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.

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.

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