DeVos Clashes With Democrats Over Federal Protections in School Choice Budget Proposals

Weekend Education Reads: 12 Worthwhile Links About Students and Schools You May Have Missed

Wisconsin Lawmaker Tells Betsy DeVos That Vouchers Don’t Help Rural Kids. Research Shows He’s Right

You’re Not an ‘Interest Group’ Just Because You Believe School Funding Matters

How 2 Business-Savvy Nonprofits Are Breathing New Life Into Philadelphia’s Struggling Catholic Schools

State of American Pre-K: New Report Shows 1.5 Million Kids (and 1 in 20 3-Year-Olds) Enrolled

Trump Ed Budget Fleshes Out Choice Proposal, Justifies Deep Cuts

Mayoral Control Fight Heats Up: NYS Assembly Gives De Blasio 2 More Years, But Senate Demands More Data on School Spending

The Boys Wouldn’t Listen, So 9-Year-Old Girl Started Her Own Robotics Team — and Won Big

Candidates Are Drawing School Choice Battle Lines in Campaign to Succeed New Jersey Gov. Christie

Start School Later: New Study Shows That More Sunlight Before Classes Improves Test Scores

Facing Pressure From Conservatives, Texas Again Looks to Ban Transgender Bathroom Use

DeVos Emphasizes States’ Prerogative on School Choice, Gives No Details on Federal Expansion

Inside the School Lunch Affordability Gap: Too Affluent for Free Food, Can’t Afford $1.75 Meals

Long-Vacant NYC Courthouse Will Get New Life as Success Academy’s Second High School

1 in 5 Washington State HS Students Considered Suicide, 9% Attempted It, Shocking New Report Finds

Key Congressional Ally Backs Trump Admin’s School Choice Plan

Why the LA School Board Swung Pro-Reform: Did a Late Vote on ‘Charter Killer’ Bill Cost Board Chief His Job?

Federal Judge Denies NYC KIPP School’s Effort to Block Arbitration of Teacher Grievances

New Report Shows NYC’s Alternative to Charter Schools — Supported by De Blasio and UFT — Aren’t Getting Results

In Delaware, Critics Worry That ESSA Plans Will Give Low-Performing Schools Too Much Wiggle Room

January 30, 2017

Talking Points

Delaware’s latest #ESSA plan gives more wiggle room to districts to address low-performing schools

Once considered an aggressive reformer, Delaware is embracing local flexibility in age of #ESSA

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

The Delaware Department of Education is working on an implementation plan for the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act that gives districts more wiggle room in improving their schools.

Instead of forcing districts with schools in the bottom 5 percent of academic performance to replace their staffs or extend their school days, a blueprint released earlier this month allows districts to determine their own reform plans.

“It provides more flexibility and more responsibility,” Donna Johnson, director of the Delaware State Board of Education, said of the plan. “It didn’t limit them to a very narrow set of options in terms of the path they took to pursue turnaround.”

But Atnre Alleyne, founding executive director of DelawareCAN, the state’s branch of the reform-oriented advocacy group 50CAN, worries that the new plan will weaken school accountability.

“My initial thoughts were, Is this transformational? Or is this status quo?” Alleyne said of the draft plan. “This looks like rinse and repeat.”

Much of the accountability portion of Delaware’s implementation plan meets ESSA’s minimum requirements. The state Education Department will determine whether a school is low-performing, is struggling or belongs in a yet-to-be-named “other” category for schools that are performing better.



Under ESSA, low-performing and struggling schools have up to four years to improve. For low-performing schools that don’t, the state will choose a new improvement strategy, according to Delaware’s plan.

But how the department will handle schools that continue to fail is an open question.

“What happens when the four-year turnaround attempt doesn’t work? What’s next? That’s where we are all struggling now,” Johnson said. “I don’t know that we have a good answer for that, and I’m not sure who does.”

The debate over the right approach to turnaround is complicated by the mixed results and strained politics that resulted from Delaware’s previous attempts to improve struggling schools.

In 2014, state education leaders tried to force low-performing schools in the Red Clay district to make aggressive changes, including forcing staff to reapply for their jobs. But they faced political pushback from teachers and unions, who argued that they were being wrongly blamed for the effects of poverty and crime.

In the end, the department backpedaled on some of its demands.

“We recognize this is important. What we develop now will likely last many years,” Johnson said. “We believe we need to push forward and push through some difficult decisions.”