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Here’s How Well a Key Civil Rights Group Thinks States Address Equity in ESSA

By Alyson Klein — April 10, 2019 3 min read
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Eight states—including three of the nation’s largest, California, Florida, and Michigan—are doing a “poor” job of looking out for vulnerable students in their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, according to an analysis by the National Urban League, a prominent civil rights organization.

The analysis, “Standards of Equity & Excellence: A Lens on State ESSA Plans,” considered how plans in 36 states and the District of Columbia handle the performance of subgroups of students, including English-learners, students in special education, racial minorities, and poor students. And it looked at how states plan to support struggling schools and ensure that schools serving high-poverty populations get their fair share of resources. Overall, states appeared to struggle the most with fixing low-performing schools.

A plurality of states&20 in all—are doing “sufficient” work, the analysis found. And another nine states—Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island—were rated as “excellent.”

Other states receiving the “poor” designation: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, and Virginia. The analysis did not give ratings to Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, or Wyoming because those states do not have an Urban League affiliate.

The analysis also looked at 12 factors in all, including how well a state had reached out to the education community in building its plan, whether the state is reporting data in a clear and transparent way, and whether all students have access to high-quality curricula, early learning, and college and career readiness. States doing excellent work are displayed in green, those doing “sufficient” work are yellow, and those in red are rated as “poor.”

At an event in Washington unveiling the report, Marc Morial, the CEO of the National Urban League, commended the states that received “excellent” ratings, but said he’d like to see those that got “poor” ratings take a red pen to their plans.

“What we would like to see them do?,” he asked. “We would like to see them go back and redo their plans, to add to their plans. There is no reason these states should write a poor plan, even if the Department of Education approved these plans. These plans in these states did not meet our standards of equity.”

Pedro Rivera, the secretary of education in Pennsylvania and president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said that when his state first saw its yellow rating, officials couldn’t help but question the report’s methodology since the state felt it was offering opportunities for vulnerable groups. But then he thought about it further.

“The truth is if we come up with this great plan and nobody knows about it, is it great plan?” he asked. “Is it focused on equity? If they don’t know how to access the resources that we make available to them, are we making those resources available to our most underserved and vulnerable communities? The truth is if folks don’t know about it, then we’re not.”

The Urban League is calling on Congress to hold hearings on the law’s implementation. The call comes just a day after Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va, the chairman of the House education committee, criticized state plans for not doing enough for historically disadvantaged groups of students.

Scott and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, have expressed big concerns that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is approving plans that don’t meet the law’s requirements for vulnerable students. More here.

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

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