Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12

Betsy DeVos. Donald Trump. The Every Student Succeeds Act. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states.

Education

Betsy DeVos’ Team Critiques ESSA Plans for Hawaii, Ky., Neb., N.H., and Wis.

By Alyson Klein — December 21, 2017 4 min read

The U.S. Department of Education is cranking out responses to state’s plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act at a fast and furious pace. The latest states to hear back are: Hawaii, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. (Scroll down to see which other states have gotten feedback and who has been approved.)

All five states—whose feedback letters were released Thursday—have work to do on the nuts-and-bolts of the accountability plans, their ideas for identifying and fixing schools, and more. Here’s a quick look at some highlights of the responses. Click on the state name to read the full letter.

Hawaii: The department wants the Aloha State to identify languages other than English spoken by a significant number of students. States must “make every effort” to offer tests in those languages, according to ESSA. And Hawaii needs to be more specific about what it will take for a school to get out of low-performing status. Right now, Hawaii says those schools need to make “significant improvement,” but it doesn’t say what that means. Hawaii also needs to make sure disadvantaged and minority students have access to their fair share of qualified teachers.

Kentucky: Kentucky needs to make sure that its English-language proficiency indicator stands alone—right now, it’s lumped in with other indicators in the state’s accountability system. The state also needs to make clear that it is targeting schools as “chronically underperforming” because of the performance of historically overlooked groups of students and not for another reason. And Kentucky cannot include writing test scores as part of a school’s overall “academic achievement” score, because those tests aren’t offered in every grade.

Nebraska: The Cornhusker State proposed using a minimum number of assessments, rather than students, as its minimum “n-size.” That is not OK, according to the department. (Under ESSA, an n-size refers to the number of kids a state has to have from a particular group, like English-language learners, in order for it to matter for accountability purposes.). Nebraska also got hit for its use of so-called “scale scores,” which convert student grades to a comparable scale, say of 1 to 100. Other states, including Connecticut, got similar feedback in the first round, but ended up being able to use scale scores with minimal changes to their plans. Nebraska also needs to define what it means for a student to become proficient in English, and make sure that English-language proficiency counts as a separate indicator in its system. And it state needs to provide information about how much weight it is giving each indicator of its accountable system, so that the feds can make sure that academics are given more consideration than other factors.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire needs to be more clear about how it is calculating graduation rates for the purposes of its long-term goals, and identifying schools in need of serious intervention. The Granite State needs to provide information about how much weight it is giving each indicator of its accountable system, so that the feds can make sure that academics are given more consideration than other factors. And New Hampshire needs to spell out its plan for ensuring that disadvantaged students get access to their fair share of effective teachers.

Wisconsin: On paper, the Badger State presents a tough political challenge for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The state’s governor, Scott Walker, a Republican and DeVos ally, refused to sign off on the proposal, calling it bureaucratic and unlikely to improve student achievement. The state chief, Tony Evers, who wrote the plan, is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. If he gets it, he could challenge Walker next year.

But the department doesn’t appear to have been any tougher on Wisconsin than other states. The department told Wisconsin it needs to better explain how it will use test scores to calculate the “academic achievement” piece of school ratings. Wisconsin has also said it will identify schools as low-performing every six years, but ESSA requires states to do that at least once every three years, the feds say. And Wisconsin needs to spell out its plan for ensuring that disadvantaged students get access to their fair share of effective teachers.

Do states need to take the department’s suggestions in order to win approval for their ESSA plans? That’s unclear. Some states in the first round of plan submissions didn’t make major changes the department asked for and still got the federal stamp of approval. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., an ESSA architect has accused DeVos of approving plans that go outside the bounds of the law.

For those keeping score at home: So far, at least 19 other states that turned in plans this fall—Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming—have received feedback from the feds. Puerto Rico has also gotten a response on its plan. (Check out our summaries of their feedback here, here, and here.)

Plus, 15 states and the District of Columbia, all of which submitted plans in the spring, have gotten the all-clear from DeVos. Colorado, which asked for extra time on its application, is the only spring-submission state still waiting for approval.

Want more analysis of ESSA plans? Edweek has you covered here.


Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read