The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has shifted focus from teacher evaluations to professional development—a move that impacts both teachers and administrators.
ESSA’s Emphasis on Professional Learning
ESSA, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act and was signed in 2015, is a U.S. federal law governing K-12 education policy. As Francie Alexander explained in her blog post and during our recent Education Week webinar called “How ESSA Affects YOU: Shifting Focus to Support Today’s Educators,” the law contains a new definition of the term professional development, characterizing it as:
- essential to a school and district’s strategies to improve student outcomes;
- a way to focus on challenging education standards in an equitable and inclusive model;
- a sustained effort in a continuous cycle with the familiar steps of learn, plan, do, assess, modify, repeat;
How the Shift Impacts Administrators
ESSA places a greater emphasis on school administrators and leaders in each of its title programs. This law answers the question: What makes an effective instructional leader who can maximize student achievement?
The research is clear. Among school-related factors, principal leadership is second only to teaching as most important to improving student achievement. In struggling schools in particular, highly effective principals have the greatest impact.
How does ESSA make school leadership prominent in the law? It offers new competitive grants and provisions that support preparing principals and school leaders, and it stresses job-embedded learning opportunities. ESSA clarifies the definition of a school leader as somebody who is inside the school building—including in classrooms—on a daily basis. And the law—specifically Title IV, Part A—addresses topics related to school conditions such as bullying.
Per ESSA, a highly effective principal:
- focuses on achieving equity, establishes high expectations for all students, and understands the demographics and cultural backgrounds of students;
- establishes a culture of collaboration focused on learning dilemmas, with every individual in the school taking responsibility for solving them;
- uses data to drive decision-making with a focus on instruction;
- cultivate leadership in others and model instructional leadership;
- attract and retain high-quality teachers.
- facilitate growth in teachers by creating a sense of community and engaging in reflective conversations with everybody in the school.
Maximizing ESSA as an Administrator
How can you make the most of ESSA as a principal?