ESSA Cheat Sheet: What’s in the New Testing Regulations?

Alyson Klein – April 2016

Education Week describes the testing rules negotiated by a committee of educators, advocates and experts.

  • States must test students in grades 3-8 in English language arts and math annually and once in high school;
  • States must disaggregate the results to show the performance of the following subgroups of students: English language learners, students with disabilities, low-income students, those in foster care, homeless youths, and military-connected children. Results must also be broken down for various ethnicities.
  • All students state-wide must take the same test by grade, unless the state is piloting a new assessment.
  • States must accommodate English-language learners and special education students as needed.
  • Tests can be in formats other than simply multiple choice. Computer-Adaptive tests (which adjust the level of difficulty based on a student’s responses) are permissible.
  • Districts can offer nationally recognized tests, including the SAT and ACT, to high school students. These tests must be implemented district-wide and cannot be phased-in.
  • States can administer alternate assessments to students with the most severe cognitive disabilities, but it should not exceed 1% of students. States may ask for a waiver to exceed this cap.

Click here to read more.

Six New Transparency Requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act

Alyson Klein – April 2016

While ESSA gives states more decision-making power, its reporting rules also require states to provide more information to the public on how students and schools are performing. States are now required to explain how they’ve formed their accountability systems and student achievement goals, make data easier to analyze, and report on additional indicators, including per-pupil expenditures, teacher qualifications and experience, and data on post-secondary enrollment. With the aim of increasing equity, states must also disaggregate achievement data for additional subgroups, including homeless students, those in foster care, and those in military families, as well as report on English-language learner proficiency. Although this information is intended to help identify low performing subgroups for interventions, there is concern that it will put further strain on states’ already scarce time and resources.

Click here to read more.

What Does E-S-S-A Spell? Opportunity!

Cindy Long – July 2016

NEA Today provides an Opportunity Dashboard, a menu of school quality measures. This can help educators as they are advocating for different types of measures to be included in their state’s accountability plans. The NEA encourages educators to band together to identify the programs and components that must be included in state accountability plans in order to truly put students first.

Click here to read more.

ESSA Law Broadens Definition of School Success

Evie Blad – January 2016

While ESSA’s new requirements for non-academic indicators can increase equity, some worry about unintended consequences. Many of the potential non-academic indicators can be problematic, and data could be manipulated to garner better results. For example, student attendance could be counted on days when more students than usual are expected to be present, and school climate data can be influenced by evaluator perceptions, swaying the results. Some indicators are easier to measure than others, and plans to change a school’s environment can take time, but with much thought and planning, non-academic indicators have the potential to be valuable.

Click here to read more.

7 Tenets for Sustainable School Turnaround

Scott Sargrad, Samantha Batel, Karen Hawley Miles, Karen Baroody – September 2016

The Center for American Progress (CAP) and Education Resource Strategies (ERS) released a report detailing how states can improve low-performing schools under ESSA. The authors highlight turnaround efforts as a high priority because ESSA “gives states greater autonomy” to allocate Title I dollars to these new initiatives. The report recommended seven design changes for state leaders to consider: grant districts and states the authority to intervene in failing schools; provide significant resources to support planning and restructuring and leverage competitive grants; hold districts accountable for school improvement; create transparent tiers of intervention and support combined with ongoing capacity building and sharing best practices; promote stakeholder engagement; create pipeline programs for developing and supporting effective turnaround school leaders; and embed evaluation and evidence-based building activities in school implementation.

Click here to read more.

High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA

Michael J. Petrilli, David Griffith, Brandon L. Wright, and Audrey Kim – August 2016

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute argues that states should have more accountability for the academic improvement of high-achieving students as well as those who fall below proficiency guidelines. NCLB established proficiency as a goal for states and districts, and accountability to that goal has proven fruitful. But while reaching proficiency has burgeoned students nationally, high-achieving students (especially those in low-income areas) have not shown as much improvement. The Fordham Institute has established achievement output goals for districts and states to help high-achieving students build on their successes. To help high-achieving students, Fordham recommends that states incentivize students reaching a high achievement level, monitor for the academic growth of students at all achievement levels, and that states include high-achieving students as a monitored subgroup effecting school ratings. Fordham goes on to rate each state by its current policies encouraging the growth of high-achieving students.

Click here to read more.

Using Multiple Measures to Redefine Success: Six Steps to Make it Happen

W. James Popham – 2016

Seeking to guide teachers in creating accountability processes, Popham establishes a framework for using multiple criteria to evaluate educational outcomes. Popham devises six steps in developing evaluations: 1. Determine what outcomes to measure; 2. Give each outcome a level of importance against the others; 3. Figure out how to measure each outcome, using tests, student self-reporting, or any number of other tools; 4. Rate the efficacy of each evaluation tool; 5. Adjust the weight of the outcome based to the efficacy of its measurement; 6. Create a report for decision-makers.

Click here to read more.

A Roadmap for State Accountability Systems

Berrick Abramson – July 2016

The New Teacher Project’s whitepaper guides states in considering what indicators should be included when building their accountability systems under ESSA. They emphasize a robust dialogue between communities and policymakers. When guiding policymakers, stakeholders should consider the kinds of experiences they would like each student to have and how those experiences can be achieved.

Click here to read more.

How the Every Student Succeeds Act Supports Our Highest-Needs Schools and Professional Development, from a Teacher

Maya Kruger – December 2015

Minnesota teacher May Kruger praises ESSA for its focus on equity and teacher development. Specifically, she applauds the law for retaining annual testing, and requiring states to help their lowest-performing schools and those with low graduation rates. She also discusses the emphasis the law places on professional development and encouraging teachers to take on leadership roles. Lastly, additional funds available through ESSA can be used for support services in schools, which give students a better chance at success.

Click here to read more.

Teacher and School Capacity for Meaningful Learning: Opportunities Under ESSA

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich – June 2016

Schools with fewer resources and capacity are less likely to benefit from outside assistance. This lack of capacity can sometimes result in practices (like teaching to the test or coaching students on the bubble) that might not work best for students. ESSA helps resolve this issue in 3 ways: 1) using multiple indicators (other than assessments and graduation rates) to measure student success; 2) allowing states and districts to determine how they will provide supports; and 3) supporting evidence-based interventions.

Click here to read more.

ESSA Clears Out Underbrush on School Improvement Path

Alyson Klein – September 2016

Education Week provides an overview of school improvement policies under ESSA. While NCLB limited the ability of states and districts to form their own improvement plans for low-performing schools, ESSA gives more leeway for fresh ideas. Schools needing improvement plans would fall into one of two buckets: comprehensive improvement and targeted improvement. Schools that require comprehensive improvement are those that fall in the bottom 5 percent in the state based on test scores, graduation rates and subgroup underperformance. These schools would receive an evidence-based overhaul created by the district and monitored by the district for up to 4 years. Schools that need targeted improvement have subgroups of students who are underperforming. These schools would create their own plans monitored by their districts.

While there is an expectation that schools subject to these plans will be identified for the 2017-2018 school year, the state department has offered its help in forming those plans. Some are worried that schools and districts that are struggling may not have the resources to form or implement an improvement plan, or that teacher or administrator turnover may prevent long-term change. Administrators are still excited at the prospect of providing input into their own turnarounds. The overview suggests that continuous monitoring will prove to be beneficial in any improvement process.

Click here to read more.

Grading Schools: How States Should Define “School Quality” Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

Chad Aldeman – September 2016

The report begins with a strong claim: the systems states use to evaluate school quality are archaic, and have failed to serve as a tool for school improvement. The passage of ESSA presents the opportunity to redesign accountability systems in ways that are simple, clear, and fair.

The report includes a table (10) helpful for considering the strengths and weakness of possible indicators of school quality and success, identifying which indicators are required by ESSA, and which maybe be used as an additional academic or school quality indicator. It goes to to offer advice for incorporateing student achievement and considering student growth as part of accountability.

Interestingly, Aldeman proposes a concrete example of a simple, clear, and fair school rating system, one that employs a creative analysis of state assessment scores paired with in-person school reviews that serve to both “investigate school quality and suggest ways to improve.” Ultimately, the report suggests that test scores, while cheap and reliable, should not be the be-all-end-all of understanding school performance, but instead as a “flag” that may alert education agencies to the need for further support at the school level.

Click here to read more.

Assessment Matters: Constructing Model State Systems to Replace Testing Overkill

Monty Neill – October 2016

FairTest’s report details the ways states can construct new assessment systems under ESSA to “replace testing overkill.” It holds up a model of assessment that emphasizes gathering classroom-based student work as evidence, one that would allow a flexible local assessment plan that can be tailored to address the particular needs and challenges of each district. Finally, the report catalogues example performance assessment systems, including the Big Picture Learning Network and the International Baccalaureate Program.

Click here to read more.

ESSA Indicators of School Quality and Student Success

Chiefs for Change – October 2016

The opportunity to redesign state accountability systems also presents an opportunity to rethink how state curate and communicate important information about schools to families, communities, and students themselves. This report from Chiefs for Change encourages states to carefully consider the available evidence when selecting an additional indicator of school quality, as they are required to do so by ESSA. For educators, the report offers a quick snapshot of some indicators states are considering (4) as well as research to understand each of those indicators more clearly.

Click here to read more.

What’s In a Student Portfolio? Fishman Winners Weigh In On ESSA

Erica Mariola and Evelyn Rebollar – September 2016

ESSA allows for student assessment through multiple data points, and experts have been considering assessment options that include portfolios. In this blog post, Fishman prize winners Evelyn Rebollar and Erica Mariola consider some of the advantages and issues associated with portfolio-based assessments.

Rebollar argues that portfolios give ownership of the learning process to students, who respond positively to the idea of demonstrating what they know. She argues that there should be portfolio pilot programs before schools and districts use them widely, and goes on to explain that when used, schools should monitor the success of pilot participants after they graduate from high school.

While she worries about teacher partiality in rating assessments, she explains that it can be mitigated by assigning teachers to grade portfolios from students at neighboring schools. This has the added advantage of allowing students to present to individuals they do not know.

While agreeing with Rebollar that state tests are confining, Mariola worries that portfolios will not be fairly or consistently graded and that portfolio grades will not be comparable across a state. She also argues that the use of portfolios might undermine the rigor of state standards, leaving students unprepared for life after school.

Click here to read more.

Four ways ESSA will change how schools serve ELL students

Tara García Mathewson – September 2016

This article considers ESSA’s civil rights provisions for English learners, identifying four major impacts on these students. First, the legislation requires states to uniformly identify and service English learners. Additionally, ESSA allows districts the flexibility to use English learner growth (instead of proficiency) as a measure of their academic progress during their first two years in the country. Next, ESSA requires states to include English proficiency as part of their accountability frameworks for Title 1, meaning that there may be additional money to support student who do not speak English. Finally, ESSA reinforced emphasis on subgroup accountability means that schools where English learners are consistently struggling will be targeted for improvement.

Click here to read more.

Students Can’t Wait – ESSA Resources from The Education Trust

This set of resources from The Education Trust empower education advocates to understand ESSA and its accountability measures. With an eye on equity, EdTrust argues that advocates must remain engaged in the development of school accountability plans and explains accountability indicators and important considerations for advocates. While the resources included are too numerous to list here, there are helpful fact sheets on the benefits and dangers of specific accountability measures, including indicators like chronic absenteeism and school discipline, along with another fact sheet on ensuring student equity in school ratings.

Click here to read more.

A Critical Opportunity for Teachers to Inform Education Policy: Guiding Principles for Educators on the Every Student Succeeds Act

Rodel Foundation of Delaware – November 2016

Teachers in Delaware drafted this brief report based on their recommendations in the Rodel Foundation’s Blueprint for Personalized Learning. Here, they present five critical opportunities for teachers to engage with their local and state education agencies as they implement ESSA. As teachers advocate with policymakers on behalf of their students, the teacher-authors of this report recommend that teachers:

1. Advocate for the use of Title II funding to support teachers as they implement student-centered learning approaches in their classrooms.

2. Urge states to include metrics to gauge personalized learning, school climate and safety, and engagement as part of their accountability plans.

3. Advertise the flexibility offered under the new legislation as an opportunity to support struggling schools implement personalized learning approaches.

4. Encourage schools and districts to use Title I and Title IV dollars to prioritize personalized learning and student-centered classroom approaches.

5. Advocate for an increase in educator voice and expertise in decision-making processes at the local and state level.

Click here to read more.