Keansburg School District

Weekly Roundup - January 8, 2016

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Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation


ESSA: Digging Through the Details

Body President Obama’s recent signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) marks a monumental day for educators and students. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is fading into a thing of the past, and educators are gearing up for fresh starts under ESSA. NCLB waivers expire on August 1, 2016, and ESSA will be implemented as the law of the land beginning in the 2017–18 school year. But during the next year and a half of transition time, all hands are needed on deck to truly realize the full potential of this new law, which transfers a substantial amount of authority to state and local leaders. Educator voice in shaping successful implementation of ESSA will be crucial moving forward.

How does ESSA differ from NCLB? ASCD will continue to examine ESSA’s key provisions and provide the resources you need to best understand the new law—such as this newly updated chart (PDF) that compares ESSA to NCLB on issues including standards, assessments, and federal education funding.

This week, Capitol Connection tackles teacher preparation and educator support, school accountability, and well-rounded education.

Teacher Preparation and Educator Support—ESSA recognizes that the learning and development of educators is essential to building their capacity to help students succeed, and it includes new provisions aimed to help educators grow. The law expands the definition of educator professional development to better support all school staff, including paraprofessionals. Under ESSA, the federal highly qualified teacher requirements are removed, although educators must still comply with state certification and licensure policies. ESSA also eliminates the NCLB waiver requirements for teacher evaluations—but it stipulates that if Title II funds are used for evaluations, multiple measures must be used to assess educators.

ESSA expands the allowable uses of Title II funds to cover teacher and principal residency programs and school leader academies. The academies, however, are somewhat controversial due to one interpretation that indicates that they could operate apart from a state’s usual rules and regulations for teacher preparation and could set a lower bar for teachers-in-training, who may be able to bypass state certification requirements. Implementation of this allowable use for Title II funds bears watching.

Accountability—ESSA’s approach to accountability reflects a true political compromise: a diminished federal role combined with a requirement that states establish and hold schools accountable for performance goals for each student subgroup. (For subgroup definitions, see the comparison chart.) ESSA also requires states to expand their accountability systems beyond graduation rates and test scores by including at least one additional measure of school success, such as school climate, student engagement, access to advanced coursework, or postsecondary readiness. ESSA allows states to decide how much weight to give student test results in their accountability systems, as long as academic factors are weighted more heavily than the other factors like school climate.

Based on accountability system results, states must identify the lowest performing 5 percent of schools, those with graduation rates below 67 percent, and those with underperforming student subgroups. Districts are then required to develop “evidence-based” interventions, with the input of teachers and school staff. If school performance continues to lag after district interventions, states are required to take more significant improvement action—but, unlike NCLB’s prescriptive federal approach, states will now determine their own interventions.

Well-Rounded Education—Rather than continuing to authorize individual programs that support a well-rounded education, ESSA creates a block grant that provides formula funding to states and districts. Districts that receive funds under this block grant must spend at least 20 percent of their allocation on a well-rounded academic activity and 20 percent on an activity that supports safe and healthy students, and they may use some funds to expand the use of technology. This means that, although discrete funding streams will no longer be available to support programs such as physical education, district leaders can allocate funds from the block grant according to their schools’ needs, without the hassle of applying for a myriad of grants to support various activities.

ESSA also codifies the existing preschool development grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services to better coordinate and increase access to existing early childhood programs. Finally, some individual programs do survive under the authority of ESSA, such as 21st Century Community Learning Centers (which help support after school activities) and Promise Neighborhoods (a favorite of many federal lawmakers.)

Next steps for ESSA: Rulemaking at the U.S. Department of Education will define some of the more nebulous provisions in ESSA (for example, the “underperforming subgroups” that trigger school improvement activities.)

Next steps for educators: Stay tuned to Capitol Connection for further analysis of ESSA in the coming months. Educator voice will be crucial as states and districts begin to shape new policies under ESSA.

PARCC and Assessment


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