This Week’s ESSA News: A Push for Rigorous Arts Education in New York, California Districts Leading the Way on Foster Students, a Call for Better Teacher Data & More

This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being implemented by states and school districts is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, an ongoing series from the Collaborative for Student Success. It’s an offshoot of their ESSA Advance newsletter, which you can sign up for here! (See our recent ESSA updates from previous weeks right here.)

“To improve student learning, an effective teacher in the classroom is the most important factor,” writes the Data Quality Campaign. “Every student, regardless of their zip code, deserves access to a good teacher.”

But to make this happen, teacher data is critical; unfortunately, school-level teacher data isn’t easy to track down (especially on school report cards, a primary resource for this kind of information). Last month, the DQC released a new fact sheet that “shows how state leaders must change this by sharing and communicating meaningful data that makes sense and is actionable for families and communities.”

In the introduction to the fact sheet, the authors note that ESSA “emphasized the importance of strong teachers by requiring state education agencies to include in their state plans a description of what being an effective teacher means and the measures that the state will use to evaluate and publicly report on access to effective teachers for specific student groups (e.g., students from low-income families and students of color).” The Every Student Succeeds Act “also requires that school report cards include information about teachers, such as teacher experience or credentials.” So, to “provide the strongest picture of teacher quality in districts and schools, states should go beyond what is required in ESSA and include all of this information on report cards.”

Here are the week’s other top headlines for how states are continuing to implement the nation’s new education law:

The forgotten art of teaching the arts (in New York City)

“Why, in the New York City public school system, are the arts still being relegated to the realm of the extracurricular?” asks Penny Smith, executive director of Education Through Music.

In a new piece published in the New York Daily News, she argues in favor of supporting the arts in education as a way to help fuel the city’s creative industries; she also notes that the “well-rounded, content-rich syllabus set forth by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act is achievable, but currently only by students in high-income communities.” For others, “learning — and career — options are limited to as few subjects as their schools can afford.”

California counties show way forward for foster youth outcomes

Many school districts in California are “struggling to live up to a now three-year-old federal requirement,” originally set by ESSA, to “ensure foster youth have educational stability.”

Under the federal law, educational and child welfare agencies are to work together “to create transportation plans so that foster students could return to their so-called ‘school of origin’ if that is in their best interest.” California schools are now three years past this deadline, and only 34 percent of child welfare agencies have such plans at the ready. Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento offer hope, however, as each county has worked to implement programs intended to increase transportation services for foster youth, including a $14 million transportation plan in Los Angeles County, volunteer assistance from foster parents in San Diego County and an innovative new program called School Connect in Sacramento.

ESSA & Betsy DeVos’s first 1,000 days

Here in The 74Carolyn Phenicie recently took a look at the first thousand days of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s time on the job, noting that among her detractors, her department’s “weak implementation” of ESSA is among her most egregious actions.

But to her supporters, “weakening the federal hand in education is exactly what they wanted after the perceived overreach of the Bush-Obama years.” Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and a lead author of ESSA, praised DeVos in an emailed statement, saying her department has implemented ESSA “well, on time, and as Congress intended — by restoring most decisions back to states and local school districts.”

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