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9-29-16 Education in the News

The Record--Report: Lobbyists’ efforts focused on health insurance, N.J. budget

The biggest targets for lobbyists so far this year have been the state budget and bills that would affect health care insurance, the minimum wage and paid sick leave, according to a report issued Wednesday by a state watchdog agency.

Out of the bills that have attracted the most attention, only the budget, which lawmakers are required to adopt by June 30, has passed both the Assembly and Senate and been signed into law.

"I think the one thing that this report shows is that it's not that easy to get legislation passed," said Jeff Brindle, executive director of the Election Law Enforcement Commission whose report detailed the lobbyists’ activities. "So many of these items were heavily lobbied and yet no bills have been passed."

"In fact, many lobbyists will tell you that a big part of their job is actually blocking legislation from ever happening," Brindle added.

The report marks the second time the commission has analyzed quarterly lobbying reports to see which bills were commanding the most attention. It did a similar study last year for activity during 2014. Registered lobbyists are required to disclose each bill they are involved with and who hired them to do the work.


By John Ensslin| State House Bureau | The Record


The Record--N.J. lawmakers unveil plan to cut costs of college in N.J.

Legislation aimed at making college more affordable - through increased tuition grants, streamlined loan programs and a greater reliance on community colleges - will be introduced on Thursday, lawmakers said.

An 11-bill package — based on recommendations made by a study commission and released this week — was announced Wednesday at a press conference in Trenton.

Tuition and fees at New Jersey’s public four-year colleges and universities are among the highest in the nation, at an average of more than $13,000.

“We’re going to show people we can reduce the cost (of a degree),” said State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

Reducing the time spent getting a degree — a major factor in increased costs – is the thrust of many of the initiatives, said state Senator Sandra Cunningham, D-Jersey City, who chairs the higher education committee in the Senate.

Toward that end, there is a bill that would encourage more high schools to offer college-level courses so seniors can amass college credits before graduation. Another allows for so called “reverse transfer” policies whereby credits earned at a four-year school could be used to get an associates degree from a community college. And a third provides the framework for a three-year degree.

A number of the bills mandate more cooperation between two-year and four-year colleges. One would allow for a “3 plus 1” degree where students would attend community college for three years, and a four-year school for one.




NY Times--Next Target for IBM’s Watson? Third-Grade Math

The IBM computer platform Watson in 2011 with “Jeopardy” champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Credit Seth Wenig/Associated Press

It knew enough about medical diagnoses and literature to beat “Jeopardy!” champions at their game, and has been put to use in cancer wards. Now, an IBM computer platform called Watson is taking on something really tough: teaching third-grade math.

For the past two years, the IBM Foundation has worked with teachers and their union, the American Federation of Teachers, to build Teacher Advisor, a program that uses artificial-intelligence technology to answer questions from educators and help them build personalized lesson plans.

By the end of the year, it will be available free to third-grade math teachers across the country and will add subject areas and grade levels over time.

“The idea was to build a personal adviser, so a teacher would be able to find the best lesson and then customize the lesson based upon their classroom needs,” said Stanley S. Litow, president of the IBM Foundation.

“By loading a massive amount of content, of teaching strategies, lesson plans, you’d actually make Watson the teacher coach,” Mr. Litow said.



Education Week-- How to Find Evidence-Based Fixes for Schools That Fall Behind

The new federal flexibility in dealing with struggling schools comes with some strings in picking approaches proven to have value

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states and districts significant flexibility in how they turn around struggling schools, as long as the local approaches are backed by evidence. But without support, that flexibility runs the risk of putting smaller or more rural districts at a disadvantage.

"This is a sea change from the highly prescriptive approach to school improvement [under the No Child Left Behind Act] to what can seem like a bit of a Wild West structure under ESSA," said Mike Magee, the chief executive officer of Chiefs for Change, which has created an ESSA working group of 15 experimentally minded state education leaders. "We have potentially unprecedented flexibility in how states address school improvement—but that's just another factor in how high the stakes are."

As states work out how to apply ESSA's new standards of evidence, their quest highlights the need for more research on interventions at schools with a wider array of contexts. The pool of high-quality research on education programs remains relatively small, sporadic, and focused on shorter-term gains for students.


By Sarah D. Sparks | September 27, 2016 | Corrected: September 28, 2016