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Betsy DeVos Urged to Reject Florida's ESSA Plan by Civil Rights Groups

Several civil rights and education advocacy groups have a simple message for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: Just say no to Florida's Every Student Succeeds Act plan.

The Thursday letter to DeVos argues that the plan should be ditched because of the way it handles English learners, among other reasons. 

Written by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, League of United Latin American Citizens, and others, the letter argues that the Sunshine State's plan is a bad idea and doesn't follow ESSA because it doesn't offer state tests in languages other than English, including to the 200,000 students in Florida who are learning English and speak Spanish.

They also took issue with the plan for excluding English-language proficiency from the state's proposed accountability system. 

In addition, the groups say that Florida's plan doesn't appropriately identify schools with low performance for student subgroups. All three moves, the groups say, run counter to ESSA's requirements.

"Florida's plan must be rejected on both accounts: failing to serve the interests of marginalized students in the state, and failing to comply with the requirements of the law," the groups wrote to DeVos.

Florida's ESSA proposal has been controversial for months.

Back in July, our colleague Daarel Burnette II previewed how some activists were outraged that Florida wanted to put these provisions into an ESSA waiver request. (Florida ultimately declined to seek a waiver, and instead folded several provisions related to tests and accountability into its ESSA plan.) Florida said that students in need would be properly served by its ESSA plan regardless of which subgroup they belonged to. 

And in September, our Corey Mitchell wrote about Florida's plan not to offer state tests in languages other than English. The state has maintained that "giving assessments to students in their native languages would impede their ability to demonstrate their knowledge," as Corey wrote. Florida's constitution establishes English as the state's official language. 

Read the full letter below. 

This piece has been corrected to accurately reflect the civil rights' groups concerns with student subgroups' performance. 

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