Opportunities for afterschool abound as ESSA is implemented

by Jillian Luchner

It’s 2017 and the new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into full effect this fall with the start of the new 2017/18 school year. States are busy - finishing first and second rounds of stakeholder engagement, putting out first and second drafts of their state ESSA plans, and even finalizing plans and submitting to the federal department of education for review. Arizona already has submitted a plan - far ahead of the required April and September deadlines for plan submission. To see what your state is doing – see our new state map with links to state webpages and ESSA plans. Things are now moving quickly!

The new law is an opportunity to re-envision education within the state. Unlike the previous law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the new law ESSA provides more flexibility to states to decide what they want to track and measure beyond the familiar requirement of student proficiency on statewide English language arts (ELA) and Math tests.

States (with stakeholder engagement) are determining the outcomes they want to see for their students and creating a system of reporting, interventions and support to ensure that districts and schools help students make progress on those goals.

Perhaps we want students:

  • Ready for college and career
  • Eager to come to school
  • Building communication and leadership skills
  • Accessing engaging, hands-on learning opportunities that allow choice and voice
  • Engaging with parents and communities

Discussions are happening all across the country to determine which other measures, known as indicators, lead to student’s long term success and achievement and therefore, should be tracked. Factors from individual student attendance and absenteeism, to teacher satisfaction and attendance, to whole school climate surveys are part of the discussion. The Afterschool Alliance produced a quick-sheet on some of the most prominent indicators in state discussions.

The indicator discussion also importantly includes extra-curricular and afterschool/expanded learning opportunities which provide children with safe, motivating spaces to inspire creativity, and the interpersonal and leadership skills that are in demand within college and workforce settings. Afterschool programs also help districts meet goals in school day attendance, academic achievement, and improved behavior. Currently, at least four states (Kentucky, Oregon, Illinois and Tennessee) are looking at student participation in extra-curricular and afterschool activities as a measure to track and report. Visit Oregon’s Draft Plan (pg. 8) to see how they plan to use extended learning opportunities as a component of their indicators of student success.

The new ESSA law provides the potential to know how many students in each district and school have access to and are engaged in high quality afterschool programs and therefore where need and gaps exist to be met. To continue our work to ensure all children and youth have access to affordable, high quality afterschool and summer programs during the hours  students  spend outside of the traditional school day, ESSA spells great opportunity. The opportunity becomes the new reality when we make our voices heard.

Learn more about how to support your state’s ESSA plan with afterschool and summer programs in the Afterschool Alliance ESSA Playbook at http://ESSA.AfterSchoolAlliance.org.   

© 2013 Afterschool Alliance