2013 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Simmons (12th)
AN ACT RELATING TO AUTHORIZING CREATION OF INNOVATION SCHOOLS AND INNOVATION ZONES FOCUSED ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS IN SCHOOL DISTRICTS; TO AUTHORIZE THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO DEVELOP AN APPLICATION PROCESS AND STANDARDS TO BE ADMINISTERED BY THE LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS; TO AMEND SECTION 37-17-11; MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CONFORM; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) The Legislature finds that:
(a) Local school boards are encouraged to support the expansion of innovative K-12 school or K-12 program models, with a priority on models focused on the arts, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (A-STEM) that partner with business, industry, and higher education to increase A-STEM pathways that use project-based or hands-on learning for elementary, middle and high school students; and
(b) Particularly in schools and communities that are struggling to improve student academic outcomes and close the educational opportunity gap, there is a critical need for innovative models of public education, with a priority on models that are tailored to A-STEM-related programs that implement interdisciplinary instructional delivery methods that are engaging, rigorous and culturally relevant at each grade level.
(2) Therefore, the Legislature intends to create a framework for change that includes:
(a) Leveraging community assets;
(b) Improving staff capacity and effectiveness;
(c) Developing family, school, business, industry, A-STEM professionals and higher education partnerships in A-STEM education at all grade levels that can lead to industry certification or dual high school and college credit;
(d) Implementing evidence-based practices proven to be effective in reducing demographic disparities in student achievement; and
(e) Enabling educators and parents of selected schools and school districts to restructure school operations and develop model A-STEM programs that will improve student performance and close the educational opportunity gap.
SECTION 2. (1) The State Board of Education shall develop a process for school districts to apply to have one or more schools within the district designated as an innovation school, with a priority on schools focused on the arts, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (A-STEM) that actively partners with the community, business, industry and higher education, and uses project-based or hands-on learning. A group of schools that share common interests, such as geographical location, or that sequentially serve classes of students as they progress through elementary and secondary grades may be designated as an innovation zone. An innovation zone may include all schools within a school district. Consortia of multiple districts may also apply for designation as an innovation zone, to include all schools within the participating districts.
(2) Applications requesting designation of innovation schools or innovation zones must be developed by the school district in collaboration with educators, parents, businesses, industries and the communities of participating schools. School districts must ensure that each school has substantial opportunity to participate in the development of the innovation plan under Section 4 of this act.
(3) The State Board of Education shall develop common criteria for reviewing applications and for evaluating the need for waivers of state statutes and administrative rules as provided under Section 5 of this act.
SECTION 3. (1) Applications to designate innovation schools and innovation zones must be submitted to local school boards by January 6, 2013, and annually thereafter, to be implemented beginning with the subsequent school year. Innovation plans must be able to be implemented without supplemental state funds.
(2) Each local school board shall review applications from within the district using the common criteria developed by the State Board of Education. Each local school board shall recommend approval by the State Board of Education of no more than three (3) applications from within each school district, no fewer than two (2) of which must be focused on A-STEM-related innovations and no more than one (1) of which may focus on other innovations. At least one (1) of the recommended applications in each school district must propose an innovation zone, as long as the application meets the review criteria.
(3) The State Board of Education shall review and approve the innovation plans of the applicants recommended by the local school boards. School districts that have applied shall be notified by March 1, 2013, and annually thereafter, whether they were selected.
(4) Designation of innovation schools and innovation zones under this section shall be for a six-year period, beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, unless the designation is revoked in accordance with Section 7 of this act.
SECTION 4. (1) Each application for designation of an innovation school or innovation zone must include a proposed plan that:
(a) Defines the scope of the innovation school or innovation zone and describes why designation would enhance the ability of the school or schools to improve student achievement and close the educational opportunity gap including by implementing a program focused on the arts, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics themes that partner with the community, business, industry, and higher education and use project-based or hands-on learning;
(b) Enumerates specific, research-based activities and innovations to be carried out under the designation;
(c) Justifies each request for waiver of state statutes or administrative rules as provided under Section 5 of this act;
(d) Justifies any requests for waiver of state statutes or administrative rules that are in addition to the waivers authorized under Section 5 of this act that are necessary to carry out the proposed innovations;
(e) Identifies the improvements in student achievement and the educational opportunity gap that are expected to be accomplished through the innovations;
(f) Includes budget plans and anticipated sources of funding, including private grants and contributions, if any;
(g) Identifies the technical resources desired, the potential costs of those resources, and the institutions of higher education, educational service districts, businesses, industries, or consultants available to provide such services;
(h) Identifies the multiple measures for evaluation and accountability to be used to measure improvement in student achievement, closure in the educational opportunity gap, and the overall performance of the innovation school or innovation zone, including, but not limited to, assessment scores, graduation rates, and dropout rates;
(i) Includes a written statement that school directors and administrators are willing to exempt the designated school or schools from specifically identified local rules, as needed;
(j) Includes a written statement that school directors and local bargaining agents will modify those portions of their local agreements as applicable for the designated school or schools;
(k) Includes written statements of support from the district's board of directors, the superintendent, the principal and staff of schools seeking designation, each local employee association affected by the proposal, the local parent organization, and statements of support, willingness to participate, or concerns from any interested parent, business, institution of higher education, or community organization; and
(l) Commits all parties to work cooperatively during the term of the pilot project.
(2) A plan to designate an innovation school or innovation zone must be approved by a majority of the staff assigned to the school or schools participating in the plan.
SECTION 5. (1) (a) The State Board of Education may grant waivers of state statutes and administrative rules for designated innovation schools and innovation zones as follows:
(i) Waivers may be granted under Section 37-17-11, Mississippi Code of 1972;
(ii) Waivers may be granted to permit the commingling of funds appropriated by the Legislature on a categorical basis for such programs as, but not limited to, highly capable students, transitional bilingual instruction, and learning assistance; and
(iii) Waivers may be granted of other administrative rules that in the opinion of the State Superintendent of Education or the State Board of Education are necessary to be waived to implement an innovation school or innovation zone.
(b) State administrative rules dealing with public health, safety, and civil rights, including accessibility for individuals with disabilities, may not be waived.
(2) At the request of a local school board, the State Superintendent of Education may petition the United States Department of Education or other federal agencies to waive federal regulations necessary to implement an innovation school or innovation zone.
(3) The State Board of Education may grant waivers for innovation schools or innovation zones of administrative rules pertaining to calculation of course credits for high school courses.
(4) Waivers may be granted under this section for a period not to exceed the duration of the designation of the innovation school or innovation zone.
(5) The State Superintendent of Education and the State Board of Education shall provide an expedited review of requests for waivers for designated innovation schools and innovation zones. Requests may be denied if the State Superintendent of Education or the State Board of Education conclude that the waiver:
(a) Is likely to result in a decrease in academic achievement in the innovation school or innovation zone;
(b) Would jeopardize the receipt of state or federal funds that a school district would otherwise be eligible to receive, unless the school district submits a written authorization for the waiver acknowledging that receipt of these funds could be jeopardized; or
(c) Would violate state or federal laws or rules that are not authorized to be waived.
SECTION 6. (1) The State Department of Education shall report to the Education Committees of the Legislature on the progress of the designated innovation schools and innovation zones by January 15, 2014, and January 15th of each odd-numbered year thereafter. The report must include recommendations for waiver of state laws and administrative rules in addition to the waivers authorized under Section 5 of this act, as identified in innovation plans submitted by school districts.
(2) Each innovation school and innovation zone must submit an annual report to the State Department of Education on their progress.
(3) The State Department of Education, through the center for the improvement of student learning, must collect and disseminate to all school districts and other interested parties information about the innovation schools and innovation zones.
SECTION 7. After reviewing the annual reports of each innovation school and zone, if the State Board of Education determines that the school or zone is not increasing progress over time as determined by the multiple measures for evaluation and accountability provided in the school or zone plan in accordance with Section 4 of this act then the State Board of Education shall revoke the designation.
SECTION 8. Section 37-17-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-17-11. (1) The State Board of Education, in its discretion, may exempt any school district meeting the highest levels of state accreditation standards, as defined by the State Board of Education, from any compulsory standard of accreditation. However, if the standard of accreditation is an educational policy required by statute, any such exemption shall only be made if specifically authorized by law.
(2) The State Board of Education may grant waivers to districts from the provisions of statutes or rules relating to: The length of the school year; student-to-teacher ratios; and other administrative rules that in the opinion of the State Board of Education may need to be waived in order for a district to implement a plan for restructuring its educational program or the educational program of individual schools within the district or to implement an innovation school or innovation zone designated under Section 3 of this act.
SECTION 9. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2013.