Whiteboard Notes | ACICS Regains Federal Recognition; New Student Data Privacy Law in Iowa; Alabama Increases Pre-K Funding

DeVos Approves Three State ESSA Plans: Idaho, Mississippi, and Rhode Island are the three newest states to have their ESSA plans approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Each state has proposed different mechanisms for evaluating school performance. Idaho will be using a dashboard, omitting traditional A through F ratings; Mississippi wil continue to use A through F ratings, and schools will need to earn at least a C in order to not be qualified as ‘low performing’; and Rhode Island will be implementing a points-based system that will refer to a database of improvement strategies for school performance.

For-Profit Accreditor Regains Federal Recognition: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos restored the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which  had been terminated in 2016. DeVos’ decision follows a federal judge’s ruling that the Obama administration illegally failed to consider relevant evidence In a signed order, DeVos said that ACICS will retain its status until she reaches a final decision on its 2016 application. ACICS has until May 30 to file a written submission to the Department, which will respond by July 30.

Civil Rights Rule Leads to Case Dismissals: A new rule in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) case processing manual has led to the dismissal of hundreds of complaints. The new rule targets what the Department calls mass filers–individuals or groups that file the same complaint against many schools. According to the Department, three individuals filed 23% of the complaints received by OCR in 2017.  A spokesperson for the Department said the new rule is designed to improve OCR’s case management practices, allowing for the office to better accomplish its mission.


Florida Aims to Provide Prisoners with Training, Education: Governor Rick Scott (R) signed a bill that would allow the Florida Department of Corrections to partner with local school districts and the Florida college system. The bill aims to ensure prisoners leave the system  with vocational training and post-secondary education credentials that enable them to be competitive in the workforce. Under the provisions of this bill, inmates with 24 months or less remaining on their sentences will now be able to join the Workforce Education Program. Florida had previously banned the used of state funds to educate prisoners.  

New Guidelines on K-12 Student Data Privacy in Iowa: Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed new K-12 student data privacy protections into law. Modeled on California’s landmark student data privacy law, referred to as SOPIPA, HF 2354 prohibits targeted advertising to students, the sale of student information, and disclosing certain covered information, among other provisions. Unlike SOPIPA, however, HF 2354 allows for the sale of student data to national assessment providers with parental consent if the purpose is to provide access to employment, scholarships, or postsecondary educational opportunities.

Tennessee Considers Changes to Higher Education Governance: A bill that would change Tennessee’s postsecondary education governance structure is moving through the state’s General Assembly. SB 2259, known as the Complete College Tennessee Act, proposes restructuring the state student financial assistance programs, requiring the Tennessee Board of Regents to manage the state community colleges and colleges of applied technology under a proposed College System of Tennessee. The bill passed the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Tuesday, and has been referred to the Senate Calendar Committee for further consideration.

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Alabama Increases Pre-K Funding: The Alabama State Legislature approved a new budget which includes an increase of $18.5 million towards the state’s First Class Pre-K program. While research showed that students participating in First Class Pre-K had higher math and reading ability than their peers, the state did not have adequate funding to enroll more students. Now, with the increase in funding, the program can support 1,800 more students and can add 100 or more classrooms for instruction.

Arkansas Offers Computer Science Training to Teachers: Due to high demand for the program, Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) announced that an additional $300,000 on top of an already allocated $500,000 will be distributed to 150 more teachers in the state of Arkansas to undertake training modules that will allow them to teach computer science.  According to Hutchinson’s office, 250 teachers have already signed up for the program, and they will be certified to teach computer science in the state once they complete the training modules, as well as the Grade 4-12 Praxis exam.

Teachers Strike in Oklahoma and Kentucky: On Monday, public schools in Oklahoma and Kentucky closed as teachers protested significant cuts in pay, benefits, and school funding. The teachers were inspired by West Virginia educators who striked last month and successfully earned a five percent increase in their wages. With midterm elections coming up in November, educators have become an important constituency in Republican-dominated states where the strength of unions has weakened.

Report Analyzes Student Access to Devices and Internet: The National Center for Education Statistics released a report detailing student access to devices and internet outside the classroom. According to the report, about 94% of children ages 3 to 18 had a computer or smartphone at home, but just 61% had internet access at home in 2015.


Georgia Bill to Assist with College Costs: Lawmakers in Georgia passed legislation that would create the state’s first need-based financial aid program for college students. If Governor Nathan Deal (R) signs the legislation, students from economically disadvantaged families and that do not qualify for Georgia’s HOPE scholarship program would be eligible for grants to attend public colleges. The Georgia Student Finance Commission ultimately has authority over the eligibility requirements for the grant program.

States Rely Heavily on Tuition to Fund Public Universities: Twenty-eight states rely more on tuition revenue to fund public higher education systems than government appropriations, according to a new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). Despite increasing reliance on tuition dollars, state and local funding for public higher education has, however, increased by 2.1% to $94.5 billion for fiscal year 2017. The average amount of state financial aid allocated reached an all-time high of $673, per full-time student.

Relevance of College Courses Influences Perception of Experience: A recent survey released by Strada Education Network and Gallup found that the relevance of college courses to graduates’ current lives influences how people perceive the value and quality of their college experience. Among the 78,000 employed adults polled, 63% were more likely to agree their education was worth the cost and 50% were more likely to agree they received high-quality education, if they feel the courses they took in college are relevant to their job and daily lives.