ESSA Gives Black Parents Tools to Hold Schools Accountable

ESSA Gives Black Parents Tools to Hold Schools Accountable

By Lynette Monroe (Program Assistant, NNPA/ESSA Public Awareness Campaign)

Popular opinion suggests that caregivers, educators and students have an equal role to play in the academic achievement of students.

However, according to “The 2nd Annual New Education Majority Poll,” facilitated by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, Black and Latino parents do not feel that educators or, more specifically, the schools in which educators operate in, are upholding their portion of responsibility to their children.

Everyone needs to be concerned about accountability and school performance, especially for Black and Hispanic students.

In 2014, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projected that public school enrollment would decrease for White students in the United States; the decline in enrollment has resulted in a majority-minority public school system.

That means that national education laws must be culturally competent, taking into account the changing demographics of the public school system. Furthermore, although minorities account for the majority of students enrolled in public schools, our nation’s schools remain extremely segregated. In March 2016, “The Atlantic” reported that “in 90 of the largest 95 U.S. cities, more students of color than Whites attend school with mostly poor or low-income peers.”

Researchers at the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis found that the single-most powerful predictor of racial gaps in educational achievement is the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students.

We have an obligation to advocate for accountability standards and to monitor school performance in a majority-minority public school system, where Black and Hispanic students disproportionately attend schools with low-income classmates.

One of the best ways parents, education advocates and community stakeholders can hold school officials accountable is by reviewing the “report card” in their local school district.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that data for each student subgroup is reported, a requirement previously exclusive to schools receiving Title I funding. States get to create their own accountability systems, using feedback from education stakeholders. If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re one of those stakeholders. An accountability system is just a fancy way of saying that states get to decide how exactly they determine if schools are effectively teaching students.

A major component of school reporting under ESSA will revolve around student subgroup data. To date, states that have submitted plans for implementing ESSA have proposed that they will determine school effectiveness by including student subgroup data in overall school ratings. For example, if Black students are underperforming, the entire school would receive a lower grade.

States have also committed to lowering required group data size to ensure that small student subgroups receive equal attention. For example, in some school districts there may be a small population of Black students. Before the implementation of ESSA, if a school districts data size for reporting is 30 and there are only 25 Black students, those students would not be counted. However, lowering the data group size down to 10, as in the case in some states, allows for more comprehensive school evaluations.

States will also measure the effectiveness of their schools by dedicating more resources to subjects like art, physical education, science, and social studies. Other proposed indicators like absenteeism, and school climate will add more substance to school rating systems. This encourages educators to prioritize other subject areas other than Language Arts and Mathematics. Including other indicators for accountability decreases the impact of standardized testing in determining the academic advancement of students.

A simple Google search will help you locate your child’s school report card; review it, paying close attention to student subgroup data. Hold your local education agency accountable by getting involved in your child’s parent-teacher organization and by attending meetings held by your local school board.

For more information about the Every Student Succeeds Act, visit nnpa.org/essa.

Lynette Monroe is a master’s student at Howard University. Her research area is public policy and national development. Ms. Monroe is the program assistant for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign. Follow Lynette Monroe on Twitter @_monroedoctrine.