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Will One State’s Proposed ESSA Changes Be a Test for Betsy DeVos?

By Alyson Klein — March 05, 2019 2 min read
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New Mexico is planning a major shakeup of its plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. And it’s not the only state that’s mulling changes. Among those with potential revisions in the works: Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wyoming.

However, it’s New Mexico’ rewrite that could present an interesting test for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team. Will they let a state go in an entirely new direction, as long as what it is proposing to do is still kosher under the law?

New Mexico wants to ditch the state’s system for rating schools on an A through F scale, and replace it instead with broader labels for schools. Schools in the top quartile of schools in the state will be labeled as “Spotlight” schools. Those in the middle 50 percent would be considered “traditional support” schools. And those in the bottom 25 percent would get one of ESSA’s labels, either “targeted support” or “comprehensive support.” (For a full rundown, check out the posted amendment here.)

The approach looks similar to what the U.S. Department of Education has approved for other states under ESSA.

The state is also seeking to ditch the PARCC tests. And the newly designated interim state education chief, Karen Trujillo, has signaled more changes are coming, according to the Albuquerque Journal. That likely means a reworking of the state’s teacher evaluation system—arguably the toughest in the country.

The changes aren’t coming out of left field. The original ESSA plan was developed under the previous governor, Susana Martinez, a Republican. The new governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, ran on getting rid of many of the changes Martinez’s administration put in place, including the teacher evaluation system and the A through F rating system.

Elsewhere, Indiana is seeking to move away from its letter grade system for federal accountability and replace it with new labels: “exceeds expectations,” “meets expectations,” “approaches expectations,” and “does not meet expectations.” (More in their amendment, posted here).

Wyoming has also developed an amendment that reworks the state’s goals, in part because of a new testing system. (See the revision posted here).

And then there are bills under consideration in state legislatures that could force changes to ESSA plans. South Carolina is mulling legislation that would call for students to receive a yearly rating of their math and literacy skills. The legislation would also scrap some social studies and science testing, which might mean revisions to South Carolina’s ESSA plan.

There’s also potential ESSA drama in Michigan, where lawmakers scrapped the accountability system at the center of the state’s approved plan late last year. They replaced it with a new, letter-based accountability system that judges schools on English and math proficiency on a state test, growth in English and math scores, and growth among English-language learner among other things. But the acting state chief, Sheila Alles, has alleged that the new system is not ESSA-compliant. (More here from Daarel Burnette II of State EdWatch fame.)

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