• The Spark

Navigating the Every Student Succeeds Act: The "E" in ESSA

Author:  Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer, HMH  | 05/19/2017

Evidence and Efficacy Research Life Cycle

Of course I understand that the E in ESSA stands for Every as in the Every Student Succeeds Act. However it evokes other Es to me—Equity, Evidence, Efficacy, Engagement, and Empowerment. The first three are HMH's guiding principles as we support your efforts, and the last two have special resonance for me.

I believe that the establishment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965 was one of the most important events in American education. It has undergone many changes in its 50-year history but is unyielding in the focus on Equity. This is in service of providing opportunity for children facing challenges, those who face circumstances that may make learning a struggle.

In the current education environment, I hear educators looking through the equity lens and articulating the goal of providing each student with "What you need when you need it." And now with advances in learning science and advances in digital resources, that ambitious goal seems attainable.

While Evidence has been referenced in legislation before, for the first time ESSA provides a clear definition. As the Chief Research Officer here at HMH, I appreciate the attention given to evidence—I've heard that the number of references in the legislation is anywhere from the 70s to the 90s but I haven't done a count myself. I do know that the four levels reviewed here are useful for planning research projects.

  • Strong evidence: A well-implemented experimental (i.e., randomized) study
  • Moderate evidence: A well-implemented quasi-experimental (i.e., matched) study
  • Promising evidence: A well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias
  • Demonstrates a rationale: A program or practice that does not yet have evidence qualifying for the top three levels, and can be considered evidence-building and under evaluation

We have a rigorous and robust research program at HMH and will support your work by disclosing the level of evidence met by each of the studies conducted on our products and services. Closely related to Evidence is Efficacy. We are in thousands of classrooms every day and we can share the experience of successful practices that ensure our programs and services get results.

The emphasis on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and school climate in the legislation bodes well for student Engagement. ESSA encourages the use of multiple measures, not just scores on a single summative test. And many local agencies are seeking ways to measure SEL.

While it's not easy, the Long Beach Unified School District in California is looking at and measuring SEL in four areas:

  1. Self-Efficacy
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Growth Mindset

This looks like a good starting place to me.

Other factors that are being considered as part of a school "health check" are graduation rates and suspensions. Both of these goals are best served when they are part of a broad strategy on student engagement.

And finally, Empowerment. Through the history of ESEA and now ESSA, there have been varying degrees of federal control. Certainly, this is an era when states and districts are more empowered than before.

All of us at HMH want to support your initiatives. Watch this space for weekly, informative posts. I think this is one of the most important times in education—of great challenges and unprecedented opportunities. I hope that we can help you ensure that every child in this country realizes the promise of ESSA.

So that we can best respond to your district’s needs, please use the comment section in this blog to let us know what types of information and guidance you would like to see on the HMH ESSA website.

Thank you in advance!

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