students raised hands in the classroomESSA Transition: Full Speed Ahead

Congress has reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA) and implementation is already in full swing. The Department of Education (ED) has begun transitioning from the No Child Left Behind Act, and is trying to figure out the next steps in the regulatory process. ED is seeking input from the education community, including state schools chiefs, teachers unions, the civil rights community, and principals to ensure a smooth transition.

Those advocating for reform are seeking ESSA implementation as soon as possible, trying to release definitions and clarifications of federal rules while complying with new limitations. The New York Board of Regents has already voted to delay the use of student test scores in their teacher evaluation system for four years. Who says things move slowly in education?

For more information on this issue, see the Advocacy Agenda column.

Poorer Children Start Off at a Distinct Disadvantage, New Book Concludes

Perhaps it’s not surprising, but it is clearly important: Kindergarten students from poor families often start school a year behind in learning compared to their wealthier peers, concludes the new book Too Many Children Left Behind by Columbia University Professor Jane Waldfogel and three colleagues. The book details how the United States is failing its children.

The reason? Parents in wealthier families are able to provide more influential experiences for their children—including preschool—to help their kids learn the basics before starting kindergarten. The resulting educational inequality reinforces the already existing income inequality behind it. 

DOJ, Chicago Ed Board Reach Accord on Pregnancy Suit

The Department of Justice has settled a lawsuit it filed against the Chicago Board of Education alleging pregnancy discrimination against teachers.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago more than a year ago, alleged that the board had engaged in a pattern of discrimination against pregnant teachers at a school, which resulted in the women receiving lower performance evaluations and threats of termination. 

Under the terms of the settlement, the board must pay $280,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to eight women, change its personnel policies to guard against discrimination based on gender and pregnancy, and establish training requirements that reinforce a commitment to a workplace without gender-based discrimination.

Oregon District Takes Bilingualism to the Max

More school districts are establishing dual-language programs, including the Woodburn School District in Oregon, where students take courses in Spanish and Russian, the native languages of many of their students, as well as English.

The end game: All students are bilingual by the time they graduate. The district has a high graduation rate for its Latino students compared to the national average, and proponents of dual-language programs say that is not a coincidence. 

Supporters of dual-language programs argue that forcing everyone to learn new languages can be an equalizer because students fluent in English and students learning English are put in similar positions of having to struggle to learn new languages, and that can help them identify with each other.