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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ESSA: Practice Guide Response

The National Education Association has provided a Practice Guide for ESSA which you can access via this link. I have used the guide as a point of analysis with regard to how I will align my work to ESSA. I am also keeping a log of questions I will share with district administrators and interested colleagues so we're ready to discuss ESSA in the days ahead.

Copying and responding to direct text is a good way to make information actionable and memorable. Hence below in black is the direct text from NEAs Practice Guide and in blue are my responses.

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Practice Guide 1
Will ESSA Impact My Students, My Classroom, My School, My Community?

In December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, revising ESEA and replacing the flawed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) with ESSA. NCLB represented an era of federal oversight and accountability that has often been referred to as test and punish; we learned that what affects our students affects our communities. ESSA attempts to address problems of NCLB by returning decision making power to states and local districts, and mandates input from educators, paraeducators, and other stakeholders.

This practice guide is the first in a monthly series of informational flyers intended to help educators understand how ESSA impacts their students, classrooms, schools, and communities. The purpose of this first guide is to give a broad overview of the major changes within ESSA. Subsequent guides will dig more deeply into what these changes mean and how to take advantage of what you have worked so hard for—empowering educators and elevating educator voice in decision making.
For more information about ESSA, visit edCommunities, and join the ESSA Implementation group.

Impact on Educators and Educator Voice
  • Eliminates Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) provision; it is up to states to determine requirements for teacher qualifications. This is a factor to be wary of because we don't want to erode our profession by allowing educators who are not qualified to teach. I can't imagine Massachusetts giving in to low qualifications for teaching. 
  • Maintains paraeducator qualification requirements. This is terrific as long as paraeducators receive funding to develop their qualifications. 
  • States are no longer required to set up teacher evaluation systems based in significant part on test scores. Massachusetts has a broad set of parameters for the teacher evaluation system so this should represent no big change for our State.
  • Requires educator and other stakeholder voice via meaningful consultation in state and local planning.This is an exciting feature of the new law, and I'm wondering how systems will ensure that fair and equitable voices from all stakeholders are included in all decisions that affect students. 
Testing
  • States must adopt challenging standards; the federal government cannot require states to adopt specific standards. Massachusetts is re-looking at this right now and will come out with their new list of standards soon as part of Next Generation MCAS. They've also listed new tech-ed standards and science standards recently. I imagine social studies will come next. 
  • States are still mandated to test annually in math and reading grades 3-8 and once in high school with grade span testing for science (once each in grades 3-5, 6-9, 10-12). Test results must be disaggregated and reported on three proficiency levels.Massachusetts will continue with MCAS 2.0 or Next Generation MCAS (both titles are being used)
  • States have flexibility in the types of assessments used and can set target limit of aggregate testing time. I will be interested to see if our state sets a targeted limit. I'd rather see a suggested limit to begin with because each school is different, however, if that doesn't work and teachers feel the testing is still too much, then I'd advocate for a limit. 
Accountability
  • Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) has been eliminated; proficiency rates are no longer federally mandated at 100%, it is up to states to define proficiency goals. I like this and will be interested in what the State defines as proficiency goals. 
  • States are to design their own accountability systems which cannot be based solely on test scores. This too will be interesting and I want to stay abreast of this work. 
  • Accountability systems must include at least one indicator of schools success or student supports that will help ensure resource and opportunity equity such as those outlined in the NEA Opportunity Dashboard. I am very interested in closing the opportunity gap and will be interested to see what indicators are chosen in this regard. 
School Improvement
  • States must identify schools for improvement which include the lowest 5% of schools, schools that fail to graduate 1/3 of students and schools with consistently underperforming subgroups.
  • Opportunities to promote approaches such as community schools.It would be interesting to read more about this since our school, in many regards, is a full-service school that begins with before-school care and extends to after-school care and evening programs too. I wonder what the advantage is for schools that are named "community schools."
  • Districts and schools must partner with stakeholders on improvement strategies.Currently MA has school councils which fits this need in part. The one change is to add a paraprofessional and perhaps a few more roles to the council to represent all stakeholders. I wonder if this is enough or if we have to review and revise other decision making processes to meet this goal. 

Something to Talk About…
Both NCLB and the ESSA are reauthorizations of ESEA. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was enacted to ensure equitable educational opportunity by providing additional resources to the most vulnerable students. More information on the history of ESEA and reauthorizations can be found here.

RESOURCES
NEA edCommunities
ESSA Implementation Website
Teacher Empowerment 
Para-educator Empowerment 
Less Testing=More Learning /Types of Assessments