Several years ago, when she was a high school teacher, a new assistant principal at Ockley Green Middle School broke a rule, partly because Portland Public Schools wasn’t vigilant about communicating and enforcing the standard.
Twice, Regina Sackrider drank alcohol while on school field trips, first on an overnight stay and later when she ordered a drink with a meal. She didn’t appear drunk and no one got hurt, state discipline records indicate. Both times she wasn’t the only adult drinking. Portland Public Schools officials didn’t feel the conduct merited action, but the state agency that licenses educators did after an investigator discovered the drinking while looking into an unrelated matter.
The ensuing investigation found her guilty of unprofessional conduct. State regulators put her on probation for two years, but also granted her a little-known mercy: Her misconduct would stay secret.
Since 2009, regulators have had the ability to punish educators in private as a way to give them a conditional second chance. This is done through an informal letter that goes only to the educator and the educator’s employer.
This method keeps secret from the public not only the conduct of the educator, but the actions of the educator’s bosses. For example, the secret Teacher Standards and Practices documents that The Oregonian/OregonLive obtained detail not only Sackrider’s mistakes but also reference “a lack of training and policy conformation on the part of the school district…”
Read full article click here, may require ED Week subscription
The question: This one comes from a school-based leader who preferred to remain anonymous. This leader wants to know “What are the federal guidelines for ‘testing transparency?’ Schools are mandated to get 95 percent participation, but how is that possible is we tell parents of their opt out rights?”
The answer: ESSA is actually really confusing when it comes to test participation. The law says that states and schools must test all of their students, just like under No Child Left Behind, the law ESSA replaced. Under NCLB, though, schools that didn’t meet the 95 percent participation requirement—both for the student population as a whole and subgroups of students, such as English-language learners—were considered automatic failures.
Now, under ESSA, states must figure low testing participation into school ratings, but just how to do that is totally up to them. And states can continue to have laws affirming parents’ right to opt their students out of tests (as Oregon does). ESSA also requires states to mark non-test-takers as not proficient.
State plans—44 of which have been approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team—are all over the map when it comes to dealing with this requirement…
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
The Every Student Succeeds Act may have kept annual testing as a federal requirement. But it also aims to help states cut down on the number of assessments their students must take by giving districts the chance to use a nationally-recognized college entrance exam, instead of the regular state test, for accountability purposes.
When the law passed back in 2015, some superintendents hailed the change, saying it would mean one less test for many 11th graders, who would already be preparing for the SAT or ACT. Assessment experts, on the other hand, worried the change would make student progress a lot harder to track.
Now, more than two years after the law passed, it appears that only two states—North Dakota and Oklahoma—have immediate plans to offer their districts a choice of tests. Policymakers in at least two other states—Georgia and Florida—are thinking through the issue. Arizona and Oregon could also be in the mix.
That’s not exactly a mad dash to take advantage of the flexibility.
Offering a choice of tests can be a tall order for state education officials, said Julie Woods, a senior policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States. They have to figure out how to pay for the college entrance exams, design a process for districts to apply for the flexibility, and find a way to compare student scores on the state test to scores on the SAT, ACT, or another test.
That’s “potentially a lot more work than states are currently doing,” Woods said. “States have to decide what the payoff is for them…”
Read the full story here: May require an Education Week subscription.
The plans will now be read by different teams of peer reviewers at the department. Political appointees, including U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, are forbidden from monkeying with that process. But the secretary gets to give the plans the final thumbs or down. More on how all that will work here…
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…
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:
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.
Congress is late in turning in two important assignments that affect young children: Both the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a federally funded program that provides counseling to vulnerable families expired Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Neither program will run out of money immediately, and both programs have support from Republicans and Democrats. But the expiration, even if it proves temporary, illustrates how difficult it has been for Congress to address other legislation as it has wrestled, unsuccessfully, with repealing the Affordable Care Act.
The highest-profile of the two programs to expire is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Congress failed to extend by the end of September, could put a financial strain on states—and eventually jeopardize coverage for the roughly 9 million children covered by the program…
It’s one of the most controversial questions about the Every Student Succeeds Act and accountability in general: How should schools be graded?
Since nearly all states have at least turned in their ESSA plans, and many ESSA plans have been approved, we now have a good idea of how states are answering those questions. Keep one thing in mind: ESSA requires certain low-performing schools to be identified as needing either targeted or comprehensive support. States have no wiggle room on that. But beyond that, states can assign things like A-F grades, stars, or points. Based on the states that have turned in their plans—and remember, not every state has—We did some good old-fashioned counting and came to the following conclusions, in chart form:
Here are a few notes about that chart.
1) Many states use some kind of points system only as a starting point, since they then use those systems to arrive at final grades or scores that are presented differently to the public…
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team have been approving state plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act at a fast and furious pace: They’ve announced approvals for 13 states and the District of Columbia over the past few weeks.
For those keeping score: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, North Dakota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont have gotten the green light so far. Massachusetts is still waiting on its approval. Colorado got feedback from the Education Department, and then asked for more time to get its revised plan in.
The big ESSA onslaught is yet to come. Thirty-three states are scheduled to turn in their plans on Sept. 18, less than a week from now. (Hurricane-ravaged Texas gets extra time.)
So what did we learn from the first round of ESSA approvals? Here are some big takeaways.
1) The department’s feedback on plans may not be as influential as you’d expect.
The feds flagged certain issues with state plans. But by and large, states didn’t make big revisions in those areas—and got approved any way.
For instance, Connecticut and Vermont got their way on measuring student achievement. Both states will be able to use so-called “scale scores.” Those help capture student progress as opposed to straight up proficiency rates, which is what many people— including, at least initally, the department—said ESSA requires. Connecticut in particular did not stand down on this issue, telling the department that, “Webster’s dictionary defines proficiency not only as a state of being proficient, but also as an advancement in knowledge or skill.”
Tennessee will still get to use so-called “supersubgroups,” which combine different historically overlooked groups of students, such as minorities, English-language learners, and students in special education, for accountability purposes. That’s despite the fact that the department said this was a no-no in its initial feedback to the state.
In its revised plan, Tennessee promised to use both combined and broken-out subgroups in identifying schools for “targeted improvement” under the law. And the state provided some data to explain its reasoning behind having a combined black, Hispanic, and Native American subgroup. Tennesee argued that more schools would actually be identified as needing help using the supersubgroup approach than would be otherwise. That appeared to convince DeVos and her team, which gave Tennessee’s plan the thumbs-up in late August.
ESSA for the first time calls for states to factor into their accountability systems whether English-language learners are making progress in mastering the language. It’s supposed to be a separate component in the accountability system. But Connecticut incorporates English-language proficiency into the academic growth component of its plan. The department told the Nutmeg State to change that. Connecticut instead provided some more information to explain its thinking, and that seemed to work for the feds.
2) States worked the hardest to fix their plans in the areas where the department pushed the most.
3) Some state plans may not be as ambitious as some of ESSA’s architects hoped.
Arizona got approved to give much lower weight to the reading and math scores of students who have only been at a particular school for a short amount of time. Experts worry that it will diminish the importance of kids from transient populations—including poor and minority students.
North Dakota was told it needed to make sure that academic factors—things like test scores and graduation rates—carried “much greater weight” than other factors, such as student engagement and college-and-career readiness. So North Dakota upped the percentage from 48 percent for academic factors to 51 percent, according to an analysis by Chad Aldeman, a principal at Bellwether Education Partners, who reviewed select plans. That may not be what Congress had in mind when it used the words “much greater” weight, he said.
The department also asked North Dakota to be more specific about how it would decide which schools fall below the 67 percent graduation rate, triggering whole-school interventions. The state decided to go with schools where the six-year graduation rate falls below that threshold. That wouldn’t have flown under the Obama administration’s regulations for the law, which Congress nixed.
4) Some things in plans are still TBD, even though plans themselves are already approved.
Illinois is planning to use a mix of school quality indicators, including school climate and chronic abseneteeism. But the state is also hoping to add another unspecified measure aimed at elementary and middle schools, and a fine arts measure. The Land of Lincoln still has to figure out the details on those indicators.
And states haven’t yet had to provide lists of which schools will be flagged as needing extra help—or what kinds of strategies they’ll use to fix them. The lists of schools pinpointed for improvement won’t come out until after the 2017-18 school year.
“For the most part, [ESSA] hasn’t been a wild, crazy laboratory of reform, on how to identify and improve schools, that’s all sort of TBD,” Aldeman said.