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This Week’s ESSA News: Looking for Vendors With Proof of Effectiveness, How ESSA Is Changing State Testing, Which States Are Making Student Well-Being a Priority & More

By Erika Ross | September 17, 2019

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.)

The Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli has been “trying to make sense of the sizable gains made by America’s lowest-performing students and kids of color that coincided with the peak of the modern education reform movement.” He finishes up his series on this topic in this Sept. 9 Education Next piece by “offering some personal reflections on what we’ve learned,” recapping “the facts” and acknowledging “the vast amount of ground yet to cover.”

He cautions that we “have spent the past decade overhauling standards, tests, and accountability systems, and finally committing real resources to capacity-building, especially in the form of curriculum implementation.” These disparate pieces have only really begun to come together in the past couple of years “with the release of the first school ratings under the Every Student Succeeds Act.” So, with “Accountability 2.0” in place and a “booming economy once more,” he writes, let’s “see if we can drive real improvements in achievement once again, and not just at the low end of the distribution this time.”

Districts struggle to find evidence-backed ESSA strategies 

In this follow-up piece to a recent article (which we covered last week), EdWeek Market Brief’s Michelle R. Davis notes that “school districts are searching for education vendors whose products have evidence to highlight their effectiveness, but it’s often a struggle for them to find a match.” That’s one of the major conclusions of a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, which “focuses on how federal rules regulating district spending on interventions for low-performing schools are playing out when it comes to evidence requirements, and examines a number of challenges for education companies and educators.”

ESSA and its impact on the state assessment landscape

With state-based standardized testing rapidly changing in the wake of the No Child Left Behind era, a new report from FutureEd — The New Testing Landscape: How State Assessments Are Changing Under the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act — explores emerging trends, including the expanded use of college entrance exams for high school accountability systems and the fragmented market for elementary and middle school testing.

Leveraging ESSA to support health and wellness

Last month, the Healthy Schools Campaign issued a new report that takes a look at how states are supporting social-emotional learning and student well-being in the context of ESSA. The report “highlights the importance of equitable access to quality education and the conditions that support student learning, and provides new opportunities for schools to support student success by improving student health and wellbeing.” Additionally, it “provides an update on how states have approached health and wellness in education policy and practice in response to the requirements and opportunities in ESSA.” It “describes key sections of the law with the highest potential to impact student health, outlines current state efforts, highlights best practices and provides recommendations for advancing this work at the state and local level.”

The report calls out states and districts whose work on SEL and student health are worth emulating: Connecticut, for prioritizing “meeting students’ nonacademic needs — including mental health, nutrition and physical activity — so they are healthy and ready to learn”; Chicago Public Schools, for developing a Healthy CPS Indicator that students and families can use “to identify whether their school is implementing key policies and initiatives that focus on chronic disease, instruction, wellness and health services”; New York state, for putting significant emphasis on SEL and overall student well-being in its ESSA plan, including voluntary benchmarks that students should be hitting at various stages of K-12; Colorado, for creating tools on its state education department website that consider factors such as healthy youth, school climate and family feedback surveys on school improvement; Florida, for starting a Healthy Schools Summer Academy specifically geared for health and physical education teachers but open to all; and North Carolina, for offering teachers online professional development that includes raising “awareness of how to address behavioral health issues inside and outside the classroom.”

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