This Week’s ESSA News — And Now There Are 37: Texas, Idaho, Mississippi and Rhode Island Latest Plans OKed, Millions More in Federal Funding for ESSA-Related Ed Programs

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 the massive spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law on March 23 will allocate more than $1 billion to ESSA’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, know as Title IV.

This represents a jump in funding from $400 million in fiscal year 2017, meaning the program will get “nearly three times as much money as it is receiving currently,” and will “make Title IV one of the largest federal K-12 programs.” These resources can be used for a wide range of programs, such as those focused on school safety, mental health, the arts, science and technology, physical education, drug education, and “much, much more.”

Another appropriations winner in the recently passed spending legislation is ESSA’s Education Innovation and Research grant program. The program is used to “create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students; and rigorously evaluate such innovations,” according to the Department of Education.

It “will receive $120 million this year, up from $100 million last year, but lower than the $180 million it once received annually,” EdScoop’s Patience Wait reports. It’s also less than the $200 million sought by the Trump administration.

And speaking of innovation and research, recently, Next Generation Science Standards took a deep dive into the federal budget to see how STEM program appropriations fared. They report that in general STEM advocates are celebrating increased funding for programs and initiatives” under ESSA in the next fiscal year, several of which “allow — and even encourage — the use of federal funds to support STEM education.”

Late on Thursday, it was reported that Idaho, Mississippi and Rhode Island had their ESSA plans approved. With Texas (see below), that brings the number of approved state plans to 37. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico’s have also gotten final sign-off from the Education Department.

Of note in Rhode Island’s plan, is its intention to use evidence-based school improvement strategies. That will be welcome news to members of Congress who made a point earlier this month when passing the $1.3 trillion spending plan that states would be required to spend their improvements grants on plans with a proven track record.

See below for more ESSA news.

1 Lone Star State gets “green light.”

Education Week’s Alyson Klein also reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has given “a stamp of approval” to Texas’s ESSA plan. The Lone Star State, a “pioneer in the accountability movement,” is “planning to stick with its A through F system of grading schools,” will “use college and career readiness as its school quality indicator,” and gauge this “through Advanced Placement and military readiness, among other factors.” Klein also writes that an “independent review of ESSA plans by Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success noted that Texas’s long-term goals expected graduation rates for white students to dip in the future,” and that’s “something the department noticed, too—and asked Texas to change.”

2 ESSA an example of the failed promise of local control?

ESSA “was supposed to unleash a wave of innovation by getting Uncle Sam off the backs of state and local educators and restoring local control,” says Education Post’s Executive Director Peter Cunningham in U.S. News & World Report. “It doesn’t look like they are doing much of anything new or different. By some accounts, they are retreating.” Cunningham also cites the Bellwether and Collaborative independent review of state ESSA plans (check state plans), which “affirms one important point: federal accountability, under the current law and its predecessor, No Child Left Behind, is a “floor,” not a ceiling,” and nothing “stops states, districts or schools from going beyond the letter or the spirit of the law and being more innovative with accountability.”

3 California plan delays mean all talk, no action, for lowest-performing schools

The 74’s and LA School Report’s Laura Greanias also takes a look at how there has been “a lot of talk but little action from Los Angeles and California education officials when it comes to supporting the lowest-performing schools.” This is due, at least in part, to the California Board of Education’s decision to (once again) delay making revisions to its ESSA plan to conform with the law, despite heavy criticism by both the U.S. Department of Education and a number of independent reviews. Now, a coalition of seven advocacy organizations—including Parent Revolution, Education Trust-West, and EdVoice—is calling on the state Board to finalize the plan and get it aligned with ESSA so that the state’s lowest-performing schools can receive badly needed funding.

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