“It was a great feeling watching the returns come in!” said Jonas Knotts, a high school teacher and president of the Webster County Education Association, an affiliate of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA). “People and educators are really starting to see the power that they possess. We have a voting bloc that, if we turn out to the polls, can outvote anybody. Teachers are realizing this. It’s something that fills us with a very empowering feeling.”
Early this spring, WVEA members kicked off what NEA President Lily Eskelsen García has called an “education spring” with a statewide, nine-day strike that brought red-shirted educators from every one of the state’s 55 counties to the state Capitol.
Their massive show of solidarity, which ended with significant pay raises for all public workers, including teachers and education support professionals, and the establishment of a state task force to address public-worker health insurance, inspired educators across the nation and has been followed by statewide educator walkouts in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky, and huge Capitol demonstrations in Colorado and North Carolina.
Now, WVEA members are modeling what happens next: They’re taking their energy and passion for public education to the ballot box. In this May’s primary races, WVEA endorsed 115 pro-public school candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and the state’s House of Delegates and Senate. Of those, 99 candidates—or nearly 90 percent—won. One state lawmaker who had called union members “free riders” was shown the door.
This is exactly what public-school educators across the nation have promised to do in the mid-term elections this November. With this latest show of union strength, WVEA members have shown how it can be done—and how good it feels.
“This election was a huge vindication for the power of the movement because, of course, the opposition was saying ‘they’re going to forget, they’re going to stay home,’” said Knotts. “But we know it’s only one victory in a long war. We have to keep up those conversations, we have to keep people engaged, we have to show them how we’re working to improve everybody’s status—from teachers to support personnel to students to communities…”
Duncan, Okla.— Few educators here say they want a statewide teacher strike to happen. And yet there’s overwhelming agreement from educators that it’s the only way forward.
Union leaders have given the Oklahoma state legislature an April 1 deadline to pass a funding package that includes a $10,000 pay raise over three years for teachers and a $200 million boost to public schools. If that doesn’t happen, teachers across the state will walk out of their classrooms, and will not return until they get what they’re asking for, union officials pledge.
“I don’t like that [a walkout] seems to be the only course of action—I think if there was something else, we would all jump on that, but I just think we all feel at a loss,” said Kara Stoltenberg, a high school English teacher in Norman, Okla., who also works at a clothing store to help pay her bills. “It’s so disheartening. … I want to believe the best in people, I want to be optimistic. It just feels like with one thing after another, that hope is being crushed.”
Oklahoma’s shutdown proposal came on the heels of the nearly two-week-long teacher strike in West Virginia, which concluded when the legislature there passed a bill giving all public employees a 5 percent pay raise. After that stunning victory, teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona began to ask: “What if we did that here?”
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
One thing we’ll keep stressing again and again this week: how far federal policy has moved since the days of the No Child Left Behind Act (ESSA’s predecessor). Read on.
So, what kinds of goals are states setting?
Some states chose fixed goals that aim for all students, and all subgroups of vulnerable students, such as those qualifying for subsidized school lunches or English-language learners, to reach the same target (such as 80 percent proficiency). What’s nice about this kind of goal is that it sets the same endpoint, making it easier to see over time how achievement gaps are expected to close. States in this category include: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, (grades 3-8 only), Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Rhode island, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
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WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the approval of Minnesota and West Virginia’s consolidated state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
“States continue to embrace the flexibility and power given to them under ESSA,” said Secretary DeVos. “I am pleased to approve these plans, which comply with the requirements of the law. I look forward to seeing how the states turn ideas into action to improve outcomes for all students.”
Allowing states more flexibility in how they deliver education to students is at the core of ESSA. Each state crafted a plan that it feels will best offer educational opportunities to meet the needs of the state and its students. The following are some of the unique elements from each state’s approved plan as highlighted by each state:
Plans to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of all students will graduate from high school in four years and that the state aligns its efforts with its workforce development goals.
Identifies 25 percent of the lowest-performing schools across three domains—math, reading and English learner proficiency—to ensure all schools in need of support are identified and assisted, with the greatest support directed to the most acutely low-performing schools.
“Nothing is more important to Minnesotans than making sure every child has access to a great education,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius. “That consensus was shared by a broad majority of parents, community members and stakeholders across our state who made equity and ambitious goals the central tenants of our ESSA plan. Together, we created a shared definition of equity that serves as the foundation for a plan that is actionable, research-based and rooted in the best practices for supporting schools. Combined with rigorous accountability expectations, strategic support for schools that need it most, and the promise of easy-to-understand and transparent reporting for teachers, parents, and the public, this plan is a significant step forward in our shared vision for all kids. I look forward to implementing our new plan, and supporting every Minnesota educator as they work even harder to ensure every child has the same opportunity to learn, succeed and thrive.”
Plans to reduce the number of non-proficient students, overall and for each subgroup, in half by 2030.
Provides LEAs access to evidence-based interventions and professional development based on performance on individual indicators within the Statewide Accountability System, so that any school struggling with a single indicator receives support.
“The intent of our ESSA plan is to be a catalyst for economic growth and development in West Virginia. Our goal is to ensure that every student is provided the opportunity to be successful after graduating high school in their chosen career and/or post-secondary endeavors. Our comprehensive system will individualize support and capitalize on a network of education partnerships, while supporting Gov. Jim Justice’s focus on education and economic development,” said Steven Paine, West Virginia’s state superintendent of schools.
EDUCATION WEEK — Minnesota, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia have some work to do on their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
All four states, who were among the 34 that turned in their plans this fall, were flagged for issues with accountability, helping low-performing schools improve, and other areas. So far, ten other states that turned in their plans this fall — Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—have received feedback from the feds. Puerto Rico has also gotten a response on its plan. (Check out our summaries of their feedback here and here.)
Plus, sixteen states and the District of Columbia, all of which submitted plans in the spring, have gotten the all-clear from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Colorado, which asked for extra time on its application, is the only spring state still waiting for approval.
So what problems did the department find in this latest round of states? Here’s a quick look. Click on the state’s name for a link to the feds’ letter…
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) received an update on the SecondLaunch Initiative at its October board meeting. The initiative, which was created by the West Virginia Department of Education in June 2015, continues to expand its reach, providing much needed technology to students throughout the state. Now, in its third year, SecondLaunch has saved the state $3 million in technology costs and has provided more than 8,000 computers to students in 47 counties.
Computers and other technology equipment are donated to SecondLaunch from West Virginia government agencies as well as private industry. Equipment is then wiped, cleaned and upgraded to meet the requirements of the programs used in schools. Computers, monitors, keyboards and mice are packaged together for ease of use and assembly, and schools can pick the computers up at the SecondLaunch warehouse in Charleston.
“Through the SecondLaunch Initiative, we are working to ensure that all students have access to technology and resources they need” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. “Our goal is to have the program in all 55 counties, and work with educators to make sure that a lack of resources is never an obstacle for educators to provide the best education possible for our students.”
In addition to state agencies, private industry has also joined in and donated equipment to SecondLaunch.
“The program’s success depends on the donations we receive,” said David Cartwright, who oversees the program. “We have been fortunate to form a partnership with Toyota Motor Manufacturing in West Virginia, who has become a generous and recurring participant. Our hope is to expand our private partnerships so we can continue to see the program grow.”
SecondLaunch helps students interact with the technology they will encounter in life after high school, whether it be college or the workforce. Some of the state’s earliest learners also have access to the SecondLaunch materials, allowing West Virginia students to utilize 21st century learning resources every day.
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.
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 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.
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.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WDTV) — The West Virginia Department of Education has submitted its plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA, the department announced Monday evening.
The letter was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education Monday, two weeks prior to the deadline.
In a statement Monday, the department said the plan “details the foundational pieces of its public education system including content standards, the statewide assessment, the school accountability system and support for struggling schools.” It also describes how federal funding will be distributed to counties.
Officials say the final version of the plan contains numerous changes due to stakeholder input.
“I am extremely proud of the extraordinary amount of work put into developing this plan and for the valuable input we received from various stakeholders including teachers, parents, administrators, community members and elected officials,” stated state Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. “I feel confident that West Virginia’s plan outlines a foundation that is best for all Mountain State students and know we will ultimately see results surrounding student achievement.”
The U.S. Department of Education now has 120 days to review the plan and provide feedback. The plan can be viewed at http://wvde.state.wv.us/essa/review/.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) submitted its plan today to the United States Department of Education (USDE) to comply with the federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan was submitted one week ahead of the September 18 deadline.
“I am extremely proud of the extraordinary amount of work put into developing this plan and for the valuable input we received from various stakeholders including teachers, parents, administrators, community members and elected officials,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. “I feel confident that West Virginia’s plan outlines a foundation that is best for all Mountain State students and know we will ultimately see results surrounding student achievement.”
West Virginia’s plan details the foundational pieces of its public education system including content standards, the statewide assessment, the school accountability system and support for struggling schools. The plan also details how federal funds will be distributed to counties.
Several changes were incorporated into the final version of the plan as a result of stakeholder input. Within the state’s accountability system, the five-year graduation cohort was included to accommodate those students who require additional time to graduate. The English Language Proficiency indicator was incorporated into the English language arts measure within the Academic Achievement indicator. The Student Success indicator, which considers attendance and behavior, now includes an exemption for all absences due to out-of-school suspensions and level three behavior violations are exempt from accountable suspensions. Summer School courses will be included within the high school Student Progress indicator, which considers credits earned toward graduation.
West Virginia’s proposed federal Every Student Succeeds Act compliance plan, which includes a planned new public school accountability system plus plans for how to improve schools that score low in that system, is seeing significant changes and public praise and criticism ahead of its scheduled submission to the U.S. Education Department next month.
Among the changes so far, the state Department of Education is now planning to take into account schools’ five-year high school graduation rates, atop their four-year rates.
The department is also abandoning its proposal to initially assign each of its four planned labels for school performance measures to a quarter of elementary, middle and high schools. This would have been done by comparing Mountain State schools’ performance only to other in-state schools on each performance measure and, for each measure, assigning the lowest label to the bottom-scoring 25 percent, the next lowest to the next 25 percent, and so on.
The plan is online for public comment through 4 p.m. Wednesday at wvde.state.wv.us/essa. Michele Blatt, the state education department’s assistant superintendent over the Division of Support and Accountability, said the state Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the plan Sept. 7 or Sept. 8. The federal education department must then review it.