The following was included in TCTA's 2018-19 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2018 but is subject to change.

Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015. ESSA is the main body of federal legislation governing public education. Texas submitted its final state ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education for review on March 6, 2018. USDE moved quickly to approve it on March 26.

Title I: Standards/Assessment/Accountability/Educator Quality

Standards

ESSA requires each state to establish challenging state academic standards in mathematics, reading/language arts, science and any other subject determined by the state, that are aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the state and relevant career and technical education standards. ESSA allows states to adopt alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities if they are aligned with the challenging state academic standards noted above and reflect professional judgment as to the highest possible standards achievable by such students.

Assessment

ESSA continues the same subject and grade level testing requirements that were required under No Child Left Behind, except for changing the grade span for secondary level testing from grades 10-12 to grades 9-12. Accordingly, states receiving Title I funds are required to assess reading/language arts and mathematics every year in grades 3-8, as well as one year in the 9-12 grade span (Texas currently requires students to pass Algebra I and English I and II end-of-course exams to graduate). States also are required to administer a science assessment annually in at least one grade in each of the following grade spans: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12. Texas meets these requirements.

ESSA allows school districts to use locally selected, nationally recognized high school academic assessments in lieu of the state high school assessments, if approved by the state. However, the tests must be aligned with the state academic content standards, address the depth and breadth of such standards, and be equivalent in content coverage, difficulty, and quality to the state-designed assessments, AND must provide comparable, valid, and reliable data on academic achievement, as compared to the state-designed assessments, for all students and for each subgroup of students among all local school districts within the state. The Texas State ESSA Plan does not currently contain provisions addressing this.

ESSA requires participation in the grades 4 and 8 reading and math sections of the National Assessment of Educational Progress provided that the federal government pays for it.

Student participation requirements

ESSA requires states to annually measure the achievement of not less than 95 percent of the students in the state on the required state assessments and to explain how they will factor the 95 percent participation requirement — both for students overall and for each student group — into their accountability system. The Texas State ESSA Plan provides that a participation rate of less than 95 percent on statewide math and reading/language arts assessments will be included on the Closing the Gaps domain (the third domain in the state accountability system).

Special education students

ESSA puts a state-level cap of 1 percent on the number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can take an alternate state assessment, which must be aligned with challenging state academic standards. However, ESSA also allows states to seek a cap waiver from the U.S. secretary of education. Texas sought one for the 2017-18 school year.

English learners

States must assess students in English who have attended school in the U.S. for three or more consecutive school years, unless the state determines, on a case-by-case basis, that administering assessments in another language would likely yield more accurate and reliable information regarding what the student knows, in which case they can do so for an additional two consecutive years. The Texas State ESSA Plan provides that the state will assess and report the performance of the student on state math/ELA assessments in the first year of enrollment in a school, but exclude the results of these assessments in the state accountability system in the first year; in the second year, include English language learner results in the accountability system via an EL performance measure, and in the third year and beyond, include results in the standard accountability system indicators.

8th-graders taking high school math assessments

ESSA allows states to exempt any eighth-grader from taking the eighth-grade math assessment if the student takes an end-of-course exam that the state typically administers to meet the act’s high school math assessment requirements, the results of which are used for reporting on/accountability for the eighth-grade math assessment, and the student takes an EOC in high school that is more advanced than the EOC taken in eighth-grade, the results of which are used for reporting/accountability for high school math assessment. Texas will require eighth-graders taking the Algebra I EOC to take the SAT or ACT in high school.

Accountability

ESSA requires that states adopt state accountability systems based on the challenging state academic standards for reading/language arts and math, as well as on ambitious state-designed long-term goals for all students and separately for each subgroup of students. Texas will use Domain 3/Closing the Gaps of its 3-domain state accountability system to incorporate the accountability requirements of ESSA (for more information on the ESSA indicators in Domain 3, click here).

For purposes of calculating the score for each of the indicators, ESSA requires states to establish interim and long-term goals for campuses to meet for each student subgroup on each indicator; these are listed in the Texas State ESSA Plan. The interim goals increase over specified periods of time, with the long-term goals taking effect by the years 2027-2032.   

Additionally ESSA requires that states give “substantial weight” to the academic indicators in the state accountability system, and those indicators must in the aggregate be given “much greater weight” in the differentiation process than any measures of school quality or student success. Click here for the weights assigned to each of the indicators.

Based on the performance of schools and subgroups in schools on the indicators, states are required to “meaningfully differentiate” public schools in the state on an annual basis. The state ESSA plan provides that the Closing the Gaps score will be computed based on a weighted average of the indicators computed from the number of items meeting targets divided by the number of items evaluated. The weighted average will be scaled to grades A (90-100), B (80-89), C (70-79), D (60-69), and F (0-60) by creating grade cut points based on 2017 data.

Timeline

ESSA required that states implement the accountability and assessment requirements starting in the 2017-18 school year, and intervention requirements starting in 2018-19.

Interventions

ESSA requires that states identify the bottom-performing 5 percent of Title I schools and any high school failing to graduate at least 67 percent of students for comprehensive support and intervention. For purposes of determining the bottom performing 5 percent of campuses, the Texas State ESSA Plan provides that schools will be identified based upon their accountability rating in Domain 3 of the state accountability system as follows: the weighted average for Domain 3 will be scaled to grades by creating cut points based on 2017 data and then rank ordered to identify the bottom performing 5 percent of campuses. TEA will annually identify campuses for comprehensive support and intervention beginning with the August 2018 accountability release, which is based on 2017-2018 performance data.

ESSA also requires that states annually identify any campus with one or more “consistently underperforming” student subgroups under the accountability system for targeted support and improvement. The Texas State ESSA Plan defines “consistently underperforming” as having one or more student subgroups that do not meet interim goals for the Domain 3 indicators for three consecutive years.

Educator quality

Teachers

One of the provisions eliminated by the Every Student Succeeds Act was the former NCLB requirement for all teachers of core academic subjects to be “highly qualified.” Instead, ESSA requires that state-submitted plans contain assurances regarding how the state will ensure that all teachers and paraprofessionals working in schools receiving Title I funds meet applicable state certification and licensure requirements, and a description of how low-income and minority children enrolled in these schools are not served at disproportionate rates by ineffective, out-of-field or inexperienced teachers, as well as the measures the state will use to evaluate and publicly report the progress of the state with respect to the above.

The Texas State ESSA Plan provides that for out-of-field teachers, for the 2016-17 school year, TEA did not find gaps between Title I campuses and non-Title I campuses, nor did it find gaps between the highest quartile Title I campuses and non-Title I campuses as it relates to both low-income and minority students. Regarding teacher experience gaps, the state plan provides that TEA did find, on average, a gap of 5.35 percent between Title I and non-Title I campuses regarding the percentage of teachers in their first two years of teaching. When comparing the highest quartile Title I campuses and non-Title I campuses as it relates to low-income students, the gap averaged 8.53 percent, and related to minority students, the gap averaged 7.37 percent. Regarding teacher effectiveness gaps, the state plan provides that the calculation will be based upon a comparison between actual student growth to expected student growth for minority and low-income students against expected student growth to actual growth for these students between any campuses and the difference between expected growth and actual growth of low-income/minority students within Title I schools.

The measure that TEA will use to evaluate and publicly report the progress of the state equity plan will be the Texas Equity Toolkit.

The plan provides that various strategies will be used to address insufficient training and support for teachers, including continuing to support the implementation of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System and the Educator Excellence Innovation grant program, as well as lesson study, an inquiry based, job-embedded professional development process where teachers work collaboratively to develop, teach, and assess research-based lessons.

Paraprofessionals

ESSA requires states to continue the same professional standards for Title I paraprofessionals that were in place under the No Child Left Behind Act.

For more information on paraprofessional requirements, click here.

For more on ESSA, click here.