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Advocacy group offers toolkits to de-mystify ESSA

Toolkits include videos, policy and standards analyses, and links to ESSA resources
 Many changes under ESSA will help underserved students better prepare for post-secondary opportunities.
Many changes under ESSA will help underserved students better prepare for post-secondary opportunities.

A new series of toolkits designed to help administrators meet next-generation high school standards has been released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national education policy and advocacy organization for underserved secondary school students.

The toolkits (available for free download as PowerPoint documents) de-mystify the Every Student Succeeds Act, explaining many of the law’s main components—particularly those that relate to educational funding.

Administrators can also find guidelines to help them explain the details of ESSA—such as when preparing for a school board meeting or having a conversation with teachers.

The five Next-Generation High School toolkits include:

  • Advanced Placement & International Baccalaureate
  • Career & Technical Education
  • Dual Enrollment & Early College High School
  • Deeper Learning
  • Personalized Learning

The toolkits include informational videos, policy and standards analyses, best practices, links to ESSA resources, planning and data collection worksheets, and school case studies that can inspire new approaches.

For example, one toolkit examines the positive impact dual-enrollment programs have had on underserved students in Colorado.

“We created these toolkits because, as we come out of No Child Left Behind, it is important that organizations, individuals, schools, districts and states be aware that ESSA is a little bit different,” says Stephanie Wood-Garnett, vice president for policy to practice for the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Also explained in the toolkits are funding differences between ESSA and NCLB, and the new program possibilities available. For example, under ESSA, Title I funds can be used to add more AP classes for high-performing, low-income students and even pay for AP testing.

Districts can also allocate Title I funding to develop pathways for students to take university or community college classes that are not offered in high school, such as a math course beyond algebra 2.

Many changes under ESSA will help underserved students better prepare for post-secondary opportunities, Wood-Garnett says.

“We want to change the conversation about what support for struggling students entails—that it doesn’t always have to be remediation,” she says. “We want to position ESSA as an opportunity and not another mandate from Washington.”

Ray Bendici is special projects editor.

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