NASBE Series Outlines State Boards' Opportunities to Address Challenges of At-Risk Student Populations
Alexandria, Va. — The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives state policymakers new responsibility and increased flexibility to improve and align policies that accommodate specific student populations, including migrant youth and English language learners. A new series of NASBE policy updates suggests strategies that state boards of education can use to address the challenges and inequities facing some of the most disenfranchised, at-risk student populations in the country.
ESSA provides opportunities to act on behalf of five at-risk student populations: students in the foster care system, homeless youth, migrant youth, English language learners, and students with disabilities.
- Foster Youth. ESSA emphasizes school stability for foster students and specifically instructs states to track these students’ academic progress and performance. State boards are in a prime position to review and promote policies that ensure key academic, social, and emotional supports for foster youth. They are particularly well suited to address a key challenge of foster students: completing high school.
- Homeless Youth. Representing 2.3 percent of school-aged children, homeless youths face serious challenges to obtaining a quality education. New ESSA provisions incent states to identify and connect with homeless students; provide greater school stability and access to transportation; facilitate high-quality learning opportunities; and create accountability systems that set the same high expectations for all students, regardless of their housing status.
- Migrant Youth. Originally, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) identified migratory children and established supplemental services. ESSA gives states greater responsibility to meet the needs of migrant students. State boards must now step up identification, enhance educator capacity, promote service coordination, and increase accountability while ensuring equity.
- English Language Learners. ESSA moves accountability for English language proficiency standards from Title III to Title I, charging states with establishing long-term goals for achievement and identifying persistently failing schools for improvement. To address the expectations gap between diversity and language proficiency, states should consider several key measures that improve instruction and implementation of ELL programs and standards, and increase family and community engagement.
- Students with Disabilities. ESSA emphasizes the success of all students, including those with disabilities, but provides states greater flexibility in determining how to achieve this success. States should abandon a “one-size fits all” approach for a system that encourages curriculum development for personalized learning, sets high expectations for students with disabilities and ensures full inclusion in assessment and accountability systems, builds educator capacity to better serve students with disabilities, and engages families about their children’s education plans.
“ESSA turns the page on the nation’s education system, from a federally directed approach to one focused on state authority and flexibility,” say the series’ authors. “It does not change the focus of the law on equity. For state education systems, these changes represent both an opportunity to drive significant reform and a responsibility to deliver on educational equity for all students.”
To read the policy updates, go to www.nasbe.org.