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JUN
21
2016

POLICY
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Add your comments to new draft regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act

By Jillian Luchner

In late May 2016, the Department of Education issued draft regulations on elements in Title I of our nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The 60 day comment period for the regulations will be open until August 1st, and your feedback is welcomed! The new law provides much more flexibility on school accountability and includes new indicators of student success and growth. Yet the overall goals of Title I of ESSA—academic achievement, graduation, school quality and student success—remain goals that are dramatically supported by afterschool programs.

Before adding your comments, it may be helpful for you to explore this comprehensive overview of the ESSA draft regulations.

See how afterschool factors in to various aspects of the draft regulations

Needs assessments: The Title I regulations, as proposed, provide many opportunities for collaboration between out-of-school time and the school day. Under the regulations, states, districts and schools must design and apply needs assessments for low-performing schools and, as a new addition, must look at how resources are allocated among schools. Parents, afterschool providers, and advocates can remind states and districts that identifying which schools provide enrichment and engagement activities for students (and which do not) is an essential part in this process and in understanding equity generally. Some afterschool state networks and some state child care offices are already working on mapping access to afterschool programs across their states. Additionally, while the law has changes, the previous national education law, No Child Left Behind, also included needs assessments, and some older resources on needs assessments may continue to be helpful.

Research based interventions: States and school districts will have the ability to create lists of evidence and research based interventions that support Title I goals and indicators. Because afterschool programs increase student success in attendance, homework completion, and discipline reductions, each state should thoughtfully consider adding these programs to their approved list of interventions. The Afterschool Alliance Evaluations Backgrounder is a good place to find research that provides the evidence base necessary to support afterschool and summer learning programs as key contributors to a variety of success indicators.

Consolidated state plans: States can combine plans for Title I with plans for other Titles (including Title IV part B for 21st Century Community Learning Centers) within the ESSA legislation as part of one overall or "consolidated" state plan. The proposed rule emphasizes that all plans must include “timely and meaningful consultation” with stakeholders. The proposed rule lists 13 specific groups that must be consulted, including community based organizations. As part of this process, state agencies must solicit input from the community, plans must be subject to a 30 day public comment period and plans must include reference to how the SEA (State Educational Agency) addressed the issues and concerns raised in public comment. All plans will be published on SEA websites and reviewed/revised, again with full stakeholder engagement, at least once every four years. All consolidated plans must coordinate with other federal funding streams such as Child Care and Development Block Grants, and Career and Technical Education, and must include a mechanism for performance management and technical assistance.

Now is a good time to ensure afterschool is at the table for these decisions and in these state plans.

Looking to dive deeper?

For those interested, keep reading for a more detailed summary of different elements of the proposed ESSA regulations. Education Week also published a summary of the regulations last month.

Indicators of performance

The new law offers states more flexibility to define and measure their targets toward state educational goals than they had under No Child Left Behind. However, the law will ensure that every school, district and state accepted Title I funding track four distinct indicators of performance. The indicators will be used to for public facing report cards as well as to identify schools in need of intervention. They include:

  • Academic indicators (3)
    • Academic achievement in reading / language arts and math scores on statewide standards based tests.
    • An additional “valid and reliable” statewide academic indicator, which can be student growth for elementary and middle schools and 4-year adjusted graduation rates in high schools.
    • Progress in English language proficiency for all English language learners
  • School quality and success indicator (1)
    • A “valid and reliable” indicator of school quality or student success, with examples such as student and educator engagement, access to advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, and school climate that is supported by research as likely to increase student achievement or graduation rates.

Each of the indicators is required to be split into at least three performance groups, such as above average, average and below average, so that distinctions can be made among schools and their levels of performance.


Subgroups identified

Certain subgroups of students will be used to measure school accountability, while additional subgroups will be used for school report cards.

  • Subgroups used for school accountability indicators
    • economically disadvantaged
    • major ethnic and racial groups
    • children with disabilities
    • English learners
  • Additional subgroups for report cards, but not school accountability indicators:
    • migrant status
    • homeless status
    • status as a child in foster care
    • status as a student with a parent who is a member of the Armed Forces on active duty

School improvement identification

Data tracking of indicators and subgroups helps identify which schools should be targeted for more attention and intervention. Again, the new law provides significantly more flexibility for states than No Child Left Behind.

  • Summative scores: States must create a system to aggregate the indicators into one overall (summative) score for each school. All indicators do not have to be equally weighted, or for example one state can prioritize graduation rates while another prioritizes achievement levels on standardized tests, but academic indicators must be the driving force behind the overall school rating. Under this model, no school’s score should be bumped to a better ranking by its non-academic indicator of school quality or student success. Once a school requiring intervention is identified (a process that can involve averaging data over three years of performance), the school must be notified by the beginning of the following school year. School indicators and scores will be reported on report cards, reported at the state and district levels (also detailed in the proposed rule).
  • Comprehensive school improvement: Schools receiving Title I funding with overall (summative) scores in the bottom 5 percent of the state and schools with graduation rates less than 67 percent will be identified for comprehensive improvement. Additionally, schools that have been identified for targeted improvement but have not met growth targets over no more than three years of targeted improvement (chronically low-performing subgroups), will be moved into this category.
  • Targeted school improvement: Schools with subgroups of students who underperform on state indicators or components of state indicators (such as math achievement), and who have high performance gaps compared to all student performance in the state, or who are not on track to meet the state’s progress indicators toward long term goals over two years of performance will be identified for this category.

School improvement plans

Schools and districts must be informed by the beginning of the school year after their scores have identified them for improvements. Under the new proposed rule, states can be given a planning year before implementation of any improvement strategies. Requirements of school improvement plans include:

  • Notifying the parents of the school and explaining why the school was identified
  • Prioritizing stakeholder engagement to participate in the development and implementation of the support and improvement plan
  • Conducting a needs assessment with stakeholders, which includes academic achievement, progress on goals, and any other indicators the district would like to add.
  • A plan that includes at least one “evidence-based” intervention (the proposed rule notes that many evidence based interventions are preferable, but as the field of research is still “nascent”, only one is required). The evidence based intervention can be chosen from a state established / approved list of interventions
  • Plans to address resource inequities, looking specifically at teacher qualifications and per-pupil expenditures, but which can also include access to other resources like advanced coursework, preschool programs and instructional materials and technology. Though not mentioned in the draft regulations, we would include access to engaging, enriching activities in out-of-school time.

School improvement funding

States must reserve 7 percent of their Title I funds for schools identified for school improvement, with 5 percent of these reserved funds made available for state level administration, and 95 percent going to local education agencies either by formula or competitive grants. Awards have a maximum length of four years and would have a minimum of $500,000 for schools identified for comprehensive support and $50,000 for schools requiring targeted support. Priority should go to schools requiring comprehensive support and to districts that have a large number of schools identified.

These proposed regulations are open for comment, and comments are due August 1st. Visit the Afterschool Alliance website for more on ESSA implementation and afterschool.