Every Student Succeeds Act: Teacher Evaluation Policies

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.

In the past five years, many teachers experienced a shift in how they were evaluated. Instead of evaluations based on administrator observations and artifacts, the evaluations in many states began reflecting how those teachers’ students performed on standardized tests. The catalyst for this recent change: By the end of the 2013–2014 school year, states that received a waiver from meeting the proficiency standards of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) were required to adopt teacher evaluation policies based on student achievement. Waiver requests were submitted by 45 states, and 43 of those requests were approved.

ESSA Changes

However, with the passage of ESSA, states no longer have to comply with these policies. ESSA forbids the Secretary of Education to force states to set up specific teacher evaluation policies (pp. 44–45), including the waiver policy previously used. Also, it encourages states to develop “high-quality evaluation tools, such as classroom observation rubrics” and provide training to school leaders on “how to accurately differentiate performance, provide useful and timely feedback, and use evaluation results to inform decision making about professional development, improvement strategies, and personnel decisions” (pp. 161–162).

The big stipulation, though, is that if Title II funds are used to create a new school evaluation plan, then this new plan needs to be “based in part on evidence of student achievement, which may include student growth” and “multiple measures of educator performance” (p. 169).

Looking to the Future

It will be interesting to see how this change affects state evaluation policies. Will states that changed their evaluation policies to fit the waiver make the change back, or will they continue to base their evaluation policies on student achievement? To complicate matters, this question comes at a time when many state education departments are experiencing staffing and budget issues. States facing staff cuts may find it more difficult to implement the changes they would like to make while still overseeing the normal operations of a state education department.

For specific examples of how states are managing the shift from NCLB policies to those of ESSA, see this KDP webpage tracking ESSA implementation information state by state.

Call to Action

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

  1. How do you feel the ESSA will impact teacher evaluations?
  2. What is your state doing with its teacher evaluation policy?

mason_profile-imageDr. Curtis Mason is an assistant professor of education and KDP chapter counselor at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. He serves on the KDP Public Policy Committee.

Every Student Succeeds Act: An Overview of the Law and Its History

The members of the KDP Public Policy Committee will publish a series of blog posts over the next few months that will 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. Each blog writer will focus on a different topic, explaining it in light of ESSA and describing how states are implementing the legislation. The writers will explore topics such as teacher evaluation, teacher professional development, school leadership, special education students, and homeless students.

An Overview of ESSA

President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law on December 10, 2015. Both Democrats and Republicans have praised the legislation because it gives states and school districts more control over education, refocuses student learning on information valued by parents and teachers, and supports disadvantaged and high-need students. The White House released a statement saying that ESSA “rejects the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all mandates on our schools, ensures that our education system will prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and provides more children access to high-quality state preschool programs.”

Individual states spent 2016 soliciting input from constituents and drafting plans for implementing the law. The federal government will begin reviewing the states’ plans in March 2017 in anticipation of implementing the entire law during the 2017–2018 school year. Policy observers are unclear whether the incoming Trump administration will maintain this timeline.

The History of ESSA

ESSA is not a completely new piece of legislation. It is the latest reauthorized and amended version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which had been previously reauthorized and amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

ESSA traces its roots to the 1965 ESEA, the overarching law that first defined federal involvement in K–12 education and attempted to decrease the effects of poverty and provide resources to students in need. President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed ESEA into law because he believed that providing educational opportunities for all children should be the nation’s first goal. He and other advocates viewed ESEA as a civil rights law. ESSA adheres to the original goal outlined in ESEA to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

Signed into law during the presidency of George W. Bush, NCLB attempted to identify students who were making adequate academic progress and those who needed additional support. Over time, however, ensuring a quality education for all students became too challenging for teachers and schools to guarantee in the face of the law’s requirements. Criticism was leveled specifically against the law’s unreasonable accountability measures and the federal government’s prescriptive requirements. In 2010, President Obama called for Congress to draft a bill that would address these issues and better prepare students for success in college and their future careers. ESSA was the result of these efforts.

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 on 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 do you already know about ESSA?
  2. What questions do you have about ESSA?

bond_nathanDr. Nathan Bond is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University and Chair of the Kappa Delta Pi Public Policy Committee.

Staying Rooted in Education

As a KDP Youth Representative, I had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the UN titled, “A Grassroots Approach to Education for All.”

The moderator, Alexander Wiseman, and speaker Lisa Damaschke-Deitrick were from Lehigh University’s education program. Their fellow speakers were Anwar Sayed from the Dayemi Foundation, Taylor Viens from Caring for Cambodia, and Jadayah Spencer representing the International Youth Leadership Institute.

As each person shared their experience with grassroots organizations, they connected to the importance of health and wellness. Health screenings and access to meals can transform the culture of learning to be responsive to the needs of students.

Furthermore, research presented at the briefing proved that funding new educational approaches results in shifts in curriculum and assists in combating poverty.

With political and religious turmoil displacing refugees, it is imperative that they receive a quality education that is inclusive and sensitive to their knowledge and cultural backgrounds.

As expressed by the speakers, partnering with local organizations within communities such as religious centers and non-governmental agencies can offer real-world experiences for our youth, as well as promote positive learning environments.

My Tips for This Approach

1. Know Your Neighbors

Get to know the people in your community. Seek out local businesses and organizations that are interested in helping us achieve our goal of providing an equitable education for all.

2. Brainstorm

Think of ways that you can support a student’s hygiene and diet at your school, such as items like toothbrushes and soap. A resource such as a school-wide food pantry would also be effective.

3. Be Active!

Encourage students to be problem solvers in their own communities. Simple tasks such as cleaning up parks and recycling can prepare them for bigger roles in society.

Happy Teaching,
Clairetza Felix

Clairetza Felix is a senior at St. Francis College, with a major in Childhood Education and a concentration in English. Currently, she serves as the Co-Event Coordinator for the Xi Rho Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi. As an aspiring Literacy Specialist, she chose to become a UN Youth Representative to offer a unique approach to education.

What’s the Role of Education in a Democracy?

The political candidates vying for local, state, and national positions have included education as a plank in their platforms.

To energize and curry favor with the voters, these politicians have focused on hot-button issues, such as standardized testing, the Common Core, and the affordability of college. Without question, these topics deserve our attention.

But, are we limiting ourselves? Are there other issues that we should include in our current conversation about education?

I encourage all educators to read the latest themed edition of the Kappa Delta Pi Record. (Click here to access full issue.)

The authors expand the current political debate about the role of education in a democracy to include issues such as community schools, undocumented students, and food insecurities. Let me pique your curiosity by sharing highlights from three articles in this edition.

Stacey Campo in the article titled “Nurturing Democratic Education in Community Schools: The Role of Leadership,” builds on her work as the director of a community school in the Bronx, New York, to explain how schools are ideal places to teach students about democracy. She contends that when schools and communities partner and inform one another’s work, students benefit intellectually, physically, and socially.

Rachel Chapman and Michael Olguin in the article titled “Teaching Democracy Without Borders,” detail an ethnographic research study that examined the use of humor and critical pedagogy in teaching undocumented youth in an alternative high school in Tucson, Arizona. These researchers found that schools can help students to learn how to challenge negative policies and practices, and create a more just society.

René Roselle and Chelsea Connery in the article titled “Food Justice: Access, Equity, and Sustainability for Healthy Students and Communities,” explain the food justice movement in Hartford, Connecticut. The authors claim that the health of a democracy depends upon the health of its citizens. Today’s young people need access to healthy foods.

The ideas of John Dewey, the great educational philosopher and KDP Laureate, serve as a foundation for two of these articles. Dewey (1916, as cited in Roselle and Connery) believed that a primary purpose of a school was to improve democracy. Dewey (1987, as cited in Campo) also believed that a school, by giving students opportunities to examine their differences in a nurturing environment, prepares them to become productive citizens in a democracy.

As you listen to the candidates’ campaign speeches, note the presence or absence of community schools, undocumented students, and food insecurities.

If you can, ask the candidates to clarify their positions in these areas.

As we move forward, let’s include these issues in our ongoing conversations about the purpose of a school in a democracy.

nbondDr. Nathan Bond is a full professor at Texas State University and the chair of KDP’s Public Policy Committee. Dr. Bond served nationally as KDP President from 2010 to 2012, and he has served locally as KDP Faculty Counselor at his university for the past 16 years. He and Sam Perry co-authored the article titled Voting as a Form of Professionalism: Five Steps to Take Now, which appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of the New Teacher Advocate.

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Welcome to the KDP Public Policy Committee Blog

What is our mission?
Kappa Delta Pi established the Public Policy Committee several years ago with the purpose of creating “a forum to communicate and exchange educational policy issues that advance the field of education in a reflective manner in order to sustain professional opportunities, advancement, and growth for educators, and success for students.”

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What have we accomplished?
Since its inception, the KDP Public Policy Committee has hosted a series of webinars that inform the general membership about advocacy and education-related policy issues. The committee also has published several scholarly papers titled “Reasoned Voice” to inform and guide members when advocating.

voiceWhat are we currently doing?
This fall, the KDP Public Policy Committee launched a voter registration campaign. The goals of the campaign are to educate members about the four parties’ education platforms (listed in alphabetical order – Democratic, Green, Libertarian, and Republican) and to encourage members to vote in the upcoming presidential election on Tuesday, November 8. To date, KDP members have received two emails about the parties’ positions on standardized testing and financing a college degree. Three more emails are forthcoming in the next few weeks.

What can you do?
We invite you to follow our blog between now and the upcoming elections on November 8. We will publish a series of postings that will help KDP members to become more informed voters.

After the elections are over, we will turn our attention to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Between now and then, we are asking KDP members to share what’s happening in your district and state regarding ESSA. We want to know! Please email your comments to membership@kdp.org.

Sincerely,
Nathan Bond, Chair of the KDP Public Policy Committee

Research from The Educational Forum: School Leadership, Dual Language, and Social Justice

DeMatthews_photoToday’s blogger is Dr. David DeMatthews, Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department at The University of Texas at El Paso. He writes here to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Elena Izquierdo) in The Educational Forum.

Emergent bilingual children in U.S. public schools are one of the fastest growing student groups and make up almost 10% of total enrollment.Many Latina/o emergent bilinguals underperform academically when compared with their native English–speaking peers.

False narratives describe the success of past generations’ immigrant groups learning English through full immersion, but research has consistently indicated that dual language education improves cognitive and academic functioning and closes the academic achievement gap. Researchers have also found that dual language promotes healthy multigenerational, multicultural, and multilingual communities.

While some states like Arizona, California, and Massachusetts have outlawed dual language for emergent bilinguals, many districts and schools with growing proportions of Latina/o emergent bilingual students are turning to dual to increase student achievement and foster a school and community culture that values diversity and inclusion.

Although the benefits of dual language are undeniable, school leaders and teachers often confront serious challenges when attempting to develop and implement dual language.

Few teachers or principals learn about language acquisition, bilingualism, or biliteracy in their preparation programs. In our article, “School Leadership and Dual Language: A Social Justice Approach,” we highlight the important role of school leadership in promoting and implementing dual language education.

Readers of this blog may be familiar with some of the effective leadership and teacher practices that support inclusive and bilingual classrooms. For example, dual language often requires effective co-teaching and co-planning, which means principals must provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate, while teachers must have the prerequisite professional skills to engage in collaborative and inquiry-based activities.

However, developing and implementing dual language education is not simply about technical or professional skills.

We argue that school leaders and teachers must take a social justice approach to creating dual language education. All stakeholders should be involved and have meaningful input into decisions that affect how resources and learning experiences are distributed across a school and how student and family cultural and linguistic backgrounds are valued in curricula.

In our article, we present five steps to facilitate a thought process of how to move a school from a segregated pullout English immersion program to dual language education:

  • Lay foundations by valuing all stakeholders.
  • Explore perspectives to engage key stakeholders.
  • Assess the context and plan the program.
  • Recruit and build capacity.
  • Monitor, evaluate, and renew the program.

Although in practice each of these five steps must be continuous and occur simultaneously, we believe they provide a broad framework for how school and teacher leaders can think about dual language education, create a culture of collaboration, and foster an inclusive environment in which all stakeholders share in decisions, trust and support one another, and remain reflective and willing to grow.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. DeMatthews and Dr. Izquierdo’s article free with the education community through July 31, 2016. Read the full article here.

Test Use and Abuse

Tienken_KDPStandardized test results play an important role in the education landscape today. The results from state-mandated standardized tests are used to make multiple determinations and interpretations about teachers, school administrators, students, and school quality. In most cases, state education bureaucrats use the results from one mandated standardized test in mathematics and one test in English language arts for multiple purposes to meet the various Race To The Top grant and No Child Left Behind waiver reporting requirements for teacher and principal effectiveness as well as college and career readiness for students.

The results from the state-mandated high school mathematics test in Grade 11 could be used to make determinations about (a) the effectiveness of the high school principal, (b) the effectiveness of the high school math teachers, (c) the quality of the school district’s mathematics program, (d) whether a Grade 11 student is college ready, (e) whether that student is career ready, (f) a student’s strengths and weaknesses in math, (g) Grade 12 course placements for that student, and (h) whether the student can graduate high school. That is eight determinations made totally or in part from one test score.

If the test results have not been validated for making multiple determinations, then the decisions made about educators, students, schools, and school districts that are based on the results could be flawed.

A current example includes the use of state test results to rank schools and school districts and to reward and punish them. As I elaborate upon in Education Policy Perils: Tackling the Tough Issues, results from state standardized tests can be predicted with a great deal of accuracy at the school and district levels, using only community demographic data. Some school and district educators are needlessly critiqued, replaced, or put on corrective action while others receive praise, all based on test results that have not been validated for making those types of determinations.

The seventh edition of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing contains 12 categories of standards and provides specific guidance on topics that include appropriate test design, development, validity, and use of standardized tests and results (AERA, APA, & NCME, 2014). Standard 1.0 states, “Clear articulation of each intended test score interpretation for a specified use should be set forth, and appropriate validity evidence in support of each intended interpretation should be provided” (AERA et al., 2014, p. 23). Standard 1.1 expands on this guidance: “No test permits interpretations that are valid for all purposes or in all situations. Each recommended interpretation for a given use requires validation” (AERA et al., 2014, p. 23). Standard 1.1 further recommends, “A rationale should be presented for each intended interpretation of test scores for a given use, together with a summary of the evidence and theory bearing on the intended interpretation” (AERA et al., 2014, p. 23).

For example, using a standardized test administered in Grade 3 to determine college and career readiness would potentially require a validation period of 8 years for the college readiness determination and longer for career readiness validation. College readiness and career readiness are two different determinations and require two separate validations of the test results to make those determinations. Similarly, one might argue for more evidence of validity in the case where an elementary school principal receives an ineffective rating based on school standardized test scores while the majority of her teachers are rated effective via the same test results.

The authors of the standards present specific cautions about using results from standardized tests for multiple purposes in educational settings like P–12 public schools. A test designed to measure the effectiveness of a school principal may not be valid for measuring the effectiveness of a classroom teacher. The authors state clearly, “No one test will serve all purposes equally well” (AERA et al., 2014, p. 195).

Users of standardized test results should attempt to confirm the results for groups and individuals by obtaining multiple forms of data about those groups or individuals. Data from various sources should be triangulated so that a decision is not made based only upon the results from a single state-mandated standardized test.

Educators in a school could develop a menu of other indicators one could use to make important decisions about students and teachers without using any results from state-mandated standardized tests. They could create a simple matrix with the type of determination to be made listed on the left side of the matrix and all the existing sources of data at hand running along the top of the matrix. Then they would be able to easily identify determinations that lack at least three different types of data. That could help alert educators to the types of assessments they might have to develop in-house. More importantly, the exercise will help educators kick the habit of using results from one test for multiple purposes for which the test was not designed.

Dr. Christopher H. Tienken is an Assistant Professor at Seton Hall University in the College of Education and Human Services, Department of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy. He is a former public school teacher and administrator. He serves as the Academic Editor of the KDP Record.

Excerpt from Tienken, C. H. (2015). Test use and abuse. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 51(4), 155–158. Used with permission.