This Week’s ESSA News — Louisiana, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico Look to Try Out New Forms of Testing; Congress Steps Back In

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.)

Carolyn Phenicie reports here in The 74 that the Republican-controlled Congress, after a year of taking a “hands-off” approach “in keeping with GOP orthodoxy of a reduced federal hand in education,” is “taking a small step back into the fight over implementing” ESSA.

Included in “a report filed with the $1.3 trillion government funding bill passed last week is a reminder to states — through the federal Education Department — that their ESSA accountability plans must include assurances that they’ll require districts to use school improvement dollars for organizations or individuals ‘that have practical expertise in the development or use of evidence-based strategies and programs to improve teaching, learning, and schools.’ ”

According to Knowledge Alliance President Michele McLaughlin, this is a pretty big deal, representing a “strong signal to the field that we’re looking at this; this is not just an ‘Oh, well, if you could do it, it would be nice’ requirement. The actual legislators are looking to see that the actual evidence-based provisions of the law are enforced.”

Alyson Klein reports in Education Week that Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico have officially put in applications for ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot, which “allows states to try out new forms of testing in a handful of districts, with the goal of eventually taking them statewide.” More than a dozen states initially considered the program but ultimately passed, as the pilot has rules that don’t make participation easy. In an op-ed in The Hill, Louisiana State Superintendent John White explains his rationale for participating.

See below for more ESSA news.

1 Hunt Institute releases interactive worksheet for state leaders.

The Hunt Institute published its “Policymaker’s Guide to Understanding Your State’s ESSA Plan and Reviews,” which is “intended to help state-level policymakers and other stakeholders begin to dive into the details of their state ESSA plans and provide a place to note thoughts, concerns, and ideas.” According to author Casey Wyant Remer, the institute “has created an interactive worksheet to walk you through some of the key components of your state’s plan and some of the major reviews done by different organizations.”

Governors share solutions for state ESSA implementation.

Stephen Parker, head of the Education and Workforce Committee at the National Governors Association, recently penned a new piece — “An Answer to ESSA Plan Shortcomings: State Solutions” — for the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog that shares a list of solutions for state leaders as they implement their ESSA plans. Parker writes: “Approved state plans should be the start of a conversation with schools and communities about how we can ultimately achieve better educational results for students. Through shared ownership and a commitment to continuous improvement, the bold ideas, strategies, and solutions governors were seeking in a number of ESSA plans can still be uncovered.”

3 California dashboard debate continues.

Yvette Santana of the Faith and Education Coalition Leadership Advisory Council, a nationwide organization of faith leaders focused on education, thinks it is positive that California “has established college-ready standards and high-quality and aligned assessments” and “adopted rigorous academic goals.” But she still has concerns about the Golden State’s education system, including its new education accountability dashboard, which she says is far too complicated. Santana asks how parents, teachers, and students will be able to measure progress and correct course “if the reporting system is not understandable,” adding that this is not just her opinion — “it’s also the conclusion of education experts,” including the Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners’ Check State Plans initiative.

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