Tag Archives: ESEA Reauthorization

The Peril of Teacher Evaluation Policy under ESSA

It’s official. Teacher evaluation policy in most states and districts is in trouble. Big trouble. After overwhelmingly passing the House this week, a similar outcome predicted in the Senate, and support from the White House, it looks very likely that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be reauthorized very, very soon. The new bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, strips all federal requirements on teacher quality issues.

The main theme of ESSA is state flexibility. This hasn’t always worked so well with school accountability. History suggests that states back away from accountability when they’re not forced into it by the feds. And there’s no reason to think it will be any different for teacher quality policy. Especially teacher evaluation.

Sure, as of today 43 states require that student growth and achievement be considered in teacher evaluations and 40 of those states have it written into state law (three states have teacher evaluation policy existing only in ESEA waivers, which will be eliminated). But many of these states have yet to produce a year’s worth of results on the new evaluation systems, let alone connecting those results to other personnel decisions. Only seven states tie evaluation ratings to compensation. Less than half of states have policies in place where teachers are eligible for dismissal based on evaluation ratings. Just nine states use evaluation to determine licensure.

Besides, while state law matters, it’s also vulnerable to the sway of powerful special interest groups. Continue reading

Speed: Race to the Top’s Achilles Heel

A new study released today shows that Race to the Top (RTT)—President Obama’s K-12 education competitive grant program—resulted in major changes in education policy in the states that applied for the grant, whether they walked away with $700 million or no money at all. The study, conducted by the University of Chicago’s William Howell, found that before RTT, states enacted about 10 percent of proposed reform policies. After? Sixty eight percent.

RTT Policies

via William G. Howell/EducationNext

While education policy movement is usually described as incremental at best, Howell’s study found that RTT got states moving on K-12 initiatives, and fast. However, speed will likely be the Achilles heel of RTT. Continue reading

We Are Never, Ever, Ever Going Back to NCLB

We’ve now finished Year 3 of the No Child Left Behind “Waiver Era.” Nationwide, 83 percent of students—more than 41 million children—attend schools freed from the most burdensome aspects of NCLB. The federal requirements that became familiar in the education world are no longer:

  • “Adequate Yearly Progress?” Waived.
  • Corrective action” and “restructuring?” Gone and gone.
  • “Supplemental Educational Services,” or free tutoring for students in low-performing schools? Gone.
  • “Highly Qualified Teachers,” otherwise known as “HQT?” Waiver states no longer enforce it.

It’s unlikely that the nation as a whole will ever revert back to NCLB or the rules built into the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As Taylor Swift might put it, we are never, ever, ever going back to NCLB. Continue reading

Real Autonomy, Real Accountability: Pacts Americana

We had an idea.

It started with two really depressing facts. NCLB hadn’t worked. But the pre-NCLB era hadn’t worked either–that’s why we got NCLB, for goodness sake.

But instead of obsessing about the weakness of both (we and everyone else had done plenty of that already), we started thinking about the strengths of both. Before NCLB, states and their districts and schools had lots of flexibility. They could develop policies and practices that fit local needs, and they could change courses swiftly when things went wrong. Education leaders were in charge of their standards, tests, and accountability systems, so they felt a sense of ownership over their state’s system of public education.

In the NCLB era, we got an increased focus on student achievement. We were able to track the performance of all kids, and we were assured of meaningful school and district interventions when students were falling behind. We also enjoyed an unprecedented increase in accountability for billions in federal taxpayer funds.Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.39.57 PM

Our question became: Is it possible to marry the best of both eras? We started sketching something out.

We eventually hit upon what turned out to be The Big Question–the one that ultimately brought about “Pacts Americana,” the report we’re releasing today: Does the education world have some kind of time-tested system–something could be brought to bear on ESEA reauthorization–for combining real accountability with real autonomy?

Yes, we realized. That’s precisely what chartering is all about. Continue reading

Edu-Date Lab: Standards-Based Accountability and Personalized Learning

One of my guilty pleasures is Washington Post Magazine‘s Date Lab, which pares potential matches from a pool of applicants and sends them on dinner dates around Washington, D.C. I thought it might be fun to try something similar for education–not matching up actual people, mind you (sorry single AOTH readers!). Instead, we’re matching up education policies that have the potential for a high level of compatibility, but need to overcome underlying tensions and values differences in order to achieve that potential. (Sounds a lot like dating, right?)  Also, no one gets a free dinner. So let’s meet today’s lucky couple.

Standards-based accountability was born in the wake of 1983’s Nation at Risk report, and has been the dominant framework for U.S. education policy for the past quarter-century. It’s helped drive improvement in student learning outcomes, but one if its key features–testing–has taken some hits in public opinion and political support over the last few years, and is at the core of the current debate over ESEA reauthorization. Standards-based accountability enjoys common grade-level standards, assessments, using assessments to rate school performance, and intervening in low-performing schools.

Personalized learning is newer to education reform, but has received increasing attention in recent years. A growing number of schools and districts use technology in new ways to provide more customized student learning experiences, but many personalized learning models are still nascent, and the approach has yet to reach widespread national scale. Personalized learning enjoys individual learner profiles, customized personal learning paths, progression based on mastery of competencies rather than seat-time, and flexible learning environments.

Do these two crazy kids have a chance together? On the plus side, they share a common goal: Enabling all kids to reach college and career readiness. On the downside, they have slightly different underlying values and assumptions about how best to improve public education.

If these two can get over their differences, they could be a match made in heaven: Standards-based accountability systems can produce evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of personalized learning , and stimulate school and district demand for the best personalized learning approaches. Personalized learning, in turn, can help accelerate student learning to enable all children to reach college and career ready standards.

But if they can’t successfully negotiate the underlying tensions, standards-based accountability and personalized learning could be in for some serious conflict.

Want to know how it all ends up? Too bad! That’s going to depend on the choices that policymakers, state and district leaders, and personalized learning innovators make over the next few years. A new Bellwether report, however, offers them guidance to ensure that this relationship thrives, rather than falters. Check it out here.