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State Leaders, Experts, Civil Rights Advocates Take Hard Look at ESSA Plans


Most states are using the Every Student Succeeds Act as an opportunity to measure student growth, not just straight-up performance on tests. And states are broadening their accountability systems to include factors beyond reading and math to comply with a requirement in the law, with many choosing to rate schools in part on whether or not they prepare kids for college and the workplace, according to a review of state plans commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners. The review is aimed in part at helping to pinpoint promising practices in state plans so that states can learn from one another. 

The 30 experts—including former state chiefs, policy wonks, and civil rights advocates—who reviewed plans for Bellwether and the Collaborative also found that five of the 17 states who have submitted ESSA plans so far considered the performance of historically overlooked groups of students in school ratings.

And they found that, with the exception of New Mexico and Tennessee, states aren't doing a great job of explaining how they plan to intervene in low-performing schools. In fact, the review gave New Mexico—whose state chief, Hannna Skandera, departed after the plan was submitted—high marks overall. But reviewers found that states such as Arizona and Michigan were lacking in information. 

Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said that states are considering any feedback they get on their plans. But, he added, "The most important feedback for states is what they are getting from their stakeholders," he said. 

What's more, Minnich said, states may have education initiatives in the works that they didn't neccessarily play up in their ESSA plans, including when it comes to improving teacher quality. 

Education Week conducted its own analysis of the applications back in April, in which we also noted that most states were tracking growth and college and career readiness under ESSA. Check out our interactive chart showing highlights of the accountability pieces of state plans here. And we posted a comprehensive analysis of all 17 plans when it comes to school improvement.

We've also unpacked how ESSA is different from the law it replaced, No Child Left Behind, when it comes to school improvement.

More from Bellwether and the Collaborative here, including a state-by-state look on how plans stack up to one another. 

And learn more from Education Week on many aspects of the law with our video explainer.  

Video: ESSA Explained in 3 Minutes

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