Thirty-seven ESSA plans OK’d, CA & Florida waiting

Thirty-seven ESSA plans OK’d, CA & Florida waiting

(District of Columbia) California and Florida are still waiting for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to approve their plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Late last week her office announced approving the plans submitted by Idaho, Mississippi and Rhode Island. The Texas plan was also approved last week.

That leaves just 13 states without a federally-recognized ESSA plan.

Earlier last month, in a speech to state school chiefs, DeVos had been critical of what she called a minimal effort by some.

“Just because a plan complies with the law doesn't mean it does what's best for students,” she said in the March 5 speech. “Whatever the reasons, I see too many plans that only meet the bare minimum required by the law. Sure, they may pass muster around conference tables in Washington, but the bare minimum won't pass muster around kitchen tables.”

Still, she had not formally rejected any of the state plans that have come before her. In fact, several drew objections from the federal review panel, who wanted changes that were never carried out.

Most notably was Delaware, which had planned to use student performance on Advanced Placement coursework and International Baccalaureate exams as a measurement of college readiness. Department officials sent back the plan saying that student performance could only be measured by math and reading scores.

Delaware’s plan was approved last August.

Although it is unclear exactly what it will mean to a state that does not have an ESSA plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education, there is speculation that either California or Florida or both, might found out.

Florida received an extension from the department in February to address issues the federal reviewers has with their plan.

For one, the Florida ESSA plan did not—as required by the law—to offer tests in languages other than English.

Florida also varied from federal requirements when it came to accountability of demographic subgroups and the use of 8th-grade math scores.

It is unclear how much Florida officials will want to invite federal ire by refusing to comply—in California, on the other hand, some officials are actually embracing the fight.

During a hearing last month, Sue Burr, a member of the California State Board of Education and once the chief education adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, said she was not in favor or doing too much to the state’s newly created accountability model just to satisfy DeVos.

“I want to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that, once again, we are talking about an overall investment of state money that is ten times what the feds are doing,” said Sue Burr said during the March  board meeting . “If ever we are in a tail-wagging-the-dog situation, this is it. We have been here before.”

DeVos’ office had criticized California’s ESSA plan because academic factors—such as test scores and graduation rates—were not given a greater value among other indicators of student performance. The multiple measure format for judging school and student performance is a key element of the new California system. more