The following was included in TCTA's 2017-18 Survival Guide, the ultimate reference tool for Texas educators, and is current as of September 2017 but is subject to change.

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 NCLB, 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 grades 9-12 span (Texas currently requires students to pass Algebra I and English I and II end-of-course exams to graduate from high school). 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 states to participate in the grades 4 and 8 reading and mathematics sections of the National Assessment of Educational Progress provided that the federal government pays the cost of participation.

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 report (the third domain in the state accountability system). Campuses that do not meet the 95 percent rate will be notified and develop strategies to address it as part of their annual campus needs assessment for Title I funding.

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.

English language 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. States may exempt from the state reading or language arts assessments recently arrived English language learners who have been enrolled in school in the U.S. for less than 12 months.

Eighth-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. The Texas State ESSA Plan provides that eighth-graders taking the Algebra I EOC will be exempt from the eighth grade STAAR Math test if the above conditions are met.

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. 

State accountability systems must include:

  • Academic achievement based on the math and reading/language arts annual assessments and on the state’s goals.
  • A measure of student growth or other statewide academic indicator for elementary and middle schools.
  • Graduation rates for high schools based on the state’s goals.
  • Progress in achieving English proficiency for English learners in each of grades 3 through 8 and the same high school grade in which the state assesses for math/ELA.

At least one measure of school quality or student success (several examples are listed including student and educator engagement, access and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, school climate and safety). The Texas State ESSA Plan provides that the measure of school quality/student success for elementary and middle schools is the percentage of students at or above the Meets Grade Level standard for all students and student subgroups on STAAR reading and math. For high school, the plan provides for a series of college/career/military readiness indicators (examples include students who meet Texas Student Success Initiative benchmarks in reading or math; students who satisfy relevant performance standards on Advanced Placement (or similar) exams; students who earn dual course credits; students who enlist in military; and students who earn industry certification).

“Substantial weight” is required to be given the academic indicators (first four described above) and these four indicators must in the aggregate be given “much greater weight” in the differentiation process than any measures of school quality or student success (described in last bullet above). Based on the performance of schools and subgroups in schools on the indicators described above, states are required to “meaningfully differentiate” public schools in the state on an annual basis.

English language learners

States can exclude the results of any state math/ELA assessments or English language proficiency assessments taken by an ELL student from the state accountability system for the first year of the student’s enrollment in a school, OR do as the Texas State ESSA Plan does and provide 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. Performance results for a small number of asylees/refugees in their first through fifth year of enrollment in U.S. schools will not be included in the accountability performance indicators. ESSA also allows states to include the results of former ELLs in the ELL subgroup for up to four years after a student ceases to be identified as an ELL.

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 Texas has prioritized several contributing factors for the differences in proportionate rates of access to educators: Insufficient training and support for teachers and campus leadership — between districts and within districts — and alignment of districts’ systems for recruiting, developing, supporting and retaining effective teachers and principals. 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. Those are as follows:

  • Complete at least two years of study at an institution of higher education (defined as completion of 48 semester hours or equivalent trimester hours) of college coursework or an applicable number of semester hours as defined by the institution of higher education attended, whichever is less;
  • Possess an associate’s (or higher) degree; 
  • Meet a rigorous standard of quality and demonstrate, through a formal state or local academic assessment, knowledge of and the ability to assist in instructing reading, writing, and mathematics; or knowledge of and the ability to assist in instructing reading readiness, writing readiness, and mathematics readiness, as appropriate.

Paraprofessionals whose duties consist solely of parental involvement activities or translation services are exempt from the qualification requirement.

For more on ESSA, click here.