VETTE’S VEGAS VOICE: Why ESSA Is So Important To Black Students
BY YVETTE WILLIAMS
With the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the U.S. Department of Education has prioritized eliminating student proficiency gaps and ensured that all students are English language proficient. Two years ago, the Clark County School District (CCSD) Board of Trustees adopted an English Language Acquisition (ELA) policy to include all students — including English Language Learners, (ELL) also known as second language learners.
For the first time, federal funds are made available to sub-groups of students who are struggling and have the greatest needs. In fact, it must be a state’s priority.
It is important to note that during the Interim Legislative Education Committee meetings in 2014, the Clark County Black Caucus testified and lobbied for a proficiency gap tracking bill by race. We were thrilled that the Legislative Education Committee authored this bill, which passed the legislature and was signed by the governor. This law now requires every school district in Nevada to report student proficiency by race and ethnicity an important first step in identifying proficiency gaps and warning signs for student needs.
Unfortunately, Nevada Department of Education data going back to 2008 indicates that African-American student’s proficiency are consistently lower than all other racial/ ethnic subgroups. ESSA regulations uphold critical civil rights protections and enhance equity for historically underserved students. This will help ensure that meaningful action is taken in places where entire schools or groups of students are falling behind, and that clear and transparent information on critical measures of school quality and equity are provided to parents and community members. Furthermore, the regulations help to ensure more transparency for parents, educators, and community members around resource equity measures — such as access to preschool, access to rigorous coursework and school discipline, including requiring that this information be made public on state and local report cards.
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Dr. John King Jr. was quoted as saying, “In addition to added flexibility for states, the proposed regulations offer a more holistic approach to measuring a quality education.
This means that NCLB’s narrow definition of school success, which was based primarily on test scores in Math, English language arts and graduation rates, will be replaced with a broader view, to include such things as student growth, college and career readiness, school climate, or student’s progress toward English language proficiency.”
The bill helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:
• Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers.
• Ensuring accountability, by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve — with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps.
• Empowering state and local decision makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions like the No Child Left Behind Act did.
• Reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers — making sure that tests don’t crowd out instruction and learning, and without sacrificing clear, annual information that parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
• Providing more children with access to high-quality preschool.
• Establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.
Yvette Williams is a community advocate and founder of the Clark County Black Caucus. Read her blog at www.YvetteBWilliams.com, follow her on Twitter @YvetteBWilliams, and send email to ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com. Full disclosure: Williams is working with the Munford4NV campaign.