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Public forum on ESSA

February 28, 2017 | Filed in Archive

Community feedback sought on concepts to be included in state’s ESSA plan

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents an unprecedented turnaround of federal control of education policy, releasing it back to the states. Designed to “fix” No Child Left Behind, President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law with bipartisan support in 2015, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and replacing NCLB as the federal oversight legislation for education.

HFM BOCES will host a community forum from 6-9 p.m. on Monday, March 13, to gather feedback on concepts being considered for inclusion in New York’s plan to implement ESSA. Parents, students and community members are encouraged to join educators and board members to provide feedback on elements of the plan.

While retaining much of the standards-based language of NCLB, including annual assessments, accountability measures, and systems to support low performing schools, ESSA separates itself by giving the states authority to design these systems instead of the federal Education Department.

To help determine the best response to ESSA’s guiding principles, the New York State Department of Education convened a Think Tank, inviting more than 100 organizations to provide feedback on ESSA and define Characteristics of Highly Effective Schools. This list defines the goal for New York’s ESSA Plan.

A series of regional development meetings in Oct. 2016 considered more than 30 high-concept ideas for inclusion in the state’s plan. Teachers, students, administrators and school board members took part in the meetings, providing significant feedback to the Board of Regents to help refine the state’s plan.

Now it is time for the public to weigh in. Important questions remain regarding school accountability measures and methods, academic standards and assessments, teacher preparation, support for English language learners and improvements for low performing schools. Community voices are important to help craft the plan that public schools will follow for the next several years.

To attend, please RSVP by Wednesday, March 8, to Christine Eaton at HFM BOCES, e-mail: ceaton@hfmboces.org or phone: (518) 736-4681, ext. 4696. HFM BOCES is located at 2755 State Highway 67 in Johnstown, next to Fulton-Montgomery Community College. Directions can be found at https://www.hfmboces.org/directions/.

At the end of the public comment period, the Regents will revise the plan based on the feedback it receives and present it to the Governor. The deadline to submit the final ESSA State Plan to the U.S. Department of Education is Sept. 18, 2017.

ESSA in a nutshell

When Congress finally passed a bill replacing No Child Left Behind, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the resulting Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) significantly loosened federal control over education policy making. While many accountability measures remain in place, states now have greater flexibility and control over how they measure student performance, determine teacher quality and support their low-performing schools.

ESSA takes full effect in the 2017-18 school year, but the New York State Education Department, BOCES and school districts around the state have been working for more than a year to develop the state’s new accountability plan.

On Feb. 7, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to overturn accountability regulations and teacher-preparation programs under ESSA. Introducing the measures, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) said the rules “ran counter to the spirit of the law itself,” which is intended to place more authority in the hands of state and district school leaders.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in a letter to chief state school officers, encouraged them to “continue to move forward” on draft plans for ESSA implementation, saying she remains “committed to working alongside local education leaders” and will “ensure they have the flexibility to craft education plans that make the most sense for the parents and students they serve.”

ESSA requires states to adopt “challenging” academic standards, but stops short of mandating a specific set of standards. States may choose to use Common Core State Standards, but they do not have to. The U.S. Secretary of Education may not force or advocate any particular set of standards on the state.

States must demonstrate that their standards are aligned with entrance requirements for the state colleges and universities and with state career and technical education standards.

Students will still be tested in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and ESSA maintains the federal requirement for 95 percent participation. The data will measure whole schools and different subgroups of students (students in poverty, minorities, special education students, English learners).

ESSA provides more flexibility in the types of assessments states may use. School districts may use locally selected, nationally recognized high school assessments in place of the state-determined test for math, English language arts and science. Special criteria apply for approval of locally-selected assessments. The legislation also allows states to develop and use computer-adaptive assessments at all grade levels for math, ELA and science. These exams adjust the difficulty of questions during an exam based on a student’s response.

For teacher evaluation, NCLB’s “highly qualified teacher” rating is gone from ESSA. ESSA requires all teachers to meet applicable state certification and licensing requirements. However, districts must ensure that “poor and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified or out-of-field teachers.”

ESSA requires states to identify and intervene in the bottom 5% of school district performers, where high school graduation rates drop below 67% and in schools where subgroups are struggling. The difference from NCLB is that states now can devise their own evidence-based support plans.

The federal School Improvement Grant Program has been consolidated into Title I, which helps districts educate students in poverty. ESSA requires states to reserve up to 7 percent of Title I funds to support low performing schools

English language learners are a priority under ESSA’s new regulations. Depending upon how long a student has been in the country, scores are included in schools’ assessment results. In the first year, ELLs need to take the assessments, but their scores will not count toward a school’s rating. In the second year, states need to use some measurement of growth to include the score in the overall score. By the third year, ELL scores are treated like any other student’s.

Additional detail about the Every Student Succeeds Act may be found in the Education Commission of the States publication ESSA: Quick guides on top issues. (http://www.ecs.org/essa-quick-guides-on-top-issues/)

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