Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

By Stephen Sawchuk, Alyson Klein, and Andrew UjifusaEducation Week logo

EDUCATION WEEK — This week, Education Week is bringing its trademark analysis to the remaining state plans for fulfilling requirements of the Every Student Succeeds law. On Monday, we had a look at the states’ proposed “school quality” indicators, €”the required but nonacademic portion of each state’s plan to judge schools. Today, we’re going to take a look at states’ goals for raising student achievement and their timelines for doing so in the plans awaiting federal approval.

One thing we’ll keep stressing again and again this week: how far federal policy has moved since the days of the No Child Left Behind Act (ESSA’s predecessor). Read on.

So, what kinds of goals are states setting?

Some states chose fixed goals that aim for all students, and all subgroups of vulnerable students, such as those qualifying for subsidized school lunches or English-language learners, to reach the same target (such as 80 percent proficiency). What’s nice about this kind of goal is that it sets the same endpoint, making it easier to see over time how achievement gaps are expected to close. States in this category include: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, (grades 3-8 only), Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Rhode island, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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Source: Education Week Politics K-12

Betsy DeVos’ Team Asks Seven States for More ESSA Specifics

Betsy DeVos’ Team Asks Seven States for More ESSA Specifics

Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming are the latest states to receive feedback on their plans for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The U.S. Department of Education staffers seem to be burning the midnight oil on feedback letters lately. Four other states—Georgia, Maryland, Puerto Rico, and Utah—got responses last week. Every state has submitted a plan to implement ESSA. And 16 states and the District of Columbia have had their plans approved.

So what do the latest letters say? They are extensive and almost all of them ask for a lot more detail on testing, school turnarounds, accountability, goals, teacher distribution, and more.

Here’s a quick look at some highlights.  Click on the state name to read the full letter.

Alabama: The department wants to state to make its student achievement goals clearer, and better explain how student growth on state tests would be used to calculate a school’s academic score. And the feds aren’t clear on how Alabama will calculate English-language proficiency and incorporate it into school ratings—an ESSA must. The state also needs to make it clear that it will flag schools that don’t get federal Title I money for extra supports with subgroups of students…

Read the full story here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Want more analysis of ESSA plans? Edweek has you covered here.

Inside ESSA Plans: How Do States Want to Handle Testing Opt-Outs?

Inside ESSA Plans: How Do States Want to Handle Testing Opt-Outs?

Parents who opted their children out of state exams in recent years became the focal point of major education debates in the country about the proper roles of testing, the federal government, and achievement gaps. Now, under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have a chance to rethink how they handle testing opt-outs.

So how are states responding in their ESSA plans they submitted to the federal government? In short, it’s all over the place, an Education Week review of the ESSA plans shows.

Keep this in mind: ESSA requires that students who opt out of those mandatory state tests must be marked as not proficient on those tests. Those not-proficient scores will in turn, obviously, impact accountability indicators. So while some states highlight this as their approach to handling testing opt-outs, it’s really no more than what the law requires…

Read the full article here. May require an Education Week subscription.


Education Secretary DeVos Announces 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellows

Education Secretary DeVos Announces 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellows

SEPTEMBER 29, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the U.S. Department of Education’s 2017 cohort of School Ambassador Fellows. This year’s cohort includes four teachers, one principal and one counselor.

“This year, we are thrilled to announce we are expanding the scope of the Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellowship into the School Ambassador Fellowship. This expanded program will allow all school-based staff members—not just teachers and principals—the opportunity to participate in this important program and provide valuable contributions to the national education dialogue,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “The Fellowship program is designed to improve education for all students by involving practitioners in the development and implementation of national education policy. The Fellows also work directly with Department staff members to inform our understanding of how policies and programs are implemented and experienced by students, educators and families at the local level.”

The six new Fellows were at the Department this week for a three-day summit to become more familiar with federal education policy and Department staff, as well as to begin exchanging ideas for enhancing communication between teachers, stakeholders and education policy leaders.

This year’s full-time Washington, D.C., Fellow is:

  • Melody Arabo, a third-grade teacher in a hybrid role at Keith Elementary School and the 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year from West Bloomfield, Michigan.

This year’s part-time Fellows are:

  • Elmer Harris, a 5th Grade Teacher at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  • Matthew Scott Crisp, principal at Jackson Hole High School from Jackson, Wyoming.
  • Patrick O’Connor, an Assistant Dean of College Counseling at Cranbrook Schools, from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
  • Megan Power, an Elementary Teacher at Design39Campus from San Diego, California.
  • Jennifer Ramsey, a Science Teacher, KIPP DC Heights Academy from Washington, D.C.

The 2017 Fellows build on the work of the previous cohorts, who have now collectively reached and connected with more than 110,000 educators through more than 153 discussions and events with stakeholders from all 50 states, D.C., four territories and two foreign countries.

FULL COMMITTEE HEARING — The Every Student Succeeds Act: Unleashing State Innovation

FULL COMMITTEE HEARING — The Every Student Succeeds Act: Unleashing State Innovation

Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2017
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Time: 10:00 AM
Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Visit the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions for live video of this hearing.

Committee Membership



Betsy DeVos Wants to Rethink ‘Mundane Malaise’ of Traditional Schools

Betsy DeVos Wants to Rethink ‘Mundane Malaise’ of Traditional Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants teachers and school leaders to move past the blackboards-and-desks model of schooling, with an eye towards better serving individual kids.

In DeVos’ view, schools have looked pretty much the same over the past five decades or so.

“For far too many kids, this year’s first day back to school looks and feels a lot like last year’s first day back to school. And the year before that. And the generation before that. And the generation before that! That means your parent’s parent’s parents!” she told students at Woods Learning Center in Casper, Wyo., according to prepared remarks. “Most students are starting a new school year that is all too familiar. … They follow the same schedule, the same routine–just waiting to be saved by the bell.”

That’s not helping keep kids engaged, she added: “It’s a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons, and denies futures.”

The speech kicked off a six-state tour to highlight what it means to “rethink” education, during which DeVos gave shout-outs to former President Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. But she didn’t offer a ton of new specifics about how her department would help with that reinvention, beyond shining a spotlight on schools that she thinks are on the right track. And one of the more than thirty protestors outside urged her to “Rethink Vouchers” according to the Casper Star Tribune.

In her speech, without naming names, DeVos continued to do rhetorical battle with people who she says want to keep K-12 schools stuck in the past.

“Today, there is a whole industry of naysayers who loudly defend something they like to call the education ‘system.'” she said. “What’s an education ‘system’? There is no such thing! Are you a system? No, you’re individual students, parents and teachers.”

She said some schools have been able to move past the old model.

Woods Learning Center in Wyoming’s Natrona County, where DeVos kicked off her tour, is a “teacher-powered” school, with no principal. Its students don’t get traditional letter grades. And kids can enroll in Woods through the district’s open enrollment policy.

“Students, your parents know you best, and they are in the best position to select the best learning environment for you,” DeVos told the children.

She also likes that Woods emphasizes “personalized instruction” for each student.

“Your personalized learning program rethinks school because it is structured around you. Each of your learning plans is developed for each of you, recognizing that each of you is different, and that you learn at your own pace and in your own way,” DeVos said. “Your success here at Woods is determined by what each of you are learning and mastering. Not by how long you sit at your desks. That is awesome, by the way.”

‘Start Rethinking Schools’

DeVos didn’t delve into details though, about just how her department might help schools begin to rethink instruction, other than, of course, by highlighting what she sees as good examples through the back-to-school tour.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would cut two programs that schools might use to remake instruction. It seeks to zero out the main federal program for teacher training and get rid of a new block grant created under the Every Student Succeeds Act that districts can use for technology, which can enable personalized learning programs. But so far, the Trump-DeVos school choice proposals have fallen flat in Congress.

After her speech, DeVos took questions from kids. Unsurprisingly, none of them mentioned the proposed budget cuts, but one student asked how she planned to “rethink schools.”

DeVos said this will ultimately be up to educators, not Washington.

“I’m going to challenge teaching and leaders in school to start rethinking schools, because I don’t have all the answers,” she said. “And the people I work with in Washington don’t have all the answers. But I’ll bet lots of teachers in lots of schools around our country have the answers.”

This week, DeVos will be visiting private, public, and charter schools in Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Her next stop in Wyoming is St. Stephen’s Indian High School on the Wind River Reservation.

Secretary DeVos Announces ‘Rethink School’ Back to School Tour

Secretary DeVos Announces ‘Rethink School’ Back to School Tour

By Lucia Bragg

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos kicks off a “Rethink School” back-to-school tour today at select locations across the country.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will visit Casper on Tuesday as part of a six-state tour. The tour is designed to highlight standout examples of innovation in K-12 and higher education settings and leadership.

“It is our goal with this tour to highlight what’s working. We want to encourage local education leaders to continue to be creative, to empower parents with options and to expand student-centered education opportunities,” DeVos said Monday. She will kick off the trip in Wyoming, where she plans to start the day at Woods Learning Center in Casper and make a visit to St. Stephens Indian High School in St. Stephens that afternoon. The events will focus on ways local educators are meeting the needs of their students. From there, the tour will continue to Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana before wrapping up on Friday.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia offer K-12 students a variety of choice options. To learn more about state-led innovation on school choice, visit NCSL’s interactive guide to school choice. This page provides a comprehensive look at what options are available to students in each state, as well as an analysis of the unique and varied components of the school choice landscape. NCSL also offers a guide for state legislators, “Comprehensive School Choice Policy: A Guide for Legislators.”

States are also leading other education innovations and student-centered learning policies. The NCSL Student-Centered Learning Commission is a bipartisan group of state legislators studying policy options, obstacles and recommendations to help states support student-centered learning. Among the commission’s guiding principles are that learning is personalized, competency-based, takes place outside traditional classroom settings, and gives students ownership over their education.

Happy Back to School!

Lucia Bragg is a policy associate in NCSL’s Education program.

WY Dept. of Ed Submits State’s ESSA Plan to U.S. Dept. of Ed

WY Dept. of Ed Submits State’s ESSA Plan to U.S. Dept. of Ed

State Superintendent Jillian Balow signs Wyoming’s ESSA state plan at Laramie County Community College. CREDIT WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

[/media-credit] State Superintendent Jillian Balow signs Wyoming’s ESSA state plan at Laramie County Community College.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow signed off on Wyoming’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan, ESSA, Thursday, August 17. It will now be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.

The federal education policy fully replaces No Child Left Behind, giving states more authority to define educational goals for students.

The U.S. Department of Education still requires every state to submit a plan detailing how it would provide an adequate and equitable education.

Balow made remarks at a public signing of the plan. She said public input was essential to the formation of Wyoming’s ESSA plan.

“The law, the ESSA law, states over and over again that our state plan must be stakeholder driven,” said Balow. “And it must include meaningful and continuous consultation with a diverse set of stakeholders.”

Balow said Wyoming’s Department of Education, or WDE, held 14 public meetings, got over 500 responses to a survey and received over 100 public comments on the plan.

She said the WDE heard: “That we can and must do better for all of our students. What we heard is that one test cannot and should not define student success.”

Balow said this plan moves away from the more standardized approach which characterized No Child Left Behind, and is rooted in what’s best for Wyoming — like including more opportunities for career and technical training.

NAACP Releases Report Criticizing Charter Schools, Generates Controversy

NAACP Releases Report Criticizing Charter Schools, Generates Controversy

Yesterday, a twelve-member task force, convened by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), released a report on “Quality Education.” The task force was formed in December 2016 after the NAACP’s October 2016 call for a national moratorium on expanding charter schools until a set of conditions were met.

The charge of the task force was to bring forward “practical recommendations that respond to the urgency of this resolution and the inequities undermining public education.” In order to fulfill their charge, from December 2016 to April 2017, the task force held public hearings in seven cities—New Haven, Memphis, Orlando, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans, and New York.

The report acknowledged that, from testimonials at the public hearings, they found some positive aspects of charter schools. However, the report ultimately concluded that “even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in communities that serve all children.”

Criticism of Public Hearings

According to NAACP task report report, the “hearing format [for the public meetings] ensured testimony” from all of the following stakeholders: educators, administrators, school policy experts, charter school leaders, parents, advocates, students, and community leaders. However, some have questioned the authenticity and fairness of these meetings, claiming that they did not include groups and individuals who were charter supporters.

For example, in Tennessee, members of Memphis Lift, a parent-activist organization, voiced disapproval when they were only allowed 12 minutes at the end of a four-hour meeting. Additionally, in Orlando, Minnesota education activist Rashad Anthony Turner was ushered out of the meeting by police after he interrupted a speech by Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President, because opponents of the moratorium were kept waiting.

Task Force Provides Five Recommendations Based on Public Hearings

According to the report, the testimonials illuminated the “perceived” benefits and problems with charter schools. Using those testimonials, the task force created five recommendations, summarized below, that would improve the quality of charter schools.

Recommendation #1: Provide more equitable and adequate funding for schools serving students of color. The task force argued that education funding has been “inadequate and unequal for students of color for hundreds of years.” In order to remedy the problem, the task force recommended that states should implement weighted student formula systems and model them after the systems that Massachusetts and California have pursued. They also recommended that the federal government should “fully enforce” the funding equity provisions within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Recommendation #2: Invest productively in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity and achievement gaps. In order to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education, the task force recommends that federal, state, and local policies need to “sufficiently” invest in three things: creating incentives to attract and retain teachers, evolving instruction to be more challenging and inclusive, and providing more wraparound services for students such as health and mental services.

Recommendation #3: Develop and enforce robust charter school accountability measures. There were five parts within this recommendation. They are as follows:

  • Create and enforce a rigorous chartering authorizing and renewal process. The task force recommends that states should only allow districts to serve as authorizers. This is significant since, of the 44 states that allow charter schools, only four—Wyoming, Virginia, Iowa, and Kansas—have district-only charter authorization.
  • Create and enforce a common accountability system.
  • Monitor and require charter schools to admit and retain all students. This recommendation calls for open enrollment procedures, and asserts that charter schools should not be allowed to counsel out, push out, or expel students that they “perceive as academically or behaviorally struggling, or whose parents cannot maintain participation requirements or monetary fees.”
  • Create and monitor transparent disciplinary guidelines that meet students’ ongoing learning needs and prevent push out. The report recommends that charter schools should be required to follow the “same state regulations regarding discipline as public schools,” and use restorative justice practices.
  • Require charter schools to hire certified teachers. Many states allow charter schools to hire uncertified teachers at higher rates than traditional public schools, however Minnesota is not one of them.

Recommendation #4: Require fiscal transparency and equity. The task force recommends that all charter schools be held to the “same level of fiscal transparency and scrutiny as other public schools.”

Recommendation #5: Eliminate for-profit charter schools. This recommendation not only states that all for-profit charter schools should be eliminated, but that all for-profit management companies that run nonprofit charter schools should be eliminated as well. Approximately 13 percent of U.S. charter schools are run by for-profit companies. Additionally, at least 15 states allow virtual schools, with many of them operated by for-profit organizations.

Report Elicits Scrutiny from Education Advocates

In response to the NAACP report, Nina Rees, CEO and President of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), issued a statement where she indicated that NAPCS was glad to see the NAACP recognize the value of charter schools and agreed with them that “whoever oversees a public school should take that responsibility seriously, have the highest expectations, and hold educators in the school accountable” for educating students.

However, Rees also asserted that the NAACP’s policy resolution and report failed to “acknowledge that Black parents are demanding more and better public-school options,” citing a nationally representative survey which found that found 82 percent of Black parents favored allowing parents to choose their child’s public school.

She also cited a 2015 CREDO Urban Charter Schools Report, which found that Black public charter school students gained 36 days of learning in math and 26 in reading over their non-charter school peers.

Chris Stewart, based in Minnesota and former director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, asserted that “the NAACP has lost its way,” claiming that they have become an “unwitting tool of teacher unions” due to the union’s significant contributions to the NAACP over the years. He also claimed that the unions are “threatened by the growth and success of non-unionized charter schools.”

District-Charter Collaboration: Hope in a Time of Political Tension

The growing and contentious disagreements between education organizations and advocates regarding the merits of charter versus traditional district schools are not new and will likely continue to dominate the news cycle.

However, in recent years, a growing number of districts and charter schools have put aside their political differences and worked together in order to do what’s best for students. Our next two blog posts will examine the cities where some of those collaborative relationships are taking place, as well as provide history on district-charter collaboration in Minnesota.


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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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