Ohio waits for ESSA approval, schools hope for improvement

In February of 2017, Ohio Department of Education released a draft plan of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA). The final draft was submitted on July 11, 2017. If ESSA receives approval from the U.S. Department of Education, it will then proceed to replace the “No Child Left Behind Act.”

In the ESSA Appendix B, it states that, “under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Ohio will create a plan to better align our local, state and federal programs to help all students be successful.”

With ESSA, Ohio is looking to improve graduation rates in the long run. The baseline is set from 2015-2016 school year, starting with graduation rates at 83 percent for all students. It’s projected that by the 2025-2026 school year, the graduation rate will be at 93 percent rate, a ten percent increase.

According to the Ohio Department of Education’s website, “ESSA requires states to do the following:

    • Adopt challenging academic content standards that align to credit-bearing coursework in the state’s public education system and relevant career-technical standards;
    • Annually administer state tests in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once during high school, as well as science assessments in selected grade bands;
    • Establish long-term and interim goals of achievement for all students and each student subgroup;
    • Develop and implement an accountability system that “meaningfully differentiates” school performance annually. Accountability measures must include academic achievement, graduation rate, an additional achievement measure that may be a growth measure, performance of student subgroups, achievement of English language learners and additional measures of school quality, such as students’ access to rigorous coursework, school climate and absenteeism rates;
    • Use their accountability systems to identify schools and districts in need of comprehensive support, as well as those in need of targeted support due to one or more persistently underperforming subgroups of students;
    • Provide support for schools and districts identified as needing comprehensive and targeted support; and
    • Implement plans that ensure equitable access to effective teachers for poor and minority students.”

Aurora City School District Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli said that if ESSA gets approved, it will provide more local control.

Pat Ciccantelli, Aurora City School District’s Superintendent.

“If that in fact turns out to be the case then we are very much in favor of that,” Ciccantelli said. “We feel that local control is how education is best managed.”

One of the things that Ciccantelli is hoping ESSA will do is alleviate the amount of tests that students had to take, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The amount of standardized testing students do in Ohio is excessive,” Ciccantelli said, explaining that there were proposals of removing a couple tests. “We’re hopeful that maybe there will be, in the event of a further reduction, down towards what is closer to the federal minimum.”

Other things in question with ESSA are teacher evaluations, having more flexibility, more local control and more control in hiring of teachers.

“Sometimes we’ve had teachers that were very qualified to teach in a certain area but they didn’t have the exact licensure,” Ciccantelli said. “It was more bureaucratic than it was having teachers just make sure that they qualifications and that’s where the local control comes in.”

If ESSA goes through, Ciccantelli feels that the local control with teachers will be beneficial to his students as it would allow for new courses to be implemented into the curriculum.

“We can’t offer a computer science class because we don’t have anybody who’s licensed per a bureaucrat, in a federal office somewhere,” Ciccantelli said. “But yet, here in Aurora, we know that this person is very well qualified, our kids can learn from them and it would be a much better situation.”

Gerald Kohanski, President of Aurora’s Board of Education.

Gerald Kohanski, President of Aurora’s Board of Education, has a different perspective and said ESSA wouldn’t have any effect on the students’ performance.

 “We have a very excellent special education program,” Kohanski said. “Whatever mandates the government pushes really won’t impact the quality of education we give kids.”

ESSA Overview (Text)

Kent City School District was unavailable for comment.

According to the Department of Education’s website, as Ohio awaits ESSA’s approval, the Department will work with the school districts to begin the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act during the 2017-18 school year.


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Andy Mark: Reporting/ Editing