The following resources focus on the educational climate and betterment of those serving the K–12 educational community.

The U.S. Department of Education posted a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) webpage. The department has prepared these FAQs to support states and LEAs in understanding expectations during the transition to full implementation of the ESSA. Please check the ESSA resource webpage for FAQ updates and all other ESSA resources including guidance and regulatory information.

Federal law leaves opt-out consequences to the state.
 Under the new federal education law, consequences for high test-refusal rates will now be left up to the state, education officials said. How this will impact opt-out rates this year is still unclear. (Politico, February 22).

What Works for Disconnected Young People: A Scan of the Evidence. This report reviews the evidence regarding what works in helping disconnected young people, defined as the population of young people ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to work or school. Policies affecting disconnected young people span a range of systems, including public schools; adult basic and secondary education; and the juvenile justice, foster care, and mental health systems. Programs share some common implementation challenges, including the following: outreach and enrollment practices that may limit the populations they serve; difficulties keeping young people engaged in a program long enough to benefit from it; staff turnover; and difficulties addressing young people’s barriers to participation, particularly their lack of transportation and child care. (Source: MDRC).

National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards. This report uses national benchmarking as a common metric to examine state achievement standards and compare how high these standards are compared to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement levels. It also compares how much students are expected to learn in some states with how much they are expected to learn in other states. The study uses NAEP grades four and eight reading and mathematics as benchmarks for individual state achievement standards. The authors found that Florida’s college readiness standards map to the NAEP Proficient level for grades four and eight in both reading and mathematics. (Source: American Institutes for Research). 

Standards already making a surprising impact on schools. 
To keep up with the demands of the new Common Core curriculum standards, teachers have made major changes to their lesson plans and the instructional materials they use. That is just one of several findings in a new study. (Forbes, February 29).

Does it matter if you use class instead of race? A grant proposed in President Barack Obama’s new budget revives an idea that hasn’t gotten much policy attention in decades: diversity in public schools. A new wave of integration comes with one big difference that sets it apart from the busing battles of the past: relying on family income, not race, as the driver. (NPR, February 29).

State Information Request: Proficiency-based credit for high school graduation. A response to a request seeking state policies allowing the awarding of credit for high school courses if a student passes an approved exam (in lieu of seat time requirements). The summary of responses is now available.

Opinion: Using ESSA to fix reading: Implications for state policy. Robert Pondisco and Lisa Hansel provide feedback on the ESSA policy. Assessment and evaluation policy must ensure that these long-term investments in the building blocks of language growth are rewarded, not punished. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states have the opportunity to do exactly that.

Standards shift conversation on expectations.
 Academic expectations around the country, updated for Common Core
Common Core backers hoped that all states would insist that their students learn enough to be prepared for college when they graduated from high school. But a recent analysis shows that most states are still not expecting their students to be on a college-ready trajectory, and that academic expectations continue to differ even among the 45 states that adopted the new standards. (Hechinger Report, March 7).

MN schools using expulsion as final option. 
In Minnesota, student expulsions have fallen by half over the past few years. It’s all part of a nationwide push to find different approaches to discipline. (Star Tribune, March 5).

Bullying Prevention Course Available. The Health Resources and Services Administration has continued in its bullying prevention initiatives by expanding upon the original Bullying Prevention Training Module from 2012 and releasing a Bullying Prevention Continuing Education Course in February 2016. These anti-bullying resources provide best practices and continuing education credits for those who complete training.

When Social and Emotional Learning is Key to College Success. (The Atlantic, March 2). Educators and academics across the country have come to agree that content knowledge isn’t enough to prepare students for life after high school. Now, in addition to teaching students fractions and conjunctions, many educators are increasingly grappling with how to address social and emotional skills like collaboration and students’ sense of belonging—trends that are even making their way into nationwide criteria by which schools are evaluated. Read more.

21st Century Community Learning Center Funding Proposed Cut: Take action! President Obama’s FY17 budget proposal includes a $167 million cut to 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) funding, bringing the appropriation down from the FY16 level of $1.67 billion to $1 billion. The Appropriations committees in the House and Senate have begun holding budget hearings, and they need to hear from all of us about the importance of 21st CCLC funding and the need to fund the 21st CCLC program at a $1.3 billion level in the federal FY17 budget. Join the call for 21st CCLC funding. You can email, tweet or Facebook your members of Congress and ask that they support critical 21st CCLC programs.