By John Fensterwald
During a presentation earlier this month on how to choose the roughly 300 lowest-performing schools that must get intensive help under federal law, a number struck some members of the State Board of Education like a brick from the sky: 3,003.
That’s the total number of schools in the state — not 300 but nine or 10 times that many — that staff estimate would require at least some form of help based on the school selection criteria that the board was considering.
That massive number is slightly under half of all schools in California receiving federal aid for low-income schools. It underscored the challenge, if not a larger threat, that the Every Student Succeeds Act could pose for the state board by diverting attention and resources from the different strategy of reform that the board is putting into place. That number is why the board called a time out and stripped any reference to the method it will use to select schools needing help — a key element of the state plan for complying with the law — from the revision it sent to the U.S. Department of Education last week.
Source: Federal, state visions for improving schools collide in California | EdSource
By Andrew Ujifusa
The top Democrat on education issues in the Senate says Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has approved state education plans that don’t comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In a Tuesday hearing before the Senate education committee about federal financial aid for college, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., took the opportunity in her opening remarks to say that not every state’s ESSA plan meets the law’s requirements for schools with struggling student subgroups.
Addressing Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman, DeVos said, “If the department is today ignoring the agreement we made in the law and just choosing to implement whatever it feels like—which I believe they are in their approval of state plans so far—then this committee needs to hear from the secretary directly about how she intends to follow the laws that Congress agrees to.”
Source: DeVos Has Approved ESSA Plans That Flout Federal Law, Top Democrat Says – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Andrew Ujifusa
We’ve written a lot about states’ long term goals in their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act. Some of those goals deal with students’ successful transition from K-12 schools to higher education. But the extent to which states are aligning those two systems varies, at least as far as their ESSA plans go.
That’s one general conclusion reached in an analysis of ESSA plans released Wednesday by the Education Strategy Group, a consulting firm that works on college- and career-readiness with state education departments, districts, and education-oriented groups.
The group’s report found that 41 states addressed college- and career-readiness in some fashion in their proposed ESSA accountability systems. However, just 17 states “directly linked their long-term K-12 goals in ESSA to the state’s higher education attainment goals.”
Source: Do State ESSA Plans Have Strong Connections to Higher Education? – Politics K-12 – Education Week
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that he has appointed Barbara Murchison as Director of the California Department of Education (CDE) Professional Learning Support Division.
Murchison will oversee the division’s efforts to support educators throughout their professional career, from recruitment to leadership opportunities. This division works in collaboration across the Department and the state, helping educators implement the California Standards and curriculum frameworks.
It administers several professional learning programs for educators at all levels and in all content areas, including science, technology, engineering, math, history-social science, literacy, and arts, with the goal of ensuring equitable learning opportunities for the state’s most vulnerable students, including English learners.
Murchison most recently served as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Lead, where she helped create a plan that meets federal requirements while shifting away from top-down decision-making and toward local control that helps local school districts better meet their own needs. The plan was developed over 18 months with input from thousands of Californians.
Source: New Professional Learning Support Director – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)
The State Board of Education today approved a plan for using federal assistance that upholds California’s commitment to the ground-breaking educational reforms of the Local Control Funding Formula.
Every state that receives federal funding to support low-income students and English language learners is required to submit an Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the U.S. Department of Education. Several states submitted their plans earlier this year, while California and more than 30 other states will be submitting their plans on September 18.
The plan—essentially a grant application—allows each state to make a case for how it will utilize and manage federal dollars.California’s ESSA plan meets federal requirements while ensuring the state retains maximum flexibility to continue its shift away from top-down decision-making and toward local control that allows local school districts to better meet local needs. The plan was developed over 18 months with input from thousands of Californians.
“With the ESSA plan, we believe we have achieved the right balance between meeting federal requirements and focusing on our state priorities that will help prepare all students for college and careers,” said State Board President Michael W. Kirst, a Stanford University professor emeritus. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education as our application moves through their process.”
Source: State Board of Education Approves ESSA Plan – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)
By Michael Kirst
California is fast approaching the September 18 deadline to submit its draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the federal government. This plan – essentially a grant application – allows California to makes its case for utilizing federal funds to assist low-income students across the state.
Our plan meets the federal government’s requirements while affirming California’s commitment to local control that allows teachers, principals and superintendents to meet the needs of our diverse students.
However, it is shortsighted to judge California’s efforts to improve outcomes for all students by the draft plan alone. California has a much bigger plan: the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, which has been developed over years with input from thousands of Californians and youth advocates. The Local Control Funding Formula empowers parents, students, teachers and community members to recognize inequities and develop and implement programs that meet the needs of all students.
Source: California’s education plan affirms commitment to local control | EdSource
By Richard Bammer
A little help is on the way for Solano County’s homeless students.
The County Office of Education has been awarded a grant of nearly $38,000 by the California Department of Education to aid homeless students. Superintendent Lisette Estrella-Henderson made the announcement in a press release late last week.
She said training will be offered to local school districts to increase awareness among school staff countywide and to make sure consistent, effective practices regarding the identification of homeless students and knowledge about the kinds of resources available to meet their needs.
Homeless public school students are defined under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a federal law originally passed in 1987 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2016. The purpose of the act is to guarantee that homeless students have the same access to education as other students.
Source: SCOE lands grant to help homeless students
By Alyson Klein
When the Every Student Succeeds Act passed, one of the things that educators were most excited about was the chance to cut down on the number of tests kids have to take, Specifically, the law allows some districts to offer a nationally recognized college-entrance exam instead of the state test for accountability.
But that flexibility could be more complicated than it appears on paper.
Here’s a case in point: Oklahoma, which hasn’t finalized its ESSA application yet, has already gotten pushback from the feds for the way that it had planned to implement the locally selected high school test option in a draft ESSA plan posted on the state department’s website. In that plan, Oklahoma sought to offer its districts a choice of two nationally recognized tests, the ACT or the SAT. Importantly, the state’s draft plan didn’t endorse one test over the other—both were considered equally okay.
Source: ESSA’s New High School Testing Flexibility: What’s the Catch? – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Andrew Ujifusa
The U.S. Department of Education has issued new requirements for how school improvement strategies under the Every Student Succeeds Act must rely on various levels of evidence.
As our colleague Sarah D. Sparks reported Sunday, the department laid out the rules that apply to school improvement and other activities under ESSA. Among other key provisions, the rules would require evidence linked to various strategies to be “relevant” to the students or groups of students identified for additional support—in other words, that the strategy has been shown to help them.
In addition, a state or district would need to show that the strategy it’s using to improve a school matches the parameters of a study showing that strategy’s benefits.
Source: DeVos Team Clarifies Rules for Evidence in ESSA School Turnaround Plans – Politics K-12 – Education Week
The recently submitted state plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) show that chronic absence is gaining traction as an indicator of school quality and student success. As this chart shows, the majority—14 out of the 17 officially submitted ESSA plans—includes some variant of chronic absence as an accountability indicator and many other states with plans in preparation seem likely to follow suit.
Attendance Works is excited by the opportunity that the increased focus on chronic absence provides because it has the potential to increase student achievement substantially. We now know that excessive student absences are a proven, widespread, and consequential problem in American schools. National data from the Office for Civil Rights shows that at least 6.8 million public school students missed 15 or more days of school in 2013-14, and it affects at least 89 percent of the nation’s school districts. Several high quality research studies show that the impact of chronic absence leads to lower achievement, disengagement and often dropout. Yet chronic absence can be reversed and, when attendance improves, student achievement is likely to improve.
Source: Making the Most of Attendance Indicators – Attendance Works Attendance Works
By Andrew Ujifusa
We need to talk about those goals.
The long-term targets states have put forward in the Every Student Succeeds Act have gotten a lot of attention, positive and negative. What’s a goal? Think about things like 75 percent of students scoring proficient in English/language arts in 13 years, or getting a certain share of kids to graduate on time in eight years.
But there’s something else you should know here: In several situations there may not be any consequences for missing these big targets.
Let’s focus on districts first. Under ESSA, if a district falls short of reaching a goal on any particular indicator, nothing has to happen to that district. By contrast, under the No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA’s predecessor, the adequate yearly progress targets applied to both schools and districts.
And what about schools? Nevada plans to use its goals two different ways in school accountability. They want to use them when identifying schools for interventions, and for awarding overall points in school ratings. But there’s nothing forcing states to incorporate goals directly in this sort of way into ratings and other policies impacting individual schools.
Source: What Happens if Schools and Districts Miss New Academic Goals? Maybe Nothing – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By John Fensterwald
After much talk and testimony at a nine-hour meeting, the State Board of Education made modest changes last week to its draft of the state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Board members are confident the plan will soon be ready to pass along to the federal government for approval. Members of a coalition of two dozen civil rights and student advocacy organizations said the changes will do little to improve a plan that’s still vague and weak.
“After months of feedback and engagement, the current plan still doesn’t address the core issues that we know are absolutely essential to support high-need students,” Samantha Tran, senior director of education programming for the nonprofit Children Now, wrote in an email. “The state seems to be abdicating an essential civil rights role, and it’s disheartening.”
Source: State board, advocacy groups fundamentally disagree over plan for complying with federal education law | EdSource
By Claudio Sanchez
The new federal education law is supposed to return to the states greater control over their public schools.
But judging from the mood recently at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States, the states are anything but optimistic about the future, or about the new law.
The apprehension reminded me of the 1989 education summit convened by President George H.W. Bush. Back then the goal was to persuade governors to adopt a set of national education goals. All but a couple of states bought into the idea of “systemic change” with support from the federal government.
Source: On Education, The States Ask: Now What? : NPR Ed : NPR
By John Fensterwald
With only two meetings left before a mid-September deadline, the State Board of Education is feeling the heat to make progress on the state plan for the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Two of the unsettled issues the board will delve into this week are the criteria for choosing the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools needing assistance and a framework for a coherent system of oversight and assistance in a state with nearly 1,000 school districts and more than 10,000 schools.
In lengthy letters, civil rights and advocacy groups in particular criticized the school selection methodology as seriously flawed. They also called for more details on how assistance would work, who’d provide it and for clearer expectations and benchmarks of progress. A lot of changes are needed in the next 60 days, before submission to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to make a credible plan, they said.
Source: State board faces deadline, tough decisions on new federal law for improving schools | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
Four years ago, eight California schools districts that banded together in a nonprofit organization called CORE received federal permission under the No Child Left Behind Act to create their own school accountability system. Now the districts want the state’s permission to continue their experimentation with measurements of student growth, school climate and high school readiness. And CORE wants to let potentially dozens of other California districts participate in their work.
That may not happen, at least not anytime soon. In a letter last month, Karen Stapf Walters, the executive director of the State Board of Education, was skeptical of granting CORE’s request for special status as an “Innovation Zone” under the state’s accountability plan and called the idea “premature.” As a result, there is no plan to place CORE’s proposal on the agenda of the July meeting of the state board.
Source: State officials cool to school districts’ request to become ‘Innovation Zone’ | EdSource
By Carolyn Jones
Schools that offer dental care, mental health counseling, food assistance and other services have a significant and measurable positive impact on student achievement, according to research released this week by the Learning Policy Institute and the National Education Policy Center.
The 26-page brief, “Community Schools: An Evidence-based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement,” found that schools that collaborate with nonprofits and government agencies to provide extra on-campus services in many cases showed increases in attendance, graduation rates and academic achievement, especially in math and reading.
Source: Students perform better at schools offering extra services on campus, study finds | EdSource
By Freddie Allen
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to make misleading statements about Common Core State Standards, muddying the waters for school districts working to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law on December 10, 2015, reauthorizing the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). According to the U.S. Department of Education, ESSA includes provisions designed to advance equity in education by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students; requires that all students in America be to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers; helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators; ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards; and sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool.
Source: Trump Administration Takes on Obama’s Education Law – New America Media
By Andrew Ujifusa
Federal lawmakers have agreed to relatively small spending increases for Title I programs to districts and for special education, as part of a budget deal covering the rest of fiscal 2017 through the end of September.
Title I spending on disadvantaged students would rise by $100 million up to $15.5 billion from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2017, along with $450 million in new money that was already slated to be shifted over from the now-defunct School Improvement Grants program.
And state grants for special education would increase by $90 million up to $12 billion. However, Title II grants for teacher development would be cut by $294 million, down to about $2.1 billion for the rest of fiscal 2017.
The bill would also provide $400 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, also known as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Title IV is a block grant that districts can use for a wide range of programs, including health, safety, arts education, college readiness, and more.
Source: Budget Deal for 2017 Includes Increases for Title I, Special Education – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Alyson Klein
One of the big goals of the Every Student Succeeds Act was to give districts way more control over their federal funding, in part by creating a new block grant—aka the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants or Title IV. Under the law, districts can use the money for a whole smorgasboard of things: student safety, dual enrollment, dance instruction, training teachers to use technology, hiring school counselors.
And the funding—a whopping $1.6 billion—was supposed to flow to districts through a formula, meaning that pretty much every district in the country would get a piece of it. The districts would have serious latitude in deciding the dollars are spent.
It may not quite work out that way—at least not this year.
Lawmakers are seriously considering turning Title IV into a competitive-grant program at the state level, at least temporarily, sources say. In fact, multiple sources consider the possibility of a competitive-grant program more likely than not this year.
Source: States May Get to Run Competitions for ESSA Block Grant Money – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Andrew Ujifusa
Although he’s made headlines recently for controversial comments not directly about schools, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa has also made waves for introducing a bill that would dramatically reshape K-12 and education policy. That’s House Resolution 610, and it would create federally backed vouchers for students.
We wrote about the bill earlier this year. The Choices in Education Act of 2017, the in-plain-English name of the bill, would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main K-12 law, of which the Every Student Succeeds Act is the latest version. It would create vouchers funded by Washington for parents to use at private schools if they chose to do so, or to use for home schooling their child. Under King’s legislation, the federal government would fund those vouchers through creating block grants for states.
“As the spouse of a former Iowa teacher, I understand that it’s the right thing for our children to take their education decision[s] out of the hands of the federal government and put it back in the hands of parents who know how best to meet the educational needs of their students,” King said in a statement last year about a similar bill he introduced in 2016.
Source: Here’s What You Should Know About That Voucher Bill From Rep. Steve King – Politics K-12 – Education Week