The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

ESSA Doesn’t Taste As Sweet As We Hoped

on June 4, 2017

You may remember reading something in this blog about the ESSA requirements for all states, which had to be submitted and approved this year. Well, the time is up and Oregon has submitted its plan described in an “Oregonian” article by Betsy Hammond: Oregon plans broader, more nuanced rating system for schools. I will summarize the article below and add my opinions—as usual.

Just last month Oregon submitted its new plan for evaluating its schools to the federal Department of Education. Using the results from the current school year, a school’s performance will be judged on many factors, most of them the same ones used when NCLB was the law of the land: reading, writing and math test results and score improvement over time.  In addition states must now report on student performance in science, social studies, technical education, and the arts, even though those subjects will not be tested.

Several other factors will also be considered as important in school effectiveness: the amount of student absenteeism, high school graduation rates, and the percentage of high school freshman who have earned six credits by the start of their sophomore year.  That final item is included because it has been identified by researchers as the strongest factor in determining whether or not a student will graduate on time.

Finally, school districts must also submit the performance measures for racial and ethnic groups, low-income students, students with disabilities and students learning English as a second language.

Of all the federal requirements one has been singled out as a positive change in the process of improving school performance. Instead of a state working directly with individual schools that have serious problems,  school districts will take over the role of assisting them.

As I read through the list of ESSA requirements I didn’t see any real improvement over those of NCLB, the previous federal law under which all schools and states were judged. In fact, it seemed clear that the federal government was asking for a lot more data than before and targeting new areas. Also, I saw no benefit for individual schools or their districts.  They will still be pressured to improve their numbers on tests, attendance, and graduation, and they will again get little assistance.

On a personal level I am still skeptical about the interpretation of the data submitted and its usefulness. It’s not enough to know that a school has a high rate of absenteeism or a low rate of timely graduations. Also, low test scores do not necessarily indicate “a failing school.” You have to see why such things are happening and how they can be fixed.

In the end, I am still convinced that most school problems are the result of insufficient funding,  the pools of family poverty, the unrealistic expectations of the Common Core State Standards, and the emphasis on classroom “rigor” that has taken all the joy out of teaching and learning.  I would like to see more sanity and local control in the management of schools, and the federal government returning its attention to the areas where it has has some knowledge and experience.

One response to “ESSA Doesn’t Taste As Sweet As We Hoped

  1. pauleck47 says:

    I am in agreement with you, Joanne. Let’s keep on pushing in support of quality public education for all kids.

    Liked by 1 person

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