ESSA Takes Shape: Feds Give Surprisingly Strong Feedback on Delaware, Nevada & New Mexico Plans

This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being refined by state legislatures is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, a new series from the Collaborative for Student Success. It’s an offshoot of their ESSA Advance newsletter, which you can sign up for here! (See our recent ESSA updates from previous weeks right here.)
Last week was a busy one surrounding the Every Student Succeeds Act. The Department of Education moved quicker than most thought by providing initial feedback to Delaware, Nevada, and New Mexico on what it will take for their ESSA plans to be approved, and advocacy organizations started rolling out feedback on specific topic areas within states’ submitted plans. Here are four new developments:

1. U.S. Department of Education provides feedback to Delaware, Nevada, and New Mexico

Federal education officials gave Delaware, Nevada, and New Mexico initial feedback on their ESSA plans — including a detailed list of information they need to provide to get their plans approved. Dale Chu, who is working with the Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners to review state plans, said he was pleased with the level of detail from the education department. “The messaging that the states had been hearing up to the submission point was there was no reason a plan would not have been approved,” said Chu, who is the vice president for policy and operations at America Succeeds. But this early feedback “wasn’t as rubber-stampy as folks might have thought it would be,” Chu added. He also thinks that states submitting ESSA plans for the September deadline will be “erring more on the side of providing more clarity and completeness to their plans.”

Based on Ed Week’s analysis, here’s a sample of what the department asked for from the three states, which have 15 days to revise and resubmit their plans:

  • Delaware: The department expressed concern that Delaware combines subgroups in some parts of its plan; doesn’t think the state set ambitious enough goals for student achievement or English language proficiency; disagrees with Delaware’s inclusion of science and social studies test results as “academic indicators”; and told Delaware that every school must use the same measure of college- and career-readiness, as opposed to the “menu of options” that the state has proposed.
  • Nevada: The department wants short-term goals for academic achievement; needs more information on how much weight Nevada is giving English language arts vs. math in a school’s overall score; wants more information on Nevada’s “closing opportunity gaps” indicator; and asked for details on how schools can exit “comprehensive improvement” status.
  • New Mexico: The department asked for more information on New Mexico’s rules for when “a school no longer has to be considered low-performing”; needs details on New Mexico’s plan to ensure that disadvantaged students aren’t taught by ineffective or inexperienced teachers; and requested a better explanation of how the state will give students the opportunity to be ready for advanced math in eighth grade.

We will be rolling out the findings of our independent analysis in the weeks ahead. Sign up here to be the first to receive information on the release.

2. Recommendations on K-12 and higher education alignment

Higher Ed for Higher Standards released a new brief detailing how states plan to align K-12 and higher education to support long-term student success. The brief focuses on alignment in four key areas: validating college-ready standards and aligned assessments, vertically aligning K-12 and higher education goals, holding schools accountable for college and career preparation, and supporting student transitions into postsecondary education.

3. Educator equity analysis gives road map for future ESSA plans
The National Council on Teacher Quality also released an analysis of educator equity in the 17 state plans that have been released. The council’s work identifies best practices in the current plans and is meant to serve as a resource for states that are still drafting theirs.
4. ICYMI: Conor Williams goes deep on ESSA and English learners
New America and 74 contributor Conor Williams highlighted ESSA plans that focused on helping English learners. He notes that ESSA leaves important decisions about English learners up to states, and New Jersey, Louisiana, and Illinois are “making good use of their newfound flexibility.”
  • Williams argues that New Jersey deserves “unique praise” for setting English learners’ progress at 20 percent of a school’s ratings.
  • He calls Louisiana “innovative” for ensuring that all schools are held accountable for English learners’ progress — despite small numbers of ELs in many schools — by including progress toward English proficiency in academic achievement calculations.
  • He also flags Illinois as noteworthy because it plans to “collect specific data on former-ELs’ academic performance” once they reach proficiency.

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