Education

How could new education law impact NC schools? 17 things to know

Posted February 4

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— North Carolina public school leaders say they plan to travel the state in the coming months to get feedback from the public about how best to implement the newly revamped federal education law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA.

President Barack Obama signed the sweeping overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law in December, meaning North Carolina public schools could see some major changes, including more money for teacher recruitment and a change in how teachers are evaluated.

Possible changes are already underway. On Wednesday, the State Board of Education considered a policy that would eliminate student growth on state tests as a way to measure the effectiveness of teachers and principals. The board will have more discussions about it at next month's meeting.

One key feature of the new law remains: Students will still take federally required statewide reading and math exams. However, the new law encourages states to limit the time students spend on testing and diminishes the high stakes for underperforming schools.

Lou Fabrizio, director of data, research and federal policy for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said the rewrite of the law gives states more decision-making authority. He gave a presentation to the State Board of Education Thursday to explain some of the highlights.

17 things to know about ESSA:

1) It places limitations on the authority of the U.S. Secretary of Education, who cannot require additions or deletions to a state’s academic content standards or prescribe specific goals of progress, specific tests, weights of measures or indicators.

2) All current Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility Waivers will be null and void as of Aug. 1. The waivers allow states flexibility to create their own plans to improve student achievement. However, any schools currently identified as priority and focus schools (those that are lowest-performing and contributing to the achievement gap) must be maintained for the 2016-17 school year.

3) The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction must work with the governor to develop a plan. The governor must be given 30 days to sign the plan, but it can be submitted to the USED after 30 days even if the governor does not sign it.

4) Implementation of new state plans (once approved by the U.S. Department of Education) will start with the 2017-18 school year.

5) Annual tests in grades 3-8 and high school will still be given.

6) Each state has flexibility to design its own school accountability system.

7) It eliminates the phrase adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

8) It provides for test pilots at the state level so states can research new and improved methods of measuring student progress from year to year. Up to seven states may be selected but that number could increase over time. It will be up to the Secretary of Education to determine the application process and timeline for submission to be one of the pilot states.

9) The accountability plans must include goals for academic indicators (improved academic achievement on state tests, a measure of student growth or other statewide academic indicator for elementary and middle schools, graduation rates for high schools, and progress in achieving proficiency for English learners) and a measure of school quality and student success (examples include student and educator engagement, access and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, school climate and safety). Participation rates on the assessments must also be included in the plan.

10) It maintains many reporting requirements including the State Report Card. SRC data are expanded to include information on homeless students, foster youth, students of parents on active duty in the military, information on acquisition of English proficiency by English Learners and professional qualifications of teachers.

11) It gives states the flexibility to determine how educators should be evaluated each year. The State Board of Education is considering a policy that would eliminate student growth as a way to measure the effectiveness of teachers and principals. If the policy is approved, student performance on state tests could still be discussed during teacher evaluations but would no longer affect a teacher’s status. The change, if approved, would go into effect after Aug. 1.

12) There is no set of required federal sanctions, but interventions used in schools needing assistance and support must be evidence-based.

13) States will have to identify, at a minimum, the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools (those with a high percentage of low-income students) and high schools with graduation rates lower than 67 percent.

14) School districts must develop and implement Comprehensive Support and Improvement plans for the lowest-performing schools. The state must approve the plans.

15) It eliminates the federal School Improvement Grants but allows states to reserve 7 percent of Title I funds (money given to schools with a high percentage of low-income students) to make grants available to low-performing schools.

16) A portion of state test grants will be made available as a separate allocation to states to conduct audits of state or local tests as a way to reduce redundant tests.

17) It authorizes a Preschool Development Grants Program through the Department of Health and Human Services.

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