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Importance of Every Student Succeeds Act

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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed and made into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015. The new law was based on major areas of education that the nation has progressed in the past years and also to expand educational opportunity and improve student performances. The ESSA law was focused on the clear goals and strategies to fully prepare all students for success in college and careers. ESSA has the power to be a saving force for many at-risk students, especially those who are homeless by mandating that state and local education agencies focus on creating plans for homeless student success, including early education opportunities, connection to essential services, and postsecondary education guidance. It requires the state to ensure that the low-income students are not assigned a high proportion of the “ineffective teacher.” What qualifies as an ineffective teacher varies from state to state but can range from lack of experience or credentials to inadequate test scores. In most states, many parents are concerned with ensuring that their children are assigned appropriate teachers in both grade levels and schools. Parents, educators, advocates, and state policymakers alike have been constantly striving that every student and educator to experience excellence in everyday teaching and learning.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has given states renewed authority as well as the leverage in achieving this goal. The state boards of education has also played significant roles that cannot be underestimated in achieving the new Act. They have the responsibility to set their own accountability standards and to ensure that all schools in the district incorporate social-emotional learning in professional development and in the classroom.

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Whenever a state accept the ESSA goals of equity and excellence, figure 1, it implies that they are adopting standards which will make their students in grade levels and high schools career and college-ready. This adopted standards provided in the ESSA law are used to define the expectations and accountability systems with which the state measures her progress. Any state that lacks a clear strategy or plan for helping students meet higher standards will make limited progress. To make the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) effective, states need to invest in learning systems that will give educators all the supports needed to help students learn.

Why creating an effective learning system

It compels every educator to engage in continuous improvement activities. This will enforce classroom teachers to participate in learning teams where instructional and classroom challenges are discussed to proffer workable solutions. The learning teams meets several times a week for continuous learning and improvements. The issues discussed are based on data and the team is headed by a teacher leader or an instructional coach. When educators and classroom teachers engage in continuous learning, it will help them to create a more focused lessons and assessment and ability to get students involved in classroom learning activities. The teachers will create a teaching culture where they intentionally display their best teaching practices and expertise so that students enjoy learning. ESSA provides states with authority and funding flexibility to provide educator support and professional improvement. States are to provide systems for professional growth and development. They are to engage in continuous improvement and monitoring, technical assistance, school improvement, and leadership development. To produce a coherent, aligned learning system, states need to focus on the feedbacks they want to receive from the teachers, and provide supports needed to improve their teaching practices. To establish an effective learning system (table1), states must engage in professional development that is sustained, intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, and data-driven and classroom focused. These are the supports needed by teachers and educators to improve their daily teaching practices and deliver the best outcome to students. Discrete professional development will have little or no impact in school development. Educators improves their performances when professional development is associated with learning systems that supports teachers participating in learning teams and other forms of external supports.

Five key components of learning system

  • Shared vision and standards
  • Data-driven goals and evaluation
  • Resource alignment
  • Leadership capacity
  • Sustained implementation and change management.

Shared vision and standard

The state boards of education, in partnership with state and local education agencies, have the authority and the opportunity to promote a vision for teaching and learning in the state. The state education leaders should set target for the level of teaching standard they want the students to experience and the kind of learning standard they want both the teachers and students to have just as students’ standards set goals to be achieved for students’ success.

The Shared vision and standard Act provides a learning culture that takes into consideration the value of continuous improvement for long sustained gains. The state boards should therefore provide an essay to explain the meaning of the new learning culture and the advantages of the learning system when employed. Achieving a shared vision and standards is possible just as demonstrated by several countries and U.S selected schools. The Florida Department of Education has organized “learning journeys” for district and school professional learning leaders across the state in order to build a shared vision of high-quality professional learning. By visiting organizations with successful learning cultures, district and school leaders have experienced new approaches to adult learning. During the 2016–2017 school year, some educators were selected to participate in developing and testing new learning models which was in line with the states’ vision. The participants are to share the lessons with their learning team members and measure up their progresses. The states should adopt new teaching and professional learning standards which will promote excellent teaching and quality professional learning. The professional teaching and learning standards should be in stages till a sustainable level of perfection is attained. The states must also make sure that educators receive quality professional learning and nothing less.

Data-Driven Goals and Evaluation

The use of data is of utmost importance in an effective learning system and it serve as a powerful tool in representation of continuous improvement. Collection and analysis of relevant data reveals the gaps between the vision and standards set by education leaders and the current status of the teaching and learning system in use. Evidences which were gathered from research using data based on the state and local needs provides decision makers and planners with effective strategies and programs that will help them narrow down the gaps if not totally filled up. State boards of education, state and local education agencies should frequently and continuously engage in data analysis and evaluation in order to ascertain and measure the level to which the chosen programs and strategies are contributing to making their visions a reality. They should promote continuous change in teaching system is aligned with standards of effectiveness and as a result, producing excellent students performances. This ultimately suggest that, the state boards of education should make all necessary correction and substantive changes when evidences show that there is no corresponding pattern in their vision and the current status. The knowledge and skills of educators and policy makers is fundamental to data-driven decision making. Data analysis will make no or no meaning thereby producing no impact for which it was conducted. Policy makers should be aware that educators have access to data and uses them on daily basis. This includes students summative and formative measure, attendance, attitude etc. policy makers should therefore take a step forward from goal setting and intentional learning to implementation, monitoring and continuous improvement. The state board should therefore ensure that the supports and resources needed are readily available and accessible in schools to provide improved learning and teaching system.

The department of elementary and secondary education, Massachusetts has provided web-based resources and support to districts in achieving this task. The state has provided a step by step process of interactive learning module to enhance an improved professional learning. Leadership capacity Beside the teaching and learning system that affect the school performance, the principal leadership is also a major point to be considered. The state therefore needs to give attention to recruitment of the leaders, preparations, evaluations and the ongoing supports. However, states need great people to lead the creation, sustenance and commitment to professional learning systems at every level of the education enterprise. The first step to effective leadership is effective professional learning. The state must provide support and equip and district, school, and teacher leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs, including the ability to help create a culture of professional learning for everyone. The principal leaders are to receive sustained, intensive support and experience the strategies and programs that they will then teach and pass on to teachers and educators under them.

Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) can be used as a standard by state boards of education to monitor and measure the performance standard of principal supervisors, supervisors and teacher leaders. District leader teachers should facilitate team learning and also assume other responsibilities associated with new learning structures in school. States are to organize long-term strategies for recruiting, developing and supporting leadership at the state, district and school level. These strategies provide a bench mark for sustained improvement and growth. Maryland Department of Education prepares and appoint the best leader teachers from its Promising Principals Academy to lead schools toward attainment of higher standards. The Academy Superintendents chooses two of the best assistant principals from each district and they are being coach by the formal principal. They meets frequently during the year for trainings on developing instructional leadership and core competencies.

Resource alignment

The state board of education are saddle with the responsibility of ensuring that both state and local resources are allocated. Following the traditional strategies of allocating resources has been a challenging barrier to realignment of resources. To solve this challenging barrier, the state board of education as instructed the state education agencies and local education agencies to provide the rationale and evidence to support their resource allocation decision. Gathering data on allocated resources may be difficult for the state board of education, to ensure this data are collected they can send a request to the district to describe how the data should be collected and strategies to conduct evaluation for all expenses for all major expenditures. The state and local school system should make significant investment in people, programs, time and technology. All necessary questions on the impact of the investments should be asked. Any state that accept and uses the vision for the learning team should study how time can be allocated and consider using the best option for reorganizing the school daily activities and calendar in a way to support team learning.

Sustained implementation and change management

Many new programs and strategies have yielded little or no result which is due to the poor implementation. The major emphasis of change theory is the importance of effective performance management. Because of this inadequacies, the state board need to develop its own performance management plan. The Kentucky department of education has created a special delivery unit to build the agency capacity in project management, data analysis and data-driven decision making. The unit monitor progress on each state’s strategic priorities while the unit staffs participate as cross-functional teams. The state commissioner of education receives information on the progress and needs of the state through the statewide teacher advisory council. The department gives the local leaders continuous feedbacks of their progress through the regional instructional specialist. Sustained implementation and change management also requires the creation of ongoing policy and regulatory reviews. Though policies provide direction and guide yet they must be changed when new programs and innovations are adopted. State board should help department understand their policies, the ones that are implementable and the ones that should be changed. The state board then uses the feedback loop to choose the best outcome of its policy and decision making authority. Conclusion To ensure that the conditions to sustain quality teaching and learning exist, the state board of education should create standard workable vision for education. Continuous improvement plans grounded in effective learning system will produce quality teaching and learning system. The state board should therefore use ESSA to make more effort in developing learning systems that provides successful and effective teaching and learning for everyone.

The state board should therefore work cooperatively with state education Agency (SEA) for creating rules and making effective plans. The SEA influences the local education agency (LEA) by contributing to local applications for federal funding allocations. The state board and SEA must work together in creating effective learning system in every district and schools.

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