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ESEA Top Ten (December 9, 2015)

ESEA Reauthorization Heads to President's Desk

(December 9, 2015 -- Jefferson City, MO)  Today, the U.S. Senate voted to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed by a margin of 85-12. Missouri Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill were split on the measure, with Blunt voting NO and McCaskill voting YES. 

It was approved last week by the U.S. House, where the bill passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 359-64. The bill now heads to President Obama's desk where, because of the overwhelming margins in both chambers, his signature on the bill is expected as early as this week. Once the bill becomes law, the provisions would take effect in the 2017-2018 school year. 

In an editorial endorsing the bill last week, the Wall Street Journal called this bill "the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century". As you will see below, their comments are extremely accurate. 

Missouri has a lot of decisions to make in the coming months to determine the structure of our education system. While there is a lot in the 400-page bill, we tried to narrow the bill down to the provisions most important to administrators. 

Below are the ten provisions contained that we felt were most relevant in the Every Student Succeeds Act. A pdf of this can be found here

1. Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) is not part of the ESSA. Additionally, the supplemental education services requirement contained in No Child Left Behind is also a thing of the past, as is any federal reference to a school turn-around model.

2. States must adopt their own accountability system. In elementary and middle school, the system must contain the following three indicators: 

a. proficiency on state tests;

b. English language proficiency;

c. and one additional academic factor that must be broken out by subgroup. 

States must then choose at least one additional factor to their system, the only requirement is that it be broken out by subgroup. Some possibilities include: school climate, school safety, post-secondary readiness, educator engagement, student engagement, etc. 

3. For high schools, the accountability system must contain the following four indicators:

a. graduation rate;

b. proficiency on state tests;

c. English language proficiency;

d. and one additional academic factor that must be broken out by subgroup. 

States must then choose at least one additional factor to their system, the only requirement is that it be broken out by subgroup. Some possibilities include: school climate, school safety, college and career readiness, educator engagement, student engagement, etc. 

4. The state must identify high schools that graduate less than 67% of their students and the bottom 5% of schools (both overall and in each subgroup). Districts would first be allowed to adopt their own evidence-based intervention. However, states would be allowed to intervene in these schools after a certain time period if the local district did not show signs of improvement. Both local and state intervention systems must be evidence based. 

5. States must disaggregate data by student subgroup. This eliminates the “super subgroup” that Missouri currently allows in MSIP5. Additionally, states must adopt subgroup performance targets. Districts are tasked with intervening in schools that fail to meet the performance targets. Interventions must be evidence based. 

6. ESSA maintains annual assessment requirements, meaning testing every child in grades 3-8 in math and ELA each year and once in high school, as well as three grade-span assessments in science. However, there is an allowance for assessment pilots where up to seven states (or consortia of states, each of no more than 4 states) would be allowed to innovate with their assessment system.  

7. Separate from this pilot, at the high school level, LEAs can use a local, nationally recognized test like the SAT or ACT, instead of the state test.  However, this would take authorization from the state. 

8. States and school districts still have to test 95% of their students. However, failure to reach that threshold does not automatically result in failure for the district. Instead, states and LEAs must determine what happens to schools that are affected by low test participation. 

9. School Improvement Grants (SIG) are consolidated into Title I. The funds previously available under SIG will flow through the regular Title I formula. Other than this change, the formula is left unchanged. However, Congress is forming a study group to look at the issues of number and percentage weighting, and its impact on small, large, urban and rural schools.

10. ESSA strips federal requirements of “highly qualified teachers” and allows for states to adopt their own teacher evaluation system. There is no federal requirement as to how much emphasis must be placed on student performance within the state level teacher evaluation system.

For more information about the bill, AASA has prepared a more detailed breakdown of the bill. That information can be accessed here. 

I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our office. The next few months will be very important and we look forward in working with you and other members of MASA, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and other stakeholders on the implementation of this new federal legislation. 

Mike Lodewegen

MASA Associate Executive Director, Government Affairs