As policymakers and educators analyze plans submitted by states to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a recent analysis from New America focuses on how states are incorporating indicators related to young children’s learning into their plans.
A few states, for example, plan to use data from the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), a measure widely used in preschool classrooms to measure instructional quality and support for students. The District of Columbia will use Pre-K CLASS scores as one measurement for school climate, writes Rolf Grafwallner, program director for Early Childhood Initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The Louisiana State Department of Education intends to eventually implement CLASS in the elementary grades.
The Delaware Department of Education plans to use a formula in which 3rd grade assessments count toward accountability scores for schools that don't have 3rd grade, such as K-2 schools. Students will be tracked back to the schools they attended before 3rd grade, with the school where the child attended kindergarten being held accountable for 10% of the score, 1st grade being accountable for 20%, 2nd grade for 30% and the remaining 40% going to the school where the child is in 3rd grade.
It’s clear that states are taking a harder look at learning in the early grades in order to improve outcomes for students and close achievement gaps, Grafwallner writes. In addition, CCSSO, has worked with the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes and state leaders to create a toolkit to help states better connect their ESSA accountability plans with the work they are doing to improve the quality of and access to early-childhood education programs.
The document identifies places where early learning could be strengthened in states’ plans, such as the second academic indicator for elementary and middle schools, and the fifth indicator focusing on school quality and student success. Even though most plans have been submitted or are currently being finalized, the authors stress that states will continue to revise them as provisions are implemented.