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Just three years ago, almost every state in the nation belonged to a national testing consortium, such as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) whereas, today, barely half continue to participate in these multi-state comparative student assessments. The Southern region, in particular, has seen a shift away from the national testing consortia to state-specified student testing. As state education systems adapt to their new educational standards of college- and career-readiness, state governments continue to modify their approach to assessing student learning toward these standards.
After dismissing PARCC and Smarter Balanced, several states’ education systems began, and currently continue, a transition to various alternatives. This SLC Regional Resource provides an overview of the strategies that SLC member states have undertaken for student testing, as of October 1, 2015. Specifically, the analysis examines the current status of K-12 testing requirements implemented by the 15 SLC member states for their general public school populations and the experiences of these states as they seek to improve their student performance measurement systems. Further, the report focuses on the many adjustments and changes to K-12 English language arts and mathematics student assessment systems implemented by Southern states in the post-Common Core educational era, geared toward preparing college- and career-ready students.
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With the potential reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) nearing a critical junction, a delegation of Southern states’ legislative education committee chairs traveled to Washington, D.C. between November 4-5, 2015, for meetings with influential members of Congress involved with the reauthorization process, as well as a policy session with key staff from the legislative and executive branches and a Washington, D.C-based nonprofit educational research organization.
The delegation, organized by the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), in collaboration with CSG’s Washington, D.C. Office, focused on securing a more detailed timeline for the passage of ESEA, determining the potential outcomes of the compromise that will be reached by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for the versions passed by each chamber, voicing a need for states to gain greater flexibility from federal educational oversight, examining how the groundbreaking legislation will affect state educational systems and governments, and preparing for the potentially significant changes to federal educational policy.
Led by the state Senator Dolores Gresham of Tennessee, chair of the SLC Education Committee and chair of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee, the delegation comprised state Representative Tom Dickson of Georgia, vice chair of SLC Education Committee and chair of the Georgia House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; Representative Rita Allison, chair of the South Carolina House Education and Public Works Committee; Senator Dave Sypolt, chair of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee; and Representative Kathryn Swan, chair of the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
During their Washington, D.C. visit, delegation members met and discussed the ESEA reauthorization and related matters with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP); U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri; Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Congressman Alex Mooney of West Virginia; and Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
During an afternoon policy session, several policy experts and key government officials provided further insights into the current status of ESEA reauthorization and the positions of the executive and legislatives branches that ultimately must approve any compromise. From the U.S. Department of Education, Emma Vadehra, chief of staff to U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Simone Hardeman-Jones, special assistant in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, provided the view of the administration; David Cleary, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and the majority staff director for the Senate HELP Committee, provided the majority view of the U.S. Senate; and Chad Aldeman, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, provided a view from the nonprofit educational research sector.
A delegation of state legislative leaders from Georgia recently traveled to the Port of New York and New Jersey for high level briefings on the operations of the largest port on the East Coast and the third-largest in the nation. In terms of total TEUs (or Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), in 2014, the Port of New York and New Jersey handled over 5.7 million, a 5.6 percent increase from the prior year. In 2015, the Port is on track to exceed the levels reached in 2014. The record volumes allowed the Port to maintain its position as the busiest on the East Coast, with nearly 30 percent of the total market share. The dollar value of all cargo that moved through the port exceeded $207 billion.
The visit, organized by the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), was designed to reinforce the need for Southern ports, including ports in Georgia, to continue essential infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the significantly larger vessels and expanded cargo volumes expected in coming years. The delegation included Senator Jeff Mullis, chair of the SLC’s Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee; Senator Steve Gooch; Senator Lester G. Jackson; Representative Ron Stephens; and Representative Mickey Stephens. Delegation leader, Senator Mullis confirmed that this visit reinforced the “need for continued investments in Georgia’s ports so that the state remains competitive in attracting traffic, including after the expected 2016 completion of the Panama Canal expansion project. From the KIA automobile factory in West Point to the poultry industry in Gainesville to the carpet industry in Dalton, the economic impact of Georgia’s ports extends far beyond Savannah and Brunswick to every corner of the state and even the region,” Senator Mullis added.
For more than a decade and a half, the SLC has focused on the critical role played by Southern ports in the economic calculations of the Southern region and the nation as a whole. Given the critical role played by Georgia’s ports, the visit focused on briefing the legislative delegation of critical policy measures necessary to advance Georgia ports. The briefings included an overview of the Port’s operations by Molly Campbell, Director, Port Commerce Department, which included details on raising the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge, building a replacement for the Goethals Bridge, initiating harbor deepening efforts, continuing work to lengthen existing berths and acquiring Super Post Panamax cranes. This was followed by details on the Port Performance Task Force by Beth Rooney, Assistant Director, Port Performance Initiatives. The Task Force includes industry executives and port officials and seeks to identify challenges to port efficiency and service reliability and devise solutions to overcome these challenges. Finally, the delegation was provided a facilities overview by Aaron Sherburne, General Manager, Port Commerce Department. After the briefings, the SLC delegation drove to several of the Port’s terminals for a first-hand look at the infrastructure upgrades in progress along with insights into operations of this major East Coast port.
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a webinar on State Strategies for Shaping Effective Teacher Preparation Programs from 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 19, 2015. The importance of ensuring effective teacher preparation programs (TPPs) continues to be an issue of significant interest to state policymakers. As the focus of teacher education shifts more and more from training to preparing, several states are undertaking new approaches to identifying and promoting successful TPPs. Strategies to encourage properly prepared new teachers include: raising program admission standards; requiring shadowing of mentor teachers that have demonstrated their high effectiveness; performance-based funding; and monitoring program outcomes. For example, Louisiana and Tennessee have developed statewide systems that track the academic growth of a teacher’s P-12 students back to the preparation program from which that teacher graduated. This webinar will focus on these and additional tactics of Southern states to ensure well-prepared teachers. Further details are available here.
Legislative leadership in Kentucky recently announced the selection of Mr. David Byerman as director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, effective October 1. As one of the largest centralized service agencies in the South, Mr. Byerman supervises around 400 legislative employees.1 Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, who chairs the Southern Legislative Conference, said of the thirty applicants, Mr. Byerman was the best fit for the position. 2
Mr. Byerman previously served as the secretary of the Senate of the Nevada Legislature, and received several awards for his outstanding work. In a recent op-ed3 on his approach to the directorship, Mr. Byerman writes, "Everything we do will be filtered through the prism of communication: We will strive to make the legislative process more accessible, more understandable and more relevant for the residents of Kentucky."
1. Panel recommends secretary of Nevada Senate to head Kentucky's legislative bureaucracy ↩ 2. Lawmakers Vote to Name David A. Byerman as Legislative Research Commission Director ↩ 3. David Byerman: New director of Legislative Research Commission ready to write new chapter ↩
The State Local Legal Center, in collaboration with the National Association of Counties, will host a webinar from 1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, October 14, providing a preview of upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases. Redistricting, affirmative action, and preemption are just a few of the topics on the Supreme Court’s 2015-2016 docket. Preview the most significant cases of interest to state and local government with John Elwood, Vinson & Elkins, Kelsi Brown Corkran, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Kimberly Atkins, Boston Herald. Click here to register.
A delegation of state legislative leaders from five states, including Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (North Carolina); Speaker Tim Moore (North Carolina); Senator Frank Ginn (Georgia); Representative Neal Collins (South Carolina); Senate President Pro Tempore Pam Roach (Washington); and Senator Nancy Todd (Colorado), recently traveled to Panama for high level briefings on the Panama Canal expansion project. The delegation agenda was designed to reinforce the need for Southern ports to continue essential infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the significantly larger vessels and expanded cargo volumes expected to arrive after the completion of the Panama Canal expansion. The 2015 delegation to Panama, organized by the SLC, was the fourth consecutive visit to that country for briefings on the Panama Canal expansion, and included legislators from The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) Western region, CSG-WEST.
For more than a decade, the SLC has focused on the critical role played by Southern ports in the economic calculations of the Southern region and the nation as a whole. Upon completion in 2016, the Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States. Nearly all the states will be impacted directly by the increase in cargo and vessel traffic in the aftermath of the Panama Canal expansion. In 2014, total U.S. exports to Panama amounted to $10.5 billion.
The delegation’s scheduled meetings began with a series of briefings by the Panama Canal Authority and a tour of the Canal and expansion project. At the Miraflores Center, the delegation received a detailed briefing from Mr. Luis Ferreira, Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal Authority, on the expansion effort and its critical importance in the effective and efficient transfer of cargo between Asia and the Americas. Also included on the technical tour was a visit to and further briefings on the operation of the control tower of the current locks. The legislators also traveled to the site of the new Pacific locks for additional briefings on security procedures and equipment.
The delegation then visited the U.S. Embassy in Panama for a briefing on U.S. – Panama political, economic and social linkages, which included reference to the impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Panama that was signed into law in October 2011. The briefing included an extended discussion with officials including Ms. Leslie O’Connor, Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative for Central America and the Dominican Republic; Mr. John Coronado, Senior Commercial Officer; Ms. Mimi Lu, Economics Officer; and Mr. Chris Andino, Head of the Political Section. The delegation also received briefings from the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Panama (AmCham Panama) on the potential for expanding the economic and financial relationships between Panama and corporate and business interests in all states. Providing details on these topics were Mr. C.E. Maurice Belanger, Executive Director, AmCham Panama and Dr. Max Jimenez, Director of the Georgia Tech Panama Logistics Innovation & Research Center in Panama.
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Legislative leadership in North Carolina recently announced their replacement for Mr. George Hall, who retired from the post of legislative services officer in November of last year. Former Raleigh mayor and Wake County Commissioner Paul Coble will take over the post. In a joint statement, Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said, "Mr. Coble is a proven leader and will bring a high level of professionalism to the General Assembly."
Mr. George Hall worked in the legislative services office in the North Carolina General Assembly for more than 50 years. In his time as legislative services officer, Mr. Hall was an active participant in many major activities of the Southern Legislative Conference. Given his expertise in legislative procedure and law, the Southern Office frequently sought his guidance on activities of the Conference and the Legislative Service Agency Directors Group.