By Linda Dillman
Replacing the No Child Left Behind Act with a more state-friendly Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) found the Reynoldsburg School Board questioning the number of tests faced by students.
“ESSA is the successor to No Child Left Behind,” said Reynoldsburg Board of Education President Joe Begeny during he board’s Feb. 14 meeting. “A lot of it is good. A lot of it is in response to the will of the people. One thing I’m saddened by is there were two very big issues that came up that were not addressed; the number of tests students have to take throughout their entire educational career and the stakes in line with those tests.”
Begeny felt nothing has changed regarding the volume of tests, but believes there are tests that need to be administered to ensure students reach certain standards
No Child Left Behind is a top-down federal approach to education that became law in 2002. The new ESSA, which became law in 2015, turns accountability back to the states—affording greater flexibility and decision making at the state level—and compels states to create teacher evaluation systems, decide how to fix failing schools and close achievement gaps.
Following a series of information gathering meetings across the state, ESSA goes into effect in July.
“This is what dictates what’s going to happen in Ohio,” Begeny. “It’s very much a state-based education plan as opposed to No Child Left Behind, which had a lot of federal mandates.”
Board member Debbie Dunlap said that, in addition to testing, she was disappointed the state did not address concerns with charter schools.
Board member Neal Whitman volunteered to draft a letter to the Ohio Department of Education expressing the board’s concerns with items in the ESSA.
ESSA requires English, language arts, and math standards be aligned to credit-bearing, remediation-free coursework in the state university system; at least three performance levels; and prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from mandating or incentivizing states to adopt or maintain a specific set of standards. Federal input in local school administration, including budget development, is limited and local school boards are required to provide testing and accountability input in federal rule making.
Begeny reported good news for Reynoldsburg eighth grade students hoping to get their first choice of an academy within the district.
“Based upon the recommendations from all involved, including the administrative team and the outcomes committee, we have decided to accept the recommendation that everyone who submitted the card on time will get their first choice for the 2017-18 school year,” said Begeny.
One item of concern for Begeny was the low enrollment numbers for the Bell Academy. He asked administrators to devise a sustainable, long-term solution for the 2018-19 school year to ensure students are enrolled in their academy of choice.
Whether it is the location of academies or other situations that may arise, Begeny said the district cannot hope and cross its fingers that enough kids can fit in as a freshman class or be forced into a lottery and move to a different system.
“Never again should a student in Reynoldsburg have to worry about where they’re going to school next year,” said Begeny. “High school is stressful enough.”
State budget impact
Gov. John Kasich’s proposed biennial state budget found Whitman questioning the potential addition of three non-voting members from the business community to local school boards.
“Do we have to pay these people?” asked Whitman. “If so, is it an unfunded mandate?”
Board member Robert Truex said more information is needed before the full impact of the proposed board expansion can be understood.
“Reynoldsburg is unique in that we have a number of business partners,” said Begeny. “If that (addition of more members) happens, we’re ahead of the game.”
Begeny added, if the current numbers in the proposed state budget are approved as presented, the school district is tentatively in line to receive a 5 percent increase in funding.
Assistant superintendent duties
The board unanimously approved a motion to clarify duties of the assistant superintendent in the absence of the superintendent due to illness, personal leave or vacation.
Begeny asked that all duties, except those required by law to be performed only by the superintendent, be performed by the assistant superintendent in the superintendent’s absence.
“Instead of maintaining a waiting period until the superintendent returns, we make sure businesses gets handled as efficiently as possible,” said Begeny, who said the policy clarification is based on a recommendation by the district’s legal representative.
Begeny said the wording is further clarification that the district and its representatives are following all legal requirements and “everything is done by the book.”
Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning was absent during the Feb. 14 meeting.