Enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on December 2015 by president Obama has been the primary source of ongoing educational reforms in public schools (Herman, Gates, Chavez-Herreias & Harris, 2016). ESSA came as a reviewed version of the previous No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act that had been enacted in 2002. ESSA is expected to take full effect in U.S. public schools by the end of the coming year. To most education stakeholders in the country, the law reflects the federal governments objective to improve education policies to promote effective testing, improve the quality of teachers in schools and provide support to low-performing schools (Education Week, 2016). One of the most significant implication of ESSA in the running of public schools is the fact that it hands the States significant powers in overseeing its implementation.
Current Reform Efforts in Public Schools to Fully Implement the ESSA
Improvement in the Test-Taking Process
As part of implementing the ESSA, public schools are currently reviewing the test-taking process to build more convenience and make the process pleasant for children as required by the new reforms (Herman et al., 2016). To make the testing more enjoyable for children for instance, public schools are allowing children who complete their papers early to leave and play in the field or anywhere for relaxation. For students who miss an exam, public schools are now providing make up opportunities for such students as an effort to encourage good grades and flexibility in schools (Darling-Hammond, Bae, Cook-Harvey, Lam, Mercer, Podolsky, & Stosich, 2016). Public schools are also providing breaks between the different sections of a test to allow children relax, this also includes provision of services like showers for children who need the bathroom during or after a test.
Teachers are also being factored in ongoing reforms that are designed to develop a test culture that is stress-free. For instance, test administrators possess the opportunity to undertake training on multiple platforms like through in-person guidance programs and online platforms. This aims at ensuring that teachers are able to attend to children effectively and provide services that make the testing environment and process more conducive for each child. Also, in an effort to eliminate test anxiety, test administrators are now getting specialized roles which ensure that interaction is limited to test administration, as such teacher-leaner conflicts that affect performance during tests are bound to decline in future (Education Week, 2016).
Streamlining of Communication Events and Programs
With the ongoing reforms, communication is one of the vital tools for improving learner performance and developing a stress-free culture in examinations. Currently, public schools are reflecting more parent-school engagements with the aim of improving the outcomes from tests (Education Week, 2016). As a result, public schools are now developing parent school programs commonly known as explain-the-test nights, where parents get to question the school about the exams and preparations their children are expected to have undertaken. The primary assumption in this case is that parent involvement in the development tests will help reduce test anxiety among children, as a result, public schools are increasingly relying on their teachers to communicate with parents. Thus, both parents and teachers are expected to have a better understanding of assessments, why they are necessary, and the roles they play in classroom and the school as a whole.
Elimination of Unnecessary Test Preparations
This is perhaps one of the most conspicuous reform currently implemented in public schools by virtue of the ESSA. The act currently mandates school heads and management to eliminate testing practices like: administering of practice tests prior to final examinations; and preparation rallies that have been associated with rising test anxiety levels among students before and during tests (Education Week, 2016). This reform efforts are directed towards ensuring that children are thoroughly informed about an exam including the nature of questions to expect. This also involves familiarizing children with relevant technologies featured in their examination. Previously, researchers have noted that public schools have been spending weeks giving children practice tests before formal examinations, this according to educational psychologists intensifies test related pressure among children.
Scope and Scale
Given the scope and scale of the reform, stakeholders predict complete implementation in the 2017-2018 education year. This gives all stakeholders enough time for consultation and adjustment to the new change requirements. Also, the Department of Education is making efforts to help teachers and students comprehend the new standards and make an effective transition.
The ESSA grants states and district schools the requisite degree of autonomy to implement the reforms while managing change and challenges in the process (Michigan Department of Education, 2017). This gives all stakeholders the ability to decide how to achieve goals with respect to the new testing standards. This will ensure that the reform process is undertaken smoothly and independent from developments in other states.
Change Management Committees
Change management committees aid school districts develop the most effective strategies to implement the ongoing reforms successfully (Michigan Department of Education, 2017). The committees comprise leaders and key stakeholders who plan and oversee the entire change event in their schools.
The formative evaluation happens during the implementation process by teams carefully selected by the change management committee (Michigan Department of Education, 2017). The aim of this exercise is often to examine, listen, and seek to address perceived barriers to change in schools within a given district.
Primary Stakeholders in the Reform
The key stakeholders in the ESSA reform initiatives for public schools in the United States include students, teachers, parents, families, administrators, community members and community business leaders, city councilors, elected officials, state representatives and cultural institution in every state (Richards, Blank, Stonemeier, Trader, & East, 2014).
Effective Activities Used To Secure Stakeholder Engagement
In the Michigan Department of Education for instance, this was done through the creation of a public website (www.michigan.gov/essa) that was used to disseminate all relevant information pertaining the reform development and implementation plan (Michigan Department of Education, 2017).This was effective as it availed informed to all stakeholders conveniently and in a timely fashion.
This survey aimed a obtain insights and approval from the broad stakeholders through an online platform (Michigan Department of Education, 2017). The survey was open for than a week allowing stakeholders to conveniently participate in the survey. This was even made more effective by the fact that notification pertaining each posting had been through e-newsletter ESSA notes, staff presentations to relevant organizations and e-newsletters.
Outreach Programs through Conference Presentations and Targeted Focused Group Discussions
Stakeholder engagement in district schools has also been through relevant ESSA related presentations in conferences, selected venues and association meetings (Michigan Department of Education, 2017). This was an effective way of engaging stakeholders as it allowed stakeholders to engage directly with the presenters and therefore seek any necessary clarification.
Ineffective Activities Used To Secure Stakeholder Engagement
This approach targeted tribal organizations formally recognized in each state (Michigan Department of Education, 2017). Once such groups or representatives convened, engagement and consultation were conducted. However, scheduling of meetings is not effectively done, as a result schools owned by tribal associations are often left behind in these engagement and consolation activities.
The ESSA webpage and ESSA notes helped with the planning and coordination of parent surveys in the period between October and November 2016 (Michigan Department of Education, 2017). The survey sought to gain input pertaining the entire ESSA plan from P-12 students parents in Michigan. This information was also aired by media houses to encourage parents to participate in the survey. The only challenge encountered was the low turn up which had affected dissemination of information. In addition, the two-month period proved inadequate to engage effectively a majority of parents in the process.
Future engagement and consultation activities should adhere to the following guidelines in order to gain maximum involvement by tribal organizations and parents. First, provide physical means of disseminating information to tribal and other minority organizations. Second, expand the survey period to at least three months to maximize on parents engagement. Third, inform stakeholders early enough about approaching conferences and meetings to encourage maximum participation. Fourth, use multiple media and communication outlets like the mass media, the internet and email postings to encourage more stakeholder participation in future. Lastly, seek more student engagement through focused group discussions to gain more input from students who are the primary stakeholders in the ESSA reforms.
Darling-Hammond, L., Bae, S., Cook-Harvey, C. M., Lam, L., Mercer, C., Podolsky, A., & Stosich, E. L. (2016). Pathways to new accountability through the Every Student Succeeds Act. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.
Education Week. (2016). The Every Student Succeeds Act: An ESSA Overview. Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/every-student-succeeds-act/index.htmlHerman, R., Gates, S. M., Chavez-Herreias, E. R., & Harris, M. (2016). School leadership interventions under the every student succeeds act. RAND Corporation.
Kingston, M., Richards, C., Blank, R., Stonemeier, J., Trader, B., & East, B. (2014). Leading Education Reform Initiatives: How SWIFT (Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation) Coordinates and Enhances Impact. Issue Brief# 2. National Center on Schoolwide Inclusive School Reform: The SWIFT Center.Michigan Department of Education (2017). Summary of Stakeholder Engagement Activities in the Development of Michigans ESSA Plan. Retrieved from: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Michigan-ESSA-Stakeholder-Engagement-Brief_558372_7.pdf
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