PULLMAN: Will Congress repeal annual testing of K-12 students?

BY: Joy Pullman | Heartland Institute

Senate staffers told Education Week a pending reauthorization of No Child Left Behind could include an end to the federal mandate that all students take math and reading tests every year.

Let’s quickly review who would be for and against such a provision.

For: teachers unions, school administrators, other establishment types embedded in the existing system, and lovers of federalism.

Against: civil rights groups, reformey groups on the political Right and Left, data mongers, and the Republican establishment.

That’s not a hard and fast list, but an educated guess based on post-NCLB history. It also indicates the unfortunate unlikelihood that easing back on federal testing mandates will become law, as the folks with the most power within the current ruling class weigh in for annual testing mandates.

Of course, if the feds eased their mandate, states could create their own. In other words, we don’t need a federal mandate for annual tests to remain national policy. The possibilities here are typically lost on establishment types, who prefer to legislate at the federal level because it’s harder to go state-by-state, and because they believe in uniformity and compliance over freedom and diversity.

Another consideration is that annual testing is a hard-won status quo for the Right, who properly insisted that if we must have government-run education, at least parents and the public should be able to see its results. The problem with that argument is that this slight increase in transparency has not meant genuine accountability. We can now know for certain which schools fail to teach even a tenth of their students to read, but that doesn’t mean such schools ever close or improve. So while the right-wing establishment pretends testing equals accountability, the results of this policy prove them wrong.

Perhaps the best argument against federal testing mandates is that there is no authority for federal involvement with education, period. It is simply not legal for the national government to tell states what to do with their schools. Not only that, federal bossypants behavior has not benefitted children. So there really is no point, except to supply and inflate the salaries and egos of the already-upper-income meddlers determining education policy.

It’s time for people to stop using good intentions as their sole justification for federal involvement with education. Ending the federal testing mandate would be a good start.

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Gulf Coast Agency loses funding for Head Start over child abuse incidents.

The Gulf Coast Community Action Agency has lost federal funding for its Head Start Program, according to documents obtained by the Sun Herald.

It is unclear how this will immediately affect the seven Head Start Centers run by the agency. Barbara Courtney, the GCCAA director, did not returned phone calls.

None of the GCCAA board members responded to requests for comments.

“We are taking this action to ensure the health and safety of the children and families served by this agency,” Kenneth Wolfe of the federal Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the program, said in an email. “Our Office of Head Start will make every effort to minimize disruption in Head Start education and services to children and families.”

Board Secretary Valerie Hill, who represents the Harrison County Board of Supervisors on the board, said she didn’t know about the loss of funding.

The letter says funding was terminated because of five child abuse incidents at the Isiah Fredericks and Nichols Head Start centers. It says the GCCAA failed to ensure that it had an effective system in place to prevent staff from using corporal punishment and abusing children.

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Sony leak uncovers AG Jim Hood’s cozy relationship with Hollywood in pushing case against Google.

At the end of last week, TheVerge.com dug up news of Project Goliath, a secret Hollywood project to investigate and discredit Google on issues of copyright and web freedom. But while the documents showed how bad things had gotten between Google and Hollywood, they also showed how eagerly many state attorneys general took up the MPAA’s anti-Google crusade – particularly Mississippi’s Jim Hood. And less than a week after the documents were made public, that eagerness is starting to have real consequences.

Hood has been at the center of many of the recent legal actions against Google in the US, investigating the company for involvement in both pharmaceutical counterfeiting and content piracy, but never assembling enough evidence for concrete charges. But on Tuesday, The New York Times revealed the MPAA may have had more of a hand in his actions than he let on. According to Times documents, a November 2013 letter Hood wrote criticizing Google for aiding piracy was almost entirely copied from text provided to him by lawyers working for the MPAA. In short, Hood’s lips were moving, but it was the MPAA’s approved text coming out.

Other emails show specific requests from Hood circulating among MPAA lawyers. In an email sent on January 16th, a few days before a scheduled meeting between Google and a group of attorneys general, MPAA counsel Vans Stevenson discusses which supporting documents they can provide to Hood and the other AGs in advance.

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Final approval given to raise tuition at Mississippi universities.

Under the plan, Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University would keep tuition flat for the third year. The other six universities would increase charges from 2.5 percent to 5 percent.

Mississippi residents would pay a statewide average of $6,718 for two semesters of full-time tuition and fees, up by $272.

The largest increases would come at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State, which would both raise tuition and fees 5 percent to nearly $7,500 a year.

The board voted on a two-year tuition plan last year. However, the Mississippi University of Women changed plans and asked for an increase of 2.5 percent after originally planning to keep prices flat next fall. Preliminary approval for the plan was granted in November.

Universities say they need more money to increase faculty salaries, cover operation costs and make up for cuts to state aid. Though appropriations to the university system rose by almost $40 million this year, it still remains more than $55 million short of state appropriations in the 2008 budget year. On a per-student basis, aid shrank even more during the recession. Lawmakers have recommended lower funding for universities next year, although universities assumed they would get more money, said Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds.

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Mississippi Board of Education Unveils 5-year Strategic Plan for Public Education in MS

Mississippi Board of Education chairman Dr. John R. Kelly today unveiled the Board’s 5-year Strategic Plan for 2016-2020, which sets the road map for changing the trajectory of public education in Mississippi.

The plan details five goals to improve educational outcomes for every public school student in the state.

“We must commit to bold and brave policy decisions in order to lift Mississippi from the bottom nationally in education,” Kelly said. “What is in the best interests of all students guided every aspect of this plan.”

The plans five goals include:

1. All students are proficient and show growth in all assessed areas

2. Every student graduates high school and is ready for college and career

3. Every child has access to a high-quality early childhood education program

4. Every school has effective teachers and leaders

5. Every community effectively uses a world-class data system to improve student outcomes

The 5-year plan builds upon the Board’s existing priorities of improving literacy, particularly among K-3 students, reducing the dropout rate and improving overall student proficiency. Embedded in the plan is the Board’s full commitment to maintaining Mississippi’s College- and Career-Ready Standards.

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Source: MDE

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Gov. Bryant credited with sparking new advances in environmental technology following BP oil spill.

Gov. Phil Bryant brought a singular oceangoing drone to the Coast on Wednesday for a demonstration of the research and development sparked by the state in the wake of the BP oil spill.

“This is a unique, one-of-a-kind, first-in-this-country, autonomous maritime vessel,” said David Brannon, general manager of the National Oceans and Applications Research Center, a nonprofit research and development firm at Stennis Space Center. “It is a collaboration by C&C Technologies and ASV Ltd. of Great Britain and I would like to introduce the chief executive officer of C&C Technologies, Mr. Thomas Chance. He won’t tell you this but I will. He’s the innovator and the technical genius behind this particular design we’ll see today.”

That design was the C-Worker 6, which ASV describes as an unmanned oil and gas workboat.

According to its website, C&C Technologies “provides a wide range of surveying and mapping services for the land and offshore oil and gas industry, the telecommunications industry, and government organizations.”

Brannon said when Bryant “envisioned NOARC,” his idea was to capitalize on the “space to sea floor environmental technologies” the state has to restore the state’s coastal natural resources in the wake of the BP oil spill.

“As you do that,” Brannon said Bryant told them, “you’ll generate new technologies and applications. And we want to extend those technologies into new market areas, specifically capitalizing on emerging and evolving and increasing blue economies in the Gulf of Mexico — specifically marine engineering services for oil and gas operations.”

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#MAEP funding initiative supporters working to “kill” any legislative alternative.

The school funding initiative known as Better Schools, Better Jobs could be on the ballot with a legislative alternative, according to Patsy Brumfield, Better Schools, Better Jobs communications director.

Initiative officials have said they fear an alternative could end up being bad news for their attempts to fully fund education by causing confusion among voters and splitting the vote.

Brumfield appeared before the Hattiesburg American’s editorial board Wednesday, along with superintendents and other officials from school districts in Forrest and Lamar counties.

Better Schools, Better Jobs is a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee adequate funding of K-12 education in Mississippi. More than 200,000 signatures were collected and about 122,000 were certified, qualifying the initiative for the ballot in November.

Brumfield said the initiative will be presented to the Legislature on the first day of the session in January. She fears lawmakers will propose an alternative to Better Schools, Better Jobs and put a competing measure on the ballot.

“That is our next hurdle,” she said. “Since (about) 1992, five or six initiatives have made it onto the ballot. None has ever faced an alternative. We believe that is just a dirty trick.

“What we are facing now is to kill any alternative.”

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Easing of trade restrictions with Cuba could benefit Mississippi ports.

President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday of plans to loosen the long-standing U.S. isolation of Cuba included a part concerning the expansion of U.S. commercial sales and exports of certain goods.

Items authorized under the pending expansion would include, among other things, “goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs,” according to a fact sheet contained in the White House press release.

While other Americans may be thinking of Cuban cigars, Mississippi State Port Authority CEO Jonathan Daniels is thinking of jobs.

“Between our two ports in Pascagoula and Gulfport, we would be able to serve as a very efficient transport gateway into the Cuban market,” Daniels said. “Ultimately, if we’re going to add another vessel or level of service here, it would have positive economic benefits for both the port and the community.”

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MS Dept. Of Ed officials criticized for deficiencies in application for federal pre-k funds.

Officials who reviewed Mississippi’s (rejected application for federal pre-k funds) noted many deficiencies, including vague statements and an overall lack of evidence and details. The reviewers frequently mentioned that the state did not provide plans to ensure that all students, including English-language learners and those with disabilities, would receive a high-quality preschool experience.

The state was also criticized for its lack of commitment to children in poverty. One reviewer noted that only 2 percent of children in poverty were served by the state-funded preschool program in 2014, and only 5 percent will be served in 2015. Unlike in states such as Tennessee, low-income children are not prioritized in Mississippi’s program, although some funding from the grant would have targeted low-income children.

On Thursday, Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, responded to the critiques in a statement. “We are very disappointed that Mississippi was not awarded the federal Preschool Development Grant but will use the feedback from our proposal to help strengthen our early childhood education system,” Wright said. “Mississippi is still in the early stages of offering publicly funded, high-quality early childhood education programming. We remain fully committed to expanding access to these programs for all children.”

Governor Phil Bryant also issued a statement last week in which he called the loss of funds “unfortunate” and lauded the work of current preschool groups in Mississippi, which he said “are already showing positive student outcomes in the state.”

The reviewers noted that if Mississippi wants federal funds for preschool, it must first develop the “necessary infrastructure and capacity for scaling up a sustainable preK program.” Reviewers also detailed deficiencies in Mississippi’s training and preparation for preschool teachers. Although the state proposed a plan to increase education requirements for preschool teachers, reviewers noted that the plan “appeared to emphasize the quickness of acquiring credentialed individuals” rather than “the quality of the individuals’ preparation for their jobs.”

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Rep. Joe Warren to end 36 year career as legislator.


State Representative Joseph L. “Joe” Warren (D- Dist. 90) said he will not seek re-election in 2015.

Warren, a Mt. Olive native, was first elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1989, serving his first legislative session in 1980.

“People have been real good to me, and I have been blessed,” said Warren of his 36 years representing Covington, Jefferson Davis, Simpson, Marion and Forrest counties.

Warren is the chairman of the Local and Private Legislation Committee for the House, and he serves on the Appropriations; Compilation, Revision and Publication; Constitution; Education; Judiciary, Division B; Public Utilities; and Rules committees.

Although Warren will not return to the Capitol after the 2015 legislative session, he said he is running for Chancery Clerk in Covington County.

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