is important, she emphasized, to view them in the context of economic and workforce development and to connect education with economic development.  Dual credit is a slice of that.  When looking at what happens to students after high school, regardless of where they go, their success is built on academic skills and the commitment that comes from career direction.  As an example, if a student takes nothing beyond basic math in high school, that student has only a 5 percent chance of going beyond high school.

            Ms. Mills explained that most dual credit emerged through articulation agreements, with high school and community college curricula that were developed independently, which she likened to trying to join two buildings that were constructed on different foundations.  It is inefficient, frequently misaligned and makes dual credit awkward.  What is needed is to build the curricula together and apply it to the different levels of education. 

            The trend in high school redesign and transitioning students from secondary to post-secondary is what often is referred to as career pathways or career clusters, in which systems do try to build the curriculum and services together, moving what can be moved into the senior year of high school from the post-secondary level, she said.  This would make the senior year more meaningful and valuable.  By creating career clusters for students, schools develop a “road map” for students and parents to see just what courses they need not simply to graduate, but to pursue a given profession. This connects education with a career focus.  These often reach beyond high school graduation and provide students both the academic scaffolding they require as well as the career commitment that will help them stay motivated.  This approach is being adopted in all states.  Finally, Ms. Mills recommended that states ensure that funding is not a roadblock for disadvantaged children pursing dual credit courses, and make sure that all schools are able to deliver these programs.

III.       21st Century Learning:  Skills for the Future

Jena Collins, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Apple, Inc., Kentucky

            Today’s generation of students views technology as part of their everyday environment.  To fully meet their needs, technology should be pervasive and always available.  Technology should help students reach beyond their perceived potential to discover their own special genius. 

Ms. Collins’ Presentation

            Ms. Collins began by observing that lifelong learning, which is so important to the educational enterprise today, implies lifelong change.  Change in education is very difficult, however.  A 21st century school has to embrace changing technology.  A considerable amount of change has occurred in the technology that is available to teach children.  The majority of the teachers in schools today are, in Ms. Collins’ words, “digital immigrants,” for whom the great range of electronic technology are “new” items.  For today’s students, technology has always been there, she explained, and technological devices of all kinds surround them. 

            This kind of technology-rich environment has had some interesting impacts on young people, including changes in attention span and an expectation of immediacy.  Because so much of their world is instant, these children are impatient with the less immediate process of schools.  The expectation is that students will leave their digital world and join unfamiliar territory when they come to the traditional school setting.  But children arrive at school with their technology, she explained, and this is seen as a policy problem, but also as an opportunity for schools. 

            Ms. Collins said that technology has created new social networking and new communities for youth.  This has brought to the fore the importance of relationships for schoolchildren, and successful schools make use of these relationships and their importance to their lives.  Furthermore, this technology makes available a wide range of interactive, up-to-date tools for students to use in their learning.  Thus technology, she summarized, has created new connections, new communities and new content for students. 

            A 21st century student wants to learn in different ways, she added. They want to create and not just be passive receivers of others’ wisdom.  They want, and expect, to be mobile and have their technology follow them, instead of being limited to a computer lab that is available on a limited schedule.  They also are adept at multitasking, and are wired in such a way that this is productive.  Furthermore, students want to collaborate, produce and share what they have learned, and often wish to do so using new models for communicating information. 

            This has created a disconnect between teaching and learning in our schools, Ms. Collins noted.  Teachers, by and large, belong to a generation that prefers slow and controlled, steady learning, but they are teaching a cohort of students who want multimedia and interactive content and prefer to learn material, as they need it (as opposed to “just in case its on the exam”), which is relevant and engaging. 

            The world is changing as well, she continued, particularly in the nature of competition, the workforce, and education.  The reality for children in schools today is very different from that of the last century.  Children in schools now can expect to have up to 15 jobs over a lifetime, a major shift from the one or two previous generations would have held.  Because of this, students need to have flexible and adaptable skills and are not well served by focusing on a narrow range of skills.  Furthermore, students want to be the creators of the content and be assessed authentically and in context, which represents major shifts away from the status quo, in which students are consumers of content and are assessed by means of standardized tests focused on content matter mastery.  The shift that has occurred is from a generation that views technology as a tool to one which sees it as an environment.

            Technology is one part of the picture, Ms. Collins added.  There also needs to be committed leadership, continuous professional development for leadership and faculty and a robust and relevant curriculum measured in appropriate ways.  To be effective there must also be community support that manifests itself through better home and school involvement and business/school relationships .

            Finally, Ms. Collins noted, when technology is infused into education, schools see increases in student achievement, student engagement, and teacher retention, while dropout rates decrease, school climate improves, instructional patterns change, and the digital divide is eliminated.

Business Session, July 16, 2007

I.          Reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

Dr. James L. Pughsley, Commissioner, National Commission on the No Child Left Behind Act, Virginia

            When the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted five years ago, it signaled a massive shift in educational policy and practice. Now up for renewal, there are myriad ideas on how to best improve the Act or dismantle it. The National Commission on the No Child Left Behind Act represents a bi-partisan attempt to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the Act and make recommendations for its reauthorization.

Dr. Pughsley’s Presentation

            Dr. Pughsley opened his remarks by noting that when President Bush first signed the NCLB into law, he declared that the United States was on a new path for reform and a new path for results.  Dr. Pughsley echoed this sentiment, and underscored that enacting a reform without improved results is not meaningful reform.  He noted that a recent report from the Center on Education Policy indicated that the NCLB has had an impact on student performance and narrowing the achievement gap.  The Act represents, he added, a movement from compliance with the law to accountability for results on the part of all states.

            Dr. Pughsley explained that the Act is a part of the legacy of President Johnson’s Great Society War on Poverty and the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  The nation was refocused on education with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1981.  Following this, there was a gradual narrowing of the achievement gap through the 1980s, but a widening in the 1990s. The NCLB was a reauthorization of the ESEA that was based on what had been done in Texas and North Carolina.

            The National Commission on the No Child Left Behind Act is an independent and bipartisan effort to improve the Act which pulled together a broad spectrum of education leaders, he added.  The Commission did not want to just tinker around the edges, but wanted to focus on the bottom line of student achievement and what needed to be done to affect this.  The Commission held six public hearings along with roundtable discussions and conducted some original research.  The Commission released its report in February this year with 75 individual recommendations. 

            There are some building blocks that amount to a theory of action with respect to the NCLB, Dr. Pughsley explained.  These include annual math and reading assessments which are reported publicly, both overall and by different groups, with schools being held accountable for results.  Furthermore, the Act provides parents with information and options depending on the situation of their schools.  One of the primary focuses of the Act had to do with requiring highly qualified teachers, he added, which was an area in which the Commission heard a considerable amount of testimony over the course of their hearings.  A final building block is setting standards for achievement.  The overall mission of the Act is to have all children learning on grade level by 2014.

            The NCLB, Dr. Pughsley added, represents a sea change for the ESEA.  Where achievement had been a goal before, it was now a requirement, with the Act focusing directly on the issues of teacher quality as well as accountability for results.  Dr. Pughsley continued by noting that the NCLB is needed to maintain our global competitiveness. 

            Among the Commission’s 75 recommendations, Dr. Pughsley identified a handful that were at the heart of improving the Act.  The highly qualified teacher requirements, he noted, are little more than paper exercises, and should be strengthened with the inclusion of highly effective standards including student achievement data and peer review.  Other teacher quality issues include the need to improve reciprocity for highly qualified teachers and to extend the quality requirements to principals as well, with only highly effective principals allowed to serve in Title I schools.

            The Commission also supports the adoption of rigorous curricula and higher expectations in levels of student achievement.  This could be achieved through model national standards and assessments for states to use and adapt, which would allow for even comparisons of student achievement across states, or states developing their own, with the Department of Education reporting on their rigor and quality in order to facilitate comparisons.  Additionally, Dr. Pughsley said, the Commission supports the use of growth models to measure student achievement, establishing equity for special education and limited English proficient student assessments, and improves and expands participation in supplemental education services.  On this last item, the Commission sees some wisdom in requiring providers of these services to be certified.  The Commission also suggests that the Act focus on functioning high performing high schools to reduce dropout rates and the number of students who leave high school unprepared for college or the workforce.   Finally, Dr. Pughsley noted, the Commission recommended that additional federal resources are made available to improve state data capabilities so that states can track student progress and measure teacher effectiveness.

II.        Election of Officers

            Senator Alice Harden, Mississippi, gave the report of the Nominating Committee.  Senator Jimmy Jeffress, Arkansas, was nominated for chair of the Committee, and Representative Tommy Benton, Georgia, was nominated for vice chair of the Committee.  The nominations were moved and seconded, and Senator Jeffress and Representative Benton were elected by acclamation. 

Southern Legislative Conference Fall Conference
San Antonio Texas, October 26-29, 2007

            The SLC will meet for its 2007 Fall Conference October 26-29 at the Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas, for discussions on how states are focusing their policies to encourage the development of existing businesses and foster the growth of new industries.  Members will share their experiences and hear from leading experts on how communities and regions succeed or fail, and learn about innovative ways to achieve collaborative success for economic development.  In keeping with the wishes of the SLC presiding officers, please note that meeting notification does not authorize travel.

SLC Staff Contact:   If you have any questions regarding this report or the 2007 SLC Fall Conference, please contact Jonathan R. Watts Hull in our Atlanta office at (404) 633-1866 or

Attendance List
Southern Legislative Conference 61st Annual Meeting
Education Committee
July 14-18, 2007
Williamsburg, Virginia

Frank Caskey, Legislative Fiscal Office
Representative Randy Davis
Representative Bill Dukes
Representative Priscilla Dunn
Representative H. Mac Gipson
Senator Rusty Glover
Representative Ronald Grantland
Jason Isbell, Legislative Fiscal Office
Representative Mac McCutcheon
Senator Wendell Mitchell
Representative Terry Spicer
Ken Tucker, Boeing
Representative Henry White

Kim Arnall, Bureau of Legislative Research
Terry Benham, Impact Management Group
Senator David Bisbee
Senator Shane Broadway
Representative Eddie Cheatham
Ann Cornwell, Secretary of the Senate
Representative Stephanie Flowers
Representative Eddie Hawkins
Senator Kim Hendren
Representative Johnny Hoyt
Senator Jimmy Jeffress
Representative Janet Johnson
Representative Betty Pickett
Representative Lance Reynolds
Willa Black Sanders, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Representative Tommy Benton
Representative Sharon Cooper
Judith M. Costello, Canadian Consulate General
Representative Terry England
Representative Johnny Floyd
Gale Gaines, Southern Regional Education Board
Lavin Gartland , U.S. Department of Education
Representative Jan Jones
Jonathan R. Watts Hull , Southern Legislative Conference
Representative Bobby Reese

Debbie Mills, Center for Occupational Research and Development

Charles Bennett, Kentucky State University
Theresa Bennett, Legislative Research Commission
Jena Collins, Apple, Inc.
Representative Jim DeCesare
Mary Dusenbary, The Council of State Governments
Representative Charles Miller
Representative Harry Moberly, Jr.
Judy Rhoads, Marion Community College
Speaker Jody Richards
Susan Robertson, Senate Staff
Brenda Schissler, State Department of Labor
Representative Dottie Sims
Representative Arnold Simpson
Representative Addia Wuchner

Senator Robert Barham
Donna Nola-Ganey, Louisiana Department of Education
Senator Mike Smith

Representative Billy Broomfield
Speaker Mike Busch
Delegate Jim Gilchrist
Senator Lisa Gladden
Senator Verna Jones
Senator Catherine Pugh
Diana Saquella, Maryland State Teachers Association

Chris Doran, Pearson Education

Senator Kelvin Butler
Senator Alice Harden
Representative Wanda Jennings
LeeAnn Mayo, Capitol Resources
Senator Joseph Thomas
Representative Sara Thomas

North Carolina 
Representative Curtis Blackwood
Speaker Joe Hackney
Representative Linda P. Johnson
Representative Louis Pate

Representative Neil Brannon
Senator Kenneth Corn
Jason Ramsey, Oklahoma State University
Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson

Daniel Charbonneau, Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group
June Dewetering, Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group
Senator Frank Mahovlich

Member of Parliament Claude Bachand

South Carolina 
Senator Larry A. Martin
Representative Jimmy Neal
Senator Kay Patterson

Senator Joe Haynes
Paul Miller, Capitol Strategies
John Morgan, State Comptroller
Ellen Tewes, Office of Legal Services

Delegate Kenneth Alexander
Senator Harry Blevins
Delegate Phil Hamilton
Tom Hennessey, George Mason University
Sarah Herzog, Legislative Fiscal Office
Susan Hogge, House of Delegates
Senator Edd Houck
Senator Yvonne B. Miller
Delegate Kenneth R. Plum
Dr. James Pughsley, National Commission on the No Child Left Behind Act
Delegate Jack Reid
Senator Walter Stosch
Delegate Bob Tata
Mark Vucci, Department of Legislative Services
Delegate Jeion Ward

Washington , D.C.  
Kristi Guillory, The Council of State Governments
Jennifer Macintyre, Canadian Embassy
Stacey Skelly, Association of American Publishers

West Virginia
Delegate Tom Azinger
Jeff Davis, State Treasurers Office
Jamie Dickenson, State Treasurers Office
Senator Jon Blair Hunter
John Perdue, State Treasurer
Delegate Roger Romine

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