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.

Facing the Grad Student Blues?

Anna Quiznio-ZafranAnna Quinzio-Zafran is the Chair of the National Graduate Student Committee for Kappa Delta Pi.

As we approach the end of the spring semester, graduate students around the country are trying to put the finishing touches on one of any number of major projects. There are moments when you might think that you just want to go and hide, but remember that your professors, mentors, and even colleagues were once in this same stage of grad school. They felt just the way you are feeling now.

It’s important to find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

Across the nation are graduate students who feel just as you do.

Thanks to all of the KDP members who took time out of their busy schedules to join the National Graduate Student Committee at our Coffee Klatch on Saturday, April 23. There was great discussion about how, when we get together to share our perspectives on how different people approach various challenges, we are able to reflect on which strategies we might apply to our own particular situations and circumstances.

We would like to offer you the tips, resources, and challenges that we shared at our first Coffee Klatch. Click here to download those.

However, the best tip that we can leave with you is to remember that you are not alone… KDP members are always there to support, encourage, commiserate with, and motivate one another.

If you are in need of this support/encouragement, please access our community on KDP’s members-only online network, KDP Global. We would love to welcome you with open arms into our community. If you need help accessing this community, please contact membership@kdp.org.

New Grads, We’ve Got Your Back

Laura Stelsel is director of marketing & communications at Kappa Delta Pi.

Sasha IshakAre you a new graduate? You might not know this, but KDP can be an even bigger resource to you after graduation. We are here for you all along your journey as an educator.

Here are a few things you need to do and know to get the most out of your KDP membership now that you’re a graduate:

Update your contact information: This is CRUCIAL if you want to continue accessing our free publications and resources. And it takes just a few seconds! Log into MyKDP and click on My Account > My KDP Profile to update your info today.

Know your login info: Or at least know how to request it time and time again. Many of our resources are for members only, and you’ll want to be able to access them when you need them. If you’ve forgotten your info, it just takes one second to request it.

Get new teacher resources: KDP has a whole line of resources for the first-year teacher, like the New Teacher Advocate and the New Teacher Community in KDP Global. Once the new school year begins, monthly New Teacher Tip emails are sent to new teachers with recommended resources.

Ask questions (and get answers): You are a part of a nearly 40,000-teacher network. Use it! Post questions in KDP Global and get replies from your trusted comrades. In fact, we’ve started a discussion thread for you to do just that.

Get funding: We award grant funding to teachers every year through our Classroom Teacher Grants. More than 50 per year, in fact!

Show us your pride: Now through June 15, we’re running our annual Graduate with Pride photo contest. Submit your photo for a chance to win.

We are so proud of all that you have accomplished and look forward to serving you in the many wonderful years of teaching you have ahead of you.

You’ve deconstructed the Common Core State Standards. Now what?

Dr. Vicky Tusken is a 26-year veteran of the classroom. She is Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for the Dekalb Community Unit School District, in DeKalb, Illinois, and serves as the Professional Representative on Executive Council for Kappa Delta Pi.

Vicky TuskenFor the past two or three years, states and school districts around the country have wrestled with the process of adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.  To make the process “simpler,” many have opted to begin with deconstructing or breaking down the standards into smaller pieces in order to develop learning targets and measurable objectives.  However, after that process is completed, many classroom teachers and district administrators are left asking the question, “now what?” The next steps are not always that clear.

From both a classroom teacher and district administrator’s perspective, I have found the following four steps extremely helpful in navigating the course from deconstruction to implementation.

Have a Road Map. This may seem a bit obvious to most, but it would surprise you to know how many teachers and school districts are moving forward with little vision as to how to move forward. In my own district, groups of teachers did a phenomenal job of deconstructing the standards and developing “I can” statements and templates from which future units could be developed. However, once the templates were completed, we had to face the “now what” questions. There were so many different directions we could take, and none of them guaranteed that the instructional practices and instructional shifts, the life blood of the Common Core, would be realized.  So as a district, we hit the pause button and developed a two-four game plan that describes steps towards the big picture vision. We all acknowledge the road map is not written in stone, but at least everyone has the same understanding in terms of direction, with the same big picture in mind.

Provide Teacher Collaboration Time…and Protect IT! It is well-documented how powerful instruction becomes when teachers are given time to collaborate. The rapid growth of professional learning communities (PLCs) and data-driven instruction speak to this fact. In our district, we have committed to seven early-release days throughout the school year for the sole purpose of teacher collaboration. At the beginning, the teacher groups were given structure from the district, however as the year has progressed, the teacher groups have caught the vision, becoming very focused and teacher-driven. From an administrator’s end, we keep the time sacred and do not force building and district initiatives into the mix.

Focus on one shift/practice at a time. So you have your learning targets, measurable objectives, and even materials aligned with the Common Core, but how do you actually change how you teach? As a grade level team or department, begin with committing to one, and only one, instructional shift or practice at a time. What does that look like? When working with the 8th grade English/Language Arts teachers this past fall, I had them identify which reading standard that appeared to be integrated in many of their reading assignments and recent novel unit. They agreed RL1, which focuses on citing and analyzing textual evidence, was pervasive throughout many of their instructional materials. As a group, they committed to utilizing and sharing a variety of strategies to help their students identify and analyze textual evidence, and creating common written responses and common rubrics to track their students’ progress. As they move into second semester, they plan to focus on close reading strategies to enhance reading comprehension.

KDP Global. I realize I should have put this first, but truly, we are each other’s best resource. All of us are struggling to find our way as we attempt to implement the common core with integrity. I especially encourage members to put out there resources that have been beneficial to their practices. We all know the market is flooded with materials, blogs, and webinars, all claiming to be the magic bullets of implementation. To wade through the mountain of offerings, many of which are not helpful, is daunting. I can’t encourage you all enough to post what IS working for you.

The common core here to stay. However with focus and collaboration, the steps from deconstruction to implementation can transform both teacher practice and student learning.