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Betsy DeVos Approves Four More State ESSA Plans

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The District of Columbia, Illinois, Oregon, and Tennessee all won approval from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos Wednesday for their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

The plans detail how states will go about complying with the federal law in the coming years. The law goes into effect this fall.  

DeVos has now approved 10 of the 17 submitted state ESSA plans.  All of the states that have turned in plans have received feedback from the department.  

"As more and more state plans come under the department's review, I am heartened to see how states have embraced the spirit of flexibility under ESSA to improve education for individual students," DeVos said in a news release. 

Next month, 34 states are expected to turn in their plans, many of which will be voted on by state board members and reviewed by governors in the coming weeks. 

"I appreciate U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's action on these plans and look forward to federal approval on the remaining submissions," Chris Minnich, the  executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers said in a statement. 

Here's what the department cited as among the "unique elements" in each of the latest plans to be approved:  

  • District of Columbia: Incorporating ratings and measurements about the quality of districts' pre-K programs into its accountability system. 
  • Illinois: Judging schools' climate partly on the basis of student surveys. 
  • Oregon: Tracking how many credits high school freshmen have attained at the end of the year to make sure they're on track to graduation. 
  • Tennessee:  New grants aimed at boosting teacher diversity and innovation, as well as teacher and principal residencies to promote career advancement.  

State education departments over the last year have had a politically and logistically difficult time devising ways to comply with several aspects of the law regarding school improvement and accountability, and many policy analysts have wondered out loud how flexible the department will be with states in approving those plans.  

The federal department's review process has come under scrutiny in recent months by civil rights activists, school accountability hawks, and some state department officials for the level of transparency and for whether the department is holding states to the letter of the law.  


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