This Week’s ESSA News: Civil Rights Leaders to Congress: Tell DeVos to Stop Approving Unlawful 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 more than a dozen civil rights groups, led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, sent a letter to leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on April 10, “asking them to tell [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos to stop approving ‘unlawful’ plans.”
The letter states: “We call on you to fulfill your role in ESSA’s implementation and to correct the Department of Education’s flawed approval of state plans that do not comply with core equity provisions of the law.”
The groups say that “DeVos is greenlighting plans that allow schools to get a high rating (say, an A) even if vulnerable group of kids, like English-language learners, are struggling.” They are also “unhappy” that the Department of Education has allowed several states — including Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, and Washington — to “use the same definition for two categories of schools — ‘targeted support’ and ‘additional targeted support’ — that ESSA describes separately.”
Klein also notes that this “is far from the first time that the civil rights community — and Democratic lawmakers — have questioned DeVos’s approach to plan approval.”
For example, the Alliance for Excellent Education, one of the letter signers, has “put together a legal brief questioning whether some of the plans that DeVos has approved meet ESSA’s requirements,” and the Democratic leaders of both committees have written letters to DeVos saying she is “flouting the law.”
See below for more ESSA news.
1 ESSA data and making informed decisions.
Mike English writes for eSchool News that, with the passage of the deadline for states to submit their final ESSA plans, it’s now “up to school districts to figure out how to capture and report data about student performance.” This additional reporting may seem burdensome, but for those willing to look deep enough, there is a “great opportunity to boost strategic decision-making capabilities.”
This is because ESSA requires publication of “specific educational data sets separated by student subgroups and categories.” And this provision is challenging school districts to rethink their methods for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data. English also reports that one metro Chicago-area district has “discovered the data needed for ESSA compliance reports also provides the administration with key insights about students” and that they are using this information “to move the needle on student performance.”
2 University president calls on Ohio voters to support accountability measures.
Writing in the Columbus Dispatch, Ashland University President Carlos Campo says he is proud of the steps Ohio is taking to make sure high school graduates are college- and career-ready, including provisions in the state’s ESSA plan, in which he says education officials took the opportunity to “design accountability measurements which represent all student groups, including English learners.”
Campo also notes that, unlike with many other states, “an independent peer review of Ohio’s education accountability plans (published at CheckStatePlans.org) awarded our state plan the highest rating in 4 of 5 categories.” Ohio’s accountability measures “will guide us toward improvements that result in excellent education opportunities for all students.” Campo also encourages Ohio voters “to express their support for our excellent education accountability measures so that we can hold the line on what is good.”
3 Education Week publishes meta-guide to ESSA.
Alyson Klein also writes that, up until now, ESSA has “mostly lived in federal legalese and state plans.” But that is going to change at the end of this school year when states “will start identifying their lowest-performing schools, using brand-new accountability systems that take into account more than just test scores.”
To help readers navigate all the goings-on as states move forward with ESSA implementation, Klein provides an overview of Education Week’s new special report — “ESSA on the Runway” — which “analyzes the state of ESSA implementation on the eve of the law’s operational debut” and “takes a multifaceted look at just how ready those states, districts, and schools are to bringing ESSA’s changes in for a successful landing when the law goes into full effect for the 2018–19 school year.”
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