• By John Bailey
    December 2, 2010

    Former Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise released an innovative plan (pdf) to make state policy more friendly to digital learning.  The report is the result of a three month discussion that began back in August (see our blog post here) that involved 100 leaders from government, solution providers, philanthropy, and schools.

    The effort is important for a couple of reasons:

    • Legitimizing Digital Education:  The involvement of such a diverse group of individuals helps to elevate online learning and other uses of technology to personalize education in the education reform discussion. 

    • Creating the Conditions for Growth:  Most of the recommendations encourage states to create the right conditions for digital learning.  Creating a stable policy and regulatory environment that is supportive of online learning and eliminates barriers, such as online enrollment caps, will help fuel more growth.  

    • Establishing Provider Neutrality:   The 10 elements help establish a level playing field for all providers, instead of tilting the benefits to just non-profit providers.  The focus is placed on quality rather than limiting opportunities based on tax-status.
    • Linking Digital Learning to Broader Education Goals: Digital learning offers the best hope for scaling college-ready courses like AP and advanced STEM courses.  It also is one of the better tools available to states as they think about doing more with less given tightening state education budgets.   

    There are a few challenges. First, the terms we often use to describe this technology seem to change more then the technology itself. What is often being described today as blended and hybrid learning models are similar to many of the instructional improvement systems launched back in the late 1990s. For example, Pennsylvania led an effort back in 2000-2001 to equip schools with software and online services to "customize instruction for individual students and provide them with more individualized attention." The main difference is that today's technology is simply delivered over the Internet rather than through CDs or local servers.  

    Secondly, not all of this is a state responsibility.  School districts have a role and often are the entity that decides if a student can take an online course or not.  In other words, the state policy could permit opportunities, but local schools can block them.  The federal government can also help with incentives for states to adopt these digital learning friendly policies as well as funding support.  For example, the E-rate needs a more radical overhaul to support the type of learning described in this report.  Right now, the program is part of the problem by not fully supporting online learning.  

    Overall, a great report that will help serve as a policy guide for governors and state leaders.  Learn more by visiting the Digital Learning Now website.


    10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning

    1. Student Eligibility: All students are digital learners.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State ensures access to high quality digital content and online courses to all students.

    • State ensures access to high quality digital content and online courses to students in K-12 at any time in their academic career.


    2. Student Access: All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State does not restrict access to high quality digital content and online courses with policies such as class size ratios and caps on enrollment or budget.

    • State does not restrict access to high quality digital content and online courses based on geography, such as school district, county, or state.

    • State requires students take high quality online college-or career-prep courses to earn a high school diploma.


    3. Personalized Learning: All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State allows students to take online classes full-time, part-time or by individual course.

    • State allows students to enroll with multiple providers and blend online courses with onsite learning.

    • State allows rolling enrollment year round.

    • State does not limit the number credits earned online.

    • State does not limit provider options for delivering instruction.


    4. Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State requires matriculation based on demonstrated competency.

    • State does not have a seat-time requirement for matriculation.

    • State provides assessments when students are ready to complete the course or unit.


    5. Content: Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State requires digital content and online and blended learning courses to be aligned with state standards or common core standards where applicable.


    6. Instruction: Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State provides alternative certification routes, including online instruction and performance-based certification.

    • State provides certification reciprocity for online instructors certified by another state.

    • State creates the opportunity for multi-location instruction.

    • State encourages post-secondary institutions with teacher preparation programs to offer targeted digital instruction training.

    • State ensures that teachers have professional development or training to better utilize technology and before teaching an online or blended learning course.


    7. Providers: All students have access to multiple high quality providers.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State has an open, transparent, expeditious approval process for digital learning providers.

    • State provides students with access to multiple approved providers including public, private and nonprofit.

    • States treat all approved education providers- public, chartered and private – equally.

    • State provides all students with access to all approved providers.

    • State has no administrative requirements that would unnecessarily limit participation of high quality providers (e.g. office location).

    • State provides easy-to-understand information about digital learning, including programs, content, courses, tutors, and other digital resources, to students.


    8. Assessment and Accountability: Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State administers assessments digitally.

    • State ensures a digital formative assessment system.

    • State evaluates the quality of content and courses predominately based on student learning data.

    • State evaluates the effectiveness of teachers based, in part, on student learning data.

    • State holds schools and providers accountable for achievement and growth.


    9. Funding: Funding creates incentives for performance, options and innovation.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State funding model pays providers in installments that incentivize completion and achievement.

    • State allows for digital content to be acquired through instructional material budgets and does not discourage digital content with print adoption practices.

    • State funding allows customization of education including choice of providers.


    10. Delivery: Infrastructure supports digital learning.

    Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:

    • State is replacing textbooks with digital content, including interactive and adaptive multimedia.
    • State ensures high-speed broadband Internet access for public school teachers and students.
    • State ensures all public school students and teachers have Internet access devices.
    • State uses purchasing power to negotiate lower cost licenses and contracts for digital content and online courses.
    • State ensures local and state data systems and related applications are updated and robust to inform longitudinal management decisions, accountability and instruction.



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  • November 30, 2010
  • By John Bailey
    November 18, 2010

    NGA announced a new STEM Advisory Committee to help Governors develop comprehensive STEM agendas.  Press release is below.  



    NGA Center Announces STEM Advisory Committee

    Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Experts to Aid Governors in Building STEM Agendas in States

    Contact: Erin Munley, 202-624-7787
    Office of Communications

    WASHINGTON–The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) today announced that it has formed a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Advisory Committee to inform its work in this area and help the 29 new governors, as well as incumbents, develop comprehensive STEM agendas in their states.

    “The increasingly globalized economy requires workers with strong science, technology, engineering and math skills,” said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. “This Committee is intended to provide the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders to governors and states as they work to establish and grow STEM education programs that can contribute to economic competitiveness.”

    Advisory Committee members, who will serve two-year terms, represent expertise across education, policy, business and STEM content areas and include:

    • Mark Anderson, state lead ARRA coordinator, Hawaii Department of Budget & Finance

    • Susan Bodary, principal, Education First Consulting

    • Carlos Contreras, U.S. education director, Intel

    • Emily DeRocco, president, Manufacturers Institute, National Association of Manufacturers

    • Susan Elrod, executive director, Project Kaleidoscope, Association of American Colleges & Universities

    • Gary Hoachlander, president, ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career

    • Karen Klinzing, deputy commissioner of education, Minnesota Department of Education

    • Rebecca Lucore, manager, Community Affairs, and executive director, Bayer USA Foundation Bayer Corporation

    • Jan Morrison, executive director, Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM

    • Charles Nash, Ph.D., vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, The University of Alabama System

    • Stephen L. Pruitt, Ph.D., vice president for content, Research and Development, Achieve

    • Anthony “Bud” Rock, chief executive officer, Association of Science-Technology Centers

    • Linda Rosen, chief executive officer, Change the Equation

    • Richard Rosen, vice president for education and philanthropy and executive director, Ohio STEM Learning Network, Battelle

    • Cary Sneider, Ph.D., associate research professor, Portland State University Center for Science Education

    • Yvonne Spicer, Ed.D., vice president, National Center for Technological Literacy, Museum of Science Boston

    • Richard (Rick) Stephens, senior vice president, Human Resources and Administration, The Boeing Company

    • Uri Treisman, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and public affairs, executive director, Charles A. Dana Center The University of Texas at Austin

    • Helen Quinn, Ph.D., chair, Board on Science Education, Center for Education, National Research Council

    The committee will guide the expansion of the NGA Center STEM agenda to include both K-12 and higher education; provide a series of recommendations for building and advancing comprehensive STEM education agendas;and inform the development of a national STEM meeting the NGA Center will host in the fall of 2011.

    For more information about NGA Center STEM education efforts, visit


    Founded in 1908, the National Governors Association (NGA) is the collective voice of the nation’s governors and one of Washington, D.C.’s, most respected public policy organizations. Its members are the governors of the 50 states, three territories and two commonwealths. NGA provides governors and their senior staff members with services that range from representing states on Capitol Hill and before the Administration on key federal issues to developing and implementing innovative solutions to public policy challenges through the NGA Center for Best Practices. For more information, visit

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  • By John Bailey
    November 12, 2010

    lection results and what they mean for policy areas such as education.  

    ProspectsOn Wednesday, Andy Rotherham and I hosted our fourth Education Insider webinar, this one focused on the midterm elections.  Alyson Klein over at Politics K-12 covered some of the top line findings as did Rick Hess. Some results that caught my attention:

    • State Elections:  For those involved in education, the real political shakeup didn't happen in Congress but at the state level.  Republicans picked up the governor’s office in 12 states (including key 2012 Presidential swing states) and now control more legislative seats than at any other point since 1928. Federal policies like the Common Assessments and national efforts such as Common Core, might face some additional scrutiny and challenges in this new political landscape.

    • Voter Frustration:  The exit polls revealed that seven out of 10 voters were dissatisfied with the way federal government is working.  Other polling shows that voters think the stimulus programs have helped big banks and institutions but did little to help low- and middle-income families.  That helps to explain why voters want to see some spending restraint.  They are not going to support increased federal spending when they believe the government isn’t working and isn't pursuing policies that benefit them.

    • Insiders Are Pessimistic About ESEA Reauthorization:  54% expect reauthorization will take place after 2012 with 46% believing it will take place in 2013 after the next Presidential election.  

    • But There Is Hope:   The President highlighted education as one of the areas he could work with the Republicans.  The White House has sent stronger signals over the last week that they want to work on ESEA reauthorization then they have all of last year.  Insiders also pointed out that incoming Speaker Boehner is passionate about education reform, having worked with Sen. Kennedy on NCLB. If both sides want to show voters that they can work together on something, education could be as good of an issue as any. Insiders said that if we don't see a bill by August, then we're most likely looking at a reauthorization after January 2013.  

    • Funding:  We have likely see the high-water mark for education funding.  More than 45 states have 2011 budget shortfalls totaling $125 billion with additional shortfalls projected for next fiscal year as well.  State revenues are decreasing while Medicaid enrollment is increasing making matters even worse.  At the Federal level, we're likely to see a pivot from stimulus to austerity measures.  Eric Cantor has called for holding reverting the budget back to FY 2008 levels (pre-bailout/stimulus).  The President attacked this saying it would result in a 20% cut in education funding, but then his Fiscal Responsibility Commission issued a similar recommendation of holding the budget to FY 2010 levels with 1% reductions over three years.  Our Insiders were split 50/50 if this will mean cuts for Federal education dollars or just level funding. 

    Much more in our 47 page report found here.  

    We also spoke with investors and analysts about the elections as part of Stifel, Nicolaus & Company hosted event.  There were a lot of questions around what the elections mean for the higher education community, particularly the pending gainful employment regulations.  We happened to have asked Insiders this very question and found that more than 82% believe it is likely that the Republicans will try to block the implementation of Gainful Employment. what surprised me was the number of times Insiders referenced Gainful Employment in other areas of our survey.  Meaning how the Administration handles this controversial regulations has implications for the politics around ESEA reauthorization.  

    We also just finished a summary of the education platforms of the 37 governors that won their election last week. Will be available soon...

    Finally, our colleagues at Dutko Grayling State and Local hosted an event discussing the election with Nathan Daschle, Democratic Governors Association; Phil Cox, Republican Governors Association, and Josh Kraushaar, National Journal.  You can watch it online at C-SPAN.  



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  • October 12, 2010

    We are pleased to present an update to the 2010 State of the States report which contains a state-by-state analysis of the 37 governor races.  This document reflects information as of October 12, 2010.  

    This year is a "mega‐election year" at the state level – with the Congressional midterms and 37 gubernatorial races (the most since 2000). The significance of this cycle is compounded by the fact that, given the number of term‐limited and retiring governors, over half (nineteen) of the races are for open seats. Education makes up a significant portion of state budgets and as such, will will emerge as an important and high profile issue during the 2010 cycle as candidates lay out a vision for education reform and struggle with potential funding cuts. 

    These governor races will also be important with respect to several Federal priorities, including Common Core Standards, the new assessment coalitions, and Race to the Top.  Will the candidates continue the policies of their predecessors in each of these areas or will they change course? 

      Read more

  • By John Bailey
    September 24, 2010

    The recession may have slowed but states continue to have deep fiscal problems as revenues are climbing slowly but remain below projections, continued federal bailout money is doubtful and budget demands for FY 2012 and beyond are rising. Most states cannot end their fiscal year in debt so for the last two years state lawmakers have balanced budgets with a combination of program cuts and an influx of federal stimulus money. Few states raised taxes. Few states can continue to make cuts without slashing education or human services, programs that have been off limits until now.

    The National Conference of State Legislatures (NSCL) estimated early this summer that the states’ collective revenue shortfall in FY 2012 will be $72 billion. New and increased taxes will have to be considered when FY 2012 budgets are being crafted early next year. But for now it is an election year and there are 37 gubernatorial races underway; only a few brave or foolish candidates have been willing to suggest that taxes are the path to fiscal salvation.

    Former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-Rhode Island is an exception. He is now an independent running for governor and wants to expand the state sales tax to balance the state budget. Chaffee has two opponents and there is no incumbent in the race. Chaffee has been well ahead in the polls all summer but the most recent sample conducted by the local NBC-TV affiliate has him trailing Democrat Frank Caprio by 12 percent. Caprio, the state treasurer, has been banging Chaffee on his tax proposal in recent weeks and the latest poll suggests the strategy is working.

    Minnesota Democrat Mark Dayton, a candidate to replace Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, is another; he wants to tax the rich. He is an heir to the Dayton-Hudson department store fortune. He wants to raise income taxes on individuals making $130,000 or more and couples making $150,000 or more, to help plug the nearly $6 billion deficit the state is facing over the next two years. The latest poll in Minnesota has Dayton in a virtual dead heat with Republican Tom Emmer in a three- way race.

    Most candidates for governor have proposed tax cuts. reported this week that gubernatorial candidates in CaliforniaFloridaGeorgiaMaine and Michigan want to eliminate certain business taxes altogether while others in ColoradoMaine and Ohio have vowed to lower the personal income tax. In Massachusetts and Maryland, a big issue is whether to roll back recent sales tax increases.

    Finally, here's the latest on the where the races stand:




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  • By John Bailey
    August 30, 2010

    Primary voters in AlaskaArizonaFlorida and Vermont trudged to the polls this week to choose their party’s candidates for statewide elected office in the November election. In each state the race for governor this fall will be spirited and wide-open. There are no elected incumbents running in any of these states. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, is running but he was appointed when Sarah Palin resigned last summer. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, was appointed to replace Janet Napolitano after she took a cabinet post in the Obama administration. Florida Gov. Charles Crist and Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, both Republicans, did not seek reelection.

    In Alaska, Governor Parnell easily defeated a field of challengers, including former legislator Ralph Samuels and Bill Walker, an Anchorage attorney who spent hundreds of thousands of his own money to support a losing campaign. Ethan Berkowitz, a former legislator and previous candidate for lieutenant governor and Congress won the Democratic nomination. Parnell immediately attacked Berkowitz as an Obama clone on resource management issues, health care and spending. He said at a post-win news conference with his running mate: “We’re different. I think we’re more aligned with Alaska values when it comes to developing our resources, unlocking the potential there so we unleash the potential for our families and our people here to have jobs.”

    In Arizona Governor Brewer easily bested political newcomer Matt Jette in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Democrat Terry Goddard, the state’s attorney general and son of former Governor Sam Goddard, was unopposed in the primary. Goddard has challenged Brewer to six debates; she has yet to respond. “This starts the main event,” Goddard said. “I believe it’s a battle for Arizona’s future,” adding, “We are already way behind under Jan Brewer.” Brewer has been embattled in the last 18 months; she has had to deal with a tough new immigration law, drug violence on the border and increased state budget woes.

    In Florida, Rick Scott, a 57-year-old Naples conservative, challenged the GOP establishment and narrowly defeated Attorney General Bill McCollum in the primary for governor. Scott reportedly spent at least $50 million of his own money to win the nomination. Scott ran a unique campaign. He refused to debate McCollum on live statewide TV, dismissed the ritual of editorial board interviews, and repeatedly refused to make public a deposition he gave in a civil case six days before announcing his campaign. Scott ran aggressively to McCollum’s right by supporting the Arizona law getting tough on illegal immigrants. Scott will face Democrat Alex Sink and independent Lawton “Bud” Chiles in November. Sink easily defeated little-known challenger Brian Moore in the Democratic primary.

     Vermont Senate President Peter Shumlin emerged on top, but is not yet victorious, in a five-way Democratic primary for governor. Shumlin has a 190 vote margin over second-place finisher Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden. The winner of the election is still very much in doubt as the results are not yet official. Senator Racine has asked for a recount. Democrats fear that a long recount will extend the primary season for several weeks and will hurt their chances in the general election. Racine has said he hopes the recount will only take a week. The winner will face Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie who was unopposed in his party’s primary for governor.

    In more news a Smart Politics analysis of nearly 1,800 gubernatorial elections since 1900 finds that "while the average margin of victory in such contests nationwide has been 21.0 points, New Mexico has averaged a highly competitive 7.5-point victory margin across its 38 contests held since statehood.In fact, an astounding 79 percent of New Mexico's races for governor have been decided by less than 10 points (30 of 38) - best in the nation - with 47 percent by less than 5 points (18)."   Great post and chart of all 50 states here.

    Finally, for more in depth discussion about each of the 37 governor races, download our State of the States reportwhich was just updated last week.

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  • By John Bailey
    August 28, 2010

    Whiteboard Advisors is pleased to present an updated 2010 State of the States report which provides a state-by-state analysis of the 37 governor races.  This document covers all the primary results through August 24, 2010.  

    Download the document here.

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  • August 27, 2010
  • By John Bailey
    August 13, 2010

    Politics at the state level was once a fall sport; candidates for governor and the legislature waited until after the Labor Day weekend to begin knocking on doors, clogging the television airways with advertising and loading down mail carriers with campaign propaganda. State elections were a sprint from Labor Day through the first Tuesday in November. Today they are a slog that begins around Memorial Day or earlier. Read more

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