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

by Jillian Luchner

In late May the Department of Education issued draft regulations on elements in Title I of the new education law, ESSA. Issued May 31st the 60 day comment period will be open until August 1st. 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- academic achievement, graduation, and school quality and student success – remain all goals which continue to be heavily supported by afterschool programs.

Afterschool In 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 resource allocations 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 understanding equity. 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 older No Child Left Behind also included needs assessments and some resources on needs assessments used in the past may continue to be helpful.

Afterschool in 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. Afterschool programs increase student success in attendance, homework completion, and discipline reductions, therefore, 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 indicators.

Consolidated State Plans: States can combine Title I with multiple Titles (including Title IV part B for 21st Century Community Learning Centers) within the ESSA legislation into one overall state plan. The proposed rule emphases all plans must include “timely and meaningful consultation” with stakeholders. The proposed rule lists 13 specific groups that must be consulted, including explicitly, community based organizations. As part of this process, state agencies must conduct outreach to and 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.

The time is ripe to ensure afterschool is at the table for these decisions and on these state lists.

The below provides a more detailed summary of different elements of the proposed regulations for those interested. Education Week also published a nice summary of the regulations.

Indicators:

The new law offers states more flexibility to define and measure their own targets towards state educational goals than they had under No Child Left Behind. However, the law will ensure 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 (known as “meaningful differentiation”) can be made among schools and their levels of performance.

Subgroups Identified:

Certain subgroups will be used for accountability, additional report cards will include other subgroups (all assuming a population size sufficient to maintain student anonymity and statistical reliability):

  • Accountability Indicators
    • economically disadvantaged
    • major ethnic and racial groups
    • children with disabilities
    • English learners
  • Additional subgroups for report cards but not school improvement identification:
    • 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 NCLB.

  • 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- ie 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, such that no school’s score is bumped by to a better ranking by its non-academic indicator of school quality or student success. Once identified (which can involve averaging data over three years of performance), schools requiring intervention 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% of the state and schools with graduation rates less than 67% 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), 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 up to 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 which 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
  • Identification and plans to address resource inequities, looking specifically at teacher qualifications and per-pupil expenditures but also which can include availability and access to other resources (the proposed rule includes: advanced coursework, preschool programs and instructional materials and technology specifically). However, we would include access to engaging, enriching activities in out of school time.

School Improvement Funding:

  • States must reserve 7% of their Title I funds for schools identified for school improvement, with 5% of these reserved funds which can be available for state level administration, and 95% going to LEAs either by formula or competitive grants. Awards have a maximum length of four years and would a minimum of $500,000 for schools identified for comprehensive support and a $50,000 minimum 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.



© 2013 Afterschool Alliance