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How One State Changed Its ESSA Plan in Response to the Trump Team

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You might have heard a lot by now about The Feedback That Shook the World—also known as the official comments from the U.S. Department of Education about states' Every Student Succeeds Act plans. But how have states actually responded to what U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' agency has said? We now have an interesting response from at least one state. 

Late last month, Delaware, one of the first three states to get feedback from the department, submitted a revised ESSA plan in response. In fact, the feedback the department gave Delaware might be the most controversial so far. At the time, we highlighted four areas where the department indicated concern with the First State's plan. Here's how the state changed or did not change its plan in those four areas:

1) Original Plan: Delaware wanted to use results from science and social studies tests as part of academic achievement measures for school accountability.

Department's Response: The feds said this was a no-no, and that only reading and math scores could be used for measuring academic achievement.

Revised Plan: Delaware eliminated those tests from the academic achievement indicator (see page 53). However, results from those tests appear to have been added to the school quality and student success indicators for the state's proposed school accountability system. Click here for more on the question of using science in ESSA accountability. Of course, the academic achievement indicators must by law count for more in state accountability systems than those school quality/student success indicators. However, Delaware's education department told us that, "[We] highly value student performance in science and social studies."

2) Original Plan: Delaware wanted to use things like results from Advanced Placement tests to measure college- and career-readiness.

Department's Response: DeVos' agency told the state that such measures have to be universal across schools, meaning things like AP tests are not a valid measure. 

Revised Plan: Delaware appears to have kept AP tests as an option for schools to use to measure college- and career-readiness for grades 9-12. Delaware's department also said, that in fact, "All high school students in public schools have access to each option, including AP, in the College and Career Preparedness Metric."

3) Original Plan: Delaware described long-term academic goals based on cutting the rates of non-proficient students on state exams in half by 2030.

Department's Response: The feds deemed those goals insufficiently "ambitious"—that's a term that is part of ESSA's statutory language, but is not specifically defined. 

Revised Plan:The state is sticking by those goals for state tests, and provides a new explanation about why those goals will be a significant challenge, both for all students and for specific student subgroups like economically disadvantaged learners. "To reach these goals for the lowest-performing subgroups it requires approximately a 3 percentage point increase in proficiency year over year, which is extremely ambitious for our [districts]," the state says.

4) Original Plan: In one part of its plan, Delaware appeared to lump together white and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students, as well as Asian and Hispanic students. The state did not do this in other sections of its plan, however. 

Department's Response: Washington told Delaware that it had to break out those students separately throughout its plan. 

Revised Plan: Delaware has separated whites from Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, as well as Asians from Hispanic students, in the section of its plan in question. Delaware said this was the result of a "typographical error" in its original plan, and that it has no plans to combine any subgroups. 

Bonus: Delaware also emphatically ripped up its plans for how recently-arrived English-language learners' performance on tests will be phased into accountability. How emphatic was the state about this? See below:

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Watch this space for more news about how states are (and are not) changing their plans in response to the department. So far, a total of nine states have gotten feedback from the department about their ESSA plans.

Read Delaware's revised plan, which includes changes in red and red crossouts, here


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