January 20, 2016

Recommendations for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act

By Holly Kragthorpe

The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in December 2015 as the rewrite to No Child Left Behind, is both an opportunity to provide a more equitable education to students and a chance to empower teachers as partners in policy-making.

As the U.S. Department of Education prepares to provide guidance for states and districts on how to implement the new law, Educators 4 Excellence submitted recommendations for ways to ensure teacher voice and student outcomes are prioritized.

Accountability

We applaud the Every Student Succeeds Act’s requirements that states put in place school accountability systems that are based on the performance of all groups of students and that require action whenever a school consistently underperforms for any student group.

We support the legislative requirement of 95% participation rate for state testing and we encourage states and districts to use data to make better decisions to support teaching and learning. This kind of data will only be helpful if the Secretary enforces the 95% participation rate, so we recommend specific rules and accountability to support states in meeting this participation threshold.

Recommendations:

  1.      Uphold the requirement that states cannot mask the performance of historically under-served students by lumping them into super sub-groups. States must take action in schools that are performing well overall, but where subgroups of students are not being served well. Clarify that states cannot measure the performance of a “supergroup” of students in place of individual student groups and that the definition of subgroup in Sec. 1111(c)(2) includes students from each major racial and ethnic group.
  2.          Although the states should be empowered to design their own accountability plans, the Education Secretary should have oversight of interventions for districts where historically underserved students are not making progress.
  3.        Clarify the evidence that states will need to provide to show that their goals are “ambitious” and require “significant progress” toward closing achievement gaps (Sec. 1111(c)(4)(A)) and provide guidance regarding what these goals could look like.
  4.        Clarify that the other indicator of school quality must be disaggregated for each group of students within each school.

Funding

We praise Congress for increasing Title I funding to drive targeted resources to high-poverty populations of students and that portability of funds was avoided. We also commend the provision that Maintenance of Effort funding continues for Title I.

Recommendations:

  1. In order to provide equitable opportunities for students and schools most in need, federal rules should maintain the requirement that Federal funds supplement state funds instead of being used to supplant them.
  2. Rules must not undermine Maintenance of Effort nor should they encourage portability for Title I funds.

Communication

E4E urges the Department to provide clear and timely interpretive guidance to resolve uncertainties while also communicating what is expected of schools both to the schools themselves and to the general public.

 Recommendations:

  1. There should be ongoing communication between states and the Department about Title I implementation in order for education leaders and teachers to have clear and specific guidance around implementation.
  2. The Department should provide clear and timely interpretive guidance for implementing ESSA both to help states and districts serve students and to fulfill its historic role.

School climate 

Schools must create welcoming environments in which all students are supported, respected, and engaged in learning. Unfortunately, in too many of our schools this is not always the case. Members of the Educators 4 Excellence are recommending the following policies to encourage positive school culture through a combination of support, innovation, accountability, and transparency. 

Recommendations:

  1. The Department should provide examples of alternatives to punitive practices for Title I schools in order to prevent pushing these students out of school.
  2. The Department should also outline evidence-based practices for parent engagement and what strong community partnerships look like. This should include relationships with parent-advocacy organizations.

Teacher quality and teacher equity plans

E4E is part of a national coalition called “Teach Strong” that seeks to elevate and modernize the teaching profession. Therefore we recommend that the regulations should ensure that Title I students are taught by strong, effective teachers as measured by multiple indicators.

Recommendation:

  1.  The Department should hold firm on the requirements that if Title II funding is used for evaluations, those evaluations must include multi-measured approaches that include student growth as one component.

Teacher input

The law requires that teachers should be consulted as states create plans to deliver services under Title I.

 Recommendation:

  1.  The state Departments should convene teacher advisory groups to get comprehensive input reflecting the full range of opinions from a diverse group of educators.       

We look forward to a partnership with the Department in implementing the new law and to providing interpretive guidance as state and local leaders embrace new opportunities under the law to better serve students and teachers.

Holly Kragthorpe is the National Policy Manager at Educators 4 Excellence.