U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Wednesday gave Nevada, New Jersey, and New Mexico the green light on their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. The three states join just one other, Delaware, whose plan was approved earlier this month.
All four states will begin implementing the law when the 2017-18 school year kicks off.
The states made some changes to win the department’s approval. For instance, Nevada changed the way science tests figure into its accountability system. And the department asked New Jersey for more specifics on how it will identify and turnaround low-performing schools. It also asked New Mexico for further detail on teacher quality.
DeVos’ team had been criticized for going overboard in asking states for additional information on their ESSA plans. But so far, it appears that most states are on the road to approval, with the possible exception of Michigan, DeVos’ home state. The department told the Wolverine State Tuesday that its plan is incomplete and can’t be properly reviewed until the feds get more information.
A few more things to note about the recently approved plans, for you ESSA wonks:
Opt-outs; Nevada arguably has one of the most serious sanctions so far for schools where a lot of kids decide to skip standardized tests. Schools in the Silver State with consistently high testing opt-out rates could get a significantly lower overall rating. But New Jersey doesn’t go out of its way to ding schools for low-test participation. If a school dips below 95 percent test participation—the percentage that’s required under the law—the Garden State simply notes it on the school’s report card. Both states’ approaches seem fine with the department.
Super subgroups: Some experts say that New Mexico appears to use so-called “super subgroups” in its plan. These combine different groups of students for accountability purposes, such as English-language learners and students in special education. Super subgroups were a big feature of state accountability plans under the Obama administration’s waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act. But civil rights advocates say they mask achievement gaps. Super subgroups are arguably not allowed under ESSA. The feds told some states, including Tennessee, that they needed to revise their ESSA plans to get rid of super subgroups. But the issue didn’t seem to hold up New Mexico’s approval.
Reminder: So far, sixteen states and the District of Columbia have submitted ESSA plans. Most have received initial feedback from the department. Thirty-four states will turn in their plans later this fall.
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