It’s a critical time particularly for states, as leaders are scrambling to finalize the ESSA accountability plans for their state. This year, there’s a particularly large number of new policymakers coming on board, which has many advocates and district leaders on edge. In prior years state policymakers had some room to get up to speed, but on the first day of their jobs last month, they had an extraordinary set of challenges in how to turn around their lowest-performing schools, allocate funding, retool evaluation systems. Read Education Week’s feature on this year’s freshman class of state leaders and the rest of the week’s top stories in K-12 and higher ed below.

Steep Learning Curve on K-12 as State Leaders Take New Seats
Half the country’s state legislatures have at least one new education committee chairperson this year, and a quarter of state schools chiefs are less than a year on the job. According to Education Week, 10 out of 51 state chiefs have no classroom experience. Those new to the job have a steep learning curve and little margin for error. Read more

Interactive Tool Highlights States’ Personalized Learning Plans
Many states have already submitted plans ahead of the first deadline for ESSA. KnowledgeWorks has launched an online, interactive resource that highlights some of the ideas that different states are considering, from assessment strategies to long-term goals to supporting educators. Read more

Big Data Helps Struggling Students Graduate
Georgia State University researchers say they’ve found a tool involving big data that could help low-income and first-generation students do better in college. In their earliest findings, the study showed the number of students graduating has jumped by 30 percent. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a four-year $8.9 million grant to expand their research. Read more

States Are Investing More in Higher Education
Though some states have cut back, budgets overall across the country have allocated an average 3.4 percent more money toward higher-ed campuses this fiscal year. In the 39 states that increased their funds, the amounts covered a wide range from 0.2 percent in Colorado and Wisconsin to 10.5 percent in Hawaii. Read more

New Study Challenges the Myth That Digital Education Costs Less
In a survey of distance education providers, they found that most colleges charge students the same or more to study online. When additional fees are included, more than half of distance education students pay more than those in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Read more

Gender Pay Gap Persists for Higher Ed Administrators
New research shows a stubborn pay gap that has persisted between men and women in the top administrative ranks over the last 15 years. Women administrators at colleges and universities earn 80 cents on the dollar when compared to men, according to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. Read more