Schneider’s ESSA Digest, Part IV (Switching Documents)
On December 18, 2015, I began writing a series of posts on the Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA), the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).
The content of the two documents is identical; only the formatting differs.
For my first three posts of this series, I used the 1,061-page draft. My first entry covers the first 47 pages. My second entry continues by adding info from pages 47 to 90, and my third entry covers pages 90 to 105.
In this fourth post, I transition from using the 1,061-page version to the condensed, 391-page version.
I began writing this post using the longer version; so, for the first part of the post, I offer page numbers for both versions. I then shift completely to the condensed, 391-page ESSA final draft.
I apologize for any confusion.
Let us begin.
In Part III, I left off on page 105 of the conference committee draft document (same as page 42 of the 391-page final draft), with the “Other Plan Provisions” for what state plans must include in their plans for Title I funding. One issue involves states’ describing how it will use Title I funds to assist schools wishing to provide early childhood education plans (the ESSA statement here is brief). Next comes the state’s guaranteeing that low-income and minority children will not be primarily served by “ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers” (page 105 / 42).
The term “ineffective” is loaded and is currently interchangeable with “able to produce high test scores.” “Out-of-field” is also loaded since ESSA is also open to alternative certification that could easily allow a person from another field to be fast-track, drive-thru “certified” and be considered “in-field.” As for “inexperienced”– if the state does not invest in the community in which the low-income school is located, it is less likely to have available career teachers who have roots in the community and are more likely to stay. The same is true for schools with high populations of children of color, who tend to live in lower-income areas. Without community investment (and not just trying to purchase highly-paid transplant teachers or otherwise trying to pressure teachers into remaining in underpaid positions), then there will be the churn of teacher turnover, and those in that churn will more than likely be less experienced.
Requiring teacher livelihood to be dependent upon the test scores of these children at risk only exacerbates the problem. That noted, the federal government excuses itself from the test-score dependence it is pushing by including a disclaimer that “nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed as requiring a State to develop or implement a teacher, principal, or other school leader evaluation system” (page 106 / 42). Still, ESSA is just on the brink of pushing states to evaluate teachers using test scores. ESSA mandates testing, and it mandates that the tests be factored into statewide accountability systems (page 88 / 36).
The state plan for Title I money is supposed to also who how states will reduce bullying, “the overuse of discipline practices that remove students from the classroom,” and “the use of aversive behavioral interventions that compromise student health and safety” (page 106 /43).
States are also to show how they will aid in the transition from middle to high school in order to decrease dropping out (pages 106-107 / 43). Note that students who drop out between eighth and ninth grade are not included in a state’s cohort graduation rate.
Pages 107- 109 / 43 involve inclusion in the state plan information on how the state will serve students in foster care or who are homeless.
On page 109 / 43, the section on “assurances” in the state plan begins with the requirement that states “make public any methods or criteria the State is using to measure teacher, principal, or other school leader effectiveness” for the purposes noted on pages 105 -106 / 42. Furthermore,
…the State educational agency will notify local educational agencies, Indian tribes and tribal organizations, schools, teachers, parents, and the public of the challenging State academic standards, academic assessments, and State accountability system developed under this section (associated with the state plan for ESSA Title I money) (page 109 / 44).
The remainder of this post refers only to the 391-page final draft of ESSA. We are currently on page 44.
Page 44 includes the requirement that every two years, states participate in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing of reading and math for grades 4 and 8 “if the Secretary pays the costs of administering such assessments.”
Page 44 also includes this potential open door for corporate reform to “consult” with districts:
(H) the State educational agency will ensure that local educational agencies, in developing and implementing
programs under this part [of Title I], will, to the extent feasible, work in consultation with outside intermediary organizations (such as educational service agencies), or individuals, that have practical expertise in the development or use of evidence-based strategies and programs to improve teaching, learning, and schools (page 44).
Requiring states to include in their state plans outside agencies sounds logical pre-corporate-reform, for it could simply bespeak a broader incorporation of community agencies in assisting with education. However, in the current era of market-based reform, this requirement could well allow corporate-reform nonprofits and businesses to feed on a state’s Title I funds.
Like so much of ESSA, it all comes down to the state leadership and whether they advocate for market-based reform or not.
Given that testing has become the licentious, gluttonous center of American education, the next condition for a state’s Title I plan provides leverage for litigation opposing the use of student standardized tests to form judgments on anyone except the student completing the test:
(I) the State educational agency has appropriate procedures and safeguards in place to ensure the validity of the assessment process (page 44).
“Assessment process” validity arguably involves the appropriate use of test results for any component of the ESSA, Title I-required statewide accountability system. Using student test scores as a basis for such accountability judgments is not valid. Otherwise, testing companies would market their tests for those purposes– and they do not.
Page 45 includes information about making disaggregated test results available as part of a state report card, provided that doing so does not reveal personally identifiable information on an individual student, including not reporting on subgroups that are so small that members can be individually identified.
Even though the state report card must allow the public to access assessment and other information “at a minimum, [by] each major racial and ethnic group, gender, English proficiency status, and children with or without disabilities” (page 45), ESSA does not mandate that such subgroups “be considered subgroups of students… for the purposes of the State accountability system…” (page 45). In other words, reporting the information by student subgroup to the public does not presume using the information by student subgroup in the state accountability system.
States can also appeal to the US Secretary for help in meeting the above requirement for the public to be able to view disaggregated data as noted above (page 45).
The state report card is supposed to be made available annually; written in easy-to-understand language, and published “on a single webpage of the State educational agency’s website” (page 46).
The minimum requirements for the state report card span several pages (46 to 49).
I will save those for the next post.