ESSA

The Every Student Succeeds Act significantly improves upon No Child Left Behind by, among other things, giving more power back to states and local schools. We’re working to help policymakers and educators take advantage of the law’s new flexibility, especially when it comes to creating smarter school accountability systems, prioritizing the needs of high-achieving low-income students, and encouraging the adoption of content-rich curricula.

Resources:

Our many ESSA-related blog posts are listed below.


Fordham's ESSA experts:


NOTE: The Joint Education Oversight Committee of the Ohio General Assembly is hearing testimony this week on Ohio's proposed ESSA accountability plan. Below is the written testimony that Chad Aldis gave before the committee today.

Thank you Chairman Cupp, and members of the Joint Education Oversight Committee, for giving me the opportunity to provide testimony today on the Ohio Department of Education’s proposed ESSA plan.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C. Our Dayton office, through the affiliated Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, is also a charter school sponsor.

I’d like to first applaud the department for their hard work on this plan. ODE staff worked tirelessly to gather a massive amount of stakeholder feedback, and many of the recommendations that they heard throughout the state can be either seen as a part of this plan or are identified as areas meriting further study. I know you’ve listened to testimony from a...

Ohio’s draft plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) came out earlier this month, and we at Fordham continue to analyze it and offer our thoughts. In a previous article, I argued that Ohio’s plans for improving low-performing schools were underwhelming. But there is an even more worrisome set of details worth pointing out and rectifying—namely that Ohio’s proposal will likely result in a vast number of schools and districts being labeled as failing and routed into a burdensome and ineffective corrective action process.

For starters, Ohio’s ESSA plan moves beyond what’s required by law when it comes to identifying “low-performing” schools. Federal law requires states to have at least two buckets for school improvement—comprehensive support and targeted support (or the equivalent of what Ohio is naming “priority” and “focus” schools, respectively). The law is direct in spelling out how states should place schools in either category (see Table 1).

Table 1: ESSA requirements

Now take a look at Ohio’s proposed criteria below.

Table 2: Ohio’s proposed implementation of ESSA’s requirements

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In early February, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released the first draft of its state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Required by law to incorporate at least one “non-academic” indicator in its report card, Ohio chose two: student engagement as measured by chronic absenteeism and the Prepared for Success report-card component. In a previous piece, I explored the student engagement aspect; here, I tackle the Prepared for Success (PFS) component, which is designed to gauge how well prepared students are for what comes after high school.

The PFS component contains six measures that are combined to determine an A-F grade. They are divided into a “primary” and “bonus” category. Primary measures earn districts one point toward their composite score and include students who earn any of the following:

One of the hallmarks of school accountability is the identification of and intervention in persistently low-preforming schools. Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools were required to make adequate yearly progress (AYP); if they fell short, they were subject to a set of escalating consequences. Much of the backlash against NCLB was a result of these consequences being imposed from afar with little flexibility. So when Congress geared up for reauthorization, it wasn’t surprising that the new law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), shifted the responsibility of identification and intervention to the states.

Last week, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released an overview of its proposed ESSA state plan. This isn’t the entire plan—the full draft will be released for public comment in early February. In future posts, we’ll do some deep dive analyses of the key areas and potential impacts of the full draft. But in the meantime, there’s plenty in the overview to explore—including how the Buckeye State plans to identify its lowest-performing schools.

ESSA requires states to identify at least two categories of schools: comprehensive support schools (which include the lowest-performing schools in the state) and targeted support schools (which...

Today Education Week released its annual Quality Counts report card for states. Ohio earned a C with an overall score of 74.2, aligning the Buckeye State for the second year in a row with national U.S. average (also 74.2). Its ranking of 22nd is up one place from 2016; all of Ohio’s neighboring states earned a C or C-minus except for Pennsylvania, which earned a B.

Ohio’s individual sub-grades also remained unchanged from last year:

  • C-plus in Chance for Success—a measure that includes educational inputs and outputs across the life span such as family income, parent educational levels, preschool and kindergarten enrollment, fourth- and eighth-grade NAEP scores, and adult educational attainment.
  • C-minus in K-12 Achievement—looks at student performance on the NAEP, graduation rates and percent of students scoring 3 or above on AP exams, as well as gaps in proficiency between poor and non-poor students.
  • C in School Finance—a measure that includes state funding systems’ reliance on local property wealth as well as other measures of equity, per pupil expenditures, and share of taxable resources spent on education.

For the last several years in the Quality Counts report cards, Ohio’s subcategory scores largely stayed consistent despite several shifts in...

Victoria McDougald, David Griffith, Kaitlin Pennington, and Sara Mead

Teacher evaluation was one of President Obama’s signature policies, and a controversial element of education reform during his tenure. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which does not require states and districts to implement performance-based teacher evaluations like No Child Left Behind waivers did, teacher evaluation policy has largely fallen out of the public narrative. But that does not mean states or districts know how they are going to proceed with teacher evaluation policy—in fact, its future remains unclear in this new era of lessened federal oversight.

In December 2016, Bellwether Education Partners and The Thomas B. Fordham Institute independently released two reports centered on teacher evaluation and its consequences. Bellwether’s report summarizes the teacher evaluation policy landscape and points out potential risks for teacher evaluation in the wake of the passage of ESSA. The Fordham Institute’s report studies twenty-five districts to determine if those districts can terminate veteran teachers once evaluation systems have deemed them ineffective.

Both reports offer a glimpse into ongoing challenges and opportunities with teacher evaluation reform, but they have very different analyses. To understand our different approaches and the places where we might overlap on teacher evaluation policy, Bellwether and Fordham hosted an...

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has put the future of teacher evaluations firmly in the hands of states. Ohio is now in full control of deciding how to develop and best implement its nascent system.

It should come as no surprise to folks in the Buckeye State that the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has significant room for improvement. Since its inception in 2009, approximately 90 percent of Ohio teachers have been rated in the top two categories and labeled “skilled” or “accomplished.” Unfortunately, there isn’t significant evidence that the system has impacted the quality of Ohio’s teacher workforce, perhaps because there is no statewide law that permits administrators to dismiss teachers based solely on evaluation ratings. Meanwhile, OTES also doesn’t appear to be delivering on the promise to aid teachers in improving their practice.

A quick glance at the ODE-provided template for the professional growth plan, which is used by all teachers except those who are rated ineffective or have below-average student growth, offers a clue as to why practice may not be improving. It is a one-page, fill-in-the-blank sheet. The performance evaluation rubric by which teachers’ observation ratings are determined...

Mike Pence was elected Vice President of the United States on November 9, 2016, alongside President-elect Donald Trump. Here are his views on education.

1. Charter schools: “We want to eliminate low income and location as barriers to receiving a quality education, and public charter schools are an essential element of achieving that objective.” July 2015.

2. Vouchers: “This is a school that has greatly benefited by our educational voucher program, opening doors of opportunity to kids that might not otherwise be able to enjoy the kind of education they have here. We've increased our investment in our traditional public schools, we've raised the foundation under our charter schools, and we've lifted the cap on our voucher program." (Said while visiting St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School.) May 2015.

3. School accountability: “We grade our children every week, and we can grade our schools every year, but those grades should fairly reflect the efforts of our students and teachers as we transition to higher standards and a new exam.” October 2015.

4. Indiana’s abandonment of the Common Core: “I believe when we reach the end of this process there are going to be many other states around the...

Now that the Every Student Succeeds Act opens the door to new approaches, the education policy community is rightfully interested in helping states overhaul their school accountability systems. I co-authored Fordham’s contribution to the cause, High Stakes for High Achievers, which looks at ways that these systems can signal to schools that all students (including high-flying ones) matter. We weigh in on the use of proficiency rates (avoid!), growth models (yes!), and other mechanisms for making low-income high achievers more visible. Other groups are making proposals about the “other indicators of student success or school quality” allowed by ESSA (i.e., indicators other than test scores); debates are raging about whether states must issue “summative” ratings for schools or use a “dashboard” of data instead.

These discussions are all well and good, but they assume that school report cards and ratings still matter—that parents, taxpayers, real estate agents, and others will see them and respond in ways that will put heat on our system to improve.

We might want to question that assumption. Because if school report cards continue to serve as a lever for reform, people need to be able to find them, and understand them. That...

Last week, several of my Fordham colleagues published a fantastic fifty-state review of accountability systems and how they impact high achievers. Lamentably, they found that most states do almost nothing to hold schools accountable for the progress of their most able pupils. There are several reasons for this neglect, as the report’s foreword discusses; but with states now revamping their school report cards under the new federal education law, they have a great chance to bolster accountability for their high-achieving students.

How did Ohio fare? We’re pleased to report that the Buckeye State is a national leader in accounting for the outcomes of high-achieving students. As the Fordham study points out, Ohio accomplishes this in three important ways. First, to rate schools, the state relies heavily on the performance index. This measure gives schools additional credit when students reach advanced levels on state exams, encouraging them to teach to all learners and not just those on the cusp of proficiency. Second, Ohio utilizes a robust value-added measure that expects schools to contribute to all students’ academic growth, including high achievers (and regardless of whether they come from low- or higher-income backgrounds). Third, state report cards...

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