By Dr. Lisa Andrejko
PeopleAdmin Strategic Advisor,
Former superintendent, principal, teacher
After surviving conference committee meetings throughout the summer and fall, and passing the House and Senate, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA/ESSA) was signed into law by President Obama yesterday.
This is the first rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in more than a dozen years. It is being viewed by most educational and political organizations as a success due to the compromise from both sides of the aisle. It removes the influence of Washington on K-12 Education delegating accountability measures to the states. It also consolidates nearly 50 programs into a giant block grant.
What is important for school administrators to understand regarding teacher evaluation as well as recruiting and hiring?
The intent of ESEA
Let’s first look at how the Whitehouse summarizes some of the key reforms and tenets in the law:
- Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers.
- Ensuring accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps.
- Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions like the No Child Left Behind Act did.
- Reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning or sacrifice the clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
- Providing more children access to high-quality preschool.
- Establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.
Under ESSA, states will have the authority to continue to use student achievement data in teacher evaluation, currently in place in 42 states and the District of Columbia. ESSA maintains annual tests. States may reduce the role those assessments play in school ratings and accountability in favor of other factors, such as school climate, teacher engagement, and access to advanced coursework.
However, it is my belief that states have invested an inordinate amount of time, energy, and funding into creating teacher accountability systems that include student achievement data in one form or another. It would not be “politically” popular for state legislators to say that teachers are no longer “accountable” after having publicly declared the importance of these systems just a few years ago. The teacher evaluation software you choose will be critical, as modifications will surely be needed. Flexibility in the creation of forms and processes will be key, as well as having the ability to make modifications in a timely manner.
How will ESSA affect recruiting and hiring?
Since the “highly qualified” status is now replaced with effectiveness, I predict some leeway in certification requirements and alternative pathways to teaching made easier at the state level. This will have an impact on teacher shortages.