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.

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.

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.

Every Student Succeeds Act: Professional Development in Impoverished School Systems

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.

You have just earned your professional teacher’s certification and are excited about the positive impact you will have on the students you will teach.

Your college and student teaching experiences have prepared you to foster academic growth and development for all students.

The school year will be beginning soon, and teaching jobs in the affluent school district in your hometown have all been filled.

The closest school district with openings is about 30 miles away. The socioeconomic status in that area is at or near the poverty line, and test scores are at or below average.

Nevertheless, you are eager to face the academic challenges that await you.

You interview and are awarded a position as a professional teacher.

On your first day, your principal shows you to your classroom and begins to discuss the possibility of homeless students being enrolled in your course.

Reality sets in, and you realize that most of your college courses did not prepare you for what you are about to experience. Are you sure you’re ready?

Retaining highly qualified educators in impoverished areas can be quite challenging, and professional development is particularly critical for strengthening the skills of educators in these districts.

However, as federal funding to states fluctuates, academic programs that encourage comprehensive learning tend to receive priority, not teacher professional development.

In response to this problem, ESSA highlights the immediate need to build upon existing networks and establish alliances by seeking support from local leaders and community stakeholders to address professional development challenges. Some may believe that providing more money to these districts and more training for teachers would be beneficial. It is fair to observe, though, that increased funding for professional development alone would not alleviate various underpinning situations such as homelessness, lack of parental involvement, or inadequate support for tutoring programs and extracurricular activities.

That said, as the opening anecdote suggests, homelessness and poverty are synonymous in some areas across the nation, and many teachers could benefit from professional development to learn more about the needs of homeless students. With the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, reauthorized in 2015 through ESSA, increased attention is paid to the role of professional development in strengthening educators’ awareness of the needs of homeless children and youth.

How can administrators ensure that teachers receive effective professional development, even if they are working in less affluent school districts?

At the beginning of each academic year, school administrators may want to outline the expected goals for their teachers and students, identify possible challenging circumstances (e.g., homelessness or academic and behavioral problems) that may occur, and discuss how these issues can be resolved at discovery. Additionally, administrators should provide teachers with continuous in-district and cooperative partnering initiatives outside of their classrooms.

Including educators in the development of such programs could be a sustainable method of retaining highly qualified personnel by constructing professional development programs beneficial to their daily experiences.

Educators new to the cultural and socioeconomic status of their students should be well prepared.

New teachers need to determine whether they are a “good fit” for the students they teach early in the school year and take steps to educate themselves as necessary. If new teachers are not supported by their administration teams and parents, relevant, sustainable professional growth could become stagnant and difficult to maintain.

Continuous professional development is imperative for achieving ESSA’s goal to promote equal educational access and opportunities for K–12 students nationwide.

For additional information on rural, impoverished school systems, visit http://www.corridorofshame.com.

For additional information on student homelessness in public schools, visit http://naehcy.org/essa-training-and-professional-development-resources.

 Call to Action

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

  1. How can ESSA assist poor school districts with professional development opportunities for new educators?
  2. Does your state recognize schools’ immediate teacher professional development needs, and if so, what training is in place to address those concerns expediently?

image_mccoy-wilsonDr. Keisha McCoy-Wilson is an Army School Liaison Officer with the Department of the Army, an Education Policy Fellow, and an adjunct professor at Southern Wesleyan University. Dr. McCoy-Wilson is a member of KDP’s Public Policy Committee.

Every Student Succeeds Act: School Discipline, Student Safety, and Bullying Prevention

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.

ESSA requires schools to address non-academic factors in their educational policies and practices, including student discipline, harassment, and school climate. Teachers play a vital role in reducing incidences of bullying and violence within the classroom setting and ensuring that every student feels safe, supported, and significant. Their efforts can build a collaborative classroom culture and lead to improvements in attendance, discipline, and student achievement.

What are some steps that educators can take to create a learning environment that supports these goals?

One strategy is using a Success Protocol, in which a teacher asks students to write down examples of recent academic success (improved grades, completing homework, etc.) and personal success (extracurricular activities, hobbies, etc.). Working in pairs, students take turns reporting to the class on their partner’s successes. This protocol should be used consistently throughout the year, allowing students to reflect upon and document their own personal gains while embracing a personal and academic growth mindset. This protocol also encourages collaboration and active listening. By highlighting personal successes, teachers and students get to know—and more importantly, appreciate—the unique strengths, talents, and passions of every student. When students truly know one another and develop mutual understanding and respect, educators have the opportunity to reduce and prevent discipline, bullying, and safety issues within the classroom.

Through recent school observations, I have found numerous exemplars of policies and practices that promote safe and supportive learning environments:

Discipline/Bullying Data Collection and Positive Behavior Celebrations

  • At B. Combs Elementary (Leadership Magnet) in Wake County, NC, classrooms collect discipline/behavior data, and if a class meets its goal, they participate in the coveted Silver Tray Luncheon, with festive fanfare and formal dinnerware. This special event celebrates classes each quarter who have met their behavior goals and highlights the expectations of mutual respect, leadership, and kindness.
  • In a Flagler County, FL, pilot program, schools offset discipline referrals and bullying incidents from the district’s online reporting tool by actively seeking out and recognizing students and bystanders who are positively representing their school “brand” of empathy and collaboration. This focus on the greater school community and rewarding positive behavior has resulted in decreased discipline referrals and increased attendance for both students and teachers.

 Collaborative Classroom Culture and Peer Leadership/Support

  • In New York City, the teachers at the High School of Fashion Industries have incorporated the use of “restorative circles,” or small-group meetings in which students and a teacher mediator harness the power of communication within classrooms to publicly address and collectively solve discipline/bullying problems. Teachers also host lunchtime “office hours,” during which students can express concerns and issues in an inviting atmosphere.
  • At the Aventura City of Excellence School in Miami-Dade County, FL, boys in Grades 5–8 participate in a Men in the Making Mentoring Club to learn how to reduce negative behavior and bullying by building their confidence and abilities through life skills and character development. These young men develop leadership skills by mentoring younger students to support the creation of a sustainable, positive, and success-driven classroom environment.

Call to Action

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

  1. After reading about some of the ways schools are addressing discipline, harassment, and school climate, what is one strategy you can extract from these best practices and use in your own school?
  2. What are some of the best practices you have implemented to help create a positive, violence-free learning environment in your classroom?
  3. What are some ways teachers can collaborate and help each other prevent discipline issues across grade level and content areas?

ohlson-photoMatthew Ohlson, Ph.D., is a faculty member in the College of Education and Human Services and Director of the C.A.M.P. Osprey leadership-mentoring program at the University of North Florida. His teaching, scholarship, and service focus on leadership development for administrators, teachers, and students to increase achievement and organizational culture.

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.