March 15, 2017
To shape the education system, we must have our voices heard. How? By actively participating in the creation of our state’s education plan under ESSA.

Strategies for Personalizing the Every Student Succeeds Act: An opportunity to think differently about education

By Tim McKeny and Brenda Neel, Technical Assistance Coaches with KnowledgeWorks

According to Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy, and Matt Williams, KnowledgeWorks Vice-President of Policy and Advocacy, people who care deeply about education must be heard in order to shape the nation’s education landscape for the next decade. How? By actively participating in the creation of their state’s education plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The first deadline for states to submit plans for meeting ESSA standards and regulations is April 3, 2017. One-third of all states have submitted plans, and according to the law, are within the 30-day window for public comment.

ESSA was approved in 2015 by the Obama Administration; however, the current administration has stated that the overall plan will follow the same timelines. The law will go in to effect at the onset of the 2017-2018 school year. The second submission deadline will be September 18, 2017.

Williams and Pace both believe ESSA is a “historic opportunity” for schools to “think differently” about K-12 education with implications for accountability, assessment, school improvement, and teacher preparation and development, in general. According to Williams, we are now shifting from the “labeling / grading / punishing” mentality of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to positive growth for schools and students under ESSA. This shift creates a world of possibilities for personalized learning, competency-based education, and early college opportunities for students.

The KnowledgeWorks Policy and Advocacy Team is reviewing states’ submitted plans to see who is taking advantage of opportunities under ESSA to further personalized learning.

Four primary areas of ESSA have been used by KnowledgeWorks to assess and interpret the states’ plans:

Accountability is interpreted as what ‘College and Career Ready’ will look like and sound like within ESSA. States have been encouraged to articulate a school accountability plan that is a balance of multiple measures (e.g. . student proficiency, graduation rates, English Language proficiency, school quality). States are also expected to view accountability with a focus toward Continuous Improvement.

Exemplary ESSA State Plan for Accountability: South Carolina In the development of this plan, multiple stakeholders in education (following the lead of the business community concerns of needing talented and well-prepared employees), South Carolina has created a ‘Portrait of a Graduate.’ This backward mapping approach has lead to the articulation of the knowledge, skills and dispositions for high school graduates. This includes hard skills and soft skills. A complete list of these characteristics may be found within the submitted South Carolina ESSA plan, which can be found on the South Carolina Department of Education website.

Continuous School Improvement is interpreted to examine which state plans are being used to support all schools.

Exemplary plans in this area would support all schools while providing personalized supports to help struggling schools make long-term improvements in student achievement.

The session presenters also stated that they are encouraged by the amount of flexibility in this arena, but there may be too much flexibility. Each state plan needs to be carefully examined as to how any evidence-based turnaround model may be used by individual school districts to comply with state plans.

Exemplary ESSA State Plan for Continuous Improvement: Vermont Vermont has been in the forefront of personalized learning. Their articulated plan for school improvement uses a dashboard approach across multiple areas: academic proficiency, personalization, safe and healthy schools, high quality staffing, financial efficiency, and integrated field reviews. Read the complete submitted ESSA plan for Vermont on the Vermont Agency of Education website.

Excellent Educators is interpreted to be the processes that will be used for pre-service teacher preparation and inservice teacher professional development that will lead to meaningful learning opportunities for teachers (and students). KnowledgeWorks is primarily concerned in preparing excellent teachers for success in personalized learning.

Under ESSA, the NCLB designation of a ‘Highly Qualified Teacher’ has been eliminated. This creates multiple opportunities for higher education and state boards of education to examine and re-think teacher certification and licensure programs related to new teaching roles.

There is also a new focus on teacher equity – placing all of the best teachers in the highest performing schools will not translate to meaningful learning for all students.

Exemplary ESSA State Plan for Excellent Educators: Maryland Maryland has articulated a plan that will use Title IIA funds to support personal growth plans for all teachers. Read the complete submitted ESSA plan for Maryland on the Maryland State Department of Education website.

Support for All Students means viable ways to increase access to rigorous pathways for all students. For plans to be considered “exemplary” by KnowledgeWorks, the plans should support funding opportunities to expand personalized learning. Some examples could include the following:

  • Using a 3% reservation in a states’ Title I funds
  • Using a Title IV block grant
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers – using high quality learning experiences in the community for class credit
  • Building on the existing relationships of Promise Neighborhoods and Full Service Community Schools

Exemplary ESSA State Plan for Support for All Students: Tennessee The current Tennessee ESSA plan proposes the creation of a pilot program for districts to implement competency education. This pilot articulates a three-tiered approach to Competency-Based Learning (CBL). This includes developing of teacher and administrator understanding of CBL, providing support for strong implementation of CBL, and using proof points and lessons learned in a feedback loop to strengthen and scale-up the implementation of CBL. Read the complete submitted ESSA plan for Tennessee on the Tennessee Department of Education website.

KnowledgeWorks announces the launch of a new, interactive, online resource, A Nationwide Look at State Strategies to Advance Personalized Learning.For more information about how states are incorporating personalized learning into their ESSA state plans, to see what is happening in your state or for a point of reference as you work on your own state plan, view this interactive map from KnowledgeWorks.

Written by: Guest Post

Our guest posts are provided by teachers, coaches, administrators, students, community partners and more. Keep up with more of what's happening at KnowledgeWorks by checking us out on social media.

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