teacher holding up globe in front of classroom

ESSA Update

Dr. Robert GroszBy Fargo Public Schools Associate Superintendent Dr. Robert Grosz

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law on December 10, 2015. It reauthorizes the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was previously reauthorized as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The ND Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) website states, “The new law builds on key areas of progress in recent years and ongoing efforts to improve educational opportunities for all students in North Dakota. NDDPI staff continue to review the law and have engaged in deliberate stakeholder involvement through the formation of the ESSA Planning Committee.”  https://www.nd.gov/dpi/SchoolStaff/SSI/ESSA/

The ESSA Planning Committee, which was comprised of over 40 parents, teachers, K–12 administrators, school board members, and college and university representatives, along with NDDPI ex officio members, have met for many meetings to discuss and develop North Dakota’s ESSA plan. As a group, the committee developed and used as it foundation for all decision making, and to determine the vision that:

All students will graduate choice ready with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to be successful in whatever they choose to do, whether they pursue a post secondary degree, enroll in a technical college, enter the workforce, or join the military.

On May 2, 2017, NDDPI submitted the North Dakota State ESSA Plan to the United States Department of Education (USDE). The Governor signed the plan on May 1, providing his support. The USDE now has 120 days to review the state plan. The Key ESSA requirements centered on: Standards, Assessment, Accountability, and School Improvement. Below is an update on the work of the ESSA Planning Committee, and how each of the key ESSA requirements have been addressed in the state’s submitted ESSA plan.

Under ESSA, states MUST adopt challenging standards in mathematics, English language arts (ELA)/reading, science, and MAY have standards in any other subject determined by the state; further, the state standards must apply to all public schools and all public school children. ESSA reinforced the state’s authority over standards. The state only needs to provide an assurance in the state plan that the standards in ELA, math, and science have been determined. North Dakota educators recently revised the state ELA and mathematics standards, which are posted on the DPI website. NDDPI will begin the process of reviewing the science standards in July 2017.

According to ESSA, states must conduct statewide, annual assessments in ELA and mathematics in grades 3–8 and once in high school. States must conduct statewide assessment in science once in grade spans 3–5, 6–9, and 10–12. These assessments must be aligned to state standards. The ESSA Planning Committee voted to move the North Dakota State assessment from grade 11 to grade 10 during high school years in the areas of math and ELA. The Smarter Balanced Assessment was used in the spring 2017. A Request for Proposal was released in May 2017 for a new state assessment to be issued in spring 2018.

two pie chartsAccountability:
ESSA takes effect on July 1, 2017. North Dakota will have a new statewide accountability system. Under ESSA, Adequate Yearly Progress reports are gone and replaced with an electronic dashboard for all schools, which allows multiple factors to be used when summarizing a school’s measure of quality. The dashboard will be available on the internet. What stays in the new accountability system are the accountability indicators: 95% assessment participation rate and subgroups (economically disadvantaged students, students from major racial and ethnic groups, children with disabilities, and English Learners). What is eliminated under the new accountability system is a single summative rating for the school or district. NDDPI anticipates the dashboard will start basic, but grow and evolve over time. The dashboard will highlight strengths and areas for improvement and be easy to understand, but will not contain a single summative rating. NDDPI anticipates publishing a draft school dashboard in spring 2018.

In the new accountability system, two growth options will be implemented. One is for elementary and middle school students. This will monitor student growth from year to year on the state assessment, to see if students have made a year’s worth of growth in one year of schooling. The second will be for high school students. This will focus on monitoring if students are choice ready. The metrics outlined within the Choice Ready initiative are intended to measure growth for North Dakota high schools, as indicated by student readiness. It defines what it means for students to be proficient in the following areas: academic ready, career ready, and/or military ready. More information will follow in future months on the choice ready growth model.

The ESSA law also requires states to use at least one additional “indicator of school quality.” In order for it to meet the requirements of the law, the indicator must be able to disaggregate by subgroup, must be able to differentiate, and must be evidence that it affects student achievement. The ESSA Planning Committee chose two indicators to be included in the state plan (student engagement and school climate/culture).

North Dakota Choice Ready Flow ChartThe ESSA Planning Committee decided to first implement student engagement and then add student climate in future years. Beginning in the 2017–2018 school year, all North Dakota public schools will measure student engagement through the use of a survey within the AdvancED platform. (AdvancED is the outside agency that schools across the state use for their accreditation and school improvement process.) The results of the survey will be a part of the accountability system. When school climate/culture is added to the plan, data around climate/culture will be gathered through the use of another AdvancED survey. This survey is already part of ND’s continuous improvement/accreditation process.

Continuous Improvement:
North Dakota is building its ESSA plan around a Continuous Improvement Model. Within North Dakota’s System of Support is general support for all schools across the state. The provisions applying to all public schools are the AdvancED continuous improvement process, school long-term goals, and the school dashboard. In addition to general support, the plan has two levels of school intervention:  required comprehensive support and targeted support. Schools identified for comprehensive support will be the lowest performing 5% of Title I Schools and schools with low graduation rates. Schools identified for targeted support will be Title I and non-title schools with one or more subgroups performing similar to the highest performing school identified for comprehensive support, based on the state accountability system.

The mandatory sanctions and improvement timeline under NCLB have been eliminated. NDDPI departments will provide funding and support to schools identified as needing additional support. No districts (K–12) are identified for improvement in ESSA law.

This plan is the result of a tremendous amount of time, dedication, and effort in the past year by individuals from across the state, various stakeholder groups, and the ESSA Planning Committee. This plan, when fully implemented, will empower students all across North Dakota, and will allow Fargo Public Schools to reach our mission to educate and empower all students to succeed.