Our Approach

Action Alert: NC ESSA Misses Opportunity to Prioritize Young Children’s Success

Posted June 30, 2017 in News

Previously hailed as a forerunner on early learning and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the recently released revised draft of North Carolina’s ESSA plan no longer prioritizes early learning or recognizes birth-to-eight alignment as a guiding ESSA strategy.

Released on June 26 by the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the most recent draft of the state’s ESSA plan does not include birth-to-eight alignment as a strategy for achieving the state’s goals (see Theory of Action). Previous drafts devoted a section of the plan to birth-to-eight and stated that ESSA provides a vehicle for advancing the General Assembly’s mandate to “develop and implement a statewide vision for early childhood education.” (See Action Needed below.)

The new draft also misses the opportunity to prioritize young children’s success in the state’s accountability system. New school report card measures will not include any school quality measures for children in prekindergarten through third grade. Many states are incorporating chronic absenteeism into their accountability system because it serves as an early learning indicator; brings focus and resources to the early grades; and is actionable at the state, district and school levels. Furthermore, school districts are already required to collect this data. Learn more here.

Early drafts of North Carolina’s ESSA plan included recommendations from a diverse group of stakeholders developed in partnership with DPI’s Office of Early Learning. Most of those recommendations have been removed or scaled back. The plan does reference a birth-to-eight professional development system, but does so in the context of highlighting existing work, rather than supporting Local Education Agencies to use funds to ensure that teachers and administrators have the skills and knowledge to support young children’s learning.

The General Assembly, the State Board of Education, State Superintendent, and the Governor are required to review the plan before DPI submits it to the U.S. Department of Education for approval. As written, the proposed ESSA plan does not reflect the General Assembly’s mandate to develop a comprehensive approach to early childhood education from birth through third grade; the state’s recognition of the critical importance of third-grade reading proficiency through Read to Achieve; the State Superintendent’s recognition of the importance of early learning to third grade reading proficiency; and the Governor’s commitment to building a world class education system beginning at birth.

Action Needed

  1. Call and email the following policymakers before July 27. Talking points are at the end of this email.
  1. Submit comments via email to Lou Fabrizio at Lou.fabrizio@dpi.nc.gov or Donna Brown at Donna.brown@dpi.nc.gov by July 27, 2017. The most recent draft can be found here. Birth-to-eight recommendations are outlined here.
  2. Tweet
    NC #ESSA plan needs 0-8 strategies to support student success. @MarkRJohnsonNC @NC_Governor @ncpublicschools #ncga
    NC #ESSA accountability should prioritize K-3 success. Chronic absence is early warning. @MarkRJohnsonNC @NC_Governor @ncpublicschools #ncga
    NC’s #ESSA plan needs to reflect that improving 3rd grade reading begins w/ supporting optimal development birth thru 8 @MarkRJohnsonNC
    NC’s #ESSA plan needs to reflect that improving 3rd grade reading begins w/ supporting optimal development birth thru 8 @NC_Governor
    NC’s #ESSA plan needs to reflect that improving 3rd grade reading begins w/ supporting optimal development birth thru 8 @ncpublicschools
    NC’s #ESSA plan needs to reflect that improving 3rd grade reading begins w/ supporting optimal development birth thru 8 #ncga
  1. Post to Facebook.
  • NC’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act misses the opportunity to support young children’s success, puts NC behind other states, and does not reflect the state’s vision to develop a comprehensive birth-through-third grade system to increase third grade reading proficiency. Learn more here and take action.
  • NC’s accountability plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act misses the opportunity to prioritize young children’s success. New school report card measures don’t include children in prekindergarten through third grade. Chronic absenteeism serves as an early learning indicator; brings focus and resources to the early grades; and is actionable at the state, district and school levels. And districts already collect the data! Learn more here and take action.

Talking Points

  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) strengthens federal support for early learning and provides new opportunities for birth-through-third grade alignment, accountability and funding.
  • North Carolina is poised to make the most of these opportunities as we have a proud history of leadership in early learning.
  • Yet, our ESSA plan misses the opportunity to advance the state’s goal of developing a comprehensive birth-through-third grade system and improving third grade reading proficiency.
  • The state’s first draft recognized a birth-to-eight vision as a core part of the plan and included four birth-to-eight strategies that were developed by early learning leaders in partnership with the Office of Early Learning at the Department of Public Instruction. In the current plan, birth-to-eight plays little role and is not included in the vision.
  • North Carolina’s ESSA plan should:
    • Advance the North Carolina General Assembly’s mandate to develop a comprehensive approach to early childhood education birth through third grade.
    • Reflect that improving third grade reading proficiency requirescoordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth.
    • Include prekindergarten through third grade students in its accountability plan by including data that districts already collect, serves as an early warning in the early years and is actionable at the state, district and school levels – chronic absenteeism.
    • Ensure that children learn in environments and through practices that are developmentally appropriate and support their success.
    • Support smooth transitions for all children as they begin school and through the early grades.
    • Develop a birth-to-eight professional development system that ensures teachers and administrators have the skills and knowledge to support young children’s learning.
  • These recommendations are outlined here: http://buildthefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/ESSA-Final-Recommendations.pdf.

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