Even though negotiated rulemaking on ESSA implementation doesn’t begin officially for another week, ESSA state March Madness has begun — states continue to move ahead with sweeping changes to their K-12 education systems. Some of these changes (see Arizona) are clearly already at odds with the law, while others (see Connecticut) may or may not be, depending on final regulations and further scrutiny.
National. Multi-state interest in local assessment pilots. Officials from New York, Colorado and Maryland have all told Politico Morning Education they are interested in pursuing local innovative assessment pilots under ESSA. Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe is also “intrigued,” but wants to “weigh applying for the pilot carefully against the state’s existing Smarter Balanced system.” See our thoughts on the potential dangers associated with these pilots here.
Arizona. Arizona Governor signs bill that clearly violates ESSA on local testing in grades 3-8. Last Friday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation allowing school districts and charter schools to pick for themselves what test they will use to assess achievement in reading and math in grades 3-8 from a “menu of options.” ESSA gives states this flexibility for tests required in high school but not for those in grades 3-8. Keep an eye on this one. It’s key to gauging whether ESSA has the types of accountability “guardrails” its supporters envisioned.
Connecticut. New accountability system includes non-academic factors. Connecticut has unveiled a new accountability system that rates schools based on 12 indicators, including “three ways of measuring graduation rates, …achievement on state assessments, post-graduation career preparedness and college enrollment, the percentage of chronically absent students, physical fitness and access to arts.” The Connecticut Department of Education assures that “Connecticut’s new accountability system is well aligned to the requirements for accountability indicators under ESSA.”
Illinois. Were 2015 opt-outs in Northwest Suburban High School District a one-hit wonder? Under state scrutiny, District 214 Superintendent David Schuler said he’s made changes that he thinks will bring opt-out rates down in 2016. “By this time last year we had heard from a lot of parents who were communicating with each other regarding the refusal procedures. We haven’t heard any of that this year.”
Nevada. Going back to provisional teacher licenses: Lower standards? Or needed flexibility? Nevada’s State School Superintendent, Steve Canavero, says the state will go back to issuing provisional licenses, which allow a temporary waiver of teaching credentialing requirements. The state ceased this practice in 2013 to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. Canavero says, “This isn’t suggesting that someone could come off the street and perhaps come into the classroom and teach.” But what would be required in the interim between provisional and full licensure is not so clear.
North Carolina. The Tarheel State pushed on low participation of English Language Learners and students with disabilities on state assessments. State Superintendent June Atkinson said, “I anticipate that a requirement will be to have local school districts address the issue should there be disparities between the number of students and number of tests taken.” Matt Ellinwood, a policy analyst for the North Carolina Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, said: “We want to be involved in trying to make sure that the services are there for that group of students and in fact, that might be the reason why their attendance is lower.”
Ohio. Ohio state teachers union: No limits on local testing time. The Ohio Education Association (OEA) is not waiting for the types of audits its parent union asked for in ESSA to inform time spent on unnecessary or ineffective tests. In fact, they apparently think all tests administered by schools and districts should be exempt from any time limits. While the union head testified to a Senate education committee on March 10 in favor of reducing time spent on testing, OEA is simultaneously circulating an online letter asking that any time limits on testing “be in addition to each district’s current and local student assessment program.”