Everything You Need to Know About ESSA: Part 2 of 3 | By: Committee for Children This is the second of three blog posts that focus on how the new federal education law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), will affect the work of Committee for Children. As outlined in the first blog post in our series, ESSA is a profound shift from current law and provides states and districts with much greater control and flexibility over the operations of their school systems. This post will focus on how ESSA provides three important opportunities to advance social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools across the country. SEL programs teach children self-control, to resolve conflicts, to work with others, and to make responsible decisions and avoid risky behaviors. 1. School Accountability Systems Under ESSA, states now have freedom to integrate SEL measures as part of their school accountability systems, similar to what a group of school districts in California are already doing. ESSA provides states with significant flexibility to design new accountability systems that align with their vision of school success. While current accountability systems focus primarily on standardized test scores, the new systems will include multiple measures and must include at least one “nonacademic” factor, such as SEL competencies, student engagement, and school climate. States are already starting to design these new systems, which must be in place at the beginning of the 2017–18 school year. 2. Grant Programs The second major opportunity to advance SEL programs is through the funding streams and grant programs in ESSA that will be available to schools nationwide. Key examples are below. Title I The largest K–12 funding stream is Title I, designed to provide assistance to schools with high numbers of low-income students. ESSA keeps this $15 billion block program intact. However, recognizing that accountability systems will no longer just look at math and reading scores, it’s expected that many schools will re-evaluate how Title I funds are used and begin supporting programs that reflect a more holistic approach to student success. Professional Development (Title II) In addition to Title II funds used at the local level for professional development, ESSA allows the state to reserve up to 3% of Title II funds for state-level activities. States and districts can use this funding to build a workforce of leaders with the skills to implement SEL programming. Student Support (Title IV) ESSA creates a new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant designed to improve school conditions for learning. SEL programs are a perfect use of funds for this new block grant. Title IV also funds a variety of other programs that could include teaching SEL skills, such as after-school programs, Promise Neighborhoods, and Full-Service Community Schools. Early Learning ESSA includes $250 million to strengthen and expand early learning programs across the country. Teaching social-emotional skills could be a key component of any program supported through this grant. There’s great flexibility in how these grant funds are used. If you’re a school leader, please consider using funding to promote programs that will give students the skills to succeed in school and beyond. 3. School Improvement and Turnaround ESSA provides funding and flexibility for school improvement strategies targeted at underperforming schools. Beginning in the 2017–18 school year, states must identify at least 5% of schools for “comprehensive support and improvement.” School districts in this category must develop improvement plans that include evidence-based interventions that will lead to growth and school improvement. States and districts have significant flexibility in identifying appropriate supports and interventions that will serve students in a struggling school effectively. Committee for Children encourages districts and states to build a robust system of supports and interventions that incorporate evidence-based SEL strategies. Currently, the most pressing of these three issues is the development of state accountability systems. Now is a perfect time to contact your state board of education and state department of education to learn about the process your state will be using to solicit input on the new accountability system. It’s essential for education leaders in your state to understand SEL skills can be measured and have a direct impact on school success. Here are some suggested resources to help keep you updated on this issue: “Politics K–12” Blog at Education Week Ongoing updates on state and federal education policy Council of Chief State School Officers Membership organization for public officials who head state departments of education ASCD’s Educator Advocates Provides resources and updates related to education policy with a focus on SEL and serving the whole child Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction A website specifically focused on ESSA that’s updated regularly The next blog post will provide a close-up look at how ESSA provisions are aligned with three key pillars of Committee for Children’s mission: social-emotional learning, bullying prevention, and child protection Continue reading: Everything You Need to Know About ESSA: Part 3 of 3 Guest blogger Jon Terry has contributed this series. Jon Terry is president of Capitol Youth Strategies LLC and is an advocacy consultant for Committee for Children. He is a former Congressional staffer and also served as head of federal government relations in the YMCA of the USA’s office in Washington, DC. Guest blogger Jon Terry has contributed this series. Jon Terry is president of Capitol Youth Strategies LLC and is an advocacy consultant for Committee for Children. He is a former Congressional staffer and also served as head of federal government relations in the YMCA of the USA’s office in Washington, DC. Guest blogger Jon Terry has contributed this series. Jon Terry is president of Capitol Youth Strategies LLC and is an advocacy consultant for Committee for Children. He is a former Congressional staffer and also served as head of federal government relations in the YMCA of the USA’s office in Washington, DC.