By Ellen Fern, Managing Director at Washington Partners
On Tuesday, February 7, the House of Representatives voted to overturn Obama administration regulations regarding accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as well as regulations relating to teacher-preparation programs.
H.J.Res.57, which would overturn regulations regarding accountability under ESSA, passed by a vote of 234-190. A few more Democratic members signed on to pass the resolution overturning teacher-preparation regulations, H.J.Res. 58, by a vote of 240 – 181. Both regulations were subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to overturn regulations from the previous administration within a certain period of time.
The CRA has never been used on education regulations, so if the regulations are overturned via a similar vote in the Senate, it is unclear how the Department of Education would proceed as far as issuing guidance or new regulations. If the regulations are overturned, the Department will be barred from issuing "substantially similar" regulations on these two issues before lawmakers reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act, respectively. At the very least, if the accountability regulations are overturned, the deadlines of April 3 or September 8 for states to submit ESSA plans for Education Department approval, with implementation to start in the 2018–19 school year, would most likely disappear, too.
On January 19th, the National School Boards Association and the National School Boards Action Center hosted the Public Education Agenda for America's Success forum. Representatives from both conservative and liberal policy and research institutes came together in Washington, DC to discuss what to expect under a new administration and Congress.
The 2016 presidential campaign did not focus much on education issues, aside from a few conversations around child care and school choice. However, Gerard Robinson of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) mentioned that while education has not been a direct focus of President Trump’s attention, many of his priority issues—including safety, the economy and the military—are, in truth, education issues.
Based on what we know so far about the Trump Administration's education agenda and how it relates to out-of-school time, a couple of key themes emerged.
Federal government expected to pass the baton to the states
Many on the panel assumed the Trump Administration will look to return as much decision-making on data, performance, and implementation as possible to states, which resonates with the theme of the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2015.
All panelists expected a return to local control—but as AEI's Andy Smarick hypothesized, the very concept of local control may be changing. In the past, local control meant the ultimate decision makers on education issues should be local school boards and districts rather than the state or federal government, but Smarick now believes local control is reaching down to the level of the parent and family.
However, other panelists pointed out that with federal and state money flowing to districts and students, accountability in education will always have to be twofold: at the school and parent level with regard to student achievement, but also at the federal, state, and local level when considering how public tax dollars are being spent in the public interest.
|President Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.|
In the New Year, states are busy getting ready for the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to go into full effect with the start of the new 2017-18 school year.
In these final months of preparation, states are finishing first and second rounds of stakeholder engagement, releasing first and second drafts of their state ESSA plans, and finalizing plans and submitting to the federal Department of Education for review. Arizona already has submitted a plan—far ahead of the required April and September deadlines for plan submission.
At this stage, things are moving quickly—luckily, it's easy to keep up with what your state is doing with our new interactive map tool! This new resource puts links to state webpages and ESSA plans at your fingertips.
What are states working to accomplish?
The new law is an opportunity to re-envision education within the state. Unlike the previous federal education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), ESSA provides more flexibility to states to decide what they want to track and measure beyond the familiar requirement of student proficiency on statewide English language arts (ELA) and math tests.
Guided by stakeholder engagement, states are determining the outcomes they want to see for their students and creating a system of reporting, interventions and support to ensure that districts and schools help students make progress toward those goals.
|President Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.|
On November 29th, the Department of Education issued final regulations on accountability, school support, data reporting, and consolidated state plan provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The regulations strengthen the voices of afterschool advocates who recognize the importance of being included in state plans by reinforcing the importance of stakeholder involvement, awareness of equitable resources, and state and local flexibility in decision making.
The new regulations responded to more than 20,000 comments on the draft regulations (including a submission by the Afterschool Alliance), in some cases clarifying the law, in other cases explaining the decision to not take action, and occasionally suggesting that more information would come in the form of non-regulatory guidance. We’ve identified the following five areas in the regulations where afterschool may play a major role.
What the law says: The regulations emphasize “working closely with stakeholders to choose evidence based interventions that are tailored to local needs.” The new law also requires states to choose one or more indicators of school quality or student success (like student engagement or chronic absenteeism, for example), which will factor into the overall school score that is reported to parents under the accountability system. The regulations require that these indicators, also known as 5th indicators, have a research base tying them to student learning and achievement, such as improved GPAs, credit accumulation, graduation rates, college enrollment or career success.
Where afterschool fits in: Afterschool programs are a proven way to support students in academics, engagement and behavior. Afterschool advocates should ensure that state and local superintendents and school boards are aware of the research on afterschool’s role in boosting academic achievement and student success. The afterschool field is a well-positioned partner in supporting students and the school system under this section of the law.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) officially replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the guiding, major federal education law in December of 2015. Since implementing ESSA takes time, ESSA’s changes will start taking effect during the 2017-18 school year. ESSA includes several opportunities for states and local school districts to utilize flexible federal funds to provide students with afterschool and summer learning programs, STEM learning, physical activity, and arts education.
The Arts Education Partnership, working with the Education Commission of the States, recently released ESSA: Mapping Opportunities for the Arts. The new resource can help school and community based afterschool providers and advocates understand how ESSA opportunities can support arts education that contributes to a well-rounded student education.
Opportunities for the arts in Title I programs
The programs of ESSA's Title I, Part A are designed to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education. The evidence-based programs supported by Title I funds assist students who are academically at risk, and these programs help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and those who enjoy more resources. There are many opportunities to include arts education opportunities that help achieve these goals in Title I, Part A:
State plans. Each state must submit an accountability plan to the Department of Education each year, including at least one indicator of school quality or student success beyond student achievement, graduation rates and English proficiency. This means that states could choose to include an arts-related indicator, such as the number of arts course offerings, the percentage of high school students enrolled in arts courses that provide postsecondary credit, or the proportion of certified arts educators to students.
Local Education Agency (LEA) plans. To receive Title I funding, a district must submit a plan to the state education agency that describes how it will identify inequities in educational opportunities and help close the achievement gap for all students, including a description of how the district will provide a well-rounded education. A district can choose to provide a description of its arts education programs and the role of those programs in providing all students a well-rounded education. LEAs can opt to use their Title I Part A funds to support out of school arts programming as well.
Schoolwide Programs. To be eligible for schoolwide program funds, schools must have at least 40 percent of their students identified as coming from low-income families and create a schoolwide plan which embraces whole school reform. As a part of a well-rounded education, these plans may incorporate the arts as strategies to provide all students the opportunity to achieve.
Targeted assistance schools. Schools that do not meet the poverty threshold for schoolwide programs can use Title I funding to create programs targeted to help academically at-risk students meet the state’s academic standards. The arts, as part of a well-rounded education, can be included as a potential strategy for meeting the objectives set by schools for the Targeted Assistance Schools programs, using the traditional school day or out-of-school time.
Parent and family engagement. Engaging the families of students is an important aspect of ESSA and appears in several areas of Title I. Examples of family engagement using the arts might include: incorporating arts programming in a back-to-school night, schools providing parents with expectations for their children in arts classes, or encouraging parents to work with their schools in developing schoolwide plans that value the arts as a strategy in closing the achievement gap.
To learn more about ESSA and the arts, read the full report and visit this webpage for additional resources on topics such as accountability, assessments, and state plans. Have more questions about how ESSA affects afterschool? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions on 21st CCLC and ESSA.
|President Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.|
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new education law of the land, established a number of new, flexible funding streams that states and districts can employ to support afterschool programs. One of these is the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program (SSAE), in the law's Title IV Part A.
Late last month, the US Department of Education released non-regulatory guidance on the SSAE grant program to help states, districts and schools provide students with a more well-rounded education. ESSA authorized $1.65 billion annually for this program (though Congress is debating the final funding level), which will provide funding to every state and district to support well-rounded learning opportunities with a strong emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, as well as learning technologies and programs that keep students safe and healthy. The SSAE grants program is intended to be distributed by formula to districts, according to the following stipulations:
- Ninety-five percent of the funds will flow to school districts, to be spent largely at their discretion, with the remaining 5 percent reserved for state-level activities.
- Every district will receive at least $10,000 through the program, and those receiving more than $30,000 in federal funds under the program (all but the smallest school districts will likely cross this threshold) must devote 20 percent to “well-rounded” learning activities, which include a large variety of STEM activities.
There are a nubmer of activities specifically authorized under ESSA and detailed in the new Department of Education guidance for the SSAE grants program that are helpful for afterschool STEM.
Opportunities for afterschool STEM in the SSAE grant program
- “Facilitating collaboration among school, afterschool program, and informal program personnel to improve the integration of programming and instruction in the identified [STEM] subjects” [Sec. 4107 (a)(3)(C)(v)]
- “Providing hands-on learning and exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and supporting the use of field-based or service learning to enhance the students’ understanding of the STEM subjects” [Sec. 4107 (a)(3)(C)(iii)]
- “Supporting the participation of low-income students in nonprofit competitions related to STEM subjects (such as robotics, science research, invention, mathematics, computer science, and technology competitions)” [Sec. 4107 (a)(3)(C)(ii)]
- “Activities and programs to support student access to, and success in, a variety of well-rounded education experiences” [Sec. 4107 (a)(3)(J)]
The guidance issued last month also provides specific program examples that will help school districts and local communities better navigate these opportunities included in the law.
As the legislative season winds down, several wins for afterschool STEM education have emerged. Most recently, on July 13-14 the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill. The bill maintains funding for 21st CCLC at the current level of $1.16 billion, which is very good news! As you might recall, the Senate version of the bill cut afterschool by $117 million, in line with President Obama's budget request.
Informal STEM education has bright outlook in new bills
STEM is increasingly an integral part of afterschool programs, so the House's proposed funding level for 21st CCLC will ensure that millions of children will continue to have access to STEM learning opportunities. The House education spending bill also provides $1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, the new block grant in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although this is lower than the authorized level of $1.65 billion, the House appropriation puts the funding at $700 million over the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request. STEM education advocates are breathing a collective sigh of relief, as this grant was designed to be a formula grant for districts to use toward a wide range of activities, including STEM programing (with very supportive language about partnerships with afterschool programs), arts education and counseling services. House appropriators have indicated their strong support for the initiative with this funding level, but the final outcome is far from guaranteed as the Senate and House numbers will have to be reconciled eventually.
On July 7, 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a full committee markup of H.R. 5587, The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which you may know better as the Perkins CTE bill. The update includes changes that recognize the role of afterschool and summer programs in preparing young people for the workforce, and explicitly includes community-based organizations as eligible entities for funding. The bill has provisions for states to award grants that provide “support for programs and activities that increase access, student engagement, and success in STEM fields (including computer science), especially for underrepresented groups.” This provision could be very beneficial for afterschool STEM programs, especially when combined with the new expanded eligibility for starting these activities in the 5th grade (compared to the previous limit of 7th grade).
Finally, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which encompasses plan to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, in late June. This bill authorizes the various federal science mission agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, NSF, Dept. of Energy etc., including their significant investments in STEM education. There are several key elements of the bill that are supportive of informal/afterschool STEM programming:
In late May 2016, the Department of Education issued draft regulations on elements in Title I of our nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The 60 day comment period for the regulations will be open until August 1st, and your feedback is welcomed! The new law provides much more flexibility on school accountability and includes new indicators of student success and growth. Yet the overall goals of Title I of ESSA—academic achievement, graduation, school quality and student success—remain goals that are dramatically supported by afterschool programs.
Before adding your comments, it may be helpful for you to explore this comprehensive overview of the ESSA draft regulations.
See how afterschool factors in to various aspects of the draft regulations
Needs assessments: The Title I regulations, as proposed, provide many opportunities for collaboration between out-of-school time and the school day. Under the regulations, states, districts and schools must design and apply needs assessments for low-performing schools and, as a new addition, must look at how resources are allocated among schools. Parents, afterschool providers, and advocates can remind states and districts that identifying which schools provide enrichment and engagement activities for students (and which do not) is an essential part in this process and in understanding equity generally. Some afterschool state networks and some state child care offices are already working on mapping access to afterschool programs across their states. Additionally, while the law has changes, the previous national education law, No Child Left Behind, also included needs assessments, and some older resources on needs assessments may continue to be helpful.
Research based interventions: States and school districts will have the ability to create lists of evidence and research based interventions that support Title I goals and indicators. Because afterschool programs increase student success in attendance, homework completion, and discipline reductions, each state should thoughtfully consider adding these programs to their approved list of interventions. The Afterschool Alliance Evaluations Backgrounder is a good place to find research that provides the evidence base necessary to support afterschool and summer learning programs as key contributors to a variety of success indicators.
Consolidated state plans: States can combine plans for Title I with plans for other Titles (including Title IV part B for 21st Century Community Learning Centers) within the ESSA legislation as part of one overall or "consolidated" state plan. The proposed rule emphasizes that all plans must include “timely and meaningful consultation” with stakeholders. The proposed rule lists 13 specific groups that must be consulted, including community based organizations. As part of this process, state agencies must solicit input from the community, plans must be subject to a 30 day public comment period and plans must include reference to how the SEA (State Educational Agency) addressed the issues and concerns raised in public comment. All plans will be published on SEA websites and reviewed/revised, again with full stakeholder engagement, at least once every four years. All consolidated plans must coordinate with other federal funding streams such as Child Care and Development Block Grants, and Career and Technical Education, and must include a mechanism for performance management and technical assistance.
Now is a good time to ensure afterschool is at the table for these decisions and in these state plans.