Board of Education discusses the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)


Photo courtesy of MCPS_TV

Board of Education meets to discuss implementation of the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) in MCPS

On October 5, 2021, the Montgomery County Board of Education announced their plans to implement the Every Students Succeeds Act in schools for the 2021-2022 school year. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was originally passed in December 2015 under the Obama administration as a revised version of the No Child Left Behind Act. The act is currently the nation’s primary law in regards to public school education, and is intended to give all public school students equal opportunities to succeed in class, especially to those who are underprivileged. 

The ESSA outlines a general plan for achieving high academic standards within schools, but counties and districts can implement individualized plans as long as they meet ESSA requirements. 

According to an article on the ESSA published by Education Week, many provisions of the ESSA place emphasis on accountability. States assess school performance through required measures such as graduation rates, standardized test scores, and English-language proficiency, as well as an additional non-academic measure, such as college readiness or access to high quality schoolwork. 

Interim Superintendent of MCPS Dr. Monifa B. McKnight began the Board’s discussion by stating that learning data presented at the last board meeting showed a considerable decrease in literacy and mathematics in the county. 

“The ESSA plan mandates that we identify two or three focus areas in literacy and mathematics to address and evaluate throughout the year,” Dr. McKnight said. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020-2021 school year, these focus areas were based on local data, given that standardized testing was unavailable. 

The entire strategic plan revolves around the areas of focus and includes a new addition: an “Equity Lens” to provide fair opportunities and resources in all schools, with attention to specific groups, such as ESOL, FARMS, Hispanic, African American, and special education students. 

“Data has shown these student groups to have been the most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and our 18 months of virtual learning,” Student Member of the Board Hana O’Looney said. “So this is where MCPS’s focus will be throughout the implementation of the strategic plan.”

The Board plans to focus on developing the following academic areas: mathematical achievement in fifth to eighth grades, and English and language arts achievement in kindergarten to third, sixth, and ninth grade. To address these areas, the county will implement more rigorous curriculums for each subject and provide focused professional learning opportunities for teaching staff. Additionally, intervention programs will be introduced to offer additional educational support to students. 

“Through the implementation of curricula and additional support of evidence-based strategies, we should see at least a 15% increase in MAP-M scores for all focus groups,” Member of the Board of Education Rebecca Smondrowski said. The Board hopes to achieve similar performances in language arts. “Our ELA goals are to increase the percentage of students in grades K-3 and transition grades 6-9 who meet the MAP-R grade-level benchmark by at least 15 percentage points,” Dr. Smondrowski said.