ESSA Implementation should Focus on Out-of-School Youth, Dropouts, Advocates say

US-DeptOfEducation-Seal_LargeThe Education Dept. (DoEd) should encourage states, when they are implementing their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) education plants, to focus on district efforts to prevent students from dropping out of high school as well as reengage out-of-school youth, advocates say.

The enter for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) submitted comments are part of the department’s effort to help school district implement new provisions of the ESSA.

Through the regulatory process, the department has the opportunity to emphasize state and Local Education Agency accountability for the educational outcomes of vulnerable and disconnected students, CLASP said.

CLASP’s comments focus on strengthening and prioritizing the ESSA provisions that support youth and emphasizes the importance of aligning ESSA with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which targets funding and comprehensive education and training programs.

Young people who have discontinued their education without earning a high school diploma need viable options for returning to school. The current system presents obstacles; youth often lack information on available education options and where to enroll, the group said.

CLASP’s comments:

  • Express support for the proposed regulations’ focus on high schools with low graduation rates for all or key subgroups of students, as well as attention to postsecondary readiness and enrollment in accountability systems.
  • Advocate for revisions to support increased accountability for and incentives to reengage youth who have dropped out.
  • Recommend that ESSA align its definitions of vulnerable populations with WIOA’s definitions of eligible in-school youth by requesting disaggregation of accountability data for court-involved youth and pregnant and parenting youth.
  • Advocate for including middle and high school students in stakeholder conversations to develop plans for comprehensive support and improvement. These discussions should also engage vulnerable youth as well as the agencies and community-based organizations that serve them.
  • Recommend that evidence-based dropout prevention and recovery strategies be included in state plans.
  • Underline that regulations must address school climate, exclusionary discipline, and presence of law enforcement in schools as part of school accountability systems.

In addition, the group suggests that school accountability indicators selected by middle schools that feed into high schools identified for comprehensive or targeted support and improvement also be required to support high school graduation rates. There is strong evidence that risk factors for high school dropout, such as failing one or more courses, grade retention, disciplinary issues, and attendance problems are first evident in middle school. When used as an early warning system, can be addressed with evidence-based interventions to support improved chances of high school completion, the group said.

CLASP also recommends that the department explicitly highlight that school should include dropout prevention and recovery strategies. In addition, DoEd should provide guidance to state education agencies (SEAs) and LEAs on best practices to create a menu of well-supported educational pathways.

Examples of options include:

  • Reengagement centers;
  • High-quality alternative programs or charter schools;
  • Credits earned based on demonstrated competency instead of seat time;
  • Applied learning approaches
  • Accelerated learning models;
  • Twilight academies;
  • Specialized supports for parenting students;
  • Concurrent enrollment in high school and community college;
  • Integrated Education Training models in partnership with workforce boards;
  • GED Plus/Diploma Plus models; and Career and technical education.

The group expressed concerns that there is substantial risk that if schools are allowed broad discretion for students in prison and juvenile facilities. Such discretion could undermine efforts to maintain accountability for students involved in the criminal justice system. CLASP suggested that DoEd revise requirements to require schools to provide a plan for how accountability will be maintained for court-involved youth served in programs with total enrollment of less than 100 students.

Info: (letter).

About Frank Klimko

Frank Klimko is a nationally known journalist, grants expert and speech writer/speaker. He has years of experience helping nonprofits devise lists of the right funding opportunities and secure funding from these foundations and corporate entities. Clients have focused on an array of areas including child care, homeless, hunger and K-12 education. Additionally, he is a Freedom of Information Act expert, who has helped numerous clients with securing proprietary information from the federal government. Currently, Frank Klimko writes the Children & Youth Funding Report and Private Grants Alert, which are Washington DC-based publications. CYF is a daily publication covering Congress, the Education Dept. and the various federal regulatory agencies. PGA, another daily publication, covers the world of private philanthropy.
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