ESSA Implementation Update: There Is a Season – Turn, Turn, Turn


September 22, 2016

Alabama. School leaders have expressed worries about the state’s new A-F school grading system. Despite having been briefed on the new plan, many school leaders are uncertain as to how their districts will fare or what it takes to get an “A.”   “Though the report cards are being released in December, we have no idea what it takes to hit the target because at this point, that has yet to be shared with us,” said Florence City Schools Superintendent Janet Womack.

Georgia. Georgia’s State Superintendent Richard Woods held an ESSA implementation listening session recently in Muscogee County. Woods: “[W]e can put all the stuff in the world in a school, and without educators that are ready for those innovative, passionate lessons and opportunities, we are not going to utilize the stuff to engage our students and incite their passion.” A “concerned participant”: “Until we put the student as number one and meeting the needs of that student, we will not be successful in improving the education no matter how much we spend.”

Kentucky. U.S. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) spoke to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce about how ESSA assists charter school start-ups: “What the new law helps Kentucky do is it provides some funding for starting up charter schools and provides some support for the biggest cost in building a new school, which is the school building.” Kentucky is one of seven states that does not have a charter school law.

Louisiana. Three members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) held a public briefing where they talked about pre-K, early reading programs, and ESSA. Tony Davis of Natchitoches told the audience – correctly – that ESSA requires a greater focus on the academic performance of student subgroups. Lurie Thomason of Monroe “touted the importance of year-long residencies for incoming educators,” which Davis said are “important not only to the student-teachers but to the educators serving as mentors.”

New York. As reported in Chalkbeat, a New York state civil rights coalition has issued a policy brief that lays out its ESSA implementation recommendations. The report centers on 4 principles: 1) Keeping the emphasis on academics; 2) Intervening in any school with low performance for any group of students; 3) Generating data on teacher and resource equity; and, 4) Including families at all stages of the policymaking process.

North Carolina. North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction has announced another round of public comment sessions on its ESSA plan. NCDPI says it will post its draft ESSA plan on its website no later than October 3rd. Sessions will take place between October 6th and October 25th. If stakeholders cannot or choose not to attend the public comment sessions, they may submit comments in writing on NCDPI’s “Let’s Talk” page.

Tennessee. Republican Governor Bill Haslam made some breathtakingly candid comments on ESSA and the 2016 election to a crowd of business leaders and educators in Memphis. “[Trump’s] total conversation about education has been to say two things: We need to end Common Core — he missed the fact that we passed the Every Students Succeeds Act last year — and we need to open up the environment for more choice in schools. OK, that’s the summation of his conversation about education.”

Texas. The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability has issued a set of proposed changes to the state’s assessment and accountability system. Recommendations include allowing locally-developed writing assessments to substitute for the statewide STAAR writing assessments. It’s not clear if Commission members realize that that recommendation could run afoul of the ESSA statute, which requires the English/Language Arts tests be administered statewide and be the same measures used to assess all students.

West Virginia. West Virginia has announced that it will roll out, in the coming months, a new A-F school rating system that relies heavily on student academic performance as measured against the state’s college and career ready standards. According to news reports, the plan would seem to be ESSA compliant: “Grades are 83 percent based on student performance (55 percent on growth and 45 percent on proficiency), and 17 percent based on nonperformance items, such as attendance, graduation rates and passage of AP or Dual Credit classes.”