Two Technology “Eduprenuers” Offer Good Advice and Scary Insights on ESSA
School Media reporter Maris Stansbury posted a summary of a Webinar held earlier this week offering educators a description of what they need to know right now regarding the implementation of ESSA. The webinar was led by two technology “edupreneurs”, Steve Rowley and Michael Campbell, and focussed on the need for educators to focus on their state’s accountability system. They indicated that as it stands now, each state will need to develop it’s own peer-reviewed accountability plan using “the Obama accountability template”:
Under the Obama Administration’s accountability template, accountability systems (supported by tracking and data technology) involve four primary indicators: proficiency on state tests; English language proficiency; another academic factor that can be broken out by subgroup; and a “wild card” item that each state can choose within certain guidelines.
States can also set additional benchmarks; for example, these may allow for certain high school benchmarks which would not apply to elementary or middle schools. Each state must be aware of how to accurately track their benchmarks.
This is sound advice from my perspective. The state accountability metrics will inevitably determine the priorities in each school given that the high stakes consequences of failing to meet standards remain in place with ESSA.
But what Rowley and Campbell foresee as possible modifications to ESSA regulations is troubling:
Though DeVos says states should move along with their ESSA plans, the Obama administration’s accountability template part of ESSA is currently under review by DeVos and Congress.
According to DeVos, she and her team are reviewing the Obama administration’s ESSA accountability template because some measures may not be “absolutely necessary.” The new department may release a revised or completely re-written template for states by mid-March this year.
Another potential change is that DeVos’ department may also allow a state or group of states to work together to write their own template through the CCSSO.
If DeVos does allow a state or group of states to devise their own accountability template, it may prove difficult for peer reviewers to determine quality and manage expectations due to a lack of uniformity. However, DeVos and her department could also change the guidelines for peer review—something her camp has not yet mentioned.
It is not surprising that DeVos and “her team” are reviewing the “Obama accountability template” with the intention of eliminating measures that may not be “absolutely necessary.” When that statement is combined with the one indicating that “…DeVos and her department could also change the guidelines for peer review“ and the fact that she wants States to “fast track” the development of their plans, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if DeVos’ “team” determined that States could rely on off-the-shelf standardized tests to measure school performance. Oh… and if a State wanted to use those same test results to calculate the “value added” by teachers they would be free to do so— without any peer review or input from educators, researchers, or school leaders.
The best piece of advice Rowley gives is this:
“I can’t stress enough—find your state accountability plan and become very familiar with it,” he said. While there is no designated area for locating each state accountability plan, Rowley recommends becoming familiar with your state education agency’s website and keeping a lookout for announcements of things like requests for comment and draft plans.
Outside of state agency websites, keeping abreast of policy news out of Washington, can help you ask the right questions of your state leaders.
With all the news currently pouring out of Washington relative to Russia’s involvement with advisors to President Trump, all the Executive Orders and legislation gutting environmental and banking regulations, and all of the other news reports on things like weather events, accidents, and international clashes, it would be easy for the public to lose sight of announcements on the State Department of Education website seeking comments on draft accountability plans that are likely to be voluminous. And the reality is that there is only so much bandwidth an individual has when it comes to juggling news and the day-to-day responsibilities of work. When tracking all of the news cited above and all of the news about state accountability is added to the workloads of teachers, administrators, and Board members, it will not be surprising if some very bad regulations are put in place in some states.
Welcome to the wonderful world of ESSA….