This Week’s ESSA News: Civil Rights Groups Target State Plans, Support for Highly Qualified Teachers, Equity vs. Performance & More

This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being implemented by states and school districts is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, an ongoing 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.)

“A coalition of civil rights groups is urging state education chiefs to take a long, hard look at their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act,” Alyson Klein reports for Education Week. According to the letter from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, “‘ESSA plans that do not hold schools sufficiently accountable for their responsibility to all children, especially groups of children who have been shortchanged for too long, fail to meet the intent of the law and will undermine ESSA’s purpose to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.’”

Although the letter doesn’t say so explicitly, Klein notes that “some ESSA plans were written or approved by state chiefs who are no longer in office after the 2018 election, [which] …potentially gives new chiefs a fresh start, and a reason to do a deep dive on plans written by their predecessors.” The letter calls for states to involve parents and other stakeholders in the implementation of existing plans and to consult those communities about any proposed amendments. The coalition wants “to make sure that schools are being held accountable for the achievement of subgroups of students, including English learners, students in special education, racial minorities, and low-income students.”

Check out below for more ESSA news.

ESSA and supporting highly qualified teachers

Amid recent teacher strikes, Akil Wilson, a Washington, D.C.-based podcaster and parent, examines how states can better support educators through ESSA. In his piece for Black Press USA, Wilson explains that Title II funds are intended “to support class size reduction, encourage performance-based pay for effective educators and develop opportunities to improve overall school conditions.” In addition to funding, ESSA will enable school systems to try to “address the shortage in classroom instructors by shifting the emphasis for teacher evaluations away from student standardized test performance — a point of stress for many educators.”

Is ESSA another “elusive dream”?

Also writing for Black Press USA, Dr. Elizabeth V. Primas, program manager for the NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign, says that as “education leaders review the individual state plans that have been developed and approved in keeping with the Every Student Succeeds Act, it is obvious that many states are making an attempt to prioritize equity over performance.” Some states have set accountability timelines “signifying the urgency of the problem,” while others “continue to miss the mark by setting goals that are too distant.” Primas is concerned that these plans will “disproportionately and negatively impact students of color and low-income students.”

DeVos addresses National School Boards Association

Recently, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave a speech in front of the National School Boards Association. As part of her remarks, she said that “there is no universal school safety plan that will work for every school across our country” and that a “prescriptive approach by Washington would be inappropriate, imprudent, and ineffective” because what “works in one community wouldn’t be the right answer in another,” so “challenges need local solutions.” She added that community-specific decision-making is “at the heart of the Every Student Succeeds Act,” which “represents an important shift in America’s approach to education policy.” DeVos argued that ESSA resulted from the realization that “federal overreach in education had failed to achieve well-intentioned goals.”

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