U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approved 11 state ESSA plans on Tuesday: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Here are some highlights of each plan, as submitted for approval:
Arkansas: The state proposed to assign schools letter grade on an A through F scale in the ESSA plan it submitted to the department. In its feedback to the state, the department told Arkansas it needed to do a better job of explaining its indicator of school quality or student success.
Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, refused to sign the state’s plan because he felt it wasn’t strong on enough on accountability. Hogan’s allies warned that the department might not approve the plan. State law prohibits Maryland’s education department from taking certain dramatic steps to turnaround low-performing schools. The state is planning to use chronic absenteeism, school climate, and access to a well-rounded curriculum as its school quality indicators.
Missouri: The state is planning to use attendance as its indicator of school quality or student success. In its feedback letter from the department, Missouri was dinged for its plans to identify and help districts fix struggling schools.
New York: The Empire State sought to include science and social studies alongside reading and math in its accountability system. It also sought to have use an n-size of 30—the minimum number of students from a particular group that a school must have for that group to be included in accountability measures—for most parts of its accountability system. But the state choose a larger n-size, of 40 for test participation purposes (the state has had a relatively large share of parental opt-outs). In feedback to the state, the department asked for more information about how these different n-sizes would be used to gauge school performance. New York is also seeking flexibility on testing students in special education; it was not immediately clear if the department granted that leeway.
Ohio: The Buckeye State plans to use an A through F grading system to rate its schools. It is considering chronic absenteeism and school discipline data, as well as a “preparation for success” indicator for high schools that incorporates dual enrollment and AP and IB tests.
Pennsylvania: The Keystone State is looking at chronic absenteeism and career-readiness alongside test scores in gauging school performance. In its feedback letter to the state, the department told Pennsylvania it was unclear if its plans for calculating school grades and for identifying schools where particular groups of students are struggling met ESSA’s requirements.
South Dakota: The Mount Rushmore State was dinged in it feedback letter from the department for including a so-called “super subgroup” that combined different groups of students for accountability purposes. South Dakota’s draft plan also called for rating schools on a 100-point scale.
Washington: Washington is shooting to get 90 percent of its students to proficiency by the 2026-27 school year. It also wants to get the graduation rate up to 90 percent by the same year. The state will look at chronic absenteeism, a 9th grade “on track” measure, and dual enrollment in rating its schools. It will rate schools on a 1 to 10 scale.
Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, refused to sign off on the state’s plan, which was written by Tony Evers, the Democratic state chief. Walker said the plan was bureaucratic and not as innovative as Tennessee’s. Wisconsin plans to grade its schools on a 100-point scale, and will use chronic absenteeism as its measure of school quality or student success.
Wyoming: The Equality State will look at student growth, as well as post-secondary readiness as its measure of school quality or student success. In its feedback letter to Wyoming, the department raised questions about whether the state’s accountability plan met ESSA’s requirements.
The department also approved a plan for Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria.
Where do ESSA plans stand? Sixteen states and the District of Columbia submitted their plans in the spring. All but one of those states—Colorado—has been approved. Another 34 states turned in plans this fall. DeVos has now given the green light to 13 of those plans from the second round, including those listed above plus Minnesota and West Virginia. Every state, except for South Carolina, which turned in its plan late for weather-related reasons, has gotten feedback from the department. In some cases, DeVos and company have given the thumbs-up to plans even when states didn’t make changes requested by the department.
Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here’s some useful information: