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This Week’s ESSA News: Michigan to Have 2 Accountability Systems This School Year, 2 New States Approved to Try Innovative Testing, Presidential Hopefuls Aim to Boost Title I & More

By Erika Ross | August 11, 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.)

As we’ve reported previously, Georgia and North Carolina have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot program.

According to AllOnGeorgia, Georgia “will pilot two different innovative assessments: one based on the use of adaptive interim assessments, and the other based on the use of on-demand assessments designed to provide real-time data on student performance.” Both assessments will leverage technology to provide educators with key data for use in targeted support efforts.

And in North Carolina, the state’s new innovative assessment “will rely on the use of a customized, end-of-year assessment (called a ‘route’) for each student, developed in response to a student’s performance on two formative assessments taken during the school year.” Each route “represents a cluster of test questions designed to measure a student’s achievement accurately and efficiently.”

The article also notes that states were required to apply for the pilot program with the U.S. Department of Education and “demonstrate how their innovative assessments are developed in collaboration with local stakeholders, aligned to challenging state academic standards and accessible to all students through use of principles of universal design for learning, among other requirements.”

Georgia and North Carolina bring the total of states participating to four, with Louisiana and New Hampshire already taking part in the program.

Check out below for more recent headlines of how states are implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act:

Michigan’s two accountability systems…

“Michigan will have two separate accountability systems for its K-12 schools, which is the result of lame-duck legislation conflicting with federal education law,” writes Jennifer Chambers for the Detroit News. “Michigan already had an accountability system in place under the Every Student Succeeds Act when state lawmakers in December passed a new state A-F accountability system in the early morning hours of a lame-duck session.”

According to Michigan Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley, as a result, “after multiple conversations with officials at the U.S. Department of Education, they have confirmed that the system required by state law will not conform with the federal law requirements.”

Reducing absenteeism by leveraging ESSA

“The Every Student Succeeds Act puts more pressure on schools to ensure their students show up every day,” writes Evie Blad in Education Week. “But when it comes to addressing chronic absenteeism, some educators and policy makers say they are building the plane in the air, relying on a growing body of research about everything from student health and motivation to mentoring to family poverty to find ways to move the needle.”

Blad looks at a new FutureEd report that explores “existing strategies state and local decision makers may consider.”

2020 presidential hopefuls push for Title I funding

The 74’s Carolyn Phenicie looks at how a number of candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential field are seeking to increase spending on Title I, the “anchor for some of the biggest education policy changes in the past two decades, No Child Left Behind and the Every Student Succeeds Act.” This is a “politically expedient proposal” given Title I’s popularity in Congress and among the general public, but “pushing more money through the program, without accompanying reforms, might not make any difference for the children it’s supposed to help, experts said.”

Vermont taking its sweet time releasing ed data

“In October of 2018, the Vermont Agency of Education released statewide, top-line test scores from that spring’s math and English testing. But school-by-school results, they said, would need to wait until December,” reports Lola Duffort. “Nine months later, they still aren’t out.”

At the beginning of 2019, state officials said that “complications from the rollout of a new data collection system had delayed the release of the scores” and later claimed that “the scores would be released alongside the Annual Snapshot, a new report card for schools developed by the state to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.” Although the Snapshot came out in June, and did include academic performance data, the “actual results” weren’t included.

States take the lead on innovative community schools

With community schools gaining attention (and ground) in the education world, Brookings’ Reuben Jacobson examines how states are leading in innovating for these schools, which “engage families and community organizations to provide well-rounded support to students.” In recent years, “community schools advocates have secured victories at the national level, including sustained and increased funding for the Full-Service Community Schools Grant program and the inclusion of this program in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

Now “many community school leaders are focusing on state-level policy” as “responsibility for education has once again moved to the states with ESSA,” and therefore there are “new opportunities for these local initiatives to advocate for state support to solidify the community schools approach as a large-scale, long-term education reform strategy.”

School spending fairness

Jane Porath, an eighth-grade math teacher at Traverse City East Middle School in Michigan and an Educators for High Standards Teacher Champion, takes a look at the important issue of fairness versus equity in education funding. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to track and report per-pupil expenditures at the school and district levels, a requirement in which “equity, not fairness, is the goal” — or, in other words, “spending across schools should not be the same” but instead “should be equitable.” Porath says this is a critical point that should be recognized by state education leaders, because “not all students have the same needs and equity does not necessarily mean giving the same to every student, but rather ensuring that schools receive the supports and resources needed to be successful.”

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