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….
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One of the biggest changes in the Every Student Succeeds Act is that states and districts get to come up with their own school improvement ideas, as long as they are backed by evidence.
Here’s how that works: Schools that get Title I money that’s been specifically set aside for school improvement have to come up with a plan with at least one component that has at least one well-designed “correlational study” to back it up. Ideally, the law encourages districts and states to push schools toward ideas that have at least one strong randomized control trial behind it. (A randomized control trail is considered a better test of a strategy than a correlational study, researchers say.)
So what about schools that have been flagged as low-performing but aren’t getting school improvement funds? Schools don’t have to choose a strategy with a particular study to back it up, but they do need to come up with a plan that has a rationale behind it, and then carefully study the results.
So how should states go about that? Results for America, a research organization, and Chiefs for Change, an advocacy organization for state and district officials, have some thoughts and recommendation, outlined in a new report released Thursday…
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With the 2018-19 school year in full swing, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has finished approving nearly every state’s plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. But in some ways, the federal government’s work on ESSA is just beginning.
The federal K-12 law’s hallmark may be state and local control, yet the Education Department still has the responsibility to oversee the more than $21 billion in federal funding pumped out to states and districts under ESSA. That will often take the form of monitoring—in which federal officials take a deep look at state and local implementation of the law.
And the department has other oversight powers, including issuing guidance on the law’s implementation, writing reports on ESSA, and deciding when and how states can revise their plans.
Even though ESSA includes a host of prohibitions on the education secretary’s role, DeVos and her team have broad leeway to decide what those processes should look like, said Reg Leichty, a co-founder of Foresight Law + Policy, a law firm in Washington.
Given the Trump team’s emphasis on local control, “I think they’ll try for a lighter touch” than past administrations, Leichty said. But there are still requirements in the law the department must fill, he added.
“States and districts shouldn’t expect the system to be fundamentally different [from under previous versions of the law.] They are still going to have to file a lot of data,” Leitchy said.
But advocates for traditionally overlooked groups of students aren’t holding their breath for a robust monitoring process, in part because they think the department has already approved state plans that skirt ESSA’s requirements…
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