WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today passed several of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) priorities as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Reauthorization Act. The bill now heads to the President’s desk.
“We owe it to students in Ohio and across the nation to strengthen our schools,” Brown said. “That’s why I’ve worked to ensure that this bill contains provisions that will protect students from excessive testing, hold charter schools accountable, and ensure that students receive the critical social services they need so they can focus on achieving academic success. I will continue to work to expand school resources so that every student, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality, effective education.”
“ESSA recognizes that student success is more than a test score. By reducing the amount of standardized testing, students will have more time to learn and develop critical thinking,” said Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins, “The new law puts educational decision-making back where it belongs – at the local level - and gives educators a greater voice in shaping education policy. We also welcome the provisions that call for stronger charter school accountability and transparency – something that has been lacking in Ohio for too long. We applaud the hard work done by Senator Brown to make sure these provisions were included in ESSA.”
REDUCING AND STREAMLINING DUPLICATIVE TESTING
Brown’s Support Making Assessments Reliable and Timely (SMART) Act – that would eliminate outdated and duplicative tests – was unanimously adopted by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee during its consideration of the Every Child Achieves Act, and is included in the final bill. The average student in Ohio spends almost 20 hours taking tests each year and another 15 additional hours practicing for tests each year.
Specifically, the legislation would update an existing grant formula to assist states and local education agencies in aligning testing materials to college- and career-ready standards. The funding can also be used to speed delivery of test data to educators and parents – providing more time for educators to design instruction based on test results. Additionally, states can undertake audits of existing practices to eliminate unnecessary assessments, design more effective systems, and amplify effectiveness of remaining exams to support educators. A one-pager is available here.
IMPROVING ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY AT CHARTER SCHOOLS
Parts of Brown’s Charter School Accountability Act were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act through a substitute amendment. These provisions would increase parental and community engagement, require charter schools to report how they are complying with open meetings laws, and require an oversight report from the U.S. Department of Education. Ohio is home to nearly 400 taxpayer-funded charter schools that educate approximately 123,000 students. According to a report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), students at Ohio’s charter schools lose 43 days of math instruction and 14 days of reading instruction compared with traditional public schools in the state.
BOLSTERING SOCIAL SERVICES IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS
The Every Student Succeeds Act includes a variation of Brown’s Full-Service Community Schools amendment to expand the community school model to more schools across the country. As a part of this legislation, there will be a set-aside that allows the Secretary of Education to award at least 10 grants per year for full-service community schools. Community schools bring together students, families, service providers, and neighborhoods to provide important services to help students better access the learning opportunities and support services they need to succeed. Open year-round, these schools can help provide physical and mental health services, access to housing services, nutritional assistance, and after-school programming. Ohio has 89 community schools in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo. There are also plans to develop community schools in Columbus and Youngstown.
The Every Student Succeeds Act also includes Brown’s bipartisan Community Schools Site Resource Coordinator amendment that would ensure that each community school program receiving funds can use these funds to have a site resource coordinator for their school or local education agency. Site resource coordinators would work with the community and non-profits to identify and source additional resources to benefit students. A one-pager on the amendment can be found here.