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This Week’s ESSA News: New Mexico Sheds A-F School Ratings, Democrats Push $4.4B Increase in Ed Department Funding, States Worry About School Improvement

By Ashley Inman Zanchelli | May 7, 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.)

A recent report from the Center on Education Policy, “How States Are Responding to ESSA’s Evidence Requirements for School Improvement,” reveals that many education leaders feel “overwhelmed” about implementing school improvement under ESSA. Using interview information from leaders in seven states, “the report focuses on state experiences with initial implementation of the ESSA evidence requirements, including state efforts to identify evidence-based interventions and assist districts with their school improvement efforts.”

The report finds that education leaders “who oversee school improvement are having a tough time getting a handle on the role evidence must play in turnaround efforts — and some are worried about the sheer volume of schools that could get identified as needing some sort of intervention in the age of the Every Student Succeeds Act,” writes Andrew Ujifusa for Education Week.

Additionally, the Education Commission of the States recently published a report regarding school improvement plans and efforts in all 50 states, as well as D.C. This “comprehensive resource” provides “information identified in statute, regulation and states’ plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as of December 2018.” However, it does not include “state education agency resources — such as guidelines or handbooks — or other sources outside of statutes, regulations and ESSA plans.”

Check out below for more ESSA news.

New Mexico gets rid of A-F school ratings

Cindy Long writes that New Mexico’s new governor and secretary of education will “amend the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), scrap the A-F school grading system and replace the policy of labeling schools as ‘failing’ in favor of actually supporting schools in need and celebrating successes of schools doing well or making progress.” The state plans to launch the “New Mexico Spotlight Dashboard” this fall, which will “celebrate the success of the highest-performing schools, identify schools that the department will support with federal grant money, and provide families with an opportunity to learn more about their local schools.”

Democrats propose $4.4 billion increase for education

In this Education Week piece, Andrew Ujifusa provides an overview of what to look for in the House Democrats’ Education Department budget legislation for fiscal year 2020. One item to watch is the proposed “$1.2 billion program that supports school safety, student well-being, and academic enrichment” — one that has been “at the center of a firestorm over whether it can and should be used to help arm teachers.” While the Trump administration seeks to eliminate it, Democrats are opposed to doing so. “From last fiscal year to this one, lawmakers increased its funding by $700 million.” And while ESSA authorizes $1.6 billion in funding for Title IV, Ujifusa wonders if House Democrats will “want to move it closer (or all the way) to that latter number.” Ujifusa later reported that “House Democrats want a $4.4 billion spending increase for the U.S. Department of Education in the coming fiscal year, including notable increases for special education, educator training, and a $260 million initiative focused on social-emotional learning.”

Equitable educational opportunities under ESSA

In this Latino Policy Forum blog post, Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro and Karen Garibay-Mulattieri look at “the promise of equitable educational opportunities” for English learners under ESSA, with a focus on the state of Illinois. “The Forum advocates for accountability systems which help us to understand newcomer and English Learner achievement over time,” the authors write. “With regard to English Learners, the state [of Illinois] should review the data and determine the best most student-centered options available under federal law for newcomers” and develop a plan to track and monitor the long-term achievement of these students.

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