Category Archives: College Readiness

The Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA]

Are you aware that No Child Left Behind [NCLB] has been replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA] and how it may affect your student while in school?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, and represents good news for our nation’s schools. This measure reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students.

The new law builds on key areas of progress in recent years, made possible by the efforts of educators, communities, parents, and students across the country.

For example, today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows. And more students are going to college than ever before. These achievements provide a firm foundation for further work to expand educational opportunity and improve student outcomes under ESSA.

The previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, was enacted in 2002. NCLB represented a significant step forward for our nation’s children in many respects, particularly as it indicated where students were making progress and where they needed additional support, regardless of race, income, zip code, disability, home language, or background. The law was scheduled for revision in 2007, and, over time, NCLB’s prescriptive requirements became increasingly unworkable for schools and educators. Recognizing this fact, in 2010, the Obama administration joined a call from educators and families to create a law that focused on the clear goal of fully preparing all students for success in college and careers.

The passage of ESSA presents unique challenges and opportunities for states with respect to how states select and use high school assessments. States are now facing important decisions about which high school assessments to administer, what content these assessments will measure, and how these assessments will factor into their new accountability systems.

For more information:

Congress has attempted to revise the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act – a reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – for many years and has not been successful. On Dec. 10, 2015, The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed by the House (359-64) and Senate (85-12), and received President Barack Obama’s signature.

Educators are unclear how the new laws will affect education and concern is that the new law will help in some ways and other ways there is a clear negative reaction to the law. One of the largest concerns is that education in each state has not recovered from the recession that affected funding. The provisions of the bill do not vary significantly from the “accountability through testing” mandates that have marked federal education policy during the start of NCLB. The main difference is that the ESSA hands the educational accountability ball from the federal government to the states.

ESSA is better, because it takes aim at test and punish strategies, and creates some valuable programs. But ESSA, like NCLB, emphasizes K-12 accountability over root causes of educational inequality, and the new law does not favor federal oversight as a positive position for vulnerable children.

Organizations with widely divergent views on education agree that the ESSA should replace NCLB. Civil rights leaders who had opposed earlier versions of an NCLB revision as well as the National Education Association, the National Parent Teacher Association, charter advocates and the testing reform group Fairtest all see the ESSA as better policy than what now exists. ESSA provides more flexibility on testing. It also ends “Adequate Yearly Progress” – a measure that required schools to show test score gains. Schools that failed to meet goals were penalized. Other provisions in ESSA are also genuine steps forward, such as preschool development grants for low-income children and an arts education fund. In addition, the new law drops the term “core academic subjects” and uses instead a “well-rounded education,” meaning that subjects like social studies and arts are less likely to be what one study called “collateral damage of the No Child Left Behind Act.” The ESSA also stops the practice of putting multiple student subgroups (students with disabilities and low-income students, for example) into “supersubgroups” – a practice that can mask inequities. But these changes are more about what’s bad in our current policies than what’s good in the new bill.

In 2013, for the first time, low-income children became the majority in U.S. public schools, prompting the Southern Education Foundation to warn that unless we provide more for these students, “the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline.” Poor children and their families and communities show tremendous resilience and learn in spite of tremendous obstacles, but many times, family income closely correlates to academic achievement.

Schools must monitor academic performance of vulnerable groups, which include students living in poverty. So states will still have to test 95 percent of children, and intervene in the lowest performing schools. That means the ESSA will likely do little to disrupt the NCLB pattern of “punishing” vulnerable children and the “low performance” of the schools they attend. This will not fix achievement gaps. Testing mandates in the ESSA continue the retreat from the anti-poverty focus of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In signing that act, President Lyndon Johnson identified poverty as the “greatest barrier” to educational opportunity, and under Title I provided $1 billion for schools with large numbers of poor children. Though Title I is central to the ESSA, LBJ’s understanding that educational achievement depends on civil and economic rights is largely absent. Thus the new law seems unlikely to hit pause on the practice of disproportionally penalizing vulnerable students and their schools.

Often, charters, which receive increased support under the “Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools” section of ESSA, replace closed schools. Yet charters have a decidedly mixed record, particularly with English language learners and children with disabilities. The ESSA’s support for charter schools reflects a philosophy that favors autonomy, whether through privately run public schools, or through less federal regulation. Yet historically, expanded federal control of education, from nineteenth century land grant colleges, to the GI bill, to the original ESEA, has meant that public education could not avoid its responsibility to educate all children. The obligation to educate all children is weakened when we send the federal government to the sidelines. Given their history of opposing certain kinds of reforms, is it wise to trust states to develop their own separate and potentially unequal guidelines and practices?

Almost every page of ESSA concerns K-12 schools. But investments in early childhood education are both critical to educational success and cost-effective in the long run. Access to quality preschool is particularly critical for poor children. The new legislation proposes to allocate $250 million for preschool grants, but because of the importance of the ages from birth to three years to learning, many educators consider that far too little.

All this means the newest version of the ESEA is unlikely to lead us to a future where all children will be able to access high-quality educational opportunities. As long as attention remains on testable accountability in K-12 schools rather than on poverty, inequality and early education, “every student succeeds,” like “no child left behind,” will continue to be an unfulfilled promise.

Information from

New Rules For The College Financial Aid FAFSA Form


Beginning in the fall of 2016, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available October 1. This change has major implications for families planning to apply for financial aid.


What the Changes Mean

  1. Students will have a better opportunity to gather the financial information required.

The new guidelines allow students use “prior-prior” tax information. For example, students who will be applying for 2017-2018 financial aid, they will submit information from the 2015 tax return. In the past, students needed to estimate parent’s income. Families who filed for a tax extension should have their tax return in hand by October 15.


The Department of Education estimates the FAFSA’s previous January 1 availability contributed to 2 million Pell-eligible students not completing due to the complicated timing with tax filing.


  1. Students may be able to get FAFSA tax information swiftly with the handy IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

If families qualified to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, students can import the numbers directly into their FAFSA form.

This not only simplifies the process, it means the FAFSA is much less likely to be selected for verification. In the past, about one-third of applications were subjected to verification, but expectations are that the number to dip significantly with the data retrieval tool.

Some families gave up on their FAFSA if it was subjected to the verification process, leaving state and institutional aid on the table either not awarded or provided to other students.

  1. If your financial situation has changed since 2015, students can ask a college for a financial review.

Some families are concerned about using prior-prior tax information because it may not reflect current financial situations. If a student’s circumstance or income has changed, submit the FAFSA and then contact colleges the student has applied and once the student has been accepted, report your 2016 updates and ask for a professional judgment review.


  1. Students may hear about financial aid awards earlier. 

The new timeline is partly intended to help colleges notify accepted students about financial aid awards sooner and buy families some decision-making time. Admissions and financial aid experts have long recognized that receiving award letters in April and deciding on a college by May 1 is a tight turnaround.

However, this year will be a transition year. Some colleges may provide award letters earlier, and others may operate on the same timeline as previous years. If students are confused about when they might receive a financial aid package from a particular institution, students are encouraged to reach out to the school.

  1. Students can now submit the FAFSA while they are still completing college applications.

Schools will be pushing FAFSA awareness during the back-to-school timeframe. The early availability of the form benefits students, particularly low-income and some first-generation kids, because it lengthens the filing period for most colleges and gives counselors more time to help students apply.


  1. Students should complete the FAFSA even if your child isn’t sure about going to college. 

If students have any plan of attending school beyond high school, they should complete the FAFSA. If students decide to take a gap year or time off to work, their aid eligibility won’t be affected if they fill out the FAFSA and don’t enroll anywhere.

Ambivalent students can list colleges of interest on their FAFSA. Then the form will be given to those colleges and the students can update the list later when they apply.

Keep in mind that colleges can’t create a financial aid package until a student applies and is accepted. The FAFSA submits your income data to the federal government for federal student aid and students will learn of their estimated family contribution. But to activate that aid, as well as institutional aid from the college itself, students must apply and be accepted.

Undecided students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA early but also to contact colleges’ financial aid offices if they have questions. Schools’ financial aid offices want to help. Everybody wants this change to work in the way it’s intended — which is to benefit families.

Colleges’ priority financial aid deadlines help them develop a picture of their applicants’ need and institutional aid they might need to award, and many will hold funds for late-filing students. Students receive more aid, on average, by filing in the first three months, because states, colleges, and scholarship programs use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for state and institutional aid, including some merit awards, and these deadlines typically fall earlier than federal deadlines.


7 Reasons to Avoid Senioritis

This happens to seniors every year:

  • accepted to college
  • submitted your deposit
  • your fate is sealed, it’s senior year, and the hectic college admission process has come to an end
  • many seniors are tempted to think that it is finally time to relax

Be careful. Senioritis, that attitude where there is no reason to worry about grades and activities, is real — and it is dangerous.

Here are some reasons to avoid senioritis:

  • Your Admission Offer May Be Rescinded

Somewhere in all those college admission letters, after the “congratulations’’ part, is a sentence to the effect that admission is conditional upon the student completing high school with the same academic and personal achievement on which the offer was based. And they mean it. Each year, colleges rescind offers to students whose grades plummeted after they were admitted. Generally, one stray C won’t have serious repercussions. But make it a couple of D’s on a transcript that had been crammed with A’ s and B’s and there may be trouble.

  • Your College Is Watching You

Colleges require final grades for accepted students. Many students believe that only the first half of senior year “counts.” Not true. Many carefully review the senior-year progress of admitted students and require midterm and final grades to be sent to the office of admission.

  • If You Were on Honor Roll When You Got In, You May Be Expected to Stay There

Colleges expect students to continue with their current course schedule and maintain the level of academic and personal success demonstrated in the application. Colleges look to the application, especially the transcript, to determine if students are an appropriate academic match for the college — and vice versa.

  • You May Have to Explain Why You Slacked Off

Far more common than revocation of admission is a warning letter, expressing disappointment and asking for an explanation.

For student admitted to Texas Christian University, a notice informally known as the “fear of God letter” will read something like this:


Dear Joe:

We recently received your final high school transcript. While your overall academic background continues to demonstrate the potential for success, we are concerned with your performance during the senior year, particularly in calculus. University studies are rigorous and we need to know that you are prepared to meet T.C.U.’s academic challenges. With this in mind, I ask that you submit to me, as soon as possible but no later than July 31, 2012, a written statement detailing the reasons surrounding your senior year performance.

Joe, please understand that your admission to T.C.U. is in jeopardy. If I do not hear from you by the above date, I will assume you are no longer interested in T.C.U. and will begin the process of rescinding your admission.

Please realize that your personal and academic successes are very important to us. I look forward to hearing from you.


Raymond A. Brown


  • You May Have to Start Your College Search Over Again

Bad grades are not the only possible pitfall. Some students lose their admission offers because of plagiarism, cheating, drunken misbehavior or arrest.

  • Senior Year Should Help You Transition to College

Colleges are typically tight-knit communities that require honesty and mature behavior. While we understand that unavoidable circumstances may arise that can influence a student’s academic performance, poor behavior resulting in disciplinary action by a high school is inexcusable.

  • Admission Officers Would Rather Not Target You

One of the hardest things for an admissions officer has to do is send a letter asking for an explanation why results suffered at the end of the school year.

If a student’s motivation to do well in high school was to “get in,” and subsequently the student is not truly engaged in learning for the entire year, college is going to be a miserable experience. Students should consider carefully why they actually want to go to college. If a student is seeking freedom and adventure, there are many other, better, routes to that goal. If a student is seeking future “financial security,” consider carefully whether the cost and school loans are really likely to be worth it. Electricians make more than many middle managers. Remember that a huger percentage of students who start college don’t finish. “Senioritis” is one sign that you may be among that group.


2 in 5 High Schools Don’t Offer Physics, Analysis Finds

I find this hard to believe that less than 17% of the public schools in Texas offer Physics as it continues to be part of the graduation plans in Texas through 2017. Physics continues to be a requirement for students graduating in 2017 on the Texas Recommended and Distinguished Graduation Plans. Students who decide to graduate on the Foundation Plan plus endorsements are not required to take Physics unless they are on the STEM endorsement plan.

Contact me at if you have any questions.

Like and share this page.

An <i>Education Week</i> analysis of federal data reveals that high school students don’t have universal access to physics classes—despite a national…