ESSA Implementation: ESSA March Madness Will Continue Into April


March 31, 2016

National. See Andrew Ujifusa’s reporting for some thorough 35,000-foot level coverage of ESSA implementation. Using data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Ujifusa reports that “only 10 state legislatures have wrapped up their 2016 sessions.” There are 149 bills that deal with assessment and accountability, big issues with regard to ESSA implementation. The number of opt-out bills introduced this session is about the same as last year.

Illinois. Study shows tutoring to be effective. Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago report that a daily, personalized, in-school tutorial program “has been shown to add up to two years of learning in math over a single school year for struggling high school students.”  The program was originally created by Boston’s MATCH Education. The authors “recommend that school districts throughout the U.S. implement and scale this promising strategy, using Title I funds made available through the December 2015 re-authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

Indiana. Hamlet-esque indecisiveness. When it comes to choosing its statewide assessments in reading and math, Indiana Governor Mike Pence is sure about two things: 1) the state isn’t going to adopt PARCC; and 2) it’s getting rid of its old state assessment, ISTEP. But beyond that, where Pence and other Indiana stakeholders are headed is anybody’s guess.

Iowa. Part 1. Iowa responds to criticisms from civil rights about its school grading system. Iowa has added metrics on achievement gaps to its school report cards in response to criticisms from civil rights groups back in December when the new grading system was rolled out. According to the Des Moines Register, State Education Department Director Ryan Wise “acknowledged the oversight, and personally spoke with black state lawmakers who’d publicly opposed the measure.”  Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines) said: “I appreciate that they were willing to not only talk about it, but to take some of our suggestions and implement them.”

Iowa. Part 2. New assessments? Phys Ed = Fine Arts? Iowa’s Department of Education Director Ryan Wise has kicked off a series of public forums on ESSA implementation. At the first forum, Gary Anhalt, vice president of the Cedar Rapids school board, wants to expand state assessments beyond reading and math and “start looking at creativity, look at collaboration, look at the fine arts, which includes physical education.”

National. LGBT Youth Left Out Of Suspension, Expulsion Reduction Efforts. A new report from The Equity Project at Indiana University finds that “schools suspend or expel LGBT students more often than their heterosexual peers” and that “in order to address the disparity, more data is sorely needed.”  With states making decisions about what data to collect under ESSA, Dan Lossen of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project says he’s “hoping that at least some states will start to collect this information…Because demonstrating that there really is a problem, that’s the first step in seeking a remedy.”

Mississippi. Will ESSA prod Mississippi to scale back corporal punishment?  According to Slate, Mississippi is revisiting some of its barbaric punishment, restraint, and seclusion policies and ESSA deserves some of the credit.  “The Mississippi State Board of Education’s just-unveiled policy—which embraces a form of restorative justice that ‘promotes dignity’ via reinforcing good behavior and trains staff in how to ‘implement de-escalating techniques to defuse potentially violent dangerous behavior’—would represent a huge step forward, as well as an important school-safety victory for the Obama administration,” Slate says.

Tennessee. New law requires state to assign letter grades to schools. Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill into law through which the state will issue A-F letter grades for all public schools. Critics say the grades will be too test-heavy, but the new law actually leaves a lot of room for non-test indicators, saying that grades will be based on schools’ “performance on the Tennessee comprehensive assessment program (TCAP) tests or end-of-course exams, their effect on student growth as indicated by Tennessee value-added assessment system data or data from other measures of student growth, and other indicators of student achievement that the state board finds to be reliable measures of school performance” [emphasis added].

Wyoming. State eyes ESSA as vehicle for high school grad rate improvement. New data show that Wyoming’s high school graduation rate remains below the U.S. average and that the “Equality State” has large graduation rate gaps between minority and low-income students and their more advantaged peers. In response, State Superintendent Jillian Balow announced that Wyoming will set a 100% grad rate goal (“without sacrificing educational standards”) and that this “could be achieved in the future with the help of the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

National. Paper calls for more Title I Targeting, Transparency, and Flexibility. The Hamilton Project’s Nora Gordon published a paper that calls for greater targeting of Title I funds to low-income states and a more streamlined bureaucracy for overseeing Title I at the district level.  Gordon finds that “The siloed structure of SEAs and LEAs, with individual administrative staff positions affiliated with specific categorical programs, poses a major challenge to changing how Title I funds are used.” One solution?: “competitive pilot grants for technical assistance to SEAs and LEAs to convert to simpler and more-flexible forms of compliance.”