Advocacy Update: Tracking ESSA

ESSA Toolkit

As we get closer to the 115th Congress, there are many questions left unanswered surrounding the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A new presidential administration means a shake-up at the Department of Education (ED), which could lead to many of the regulations passed concerning ESSA being changed or removed altogether. Be sure that you’re letting your federal, state and local governments know the importance school leaders play for students, and inform them of how ESSA can help you improve student achievement. NASSP has developed the ESSA Toolkit to help you advocate for principals at all levels of ESSA implementation. This includes helping you to:

  • Engage in direct discussions with your district about the recruitment, professional development, quality, and access of all students to effective teachers and school leaders
  • Collaborate and work with other principals in your state and district to influence your states’ plan for using federal funds to support students, schools, and principals better
  • Draft legislation and policies for your state that highlight the importance of school leaders through the toolkit’s model legislation tool
  • Effectively utilize the power of your message through regular and social media channels with the Communication Kit

If you don’t make your voice heard to your state and federal representatives, you can rest assured that other groups will. Make sure that you advocate ensuring you’re helping students, schools and principals today!

Budget Negotiations

By the end of the week, December 9, Congress must pass a new budget, or the federal government will come to a close. Numbers are still being crunched and debated on both sides of the aisle as no final decision has been made on a budget package. It is not too late for you to contact your congressional representatives and let them know how important education funding is for your students and schools. NASSP currently has two Action Alerts that make it quick and easy to reach out to your representatives. Stand up and let your legislators know that you support funding directed at advancing student growth, developing school leaders, and keeping students safe.

New NASSP Position Statement on School Facilities

NASSP is in the process of accepting comments related to a new position statement on school facilities. While very little data exists about school-building conditions or funds for modernization, a 1995 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that more than 8 million students attend schools with poor air quality; 12 million students attend schools in need of new roofs or roof upgrades; and 12 million students attend schools with inadequate funding. Another report also found that the United States “should be spending about $145 billion per year to maintain, operate, and renew facilities so they provide healthy” learning environments for all children. However, districts are struggling to finance school modernization and repair efforts while also managing rising enrollments and the need for new school construction.

These figures paint a grim picture for the state of the country’s schools. That is why the goal of this new position is to express NASSP’s concern regarding the state of the nation’s school facilities and offer recommendations for modernizing all schools to provide safe and accessible 21st-century learning environments. The public comment period for this statement will close on Friday, December 16. If you have any comments or recommendations, please send them to Amanda Karhuse, NASSP Director of Advocacy, at karhusea@nassp.org.

 

Inside the Beltway

What’s happening in Washington?

On November 28, ED released its final regulations to implement the accountability, data reporting, and state plan provisions of ESSA. After sorting through the more than 20,000 comments that were received on the draft rules, ED decided to make some changes to the rules before issuing them. Some of the most important changes to the final rules include:

  • Providing more time for states to submit their accountability plans. Previously the plans were due to federal officials for review in March or July of 2017. Plans are now due to officials by April or September of 2017 for review.
  • Lengthening the timeline for states to identify schools in need of comprehensive support and improvement under ESSA regulations. Originally, ED required states to identify these schools in the 2017-2018 school year. However, they have now pushed back the requirement to identify schools for comprehensive support and improvement to the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Allowing for more flexibility in states developing their fifth academic indicator. ESSA requires states to hold schools accountable using a number of academic measures, but it does provide states the ability to choose one new measure of school quality or student success. The final rules broaden the language for what is required of this new indicator by lessening the research provided to ensure a new indicator’s effectiveness at judging schools.

 

Why Should Principals Care?

NASSP and NAESP sent a letter during the comment period to highlight some concerns that were had with the original accountability regulations released by ED. NASSP is pleased to see that ED has provided more leniency for states in developing their fifth indicator. Also, NASSP opposed the former regulations that would require a state to take action against schools that do not meet the 95 percent participation rate for assessments. ED changed the wording to this requirement to “allow states the flexibility to take into account nuances related to low participation rates, such as the extent to which a school missed the 95 percent requirement.”

While these final rules do provide some much-needed reforms, there are still some areas where NASSP would have liked to see ED make some changes. ED failed to place a cap on the minimum size of a student subgroup that would be counted for accountability purposes, often referred to as “n-size.” High n-sizes could lead to schools or states neglecting minority, low-income, students with disabilities, or English-language learners. By not placing a cap in the final rules, ED leaves an open door for these groups and others to potentially be neglected. Also, the final regulations still require a summative rating to be developed for all schools. By not eliminating summative ratings, schools can still be misidentified as “failing” or “underperforming” due to across-the-board, single snapshot-in-time test scores that define school progress in narrow terms. This goes against the very accountability systems that ESSA is supposed to create.

It is worth noting that while these regulations are in place now, they could be changed or removed altogether when the office of president and secretary of ED change in January. For more information on these final rules, you can read a summary here. You can also find a breakdown of the timeline of ESSA’s reporting requirements here.

In the Press

Using ESSA to Improve School Quality and Climate, National Education Policy Center

A new policy memo examines how state policymakers can emphasize the importance of school quality and climate by following important guidelines for selecting nonacademic indicators that maximize educational equity and opportunity in schools. The memo recommends a number approaches that can be followed to help stress the importance of equity and ensure that students feel supported and safe in classrooms.

Addressing the Lack of African American School Principals,  Education News

As the minority population continues to increase in the United States, the demographics of educators in leadership positions continue to remain majority White, failing to reflect the current student population. This piece examines some of the obstacles facing African Americans in becoming principals and also identifies some potential solutions to increasing the number of African Americans that serve as principals in the future.

Is the Teacher Shortage a Product of a Leadership Shortage? The Huffington Post

Recently, there has been a growing discussion about potential teaching shortages that are hitting schools and districts throughout the nation. A new article from Scott Morgan, founder and CEO of Education Pioneers, examines some of the problems teachers face in such a challenging position, and notes that school leaders can play a critical role in the development and support of teachers. He notes that “teachers have demanding, complicated jobs. Their bosses, and their bosses’ bosses, must be especially skilled and savvy to successfully support them to excel in their work, help them grow professionally, and keep them in the classroom long-term.”

How Republican State Legislatures May Shape Schools, The Atlantic

In 2017, the Republican Party will have the majority in two-thirds of the state legislative chambers, a new all-time high. This includes 25 states where they will have control over both state chambers, as well as the governorship. The Atlantic takes a closer look at what this new level of control could mean for state education agencies and school districts, potentially leading to more school-choice legislation, challenges to teacher-tenure laws, and more conflicts over education funding.

How to Improve K-3 Education, Education Commission of the States

The early elementary years are when children best acquire the academic and non-academic skills on which long-lasting education success depends. A new report examines some of the top K-3 policy components across the nation and looks at how these and new policies can be implemented throughout states under ESSA.

$247.4 Million to be Awarded in Preschool Development Grants, U.S. Department of Education

On November 30, ED and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $247.4 million would be awarded in 18 states under the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) program. The PDG program supports States to build or enhance program infrastructure that would enable the delivery of high-quality preschool services to children and to expand effective preschool programs in targeted communities that would serve as models for expanding preschool to all 4-year-old children from low and moderate income households.

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