The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) became law almost one year ago. During this past year, Illinois and every other state has been working hard to develop a plan to implement ESSA in their state, with the final plan due to the US Department of Education on April 3, 2017. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released the second draft of the state plan, with comments due to ISBE by December 27, 2016. Illinois PTA has been representing the voice of families and children on several of the state committees making recommendations during the creation of the plan. Here are the highlights of what is currently in the state plan.
Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), school accountability was determined by the results of a single test. In Illinois, that was the ISAT for grades 3 through 8 and the PSAE/ACT for high school juniors. Schools needed to have a specific percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards as well as the same percentage of students in subgroups such as African-American students, Hispanic students, and special education students also meeting or exceeding state standards. Schools that did not meet those percentages (known as making Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP) were labeled as failing and subject to penalties. As a result, many states lowered their state standards and simplified their state tests to get as many students meeting or exceeding those lower standards.
With the development of the Common Core State Standards, implemented in Illinois as the New Illinois Learning Standards, a set of high-quality, high-expectation standards replace the older, lower standards. With those new standards came a new assessment aligned to those standards, the PARCC assessment. The PARCC test required students to demonstrate proficiency in what they had learned, not just memorized facts. But school accountability was still based on NCLB and its AYP standard. Under ESSA, that has changed significantly.
ESSA requires states to develop their own school accountability measure. The measure must include:
- Student assessment
- A second academic indicator (e.g., student growth, high school graduation rate, etc.)
- English language proficiency
- At least one other indicator of school quality or student success (e.g., Advanced Placement classes, family engagement, discipline reports, attendance, etc.)
States will determine what indicators they will use and how to weight each one in their accountability measure, but academic indicators must be given “significantly more” weight than school quality/student success indicators. It is unclear what the US Department of Education considers significantly more weight at this time, but Illinois’s draft plan #2 considers three different weights (70/30, 60/40, and 51/49). Depending on the weighting chosen, the annual assessment (now PARCC for grades 3-8 and the SAT for high school) will have a different level of importance in determining school accountability.
Illinois is currently considering student growth for its second academic indicator for at least grades 3 through 8 and possibly for high school as well. Draft plan #2 had four different growth models that are being looked at for the lower grades. A second high school assessment such as the PSAT may be needed to adequately growth at the high school level, though that approach comes with additional costs to the state. It may be possible to use a student’s 8th grade PARCC results as part of a high school growth indicator, but since that assessment is not used across the country or in private schools, it would be difficult to measure student growth for students who enter the Illinois public schools during their high school years.
Other accountability issues addressed in the draft plan include:
- Reducing the size of identified subgroups to 20 (i.e., a school will only need 20 Pacific Islanders, for example, for those students’ data to be reported as a subgroup).
- Creating a “Former English Language Learner (ELL)” subgroup to continue to track their progress after they are considered proficient in English.
- Developing reporting for new groups, including homeless students, students in foster care, and students with a parent serving in the military.
ISBE is also reviewing all of the required data that schools and districts must provide to ensure that additional reporting requirements are not overly burdensome.
English Language Learners
Illinois has a state policy of educating students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) in their native language for core content or, where the native language is not as common, at least providing support in their native language, while also teaching English as a second language. As part of supporting ELLs, Illinois has been participating in the development of English language proficiency standards and assessments that incorporate the current college- and career-ready goals. ISBE will be meeting with stakeholders to determine what will constitute English language proficiency, with recommendations submitted by June 30, 2017.
ESSA also requires states to identify languages other than English that are present to a significant extent among the student population. For Illinois, 10 languages meet that standard, with Spanish being the most common. Illinois currently provides PARCC instructions in those 10 languages, but only the PARCC math assessment has been trans-adapted into Spanish. ISBE is considering public comments that suggested providing assessments in languages other than English when 30% or more of the ELL students speak the same language.
Title I Funding
In order to receive Title I funding, each school district in Illinois must submit a plan that was developed in consultation with stakeholders (e.g., families). Many of the required elements in this plan are similar to those under NCLB, but new requirements include:
- How the district will identify and address disparities in teacher distribution.
- How the district will ensure that every child is taught by a highly effective teacher.
- How the district will support efforts to reduce the overuse of discipline practices that remove students from the classroom, including high rates for specific subgroups of students.
ISBE is also adding two more requirements to the plan based on public comment that are not required under ESSA:
- How the district will identify and address disparities in library resources.
- How the district will support efforts to encourage and support the arts.
Providing Public Comment
Illinois PTA already serves on several of the committees helping ISBE to develop the state ESSA implementation plan. If you are interested in providing comments directly to ISBE regarding draft plan #2, submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than December 27, 2016. Be sure to include your name or your organization’s name, as well as the section number and the page number that your comment is addressing.