Advocacy Update: Tracking ESSA

ESSA Webinar Series

This week, NASSP’s Advocacy team hosted the first webinar in our series on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The first webinar covered the provisions in Title I, and you can view the recording online. Dates and times for the next two webinars are below—be sure to save the dates!

Title II Provisions: Wednesday, April 27, 3:30–4:30 p.m. (ET) (Registration opening soon!)

Title IV Provisions: Thursday, May 12, 3:30–4:30 p.m. (ET)

NASSP Partners on the Testing Bill of Rights

NASSP partnered with the Center for American Progress and other education organizations this week for the launch of the Testing Bill of Rights, which aligns with our recently approved position statement on opt-out policies. NASSP member Paul Fanuele, the principal of Arlington High School in Pleasant Valley, NY, spoke on the press call launching the initiative. As states develop new testing plans in accordance with ESSA, the Testing Bill of Rights can serve as a way to ensure tests are in service of instruction and not vice versa. To get more information or find resources on how states and districts can improve testing, please visit www.testbetter.org and sign our Bill of Rights to make testing better, fairer, and fewer.

NASSP Calls for Modernization of the Lifeline Program

NASSP, alongside other groups from the Education and Library Networks Coalition (EdLiNC), sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission concerning the modernization of the Lifeline program, which provides phone service to low-income Americans. To address the so-called “homework gap,” NASSP calls for the FCC to require Lifeline providers to issue Wi-Fi-enabled smart phones capable of tethering, and for providers to work with schools and libraries to conduct outreach to those eligible for Lifeline.

Inside the Beltway

What’s going on in Washington?

On Wednesday, NASSP, the Wallace Foundation, and groups concerned about school leaders sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King on guidance to address education leadership under the Every Student Succeeds Act. In the letter, we asked King to issue guidance on the school leader provisions separately from guidance on teachers, and to provide clarity to states on opportunities afforded by ESSA to invest in their school leaders.

Meanwhile, the ESSA negotiated rulemaking committee had their first three-day meeting this week at the Department of Education (ED). They covered “supplement, not supplant” language—which says that federal dollars must be in addition to local dollars and not instead of—as well as English language learners and students with significant cognitive disabilities. ED has posted the materials used by the committee on their website for the public.

Why should principals care?

Principals have three representatives on the committee, and the committee is largely tasked with examining the fundamentals of the law. The results of the negotiated rulemaking could have major impacts on how the law is interpreted and implemented in the state. Of particular concern to secondary school principals might be the outcome of the negotiations on how the English language learner subgroup is defined and accounted for, as well as the rulemaking on using national tests, such as the SAT, for high school accountability purposes.

In the Press

Should Non-cognitive Skills Be Included in School Accountability Systems?, Brookings Institution

Researchers from the Brookings Institution have released a preliminary report on the California CORE districts’ use of “noncognitive” or “socioemotional” skills in school accountability systems. In the 2014–15 school year, CORE districts conducted field tests of four socioemotional skills. Analysis of the data indicated that the measures had strong reliability and were positively correlated with key indicators of academic performance and behavior across and within schools. This analysis may prove helpful to states as they begin to look at potential noncognitive indicators to incorporate in their accountability systems as required under ESSA.

How Well Are American Students Learning?, Brown Center on Education Policy

This annual report from the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy includes a section on “Principals as Instructional Leaders: An International Perspective.” In this section, researchers analyzed data from across countries to look at differences in how school principals spent their time. They were particularly concerned with the percent of time spent on instructional leadership activities and its relationship to achievement data. While U.S. principals reported spending an average of 36 hours a month on these types of activities, elementary principals were more likely to spend time on instructional leadership than middle or high school principals.

Teacher Evaluation and Support Systems: A Roadmap for Improvement, The Aspen Institute

By examining recent state and local policies, as well as research on them, the Aspen Institute lays out its recommendations to improve teacher and evaluation support systems. The first recommendation is to prioritize principal and evaluator training and certification with a focus on professional growth. Using examples from Washington, D.C., and Tennessee, they recommend that evaluations are done by a principal or other school-based leader with an ongoing relationship with the teacher. They also recommend that principals receive training in how to support teachers and create professional development plans for them, and not just how to give teachers ratings within the evaluation system.

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