What’s the Future of Teacher Evaluation in the ESSA Era?

What’s the Future of Teacher Evaluation in the ESSA Era?

Back during the Obama administration, many states were working to tie teacher evaluation to student test scores, in part to get a piece of the $4 billion Race to the Top fund, or to get flexibility from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Then Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the feds were totally barred from monkeying around with teacher evaluation. So have a ton of states dropped these performance reviews? And what has happened in the ones that didn’t?

So far, six states, €”Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, €”have dropped teacher evaluations through student outcomes, according to the National Council of Teacher Quality. And other states have kept performance reviews, but made some modifications. Florida, for instance, has kept the student-growth measures, but allows districts to decide how they are calculated. More in this story from Liana Loewus…

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How School Choice Can Solve States’ Huge Debt And Pension Woes

How School Choice Can Solve States’ Huge Debt And Pension Woes

By , The Federalist

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…

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Here’s What Key Lawmakers Told State Chiefs About ESSA, Budget

Here’s What Key Lawmakers Told State Chiefs About ESSA, Budget


Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told a roomful of state education chiefs Tuesday that he’ll push to fund the new block grant Congress created under the Every Student Succeeds Act to help districts cover the cost of health, safety, technology programs, and moer. And he said he looks forward to the kind of innovation and change the new law can bring to states.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., also an ESSA architect and the top Democrat on the House education committee, challenged states to develop plans that will look out for historically disadvantaged groups of students.

And Scott told those at the…

Read the full article here. May require an Education Week subscription.

A Lesson for Preschools: When it’s Done Right, the Benefits Last

A Lesson for Preschools: When it’s Done Right, the Benefits Last

Is preschool worth it? Policymakers, parents, researchers and us, at NPR Ed, have spent a lot of time thinking about this question.

We know that most pre-kindergarten programs do a good job of improving ‘ specific skills like phonics and counting, as well as broader social and emotional behaviors, by the time students enter kindergarten. Just this week, a study looking at more than 20,000 students in a state-funded preschool program in Virginia found that kids made large improvements in their alphabet recognition skills.

So the next big question to follow is, of course, Do these benefits last?

New research out of North Carolina says yes, they do. The study found that early childhood programs in that state resulted in higher test scores, a lower chance of being held back in a grade, and a fewer number of children with special education placements. Those gains lasted up through the fifth grade.

The research, published this week in the journal Child Development, studied nearly 1 million North Carolina students who attended state-funded early childhood programs between 1995 and 2010, and followed them through fifth grade. 

They concluded that the benefits from these programs grew or held steady over those five years. And when the researchers broke the students down into subgroups by race and income — they found that all of those groups showed gains that held over time.

“Pre-kindergarten and early education programs are incredibly important,” says Kenneth Dodge, the lead author on the study and the director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. “Especially for parents, for business leaders — because of the workforce development aspect — and for policy makers who are spending the money on it.”

This new research confirms what researchers recently found in Tulsa, Okla. – one of the most highly regarded preschool programs in the country. In that study, children who attended Head Start had higher test scores on state math tests up through eighth grade.

Earlier studies have found the positive effects fade as students move into elementary school — this large study from Vanderbilt is one of them.

The big difference between the long-term findings in North Carolina and Tulsa and the fade out in Tennessee, researchers say, is the quality of the preschool program.

Having a high-quality program is key, says Dodge. “The long-term impact,” he says, “depends entirely on quality and how well elementary schools build on the foundations set in pre-K.”

North Carolina’s state-funded program, known as NC Pre-K, has been praised as a model for other states.

Experts cite several key elements in “high-quality” preschool: small class sizes, student-directed learning and lots of open-ended play. And researchers have warned that outcomes are short-lived when those elements are not present.

“I think that the question is turning away from whether we should do pre-kindergarten and instead to how should we do pre-kindergarten,” says Dodge.

While President Obama made universal, high-quality preschool a priority, it’s unclear at this early stage whether that focus will continue in the Trump administration. Conversations about broad changes may continue to happen more at the state and local level.

Most states have some version of pre-K — 42 states plus the District of Columbia had state-funded programs in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, based at Rutgers University.

“I don’t think we can anticipate that the federal government is going to roll out a single universal preschool program,” says Dodge. “The reality is that preschool is becoming a state and local and community initiative.”

Dodge says that’s why research looking at these state programs – which often vary in size, quality and funding – is so important.

ESSA Fifth “SQ/SS” Indicator: What Are Other States Doing?

ESSA Fifth “SQ/SS” Indicator: What Are Other States Doing?

Education Evolving
Originally Published, January 4, 2017

For the past five months, we have followed the development of Minnesota’s state accountability plan as mandated by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While the US Department of Education (USDE) has defined what must be included in four of the plans’ required indicators, states have the freedom to choose which measures they will include in their fifth indicator, of school quality/student success (SQ/SS).

As we’ve previously written, because of the lack of available data, chronic absenteeism was identified by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) as the only SQ/SS measure that’s currently feasible for Minnesota. However, on November 29th, USDE extended ESSA implementation by one year, giving MDE’s Advisory Committee additional time to create a well-rounded SQ/SS indicator that would, ideally, include more than chronic absenteeism.

While most states have not released their ESSA draft plans, thirteen have—Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington. Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and North Carolina, however, do not define what possible SQ/SS measures their state will use.

All of the other states, except South Carolina, indicated that they intend to use chronic absenteeism as one of their SQ/SS measures; with Delaware, Maryland, Tennessee, and Washington using it only for elementary and middle schools.

Two SQ/SS measures were prominent throughout the state’s draft plans—Career and College Readiness and 9th Grade On-Track. Below are descriptions of the measures.

College and Career Readiness Measure

Seven states—Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington—have some form of a College and Career Readiness measure that calculates a school’s performance on or access to Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), SAT, ACT, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Dual Enrollment.

South Carolina’s measure is more complex, with high schools earning points based on the percentage of students who meet the College Ready/Career Ready benchmark, which is comprised of several different metrics, such as earning a 3 or higher on an AP exam or meeting ACT benchmarks in mathematics (22) and English (18).

Similarly, Tennessee’s measure, Ready Graduate, is calculated by multiplying the graduation rate and the highest percentage of students who do one of the following:

  • Score a 21+ on the ACT OR
  • Complete 4 Early Postsecondary Opportunities (EPSOs) OR
  • Complete 2 EPSOs and earn an industry certification

Washington’s measure is more prescriptive. It only has a metric for dual credit participation, which is measured by the percent of students who participate in a dual credit educational program.

Delaware is the only state whose measure includes a metric for elementary and middle schools. Specifically, Delaware uses a “growth to proficiency” metric, which measures the percentage of students on track to be at grade level in a given content area within three years.

Minnesota initially considered including a College and Career Readiness measure, but due to insufficient and misaligned data systems, the Technical Committee decided at the October 25th meeting to delay its inclusion.

9th Grade On-Track Measure

Three states—Illinois, Oregon, and Washington—indicated in their draft plans that they intended to use 9th-grade on track as a measure, which is the percent of first-time 9th grade students in a high school who do not fail a course.

Other SQ/SS Measures

Illinois: Early childhood education, which would be measured by kindergarten transition, pre-literacy activities, and academic gains. Unfortunately, the draft plan did not flesh out what “kindergarten transition” would measure, but it did indicate that it might not be ready for the 2017-18 academic year.

Illinois’ plan indicated that they may also use a school climate survey. Currently, Illinois uses the 5Essentials survey, which was developed at the University of Chicago and measures a school’s effectiveness in the following five areas:

  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environments
  • Ambitious Instruction

Louisiana: Their ESSA Framework included a comprehensive list of SQ/SS measures that were divided into four categories:

  • Mastery of Fundamental Skills
  • Serving Historically Disadvantaged Students
  • Fair and Equitable Access to Enriching Experiences
  • Celebrating and Strengthening the Teaching Profession

Louisiana’s entire list of SQ/SS measures can be found here.

South Carolina: An “Effective Learning Environment Student Survey”, which would be administered every January to students in grades 4-12 and would include 29 items that measure topics on equitable learning, high expectations, supportive learning, active learning, progress monitoring and feedback, digital learning, and well-managed learning.

We will continue to report on ESSA updates in Minnesota and the country. MDE’s next ESSA Accountability meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 5th from 5:30-8:00 PM. For more information about MDE’s ESSA implementation plan, visit their website.

Read the full article here.

FULL COMMITTEE HEARING — The Every Student Succeeds Act: Unleashing State Innovation

FULL COMMITTEE HEARING — The Every Student Succeeds Act: Unleashing State Innovation

Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2017
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Time: 10:00 AM
Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Visit the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions for live video of this hearing.

Committee Membership



Rivalries, Political Infighting Marked States’ ESSA Planning – Education Week

Rivalries, Political Infighting Marked States’ ESSA Planning – Education Week

September 18, 2017

The grinding, two-year process of drafting accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act has upended states’ K-12 political landscape and laid bare long-simmering factions among power brokers charged with putting the new federal education law into effect this school year.

The details tucked into dozens of plans being turned in to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week were hammered out by a hodgepodge of elected and appointed officials—from governors and legislators to state school board members and local superintendents—during sometimes sparsely attended meetings, caucuses, and task force sessions.

Further complicating matters, 12 governors, half the nation’s state superintendents, and half of legislatures’ education committee chairpersons are new to office since the passing of ESSA in December 2015, when significant policy leeway was handed back to the states from the federal government.

“The problem with devolution and decentralization is that, by definition, you’re going to get a lot of variation … in terms of effort, political will, and the effectiveness of those efforts,” said Patrick McGuinn, a political scientist at Drew University in New Jersey who has studied state and federal policy and followed the implementation of ESSA.

In many cases, politicians, lobbyists, and membership organizations used their political prowess, technical expertise, and longevity to successfully push their agendas in the crafting of 51 state-level ESSA accountability plans.

Friction Points

Hammering out plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act has been a source of tension for rival policymakers in many states.

Governors in Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin rejected their states’ ESSA plans after the required 30-day review process. The plans can be submitted without governor approval—indeed, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approved Louisiana’s plan—but such a thumbs-down indicates to the federal Education Department that there’s not political consensus over details.

State Boards of Education
In states such as Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia, legislatures attempted to strip the powers of their state boards of education over key education policy areas even as the states readied their approaches to ESSA implementation. In North Carolina, the state board sued the legislature over an education law passed during a special session that board members said violated the state’s constitution.

Lawmakers in states such as Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, and West Virginia passed bills that dictated components of states’ ESSA plans regarding school accountability and testing. That left local superintendents and state board members frustrated.

State Chiefs
State superintendents in Alabama, Colorado, and New Mexico resigned in the middle of the ESSA-planning process after high-profile debates over key policies, leaving practitioners in the lurch and states in some instances making last-minute changes.

But the nature of state politics left out other groups, some of which will spend the coming months restructuring their spending and staffing priorities to more effectively lobby in the inevitable battles to come over the new law.

“The politics of federalism is going to dramatically change going forward,” said Sandra Vergari, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Albany who has studied federal education policy. Following all 50 states “is going to be a lot more work for us scholars, policy analyst, and advocates.”

Unlike prior federal versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESSA required “meaningful stakeholder engagement” in crafting state plans—without defining who a stakeholder is or how much or what type of engagement needs to be conducted.

Many state superintendents said shortly after ESSA was passed that they had a natural incentive to put an end to years of polarizing debates over standards, accountability, and testing. But as the ESSA planning process unfolded, power grabs ensued in a number of states. Those traditionally in charge of education policy sparred with each other and with lawmakers eager to take on a share of the new responsibility.

In North Carolina, for example, the Republican-controlled legislature—just days before Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper took office this winter—decided during a special session that the state board should no longer oversee key accountability and school turnaround decisions, and that those decisions should be left up to the state’s recently appointed Republican state superintendent.

The board sued, and a judge decided last week to delay the law, which has held up the state’s ESSA planning process.

Delaware’s legislature stripped its state board of several powers, and a pending bill in Washington would scrap that state’s board of the ability to oversee portions of its accountability system.

And after years of infighting, Indiana’s legislature decided this year that the state’s elected superintendent should instead be appointed by the governor.

Hot-Button Issues

In other states, crucial policy decisions over testing, state goals, and how to define an ineffective teacher fanned flames between advocacy groups and politicians.

The governors in Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin all refused to sign off on their states’ plans before sending them to Secretary DeVos. (A plan still can be turned in without the governor’s signature.)

And Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley asked DeVos to send the plan back (something his office is not allowed to do) after he took issue with portions that dealt with special education students. That state’s board-appointed superintendent involved more than 300 people in the development of the plan, a process the lieutenant governor said still left the state’s special education community without a voice.

“What we have in our system is all these interest groups across the political spectrum that have a lot of power and say,” said Calley, who has a child with special needs. “There’s no organized group with PACS and electoral power in our system that represents the parents.”

State superintendents, many with their own political agendas, were left walking a political tightrope in some states. Several didn’t survive.

In a political snub, Hawaii’s since-replaced state Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi wasn’t invited by Democratic Gov. David Ige to sit on the state’s ESSA task force.

New Mexico’s secretary of education, Hanna Skandera, resigned in June shortly after turning in her state’s controversial plan, which upset the state’s teaching force. And just last week, Alabama Superintendent Michael Sentance resigned after a bruising evaluation by the state’s district superintendents who took issue with his leadership style and the ESSA development process.

Advocates Weigh In

National, state, and local advocacy organizations all scrambled throughout ESSA planning to adjust to the fluid situation. A board meeting in California in July, for example, fielded dozens of comments protesting the state’s proposed accountability system.

In other states, advocates skipped state board meetings and went straight to their legislature.

Maryland’s Democratically-controlled legislature, pressured by the state’s teachers’ union, effectively wrote the state’s accountability system into a law called “Protect Our Schools Act.” The bill survived Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto and inflamed state board of education members who accused politicians of trapping students in failing schools.

Ohio’s teachers’ union and parent groups managed to convince the state’s superintendent in the spring to stall the turning in of that state’s plan after they convinced enough people that the plan would ramp up school testing.

And Kentucky’s legislature passed as part of its new ESSA-aligned accountability system a sweeping education bill that mostly scrapped a historic school governance model that had elevated parent voices in the form of school-based-decision-making councils.

The battle pitted Kentucky’s politically weak parent groups against the state’s well-financed superintendents’ association and teachers’ union. It flew in the face of a working relationship the three parties had forged over the years in fighting for more school funding from the legislature as the coal industry collapsed.

“We’ve been together for so long and through so much together,” said a disappointed Lynne Slone, the attorney for the Kentucky Association of School Councils.

In Florida, Rosa Castro-Feinberg, a civil rights activist for minority and English-language-learner students, said she will shift her efforts to the local level if the state’s ESSA plan passes federal muster. Castro-Feinberg launched a petition and letter-writing and media campaign to stop several waiver requests from being attached to that state’s plan, an effort that ultimately failed.

Others, however, see an opportunity for advocates and policymakers to forge ties across state lines in the wake of the sometimes-tense ESSA planning, especially on common issues such as the achievement gap, the effects poverty has on schools, and stagnant student performance.

“For some states that are diving into this more deeply, doing the soul-searching, you’re seeing a lot less partisanship,” said Michelle Exstrom, the Education Program Director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Education shouldn’t be a partisan issue. I think when you have a sense of urgency, you figure out that it’s in everyone’s best interest to improve outcomes, and leaders get motivated to go to the table to fix it.”

Here’s What States Are Doing With Their ESSA Block Grant Money

Here’s What States Are Doing With Their ESSA Block Grant Money


For decades, district leaders have been clamoring for more say over how they spend their federal money. And when the Every Student Succeeds Act passed back in 2015, it looked like they had finally gotten their wish: a brand-new $1.6 billion block grant that could be used for computer science initiatives, suicide prevention, new band instruments, and almost anything else that could improve students’ well-being or provide them with a well-rounded education.

But, for now at least, it looks like most district officials will only get a small sliver of the funding they had hoped for, putting the block grants’ effectiveness and future in doubt.

The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, ”or Title IV of ESSA, ”only received about a quarter of the funding the law recommends, $400 million for the 2017-18 school year, when ESSA will be fully in place for the first time…

Read the full article here. May require an Education Week subscription.

NORTH CAROLINA: NC Discusses ESSA Plan at August Meeting

NORTH CAROLINA: NC Discusses ESSA Plan at August Meeting

Lindsay Marchello – Carolina Journal


RALEIGH — Since No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, state and local educators have tried to square the figurative circle: letting students learn at their own pace while also making sure they meet rigorous standards.

The debate over NCLB’s replacement, 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act, ramped up again Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the State Board of Education.

To receive federal education funding, states must create their own ESSA plans addressing challenges with the education system.

Board members discussed the fifth draft of the ESSA plan at the meeting, with a PowerPoint presentation explaining key concepts.Essentially the ESSA draft plan details student performance goals and how the state education agencies and the local education agencies plan to improve those efforts.

“We continue to note that student ownership of their own learning is critically important to the whole concept of personalized learning,” Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin, deputy state superintendent for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction explained.

Personalized learning was a major focus of the discussion, and concerns were raised over how to tailor student assessment to the idea.

Board Vice Chairman A.L. “Buddy” Collins said he saw no difference between personalized learning and what successful teachers were already doing in the classroom.

“It does seem to run contrary to assessment protocols that we have,” Collins said. “Our assessment protocols seem to be premised on everyone reaching a certain point at the same time with the same degree of success.”

Lisa Godwin, the state Teacher of the Year adviser board member, also called for revamping the education system.

“We have to get away from cookie-cutter assessments because our students are individuals,” Godwin said. “Until we start realizing that, we are still going to be in the same shape every year. This is our chance to have a voice.”

Godwin claimed teachers weren’t heard in discussions over ESSA, a belief shared by Bobbie Cavnar, the 2016 Teacher of the Year. Cavnar explained how the board sat down with district superintendents from across the state and heard their proposals on improving student performance. Teachers, principals, business leaders, and parent groups weighed in on their ideas.

“All of that was silenced,” Cavnar said. “I wish Superintendent [Mark] Johnson was here because he keeps saying we need innovation urgently, instead what we are getting is more of the same…This is our chance to be innovative. This is our chance to do something big.”

Johnson didn’t attend Wednesday’s board meeting but was scheduled to be there at a subsequent meeting.

Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, is skeptical of how some board members view the ESSA plan as a means of radically changing the system.

“It is not as if [the federal government] is going to take what is in our ESSA plan and completely change the way we conduct public education in North Carolina,” Stoops argued. “They are going to change the way they report some data and they are going to possibly change the standards by which they administer and report assessments.”

The game hasn’t changed, according to Stoops. The state will tell federal officials what they want to hear in order to collect the check.

“It is sort of the deal the federal government makes where they set forth a bunch of rules and requirements and a condition of getting federal funds is meeting those requirements,” Stoops said. “The federal government is in the business of leveraging money in exchange for certain things. In this case it’s accountability measures.”

The state board has until Sept.18 to submit the ESSA draft plan to the U.S. Department of Education for review.