Advocacy Update: Tracking ESSA

SOAR Passes the House

This week, instead of tackling bills concerned with child nutrition or career and technical education—both of which are overdue for reauthorization—the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act. SOAR is a private school voucher program for District of Columbia students. NASSP opposes voucher programs, and as a member of the National Coalition for Public Education, NASSP sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform expressing the harm that would be done to public schools and public school students in D.C. by the voucher program.

Inside the Beltway

What’s going on in Washington?

The U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations on assessments, based on a consensus agreement by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, which met eight times over the past six weeks. One of the notable regulations would permit school districts to swap out their state exam in high school for “locally selected, nationally recognized” tests, which could include the ACT, SAT, PARCC, or Smarter Balanced tests. If a district decided to go that route, it must administer the same test in all of its schools in the same school year.

Why should principals care?

While the Department expects to open the regulations to public comment over the summer, NASSP has begun collecting feedback from principals around the proposed regulations in order to prepare the organization’s comments. We are also looking for feedback to assist principals in each state to communicate effectively and purposefully with their state education leadership. Please email NASSP’s Associate Director of Advocacy David Chodak at chodakd@nassp.org with any comments.

In the Press

Can More Money Fix America’s Schools? NPR

As part of their ongoing “School Money” series, NPR Ed looks at the history of court cases challenging school funding formulas, and examples of how differences in school funding play out in districts and states. They also mention some of the research on the effect of funding on student achievement. Older research found that there was little correlation between school funding and student achievement, but more recent studies have done a better job of isolating the effect of funding and have found that funding does matter if you come from a low-income family.

School Leadership Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, Rand Corporation

This RAND report describes major ESSA funding programs that can be used to pay for school leadership improvement efforts; the law’s categories of acceptable evidence, and where and how they come into play; and activities supported by research in the top three evidence categories. The accompanying commentary, which is particularly useful for states and districts, summarizes the report’s key points and identifies a number of school leadership programs that appear to be eligible for funding under the law based on the strength of their research base.

A Policymaker’s Guide to Improving School Leadership, Fordham Institute

This policy toolkit, also sponsored by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, provides an overview of the importance of principals and how their roles and time should be structured. The five policy sections include: a brief review of the available research and findings needed to understand the policy more fully, as well as potential barriers to reform, an advocacy piece designed to communicate reasons to take action to policymakers and stakeholders, model policy, and a list of available resources and experts for more information.

The Best of Time or the Worst of Time? What Teachers Think About Test Preparation, Teach Plus

Teach Plus, a network of teacher leaders focused on education policy, asked focus groups of teachers how their students are prepared to take state or district tests. They put activities into 17 categories and then set out to determine how much time was spent on each activity and how teachers felt about the activities. More than half of teachers felt the amount of test prep was too much, and almost half felt it was about right. Those who felt it was about right were more likely to say that the test prep was aligned to curriculum and that they as teachers had decision-making ability when it came to preparing their students.

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