Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA State Updates


March 1, 2016

Who decides whether or not state school report cards are understandable? Can Kentucky get away with identifying fewer low-performing schools than ESSA requires? Is it better to run for Congress as pro-ESSA or anti-ESSA?

National. Over at EIA, Mike Antonucci reported yesterday that the National Education Association will spend $5 million on ESSA implementation from its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund. Politco has a bit more here.

National. The New York Times reported yesterday that many experts are not supportive of including non-academic measures like social-emotional skills in state accountability systems despite an ESSA requirement that they do so. Angela Duckworth: “all measures suck, and they all suck in their own way.” Marty West: “You think test scores are easy to game?…They’re relatively hard to game when you compare them to a self-report survey.”

Arkansas. ESSA requires statewide report cards that, among other things, are “presented in an understandable and uniform format that is developed in consultation with parents.” Arkansas law has similar provisions, but state education board member Diane Zook said, “I just don’t see this as meeting the spirit of the legislation.”

Colorado. A Republican challenger to Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton is making Tipton’s vote in favor of ESSA a key part of his campaign. Attorney Alex Beinstein asserts that even the weak federal role under ESSA is unconstitutional. “If it’s not in the Constitution, those powers are reserved to the people and the states,” he said. (Meanwhile, in neighboring, Utah…see below).

Indiana. Governor Mike Pence has joined State Supe Glenda Ritz and teachers unions in calling for the state to ditch its statewide annual assessment (ISTEP). Pence says that ESSA “provides an opportunity to ‘reconsider the ISTEP test and take a step back’ to look for “ways we can do testing better.” Republican House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning concurred saying: “Let’s provide some more flexibility to move kids forward based on their skill level…we’re so tied to saying every kid is (a certain) level.”

Illinois. Republican Congressman Robert Dold (R-Lincolnshire) claims that because of a quirk in the way the state requires schools to contribute to teacher pension plans, federal Title I funds disproportionately wind up going to pay down old pension liabilities. He wants to change that.

Kentucky. Even before the start of negotiated rulemaking at the U.S. Department of Education, the Kentucky Senate has passed an education bill that is at odds with many of ESSA’s key provisions on school report cards (Kentucky would report less information than ESSA requires) and school interventions (the state could identify far fewer schools for improvement than ESSA specifies). Read the Prichard blog post by Susan Perkins Weston for a thorough rundown here.

Maine. Governor Paul LePage has proclaimed that he will be the state Commissioner of Education. State Representative Tori Kornfield (D-Bangor) who is chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and a former high school teacher says that with all the work accompanying ESSA implementation, LePage’s self-appointment is a “poor example of civics to set for the students of Maine.”

Minnesota. Democratic State Senator Susan Kent sees ESSA implementation as an opportunity for the state to get smarter about how it disaggregates data for Asian-American and Pacific-Islander students (AAPI). Studies have found that lumping all AAPI students into one category results in masking the low-performance of some AAPI students (e.g., Burmese and Hmong) because of higher performance, on average, of others (e.g., Chinese and Vietnamese).

Oklahoma. Legislation to get rid of state-mandated, high school end-of-course exams is on the move. Oklahoma would be availing itself here of flexibility allowed under ESSA for districts to use nationally recognized tests like the SAT or ACT in place of state tests.

Pennsylvania. Activists in Pennsylvania and New Jersey – at least those from affluent districts such as Lower Merion and Cherry Hill – are hoping to exploit what they see as leeway under ESSA to encourage opt-outs and revisit the grades in which students are administered state tests.

Utah. 2nd district Congressional candidate Charlene Albarran is citing her support for the Every Student Succeeds Act as a key contrast with current 2nd district Congressman Chris Stewart, who voted against ESSA.