My Notes on the RIDE Community Forum on Education: the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), November 2, 2016
From the RIDE website:
“The law gives an opportunity for us to further develop our work and our resourcing plan for Rhode Island’s Strategic Plan for PK-12 Education, completed in 2015, using ESSA as a lever to achieve our state-developed vision. The U.S. Department of Education has asked all states to submit a plan for transition to ESSA, and our goal at the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) is to complete our plan and submit it by July 2017. Over the course of the 2016-2017 school year, RIDE will be engaging with the greater education community with critical questions surrounding our state plan through multiple channels”
From Mary Ann Snider at the forum (Mary Ann was formerly the Chief of Educator Quality and Instructional Effectiveness for RIDE, in that capacity directing the Office of Instruction, Assessment and Accountability for the State of Rhode Island—now apparently the Deputy Commission of Ed):
Overview of ESSA:
ESSA provides more flexibility to states than NCLB.
RI is ahead of other states because we already have our Strategic Plan. [grrrr]
- Goals, accountability, and report cards (NCLB was too narrow)
- Federal funding allocations
- Supports for educators and “leaders”
- Supports for all schools and students (every child well supported, to achieve equity)
- Academic standards and assessments
- School improvement strategies—growth and development of all schools
There needs to be a plan for schools that have been struggling for a long time.
A consensus of ideas will go into RI’s ESSA plan.
Guiding Principles (for rigorous and relevant teaching):
- Every student. Every voice.
- Re-imagine schooling, but “not in a crazy futuristic way”—schools have been designed in old-fashioned rows—outdated
- High expectations for everyone
- Empowerment to make decisions in an informed way
- Responsibility (NCLB focused on compliance; with ESSA, it’s shared responsibility)
RIDE is not thinking of changing the Strategic Plan.
The participants were randomly sorted into small discussion groups depending on which color paper they were given on entering (with the agenda printed on it). We were told that when we arrived in the room we were assigned, we were to choose a role badge, i.e. a sticky strip with a pre-printed label—teacher, parent, student, policy maker, etc.
I was fortunate in my group that most of the participants happened to be teachers, and most of them also were teachers of English language learners. In fact, several of them were taking courses in teaching ELL students at RIC, and their professor was also in the group. There was one parent of special needs children, and several others as well.
There were two facilitators in the group. One would facilitate discussion of two questions while the other one typed the comments into a laptop, and vice versa with the other two questions. We were told specifically that none of our names would be used—we would just be identified by our role/badge. RIDE plans to shape all the input from all of the groups into a plan, with multiple provisions for feedback. The final plan is due to the federal DOE next summer.
Guiding Questions for the small group discussions:
- Reimagined Schools: If you were to choose a school for your child, what would you look for in the school?
- High Expectations: How would you know that the school is supporting every student to be successful?
- Empowerment: What might raise concerns about a school? How can we support schools to continuously improve?
- Responsibility: How can we make sure that the entire school community can play a role in improving the school?
There was great consensus among the participants in my group on a number of points. Schools should be safe and welcoming, with caring adults. Students should be provided with a full range of offerings, including the arts, music, and phys ed (and recess!). There was discussion about the inappropriateness of the PARCC, particularly for students with special needs and ELL students. Teachers were concerned that they were not given the autonomy to teach their particular students at their developmental level. The facilitator asked for specific anecdotes, and several of us were able to provide them. In response to the fourth question, which implies a desire to engage parents in decisions about their children’s education, I brought up that parents who have decided to Refuse the PARCC for their children were intimidated into complying, rather than respected for their views. The other participants seemed to agree. People in the group felt free to express their experiences and opinions. How they were translated into notes and what will become of them once they make their way to RIDE is an open question.
Closing and Next Steps
When we got back to the large group, we were treated to some closing words by Mary Ann Snider. There was no sharing of what the small groups had discussed. We arrived to find a piece of paper on our chairs, with what would typically be called a feedback survey. However, this paper was termed an “exit ticket.” I found this disturbing. When coupled with the term for the labels we wore in the small groups as “badges,” it was clear that RIDE is already using the buzzwords of the EdTech fashioners of our dystopian 21st Century “innovative” learning. (See Alison Hawver McDowell’s blog Wrench in the Gears and Emily Kennedy Talmage’s blog Save Maine Schools for much more on this.)
So these questions and our responses are meant to inform RIDE’s plan to accommodate ESSA requirements to our Strategic Plan. When seeing what has been going on behind the scenes with the intensified push for digital “personalized” learning, one has to wonder what is the point of these forums. Even so, I encourage everyone who can, to attend one of the four remaining forums.
- Northern Rhode Island: Wednesday, November 9 at Lincoln Middle School
- West Bay: Monday, November 14 at Coventry High School
- East Bay: Thursday, November 17 at Portsmouth High School
- Southern Rhode Island: Monday, November 21 at South Kingstown High School
For info on what RIDE is doing vis-a-vis ESSA, go to