Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What's in the Every Student Succeeds Act?

Okay, we're going to do this as the act itself actually reads; as always, h/t to EdWeek that keeps up with this all the time.Other than that, the below is entirely my work, page by page. 

Waivers: NCLB waivers expire August 1, 2016, however the plans dealing with lowest performing schools and subgroup achievement gaps are still in play until new plans are submitted for the 2017-18 school year. Those are "needs improvement, corrective action, or restructuring" schools and "priority or focus" schools.

Title I:  (for a numbers rundown, see this from the American Association of School Administrators) Most of the sections of Title I are level funded through FY20, with "the sense of Congress" being that this would revised if discretionary spending levels are adjusted. Note also that School Improvement Grants are no longer a separate program; they are folded into Title I, with the specification that the current 4% of Title I set aside for school improvement is increased to 7% of their Title I funding (of that, 95% of it needs to go to districts directly). As before, such funding may only supplement, not supplant, funding the district is otherwise receiving.

State plans: States are still required to submit plans to the U.S. DoE. There remains a peer review process, and states can appeal a rejection of their plan (but it's to the Secretary, so I'm not sure how that helps). As part of that, states must "provide assurance" that they have adopted "challenging academic achievement standards," but they are not required to submit those standards to the Secretary (this is how they're resolving the question of federal requirements and the Common Core). States must have state standards for "mathematics, reading or language arts, and science" and have English language proficiency standards; they may have standards in other subjects.

...and just in case we were unclear on the Secretary's authority:
FEDERAL CONTROL.—The Secretary shall not have the authority to mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision over any of the challenging State academic standards adopted or implemented by a State.
Testing: In their plans, the states have to demonstrate that they have "in consultation with local educational agencies,...implemented a set of high-quality student academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science." Emphasis there mine; has anyone been consulted? The tests must (and I'm pulling the language here, because I think this is going to come up):
(ii) be aligned with the challenging State academic standards, and provide coherent and timely information about student attainment of such standards and whether the student is performing at the student’s grade level; (iii) be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable, consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical testing standards, objectively measure academic achievement, knowledge, and skills, and be tests that do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information; (iv) be of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under this Act and consistent with the requirements of this section, the evidence of which shall be made public, including on the website of the State educational agency...
Students must be tested in math and ELA one a year in grades 3-8 and once in grades 9-11, and in science once in grades 3-5, once in grades 6-9, and once in grades 10-12. Schools still need to have a 95% participation rate in testing, but what happens to the schools that don't is up to the state.
The tests also must:
(vi) involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding, which may include measures of student academic growth and may be partially delivered in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended performance tasks; (viii) at the State’s discretion— ‘‘(I) be administered through a single summative assessment; or ‘‘(II) be administered through multiple statewide interim assessments during the course of the academic year that result in a single summative score that provides valid, reliable, and transparent information on student achievement or growth;
States are required to provide individual "interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic" student reports with information that allows "parents, teachers, principals, and other school leaders to understand and address the specific academic needs of students" and they have to do so in a timely fashion. There are parallel reporting requirements for reporting out on subgroups (and no "supersubgroups" as in the waivers; each needs to be broken out, so long as it's of a statistically significant size).The test items are "(xiii) be developed, to the extent practicable, using the principles of universal design for learning."
All ELL students must be annually assessed in their English proficiency. The states have a few options on what to do with newly arrived students (in the U.S. for less than 12 months) on the other tests; they can have the student not take the tests, or they can exclude their results from accountability (but report them).
Local districts can choose a different "nationally-recognized high school academic assessment" with state approval. Regarding opting out:
Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the parent’s child participate in the academic assessments under this paragraph.
In other words, they kicked this one back to the states.

More on state plans: They have to include four indicators, of which three are state testing proficiency rates, ELL student proficiency, another subgroup proficiency and one more; high schools get five, adding graduation rate. The other options include student engagement, educator engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework, post-secondary readiness, school climate/safety, or something else. For those working on other ways assessing schools, this is a crack in the door that should be pushed on! States are still required to identify lowest 5% of performing (how we get there is going to look a little different) plus high schools failing to graduate one-third or more of their students AND other schools at the state's discretion. What exactly they do with those schools is up to the states.

Interestingly, if a district has only had a student for less than half the year, the student's test score can't count against the school's accountability level. Likewise, a student who doesn't graduate counts for the high school that has had that student for the majority of high school.

Schools indentified as underperforming still need to submit school improvment plans, and the process looks fairly parallel to now (group of stakeholders analyzing local data, plan has to include "evidence-based interventions" and consider resources, and has to be approved locally and monitored by the state). The state has to establish exit criteria for this. The state is also to analyze resource allocation and provide technical assistance for any district having a significant number of schools falling into underperforming.

The bill is also speaks at length, forbidding the Secretary to specify quite a number of things, including the evaluation methods of teachers and other school professionals and forbidding data collection beyond what already happens in other sections of federal law.
States are also required to specify how they will assist local districts in increasing early childhood education; ensure that disadvantaged students are not served by inexperienced teachers, reduce bullying, reduce out-of-school suspension, reach all students, stabilize the education of students in foster care, and support homeless students. And if that sounds like a hodgepodge, that's because it is! Likewise, there are a list of assurances the states are required to submit (starts on page 109, if you're interested).
Both states and local districts must issue annual report cards.
Districts need to have annual school improvement plans as well (and what needs to be included starts on page 134). As part of that plan, districts:
shall notify the parents of each student attending any school receiving funds under this part that the parents may request, and the local educational agency will provide the parents on request (and in a timely manner), information regarding any State or local educational agency policy regarding student participation in any assessments mandated by section 1111(b)(2) and by the State or local educational agency, which shall include a policy, procedure, or parental right to opt the child out of such assessment, where applicable.

"where applicable"...hm...
Districts are also required to post on their website what assessments are used, where it comes from, how long it will take, what it will test, and when they'll have results available.
As they're still talking about "low income," the bill offers the following for how to measure that:
a local educational agency shall use the same measure of poverty, which measure shall be the number of children aged 5 through 17 in poverty counted in the most recent census data approved by the Secretary, the number of children eligible for a free or reduced price lunch under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, the number of children in families receiving assistance under the State program funded under part A of title IV of the Social Security Act, or the number of children eligible to receive medical assistance under the Medicaid Program, or a composite of such indicators, with respect to all school attendance areas in the local educational agency
Secondary school calculations may be based off estimates from the elementary schools.
Federal funds are still required to supplement not supplant local (and state) spending; it also retains the "hold harmless" provision on funding (page 199; note that it isn't entirely harmless), and the requirement of state's maintenance of effort (states have to keep funding education themselves in order to received federal funds).

Innovative assessments: As part of the Title I B assessment grants, the bill provides for "innovative assessments" in up to seven states for the first three years of the law. Those have to report out, and at the end of that time, the Secretary may extend that "demonstration authority" further.

There's a provision for local districts to enter an agreement with the Secretary for a local weighed per-pupil funding system, allowing for substantially more funding to go to their neediest student bodies. Districts can bundle their Title I, Title II, Title III, and parts of Title IV and V to do so.

Title IIA: (teacher development) There's a list of provisions for which these funds may be used starting on page 336. It does allow for pay-for-performance, but it also allows the funds to be used to reduce class size. Several mentions in this section of "human capital management"

21st Century Learning grants are in, but not for any substantial boost back up in funding.

Charter schools and magnet schools: For those who like to compare these things, the grant to expand charter schools is funded at a higher level that the grant to fund magnet schools ($270M rising to $300M versus $94M rising to $108M).

Promise Neighborhoods are in, but funding isn't specified; the same is true of community schools.

National readers note that there is a substantial section on Native American education, including a requirement that the Secretary of Education report on student suicides.

Federal impact aid is level funded until FY2020.

Speaking of definitions that might be useful, here's ESSA's definition of a "well-rounded education" (from Title VIII, page 807):
(52) WELL-ROUNDED EDUCATION.—The term ‘well-rounded education’ means courses, activities,and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology,engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography,computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.’’
Title VIII also requires the Secretary of Education to figure out how many federal employees worked on programs that no longer exist under this renewal and to cut the department by that many positions (page 813).

Waivers of federal provisions: Both schools and districts can request waivers of the provisions within the law (the schools request of the district, which turns to the state; the district requests of the state which turns to the federal department) (page 816 and following).

"Prohibition against federal mandates" speaks for itself:
IN GENERAL.—No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments,curricula, or program of instruction developed and implemented to meet the requirements of this Act (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or any assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to such standards), nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.
Likewise, the federal government can't require local or state funds be directed particular ways. Also nothing in the act shall:
require the distribution of scientifically or medically false or inaccurate materials or to prohibit the distribution of scientifically or medically true or accurate materials
Military recruiter opt-in: Districts are required to provide military recruiters with student information unless the parents specifically have directed the district to not provide it. Districts creating instead an "opt in" provision is not allowed. This came in as part of NCLB.

Free-range kids: The federal government can't make laws regarding parent-permitted school travel, but, then, they also can't limit the abilities of local or state authorities to do so.

Student privacy: There is a "sense of Congress" section requesting that the Secretary review all applicable provisions and ensure student data is protected. As I've seen pointed out elsewhere, there's no teeth in this; on the other hand, it isn't here by accident.

Regarding the First Amendment:
It is the sense of Congress that a student, teacher, school administrator, or other school employee of an elementary school or secondary school retains the individual’s rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States during the school day or while on the grounds of an elementary school or secondary school. 
Posthumous pardon for Jack Johnson (starts on page 914)

Reports: Congress is asking for reports on dropouts, subgroup sample size, access to digital learning resources, and the Title I formula (that's like FBRC federally!). 

Preschool development grants which are being administered through Health and Human Services (as Head Start is).

"Highly qualified" is over.

and, whew! That's it.

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