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States Await Feedback from Betsy DeVos on Most Recent Submission of ESSA Plans

September 18 marked the deadline for states to submit their K-12 accountability plans to the Department of Education for review. Thirty states and Puerto Rico turned in their plans by the Monday midnight deadline. Alabama, Texas, Florida and South Carolina were granted an extension period because of the recent hurricanes.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to create accountability plans for student success that must be reviewed and vetted by the Department of Education (DOE) before they can be implemented.

Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia had previously submitted their plans for approval. The previously submitted state plans received harsh feedback from the DOE that ranged from not being “ambitious enough” to concerns over states overlooking the performance of historically disadvantaged students of color to a lack of clarity on how states would identify and handle poor-performing schools. Republicans at the time argued that the feedback presented by Betsy DeVos’ team went beyond ESSA bounds. Democrats, on the other hand, criticized the department for its lack of guidance in helping states craft their accountability systems. Of those states that had previously submitted plans, only Colorado, Massachusetts, and Michigan have yet to be approved.

Following the first round of submissions, the Education Department notified states that they would not be able to use Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses as a way of measuring college and career readiness. Upon receiving the feedback notifications, Republicans were critical that DeVos was not giving states enough flexibility to devise their education plans.

DeVos has been outspoken about her encouragement for states to submit plans that “break the mold” and contended that there are paths in ESSA that allow for “creativity and flexibility.”

“I'm encouraging states to do so and not to err on the side of caution, but to really push and go up to the line, test how far it takes to go over it," DeVos told Education Week.

States submitting the latest round of plans undoubtedly looked at the previously submitted 16 as an example of what types of plans to submit and previously noted obstacles by the Department of Education to avoid. State education officials were reminded by education experts to review best practices noted in existing plans before submission.

How quickly the state plans will pass through the review process is unknown, but the overwhelming consensus among the handful of education policymakers reviewing the plans is that the majority of states are moving in the right direction.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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