ISSUE #9: Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Amid criticism, the U.S. Department of Education requests more information from states before approving some state ESSA plans.

All 50 states (and the District of Columbia) have submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education, which has approved 15 of them.  The Department, however, has come under fire from education advocates who have claimed that many state plans ignore their legal obligation to identify and fix low-performing schools, according to an analysis highlighted by a recent report from the Education Trust. Secretary Betsy DeVos also has been criticized for approving plans that fail to address a central part of the law requiring states to identify schools for improvement based upon three distinct categories and to identify student sub-groups to measure student progress across a variety of demographic information, including minority students and students in poverty.

As a result of such criticism, the Department has asked some states (Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) for additional information and responses before approving their plans. With a federally mandated 120-day approval window, most states had until January 8 to revise and resubmit their plans, after which the U.S. Education Department will have a short window to re-review and either approve or deny those plans. Existing plans, even when approved, are a snapshot in time. If history is any indicator of the future, as states implement their plans, in the coming months and years there will be significant state-federal interaction, monitoring, requests for clarification and modification.