This Week’s ESSA News: A Dustup in Florida, a Push for National Equity, and Why One Analysis Says There Are Far Too Many ‘Unambitious’ 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.)

Education Week’s Alyson Klein reports that four states — Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana, and New Hampshire — have informed the U.S. Department of Education that they are interested in applying for the Innovative Assessment Pilot, and more states could follow before the April 2 application deadline. Under ESSA, the education secretary can give up to seven states (or groups of states) the chance to test new and (hopefully) innovative approaches to assessment. This pilot program “was inspired by previous work on performance assessment in New Hampshire, thanks to a waiver from the previous version of federal education law, the No Child Left Behind Act.”

Klein also reports that, thanks to the U.S. Department of Education’s new Weighted Student Funding Pilot program, school districts now have the chance for local, state, and federal funding to “follow children, so that kids with greater need have more money attached to them.” The Education Department “can allow up to 50 districts to participate at first,” and ESSA “leaves open the possibility of opening that up to more districts down the line.”

Check out below for more ESSA news.

1 Deep dives on ESSA from the Center for American Progress and Achieve

Stephenie Johnson, an associate campaign director for K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress, recently reviewed all state ESSA plans “searching specifically for state-led and state-supported programs that will be funded, at least in part, through Title II, Part A of ESSA — the section of the law that designates funding specifically for recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers.” CAP has created an accompanying interactive tool that “provides examples of programs and initiatives across the country working to improve the systems along the teacher pipeline, from recruitment and preparation to compensation and career pathways.”

Center for American Progress K-12 education senior policy analyst Samantha Batel writes that, although independent reviews have largely found state ESSA plans to be “unambitious or unfinished,” one policy (which appears in half of ESSA plans) “could have teeth to move the needle for struggling schools: the authority to change school governance.”

Additionally, Achieve has released three briefs examining different aspects of state ESSA plans. The briefs take a deep dive on state graduation rate goals, state academic achievement goals, and how states include measures of ninth-grade performance.

2 Florida ESSA plan drama continues …

Education Week’s Daarel Burnette II and Corey Mitchell report that the Sunshine State is under “intense scrutiny” from Democrats, civil rights groups, and federal officials for “how it plans to hold schools accountable for the achievement levels of historically disadvantaged student groups” under ESSA. Florida last updated its accountability system in 2015 and generally wants to keep this system in place. But “the state’s approach threatens to put it in collision with requirements under the federal K-12 law,” as highlighted by Cathy Carter of WLRN, who reports that, although a majority of state ESSA plans have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education, Florida’s plan still isn’t one of them. The federal government “has asked for revisions, saying the state fails to include provisions required under the law that deal with testing, English-language learners, and achievement gaps.” The Florida Department of Education plans to resubmit its plan by February 16.

3 Are states doing enough to promote equity and opportunity?

Here at The 74, Martin Orland, James Cibulka, and Kenneth Wong write that, while the media and the education community “are keenly focused on the proposed $9.2 billion cut in the federal education budget,” ESSA implementation constitutes “a much deeper institutional change.” In this context, the authors wonder how states, in an atmosphere where they are unlikely to make “huge changes” under ESSA, will “promote equity and opportunity for poor and minority students.” They conclude that, although one “can’t yet say whether the optimists or pessimists will prove to be more accurate regarding the implications of a retrenched federal role for our most vulnerable populations” under ESSA, what the authors can say “is that no single education policy question is more important.”

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