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

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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.

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(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.

Financial Aid in College: What Does Race Have to Do With It?

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.

The scholarly work examining the complexities of Black students’ experiences at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) is expansive, but no prior research has studied these students’ interpretations of financial aid. The purpose of my study recently published in The Educational Forum was to address this research gap.

Why look at race and financial aid?

Student perceptions of financial aid are informed by more than socioeconomic status. The way Black students perceive financial aid may be affected by the campus climate of the schools they attend. Some scholars have argued that PWIs cater to White students and groups that assimilate with the majority population.

At a school where the Black student population is the small minority, their interactions and experiences with support services, such as financial aid, may be distinct from those of racial groups that make up the largest proportions of the student population. Financial aid policies may be well suited for the majority of the student population; with research, officials can determine whether these same policies work for smaller minority groups as well.

Based on the findings of my study, I suggest that the complexity of financial aid forms and a lack of outreach from the financial aid office may contribute to a stressful financial aid experience for many Black students relying on aid.

Understanding financial aid requires more than identifying the difference between a grant and a loan. Navigating financial aid as a college student requires more than turning in specific forms before certain dates. Ensuring that students correctly fill out their financial aid forms their first year may not be enough. Students busy with studying, socializing, and organizational involvement might benefit from more checking in from financial aid offices.

My research indicates that we can learn how to better support and reach Black students at PWIs so that they might make the best decisions about financial aid with less stress.

In the second part of this blog series I will highlight the “Dos and Don’ts” of supporting all college students in their interactions with financial aid.

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

Not All Students Are As Fortunate

Since I first learned to read and write, I was always slow and careful.

In kindergarten during a parent-teacher conference, my teacher remarked upon my perfectionism and slow pace, noting that it might become an issue later on in school. It didn’t seem to be much of a problem then—I was just thorough and precise. It was a non-issue.

But sure enough, when I reached high school, gone were the days of unlimited time on tests and long project time-frames.

Freshman year, I relied more on my innate abilities, earning high marks while struggling to finish timed assessments. I often stayed up into the late hours of the night finishing homework. Many of my teachers that year assumed that I, like my peers, just needed to adjust to the faster pace and demanding workload of high school. One teacher even tried to tell me that I just needed to work faster and more efficiently.

No matter how hard I tried, I still floundered in all of my classes, rushing on tests in an attempt to finish, and running on just a few hours of sleep. I didn’t need to adjust, my schooling did.

After talking to my guidance counselor, she suggested that I get tested as a first step in the lengthy process of requesting a variation on an individualized education plan (IEP).

She warned that the entire process would most likely take a few months and that I would have to seek the necessary testing on my own. The testing, spread out over two weeks, took a few hours each day. The results showed a significant discrepancy between my intellectual/academic capabilities and my processing speed.

In other words, my brain processes information at a slower speed than average, and I take more time to complete most tasks.

After an hour of meeting with my guidance counselor, vice principal, parents, and all of my teachers, I was granted special accommodations, most notably, extra time on tests.

Since then, my anxiety revolving around timed assessments has diminished. However, while I was able to receive the necessary accommodations to help me succeed in school, many others have not.

My parents and I were able to advocate for my education and we possessed the resources to seek the testing required to begin the process. Not all students are as fortunate as me.

Furthermore, a stigma still surrounds those with learning disabilities. For some it may not seem to be worth the trouble; it may seem easier to struggle in silence, especially if they already appear to be successful in school.

Focusing on providing students with the tools to succeed should not be the anomaly—it should be the standard.

barowsky-sophie-1Sophie Barowsky is a senior at Framingham High School in Framingham, Massachusetts. In college, she hopes to study neuroscience or psychology.

Every Student Succeeds Act: School Leadership Interventions

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 only thing that makes the leader special is that she or he is a better follower: better at articulating the purposes of the community; more passionate about them, more willing to take time to pursue them.Thomas Sergiovanni

In the wake of the growing school accountability movement, campus leaders are facing immense pressure to improve student achievement.

In response, the role of principal has moved beyond focusing merely on campus administration to serving as an instructional leader, a profession requiring expertise in assessment, instruction, curriculum, and data analysis. However, given the complexities of human interactions, intervention strategies, and student learning, boosting student achievement is not always a simple matter. Schools are unique places; relationships among school employees, students, and families more closely resemble those in a family or small community—and applying managerial principles to places characterized by crayons and e-books presents challenges not typically found in most organizations.

Why do administrators struggle with making strides in improving student achievement?

Perhaps part of the problem lies with graduate leadership programs in the preparation of future principals. While many graduate programs do concentrate on instructional strategies with an emphasis toward school leadership interventions, some unfortunately do not adequately prepare principals for today’s realities. As a result, campus leaders fall short in applying effective interventions when addressing the challenges of improving student achievement.

Whatever the cause, there is good news when it comes to the development and implementation of school leadership intervention programs—long recognized as a vital component of educational improvement. With the passage of ESSA, states and local education agencies now have added opportunities for funding evidence-based intervention programs that target school leadership.

Funding for school leadership intervention is available through several title programs in ESSA.

Not only can Title I funds be used to support school leadership initiatives, but under ESSA guidelines, states can also use up to 2% of their Title II funds to create or expand teacher-, principal-, or leadership-preparation programs for those serving in high-need schools. Moreover, an additional 3% of Title II funds can be earmarked for leadership development—including academies, training programs, or other support for school leaders—for a total of 5% set aside for initiatives to improve leader and teacher training.

While states have always been allowed to use Title II funds for principals and school leaders, resources dedicated to educator development have traditionally gone to teachers.

Not surprisingly, school leadership experts have commended this legislation “for recognizing the role principals and school leaders play in teacher and student success, for the clarity on the uses of funds, for including teacher-leaders and principal supervisors in the programs that could be funded under Title II, and for providing concrete examples of initiatives that states may consider.”

With states playing a pivotal role in the implementation of ESSA, our work as educators to respond to the new legislation is just in the beginning stages. We have seen the research and read countless stories pointing toward the positive effect principals can have on student achievement.

Given that ESSA puts a greater emphasis on program development at the state and local levels through increased federal funding, including on activities such as recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals and the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, it is now up to these agencies to collaborate with stakeholders, including parents and teachers, to fill in the gaps.

Call to Action

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

  1. Who are the primary stakeholders that states and districts need to involve when selecting evidence-based school leadership activities? Why is their feedback important?
  2. Do you agree with the quote from Thomas Sergiovanni at the beginning of the blog post? Why or why not?

image_millerDr. Gary Miller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Texas Tyler and a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Public Policy Committee.