The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

May 27, 2016

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), presents an important opportunity for local voices to influence the future of public education in Colorado.  This federal law, which replaces No Child Left Behind, shifts significant decision making authority away from the federal government, providing each state with more flexibility to distribute funds, design accountability and evaluation systems, and devise supports for struggling schools.  Here in Colorado, the state education department has also enacted new graduation guidelines, which will apply to the current 7th grade class.  It is up to local districts to design the graduation requirements to comply with these new guidelines.  So, at both the federal and state levels, new laws have opened a window for change, and provide an opportunity for parents, educators, business leaders and grassroots organizations to come together and advocate for the educational needs of their students and schools.  Here are just a few of the questions raised by these laws:

  • ESSA calls for states to revamp their accountability systems, allowing for less emphasis on testing as an exclusive gauge of school progress.
  • What other measures of school progress should be included?
  • The CO graduation guidelines allow for a capstone project instead of testing for seniors.  What skills and competencies do you want your children, students, future employees to have upon graduation?
  • ESSA calls for states to include at least one non-academic indicator of school quality in their accountability plans for each level of schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) .
  • What non-academic indicators should be considered? 
  • What do you want to know about how your schools are meeting the needs of your students?
  • Both ESSA and the CO graduation guidelines have implications for alternative career pathways – certification programs, community college, internships etc.
  • What skills do students require in your community and what opportunities await them upon graduation?
  • How do we develop more opportunities for our students to pursue internships, community colleges and alternate pathways?

One way to get involved in the conversation about these and other critical education questions is to attend a community “listening tour” meeting.  As it prepares to implement ESSA, the Colorado Department of Education has hosted several of these input gathering meetings around the state.   Much work remains to be done to ensure that all voices are heard and included in developing a new state plan for ESSA.  Lift One Lift All will help provide networks and opportunities for your communities to be heard. What do you want the Colorado Department of Education to know about what’s important to your community as the Department designs policies that will directly affect students and schools in your district for years to come? 

 Please share your contact info with Lift One Lift All by joining our network.  In the coming weeks, we’ll be working to schedule community events, and we’ll keep you informed about the additional networking eventsas well as other opportunities to get involved. 

Fiscal Health Analysis for Colorado School Districts -- July 2014

    This report was presented by the Office of State Auditor to measure various indicators for each district as a barometer of their fiscal health. 

    This report shows that rural school districts have been disproportionately affected by education budget cuts in recent years
    From 2012-2013 the number of school districts across the states with warning indicators have increased from 48 to 76

    Looking at page 29, it is important to note that of the 20 districts listed with two or more indicators, 12 of the districts have less than 400 students.   In addition, 75% of the 20 districts are experiencing declining enrollment.  These 20 districts have had declines in per pupil funding on average of over $400 with the highest loss in Liberty School District at over $800 per pupil.  Losses in enrollment coupled with cuts in funding cause significant financial stress on small districts. --Leanne Emm, CDE

    Texas Judge Rules School Finance System to be Unconstitutional -- August 2014

    Read the Summary Judgement here.

    Read the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law here.