ESSA Loosens Reins on Teacher Evaluations, Qualifications

Stephen Sawchuk – January 2016

ESSA has eliminated the requirement to use student test scores as a primary measure in teacher evaluations. Education Week examines various state responses to this change. The law also eliminates the Highly Qualified Teacher requirement, mandating that teachers must be licensed as required by the state in which they will teach. There are concerns that these looser rules might negatively affect poor and minority students. In an effort to ensure equitable access to quality educators, states are now required to report out the number of teachers teaching outside their area of certification and those who are inexperienced.
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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.
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In ESSA Implementation, No More Three-Card Monte

Dan Weisberg – May 2016

The New Teacher Project, civil rights and other groups support ESSA’s equity measures. which give states a greater ability to monitor educational equity. Previously, some states formed super sub-groups, combining multiple groups of at-risk students into one large subgroup, effectively hiding the performance of individual groups.
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ESSA: New Law, New Opportunity

Public Impact – July 2016

Public Impact has created a guide for state leaders and policymakers that encourages them to go beyond just meeting ESSA’s requirements to creating an environment of excellence in their schools. They provide four strategies that go one step further than the ESSA mandates: Give teachers higher pay and support, as well as proper preparation and planning times; create a professional turnaround “pipeline” for schools needing improvement; and report on the number of “excellent” teachers.
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Funding Opportunities in the Every Student Succeeds Act to Ensure that All Students are Safe, Healthy and Ready to Succeed

Futures Without Violence – June 2016

Futures without Violence, a health and social justice nonprofit dedicated to ending violence against women and children, has produced a guide explaining how ESSA funds can be utilized to support programs for students who are experiencing or are in danger of experiencing trauma. The guide also highlights school programs from various states that have proven successful for kids with traumatic backgrounds and that can be duplicated by schools using ESSA funds. In addition to pointing out that funds can be transferred to Title I from some of the other Titles, the exhaustive list includes: Title I funds to improve school climate and safety, Title I Part D funds to help transition students from institutions back to school and to provide social services to individuals who will benefit as students from them; Title II Part A grants to train educators in serving students with trauma; Title IV grants to provide students with a safe place at school and to create community learning centers; Title VI funds to benefit Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaskan Natives; and Title IX funds for educating homeless children.
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Why teachers like me support Secretary King’s proposed Title I rules

Ben Mackenzie – September 2016

Ben Mackenzie, a Minneapolis high school ELA teacher, advocates for supplement-not-supplant rules established by the U.S Department of Education under ESSA. Mackenzie notes that teachers need a voice in ESSA implementation, and that teachers at schools with high-poverty populations know that students at these schools are less likely to have the same access to quality education as those in low-poverty schools. The difference in funding, Mackenzie states, leaves students in low-income schools at a disadvantage of $2 billion annually. If ESSA funds replace existing funds for low-income schools instead of adding to those funds, the opportunity gap between low-poverty and high-poverty schools will remain.
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Non-Regulatory Guidance: English Learners and Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Department of Education

This memo from the Dept. of Education provides guidance to states and local education agencies about the education of English learners (ELs). The memo emphasizes the civil rights aspect of EL instruction, and urges the use of funds for ELs to only supplement existing programs (not replace them). It also encourages the use of disaggregated data for ELs with disabilities, former ELs, and long-term ELs (those who have been learning English for five years or more).

The DoE also asks that local education agencies, like districts, provide outreach to adults who influence the education of EL students outside of school, providing them information about opportunities for real involvement in student learning. This outreach might include family literacy and ESL services designed to help parents assist in their students’ education.

The DoE states that English-language proficiency standards are distinct from ELA standards. While the former measures how well students speak, read, write, and understand English, the latter measures their command of the state’s ELA standards. EL student assessments must measure students’ development using the state’s educational standards.

Title III provides funds for teachers to receive high-quality professional development with regard to language for teachers of ELs and all administrators in schools where ELs are enrolled. Title III also includes PD for preschool teachers, and the memo emphasizes developmentally appropriate English language instruction.
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ESSA: Education Department Releases Guidance on Teachers

Alyson Klein – September 2016

Education Week provides an overview of the DoE’s guidance on Title II of ESSA, which specifically recommends support for teachers through every stage of their career. To increase equity in teacher quality, the department provides funds to give monetary perks to teachers who teach at high-needs schools, teach high-needs subjects or teach specific populations; create co-teaching environments, pairing new and experienced teachers in classrooms; and improving working conditions in high-needs schools. To assist in educator development, the DoE suggests alternative teacher preparation programs like residency programs, state academies, mentorship, and principal training. Funds are also provided to construct teacher evaluation systems with multiple measures (and that can take or leave assessments as part of evaluations). States will receive additional support in creating state-wide teacher and administrator prep, though Title II funding will see a drop in the 2017-18 school year of nearly $400 million.
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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.
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A Blueprint for Keeping Homeless Kids in School

Eillie Anzilotti – September 2016

Today, homeless students are conservatively numbered at 1.3 million. In this interview, Barbara Duffield, the director of policy and programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, discusses her belief that ESSA can help improve homeless student’s learning experiences. ESSA creates new provisions so that teachers can undergo training to help homeless and disadvantaged students get the services that they need. However, Duffield argued that “the success of new provisions will depend on how they’re implemented,” holding up as an example a partnership between schools and community organizations in Spokane, WA, which provides families affordable housing close to school and incentivizes attendance.

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The Council of Chief State School Officers and the Aspen Education & Society Program

Eillie Anzilotti – September 2016

This eight-priority framework from CCSSO and the Aspen Education & Society Program offers states advice in as they make decisions about ESSA implementation. These priorities include:

-closing funding gaps,

-improving low performing schools,

-increasing access to effective teachers and leaders,

-supporting English learners,

-increasing access to advanced coursework,

-addressing disproportionate discipline practices,

-supporting social-emotional learning, and

-improving access to high-quality instructional materials.

Of note to educators, the report, which is lengthy but extremely informative, identifies numerous ESSA provisions aligned to each of these priorities. It may be helpful for teacher leaders to examine a specific priority, like supporting English learners, as a way to learn more about how they may lead and advocate for change in their contexts.

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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.

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Ed. Dept Releases Guidance on Early Learning Support in ESSA

Education Week – October 2016

This report from Education Week explains the Dept. of Education’s guidance on funding young learner programs under ESSA. The piece identifies various options for federal funds to be used for young learners including: (1) training early learning teachers, (2) updating and aligning certification and licensing standards for early-childhood educators, (3) providing support and ongoing training to early-learning teachers, and (4) ensuring regular observations of early-learning classrooms to improve teachers’ effectiveness in creating high-quality instructional, social, and emotional climates. The guidance also focuses on new grant programs, which provide funds to improve preschools but also seek to “limit the federal governments’ role in creating the rules that states must follow to get grant dollars.” Education Dive breaks down the guidelines here.

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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.

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