On Dec. 10, 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama. This legislation reauthorizes the 50-year-old national education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
While these names and acronyms might not be familiar to you, I expect the previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, is one with which you are more familiar.
NCLB was enacted in 2002 and was the law under which schools and districts were required to comply. With the signed authorization of ESSA, NCLB is gone and ESSA is the replacement.
Members of our board of school trustees and I recently attended a conference conducted by the Indiana School Boards Association and the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. One of the breakout sessions that I attended walked us through the new legislation and detailed how ESSA requirements will impact schools and districts across the state of Indiana.
Currently, the Indiana Department of Education is in a mode of collecting input regarding Indiana’s implementation of ESSA and is simultaneously writing the ESSA State Plan which they intend to submit to the governor for review in February or March of 2017.
ESSA is an extensive law spanning nearly 400 pages of text. There are many components that cover various aspects of educational programming.
One of the fundamental components of ESSA is that all states must have a single, statewide accountability system that satisfies all identified requirements in order to improve student academic achievement and school success.
The first requirement is that the accountability system must be informed by the state’s long-term goals and measurements of interim progress for all students and each subgroup. Subgroups that are required to be included are economically disadvantaged students, students from each major racial and ethnic group, children with disabilities and English language learners.
The second requirement is that the accountability system be based on challenging state academic standards and include all required indicators for all students and each subgroup.
Indiana has already adopted the College and Career Ready Academic Standards with a focus on math and English/language arts. These standards will be included within the state plan.
Third, the accountability system must take into account the achievement of all students. ESSA is intentional with requirements in place to ensure that all children receive a fair, equitable and high-quality education. To do that, the state plan must address the academic and non-academic needs of subgroups of students including those who are low-income; lowest-achieving; English language learners; children with disabilities; children and youth in foster care; migratory children, including preschool migratory children and migratory children who have dropped out of school; homeless children and youth; neglected, delinquent, and at-risk students identified under Title I, D of ESSA; immigrant children and youth; and students in school districts who are eligible for the Rural and Low-Income School program of ESSA.
Fourth, the accountability system must be used annually and meaningfully differentiate all schools as well as identify schools for comprehensive and targeted support and improvement.
ESSA will eliminate prescriptive interventions and will allow states, districts and schools to select evidence-based strategies based on local needs and circumstances.
ESSA requires that parents, educators and other stakeholders participate in the development of these improvement plans.
ESSA will also require a prioritization of school improvement funds to the schools that need the most help and ensures that states provide a solid base of funding for schools, proportionate to the level of need for intervention.
Finally, the accountability system must include the process used to ensure effective development and implementation of school support and improvement plans to hold schools accountable for student achievement and school success.
At this point, there are many items that the Indiana Department of Education has on its “to-do” list as related to the ESSA State Plan. We are hopeful that the selected systems for assessment are more meaningful, timely and less expensive than those realized via the implementation of ISTEP+.
We are anxious for more information regarding the direction that Indiana will take with the administration of assessments for accountability.
As we are introduced to the components of Indiana’s ESSA State Plan, I am committed to ensuring that our school community understands the changes in regulations and will be sure to keep you updated as Indiana’s State Plan is deployed.
Laura Hammack is superintendent of Brown County schools. She can be reached at 812-988-6601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.