Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): Impact on Teacher Evaluations

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on December 10 which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The overall reaction to the new ESSA law has been favorable. How will ESSA impact teacher evaluations?

In President Obama’s remarks, “this law focuses . . . on holding everybody to high standards for teaching and learning, empowering states and school districts to develop their own strategies for improvements.” With the historic bipartisan bill signing, the work in many ways is just beginning. Now states will work with local stakeholders and districts to design new and more effective curriculum, assessments and accountability systems that addresses the needs of their students.

ESSA Impact on Teachers

The big headline here is that states will no longer have to include student outcomes in teacher evaluations as they did under waivers from NCLB.

  • Eliminates the definition of a “highly qualified” teacher and provides states the opportunity to define this
  • Ends federal mandates on teacher evaluations and allows states to innovate, develop and implement teacher, principal, and other school leader evaluation systems
  • States will determine how student test scores will factor into evaluations and what rewards or sanctions will follow
  • Teacher and School Leader Innovation Program provides grants to districts that want to try out performance pay and other teacher-quality improvement measures
  • Provides funds for ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers

How do we transition to ESSA?

The ESEA waivers, which required teacher evaluations and student outcomes as a measurement, will be null and void on August 1, 2016. The Department of Education sent a letter to state chiefs today outlining the transition. The preliminary overall consensus from state chiefs is that they will “stay the course” and take the opportunity to revisit or tweak their teacher evaluation systems. Student outcome scores is surely to be the item that will be looked at closely as evidenced by the decision of the New York Board of Regent’s decision this week to remove state tests scores for four years as a component in teacher evaluations. More is sure to follow on the transition.

A few other resources we’ve been reading about ESSA:

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