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Betsy DeVos Approves Six More ESSA Plans

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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has given six more states the thumbs-up on their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act: Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, and New Hampshire. 

These approvals bring the grand total of approved state ESSA plans to 33, plus Puerto Rico's and the District of Columbia's. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia submitted plans last spring, and all but one of those states—Colorado—have been approved. Another 34 states turned in plans last fall, and so far, 18 have been approved.

So what do the approved plans look like? Below are some highlights of the state's draft applications.

Georgia: The state is expecting its schools to make annual improvements of 3 percent on state tests each year, for the next 15 years. And the Peach State is considering closure of achievement gaps in rating schools. Georgia also has a myriad of indicators of school quality and student success. For its elementary and middle schools it is looking at literacy, attendance, and scores on advanced courses. For its high schools, it is considering accelerated coursework and the share of students completing a world language, fine arts, or career and technical education, and college-readiness. Attendance will be considered for all schools.

Hawaii: The state will shift all of its Title IV money for a well-rounded curriculum into Title II instead. Title II pays for professional development. It is considering chronic absenteeism as its indicator of school quality or student success. In a feedback letter sent in December, the feds told Hawaii it needed to make sure its student achievement goals expected progress from all groups of students and that its accountability system complied with ESSA's requirements.

Indiana: The Hoosier State plans to consider chronic absenteeism and college- and career-readiness. It is working on eventually including a school climate indicator. The state will continue using an A through F grading system to rate its schools. In its feedback letter, sent in December, the feds told Indiana that it was unclear if it was complying with ESSA's rules for weighting indicators. 

Kansas: ESSA requires all states to help schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent of performers, schools that have really low graduation rates, and schools where particular groups of students—like English language learners—are falling behind. But Kansas wants to add a third category of schools needing "universal support and improvement." Kansas was given a long list of things to work on its December feedback letter. For instance, the state was told it needed to spell out interim goals for student achievement, not say they were "to be determined." And it was unclear to the department if Kansas' accountability system used the same metrics statewide. Kansas also said it to wait until 2019 to start reporting English-language learner's progress towards proficiency in English, which the department said isn't kosher under ESSA.

Montana: Montana wants to reduce the number of students who are not proficient on state tests by four percentage points each year. It will consider STEM, attendance, and factors aimed at improving school climate, reducing behavioral issues, and increasing engagement alongside test scores in rating its elementary schools. For high schools, it will be considering college- and career-readiness, attendance, and an indicator that incorporates school climate, reducing behavioral issues, and increasing engagement. In its feedback letter to Montana, the feds told the state that it needs to better explain how it decided to look at the performance of only white and Native American student subgroups. In its application, Montana told the feds that these were the only subgroups with "substantial populations." But Montana didn't detail how it arrived at that conclusion, or what "substantial" means.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire is planning to use a dashboard, which looks at a host of factors in describing school performance. It also wants to continue its push on competency-based education through a pilot program that has allowed a cadre of districts to use performance tasks for accountability purposes in lieu of the state test in certain grades. New Hampshire eventually wants to take these tests statewide. New Hampshire was dinged in its feedback letter for the way it plans to take test participation into account in rating schools. 

Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here's some useful information:


Video: ESSA Explained in 3 Minutes


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