Topic: ESSA

President Barack Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act. ©2015 NEA. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of the National Education Association.
Overview

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act is the long-awaited rewrite of the main federal law for K-12 education, and replaces the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act.

The Every Student Succeeds Act is the long-awaited rewrite of the main federal law for K-12 education, and replaces the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act.

The bipartisan measure, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December, seeks to rectify the biggest complaint about NCLB: that it gave too much power to the federal government when it comes to holding schools accountable for student performance. But it keeps the dimension of NCLB most people agree worked well: a focus on students from low-income families and racial and ethnic minorities, as well as other populations that have historically struggled academically.

ESSA maintains NCLB’s mandate for annual testing, requiring states to continue to assess students in reading and math, in grades three through eight and once in high school. And just like under NCLB, states must break out the results by different subgroups of students: English language learners, students with disabilities, racial minorities, and those from low-income families. States and districts still must intervene in schools that are struggling.  

But the revamped federal law gives states and districts much greater leeway when it comes to almost every other aspect of K-12 education – including choosing standards, crafting accountability systems, setting student achievement goals, and improving low-performing schools. And it calls for states to look beyond just test scores in gauging school performance, to aspects like school climate and teacher engagement.

ESSA also consolidates or eliminates some 50 federal education programs, and gives states and districts much more say over how they spend federal funds. Plus, it includes a list of prohibitions on the secretary of education’s authority when it comes to directing states on standards, school turnarounds, assessments, teacher evaluations, and other issues.

Origin Story

ESSA – and NCLB – didn’t come out of nowhere. Both laws are updates of a much older piece of legislation – the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 to help improve educational opportunities for poor children.

Like ESSA, NCLB passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support. But educators and local leaders soon grew frustrated with what they saw as a one-size-fits-all approach to school accountability and improvement.

The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, called for states to work toward the goal of bringing all students to the “proficient” level on state tests by the 2013-14 school year. States also had to set short-term achievement targets for schools; those that missed these targets were required to notify parents, allow students to transfer to a better performing school, and to offer free tutoring. Schools that continually failed to improve were subject to even more serious consequences, including a possible state takeover.

After several years, it became clear that no state was going to get all its students to the proficiency level by 2013-14. Eventually, nearly every school would be considered a “failure” in the eyes of the law. Congress couldn’t agree, however, on exactly how to fix NCLB, which was first up for renewal in 2007.

In 2011, the Obama administration stepped in. Then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan offered states waivers from some of the law’s requirements – such as setting aside part of their federal funding for tutoring and school choice and getting all students to proficiency by a certain deadline. In exchange, states agreed to embrace other priorities, like teacher evaluations that relied in part on test scores. States that wanted waivers also had to adopt the Common Core State Standards, or get their institutions of higher education to agree that their standards would get students ready for postsecondary education and training. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia ended up taking the department up on the waiver offer.

But the waivers, too, were plagued with complaints about federal overreach. That put pressure on the U.S. Department of Education to help find a way to overhaul the law.

Support Across the Aisle

ESSA ultimately passed with broad, bipartisan support thanks to the efforts of a quartet of lawmakers: Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va. In fact, the measure was backed by a majority of both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, a rare feat given the polarized politics in Washington.

The final legislation also earned the enthusiastic support of just about every organization or association representing educators, state leaders, and parents. They view ESSA as much needed relief from federal micro-management. ESSA received only qualified support, however, from civil rights organizations, and the disability and business communities. Those groups worry about a rollback of federal protections for historically underserved subgroups of students.

Although President Obama has signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, it’s going to take some time before the new law takes full effect.

NCLB waivers expire on August 1, 2016, and states aren’t supposed to have new accountability and spending plans in place until the 2017-18 school year. The U.S. Department of Education will spend the next year writing federal regulations for the new law, and helping states with implementation.

There are some ambiguous phrases in the new federal law, and some unanswered questions. But much is clear.

Testing: Much  But Not All  Remains the Same

The assessment schedule for reading and math is the same as under NCLB, as indicated above. In addition, the federal law retains a mandate for science testing at least once in each grade span – 3 through 5, 6 through 9, and 10 through 12. Under NCLB, all students in the same grade had to take the same test. That’s generally true under ESSA, with two big exceptions:

  • Up to seven states – or groups of states – can apply to try out “innovative assessments” such as performance tests, in a few districts, with the goal of eventually taking the new systems statewide.
  • Districts can use a nationally recognized test – like the SAT or ACT – at the high school level, instead of the state assessment, as long as they get permission from the state.

Accountability in the ESSA Era

Arguably the biggest shift under ESSA is the newfound flexibility handed to states and districts when it comes to accountability. That said, the law does lay out some explicit expectations. It requires states to set both short- and long-term goals for student achievement. And states must judge school performance on a mix of factors that get at both academic outcomes and students’ opportunity to learn.

  • Elementary and middle schools must consider achievement on state tests, another academic outcome (like growth, rather than just proficiency, on tests), and English Language proficiency.
  • High schools have to consider achievement on tests, graduation rates, and English Language proficiency (for students who are still learning the language.)
  • States must choose at least one other factor that gets at students’ opportunity to learn, like teacher engagement, student engagement, access to advanced coursework, or school climate. Each factor has to be of “substantial” weight and the academic factors have to weigh to carry a “much greater” weight as a group than the non-academic factors. But it remains to be seen what those terms mean in practice.

With regard to intervening in low-performing schools, the law essentially creates two big buckets:

  • Comprehensive Improvement: States must identify schools that fall in the bottom five percent of performers, plus high schools in which only two-thirds of students graduate. Districts must devise “evidence based” plans to fix those schools and states have to keep tabs on their progress. If a school continues to founder for a period of years (no more than four) the state must step in with its own plan.
  • Targeted Improvement: States are required to identify schools in which subgroups of students are “consistently underperforming.” Schools must come up with an evidence-based plan to fix the problem, and districts must monitor their efforts. If the subgroup continues to struggle, the district steps in. The law doesn’t say when that has to happen though. And, if a subgroup’s performance is really, really bad, as in if subgroup students are performing as poorly as a group as the kids at the lowest performing schools, the state is supposed to step in and help if district efforts fall short.  

Rethinking Teacher Quality

States no longer have to evaluate their teachers based, at least in part, on student test scores, like they did under waivers granted by the Obama administration. In fact, the Department of Education is prohibited from interfering with teacher evaluations.

In addition, states are free from another vestige of NCLB – the so-called “highly qualified teacher” requirement, which called for teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and state certification in the subject they teach.

Fewer Programs, More Flexibility in Spending

Congress consolidated nearly 50 programs – including arts education, physical education, and education technology – into a giant block grant called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. The law recommends about $1.5 billion for the block grant, but it’s unclear if Congress will actually provide that much.

ESSA also creates a few new initiatives, including a successor to the Obama administration’s Investing in Innovation program, a new version of the preschool development program, and a new funding stream to train teachers in STEM subjects and literacy. However, it’s important to note that the inclusion of these programs in ESSA is no guarantee that they will be funded. That requires separate action by Congress.

Finally, ESSA relaxes federal rules that require states and districts to make sure that federal funds don’t replace local spending.

What’s Next?

Even as the new law answers a lot of questions, much remains to be seen. 

For starters, no one is really sure how the many prohibitions on the U.S. secretary of education’s authority will play out, and how far the department can or will go in defining key terms that could have outsized implications for policy.

What does it mean, for instance, for a subgroup of students to be, in ESSA parlance, “consistently underperforming?” What about the stipulation that academic factors should carry “much” greater weight in state accountability systems than non-academic factors, like school climate and teacher engagement? Also, no one is really sure whether most states will try to stick as close as possible to the accountability plans they designed under federal waivers or head in new directions.

Published: March 2016

Member Stories

October 12 – October 19
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Annie Martin, Leslie Postal and Beth Kassab at the Orlando Sentinel blow the lid off of Florida’s state scholarships to private schools in a multi-part investigative series.

 
 

Natalie Bruzda at the Las Vegas Review-Journal recognizes the top-notch reporting of the UNLV student newspaper in the wake of the recent shooting.


 

EWA Radio

After the Storms: Uncertain Futures for Puerto Rico’s Students
EWA Radio: Episode 144

The public education system in Puerto Rico was already struggling before two historic hurricanes — Irma and Maria — wreaked havoc on this U.S. territory. Reporter Andrew Ujifusa and photographer Swikar Patel of Education Week discuss their recent reporting trip to Puerto Rico, where they met students and teachers who have lost their homes — as well as their schools — and are now struggling to get the basic essentials, like food and shelter.

Latest News

No State Will Measure Social-Emotional Learning Under ESSA. Will That Slow Its Momentum?

When the Every Student Succeeds Act was enacted, speculation swirled that states might use it as a launching pad to use measures of students’ social and emotional competencies to determine whether their schools are successful.

Nearly two years later, not a single state’s plan to comply with the federal education law—and its broader vision for judging school performance—calls for inclusion of such measures in its school accountability system.

Latest News

Kansas Officials Cast Small Net For Comments On Education Plan

Kansas education officials did little to promote a public comment period for a school accountability plan designed to steer the state through 2030 and guide nearly $2 billion in federal spending.

While some states that publicized town halls and launched online surveys for their plans collected comments by the thousands, Kansas officials didn’t use such tools nor issue news releases or social media posts about the state’s public comment period.

Latest News

Iowa ESSA Survey Asks Students to Gauge Teachers, Schools

Students’ opinions about their teachers, classmates and schools may be included in measures that hold Iowa schools accountable.

The effort to include student voices comes as teachers and parents clamor for ways to measure schools beyond math and reading tests.

The state recently submitted its Every Student Succeeds Act plan for federal approval. It replaces the state’s plan under the No Child Left Behind law.

Key Coverage

Inside ESSA Plans: How Are States Looking Beyond Test Scores?

School officials: Get ready to figure out whether your students have a problem with chronic absenteeism. And while you’re at it, see if you’re getting them ready for college and the workplace. 

Attendance—particularly chronic absenteeism—and college-and-career readiness are by far the most popular new areas of focus for accountability among the 40-plus states that have filed their plans to implement the Every Student Success Act, an Education Week review shows.

Latest News

Indiana Lawmakers Appealing for Reprieve from Federal Graduation Rate Changes

Indiana’s congressional delegation is seeking a moratorium on federal guidelines that would drastically lower Indiana’s high school graduation rate.

Thousands of Indiana diplomas would not count toward Indiana’s graduation rate under new rules put in place by the U.S. Department of Education and the Every Student Succeeds Act, a new federal education law. 

Indiana’s rate would fall to 76.5 percent, from 89.1 percent, for the 2016 class if the rule had taken effect earlier. 

Key Coverage

Your One-Stop Shop for ESSA Info on Teachers, Testing, Money, and More

For teachers, parents, principals, and others, the Every Student Succeeds Act is no longer on the horizon. Now it’s in their schools.

Yes, ESSA has officially taken effect this school year. All but four states have turned in their plans for the education law’s implementation to the federal government—and some states’ plans have already gotten approved by the U.S. Department of Education. But there’s a decent chance you’re still gathering information and learning about ESSA.

Latest News

Mainstream News Outlets Still Not Seeing National Story in ESSA

There’s a problem in education journalism right now. It’s not entirely new, and it’s not exactly a crisis. But it’s persistent enough that it needs to be addressed: Mainstream news outlets are producing way too much coverage of low-hanging education stories that generate outrage (and page views) but don’t provide perspective or depth.

The most immediate example of an often overlooked but nonetheless vital story is ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress in December 2015.

Latest News

Florida Submits Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan

After months of planning and feedback, the Florida Department of Education submitted its federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan on Wednesday.

Originally, the department had intended to request waivers relating to percentages of students tested, assessment exemptions for English learners and the use of demographic subgroups to differentiate accountability.

Key Coverage

Rivalries, Political Infighting Marked States’ ESSA Planning

The grinding, two-year process of drafting accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act has upended states’ K-12 political landscape and laid bare long-simmering factions among power brokers charged with putting the new federal education law into effect this school year.

Latest News

Gov. Hogan Refuses to Sign Off on Maryland Education Plan

Gov. Larry Hogan is refusing to endorse the Maryland school board’s plan for helping low-performing schools, saying state board members were hamstrung by a new law limiting what the plan can include.

The General Assembly passed legislation this year that limits ways the state can try to reform its lowest-performing schools — those in the bottom 5 percent. The Republican governor vetoed that bill, but the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode him.

Latest News

Nebraska Sends Betsy DeVos Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan

With the dust settled on Betsy DeVos’ visit, Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt wants something from the U.S. education secretary: her autograph.

DeVos must sign off on Nebraska’s newly minted plan for implementing the new federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Key Coverage

On State Accountability Plans, Another Test for Betsy DeVos

Monday marks the final deadline by which nearly all states must have submitted a K-12 accountability plan to the U.S. Department of Education, marking a pivotal – if not yet final – step in how schools will operate under the new federal education law.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, gives states new flexibility to create accountability systems that suit their unique needs. Those plans must be vetted and cleared by the Department of Education before states begin implementing them in the near future.

Latest News

State Superintendent Says Plan Aims at Reaching All Students in Need

State officials in Washington are proposing a plan they say will help every child succeed.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal visited Marie Curie STEM Elementary School in Pasco to announce the submission of the state’s plan to meet the requirements set out in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The law, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, requires each state to develop a plan showing how they will spend federal dollars. The Department of Education has 120 days to comment on the plan before making a decision about it.

Latest News

Iowa Sends Every Student Succeeds Act Plan to U.S. Department of Education

Iowa officials submitted their plan to meet new education standards under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the No Child Left Behind policy and was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. In Iowa, it is intended to be fully implemented by Fall 2018.

The legislation maintains some of No Child Left Behind’s focus on school accountability, though not its sanctions against underperforming schools, and gives states more control over how schools are assessed and monitored.

Key Coverage

Testing Remains Key Part of Georgia’s Education Plan

Georgia hopes to embark on a new education plan that shifts away from the tough test-and-punish regime of the past that some say was unrealistic and unfair but others say held schools accountable for all students, including their worst performers.

On Monday, the state will submit its plan for compliance with the latest updates to the federal education law, known as the No Child Left Behind Act under President Georgia Bush and now as the Every Student Succeeds Act, after it was amended with bipartisan support under President Barack Obama more than a year ago.

Latest News

Vermont Test Scores Slide

When Michael Hock learned how Vermont students scored on the statewide standardized test this year, even he was surprised — and he’s the director of assessment at the Vermont Agency of Education.

The results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, taken by all Vermont public school students in grades three through eight and grade 11 in English language arts and math, show a decline in student performance from the 2015-2016 school year. 

Key Coverage

Wisconsin’s ESSA Plan Puts Power at Local Level

The task of turning around failing public schools would fall to local school boards and communities, rather than outside operators or state-mandated recovery districts, under Wisconsin’s plan to comply with the new federal education law, which was made public Monday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers filed the plan with the U.S. Department of Education on Monday, just days after Gov. Scott Walker announced he would not sign it because it did not include some of the more aggressive reforms proposed by other states.

Latest News

Iowa’s ESSA Plan to Replace No Child Left Behind

Iowa leaders are seeking federal approval for a new school accountability plan that will replace No Child Left Behind’s approach to holding schools accountable for student performance. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015. It gives state leaders broader authority to use their own measures of success when evaluating schools.

Key Coverage

Is Iowa’s ESSA Plan Doing Enough for Low-Income and Minority Students?

Iowa’s minority and low-income students will have different — sometimes lower — goals than their white, affluent peers under a new school accountability plan developed by the Iowa Department of Education.

That is drawing attention to the sticky crossroads of educational aspirations and the reality of helping students who are sometimes three to four grade levels below their peers.

Latest News

Virginia Submits New Education Plan for Federal Review

Students’ academic growth will carry greater weight in evaluating Virginia schools under a new plan the state has submitted for federal approval.

The plan lays out how Virginia will comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. It revamps the widely criticized George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, allowing states to design their own standards of achievement and progress, and decide how to help struggling schools.

Latest News

Five Issues to Watch in Massachusetts Education

Massachusetts has always been on the forefront when it comes to education, be it progress, reform or innovation.

This academic year, students, teachers, families and legislators will be no less subject to dealing with changes and proposals on education on multiple fronts as communities continue to demand for their students, a high-quality, 21st-century education that’s accessible, affordable, equitable, and most importantly meaningful for student success and the economic health and well-being.

Latest News

S.D. Department of Education Changes Criteria for Evaluating Public Schools

South Dakota officially has new criteria for what makes a successful public school. 

The state Board of Education Standards on Monday approved rules for public school accountability in accordance with the new federal K-12 education law.

More changes are likely as the state looks for other ways to assess school quality, but Monday’s vote officially pushed South Dakota schools into the era of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Latest News

Wisconsin Submits Revised Education Accountability Plan

Wisconsin submitted a federally required school improvement plan to President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday over objections from Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups that it didn’t do enough to embrace innovative ideas, such as expanding taxpayer-funded private school choice programs.

All 50 states must submit accountability plans under the law, which replaced No Child Left Behind, to continue receiving federal education funding. Wisconsin gets more than $500 million per year in such funding.

Latest News

Minnesota Set to Revamp How Public Schools Are Graded

After years of intense pressure on school test scores, the state’s education department on Monday submitted a final plan to the federal government that broadens its previous reach — promising to evaluate more schools than before, and in a well-rounded fashion.

With the federal No Child Left Behind education law being replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) nationwide, Minnesota will focus on the lowest-performing schools that get federal money for low-income students.

Latest News

Pennsylvania Submits Its Every Student Succeeds Act Plan to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Gov. Tom Wolf signed off on Pennsylvania’s roadmap for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act on Monday and submitted it to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for her approval.

The plan, which was made public Monday, establishes what the department describes as “ambitious yet attainable” goals of raising student performance, increasing graduation rates and having English learners move toward achieving English language proficiency.

Latest News

Public Needs More Data in Annual Snapshot of Public School Districts, Officials Say

How public schools are rated annually needs to be expanded to shed light on gaps in access to the best teachers, race and income, state officials said.

Under current rules, districts are given letter grades yearly based largely on how students fare on key tests.That would not change.But doing so ignores the wide range of school performance in a district, including access to certified teachers, officials said.

Webinar

Covering State ESSA Plans: What Reporters Need to Know

Covering State ESSA Plans: What Reporters Need to Know

States across the nation are taking another look at their school accountability systems in response to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a rewrite of the main federal law for K-12 education. So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have submitted their ESSA plans for review by the U.S. Department of Education. Another 33 states have until Sept. 18  to do so.

Member Stories

August 25 – 31
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Writing for the Atlantic, Linda K. Wertheimer examines the curriculum being used to explore a topic many teachers would prefer to avoid: the recent  surge of white nationalism.

 
 

EducationDive’s Linda Jacobson looks at ways administrators are aiming for balance between addressing racial disparities while still supporting teachers in reducing suspensions.


 

Latest News

Betsy DeVos Approves Four More State ESSA Plans

The District of Columbia, Illinois, Oregon, and Tennessee all won approval from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos Wednesday for their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

The plans detail how states will go about complying with the federal law in the coming years. The law goes into effect this fall.  

DeVos has now approved 10 of the 17 submitted state ESSA plans.  

Latest News

Life After No Child Left Behind: Washington State to Submit Plan for New Federal K-12 Law

At the end of the No-Child-Left-Behind era, nearly every Washington school was labeled as “failing.”

When the new federal K-12 education law — called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — takes effect this coming school year, parents won’t receive letters that their child’s school “needs improvement” because the school didn’t meet federal test-score targets, like some did before. Under ESSA, there are no federal test-score targets.

Latest News

ESSA’s New High School Testing Flexibility: What’s The Catch?

When the Every Student Succeeds Act passed, one of the things that educators were most excited about was the chance to cut down on the number of tests kids have to take, Specifically, the law allows some districts to offer a nationally recognized college-entrance exam instead of the state test for accountability.

But that flexibility could be more complicated than it appears on paper.

EWA Radio

Betsy DeVos: Many Questions, Few Answers
EWA Radio: Episode 133

Lisa Miller, an associate editor at New York magazine, discusses her new profile of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Miller discusses the unwillingness of people close to DeVos to discuss her on the record — including current Department of Education employees  — made this one of the most challenging profiles she’s ever written. What do we know about DeVos’ vision for the nation’s public schools that we didn’t know six months ago?

Latest News

Top Democrats to Betsy DeVos: Your New Plan for ESSA Review Violates the Law

The top two Democrats for education in Congress have warned U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that her department’s new approach to reviewing states’ Every Student Succeeds Act plans is riddled with problems. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the ranking Democrats on the respective Senate and House education committees, wrote in a Friday letter to DeVos that the U.S.

Latest News

What Has Betsy DeVos Actually Done After Nearly Six Months In Office?

When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came into office, many in the education community were terrified the billionaire school choice advocate would quickly use her new perch to privatize education and run roughshod over traditional public schools.

Maybe they shouldn’t have been quite so worried. Nearly six months into her new job, a politically hamstrung DeVos is having a tough time getting her agenda off the ground.

Latest News

State To Take Over As Sponsor Of Two Reynoldsburg Charter Schools

Two local charter schools originally overseen by Reynoldsburg schools will come under the sponsorship of the state of Ohio.

On Tuesday, the state Board of Education voted at its regular meeting to approve a hearing officer’s recommendation that the Virtual Community School and A+ Arts Academy should be sponsored next school year by the Office of School Sponsorship, part of the Ohio Department of Education.

Member Stories

June 30 – July 6
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Adam Harris of The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an update on the month of stagnation since Betsy DeVos has taken reporters’ questions, or made other senior officials available to explain policy shifts.

 
 

Latest News

How Indiana Gives School A-F Grades Is Changing

The state will now consider chronic absenteeism and how non-native speakers are learning English when calculating school A-F grades.

These two changes come as part of the Department of Education’s draft plan for how the state will comply with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces the old No Child Left Behind law.

ESSA gives states a little more flexibility with how they grade schools and students, including allowing a state to include their own measurements.

Latest News

Advocates Push To Ensure Minnesota’s New Education Plan Supports English Learners

Before Be Vang became an educator, she went through the public school system as an English language learner. So when she speaks today, on behalf of the multilingual families she serves as principal at Mississippi Creative Arts School in St. Paul Public Schools, she’s able to relate to the educational barriers — including low expectations — that English Learners often face.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Accountability and ESSA: Where States Are Headed

From coast to coast, states are starting to decide how they will capitalize on a law that could usher in a new era of national education policy.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have submitted plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, while others are in the final stage of crafting proposals. As states head to the finish line, officials are watching to see if and how they take advantage of newfound flexibility over testing, evaluating and intervening in schools.

Latest News

Miami-Dade School District Hires Lobbyist — At $108,000 A Year — To Take Concerns To Congress, Trump

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Miami-Dade school district is hiring a lobbying firm to represent its interests in Washington, D.C.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the School Board approved a three-year contract — at $108,000 a year — with Ballard Partners, a Florida lobbying firm, to advocate for the district’s interests before Congress and several federal agencies.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

DeVos Won’t Be Speaking at EWA Seminar But Here’s What Other Education Secretaries Had to Say

When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declined EWA’s invitation to speak at its 70th National Seminar, it prompted coverage from The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among others, in part because of her already limited press availability in the nearly four months since she was appointed to the cabinet post.

Latest News

Minnesota Takes Aim At Chronic Student Absenteeism

It’s a lesson as fundamental as the ABCs: Students can’t learn if they don’t show up.

Research shows that kids in poverty coming to class can single-handedly improve student achievement. Schools across the Twin Cities offer rewards and mentoring to keep kids in school. Despite all the attention and effort, Minnesota has no clear handle on the hundreds of schools with serious attendance problems.

Latest News

Lawmakers Look To Weigh In On Minnesota’s Federal Education Accountability Plan

On Tuesday evening, members of the House cast a party-line 72-59 vote to pass the education finance omnibus bill. It includes things like a 1.5 percent funding increase to the basic education formula — a number that falls short of the 2 percent increase opponents say is needed to help schools keep up with the cost of inflation. It also earmarks dollars for school readiness funding and early learning scholarships, but doesn’t include funding for the expansion of Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature voluntary pre-K program.

Latest News

Spotlight On Racial Inequities Could Increase With New Oklahoma School Plan

Oklahoma’s future system of measuring student and school performance has been labeled by some opponents as a racially insensitive evaluation tool that holds minority students to lower standards than their white counterparts.

But the accountability system, which will serve as the basis for the state’s A through F school grading formula and meet new federal K-12 education standards, could bring more attention to institutional racism in the state’s public schools, proponents believe.

Latest News

Michigan School Accountability Plan Submitted To Feds After Gov. Snyder Signs Off

The Michigan Department of Education has submitted to the U.S. Department of Education its plan to comply with the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The move, announced Monday, came after Gov. Rick Snyder signed off on the plan but expressed support for more discussion on “greater transparency in the school accountability portion of the plan,” MDE said in a news release.

Latest News

Details Of $536,000 Contract Reveal Plans For Statewide School Improvement

Though the Alabama department of education has barely begun intervening into 27 of Montgomery’s chronically low-performing schools, details of a $536,000 contract are shedding light on plans they have to improve other schools as well.

The $536,000 contract with Massachusetts-based Class Measures, Inc., specifies the company will conduct 38 school reviews, create action plans from those reviews, and train state department officials in the review methods.

Latest News

ESSA’s Flexible Accountability Measures Give PE Teachers (And Entrepreneurs) Hope

It’s difficult to refute the impact of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on America’s current educational landscape. Jeanne Allen, CEO and founder of the Center for Education Reform, reminded listeners of the law’s significance at a panel earlier this year, pointing out that before NCLB was passed, “there had never been a requirement to publish and disaggregate data down to the school level.”

Latest News

Tennessee Lawmakers Want To Roll Back A-F School Grades Before They’ve Been Given

Just a year after deciding that every school should get a single letter grade, Tennessee lawmakers are poised to take it back.

Last year, a bill requiring all schools to get an A-F grade starting in 2018 sailed through the legislature. Supporters said parents needed an easy tool to understand how their child’s school was performing, even as critics — including many educators — argued that school quality can’t easily be summed up by a single letter grade.

Latest News

Pennsylvania Department Of Education Considers Changes To Testing, Accountability Measures

The Pennsylvania Department of Education hopes to alleviate testing pressure on students and teachers as the state prepares an education plan in compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, a top department official told lawmakers Monday.

The Obama administration in 2015 replaced the No Child Left Behind Act with ESSA. The new law gives states more freedom to select measures used to determine whether a school is successful and strategies used to support low-performing schools.

Latest News

What Do Ohio Students Need To Get To School Every Day?

Students who miss a lot school fall behind. It’s a national problem.

Each year, 5 to 7.5 million U.S. children are considered chronically absent. In Ohio, 15.8 percent of students miss 10 percent of the school year—about 18 days. That adds up to nearly four weeks of school missed.

The consequences are clear: lower test scores and higher dropout rates in the long run.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Trump Budget Signals Education Priorities

President Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint begins to flesh out the areas in which he sees an important federal role in education — most notably expanding school choice — and those he doesn’t. At the same time, it raises questions about the fate of big-ticket items, including aid to improve teacher quality and support after-school programs. 

Latest News

The Future Of ESSA Under The Trump Administration (Video)

Congress recently struck down new accountability rules, written by the Obama administration, that were part of the Every Students Succeed Act. ESSA, which was signed into law in December of 2015, replaces the No Child Left Behind Act. It takes full effect in the 2017-18 school year.

Latest News

Illinois Education Board Approves State ESSA Plan

The latest draft of what will become Illinois’ new public education policy plan cleared its first major hurdle Wednesday, earning unanimous support from state education leaders.

The Illinois State Board of Education on Wednesday agreed to submit its final Every Student Succeeds Act draft plan to the U.S. Department of Education for review prior to next month’s early deadline.

Webinar

Covering ESSA Accountability in the Trump Era

Covering ESSA Accountability in the Trump Era

With states revamping their school accountability systems under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, recent actions by Congress and the Trump administration raise important questions about what’s ahead. First, the Senate last week narrowly approved a bill to repeal ESSA accountability rules issued by the Obama administration. (President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure.) Also, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos just issued new ESSA guidelines for states.

Latest News

Obama-era Teacher Prep Rules Struck Down

A federal requirement that university teacher preparation programs be rated by the state appears to be on its way out before it was ever implemented.

The U.S. Senate voted this week to strike down stricter accountability regulations on universities that had been approved by the Obama administration late last year.

The House had already approved the rule change and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Senate Unwinds School Accountability Rules

The U.S. Senate, by a 50 to 49 vote yesterday, all but sounded the death knell for Obama administration regulations governing how states must carry out school accountability requirements under federal law. President Donald Trump said he will sign the measure, which was backed by all but one Senate Republican (and earlier won approval in the House).

So, what exactly does this mean for states and schools, and what happens now?

Latest News

Imagine A World With An ESSA Statute—But No Accountability Regulations

The possible end of Every Student Succeeds Act accountability rules could have profound consequences for schools around the country.

For much of the past year, state chiefs, district leaders, civil rights advocates, and others focused intently on trying to influence the shape of those rules, issued to govern ESSA state plans and school accountability. Such rules set the timeline for how schools are rated, measuring “consistently underperforming” students, and other key issues.

Latest News

What’s Ohio’s Plan For The Every Student Succeeds Act?

A new plan from the Ohio Department of Education outlines the trajectory of the state’s education goals over the next 10 years.

On February 2, ODE released its draft plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed the education law with bipartisan congressional support. It requires each state to come up with a plan to comply with federal regulations.

Ohio’s plan is the culmination of more than a year of planning and outreach to educators and community members.

Latest News

How You Can Improve Education In Schools: 7 Ways To Make A Difference After Betsy DeVos Confirmation

In an unprecedented move Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence had to vote to confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos when the Senate found itself a tie: 50 votes for, 50 votes against. When DeVos was nominated in November, the vote was expected to fall along party lines, which would have given DeVos an easy victory. Yet, two Republicans broke with their party to vote against DeVos.

Latest News

Tennessee’s Achievement School District Would Return To Its Original Purpose Under A Bill That Its Leaders Support

Tennessee’s state-run turnaround district could soon get its wings clipped — and its leaders are among those calling for the changes.

Right now, the Achievement School District can both overhaul low-performing schools and start new schools. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would stop the district from starting new schools and make it harder for the district to take over struggling schools.

Latest News

The Conservative Case Against Betsy DeVos

Of all of Donald J. Trump’s controversial Cabinet choices, Betsy DeVos, his nominee for secretary of education, will likely come closest to falling short of Senate confirmation. But after a bumpy hearing last month, declarations by two Republicans that they can’t in good conscience vote her through, and aprobably futile Democratic “talk-a-thon” that kicked off Monday on the floor of the Senate, it seems DeVos will only secure her spot by dint of the intervention of Vice President Mike Pence, who will be called on to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Education Secretaries Betsy DeVos Would Follow

A Senate committee is slated to vote tomorrow on President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education — philanthropist and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos. The Education Department is one of the newer federal departments, created during President Jimmy Carter’s administration and beginning its work in May of 1980.

Latest News

State Finalizing Plan To Give All Michigan Public Schools A To F Grade

Report cards carrying A to F grades have long been a fact of life for students. Now, Michigan’s schools could soon receive them, too.

The Michigan Department of Education is finalizing a new accountability system that would assign schools an A to F grade based upon standardized tests scores, graduation rates, whether students with a limited grasp of English are making progress and other factors.

However, at least one big question remains: how much weight should be given to each category?

Latest News

After-, Before-school Programs In Ohio May Lose Funding This Summer

More than 100 after- and before-school programs across Ohio that serve more than 20,000 children fear they will lose their funding source this summer, spelling the end for many of those enrichment classes.

“We’re all confused and we’re concerned,” said Nichelle Harris, director of the nonprofit Ohio Afterschool Network. “We’re talking about students here.”

Latest News

In Class And On Task: New State Plan Would Track Student Attendance And Test Scores

Schools and districts in Washington that struggle with students missing too many days of class may be flagged for additional support under the new federal education law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act.

When Congress replaced No Child Left Behind with a new law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, lawmakers kept the same testing requirements but also required states to select one non-test way to track school quality and student success.

EWA Radio

‘Quality Counts’ – Rating the Nation’s Public Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 105

Education Week’s Mark Bomster (assistant managing editor) and Sterling Lloyd (senior research associate) discuss the 2017 “Quality Counts” report, which examines and rates state-level efforts to improve public education. This year’s edition features a special focus on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind as the backbone of the nation’s federal K-12 policy. How ready are states, districts, and schools for the policy shifts — and new flexibility — on school accountability, testing, and teacher evaluations under ESSA, among other issues? What are some story ideas for local reporters covering the implementation? Also, which states scored the highest on Education Week’s ratings when it comes to student achievement, equitable education spending, and the “Chance for Success” index? How can education writers use this data to inform their own reporting?

Latest News

A Preview Of Minnesota’s Approach To Ensuring Equitable Student Access To Quality Educators

After months of soliciting community input on a draft of Minnesota’s response to the Every Student Succeeds Act — the new federally mandated state accountability law commonly known as ESSA — staff at the Minnesota Department of Education have been granted a bit more breathing room. Because of a recently extended deadline from the feds, Minnesota won’t be submitting a draft for approval until September 2017.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Looking for ESSA Story Ideas? Start Here.

For reporters looking to pitch stories on changes to the main federal K-12 education law, Chalkbeat Indiana Bureau Chief Scott Elliott has some advice: Don’t say “ESSA.”

The acronym refers to the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law last December, which gives states and school districts – among other things – more freedom in how they set classroom expectations.

EWA Radio

Who Is Betsy DeVos?
EWA Radio: Episode 102

Veteran education reporters from the Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post discuss Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. David Jesse of the Detroit newspaper sheds light on DeVos’ Michigan track record on legislative causes, and what is known about her tactics and negotiating style. Plus, he explains how DeVos’ strong religious beliefs have influenced her policy agenda. Emma Brown of The Washington Post details why Trump’s proposal for $20 billion in school vouchers might be a tough sell, even to a Republican-controlled Congress. And she sheds light on the potential for the next administration to dismantle President Obama’s education initiatives, including scaling back the reach of the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.

Webinar

Measuring the Soft Skills: What Reporters Need to Know

Measuring the Soft Skills: What Reporters Need to Know

Should schools measure skills like cooperation, communication, self-confidence and the ability to organize? Efforts to gauge these so-called “soft skills” are gaining traction in the classroom, especially with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The new federal law calls on states and school districts to incorporate at least one measure beyond test scores and graduation rates in their accountability systems.

Report

Time for Action Building the Educator Workforce Our Children Need Now
Center on Great Teachers and Leaders

States are now deeply engaged in developing plans for their federal education spending for the next several years. Decades of experience and education research indicate that states must strengthen and organize the educator workforce to implement change successfully. Now is the time to rethink systems and strategies and to focus funds and efforts on what matters most for learning: great teachers and leaders for every student and school. 

Report

Teacher Effectiveness in the Every Student Succeeds Act: A Discussion Guide
Center on Great Teachers and Leaders

Systemic challenges in the educator workforce require thoughtful and bold actions, and ESSA presents a unique opportunity for states to reaffirm, modify, or improve their vision of educator effectiveness. This GTL Center discussion guide focuses on one challenge that states face as part of this work: defining ineffective teacher in the absence of highly qualified teacher (HQT) requirements.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Under ESSA, States Take Lead on School Improvement

The day Eric Guthertz found out he was the principal of one of the “worst schools in California” started out fairly routine.

Guthertz heard a TV announcer mention a list of low-performing schools as he put on his tie.

“Hope we dodged that bullet,” he recalled joking with his wife.

But his school, San Francisco’s Mission High School, did not. Because it made the state’s list of lowest performing schools, Mission High was the subject of several news stories highlighting its poor performance.

EWA Radio

Why A Trump Presidency Has Higher Ed on Edge
EWA Radio: Episode 98

Benjamin Wermund of Politico discusses the uncertainties ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities following the presidential election. While Donald Trump has offered few specifics on education policy, his surrogates suggest he will reverse course on many initiatives put in place under President Obama. That could have a significant impact on areas like Title IX enforcement, federal funding for research, and more. Higher education leaders are also facing a surge in reports of hate crimes and harassment on campuses that were already struggling with issues of free speech and diversity.

EWA Radio

Trump Is Elected: What’s Next for Education Policy?
EWA Radio: Episode 97

Donald Trump spent little time on education issues during his campaign, but his victory is sure to have big implications. Journalists Alyson Klein of Education Week and Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Ed discuss the likely impact on P-12 and higher education. What will be President-elect Trump’s education priorities, and how will the GOP-controlled Congress respond? Will Trump follow through on his campaign pledge to provide $20 billion for school choice? What will be the fate of existing federal policy like the new Every Student Succeeds Act? And how will Trump approach the hot-button higher education issues like student loan debt and accountability?  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Feds: ‘E’ in ESSA Stands for ‘Equity’

Here’s a secret about federal laws: Even after Congress passes them and the president signs them, federal agencies can take actions –through writing regulations — that change their impact considerably. That worry is on full display almost a year after Congress overhauled the nation’s main K-12 education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering School Accountability in the ESSA Era

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives local and state leaders a chance to dream up new accountability systems that consider a lot more than just test scores, and chart their own course when it comes to fixing struggling schools.

That flexibility could spur big – and potentially powerful – changes, but there are plenty of possible pitfalls that reporters should keep in mind as the states and districts they cover tackle implementation of the new law, a panel of experts said earlier this month at the Education Writers Association conference on ESSA.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As Feds Turn Focus on English-Language Learners, Teachers Struggle to Find Quality Materials

Craig Brock teaches high school science in Amarillo, Texas, where his freshman biology students are currently learning about the parts of a cell. But since many of them are refugee children who have only recently arrived in the U.S. and speak little or no English, Brock often has to get creative.

Usually that means creating PowerPoint presentations full of pictures and “just kind of pulling from here and there,” he said — the Internet, a third grade textbook or a preschool homeschool curriculum from Sam’s Club, for example.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

With More Freedom, Will States Raise Bar for ‘Effective’ Teaching?

When schools consultant Tequilla Banks considers how best to ensure America’s low-income and minority students have access to effective teaching, her personal history is a helpful guide. Growing up in Arkansas, Banks witnessed first-hand how educational accountability can work – or not work, as the case may be — when state governments call the shots.

What she saw left her thankful for federal government intervention.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education at Forefront in Statewide Elections

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock talks with students at the Billings Career Center in August 2016. The state's gubernatorial race is being closely watched by education advocates. (Casey Page/The Billings Gazette)

With so much attention focused on the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, voters could be forgiven for forgetting they’ll be asked to decide plenty more in November. And the stakes are high for K-12 education in state-level elections, including races for governor, state education chief, and legislative seats, plus ballot measures on education funding and charter schools.

Multimedia

Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race
The U.S. Elections & Education: Part 1

Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race

Experts and advocates assess how early childhood and K-12 education issues are factoring into the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They offer analysis of the candidates’ campaign positions and explore the complex politics of education policy. They also discuss other key elections around the nation with big stakes for education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Post

With ‘Blame and Shame’ Accountability Behind Us, What Will Take Its Place?

One of the most important and welcomed provisions of the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) is the removal of so-called adequate yearly progress – the federal mandate that came to symbolize everything that was wrong with the way No Child Left Behind defined and measured accountability. AYP imposed rigid and narrow measures for school improvement, improperly labeling many schools as low-performing and imposing punishment when they were unable to meet the unrealistic expectations for proficiency.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Rethinking Accountability in the ESSA Era

Lauren Camera (far left) of US News & World Report moderates the ESSA panel discussion in Boston on May 2, 2016. (Jeffrey Solochek for EWA)

When President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December, he shifted significant power over educational accountability back to states and school districts.

They still face federal requirements on testing, identifying and assisting the lowest performing schools, and related matters. Money remains the carrot.

EWA Radio

Does America Need a ‘Math Revolution’?
EWA Radio: Episode 63

(Flickr/Mathematical Association of America)

We know many American students struggle with math and trail many of their international peers. Conventional wisdom says that’s keeping them from developing the kind of critical thinking skills they need for high-paying STEM careers, and to be successful in a 21st century global economy. But is that shortsighted view of a bigger — and more positive — picture?

EWA Radio

The Higher Ed Beat: Are You Ready for 2016?
EWA Radio: Episode 54

Scott Jaschik, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed, shares his thoughts on the coming year with EWA Radio. Among the topics he and public editor Emily Richmond tackle in this episode: Will 2015’s widespread campus protests over racial issues carry over into the New Year? How will community college factor into state funding formulas for higher education? Why are younger U.S. military veterans an ever-growing market for universities? And what should reporters watch out for when reporting on the intersection of politics and education policy? 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As ESSA Era Begins, Assessing NCLB’s Legacy

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King visits a classroom in Tampa, Fla. The federal Education Department's reach has been scaled back by the new Every Student Succeeds Act, as Congress sought to transfer more authority over local schools back to the states. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Education)

America brought home a middling report card with 74.4 out of 100 points – a “C” grade — in Education Week’s 20th annual “Quality Counts” report this week, which ranks the nation and individual states on a variety of student factors, from test scores to graduation rates to “chance of success” later in life. (That’s about the same grade earned last year, as well.)

EWA Radio

Happy New Year: What Education Reporters Need To Know
EWA Radio: Episode 53

Pixabay/Stefan Schweihofer

With school back in session and a new federal education law on the books, K-12 reporter Motoko Rich of the New York Times shares her predictions for the hot topics on the education beat in 2016, as well as some of her favorite stories of the past year produced by other journalists. She also offers some smart tips for reporters looking to localize national issues for their own audiences.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

This Is What’s New in 2016 from EWA

Here’s something to add to your list of New Year’s resolutions, and it might even make it easier to keep that pledge to exercise more often: Subscribe to EWA Radio! Each week, we feature education journalists sharing the backstory to their best work. You’ll hear tips for managing the daily beat, as well as ideas for localizing national issues for your own audience. 

Here are a few more opportunities from EWA to help ramp up your reporting in 2016: 

Webinar

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

Exclusive Access: Education Week’s ‘Quality Counts’ 2016

EWA journalist members received an early opportunity to review Education Week’s newest Quality Counts report, which includes a special focus on school accountability.

As part of its annual Quality Counts report, Education Week grades states on a wide range of indicators, including the Chance-for-Success Index, K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance.

Report

High School Closures in New York City

In the first decade of the 21st century, the NYC Department of Education implemented a set of large-scale and much debated high school reforms, which included closing large, low-performing schools, opening new small schools and extending high school choice to students throughout the district. The school closure process was the most controversial of these efforts. Yet, apart from the general sense that school closures are painful, there has never been a rigorous assessment of their impact in NYC.

Report

Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools
Council of Great City Schools

Testing in the nation’s schools is among the most debated issues in public education today. Much of this discussion has centered on how much we are testing students and how we use test results to evaluate teachers, inform instructional practice, and hold schools and educators accountable. A recent national poll by Phi Delta Kappa underscores the fact that the public at large is concerned about the extent of testing in schools, and these concerns are influencing how people think about the nationwide move to adopt and implement the new Common Core State Standards.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Webinar

Is It Bon Voyage For No Child Left Behind?
Webinar on Federal Policy

(Flickr/Patrick)

Education Week reporter Lauren Camera, David DeSchryver, senior vice president of Whiteboard Advisors, and Bethany Little, principal at Education Counsel, break down the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for journalists.

Now that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed bills renewing the act, journalists can examine the potential impact of the new provisions. Learn how you can cover these in your state and district and find out questions you should be asking.

Speakers

Webinar

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas
Back-to-School Webinar

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas

For education reporters, coming up with fresh angles for back-to-school stories is an annual challenge. Two veteran education journalists—Steve Drummond (NPR) and Beth Hawkins (MinnPost)—share smart tips for digging deep, and keeping ahead of the curve on the latest trends. We discuss new ways of approaching the first day of school, ideas for unique profiles, strategies for data projects and how to make the most of your publication’s multimedia resources. 

Speakers

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond NCLB: New Era in Federal Education Policy?

Screenshot of a tweet by @KristenRencher

Fifty years ago, the federal government enacted the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The newest version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law 13 years ago and has stayed in place ever since. On Thursday, a new version of the federal government’s most far-reaching K-12 education law moved closer to adoption. The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, one week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version, the Student Success Act.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

NCLB Rewrite Survives Senate Vote

A mock schoolhouse outside the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. (Flickr/elonjoned)

It’s been a hugely busy week for education reporters on Capitol Hill, as the Senate plowed its way through the Every Child Achieves Act, one of the leading contenders to replace No Child Left Behind as the nation’s framework for funding public schools.

The Senate approved passage of the bill Thursday with 81-17 vote. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Senate to Debate Replacement for No Child Left Behind

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to debate reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the key mechanism for delivering federal funding to the nation's public schools. (Flickr/Wally Gobetz)

After countless false starts and protracted negotiations, a bill to reauthorize the main federal law for K-12 education is slated for consideration by the U.S. Senate this week.

This is the closest the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has come to reality since the law was last updated in 2002 under President George W. Bush. The law, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, was slated for renewal in 2007.

EWA Radio

The Graduation Rate Myth
EWA Radio: Episode 27

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama noted that the nation’s graduation rate had hit a 30-year record high of 81 percent. But how accurate is that number? National Public Radio’s education team decided to find out, assigning 14 regional reporters to cover the story. What they found is that while there is likely some genuine improvement in student achievement, there are also plenty of instances where schools and districts are lowering expectations in order to raise the grad rate.

EWA Radio spoke with the lead journalists on the multimedia project: Anya Kamanetz and Cory Turner. They discussed the origins of the assignment, lessons learned along the way, and some smart tips for local reporters looking at the data in their own communities. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Urban Schools Landscape: Lessons From Chicago

Students a campus operated by the University of Chicago's charter school network. The Windy City's education policies took center stage during a session at EWA's 68th National Seminar. (Seong-Ah Cho, Urban Education Institute)

Urban education leaders crammed a marathon of Chicago’s public education woes and wonders into a 45-minute session (more akin to a 5K race) at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar in Chicago.

Sara Ray Stoelinga, the director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, joined colleague Timothy Knowles for a breakfast panel titled “10 Lessons to Take Home From Chicago” at the EWA event.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Arne Duncan: Education Is ‘Great Equalizer’ But Not Yet National Priority

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan fields reporters' questions culled by Motoko Rich of the New York Times at EWA's National Seminar in Chicago, April 21, 2015. (Lloyd Degrane for EWA)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan subjected himself to what might have been the ultimate edu-press conference in Chicago Tuesday, allowing hundreds of reporters to grill him on testing, No Child Left Behind, college ratings (and yes, White Suburban moms) at the Education Writers Association’s 68th National Seminar. 

Multimedia

RIP NCLB?: A New Role for Uncle Sam
2015 EWA National Seminar

 RIP NCLB?: A New Role for Uncle Sam

Speakers, including U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-IN, offer reporters the lay of the land and discuss how rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act may affect their school districts and states. Some speakers say NCLB is already dead, but they’re still not certain what will take its place, other than policies handed down through the U.S. Department of Education’s waivers from NCLB provisions.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Congress Moves a (Big) Step Closer to Rewriting No Child Left Behind

A congressional compromise is at hand to rewrite No Child Left Behind, removing many of the more onerous provisions of the federal education law while giving states greater flexibility in accountability.

While the “Every Student Achieves” bipartisan bill announced Tuesday still has significant hurdles to clear before passage, it’s certainly the closest Congress has come to an agreement on revising the education law in nearly a decade.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

March Madness, Renaming NCLB

Kristina Baskett competes on bars, University of Utah Women's Gymnastics. (Flickr/lemonjenny)

While we can’t do anything about your dismal bracket selections, EWA can help reporters with story ideas for covering “March Madness” and college sports. Catch a replay of our recent webinar, which highlighted some smart ideas, the latest research, and expert sources on the intersection of higher education and athletics. 

Report

Data Dashboards: Accounting for What Matters
Alliance for Excellent Education

As Congress works to rewrite the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and improve accountability systems for public schools across the country, this report highlights how going beyond a test score when assessing achievement in schools and districts provides more transparent and precise ways to continuously track performance, monitor accountability, and ensure the most at-risk students are not lost in the numbers.

Read the report.

Report

Expanded Learning Time: A Summary of Findings from Case Studies in Four States
Center on Education Policy

Many low-performing schools across the nation have increased learning time in response to federal requirements for the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The conditions governing federal waivers of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) also require certain schools to redesign the school day, week, or year to include additional time for student learning and teacher collaboration. Furthermore, the waivers allow greater flexibility to redirect certain federal funding streams toward increased learning time.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The 2015 Education Beat: Common Core, Testing, School Choice

Students at New York University work on a computer programming project. More interactive learning is expected to be a hot topic in the coming year on both the K-12 and higher education beats. (Flickr/Matylda Czarnecka)

There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months: 

Revamping No Child Left Behind

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Much Time Do Students Spend Taking Tests?

Amid the strong and growing drumbeat of complaints about overtesting at the K-12 level, many education reporters and others may be left wondering how much time students really spend taking standardized tests. And who is demanding most of this testing, anyway? The federal government? States? Local districts?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

For Waiver States, More Time for Teacher Evaluations

States receiving waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act are getting more time to grapple with how to conduct teacher evaluations using student test scores, particularly the new Common Core State Standards-based assessments.

According to Education Week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the postponement at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C., which earlier this summer announced its plan to delay its new teacher evaluations.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Atlanta Cheating Scandal: New Yorker Magazine Gets Personal

The July 21 issue of The New Yorker takes us deep inside the Atlanta cheating scandal, and through the lucid reporting of Rachel Aviv, we get to know some of the teachers and school administrators implicated. We learn not only how and why they say they cheated, but also about the toxic, high-pressure environment they contend was created by Superintendent Beverly Hall’s overwhelming emphasis on improving student test scores.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

NCLB Waivers: What Reporters Need to Know

Education reporters can access a treasure trove of public documents that track significant changes to state exemptions to the most sweeping federal education law of the 21st century, experts said in May at EWA’s 67th National Seminar. 

And reporters will need those documents to piece together the patchwork of state policies that have been created out of the NCLB waiver process established by the U.S. Department of Education,  said the panelists speaking at the EWA event at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  

Report

The Effect of ESEA Waiver Plans on High School Graduation Rate Accountability

Based on an extensive analysis of state waiver plans, this report shows that recent progress in holding schools accountable for how many students they graduate from high school—the ultimate goal of K–12 education—may be slowed in some states based on waivers recently granted under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The report includes a review of approved waiver plans submitted by thirty-four states and the District of Columbia.

Organization

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a right-leaning think tank focused on education policy. According to its mission statement, the institute aims to advance “educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.”

Organization

The National Education Association

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest teachers’ union with nearly 3 million members. Its members work at every level of education, from preschool through postsecondary, but the bulk of its members work in K-12 education.

Organization

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing is known more commonly as FairTest. The organization “advances quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools. FairTest also works to end the misuses and flaws of testing practices that impede those goals.” For journalists, this group has become the go-to resource for statements critical of standardized tests. They have been a vocal critic of the regimen of testing  that NCLB mandated.

Organization

Education Sector

Education Sector is a Washington, D.C.-based, non-partisan think tank that has followed NCLB from its legislative development through its implementation. Their experts can offer a range of information about impact of the law’s requirements.

Organization

The Alliance for Excellent Education

The Alliance for Excellent Education “is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century.” With regard to NCLB, the Alliance says the law “has played an important role in highlighting achievement gaps, but it has steadily proven to be inadequate in providing sufficient remedies and flexibility.

Organization

The American Association of School Administrators

The American Association of School Administrators counts more than 13,000 educational leaders from across the United States and the world in its membership. These members include chief executive officers, superintendents and senior level school administrators along with cabinet members, some professors and others who manage schools and school systems. AASA was founded in 1865. Regarding NCLB, AASA has asserted that “The accountability system should be made up of measures of growth that differentiate levels of success.

Organization

The Council of Chief State School Officers

The Council of Chief State School Officers is “a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions,” according to the group.

Report

States’ Perspectives on Waivers: Relief from NCLB, Concern about Long-term Solutions, by Jennifer McMurrer and Nanami Yoshioka at the Center on Education Policy

This report describes states’ early experiences in applying for flexibility from key requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as NCLB waivers, and their plans for implementing the new systems outlined in their applications. Findings from the 38 survey states indicate states believe that the waivers address several of the problems they see with the NCLB accountability requirements, however, many state officials are concerned about what will happen to the programs and policies in their waiver plans if ESEA is reauthorized.

Key Coverage

Broad Changes Ahead as NCLB Waivers Roll Out

The waivers being granted to 10 of 11 states that applied for flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act would allow them to make potentially broad changes in how school performance and the performance of student subgroups are judged under the decade-old law.

Key Coverage

States Punch Reset Button With NCLB Waivers

The leeway to set the new academic goals tacitly acknowledges that the 100 percent goal is unrealistic. But it also means that members of racial and ethnic minorities, English-language learners, and students with disabilities will fail to master college- and career-readiness standards by the end of the 2016-17 school year at greater rates in most waiver states.

Key Coverage

Rural States in Hunt for NCLB Waivers

At least half the schools in Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and West Virginia are considered rural by the National Center for Education Statistics. Alabama also has a high number of rural students, while Hawaii’s single, state-run school district educates some students who live in remote island areas.

Key Coverage

K-12 America Since 1981

This interactive timeline provides links to dozens of articles as they appeared when first published, providing a treasure trove of information, particularly the evolution of No Child Left Behind. The timeline can be organized by topic and chronology.

Key Coverage

Teachers in Training Deemed Highly Qualified by Congress

A publication out of Teachers College, Columbia University, offered this round up of the chief debates and controversies surrounding the Highly Qualified Teacher provision of NCLB through its accompanying blog. It focuses on a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision limiting the HQT provision and Congress disregarding that ruling.

Key Coverage

John Kline’s No Child Left Behind Bills Strike at Values of Brown v. Board of Education, Coalition Writes

This Huffington Post article examines the frustrations various advocacy groups have with national education laws, specifically the U.S. House of Representative’s effort to reauthorize ESEA. While this article looks into the fallout over accountability measures for minorities, English language learners and low-income students, it brings up the bigger issue of how much accountability and closing the achievement gap matter to stakeholders.

Key Coverage

House ESEA Bill Would Lift Title I Spending Requirements

This analysis piece from New America Foundation, a small but influential Washington D.C. think-tank, provides a clear account of several Title I funding issues tied to NCLB. While the article’s author focuses on House Republican efforts to rewrite the national education law, her revenue allocation insights are likely to aid journalists wanting a technical edge in their reporting moving forward.

Key Coverage

In Defense of No Child Left Behind

This 2012 essay written by Andrew Rotherham, who co-founded the seminal education groups Education Sector and Bellwether Education, offers a defense of NCLB, painting a picture of how the law forced education players to recognize an achievement gap existed between races, gender, and the rich and poor.

Report

AYP Results for 2010-11

This Center on Education Policy report estimates 48 percent of states missed AYP in 2011. In general, CEP provides informative reports and large-scale surveys testing the moods of educators and administrators.

Report

Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009

This National Center for Education Statistics report compares state standardized scores that measure AYP and how they measure up to the rigors of NAEP. The authors conclude states vary widely in how they define proficiency in a subject. For added context, read Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post’s respective articles summarizing the report, via This Week in Education.

Key Coverage

Tutoring Program Not Hitting Its Marks

This article from 2009 highlights the ineffectual but costly role supplemental educational services played in improving achievement for at-risk and low-performing students in the Las Vegas region. A 2011 draft paper looked at SES programs nationwide, concluding few are effective.

Key Coverage

States Gear Up for New Federal Law

This 2002 article characterizes the moods of 45 state heads of education as mostly positive. Many were looking forward to NCLB, particularly the emphasis on tougher standards and the billions more in Title I funds the new law would bring.