Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Great Presentation on Career and Technical Education. One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2011 legislative session has been the great number of solid informational hearings that have been held in the various education committees on a wide range of issues. As I reported yesterday, the panel from Florida that shared their perspectives on some of the measures that state has undertaken to post some impressive educational gains. As interesting as that presentation was, Dr. Jim Stone's presentations this morning and afternoon on how career and technical education still fits in the curriculum and is the best choice for a number of students simply blew the Florida gang all the way. . .well, back to Florida.

Dr. Stone is the Director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the University of Louisville. The presentation was very comprehensive and showed how career and technical education programs at the secondary level can keep kids in school until graduation, prepare them effectively for their next life step, and (in perhaps one of the least-known learning strategies currently in the system) can help a number of students gain greater mastery over their academic coursework.

As many of you know, I spent a portion of my lobbying career working for the Minnesota Association of Career and Technical Educators and while on legislative staff in the late-1980s was part of the Secondary Vocational Restructuring Task Force (a joint effort of the Minnesota Department of Education and the University of Minnesota). Through these experiences, I've been exposed to a lot of the cutting-edge programs that are helping students that embrace both facets of career and technical education: (1) the "work skills" body of knowledge that is imparted through career and technical education courses, and; (2) the use of applied methods to promote academic outcomes. Dr. Stone's presentation was very comprehensive in handling both of these points.

Kudos to Jerry Schoenfeld, former legislator and agriculture teacher and current lobbyist for a variety of clients including the agricultural educators, for bringing in Dr. Stone. The "aggies" have done tremendous work over the past few decades staying current and strengthening their programs. Dr. Stone's presentation ran a bit long and prevented the agricultural educators from unveiling one of their latest projects (a program that shows how to embed academic outcomes into the agricultural curriculum). That program will be presented on Thursday in the House Education Reform Committee and I can hardly wait to see it.

Alternative Licensure Deal Struck. As I reported yesterday, the House and Senate agreed to a set of changes suggested by Governor Dayton and Education Commissioner Cassellius and, as a result, a deal on SF 40 (Olson)/HF 63 (Garofalo) has been struck and the bill will be heading to the Legislature for final approval on Thursday. The changes requested by the Governor weren't major, but they do provide some assurance on quality concerns. The final deal requires that there must be a student-teaching component for teachers who take an alternative path to licensure . Also, alternative licensure programs must have a "consultation" level relationship with a higher-education institution. Last year's legislation, which did not pass off the floor of the Legislature, required such a formal relationship.

All indications are the bill will pass, likely on a party-line vote (or close to it) and that the Governor will sign the agreement. The only other thing I heard is that Education Minnesota isn't what I'd describe as enamored with the agreement. It is doubtful that their opposition will be enough to derail the bill's final passage and prevent the Governor's signature. Thus, we will have a compromise on what many observers believe was the likely "low-hanging" fruit in a year that will certainly have more than its share of contention.

I'll keep you posted.

House Education Finance Committee. The House Education Finance Committee spent its hearing time going to school on the integration revenue program. House staffers Tim Strom and Greg Crowe along with Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles and Legislative Auditor program manager Judy Randall provided a very thorough course on the program, outlining the history and growth of the program. With so many new legislators, there were a broad range of questions about the intellectual foundation of the program and whether the tenets upon which the program was originally based have changed.

The debate going forward will be whether the integration revenue program is about closing the achievement gap or moving students around to create more racially-balanced learning environments. The two foci are not mutually exclusive (although the debate often makes one think so). The debate on the program will be very interesting in the year ahead, as the idea of integration revenue certainly has its detractors as well as supporters. Again, I'll keep you posted.

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