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

Commentary: State Leaders, Seize ESSA’s Opportunities for Excellence. Here’s How. (Real Clear Education – August 18). State and district leaders have a great new opportunity under the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act: more flexibility in spending the funds they receive than in prior versions. But let’s face it: Most states won’t seize this opportunity to strive for greater excellence in students’ learning.

Self-Study Guide for Implementing High School Academic Interventions. This guide was developed to help district- and school-based practitioners plan and implement high school academic interventions. It is intended to promote reflection about current district and school strengths and challenges in planning for implementation of high school academic interventions, spark conversations among staff, and identify areas for improvement. The guide provides a template for data collection and guiding questions for discussion that may improve the implementation of high school academic interventions and decrease the number of students failing to graduate from high school on time. (Source: Southeast Regional Educational Laboratory at Florida State University).

Abandoning Principals: Survey data shows principals in small school districts receive too little leadership support. (US News).

First draft of ESSA plan: ISBE released the first draft of its state ESSA plan.

State Visits:
The 2016 Next Steps Institute will be held in late September. The conference features a State Leaders in STEM pathway, which includes a series of sessions geared to state-level decision makers. Jennifer will provide an overview of education policy focused on STEM as part of the Examining the STEM Education Landscape session and will discuss the impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on STEM policy in the Focusing on STEM in the Era of ESSA session. For more information about this event, please visit the 2016 Next Steps Institute website.

Measuring the Impact: Schools Struggle With Incarceration From Multiple Angles.
Beyond helping children of incarcerated parents pay for college, a growing body of research supports helping these children throughout the K-12 system, limiting harsh discipline policies that disproportionately impact them, training teachers to recognize the underlying causes of certain behaviors and targeting the intergenerational nature of the school-to-prison pipeline. (Education Dive, Aug. 17).

Racial Gaps: Does the Public Care?
 Postsecondary educational attainment in the United States continues to vary significantly by racial and ethnic groups — and in some cases within racial and ethnic groups. That is the overall finding of “Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups, 2016,” released Thursday by the U.S. Education Department. (Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 12).

Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2016. This report profiles current conditions and recent trends in the education of students by racial and ethnic group. It presents a selection of indicators that examine differences in educational participation and attainment of students in the racial/ethnic groups of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Two or more races. The report summarizes data on topics such as demographics; preprimary, elementary, and secondary participation; student achievement; student behaviors and persistence in education, postsecondary education, and outcomes of education. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics).

Opinion: School Accountability is No Easy A. (U.S. News & World Report – August 17). When President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law last December, there was broad praise for the bill’s approach to school accountability. Across the education policy spectrum, nearly everyone agreed that states should have the ability to create more nuanced and holistic systems that look at multiple measures of student and school success. But more than seven months later, a divide is now emerging.

ACT Scores Show Many Grads Not Ready for College-Level Work.
 The latest scores from the ACT college entrance exam suggest many of this year’s high school graduates aren’t ready for college-level course work. In its annual score report released Wednesday, the testing company said only 38 percent of graduating seniors who took the exam hit the college-prepared benchmark in at least three of the four core subjects tested — reading, English, math and science. (Associated Press, Aug. 24).