With the April 3 early submission deadline looming, four states took big action on their ESSA plans in recent weeks.
Washington, D.C. State Board Approves ESSA Plan, Including School Ratings Based on PARCC results
This week the D.C. State Board of Education voted to approve the ESSA plan developed by the office of the state superintendent. Under D.C.’s plan, 70 percent of school ratings will be comprised of student results on the PARCC exam, using proficiency and growth data for lower grades and proficiency-only for high schools until baselines can be established. DFER District of Columbia applauded the plan’s “commitment to providing meaningful information about school quality to families and the public” and committed to supporting the ongoing implementation efforts.
Colorado Advocates Question Specific Metrics in State ESSA Plan
National policy experts at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute praised Colorado’s ESSA plan for using a mean score for achievement, a student growth percentile model, and assigning more weight to growth than proficiency. Some local advocates, though, have concerns. Stand for Children Colorado issued a response to the state’s plan, asking the department to “reconsider the metrics and cut scores used in the accountability system such that it asks schools and districts to prepare students for college and career success rather than to solely base students’ readiness on their achievement relative to other students.” A+ Colorado raised similar flags in their response, noting that a normative accountability systems means, “as a state, we are moving away from holding schools and districts accountable for helping students reach academic expectations.” Colorado Succeeds crafted a set of guiding principles for ESSA and while they applauded the state’s comprehensive stakeholder engagement, executive director Scott Laband noted, “We stand firm that the plan should be improved in key areas such as federal funding allocation, assessment participation, school performance reporting, and how we measure workforce readiness. We will continue working with our coalition partners and state education leaders to make sure Colorado takes full advantage of this once in a decade opportunity to buck the status quo and embrace innovation.”
Maryland Advocates Raise Serious Concerns about Legislation Outlining State Approach to ESSA
Citing concerns about school takeover by private companies, lawmakers in Maryland approved a bill that would outline the state’s approach to ESSA. Andrew Smarick, the Maryland State Board of Education’s president, argues the bill “would seriously encroach upon the purview of the state board as an independent body.” Beyond the larger question of who gets to make the decision about the plan, advocates are opposed to the bill’s accountability system design. MarylandCAN’s Jenese Jones issued a strong statement about the bill asserting, “This bill hurts children. It purposefully keeps important information about our students’ knowledge, skills and academic progress out of the conversation about school quality and disproportionately hurts children of color.” Maryland’s governor has committed to vetoing the bill, but it passed with enough votes to override the veto.
Louisiana Approves ESSA Plan and Will Submit by April 15
Advocates in Louisiana successfully persuaded the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to support Superintendent John White’s ESSA plan, including his recommendation to submit their state’s plan by April 15 to begin the implementation process more quickly. The state board heard more than six hours of public testimony and debate before approving the plan, which calls for 25 percent of schools’ scores to be based on yearly academic growth. Stand for Children Louisiana summarized, “The right choice is rarely the easiest choice but it is the right choice.” While teachers’ unions and educator associations pushed to delay plan submission, DFER Louisiana noted, “These arguments are simply not enough to warrant a complete halt in our state’s accountability system.”