Allendale County’s school district sits in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, in an impoverished, rural region near the coast known as the “corridor of shame” for the chronic poor quality of its education system. Until recently, three of the district’s four schools were considered among the lowest performing in the state.
But after an assist beginning more than a year ago from the state—which is working to rebrand the area as the “corridor of opportunity”—two of those schools made it off the state’s list of the lowest performers….
Read full articlehere. May require subscription to Education Week.
By Elizabeth Primas, NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign Program Manager
States are in the driver’s seat when it comes to improving their struggling schools. But how can we make sure they’re not taking the “path of least resistance” when it comes to this important work, risking the academic prospects for students of color.
Building on the work done by Bellwether Education Partners, which conducted independent peer reviews of all 50 states’ and the District of Columbia’s ESSA plans that were required to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education for approval, the Collaborative for Student Success analyzed plans to see which states are taking advantage of new-found flexibility regarding equity in education. The new report, Check State Plans: Promise to Practice, found that just 17 states met its threshold for even having enough public information to review. The report notes that the results are “sobering” in that “more than 9 million students attend schools that do not meet anyone’s standard for what is acceptable.” This is particularly acute for students of color and who come from low-income families.
The fact is, achievement gaps between white and black students exist. We see this time and again in the National Assessment of Education Progress as well as on individual states’ annual assessments. Students who attend inner city public schools tend to fare worse than their peers in suburban public schools. The gaps are even more pronounced when we look at private schools that draw privileged students away from city institutions. These racial divides segregate communities.
A report from the Young Invincibles examines these divides and developed three main findings: (1) minorities disproportionately enroll in for-profit and community colleges, which can condemn them to a vicious cycle of debt; (2) college costs hit minority students harder than their white peers; and (3) the achievement gap is racially divided. While 36.2 percent of white students completed four years of college in 2015, just 22.5 percent of black students could say the same, according to the analysis. While that’s much better than the 1974 numbers in which just 5.5 percent of black students finished four years of college compared to 14 percent of white students, that progress leaves little cheer.
State education chiefs and their in-state partners at teaching and research institutions plus educators on the front lines have a real chance to make a difference for black students and other minorities. But do they have the courage to make the necessary changes?
The Collaborative’s report is a good starting point, and it provides a roadmap written by education and policy leaders who are displaying the courage necessary to create bold plans that prioritize equity. Low-performing schools must be identified as such and be given real plans with real accountability measures to improve. There have to be consequences for students who don’t make the grade, but for too long, our education system as a whole has punished students by not giving them the tools they need to succeed. We have to look at the institutions and root out systemic problems.
As such, the Promise to Practice reviewers evaluated state plans based on a rubric that included whether the state has a coherent vision for improving student outcomes, whether there is a strategic use of funding and alignment of resources, the use of evidence-based interventions, and how well state leaders engaged stakeholders. That last component is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of ESSA – federal lawmakers required states to gather input from a wide range of groups outside of traditional education. Civic groups, business leaders, parents and community activists were given a seat at the table.
We watched excitedly as several NAACP groups got involved from the very beginning, helping policy and lawmakers understand community and even neighborhood needs for the betterment of students. Still, it disheartening to learn that just 17 states are ready to identify and provide the kinds of supports that low-performing schools require. Other states can look at Colorado, which has developed a clear menu of school improvement items for districts to choose from, or Nevada where districts have to describe how their strategies for addressing equity gaps in funding applications. Nevada is also using equity-oriented data like behavior and attendance to understand schools’ challenges.
There’s so much anger and divisiveness in our society today, but the importance of education equity should be among the things on which we can all agree. Every single student in every single school, no matter where that school is located or what kind of home life the child has, must be given the tools and knowledge to succeed. We shouldn’t have to fight for this right – the right to an education. And yet we find ourselves year in, year out looking aghast at assessment scores that prove achievement gaps are still there. Thought-provoking analyses like that done by the Collaborative for Student Success will help close those gaps until they are well and truly gone.
Elizabeth Primas is an educator who spent more than 40 years working to improve education for children. She is the program manager for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign. Follow her on Twitter @elizabethprimas.
By Lynette Monroe (Program Assistant, NNPA ESSA Public Awareness Campaign)
Dr. Tiffany G. Tyler is the president and CEO of Communities in Schools (CIS) Nevada. CIS creates school-based strategies for improving the academic outcomes of students by addressing their basic needs. This work centers on helping school leaders understand the needs of their school populations apart from over-simplified ethnic and income categories.
As a former high school dropout, Dr. Tyler used the motivation from the birth of her first son (she said she didn’t want her son to “have a dropout as a mom.”) to propel her to the highest levels of academia, as an education psychologist. While studying for her dissertation, she happened upon a report detailing circumstances that contribute to student dropouts, as well as preventative practices that retain enrollment. She uses her experiences as a former beneficiary of many of the services she now provides to inform her role as chief Advocate.
“Having the benefit of people, over the course of my return to school, who not only encouraged me to continue my education, but helped in many ways, I now have the opportunity to pay it forward every day,” Dr. Tyler said, speaking of her daily motivation to make a difference.
Dr. Tyler said that her primary responsibility is to shepherd the vision and mission of the organization: to provide children with the resources and support they need to not only graduate, but to lead a successful life. Communities in Schools operates in South Nevada, encompassing 50 schools in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, Marshall County, and Elko County. An impressive 66,720 K-12 students benefit from the integrated services provided by CIS, yet the need still outweighs access to resources.
Dr. Tyler believes in the power of the work, but also in the power of action. In order to really move the needle on reducing dropout rates she believes we need everyone at the table; not only to discuss the challenges faced, but to also develop a course of action for moving forward. Dr. Tyler is consistently looking to partner with stakeholders and other like-minded organizations to bring more assets to schools. She serves as the co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Services Citizens Advisory Committee in Clark County and maintains board memberships on a number of organizations in the community.
The Every Student Succeeds Act, memorializes integrated support services as a successful practice and allows federal use of resources to be leveraged to provide more resources to communities. For the first time in federal education policy, integrated support services are explicitly noted as an allowable intervention for funding and noted as a strategy that districts and states can employ or use to turn around underperforming schools. ESSA recognizes that family and student support play a key role in improving academic outcomes for students.
Dr. Tyler encourages educators to uphold principles like equity, social justice, and community that transcend any one administration. Principles such as these are at the core of legislation like ESSA. Furthermore, parent engagement is a crucial part in ensuring student success.
Parents should see themselves as partners. Parents should show up and share their vision for their children; what they see as their child’s strengths and how they would like to partner in assisting with their challenges. Parents should advocate for what they perceive are their needs.
Dr. Tyler charges parents to get informed about the policies that directly impact their household and remain consistent in their engagement to ensure staff accountability.
Lynette Monroe is the program assistant for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign and a master’s student at Howard University. Her research areas are public policy and national development. Follow Lynette on Twitter @_monroedoctrine.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a big cheerleader for school choice. And way before she came into office, states around the country were adopting tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, and more.
So has all that translated into a big bonanza for school choice in states’ Every Student Succeeds Act plans? Not really.
To be sure, ESSA isn’t a school choice law. School choice fans in Congress weren’t able to persuade their colleagues to include Title I portability in the law, which would have allowed federal funding to follow students to the public school of their choice.
However, the law does has some limited avenues for states to champion various types of school choice options. But only a handful of states are taking advantage of those opportunities, according to reviews of the plans by Education Week and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
School Improvement: At least 12 states say they want schools that are perennially low-performing to consider reopening as charter schools to boost student achievement. Those states are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
The Every Student Succeeds Act is supposed to bring about a big change in school improvement. The law says states and districts can use any kind of interventions they want in low-performing schools, as long as they have evidence to back them up.
But the provision has some experts worried. They’re concerned that there just aren’t enough strategies with a big research base behind them for schools to choose from. These experts also worried that district officials may not have the capacity or expertise to figure out which interventions will actually work.
Districts, they’ve said, may end up doing the same things they have before, and may end up getting the same results.
“My guess is, you’ll see a lot of people doing the things they were already doing,” said Terra Wallin, who worked as a career staffer at the federal Education Department on school turnaround issues and is now a consultant with Education First, a policy organization that is working with states on ESSA implementation. “You’ll see a lot of providers approaching schools or districts to say, ‘Look, we meet the evidence standard,'” Wallin said…
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
…on to our next question, which deals with ESSA funding. It comes from Sarah Boder, the director of policy & affiliate relations at the North American Association of Environmental Education.
Boder wants to know: “What’s the latest timeline for distribution of Title IVA funds to states? Are they able to receive funds as soon as their plans are approved? Do you have any sense of how many states will opt to administer those grants competitively, given the smaller appropriation?”
First off, what exactly is Title IV? And what does Boder mean by a “smaller appropriation”?
ESSA cut dozens of programs in the U.S. Department of Education and combined them into one giant block grant districts can use for everything from safety and health programs to arts education to Advanced Placement course fees. The program was supposed to get about $1.6 million annually, but Congress only provided $400 million for fiscal 2017. To help districts get more bang for their buck, lawmakers gave states the option to compete out the funds. They could also choose to dole them out by formula, with the goal of giving each district at least $10,000…
In 2011, Arizona became the first state to adopt the most flexible school reform yet, an education savings account (ESA) plan. It provides parents who believe their child is poorly served in the local public school with an annual budget they can spend on a wide variety of accredited alternatives—not just private or parochial schools, but tutoring, online academies, special-needs services, and even computer equipment for home schooling.
More recently, five other states have followed Arizona’s lead: Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and just this year North Carolina. Initially these programs were designed to better serve learning-disabled children, but with the realization that most of its students could be educated independently for a fraction of public-school per pupil spending, Nevada authorized a plan open to any of that state’s children in 2015.
To date, Democrats in the Nevada legislature have held up funding for about 10,000 applicants, but nearly all of Arizona’s K-12 children are now eligible for an ESA worth 90 percent of their district’s per pupil spending.
With this history in mind, Marty Lueken, director of fiscal policy and analysis at the EdChoice Foundation, and I decided to calculate how much ESAs could help a financially troubled blue state, where the longstanding alliance of teacher unions and liberal politicians has created per pupil costs that are three, four, and even five times what is needed to independently educate. Our goal was to see how much the taxpayers of Illinois, New Jersey, Kentucky, California, or Connecticut might benefit if just a small percentage of public school families were funded to take charge of their own children’s schooling…
Nine states and the District of Columbia had turned in their state plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act as of Monday evening, according to an Education Week survey of states. One tricky issue states have to address in those plans is how to deal with schools where less than 95 percent of all students take required state exams.
Under ESSA, states are allowed to have laws on the books affirming parents’ right to opt their children out of these tests. But ESSA also requires that states administer these tests to all students with sanctions kicking in if the participation rate falls below 95 percent and meaningfully differentiate schools based on participation rate in some fashion. Just how states address this issue if the participation rate of all students (or a subgroup of students) at a particular school falls below 95 percent is up to them.
The opt-out movement sprang up in the last several years as part of a broader resistance to testing, and has been particularly strong in states like Colorado, New Jersey, and New York…
According to a recent report by Education Week, states have largely ignored a critical mandate of the Every Student Succeeds Act that calls for schools to measure the social and emotional competencies of their students.
“Not a single state’s plan to comply with the federal education law—and its broader vision for judging school performance—calls for inclusion of such measures in its school accountability system,” according to Education Week.
However, advocates for measuring social-emotional learning have said that the current tools need more refinement, before the U.S. Department of Education weighs in.
“Existing measures of social and emotional development, which largely rely on students’ responses to surveys about their own character traits, are not sophisticated and consistent enough to be used for such purposes, they have long argued,” the Education Week article said.
Even as school districts in Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Ill.; Nashville, Tenn.; Oakland, Calif.; and Sacramento, Calif., are actively engaged in incorporating social and emotional learning into their curriculums, civil rights leaders continue to encourage Black parents to get involved with the implementation of ESSA.
“We have noticed that, under the Trump administration, there has been a shift in priorities concerning the implementation of some practices of ESSA, since its inception in 2015,” said Elizabeth Olsson, a senior policy associate for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “However, state and district officials still have to comply with the law.”
Olsson continued: “The U.S. Department of Education needs to make sure that it continues to scrutinize state programs to ensure that states are recruiting effective educational strategies, reducing practices that push students of color out of school systems, and identifying support programs, including professional teacher development and funding for alternative classes, like restorative justice.”
Olsson said that restorative justice programs really help get to the root of student behavior.
Liz King, the senior policy analyst and director of Education Policy for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that there are still a lot of open questions about how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is going to implement ESSA.
Earlier this year, after a hearing with a House Appropriations subcommittee, DeVos was roundly criticized by the civil rights community, when she seemed to endorse a state’s right to discriminate against children.
During the hearing, when Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) asked DeVos, if her Education Department would require states, like Indiana, to end the practice of funding schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ students and families, “DeVos didn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Slate.com reported. “She just smiled and stuck to the generations-old cover for violent oppression in America. ‘The states set up the rules,’ she said. ‘I believe states continue to have flexibility in putting together programs.’”
King called those comments “deeply concerning.”
King continued: “What we need to hear from the president and the secretary of education is a commitment to the law, the Constitution, and the rights of all children in the United States, focusing particularly on historically marginalized students.”
King said that the biggest difference between the way that ESSA was handled during President Obama’s administration versus the way the law is being handled now is the commitment to protect the civil rights, dignity, safety and respect for all children in this country. King added that children feel less safe and feel like their rights are being taken away, under the Trump Administration.
In a letter to Senator Patty Murray (D-Was.), DeVos claimed that the way that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) handled “individual complaints as evidence of systematic institutional violations,” under the Obama Administration, “harmed students.” DeVos also promised to return OCR to a “neutral, impartial investigative agency.”
The Education Department has approved ESSA state plans from Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont.
As minorities continue to enroll in schools across the country at higher rates than their White peers, King said that parents and community members need to act now to make sure that the myriad needs of students of color are fully addressed in ESSA state plans, that includes access to advanced English and math courses and addressing the disparities that exist between how Black students are disciplined compared to White students.
“We have to address the issue of ESSA now, because decisions that are being made will have consequences for years to come,” King said. “One thing that is important to remember is that the implementation of ESSA does not happen in a vacuum.”
King continued: “ESSA is the opportunity for parents to work together with various coalitions, the press and grassroots organizations to shape the way the educational system will look for their children and for their futures in their own states.”
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have now submitted their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act, and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team are ready to examine the dozens of plans submitted by the second deadline last month.
Thirty-four states and Puerto Rico turned in their ESSA plans in September and October. (The official deadline for submitting plans was September 18, but hurricane-ravaged Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Texas got extensions). And all of those plans have now been deemed “complete” by the feds. That means the plans aren’t missing key details, at least according to the department’s initial review…