The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) returns decision making for our nation’s education back where it belongs — in the hands of local educators, families, and communities — while keeping the focus on students most in need.
- ESSA will help to ensure that all students have the resources and support they need regardless of ZIP code.
- ESSA departs from the 14-year reign of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by delivering the time and flexibility needed by schools, families, communities, and educators to do what works for students.
- ESSA Timeline: All ESSA provisions are scheduled to go into effect by the 2017-2018 school year, so now is the time for educators to raise their voices and impact decisions.
Learn how the states below are already delivering on the promise of ESSA in their communities.
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Broad Range of Education Leaders attend ESSA Summit sponsored by the Anchorage Education Association
With just months to go, the conversation around ESSA in Alaska’s largest school district continues to gain momentum. On February 4, almost 70 education partners and community leaders attended an ESSA summit in Anchorage to address how ESSA will impact students, educators, schools, and the community.
Representatives with Great Alaska Schools, University of Alaska at Anchorage, Alaska PTA, Totem Association of Education Support Personnel, Anchorage Principal Association, Anchorage Student Advisory Board, Anchorage School District and others discussed over-testing, teacher evaluations, student assessment, state accountability plans, and other issues.
The event was led by the Anchorage Education Association (AEA) with the intent of further developing their 2016-2017 “Bargaining for the Common Good” campaign. Organizers also wanted to establish a community platform around the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Last November, a similar group of education leaders in Alaska convened in preparation for a statewide ESSA assembly scheduled for March. Their goal is the same as many local and state Associations, school districts, and other stakeholders across the nation: Coordinate efforts around the overhauled federal law before it goes into effect. For that they have until the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
The summit started with a panel of educators, parents, and students who broke into five groups to discuss in detail the new education law. Students were assigned to each group as facilitators and note takers. Their notes are available at http://essaforum.weebly.com/group-notes.html.
According to organizers, the most discussed issues involved over-testing, oversight of student needs, how to weigh indicators that go into measuring school quality, and how Alaskans should respond to the flexibility in ESSA that is in such contrast with the No Child Left Behind Act, the previous version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Tentative Agreement Reached to Reduce Standardized Testing
Members of the Sacramento Classroom Teachers Association’s (SCTA) ESSA Implementation Team are being credited with leading the way to a tentative agreement to reduce standardized testing within the Sacramento City Unified School District. The team of SCTA members created a broad coalition of students, families, and community partners to participate in the bargaining process. In particular, the group agreed to work together to reduce testing measures.
Members of SCTA plan to help train and host other NEA affiliates interested in strengthening community partnerships to reduce standardized testing in their areas. The goal for many school districts across the nation is to speak up to ensure ESSA implementation policies are in place by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
The new education law raises questions about how its policy provisions will become classroom practice. Learn how one local association is taking action and creating their ESSA plan.
Final Draft of Delaware ESSA Plan Steps Away From ‘Name and Blame’ Game
After weeks of advocacy and feedback from Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) members and other stakeholders, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) released on March 29 a revised draft of the state ESSA Consolidated Plan. The draft is now under review by U.S. Department of Education officials and peer reviewers as part of a 120-day review process.
“DSEA commends DDOE for their efforts to engage and partner with stakeholders in the development of Delaware’s ESSA Consolidated Plan,” says Deborah Stevens, DSEA Director of Instructional Advocacy. “We believe that the state plan is a significant step away from “name and blame” and toward ‘identify and support.’”
The latest Delaware ESSA plan includes the following:
Summative Determination Rating System: The five star rating system for schools has been replaced by a numerical system as recommended two years ago by the Accountability Framework Work Group that DSEA was a part of and whose recommendations DSEA supports. The scores of each metric will be combined for a summative index score.
Definition of an Ineffective Teacher: The definition of “ineffective teacher” in the Educator Equity section of the plan now states that an ineffective teacher has an overall summative rating of either “ineffective” or “needs improvement,” and reflects the performance of the educator in five equally weighted components using DPAS II or an approved alternate evaluation system.
Definition of an Inexperienced Teacher: In the Educator Equity section of the plan, the department will now report on those teachers with less than four years of experience and will also report separately on those with just one year of experience or less. DSEA is still advocating for the inclusion of a qualifying statement that specifically expresses that the designation “inexperienced” does not reflect the effectiveness of those teachers identified as inexperienced.
Ninety-five Percent Participation Rate: There will no longer be a deduction from a school’s proficiency rating due to a testing participation rate below 95 percent. The adjusted proficiency formula has been removed from the plan and has been replaced with a requirement that schools with less than 95 percent participation must submit a plan to the state on how they plan to meet the participation requirements.
Opportunity Indicators: In addition to the required metrics, the DSEA plans includes “opportunity indicators” which take into account chronic absenteeism, college preparedness, and other factors that focus on more than just a test score.
Delaware Gets Ready to Submit State Plan
Throughout the spring of 2017, states will be submitting their ESSA implementation plans to the U.S Department of Education. Representatives from the Delaware State Education Association played a prominent role in these conversations. The Delaware Department of Education tapped into the expertise of all stakeholders in designing its plan. In September, state officials held two weeks of community conversations around the state to discuss student support and improvement, supporting excellent education for all students, and measures of school success and reporting. Additional discussion groups were held throughout the fall.
After the first draft was completed in October, stakeholders continued to provide feedback through February during the public comment phase.
The department of education will submit the final implementation plan in March. DEA is planning to educate and engage members around the state plan via social media, newsletters and local meetings, and ensure they have every opportunity to lend their voice to this conversation.
ESSA Discussion at Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs Annual Conference in Miami
Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade (UTD) in Florida, made a presentation regarding the implementation of ESSA at the Annual Conference of the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs (BHCC) in Miami, Florida.
The BHCC is a national non-partisan organization comprised of the elected Latino officials serving as the chairs and vice chairs of their respective state Hispanic legislative caucuses as well as other Latinos serving in leadership positions. The conference brings together Hispanic state legislative leaders, policymakers, and other community leaders from government, business, law, education and other areas.
At the conference, Hernandez-Mats facilitated the Education Work Committee discussion that included the following highlights:
- State legislators from nine states who serve on the BHCC education committee proposed to do a Facebook Tele-Town Hall with NEA in spring. The event would advocate for policies that support public schools. The legislators also requested to work with NEA on other social media campaigns involving students, families and educators in their states.
- It was proposed that NEA and BHCC host a pro-public education event in Arizona, Colorado, or Michigan in spring. Also, that both organizations host an education panel at NEA headquarters during National Hispanic Heritage Month, the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States when people recognize the contributions of Hispanics to the nation’s heritage and culture.
- Model legislation from NEA around ESSA and the prevention of charter school takeovers was requested from 37 Latino state legislators serving in more than 20 states.
For more about BHCC and the conference visit: http://www.bhcc.org/annual-conference
For more about United Teachers of Dade visit: http://www.utofd.com/
Hawaii’s Blueprint for Education
Very few states have seen the level of educator engagement on ESSA that has been occurring in Hawaii. Aloha state educators know this is their opportunity to add their voice to this conversation if ESSA implementation to advocate on behalf of their students and their profession.
In 2016, Gov. David Ige assembled an ESSA task force, made up of educators, lawmakers, parents and members of the private sector, charged with creating a “blueprint for education” to implement the law in the state. After an initial version was completed in late 2016, the task force took the design ideas back out to the community for further discussion, feedback and elaboration.
Prior to the passage of ESSA, members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) were already mobilizing around “Schools Our Keiki Deserve,” an evidence-based report by the HSTA Speakers Bureau used to guide public policy decisions around public education. HSTA member Amy Perruso, a nationally recognized social studies teacher and member of the ESSA taskforce, created the Speakers Bureau to organize the community in support of public schools, which had proved invaluable during the ESSA implementation process. The Speakers Bureau has been incredibly active in the ESSA town halls and other opportunities for community engagement that have been occurring in multiple locations on every island across the state.
“We are building not only a movement around the ‘Schools Our Keiki Deserve’ via ESSA organizing,” explains Amy Perruso, “but also school-based leadership familiar with the language and possibilities of ESSA that will help us as we move into implementation.”
New Member Growth Tied to ESSA Implementation Advocacy
Despite membership falling below 60 percent, officials with the Fort Wayne Education Association (FWEA) rallied members around the implementation of ESSA and consequently recruited approximately 100 new members last fall. Fort Wayne members weighed in on their priorities for implementing the federal law while working with the superintendent, school board and other community members. During the ESSA advocacy campaign, FWEA leaders also boosted FWEA committee participation.
Last fall, members of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) convened 750 educators, parents, young people, and community advocates from nine communities statewide.
- Create open conversations among diverse community members.
- Enhance collaboration, mutual support and common ground.
- Build a holistic vision of the services and supports children need.
- Consider next steps for ensuring a better future for Louisiana youth.
A community conversation guide and report titled, Ensuring a Better Future for Louisiana’s Children.
Parental involvement, building community relationships, rating school quality, school funding, and resource equity were several issues and concerns documented in the report. Teacher preparation, test reduction, and improving struggling schools were also identified.
“Louisiana is home to pockets of significant wealth alongside poverty and instability. The differences between these two worlds exist most significantly within our public school classrooms,” according to the report. Association leaders plan to use the report’s findings to achieve greater buy-in for ESSA implementation measures across the state.
Democrats Override Maryland Governor’s Anti-Public Education Veto
On April 6, Democrats from the Maryland General Assembly stood with parent, educator, and civil rights groups to override Gov. Hogan’s veto of the Protect Our Schools Act —legislation that will make the state a leader in closing opportunity gaps, reducing standardized testing, and preventing school privatization.
“Today was a huge day for public education in Maryland—and all supporters of our neighborhoods schools thank the General Assembly for overriding Gov. Hogan’s misguided veto,” said Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA). “The Protect Our Schools Act will position our schools to improve learning opportunities and student outcomes for years to come, while protecting them from failed, top-down privatization ideas that put corporate interests before our students.”
With the passage of ESSA, the federal government has given each state the ability to author a plan for measuring accountability and student achievement and growth. The Protect Our Schools Act of 2017 (POSA) is the school accountability reform bill intended to implement accountability measures and intervention strategies that have been proven to get results.
Under ESSA, each state is allowed to include new measurements in their plan that go beyond standardized test scores. For example, smaller class sizes and access to quality pre-kindergarten programs can be included in a state’s accountability system as an “opportunity indicator.”
In Maryland, the House vote was 90-50 and the Senate vote was 32-15. The legislation—which is supported by educators, parents, civil rights groups, and leading education scholars—protects Maryland schools from privatization and creates a strong, transparent school accountability system.
However, Gov. Hogan vetoed the bill because it will stop his efforts with President Donald Trump and Education Secretary DeVos to force communities to give up control of their schools and hand over operations to private and for-profit operators.
Moving ESSA from Main Street to the Statehouse
In events leading up to the POSA vote, NEA President Lilly Eskelsen García and more than 400 other educators and community members rallied on March 13 at MSEA headquarters in Annapolis to advocate for a narrative of positive change around ESSA. Despite a forecast of heavy snow, educators marched to legislative office buildings to visit with elected officials to discuss student-centered legislation.
A flood of educator voices throughout that week had an immediate impact on March 17 as the Maryland Senate voted 46–0 to approve the More Learning, Less Testing Act. This bill, known as the Less Testing, More Learning Act in the House, limits all federal, state, and district mandated testing to 2.2 percent of the school year — except in eighth grade when the limit is 2.3 percent — or about 25 hours annually. The bill also contains an amendment that gives districts a waiver to get over the cap if school-level educators in the local education association agree.
Both chambers unanimously approved the bill, albeit in slightly different forms. In February, the Maryland House of Delegates voted 139-0 to limit all district, state, and federal mandated tests to 2 percent of the annual school year—or 21.6 hours in elementary and middle schools and 23.6 hours in high schools. The average Maryland student takes more than 200 standardized tests at school. This legislation would eliminate more than 900 hours of standardized testing across 17 districts.
How MSEA Led the Way in ESSA Implementation
Under ESSA, communities can push policymakers to include factors that focus on more than test scores. For example, in the week preceding key legislative votes, MSEA members made more than 700 phone calls to legislators specifying the need for a sound ESSA plan, less testing, and the prevention of school privatization.
In collaboration with other community stakeholders, MSEA sent more than 4,000 emails to legislative offices urging legislators to support POSA and balance “opportunity to learn” indicators with “testing” indicators as a measurement of school success.
As POSA moved through the Maryland legislative process, the dividing line between support and opposition came down to commitment for public education. Parents groups, like the Maryland PTA, strongly supported the bill, while national school privatization groups opposed.
“This legislation makes it clear that local stakeholders, especially parents, now get the first say in how low-performing schools are improved,” said Elizabeth Ysla Leight, Maryland PTA president. “Not the partisans and not the so-called experts pushing their own agenda. Top-down, one-size-fits-all solutions have never worked.”
Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, stated in a letter to senators: “We have an obligation to our children to try something new and change the status quo. It’s time to lead the nation in closing the opportunity gaps that lead to inequality in schools. The Protect Our Schools Act does exactly that.”
ESSA Campaign Sparks New Advocacy Among Member Base
The ESSA implementation campaign led by the Lyon County Education Association (LCEA) typifies how local Associations can help to shape the specifics of the new law, particularly in such areas as student equity, teacher evaluation, standardized testing, and how to fix low-performing schools.
With regard to testing, LCEA and members of the Time to Learn Committee of the National Council of Urban Education Associations (NCUEA) visited 15 and conducted 170 one-on-one interviews to learn more about testing challenges facing educators. Initial survey results identify redundant or unnecessary testing at all grade levels. Also, that counselors spend over 50 percent of their time during the school year prepping and proctoring tests.
The site visits were in most cases the first time that non-members had been invited to join LCEA. As a result, 37 new members joined LCEA and 17 follow-up interviews were scheduled.
In New Mexico, the state chapter of PTA and NEA New Mexico have been working together to bring parents into the process, and to learn from each other as well. Learn more. >>
NEA and the National PTA discussed implementation of the law at the state and local level and the opportunities that educators and families have to become involved. The event featured National Education Association – New Mexico and the New Mexico PTA. Register and view the webinar.
Members of the Forsyth County Association of Educators (FCAE) began discussing ESSA issues early in the school year with the superintendent and other district officials of Forsyth County Schools, home to more than 54,000 students in 81schools.
“I found out they didn’t have an ESSA team,” says Ronda Mays, FCAE president. “So, I started one.”
The ESSA Design and Implementation Team has regular meetings and consists of a school board member, a parent, and educators from different grade levels and job classifications.
“I am very pleased with the movement of my local and the members who have grown as leaders through our work over the last year on ESSA and other issues,” Mays says.
The ESSA Design and Implementation Team has done the following:
- Analyzed the law’s technical language and ramifications.
- Pivoted from ESSA’s general overview to how the law specifically applies to Forsyth County student issues.
- Requested an audit of county testing requirements, results and other data over the last several years.
- Arranged to work with National Education Association staff to decipher new data and respond accordingly.
- Sponsored a community town hall in April with the theme, “Time to Teach, Time to Learn.”
- Made presentations on ESSA to three parent groups.
“I deeply want parents to team with educators to design the best school district possible,” Mays says. “As we continue to move forward, I see where we have made progress with a diverse group of educators, parents, and community members concerning ESSA.”
At the April town hall meeting, Mays and FCAE members have asked participants to get involved in their local schools and take the opportunity with ESSA to reshape public education.
“We wanted to stress the need for the educator voice in the implementation of the law as well as obtain input from other stakeholders,” Mays says.
Using ESSA to Support Inclusion
Educators in Ohio recently got a firsthand look at how ESSA can help create a more inclusive classroom that meets the needs of all students, regardless of race, religion, culture or socio-economic background. In December, the Sylvania Education Association (SEA) conducted a cultural competency training of 80 educators, using ESSA as a framework to support effective instruction. This training included principals, administrators, support professionals and parents. As a result of this training, SEA partnered with Sylvania Schools to embrace and support inclusion in their city. SEA, with the support of the school district and community partners, coordinated the One Sylvania: Rally for Refugees on February 1. More than 1,300 people came together to listen, learn and show their support for members of the community. Over the course of this year, SEA has used ESSA as an impetus to reach out and include the community in crafting an inclusive curriculum for Sylvania schools.
“The training made me think about the things that really matter, not test scores or evaluations, but what students need and how as educators we play a critical role in creating those experiences,” said SEA President Dan Greenberg. “Being a part of a school community that values learning and prioritizes meeting the needs of all students is really amazing.”
Learn about ESSA successes and lessons learned in Oklahoma. Register and view the webinar
- Building Strong Schools through ESSA (PDF)
Cross-agency Collaboration Key to Oregon Education Association’s Success
The Oregon Education Association (OEA) is working closely with their Oregon partners in education to lay the groundwork for ESSA engagement through a multi-year, multi-partner collaboration to design a balanced system of assessment for meaningful student learning. Download the report. >>
- Strong Partnerships = Strong Schools
Webinar: November 18th
South Carolina Local Association Spotlights ESSA’s Impact on students, educators, classrooms at Town Hall
On Feb. 6, the Beaufort County Education Association (BCEA) hosted a town-hall event in Beaufort County, South Carolina, parents, educators and other community members gathered to discuss how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives them a voice to change the direction of public education in their state. Participants heard an overview about ESSA from BCEA member and high school Chemistry teacher, Dawn Peebles. The event showcased how ESSA – if it’s implemented successfully – provides educators the opportunity to advocate for reductions in high-stakes testing, but most importantly how this new law can be used to help close the achievement gap for students in the state.
The South Carolina Education Association, which has hosted five ESSA-related town-halls across the state, is supporting a proposal by the S.C. Education Oversight Committee, an independent, nonpartisan group made up of educators, business people, and elected officials, to reduce testing by alternating when, and what subjects will be tested. The proposal was discussed at the town-hall, and was presented as just one of the many opportunities for educators and parents alike to take a seat at the table and influence multiple policy decisions around ESSA.
Educators Meet to Discuss ESSA Opportunities and Challenges
ESSA’s implementation remains a work in progress at both the federal and state levels. To examine and discuss the wide range of efforts now underway, Virginia Education Association (VEA) affiliates in Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, York, Williamsburg, and Gloucester, along with the Hampton University student chapter, organized an ESSA public forum last November attended by 50 participants, including the superintendent of Hampton City Schools, school board members from each participating local, and officials with the Virginia Department of Education.
Attendees conveyed to education department attendees how ESSA impacts their classroom and other duties. Participants were encouraged to join NEA online ESSA groups on EdCommunities.org.