Are states shirking their responsibilities around two of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) most important provisions for historically underserved groups of students? A new analysis says yes.Federal Flash delves into the findings, plus a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation and the latest on the bill funding the U.S. Department of Education.
A new Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) analysis finds that many states are not fully implementing the letter–or the spirit–of the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA. All4Ed released the analysis ahead of a Senate education committee hearing on ESSA implementation, which we’ll cover later in this post.
All4Ed previously created “ESSA Equity Dashboards” for most state ESSA plans. These dashboards assess states on fourteen equity-focused policies in the law. In terms of actual outcomes for kids, however, not all of our indicators are created equal. That’s why our new analysis summarizes the two most important equity policies from the dashboards: (1) inclusion of subgroups in school ratings and (2) definitions of “consistently underperforming” subgroup used to identify schools for targeted support.
Unfortunately, the results are mixed, with many states at risk of masking the performance of historically underserved students. In other words, a school could receive an A rating, but have a graduation rate for African American or Latino students of only 60 percent – which is hardly an A. And in many states, low-performing students may not receive the assistance they need to excel because their schools are not identified for support.
12 states are red because they don’t include subgroups of students in all school ratings. Another 23 states get a yellow because they don’t include all of ESSA’s subgroups in ratings or are at risk of obscuring subgroup performance on school report cards. Just 17 states get a green rating for including all ESSA subgroups in all school ratings.
On the second indicator, 16 states are red because they are at risk for under-identifying schools for targeted support. 30 states earn a yellow because students will likely need to fail across multiple indicators before the school is identified for support. In other words, it won’t be enough for a subgroup to simply be below grade level in reading. Students would need to struggle in reading, math, and other areas before being identified. Only 6 states get a green for using a definition of consistently underperforming where subgroups receive support if students are struggling on a few key measures – like achievement and/or growth.
These two issues – school ratings and school identification – were major concerns raised by senate democrats in this week’s committee hearing.
But ESSA accountability wasn’t the only issue raised. Democratic senators called on Secretary Betsy DeVos to use her authority to prevent states from using federal funds for guns. Republican chairman Lamar Alexander, while he dislikes the idea of arming teachers, said states have the flexibility to use funds under Title IV of ESSA as they see fit.
Finally, the fiscal year 2019 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Education and several other agencies passed both chambers of Congress this week and President Trump has said he will sign it.
This is the first time since 1996 that the bill funding for the Department of Education has been signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year. This is notable because it allows states, districts, and schools to know what funding they will have for certain education programs prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.
This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the September 28 episode of Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s five-minute (or less!) video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. The video version is embedded below. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite past pledges to shrink or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, the spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law provides a small boost to the department’s budget for this fiscal year.
The increase of $581 million for fiscal 2019 brings the Education Department budget to roughly $71.5 billion. It’s the second year in a row Trump has agreed to boost federal education spending—last March, Trump approved spending levels that increased the budget by $2.6 billion for fiscal 2018.
The spending deal for fiscal 2019, signed late last month, includes relatively small increases for Title I (the main federal education program for disadvantaged students), special education, charter schools, career and technical education, and other programs. Although fiscal 2019 began on Oct. 1, the agreement mostly impacts the 2019-20 school year.
In addition to Education Department programs, funding for Head Start—which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services—now stands at $10.1 billion, a $240 million increase from fiscal 2018. And Preschool Development Grants, also run by HHS, are level-funded at $250 million.
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“There are so many active-duty military families today who are making decisions about how they advance within the military, or where they are going to live… based on educational opportunities for their children,” Secretary DeVos recently said in a conversation with Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation. “I think we have the opportunity to change the dynamic for them.”
Maddie Shick is from one such family – and, despite being a bright student, she faces challenges that accompany a military-connected lifestyle. A self-proclaimed “professional new girl,” Maddie is now a sophomore at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida.
Her formal education began in Georgia, but she’s learned across the country and around the world – even moving to Germany, where her father was deployed, for a year.
She’s attended a dozen different schools since preschool – and some of them have provided her with strong opportunities to learn and grow. As a middle school student in Columbus, Georgia, Maddie joined the drama club and performed in West Side Story. The school taught an International Baccalaureate curriculum.
The following year, the family moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where Maddie had the opportunity to cross-country ski at school. She also joined the wrestling team – and she fell in love with the sport. “Girls can wrestle, too,” Maddie said.
But in Fairbanks, Maddie had to put her love of acting on hold: the school didn’t offer drama, and her family couldn’t find an active children’s theater group in the area.
And when the family next moved to Tampa, Florida, Maddie had to abandon her love of wrestling, too: when she switched schools within the district, she was disqualified from wrestling with her new team.
Maddie took advantage of the opportunity to explore new activities as she moved from school to school – but that also meant giving up ones that she’d once loved.
“There’s good and bad to all these schools,” Maddie said, “But the really bad part is that I don’t ever get to stay long enough to benefit from any one type of school.”
Military-connected students are often required to compromise – on top of the traditional pressures of maintaining good grades, preparing for tests, working, volunteering, and planning for life beyond high school.
Maddie with her family.
“Moving and starting over every two years makes all these pressures worse,” Maddie said. “Now, imagine you have to focus on all these things at three different schools, in three different states, in a four year period. It’s tough.”
Military-connected families deserve the opportunity to attend schools that work for them. They deserve – as the Secretary said – the flexibility to “customize their child’s education.”
That’s why the Secretary has called on all of America to fundamentally rethink school, including asking questions that were once considered “non-negotiable” or too difficult to answer. For example, students like Maddie are often required to fall in line with the pace of a new school – even if she’s ahead of her classmates.
“I was in gifted education for most of elementary school, but when we moved to Alaska I did not qualify for their program,” said Maddie. “Now, I don’t want to even try for gifted programs because I am tired of repeating all the testing every two years and most of the gifted programs are limited anyway.”
Military-connected students and all students should have options – perhaps attending a traditional public school for some classes, and attending an online or charter school for others. Rethinking school means that students, like Maddie, to whom “learning comes easy,” can advance quickly in subject areas that interest them.
“We do live an adventure,” Maddie said. “But some parts are really hard. School is one of them.”
Maddie deserves high-quality opportunities. She deserves the freedom to pursue subjects that interest and challenge her, in an environment that meets her needs.
All students, including those in military-connected families, should be free to learn, grow and thrive.
Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances.Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.
After the unveil of explosive reportswhereU.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, openly considered allowing schools to use federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funding, to purchase firearms and provide firearm training to educators, members of theLeadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (TLC) have stepped in with an open letterto the same administrator—in protest.
Comprised of over 200 national organizations working together to promote and protect civil and human rights of all people, the open TLC letter was released on Sep. 17, demanding that “the department immediately publicly clarify, that ESSA funds could not be used for weapons.”
“On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights… we write to share our significant concern regarding the Department’s reported contemplation of the use of Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants provided to states under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for purchasing firearms and firearms training for school staff,” the letter stated.
Questioning the department’s intent, the letter further went on to the explore the risks of increased violence that this option could potentially cause.
“The Department’s consideration of this use for the funding is inconsistent with both congressional intent and evidence-based educational practices, working against ESSA’s purpose to ‘provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close achievement gaps.’ Having more firearms in schools would expose children and school staff to a greater risk of gun violence and make everyone in schools less safe,” the letter continued.
Inher letter to Congress, DeVos stated that she would not take “any action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms training for school staff,” however, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and a member of TLC, reflected that an ‘option’ such as this, should have never even been presented.
“This is whole idea is just lousy and makes no sense,” Morial said. “ESSA money should be used to by books and give disadvantaged youth a chance at better education. African Americans already face large amounts of gun violence outside of school, so to even propose such an idea is an added insult to injury.”
“School should be a safe haven for students and there is not one scant of evidence that shows children are safer around guns. The National Urban League does not want or support this,” Morial continued.
“We simply cannot afford to use federal education dollars that are intended for teaching and learning to pay for weapons that will compromise our schools and communities,” New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia wrote.
In a report done by CNN, Black Americans (particularly males), were shown to be more likely to die and to be involved with gun violence over their White counterparts, a startling statistic that the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF), an legal organization devoted to fighting for racial justice,fears might spill into the classroom, should states actively pursue such an option.
“We need the department of education to immediately and publicly clarify, that ESSA funds cannot be used for weapons,” Nicole Dooley, a LDF general counsel member said. “The only thing that this option will do is place more students at risk, especially African Americans, who experience implicit bias daily. The purpose of ESSA is to improve educational opportunities, not to create more dangerous practices.”
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Education today announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to rescind Gainful Employment (GE) regulations in order to provide useful, transparent higher education data to students and treat all institutions of higher education fairly.
“Students deserve useful and relevant data when making important decisions about their education post-high school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “That’s why instead of targeting schools simply by their tax status, this administration is working to ensure students have transparent, meaningful information about all colleges and all programs. Our new approach will aid students across all sectors of higher education and improve accountability.”
The Department continues to believe that data such as debt levels, expected earnings after graduation, completion rates, program cost, accreditation, and consistency with licensure requirements are important to consumers, but not just those students who are considering enrolling in a gainful employment program. Therefore, in the NPRM the Department invites public comment concerning whether or not the Department should require institutions to disclose, on the program webpage, information about the program size, its completion rate, its cost, whether or not it is accredited, and whether the program meets the requirements for licensure in the State in which the institution is located.
In addition, to provide prospective students with important, actionable, and accurate information that could be used in college enrollment and borrowing decisions, the Department plans to update the College Scorecard or a similar web-based tool to provide program-level outcomes including, at a minimum, median debt and median earnings for all higher education programs, at all title IV participating institutions. The Department believes that this will improve transparency by providing comparable information for all programs and helping students understand what earnings they might expect based on those of prior graduates. This would also increase accountability of institutions by making it more difficult for institutions to misrepresent program outcomes, such as the earnings of prior graduates, since prospective students would have access to accurate data provided by the Secretary of Education.
The 30-day public comment period for these proposed regulations will begin once published in the Federal Register. In the interim, an unofficial version of the proposed rule can be found here.
Published: July 17, 2018, Updated: July 17, 2018 at 06:37 PM
What to do?
President Donald Trump’s administration has in many ways held up Florida’s education system as a model for the nation. It’s hired many former Florida education officials to top jobs in its own education department.
Yet Florida’s proposed plan to meet federal Every Student Succeeds Act standards is now the only one that remains unapproved by Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The creation of a Department of Education and the Workforce, which the administration proposed June 21, aims to help the nation’s schools catch up to counterparts in other countries that handle both issues in one agency, including some that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited on a recent swing through Europe.
“I saw such approaches during my first international trip as the U.S. secretary of education to schools in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom,” DeVos wrote in an Education Week commentary that appears in this issue. “Each country takes a holistic approach to education to prepare students for career and life success…”
But congressional Democrats overwhelmingly panned the proposal, which would almost certainly need their votes to pass. Republicans said the idea is worthy of consideration but haven’t introduced legislation to make it a reality.
The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants—better known as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act—is one of the most flexible federal programs around. And it just got a huge increase, from $400 million in the 2017-18 school year to $1.1 billion for the 2018-19 school year. The program is closely watched by advocates and district officials alike, in part because the dollars can cover such a wide array of needs—from school safety training to drama clubs to science programs to suicide prevention.
Here’s a look at how the program works and how districts might spend that considerable increase:
What is Title IV of ESSA and why did Congress create it?
Title IV, Part A of ESSA, or the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, was intended to give district leaders more flexibility when it comes to federal funding. The program was created by collapsing a bunch of smaller programs aimed at physical education, arts education, math and science instruction, counseling, Advance Placement course fees, and school safety. Congress authorized up to $1.6 billion for the program in its first year. That would have made it the third-largest program in ESSA. But lawmakers only provided $400 million for federal fiscal year 2017, which generally covers the 2017-18 school year. This spring, in the fiscal year 2018 spending bill, Title IV got a boost of $700 million, bringing it to $1.1 billion.
What can the money be used for?
The money flows to districts from state education officials through a formula. Districts have broad discretion to use the aid for a wide range of programs aimed at making students safer and healthier, more well-rounded, or to enhance the role of technology in learning. Activities aimed at improving student health and safety include things like promoting parent and community involvement, establishing or improving dropout prevention programs, and putting in place or bolstering health and nutrition programs, or programs to combat the opioid crisis. Well-rounded activities can include initiatives to bolster foreign-language courses, college counseling, dual enrollment, musical theater, and computer science. Districts can also use the money for technology, including blended learning and building technological capacity…
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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.