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This Week’s ESSA News: New Mexico Readies to Ditch A-F Rating System, House Democrats Call Out DeVos on Addressing Achievement Gaps & More

By Ashley Inman Zanchelli | March 3, 2019

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.)

The newly empowered Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is ready to provide vigorous oversight of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her department in the coming weeks and months, reports Erica L. Green for the New York Times. Among the initial issues targeted by Democrats will be “the carrying out of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act; recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety led by Ms. DeVos in response to the mass school shooting last year in Parkland, FL; and the department’s role in the rebuilding of schools in Puerto Rico, in the Virgin Islands and in other areas affected by disasters.”

The last time Secretary DeVos met with Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, he “challenged the secretary’s assertion that she was holding states accountable for achievement gaps between white and minority students as required” by ESSA.

Scott also asked even more pointedly: “How can you assure us that you are following the law if you do not even make states calculate the performance of the different student groups we want to measure?”

According to Green, DeVos “dodged the question” at the time. But now that Scott has taken over the chairmanship of the House Education and Labor Committee, he “is not taking silence or evasion for an answer.” With “control of the House and Senate divided, and President Trump in charge of the executive branch, the prospects for the House Democrats’ legislative agenda for education may be limited, but their appetite for oversight of the Education Department appears limitless.”

Check out below for more of the week’s top ESSA headlines:

New Mexico prepares to ditch A-F rating system

The New Mexico Public Education Department plans to get rid of the state’s A-F public school grading system, reports Dillon Mullan for the Santa Fe New Mexican. “Under proposed changes to the state’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the agency says it will replace an accountability system that identifies schools as failing with one that classifies them by the amount of state and federal support they require.”

The state is currently gathering public comment on the proposed changes — click here to review the updated plan. Officials had announced a plan to submit changes to the U.S. Department of Education by last Friday, March 1.

Supplement-not-supplant – “Sorry not sorry”

Marguerite Roza writes in this Brookings analysis that “new draft guidance the U.S. Department of Education released last month on monitoring the ‘supplement-not-supplant’ provision [of Title I] might be perceived as the current administration issuing a big sorry not sorry to equity advocates.”

According to Roza, “Those of us who interact with districts routinely hear district leaders describe how they add extra funds for non-Title I schools precisely ‘because they don’t get Title I.’ That’s a clear violation of the law. Let’s hope districts can hear it.”

Only 16 states tracking foster care kids under ESSA

To help address the challenges faced by students in foster care, ESSA requires states to publicly report how such students are faring on state tests and the rates at which they are graduating from high school, Kate Stringer reported last month for The 74. “But right now, only 16 states are sharing both of these data points, according to The 74’s analysis of available report cards from every state and Washington, D.C.”

Brennan McMahon Parton, director of policy and advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign, said, “It’s unfortunate, I think, that it took a federal mandate to get states to shine a light on these students, but the good news is that now it is required.” She added, however, that this information is “still new, so states are still grappling with bringing it online, making sure that it’s quality, that it’s accurate.”

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