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Betsy DeVos’ Team Gives ESSA Feedback to Indiana, Rhode Island

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 27, 2017 3 min read
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Late last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ staff released feedback to two more states, Indiana and Rhode Island, about their Every Student Succeeds Act plans. Here are a few key areas where those two states’ ESSA blueprints need work, according to the feds.


Academic Achievement Indicator: Indiana plans to measure student growth in high school by looking at the change in the percentage of students passing the state’s exam for qualifying for graduation between grades 10 and 12. But department staff are skeptical that Indiana can use this exam as the annual state assessment required under ESSA.

School Quality or Student Success Indicator: The Hoosier State wants to measure college- and career-readiness by looking at the total number of high school graduates. However, the department says the state must use all students to judge performance on this indicator.

Other Academic Indicator for Elementary and Secondary Schools that are Not High Schools: Indiana wants to use student growth on reading and math assessments for grades 3-8 and high school for this indicator. However, DeVos’ staff said this indicator “must be limited to elementary and secondary schools that are not high schools.”

Exit Criteria for Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools: Indiana says schools that earn a C grade for two straight years can meet the criterion for exiting the pool of schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement. But DeVos’ team says the state doesn’t make it clear that schools that meet this exit criterion have “made continued progress to improve student academic achievement and school success.”

Rhode Island

Academic Achievement Indicator: As part of its approach to measuring achievement, the state wants to include the PSAT as well as the SAT. DeVos’ team says this approach appears to run afoul of ESSA.

Progress in Achieving English Language Proficiency Indicator: The state does not describe how it will calculate the indicator for English-language proficiency and how it will factor into schools’ ratings, according to feedback from the department.

School Quality or Student Success Indicator: Although the state says it plans to use data on teacher attendance for this indicator, DeVos’ staff says Rhode Island “does not provide detail regarding how teacher chronic absenteeism is calculated, and how the teacher chronic absenteeism measure is valid, reliable, and comparable, and can be disaggregated for each student group.” Rhode Island also doesn’t say how the points for this indicator are calculated.

Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools—Lowest Performing: Rhode Island’s method for identifying these schools, based on one-star ratings and the lowest performing 5 percent of all schools in the state “may lead to less than five percent of Title I, Part A schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement,” department staff stated in their feedback. These 5 percent of Title I schools have to be identified for comprehensive support and improvement under ESSA.

ESSA feedback from DeVos’ team has come at a rapid pace this month, with California, Pennsylvania, and Texas among the states to get critiques of their plans from the department. Florida and New York are two other big states to get feedback.

With the release of the feedback letters to Indiana and Rhode Island, the Education Department has officially responded to 32 of the 34 states that submitted ESSA plans in the fall. Only two states, Idaho and South Carolina, submitted ESSA plans in the fall and have yet to get feedback from DeVos’ department, according to the department’s website.

In addition, the department has approved ESSA plans submitted last spring from 15 states and the District of Columbia. Colorado is the only state whose ESSA plan was submitted in the spring but hasn’t been approved yet by DeVos.

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