REPORT: State Legislatures Opting in to Opting Out

REPORT: State Legislatures Opting in to Opting Out

By: Michelle Croft and Richard Lee
ACT Research and Policy

Despite (or because of) the federal requirement that all students in certain grades participate in statewide achievement testing, stories of parents opting their student out of the testing gained national attention in the media in the spring of 2015. Ultimately, twelve states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin—received a notice from the U.S. Department of Education that they needed to create a plan to reduce opt-outs due to low participation rates.

When statewide testing came in spring 2016, there were more stories of opt-outs, and information about districts failing to meet participation requirements will follow in the coming months.3 Early reports from New York indicate that 21% of students in grades 3–8 opted out in 2016, which was slightly more than the prior year. (See attached PDF below for reference information.)

Participation Rate Requirements

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (both the No Child Left Behind and the Every Student Succeeds authorizations) requires that all students annually participate in statewide achievement testing in mathematics and English in grades 3–8 and high school as well as science in certain grade spans. Ninety-five percent of students at the state, district, and school level must participate; otherwise there is a range of consequences.

Under the No Child Left Behind authorization, the school would automatically fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress if the school—or subgroups of students within the school—did not meet the participation rate requirement. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides states with greater flexibility to determine how to incorporate the participation rate into the state’s accountability system. However, in proposed regulations, the state will need to take certain actions such as lowering the school’s rating in the state’s accountability system or identifying the school for targeted support or improvement, if all students or one or more student subgroups do not meet the 95% participation rate.

Michelle Croft is a principal research associate in Public Affairs at ACT. Richard Lee is a senior analyst in Public Affairs at ACT.

Email for more information. © 2016 by ACT, Inc. All rights reserved. MS489

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REPORT: State Pre-K Funding for 2015-16 Fiscal Year: National Trends in State Preschool Funding. 50-State Review

REPORT: State Pre-K Funding for 2015-16 Fiscal Year: National Trends in State Preschool Funding. 50-State Review

Emily Parker, Bruce Atchison and Emily Workman
Education Commission of the States

This report highlights significant investments made by both Republican and Democratic policymakers in state-funded pre-k programs for the fourth year in a row. In the 2015-16 budget year, 32 states and the District of Columbia raised funding levels of pre-k programs. This increased support for preschool funding came from both sides of the aisle–22 states with Republican governors and 10 states with Democratic governors, plus the District of Columbia.

In contrast, only five states with Republican governors and three states with Democratic governors decreased their pre-k funding.

Overall, state funding of pre-k programs across the 50 states and the District of Columbia increased by nearly $755 million, or 12 percent over 2014-15. While this progress is promising, there is still work to be done to set children on the path to academic success early in life. Still, less than half of preschool-aged students have access to pre-k programs.

Increasing the number of students in high-quality preschool programs is broadly viewed as a way to set young learners on a path to a secure economic future and stable workforce. This report includes several state examples and an overview of the pre-k programs they have in place. Data tables on total state pre-K funding and state pre-kindergarten funding by program are appended. [Megan Carolan contributed to this publication.]

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Education Commission of the States. ECS Distribution Center, 700 Broadway Suite 1200, Denver, CO 80203-3460. Tel: 303-299-3692; Fax: 303-296-8332; e-mail:; Web site:

Education Week Evaluates North Dakota’s ESSA Plan

Education Week Evaluates North Dakota’s ESSA Plan

Education Week logoBy Daarel Burnette II

Mandan, N.D. — Kay Cavanaugh, who helps run the only schoolhouse in Trenton, a speck of a town on North Dakota’s sprawling western plains, used to appreciate the accountability movement ushered in by the No Child Behind Act. Just half of the one-school district’s 200 students meet the state’s academic reading and math benchmarks and, she said, “I’m convinced we could do better.”

But, over the years, the federal law got old. It stifled innovation and relied too heavily on one annual exam, in Cavanaugh’s view. And the state never received a federal waiver of the law’s mandates.

So Cavanaugh was cautiously optimistic …

NATIONAL: Seventeen State ESSA Plans Now Complete and Ready for Review

NATIONAL: Seventeen State ESSA Plans Now Complete and Ready for Review

Seventeen state plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act have passed the U.S. Department of Education’s initial completeness check and are ready for peer review, the next step in the approval process, the department announced Friday.

“Today’s announcement is a big win for ESSA implementation. I am committed to returning decisionmaking power back to states and setting the department up to serve the support and monitoring roles intended by Congress,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a statement. “The department worked with states to ensure their plans included all statutorily required components laid out in the…

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[ESSA] State Plan Versions That Have Been Released So Far

[ESSA] State Plan Versions That Have Been Released So Far

A number of states have released drafts of their ESSA plans. Here’s a compiled list of the most recent versions states have released so far.

Arizona: First Draft (9/7/16)  Second Draft (11/9/16) Final Plan (1/15/17)

Colorado: First Draft (2/10/17)

Connecticut: Released plan (4/3/17)

Delaware: First Draft (11/1/16)

District of Columbia: Released Plan (4/3/17)

Hawaii: First Draft (12/28/16) Released Plan (4/3/17)

Idaho: First Draft (11/2/16)

Iowa: First Draft (01/6/17)

Illinois: First Draft (9/7/16) Second Draft (11/18/16) Released Plan (4/3/17)

Kentucky: Partial Plan Released (11/1/16)

Louisiana: First Draft (9/28/16)

Massachusetts: Released Plan (4/3/17)

Maryland: First Draft (12/5/16)

Michigan: First Draft (2/14/17)

Montana: First Draft (11/19/16) Second Draft (12/15/16)

Nevada: Released Plan (4/3/17)

New Jersey: First Draft (2/15/17)

North Carolina: First Draft (9/30/16)

North Dakota: First Draft (1/13/17)

Ohio: Second Draft (2/2/17)

Oklahoma: First Draft (11/21/16)

Tennessee: First Draft (12/19/16) Released Plan (4/3/17)

Vermont: Released Plan (4/3/17)

Washington: First Draft (9/30/16)  Second Draft (11/16/16)

Source: Understanding ESSA

ESSA Plans: Seventeen States Plus D.C. Shooting for Early-Bird Deadline

ESSA Plans: Seventeen States Plus D.C. Shooting for Early-Bird Deadline

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have told the U.S. Department of Education that they are aiming to file their plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act by early April, in time for the first deadline set by the Obama administration.

Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia.

States have spent the past year reaching out to educators and advocates to decide how to handle everything from teacher effectiveness to school ratings to that brand new indicator of student success and school quality…

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STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESSES: Education Transformation and High School Graduation Rates on the Forefront

STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESSES: Education Transformation and High School Graduation Rates on the Forefront

President-elect Donald Trump is not the only executive stepping in front of a podium this month. The beginning of a new year also means that the nation’s governors will be celebrating recent successes and outlining new programs and ideas in their annual state of the state addresses. Governors speaking early in 2017 have focused on education accomplishments, including raising high school graduation rates, and presented areas for improvement and transformation.

Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown Shares Top Priority: Raising High School Graduation Rates

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) was clear as bell during her January 9 inaugural speech: her top priority is improving Oregon’s high school graduation rates. Although Brown acknowledged the investments and improvements made in education during her two years in office, she was more focused on unsettling statistics that make Oregon schools “among the nation’s leaders in all the wrong categories,” including highest dropout rate.

To raise the state’s high school graduation rate, which is currently about 74 percent and is the third worst rate in the nation, Brown’s agenda includes a graduation equity fund in the amount of $20 million, reports the Portland Tribune. The fund would replicate best practices from around the state to address chronic absenteeism, aid students who are experiencing trauma, expand mentoring and professional development for teachers, and invest in underserved communities.

“Let’s make sure that every student in Oregon—especially historically underserved students–has the chance to achieve their own dreams,” said Brown.

Georgia: Gov. Nathan Deal Talks Highs and Lows of Georgia’s Education Landscape

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) framed many parts of his January 11 state of the state address with the theme of “accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative,” including in the area of education. He shared the state’s high school graduation rate, which has increased from 67.4 percent in 2011 to the current rate of 79.2 percent, as a great positive improvement.

Deal thanked the educators for this progress saying, “Those who are on the frontlines of this field, who mold young minds every day in the classroom and who answer such a challenging calling are the ‘everyday heroes’ that a successful society requires.”

As for the negative, Deal discussed the state’s 153 chronically underperforming schools, which have increased from 127 two years ago. These schools serve almost 89,000 students, primarily elementary age children. Deal stressed the importance of “reversing this alarming trend early on” and how eliminating this negative would improve reading and math comprehension skills and scores, graduation rates, and the quality of the Georgia’s workforce.

“It should be abundantly clear to everyone, including those in the education community who so staunchly support the status quo, that this is unacceptable,” said Deal. “If this pattern of escalation in the number of failing schools does not change, its devastating effects on our state will grow with each passing school year.”

North Dakota: Gov. Doug Burgum Calls for Modernizing Education for a 21st Century World

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) challenged the basic education model that “dates back to before statehood” during his January 3 state of the state address.

“Most North Dakota students still study isolated subjects, sit in rows of desks for 50-minute periods and wait for the next bell to ring. Yet nearly all of the world’s information is now available online, anywhere, anytime, for free.” said Burgum. “We can’t prepare our kids for the 21st century using a 19th-century model.”

Beyond a shift in model, Burgum said that educators, parents, business people, policymakers, and students are saying that performance on traditional measures is not enough to prepare students for the future. “They need to be creative problem solvers, effective communicators, informed and responsible citizens who are strong collaborators,” he said. “The challenge for our schools is how to equip our students with these essential skills and learning mindsets.”

When it comes to school transformation, Burgum called for superintendents, principals, teachers, and students to be at the forefront, but he also acknowledged the role of parents, businesses, community organizations, and legislators.

“We must also reframe education to be a lifelong endeavor, not something that merely ends with a diploma,” he said.

Other Education Highlights

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) dedicated much of his January 11 Inaugural address to argue the case for fully funding education, calling on the imaginations of viewers as he painted a picture of what a fully funded education would look like in the state.

“Imagine schools that can recruit and keep great teachers, with competitive salaries. … Imagine closing the opportunity gap in our state by making sure at-risk kids have extra teaching and mentoring time. … Imagine more students graduating because we have psychologists, nurses and counselors who can help them cross the finish line. … Imagine students learning skills that employers tell us they need right now.”

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is paving the way toward connectivity in the classroom through the EducationSuperHighway, so that “every student, in every classroom, will have affordable, effective, high-speed internet.” His full state of the state address.

…Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) wants all K-12 students to have access to high-quality computer science and introduced legislation that encourages every high school in Iowa to offer at least one computer science course. Learn more from his January 10 state of the state address.

…Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) emphasized the importance of skills-based training opportunities both in and out of the classrooms, including high school apprenticeships, so thousands of Coloradans can acquire career-focused skills that are transferrable to different industries. More in his January 12 state of the state address.

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