Eliminating ESSA Accountability Regulations Will Not Help American Students

Including strong accountability regulations in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was critical to NCLR’s support for the law. We worked closely with stakeholders and the Obama administration to help draft and provide meaningful feedback on those rules, which are designed to better track and improve children’s educational performance. However, the recent House vote to strip ESSA of those accountability protections is cause for concern. If the repeal succeeds, it could have dramatic consequences for children around the country.

The accountability regulations guiding states on how to craft their ESSA state plans were finalized this past November. Under ESSA, states were given considerable leeway to create their own accountability plans. However, ensuring equity requires a strong federal responsibility to step in when schools consistently fail to meet the needs of low-income and minority children. The Trump administration has been vocal about their opposition to these accountability protections, and this sentiment was acted on by the House vote to overturn them. Even though a letter from Secretary DeVos encouraged states to continue their planned timelines, she also emphasized that the U.S. Department of Education would be assessing the law in hopes of requiring only what they view as absolutely necessary under ESSA.

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ESSA Implications for Latinos and English Learners

By Dr. Christopher R. McBride, Mariposa Academy of Language and Learning
(This is cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders Blog.)

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Latino students represent one of four students in classrooms across the United States and are projected to represent about one in three students by 2030. There are nearly five million English learner (EL) students and 80 percent of them are Spanish speakers. Furthermore, in 2013 only about 61 percent of EL students graduated high school compared to an average of about 75 percent of Hispanic students and over 86 percent of White students. Clearly our Latino and EL populations are growing and we, as a nation, are not meeting their educational needs. If we do not do a better job educating these students to prepare them to succeed in college and life afterward, we will all suffer.

Aware of the facts around Latino and EL students, the question weighing on the minds of many educational leaders is, “How will the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) impact our ability to close the achievement gap for Latinos and English learners?” The answer to this question is that it depends on the specific implementation in your state. ESSA has provided for increased funding for ELs by increasing Title III authorization levels. ESSA also leaves greater discretion to states to develop suitable accountability systems for when they are failing groups of students and has moved accountability for ELs from Title III to Title I. Therefore, it is critical to the success of Latinos and ELs students that states adopt provisions to better track and improve the educational performance of ELs.

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At AAMA Sanchez Charter School, Our Teachers Understand Their Students’ Struggles

By Bianca Arriazo, National Latino Institute for School Leaders Fellow, NCLR

A 19-year-old high school senior walks into an office: “I just got kicked out of class again, Miss.”

“What happened now?” asks the person behind the desk.

He responds, “I was just resting my eyes.”

In moments like this educators realize they are the keepers of a student’s academic life. They understand there is a reason for this student being sleepy and they have to share his story with fellow educators. As a team, they have to develop a plan to keep him awake and engaged in his classes so he can make it to Graduation Day.

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Photo: AAMA Sanchez Charter School

From an outsider’s view, the question lingers as to why this student is still in school and why he’s received multiple opportunities after acting out and being disrespectful. However, there’s more to this young Latino boy who wears baggy pants, has tattoos in the most random places, hates wearing his school uniform, and has poor attendance. He is being raised by a single mother who works all night at a warehouse. She is only able to tell him he needs to go to school but not able to give him a good reason. He tries to help by working odd jobs but he is influenced by his classmates, buddies, and surroundings and ends up spending his money and time frivolously. Soon after he becomes a father and faced with the urgency to mature and become responsible for another person. He gets a steady job but works long hours, sometimes until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. He knows he needs to graduate yet he has to overcome so many obstacles, just like countless other students in the public school system.

At AAMA Sanchez Charter School, our school population is 98 percent Latino, 48 percent of whom are English language learners. We are an open enrollment charter school and often serve as a second-chance school for students. Our teachers and staff make it a priority to establish relationships with our kids so when a student joins us, they know they are now part of our familia. Most of the time our staff becomes the rock in our students’ lives. Our teachers are not able to be traditional. They have to incorporate art, technology, and a student’s personal interests into every lesson so kids can stay engaged and awake in their classrooms. Our campus has to be mi casa for every student.

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Photo: AAMA Sanchez Charter School

Our Principal, John De La Cruz, frequently reminds us “parents are sending us their very best.” With that in mind, we are at the beginning of another year and we will invest all our efforts and emotions on preparing for the many English language learner newcomers, as well as all the other Latino youth who will walk through our door on the first day. We know they will come to us with many needs and gaps in all areas, especially in English language acquisition. We also know they will have to face many social challenges, becoming teenage parents, battling drug addictions, reporting to their parole officers, and just making mistakes and maturing in general. Nevertheless, we also know it will be our mijos and mijas who become our future leaders and parents.

In the end, we may not exceed expectations in all testing areas, but we sure help create and close a chapter in each one of our student’s lives.

What the Common Core Means for Latinos in New York State

The Common Core State Standards is a reality in New York state, but what does it mean for the Latino community and how it will impact our students? We’re hosting a FREE webinar next week to explore this question. Register today to join us!

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Why Teachers Will Love the Common Core State Standards

40x504_commoncore_72aYou’ve no doubt heard about the Common Core State Standards. The voluntary, state-led effort to establish academic standards in 44 states includes high benchmarks and a commitment to honing students’ critical and analytical skills. If implemented well, they hold great potential for making sure all our students are college- and career-ready once they graduate from high school.

Much of what has been written about Common Core has focused on the students, which is understandable, as they are the recipients of the instruction. There are also, however, great benefits for the teachers responsible for implementing these new standards in the classroom. In fact, we think that if you love teaching, you’ll love Common Core. What follows is a list of the top five reasons teachers like these new academic standards.

1. If you think the best approach to teaching is in a collaborative setting, then you’ll love Common Core because…

The standards are best  implemented through collaboration across grade levels and subjects. Under the new standards, teachers are encouraged to use innovative instructional strategies and methods designed to meet the needs of diverse learners.

2. If you love experiential learning, you’ll love Common Core because…

Their implementation doesn’t really allow for a “skill and drill” approach to learning. We all know how ineffectual rote memorization is when it comes to developing superior critical thinking skills and being college- and career-ready. The Common Core places a premium on these skills, which can best be taught using an experiential approach to learning.

3. If you teach English Language Learner (ELL) students, you’ll love Common Core because…

The Common Core State Standards stress development of language skills across all subjects and all domains (reading, writing, speaking, and listening). This is a significant element of Common Core, especially given the ever-increasing number of ELL students in need of adequate and equitable education.

4. If you like seeing students engaged, you’ll love Common Core because…

They  demand that children be active participants in their own education. Gone are the days of talking at kids in the hopes they are absorbing the information. Common Core State Standards have engagement at their roots because study after study has shown that active  engagement of students during the learning process is a key indicator for success.

5. If you want your kids prepared for college and career, then you’ll love Common Core State Standards because…

They are aligned to higher education standards that demand the skills students need to be successful in college and in their careers.

The Common Core State Standards are our best hope for ensuring our kids are well-served and college-ready, but we’ll need all our teachers on board for this effort to be truly successful.