Posts Tagged ‘Student Support and Academic Enrichment’

How States Are Leveraging ESSA to Advance Career Readiness

Monday, April 1st, 2019

By now the consensus in the education community is clear: in addition to a strong academic foundation, students should be able to access other experiences in high school — physical education, the arts, Career Technical Education (CTE) — that provide added value to their education and increase the likelihood of postsecondary success.

The notion that high schools should provide a “well-rounded education” was codified in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. The law, which Congress passed with bipartisan support, provides several opportunities for integrating CTE and other well-rounded learning opportunities into the traditional high school experience, which Advance CTE has covered extensively on this blog and in our publications. More than four years after the law was passed, some states have begun to leverage these opportunities to advance career readiness  in high school.

Expanding Opportunities for Each Child in Ohio

One often overlooked opportunity in ESSA is the Direct Student Services (DSS) provision. DSS allows states to set aside up to 3 percent of their basic Title I grants to help local education agencies expand access to advanced coursework and CTE. Only two states — Louisiana and New Mexico — opted to use the allowance in their submitted ESSA plans. But they were soon joined by Ohio, which decided in 2018 to leverage the DSS allowance to launch a new grant program called Expanding Opportunities for Each Child.

The program has two primary objectives: developing and expanding access to career pathways that culminate in high-value credentials and promoting access and success in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB). These objectives are aligned with Ohio’s strategic priorities for secondary education, which emphasize postsecondary readiness and preparation for college and career. Ohio’s decision to use the DSS allowance was based on the idea that freeing up additional resources would help local education agencies better support student achievement and transitions to post-high school pathways.

In July 2018, Ohio awarded more than $7.2 million in three-year grants to 17 recipients. Fourteen will be conducting career pathways development and three will be expanding access to AP and IB courses. A second round of applications is expected to be issued later in the 2018-19 school year.  

Building Capacity for STEM Learning in Georgia

Though the Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program, Congress authorized funding to the tune of $1.6 billion to enhance well-rounded education, school safety and the effective use of technology in schools. While the program has not been fully funded by Congress, it still provides significant resources to help schools deliver a well-rounded education, including CTE and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

While most states have left the determination of how to spend Title IV funds up to local leaders, some have issued guidance or put together trainings to help schools leverage their resources in service of statewide priorities for career readiness.

Georgia is one such example. In its ESSA plan, the state committed to using Title IV funds to strengthen school counseling, computer science and STEM. Since then, Georgia has used Title IV funds to hire two full-time STEM coordinators, one in the southwest region and one in the southeast region. The coordinators are working to build STEM learning opportunities for schools and strengthen STEM pipelines in their areas. Additionally, Georgia has allocated Title IV funds to develop an online STEM incubator learning pathway to help district and school leaders navigate the process for certifying STEM schools.

Curating CTE Open Educational Resources in Nebraska

Another state that is using Title IV funds to boost career readiness is Nebraska. Leaders in the state are using Title IV funds to recruit CTE teachers to curate and develop educational resources aligned with college and career content area standards. This is a key feature of the state’s new Open Educational Resources (OER) Hub, which was launched in February 2019 and provides open access resources aligned with Nebraska’s college and career ready standards.

The work is still in the early stages, but Nebraska hopes to build out the CTE resources in the OER Hub later this summer by engaging CTE teachers to share, curate and develop rigorous digital resources that can be adopted and modified in the classroom. The state will provide stipends and cover travel expenses for participating CTE teachers. While this work is starting with three career areas — business, marketing, and management; communication and information systems; and human sciences and education — Nebraska plans to expand the resources to the remaining three state-identified career areas soon.

States made bold commitments in their ESSA plans to expand access to advanced coursework and career pathways. This is best demonstrated by the fact that 40 states are now measuring career readiness in their state and federal accountability systems. But few states are going the extra mile to align ESSA implementation with their plans for career readiness. Ohio, Georgia and Nebraska demonstrate three different approaches states can take to advance career readiness through ESSA.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy
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ESSA Marks A Watershed Moment for Career Readiness, But States Leave Many Opportunities On the Table

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

This year marked a pivotal moment for K-12 education. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, state leaders have spent the last two years reexamining and strategizing they way they deliver K-12 education. Now that the last ESSA plans have been written and submitted, we finally have a national picture of state priorities for education, including how K-12 education systems will support and reinforce career preparation opportunities.

One of the key priorities for ESSA is alignment and conformity across different federal and state systems. ESSA gives states the flexibility to hold schools accountable, measure student outcomes, and provide supports and technical assistance in a way that is aligned with their own priorities. States are encouraged to streamline services across Career Technical Education (CTE), workforce development and higher education and truly support learners to achieve career success.

Today Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group released an update to Career Readiness & the Every Student Succeeds Act: Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans. The report examines state plans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to see how states are taking advantage of key opportunities to support career readiness. Overall, two key takeaways rise to the surface:

Kentucky’s plan, for example, draws on economic priorities to undergird accountability and supports across each of the different titles in the law. The plan describes the five key industry sectors in the commonwealth of Kentucky and clearly articulates the role that CTE and K-12 education play in preparing learners for success in the modern workforce. Kentucky’s accountability system reinforces this priority by measuring and holding schools accountable for key career readiness metrics, including industry-recognized credential attainment, CTE dual credit completion, apprenticeships and more.

The report also profiles state plans for Title II, Part A funding, which supports the development of teachers and school administrators, and Title IV, which provides critical funding to expand access to opportunities for a “well-rounded education.”

State leaders have completed the tremendous work of engaging stakeholders, identifying priorities and developing strategic action plans to drive education in their states. Now they are tasked with implementing those plans. Given the growing profile of CTE and the elevated role of career readiness in state ESSA plans, the path ahead is promising. But now is the critical time to act, and states should ensure that they fully leverage all of ESSA’s opportunities and follow through on the commitments they made in their plans.  

In addition to the report, a supplemental appendix profiling specific state strategies and an infographic of key takeaways are available to download.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Public Policy, Publications, Research
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Despite Federal Budget Constraints, States Forge Ahead with ESSA Planning

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Earlier this year, 16 states and the District of Columbia submitted plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the Department of Education, detailing strategies to strengthen standards, accountability, teacher effectiveness and student supports. Since then, the remaining 34 states have continued work drafting their own plans. Despite uncertainty from Washington, DC, states such as New York and California are taking advantage of ESSA’s increased flexibility to promote career readiness, specifically through new accountability systems.

Despite lawmakers’ intentions to expand local flexibility, state planning has been somewhat constrained by the federal budget process. In May, Congress approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2017 that fell short of the authorized funding for certain ESSA programs. Specifically, the Title IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program — which consolidated a basket of categorically-funded initiatives in order to expand state flexibility — was funded at only $400 million for the year, far short of the authorized $1.6 billion (the program is eliminated entirely under the President’s proposed FY18 budget). As such, lawmakers decided to give states the option to distribute grants competitively rather than through a formula, as is prescribed in the law. It is not year clear if states will take this opportunity, though switching to a competition may discourage smaller districts from applying.

Under ESSA, at least 95 percent of SSAE funds are to be awarded to local education agencies for one of three priorities: supporting a well-rounded education, fostering a safe and healthy school climate and providing for the effective use of technology. These funds can be used to strengthen or enhance local Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, which are covered under the statutory definition of “well-rounded education.” Although funds go primarily to the local level, states have leeway to signal how they should be used. They can also expend state set-aside funds under Title IV-A to administer technical assistance in certain priority areas. While SSAE grants provide a clear leverage point to promote CTE statewide, many states are approaching the opportunity with caution, leaving it up to local education agencies to determine how such funds will be spent.

In the Wake of April’s Submission Window, Five States — Including New York and California — Release Draft Plans

In addition to the 16 states and D.C. that submitted plans during the first window, another 20 states have released draft plans or guidelines as of June 2017. The newest states to release draft plans include Arkansas, California, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Below we examine different approaches that New York and California are taking to leverage ESSA in support of statewide career readiness.

New York’s Plan Envisions Success in College, Careers and Citizenship

Building on the state’sgraduation pathways work, one of the key threads throughout New York’s first ESSA state plan draft is ensuring all students graduate “prepared for success in postsecondary education, careers, and citizenship.” The plan envisions a K-12 system that provides rigorous instruction, positive learning environments, and appropriate opportunities and supports so that all students can succeed.

One area in the plan where this priority is reflected is the state’s accountability system, which adopts a measure of College, Career and Civic Readiness as one of two School Quality and Student Success indicators at the high school level. ESSA requires states to adopt at least five accountability indicators, four that are loosely prescribed and a fifth measure of school quality that is up to a state’s choosing. As we’ve reported in the past, many states are seizing the opportunity to measure not only college preparedness but career readiness as well.

In New York’s case, the proposed College, Career and Civic Readiness Index encourages both college and career preparation and awards bonus points for students who surpass the minimum Regents or Local Diploma requirements. Under the proposal, schools will receive full points for students who earn a standard diploma, an additional half point for students who enroll in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or dual credit courses, and a full two points for students earning a CTE endorsement, an industry-recognized credential or a passing score on an AP or IB exam (among other options).

Furthermore, the plan explicitly encourages local education agencies to use SSAE grants to offer multiple pathways to graduation and career readiness. The state plans to use up to 4 percent of its permitted set-aside funds to support local education agencies to implement this, and other, priorities. And while the plan is light on details, the state promises to support student access to extra-curricular opportunities, including “community-based internships and … sports and arts.” New York’s state plan is still in the public comment stage and subject to change prior to the September submission deadline.

In California, Local Control Accountability Plans Will Drive ESSA Implementation

California meanwhile is approaching ESSA’s increased flexibility as an opportunity to supplement ongoing state efforts. In 2013, the Golden State transformed the way it funds education using a Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to consolidate state education funding and empower local education agencies to create and implement their own strategic priorities. Under the policy, local districts are required to create Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) to set goals and plan their delivery strategies. Additionally, California last year adopted a new multi-measure accountability system aligned to the LCFF to hold local districts accountable for using state education funds effectively. Just this year the state Department of Education released a school accountability dashboard that illustrates student performance on a variety of different measures.

California’s state plan proposes to use LCFF as a vehicle to implement ESSA. The plan, appropriately titled “The California Way,” proposes to map local ESSA planning efforts against the current LCAP to create a “single, coherent system that avoids the complexities of having separate state and federal accountability structures.” Local education agencies will submit an LCAP addendum as a supplement to address additional requirements under ESSA.

So how will California’s ESSA plan support career readiness? For one, the current accountability system includes a career and college readiness index. Interestingly, and unlike most other state proposals thus far, the index will count toward the state’s academic success indicator, along with student performance and growth on assessments. While the State Board of Education has blessed the indicator, it has yet to determine how it will be measured. Current considerations include dual enrollment, AP exam performance, IB exam performance and CTE pathway completion. Additionally, California’s plan points to other recent initiatives — such as the state’s three-year, $900 million CTE Incentive Grant Program — that are designed to enhance and expand regional CTE pathways in the state.

What New York’s and California’s ESSA state plans tell us is that states are taking full advantage of newfound flexibility to align federal initiatives with their own efforts. In the case of California and New York, both states have undergone work in recent years to revise graduation and accountability policy to better promote career readiness in high school. Others should consider how to align opportunities under ESSA to support their own state and local initiatives.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in News, Public Policy
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