Every Student Succeeds Act: Early Childhood Education

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

The ESSA Act requires documentation of “the strategies that the school will be implementing to address school needs, including a description of how such strategies will . . . address the needs of all children in the school, but particularly the needs of those at risk of not meeting the challenging State academic standards, through activities which may include . . . strategies for assisting preschool children in the transition from early childhood education programs to local elementary school programs” (pp. 68–69).

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” –Benjamin Franklin

The Every Student Succeeds Act reaffirms the country’s commitment to young learners. Although some research indicates that the kindergarten readiness achievement gap is lessening between children from low- and high-income families, the importance of preparing preschoolers for kindergarten remains a top priority for teachers and parents across the nation. ESSA acknowledges the need for high-quality preschool programs, outlines funding allotments and guidelines, and highlights the benefit of a smooth transition for preschoolers into kindergarten. Read more about the Early Learning Initiatives here.

According to ESSA Section 1114, if Title I funds are used to support preschool programs, then the school district plans must include a description of how the funding is used, specifically addressing how the district supports the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Also, the preschool program and/or services must comply with the performance standards laid out in the Head Start Act.

Vertical Alignment and Collaboration

Vertical alignment is an idea that most educators are familiar with: First-grade teachers share expectations with kindergarten teachers, second-grade teachers discuss what students should know by August with first-grade teachers, and so on. ESSA requires communication and collaboration between preschool programs and the school district. The focus on improving kindergarten readiness and supporting the preschool to kindergarten transition is a key point of the legislation. The idea is multi-faceted and holds many potential benefits, including:

  • Identifying and minimizing gaps in student learning by increasing communication between preschool and kindergarten teachers.
  • Increasing parent involvement and advocacy for their child by helping them to understand the transition.
  • Supporting students’ academic, emotional, and social needs as they transition.

Kindergarten Transition

The transition into kindergarten can be a tough one for children, parents, and sometimes teachers. Students enter kindergarten with so many varied experiences—some have been in daycare and preschool their whole life, and some have never been separated from a parent or family member. Many enter with knowledge of the alphabet and numbers, but there are also children who have never had any instruction or exposure to academic subjects. Regardless of background experiences, even simply learning to line up and sit down when asked can be a struggle.

Here are some ways to support the transition for students into kindergarten:

  • Connect preschool families with free book programs (like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program or visit Reading Rockets for more options) to engage kids with books.
  • Set up transition meetings with the preschool and kindergarten teachers, and support staff like counselors and nurses, to answer questions and establish expectations for families.
  • Establish a way for student preschool records to precede the student, giving the kindergarten teacher a running start at knowing academic (and sometimes social) needs before the school year begins.
  • Provide training for preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and support personnel on social and emotional needs specific to this transition.
  • Arrange kindergarten “play dates” over the summer for incoming kindergarteners and families to meet teachers, administration, support staff, and other kindergarteners.
  • Partner with local businesses and foundations to put together summer learning kits with crayons, paper, books, and other school supplies for the incoming kindergarteners to use over the summer.
  • Write and distribute a Tips for Families packet with helpful hints for parents and family members as they support their child through this transition.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  • What do you or your district staff do to support the preschool to kindergarten transition?
  • In your experience, what are other potential benefits of supporting this transition?

Resources

Bassok, D., Finch, J. E., Lee, R., Reardon, S. F., & Waldfogel, J. (2016). Socioeconomic gaps in early childhood experiences: 1998 to 2010. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–22.

Reardon, S. F., & Portilla, X. A. (2016). Recent trends in income, racial, and ethnic school readiness gaps at kindergarten entry. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–18.

Ridzi, F., Sylvia, M., Qiao, X., & Craig, J. (2017). The Imagination Library Program and kindergarten readiness: Evaluating the impact of monthly book distribution. Journal of Applied Social Science, 11(1), 11–24.

Dr. Caroline Courter, NBCT, is a Curriculum Specialist at Age of Learning, Inc. and an adjunct faculty member in the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Policy Committee.

 

Igniting My Passion for the Teaching Profession

During her senior year in high school, my daughter was in honors chemistry, and all she did was worksheets.

When she shared this with me, I was shocked and retorted, “But you’re in honors chemistry! All you do is worksheets? Really?” So I called the chemistry teacher, who informed me, “Yes, all we do is worksheets. You just don’t understand; you’re not a teacher!” Right then and there I said to myself, “No I am not, but I can fix that!”

So I decided to go back to college in 1992 after my only child graduated from high school.

I attended what was then Valencia Community College, graduating with honors in the spring of 1994. In the fall of 1994 I started at the University of Central Florida and was inducted into the Omicron Lambda Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

Becoming a member of KDP truly changed my life in ways I could never have imagined and has helped me to become a better person and a better educator.

My association with Dr. Marcella Kysilka, a former International President of KDP and the Omicron Lambda Chapter Counselor, continued to fuel and grow my knowledge of pedagogy and my passion for teaching. Upon graduating cum laude in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education, I obtained my temporary teaching certificate. After interviewing at three different high schools in my area, I was called by all of them offering me a teaching position.

I could have taught at any of the three schools. Yet I thoughtfully chose to teach at the inner-city school. Believing in the mission of KDP and the vision “Quality Learning for All” drove me to do everything within my power to inspire and motivate my students and to help them to learn and grow as individuals.

I used dice to teach probability. Kids showed up to my class that had never come before because they wanted to learn about dice. That’s OK. They also learned about probability and working with percentages and fractions along the way.

My students were project engineers for a few days, having to create boomerangs from cardboard after examining various sample models. They determined the slopes of the flanges and then created and decorated their boomerangs, which I called “sloperangs.” The looks on their faces when we went outside and tried out their prototypes were priceless. The sloperangs really worked!

We made the rate × time = distance formula come to life by measuring off fixed distances in front of the school and running “speed traps”—timing the cars as they passed. Then we went back inside and did the calculations to determine how fast the cars were going in miles per hour.

Was it an easy group of students to teach? No.

Were the challenges with teaching these students small? No.

Was it worth it? YES!

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be their teacher, and I am grateful for being part of KDP.

My membership in KDP inspired me then and continues to ignite my passion as an educator.

Please consider a gift to Kappa Delta Pi today to celebrate the 106th year since our founding on March 8, 1911. Gifts of $19.11 or more are being matched thanks to the generosity of our Former Presidents. Donate now.

Dr. Peggy Moch is a full professor at Valdosta State University where she teachers Mathematics courses and serves as the Alpha Beta Kappa Chapter Counselor.

Every Student Succeeds Act: Deeper Learning, Personalized Learning

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

This is the time of year when building principals begin determining their master schedules for the upcoming school year.

Jobs are posted, interviews are conducted, new teachers are hired, and teachers start to put plans in place for the next school year.

Teachers begin reflecting about what adjustments they want to make to set up for a new group of students.

Several days and hours will be spent rearranging classrooms, planning upcoming units, hanging posters and other inspirational items, and putting the final touches on beginning-of-the-school-year activities meant to build relationships and class culture.

Teachers are faced with the challenges of building relationships, teaching standards, and ensuring that the learning needs of each student are met.

Truly understanding the needs of each student is time consuming and requires sufficient and effective professional development opportunities for teachers to build their knowledge and skill set to address these needs.

ESSA and State Standards

ESSA requires states to have academic standards in reading, language arts, mathematics and science that “align with the entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the state’s system of public higher education and with applicable state career and technical education standards.” In addition to these standards, states are required to continue standardized testing.

Teachers are faced with the challenge of teaching the higher-order thinking skills students need to meet the standards. Because each classroom and each school is different, getting to know students and their individual learning needs allows teachers to differentiate their content and lesson activities to help all student receive the education they need to meet or exceed standards. Ensuring each student has the tools needed to be college and career ready requires adequate assistance by teachers, school leaders, districts, and states.

ESSA and Deeper Learning

The energy at the beginning of the school year transforms as teachers start to know and understand their students. The excitement changes from initial anticipation activities to problem-solving tactics enlisting the collective power of teachers to predict, reform, and adjust their teaching practices to address the needs of students in their individual classrooms. The mindset of students also changes as they determine how the content is relevant to them and how they are going to meet the expectations their teachers have of them to be creative and think critically.

ESSA provides support for states and districts to promote deeper learning through several means, including personalized learning opportunities. Deeper learning consists of “the delivery of challenging academic standards to students in innovative ways that allow them to learn, and then apply what they have learned.”

One way to support deeper learning is through personalized learning, which “emphasizes (1) developing trusted and caring relationships between teachers and students; (2) connecting learning to the real world; (3) linking curriculum to students’ interests, strengths, and aspirations; (4) providing students individually targeted instruction, practice, and support where they are struggling; and (5) creating more flexible learning environments.”

The outcome of providing personalized learning to elevate deeper learning is building equity by preparing all students regardless of their race, gender, background, and socioeconomic status with the skills they need to be college and career ready by the time they graduate high school.

The support ESSA provides is through Title I and Title II funds. States can use up to 3% of their Title II funds to support building leaders and principals by “developing high quality professional development programs.” States can use up to 3% of their Title I funds for “direct student services” helping students receive personalized learning services advancing their coursework through a variety of means to prepare them to be college and career ready.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  1. How are your schools and districts promoting deeper learning through innovative practices?
  2. In what ways can personalized learning opportunities help students grow as learners?

dr-john-helgesonDr. John Helgeson is a Secondary ELA Curriculum Specialist in the Northshore School District in Washington State. He is a member of KDP’s Public Policy Committee.

Every Student Succeeds Act: Homeless Students

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

During the 2013–2014 school year, the U.S. Department of Education accounted for the enrollment of “more than 1.3 million homeless children and youth in public schools”—a number that has doubled since 2006–2007.

To continue to protect and ensure a growing number of homeless children and youth have equitable access to public education and needed services, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorized the Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program (Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act).

Under ESSA, McKinney-Vento includes a number of new provisions that expand schools’ obligations to homeless children and youth.

Among the many key changes, McKinney-Vento requires state and local levels to improve efforts to identify homeless students, remove barriers to enrollment (e.g., fees, proof of residency, health records), coordinate with other service providers (e.g., law enforcement, shelters), maintain school stability (local organizations must work to keep students in their school of origin), and ensure that homeless children have access to early education. These changes reflect a continued emphasis on state and local requirements “to review and undertake steps to revise laws, regulations, practices or policies that may act as barriers to the identification, enrollment, attendance, or success in school of homeless children and youths.”

Guidance at the State and Local Levels

State and local educational agencies were required to begin the implementation of new provisions in October 2016. To help with these efforts, the U.S. Department of Education published non-regulatory guidance on amendments to McKinney-Vento in July 2016. The purpose of the guidance is to introduce amendments to McKinney-Vento under ESSA and provide recommendations at the state and local levels for addressing new requirements. Key recommendations include how to identify homeless children and youth (e.g., local liaisons can work with shelters to identify preschool-age homeless children), how to remove barriers to enrollment (e.g., providing on-site immunization clinics), and how to remove barriers to attendance and success (e.g., identify transportation point person to make arrangements for students, establish a positive school climate for homeless students). Along with the non-regulatory guidance, the U.S. Department of Education also released A Fact Sheet & Tips for Teachers, Principals, School Leaders, Counselors, and Other School Staff as an additional resource.

Call to Action

The blogs written by the Public Policy Committee are intended to inform KDP members and invite them to act. You are encouraged to participate in a special discussion forum in KDP Global. By sharing your expertise and experiences, others can learn from you. In other words, your participation is a way to advocate for the teaching profession. Please answer this week’s questions:

  1. What questions do you have regarding ESSA and homeless children and youth?
  2. Do you find the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance, fact sheet, and tips helpful?

stich_amyDr. Amy Stich is Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations at Northern Illinois University and a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Public Policy Committee.

Helping College Students Navigate Financial Aid: The Dos and Don’ts

 

tichavakundaToday’s blogger is Antar Tichavakunda, doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and researcher in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Read his full article, “Perceptions of Financial Aid: Black Students at a Predominantly White Institution,” in The Educational Forum. Part 1 of his blog series can be found here.

The majority of college students, in one way or another, will come in contact with their school’s financial aid office.

Students and their families first become acquainted with financial aid as seniors in high school applying to colleges—meaning it’s important for secondary school educators to be aware of the process students are negotiating. They fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other documents to better understand how much college attendance will cost them.

Students will consider different types of loans, learn of their eligibility for grants or scholarships, and ultimately decide with their parents what school to attend and how they will fund attendance.

This is no simple task.

Researchers and policy makers cite the complexity of financial aid forms as an obstacle to college attendance.

But the financial aid process does not stop there.

Students who depend on financial aid keep up with deadlines, get tax documents from parents, and renew FAFSA on a yearly basis. As I explore in my article, the yearly financial aid process should not be taken for granted. While the focus of my paper is on Black students’ experiences and perceptions of financial aid at a predominantly White institution of higher education, a few takeaways apply to any student in higher education who depends on financial aid.

Here are some recommendations for high school counselors, financial aid officers, administrators, and anyone concerned with supporting students’ college experiences:

Do:

  • Encourage a proactive approach to financial aid—both for students and for the financial aid office staff. Students should be encouraged to ask questions, and the financial aid office should likewise reach out to students.
  • Encourage in-person interactions—students in my study suggested that going into the financial aid office, in person, was the most efficient mode of communication.
  • Encourage an understanding of web resources—students found the user-friendly, in-depth nature of the school’s financial aid website valuable in their experience with financial aid.

Don’t:

  • Assume financial aid literacy as a given—learning about financial aid is an ongoing process for many students, and all students, particularly those who may be the first in their families to attend college, may have knowledge gaps.
  • Assume that financial aid is only for parents—some students, even though they are still teenagers, are the ones entrusted with filling out their financial aid forms and collecting tax documents from their parents.
  • Assume that students of the same race have similar backgrounds—regardless of race, students have different experiences and upbringings. Even students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds might display different levels of financial aid acumen.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Antar Tichavakunda’s article with the education community for free through February 28, 2017.

Five Reasons to Attend the 2017 Green Schools Conference and Expo

gsce-email-image

The Green Schools Conference and Expo is coming up! From March 21–22, education, facilities and green building leaders and advocates will gather in Atlanta, Georgia, for professional development, networking and advancement of the green schools movement. Kappa Delta Pi is proud to partner with the U.S. Green Building Council to promote this conference and expo.

Here are the top five reasons to come to GSCE 2017, broken down for educators, administrators and facilities and building professionals:

Educators:

  • Get ideas for how to make the outdoors your classroom. Learn how you can develop a sense of place for your students in nature, using natural resources and sustainability to teach science and writing. Come away with a toolkit of new teaching habits that are designed to immerse your students in the natural world.
  • Tackle the challenge of helping students to apply new concepts. Hear ideas on how to use data to empower student action, and learn how to craft projects that engage students in the concepts of sustainability and stewardship to the environment and their communities.
  • Explore how to address math and literacy standards while exposing students to nutritious eating habits with a food preparation and taste test. Strategize ways to make lessons in gardening, the environment and nutrition relevant to students of all levels, and come away equipped with a model lesson that can be calibrated to fit your students.
  • Maximize student engagement by using the context of the entire school environment and community at large. Break down the barriers and receive direct instruction in how to make sustainability cross-curricular, student-centered and empowering and fun for learners of all ages.
  • Learn to use Visible Thinking Routines and Human-Centered Design to create a mindset of sustainability in your school community. Actively participate in sample activities you can replicate in your own classroom, and collaborate with others in your content area to brainstorm resources and best practices. Problem-solve obstacles you face within your professional learning community, such as time restraints, siloed curricula and the focus on high-stakes testing.

Administrators:

  • Go beyond “buy-in” to integrate sustainability with all of your faculty and staff. Learn from experts who have defined an evidence-based professional learning framework that addresses shifting culture and teaching practice through effective, ongoing relationships. Explore how to grapple with the challenges of integrating education for sustainability within the constantly shifting landscape of education standards and with diverse opinions about the value of sustainability integration in our public schools.
  • Learn how to leverage space as the “third teacher” to positively influence the physical, mental and emotional health of students. Hear from experts about the architectural concepts that emphasize quality light, color, materials and acoustics, which reflect the growing national priority to plan and design high-performance school environments.
  • Hear what it takes to build successful school–community partnerships to lead a school toward sustainability. Learn how to develop strong guiding principles that help all stakeholders filter important information, discuss options and consider educational models to support the best interest of the community.
  • Better understand the innovation that happens when curriculum- and facilities-related decisions are integrated to promote sustainability. Explore a clear pathway for achieving a powerful level of collaborative leadership within a school district. Learn about educational leadership approaches and strategic partnerships that can reinforce school culture and practices that are in alignment with sustainability. Develop systems of measurement and evaluation to ensure desired educational and sustainability outcomes.

Facilities and building professionals:

  • Learn to tackle some of the greatest roadblocks to innovative school construction: mixing public and private funding, working within public school regulatory environments, balancing participatory design and the realities of getting a building constructed by looking at the whole campus rather than a single building as the organizing focus, and implementing “bleeding edge” construction technologies that are new even to construction partners.

gsce-image

(Original post by Anisa Baldwin Metzger of the U.S. Green Building Council on Thursday, January 26, 2017. Images via http://greenschoolsconference.org/five-reasons-attend-2017-green-schools-conference-and-expo)

Every Student Succeeds Act: Students With Disabilities

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives more control over accountability to the states and districts. Let’s look at some highlights of ESSA related to special education and students with disabilities in the areas of standardized testing, universal design for learning (UDL), and accommodations for assessment, and how these impact states and districts.

Standardized Testing

ESSA allows students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to take alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards. An alternate achievement standard sets an expectation of performance that differs in complexity from a grade-level achievement standard. ESSA places a cap of 1% of the total number of all students in the state that can be assessed using these standards (equal to about 10% of students with disabilities).

The key point to remember about this is that most students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) take regular assessments aligned with the academic content standards and not the alternate academic achievement standards. States will now need to define criteria that IEPs use to determine which students will be in that 1%.

Universal Design for Learning

UDL is a framework for curriculum, instruction, and assessment that requires multiple means of engaging students, multiple means of providing students with information, and multiple means for students to interact with that information and demonstrate what they have learned. UDL removes barriers from our instruction and curriculum. ESSA specifies that all state assessments must be developed using principles of UDL. In keeping with this requirement, teachers can plan for different ways of engaging students in lessons and demonstrating mastery of the objectives to meet the needs of all students in the class.

When UDL is used to plan lessons, objectives, and assessments, teachers will not have to worry about providing those last-minute modifications and adaptations. ESSA provides grants for states and school districts to provide professional development for the incorporation of the principles of UDL in instruction and assessment. Here are some free UDL learning tools you might find useful as you incorporate the UDL framework into your lesson planning. Want to learn more about UDL? Check out these websites: www.cast.org or http://www.udlcenter.org.

Accommodations and Assistive Technology

Along with developing state assessments using the principles of UDL, states must provide accommodations for students who receive accommodations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students must have access to appropriate accommodations, such as the ability to use assistive technology for their statewide assessments and in the classroom. These accommodations should facilitate student access to high-quality assessments to measure a student’s achievement against challenging state academic content and achievement standards, or alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

ESSA provides grants for states and school districts to provide professional development on the use of accommodations in instruction and assessment. Related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Department of Justice provides a helpful resource on providing accessible accommodations for standardized assessments.

Highly Qualified No More?

With the changes brought about by ESSA, the question arises: Is it time to revise the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004)? Most policy observers doubt there will be much movement in this area, but the language in ESSA amends some portions of IDEIA. The last time IDEIA was revised, changes were implemented to align this law with No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001). Under NCLB and IDEIA, in addition to holding a bachelor’s degree and a license to teach special education, and passing the appropriate licensure examination, special education teachers were to be highly qualified in their content area (e.g., if a special education teacher taught algebra, then that teacher had to be highly qualified in algebra).

ESSA amended the IDEIA language and removed the “highly qualified” language. IDEIA now defines a special education teacher as one that holds a bachelor’s degree and a license to teach special education, passed the appropriate licensure examination, and has met the state requirements for full certification as a teacher. Special education teachers are no longer required to be “highly qualified” in a content area.

What Now?

While the new ESSA law may positively impact students with disabilities, there is still a need for general and special education teachers to be engaged in professional development as it relates to implementing UDL, providing appropriate accommodations, and understanding how to incorporate assistive technology. As always, parents, advocates, teachers, and those in the field of special education should make their voices heard by contacting their legislators at both the federal and state levels about special education issues.

image_smith-clintonClinton Smith is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the College of Education, Health, and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He is a member of the KDP Executive Council and co-counselor for the UT Martin Alpha Epsilon Epsilon Chapter.