This Week’s ESSA News: 3 More States See Education Plans Approved, Parents Becoming Professional Development Advocates, Tracking Military Students & More

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.)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has approved three more ESSA plans — Alabama, Colorado, and Kentucky. Overall, the department has approved 42 plans (plus those from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico). Alabama’s plan included two of the “most popular” indicators to measure alongside assessment results: chronic absenteeism and college and career readiness. And Colorado had to wait “longer than any other state so far to get the department’s seal of approval,” mostly because of the way the state dealt with opting out of assessments in its original plan.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s plan gets the thumbs-up amid significant education politics drama: Gov. Matt Bevin refused to sign off on the state’s ESSA plan, which was crafted by the state’s former education commissioner Stephen Pruitt, who recently resigned. Whether or not Interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis will try to make big changes to Kentucky’s ESSA plan remains to be seen, but the current plan seeks to measure “opportunity and access” in addition to assessment results.

Two big states, however, are still waiting for federal approval of their plans: Secretary DeVos “may have approved Every Student Succeeds Act plans” for dozens of states, but “two of the biggest — Florida and California — are still angling for their federal blessing,” even though “DeVos has singled out school-choice-friendly Florida as a model for the rest of the country.”

Check out below for more ESSA news.

1 Do states measure up on continuous improvement?

Education Week’s Alyson Klein shares information about how states are approaching continuous improvement in their ESSA plans. Although the term “continuous improvement” isn’t explicitly mentioned in the law, Klein notes that a “handful of states are using the law as an opportunity to rethink their systems through a continuous-improvement lens, according to experts who have analyzed the plans.”

But not everyone is impressed.

“Incentivizing continuous improvement, I think, is actually the point of ESSA, and very few people are doing that well,” former Arne Duncan chief of staff Joanne Weiss said. “Most states are super vague. They just generally offer vague lists of evidence-based interventions that districts may use.”

2 NCLD teaches parents how to advocate for professional development

Because ESSA sets aside professional development funding for all states and local districts, the National Center for Learning Disabilities has created a helpful toolkit “for parents and advocates to use in their schools and districts” to make the case for professional development that will improve outcomes for students with disabilities. NCLD created these resources so that parents can learn about key professional development topics and advocate with their schools or districts to make sure teacher professional development will help their children. The toolkit includes fact sheets about each strategy; a letter that parents can use to request meetings with teachers, principals, or district staff to talk about school-wide teacher training; and talking points parents can use during those meetings.

In a blog post, NCLD notes, “When federal policies like ESSA offer opportunities to advance effective practices, we must support school and district leaders and connect them to resources that can help them bring the practices to life in their schools.”

3 Don’t know much about history (of the MSI) …

Military Families for High Standards Chairwoman Christi Ham provides an overview of the history of the Military Student Identifier (MSI), because even people who are “in the know” don’t actually know much about the MSI or how and why it was created.

The first “big step” was development of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children in 2008, which “focused on transition issues facing military families, including enrollment, placement, attendance, eligibility, and graduation.” That same year, the Defense and Education departments also “agreed to work together on five areas of key importance to military-dependent students.”

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office recommended in a report that the two departments “determine whether to require school districts to identify military-dependent students as a distinct subgroup” and “whether they needed legislative authority from Congress.” This authority was given in 2015 when Congress passed ESSA, which included the MSI.

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