An Independent Review of ESSA State Plans
The 2015 passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ushered in a new era for state education accountability systems. With less prescriptive federal requirements, ESSA provided states an opportunity to rethink both how they identify schools that need to improve and how those schools might be improved. The law requires states to submit their plans to the U.S. Department of Education and then begin implementing their approved plans in the 2017-18 school year. Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia submitted their plans in the spring of 2017, and the remaining 34 states submitted their plans in September.
Keeping student success at the heart of these plans is paramount. That’s why Bellwether Education Partners, in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success, convened an objective, independent peer review of state accountability plans in order to look beyond mere compliance with the federal process, encourage all states to adopt high-quality plans, and provide a resource for state leaders working to help all students succeed. After states submitted their official plans to the U.S. Department of Education, our bipartisan, ideologically diverse group of more than 45 education policy experts reviewed each plan in small teams.
The full group also included specific content experts to address the unique challenges associated with meeting the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners. Click here to view a full list of peer reviewers who participated in this process, including their bios.
In June, we published an executive summary of strengths and weaknesses across the first 17 plans, and today we’re releasing our findings after reviewing the remaining 34 plans. Read our latest findings here, or follow the links below to the reviews for individual state plans:
Importantly, these reviews represent a snapshot in time; that is, they reflect the quality of state plans as submitted to the federal government. As of this writing, the federal process is ongoing, and states are likely to make changes to their plans up until they earn approval. In the short term, the U.S. Department of Education has a responsibility to ensure there is sufficient information in the plans to meet the fundamental requirements of the law and ask for more detail, where necessary.
Even after the plans are approved, the federal government and states alike should carefully monitor implementation efforts to determine where plans have been successful and where changes are needed, and help build further evidence for the approaches and activities that promote equity and lead to better results for kids. We encourage advocates, state departments of education, and governors to use the lessons learned from this peer review process to guide stakeholder engagement conversations and plan implementation going forward. The findings from our independent reviews should be viewed as additional guidance from a bipartisan panel of experts and, within the context of each state, can provide important information on how to put in place strong statewide accountability systems that serve all students.
Be sure to visit checkstateplans.org to see how your state measures up using a helpful tool created by our partners at the Collaborative for Student Success.