Experts Predict 5 Ways America’s New Education Law Will Improve the Average School Day

This article is part of The 74’s ongoing coverage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the new law’s implementation across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. You can follow our complete coverage here — and see state-by-state updates via our interactive ESSA map at ESSA.The74Million.org.

Earlier this year, the Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners brought together more than 30 education experts — with state and national experience, Republicans and Democrats — to independently review the first 17 state ESSA plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

While the results of that review can be found at CheckStatePlans.org, peer reviewers also shared their thoughts on different aspects of state ESSA plans – topics like what they were looking for, what they wished they had seen, and what they’re hoping to see in the second round. In a new series, we’ll be sharing those thoughts as we lead up to the review of ESSA plans submitted by the 34 second-round states.

Reviewers had many different perspectives — and priorities — coming into the review. So, we asked them: Share how states’ ESSA plans could actually impact what kids experience in the classroom.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Shanna Peeples, 2015 National Teacher of the Year: Better classrooms leaders — and more freedom for them to measure the ‘whole child’

“Each state-level ESSA plan, as a document, creates a shared understanding among everyone in a community about how best to harness the potential of each child into lifelong learning and success. Two of ESSA’s most important impacts on the classroom are its flexibility in assessment and its encouragement of teacher leadership. More control over assessment means that districts will have opportunities to measure the whole child beyond one day’s narrow test score. Encouraging teacher leadership motivates and inspires teachers to see themselves as people who affect the community beyond their classroom and therefore creates commitment to daily excellence as a model for their colleagues.”

2. Alice Johnson Cain, Teach Plus: Teachers who are even more focused on helping every one of their students grow

“States that recognize that their educators are indispensable partners every step of the way and prioritize educators’ growth and development can impact classrooms through a commitment to equity and real sense of urgency to do right by all students. With high expectations for all students, schools can measure progress against those expectations in a fair, logical, and understandable way; and states that demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of how to infuse data across the system can provide a clear, accurate measure of how schools are doing and how they could do better — all feeding into evidence-based interventions that will yield better results for students.”

3. Gini Pupo-Walker, Conexión Américas: A deeper commitment in better serving English language learners

“State plans must now rate how well schools and districts are moving English learners towards English language proficiency. In many cases this will be the first time that teachers, parents, and stakeholders will have this information. In many schools across the country, there are only a handful of English learner classrooms — and so it will be essential for teachers, parents, and partners to come together to address student progress towards proficiency and to create meaningful changes when necessary in order to ensure students are on track.”

4. Rashidah Morgan, Education First: Greater transparency about school quality, which will ultimately empower parents to make more knowledgeable choices about schools

“A parent’s understanding of two important factors — how the state will determine whether a school is good or not, and how the state would support schools that were not high-performing — also informs which schools he/she chooses for his/her child. State plans that do not include sufficient support for schools that need to improve risk negatively impacting students — like those who are of color, are English learners, or have disabilities — which would be evidenced by classroom performance as well as social and emotional health. State decisions on these issues impact the makeup of schools’ community and the children who will attend classes together.

“Additionally, children are impacted most directly by the teacher in their classroom. If state plans don’t ensure students have equitable access to the most effective teachers, students will surely feel the impact in their classroom.”

5. Virginia Gentles, senior adviser for education reform policy and advocacy organizations: Clearer school ratings that will better inform parents and incentivize educators to do better

“For the states that are committed to developing or maintaining quality accountability systems, the ESSA plans describe the summative ratings — for example, schools receiving A–F letter grades — states will use to clearly communicate school performance to parents. Principals and teachers know that classroom-level activities ultimately determine the school rating. If the plans are implemented as described, parents and schools ideally will see a commitment to quality instruction in the classrooms designed to result in higher school performance ratings.

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