This Week’s ESSA News: Feds OK Oklahoma, California & Utah Plans, Puerto Rico Pilots New Funding System, & 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.)

Updated July 13: California’s plan was approved July 12, along with Utah’s. According to Education Week, Utah “will consider college- and career-readiness and science proficiency in rating its schools.” And because the state has experienced a drop in test participation rates, it “negotiated with the department on the opt-out portion of the law, which requires schools to somehow address participation rates below 95 percent.” Florida remains the lone state without approval of its ESSA plan.  

The U.S. Department of Education officially approved Oklahoma’s ESSA implementation plan, “Oklahoma Edge,” on July 6. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said, “This plan is so much more than the charts, graphs, and technical language that are routine components of official policy whitepapers … Oklahoma Edge establishes a specific path forward for every student in our state to achieve the educational outcomes Oklahomans value.”

According to the plan, “Oklahoma Edge is built on achieving six measurable goals by 2025: 1. Score among the top 20 highest-performing states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — otherwise known as ‘the nation’s report card’ — in all fourth- and eighth-grade subjects; 2. Reduce by 50 percent the need for mathematics and English language arts remediation after high school; 3. Rank among the top 10 states with the highest graduation rate for students in four-, five- and six-year cohorts; 4. Ensure that every student in grades 6 through 12 develops a useful and meaningful Individual Career Academic Plan; 5. Align early childhood education and learning foundations to ensure at least 75 percent of students are ‘ready to read’ upon kindergarten entry; and 6. Increase student access to effective teachers, thereby reducing the need for emergency-certified teachers by 95 percent.”

Check out below for more ESSA news.

1 Puerto Rico to pilot new student-centered funding system

The U.S. Department of Education announced “Puerto Rico as the first state to pilot a new student-centered funding system under ESSA.” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated, “Puerto Rico’s use of a student-centered funding system will help to ensure those with the greatest need receive the most support.” According to the department, “Puerto Rico has designed a funding system where it will use extra funds to support students from low-income families, language learners, and students in rural schools.”

Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher commented, “Puerto Rico’s ability to provide a quality education for its youth depends on how we fund K-12 education and the way funds are allocated.” She noted, “This pilot allows us to take a more scientific approach and track the relationship between strategic investments and future learning gains. We are committed to implementing effective solutions that benefit our students and ensure accountability to our families.” School districts have until July 15 to participate in the pilot program.

2 Former White House Domestic Policy Council directors weigh in

Melody Barnes and John Bridgeland, directors of the White House Domestic Policy Council under former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, authored a piece on the opportunity for ESSA to “reduce massive disparities in educational outcomes for youth.” Barnes and Bridgeland argued that if ESSA is implemented correctly, the law could “ensure that more resources — up to $2 billion annually — are invested in solutions that have a proven track record of improving student outcomes.” They also note, “Those investments could help decision makers make better use of data and evidence of what works in education.” The two recognize that “flexibility comes with new responsibility,” but they encourage leaders “to seize this opportunity to align innovation with data, evidence, and continuous learning.”

3 Is the third time the charm for California?

California’s has proved to be the most-watched ESSA plan, having been revised by the state and rejected by the U.S. Department of Education twice. However, the drama could all be over soon.

As LA School Report’s Mario Koran writes, the state board this week “unanimously approved the last details. The state will now resubmit its plan and expects to hear back within 30 days whether U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will at last sign off.”

Previously, the department “raised additional questions about California’s plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, further delaying the federal government’s approval of the plan.” In a June 11 letter, federal officials “raised a half-dozen issues that they say need further clarification” before they agree to approve the Golden State’s ESSA plan.

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