This Week’s ESSA News: Ed Policy and U.S. Senate Race, School Improvement Grants, Dueling Accountability Systems in Indiana & 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.)

Politico’s Caitlin Emma recently highlighted a survey by Collaborative for Student Success Executive Director Jim Cowen that explores whether states meaningfully engaged with stakeholders as part of the development of their ESSA accountability plans, as well as whether they took advantage of this unique opportunity to directly inform education policymaking in their states.

To find out, the collaborative polled nearly 400 ESSA stakeholders, the results of which, he writes, might “surprise some skeptics.” The survey found that “state policymakers listened to and valued stakeholder feedback on how to improve education,” and not only “did the stakeholders appreciate the opportunity to participate, many came prepared to contribute in robust conversations.” Additionally, and “perhaps most promising,” stakeholders and policymakers “have largely continued to collaborate more than a year after their initial partnership.”

Cowen also notes that the survey results complement the collaborative’s “Promise to Practice” initiative that identifies best practices to improve underperforming schools, while providing a “sense of how states did with engagement during plan development and after.” The results, he writes, “indicate the subject areas where stakeholders want to stay engaged going forward.” For example, nearly 50 percent “reported that staying engaged on identifying low-performing schools, interventions, resources and supports for these schools is important to them.”

In closing, Cowen says that most respondents “affirmed that states were diligent and successful in maintaining a line of communications with their organizations” and that given “the daunting task of pursuing educational improvement, we are hopeful that states will continue this trend.”

See below for more ESSA news.

1 What the race to control the Senate could mean for ESSA

In Education Week, Alyson Klein takes a look at the close battle for control of the U.S. Senate in the 2018 election and how education is playing a part as an important election-year issue, and provides a “quick guide to where candidates in tough races stand on K-12 policy,” including the Every Student Succeeds Act. Close Senate races in states like Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas — which will determine Republican or Democratic control — could be influenced by critical issues related to state development and implementation of education policy.

2 FutureEd rebukes feds for lack of support for School Improvement Grants

FutureEd is calling out the federal government “for dropping support for the School Improvement Grant program,” Dian Schaffhauser writes in T.H.E. Journal. FutureEd’s primary concern is that “school improvement funding going out to states and localities under the Every Student Succeeds Act will ignore lessons already learned during the SIG era in turning around states’ lowest-performing schools.” The organization recommends that the Department of Education “follow a different approach in evaluating the performance of the ESSA efforts and other federal projects, by putting more emphasis on studies done at the state and local level.”

3 Outgoing Indiana ed chief laments state’s dueling accountability systems

Indiana’s outgoing education chief, Jennifer McCormick, isn’t pleased with the two accountability systems now in place in her state, Daarel Burnette II reports in Education Week. In an interview, McCormick said “‘she and the board early on in her tenure had disagreements over what ESSA and the state’s laws required when it came to holding schools accountable,’ but in the end, ‘the state’s education department created an ESSA-compliant accountability system while the state board kept its prior accountability system with promises to work with the legislature to make changes to it in the coming years.’”

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