States are Leading with ESSA

image of students

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in 2015, gave states the opportunity, as well as the flexibility and authority to write federal plans aligned with their state visions to create more equitable education systems for all students. Today, all ESSA plans are now approved, and states have taken the lead and turned to the important work of implementing those plans aligned with their state visions.

Below are several examples of how states have worked with state and local stakeholders to already move forward in this work.

Innovative Assessments

  • Louisiana is the first state to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Education to participate in ESSA’s “Innovative Assessment” pilot. Under the state’s plan, Louisiana will combine English and social studies into one test and will complete brief reading and writing exams throughout the school year, rather than a summative test at the end of the year—helping teachers get “real time” updates on progress. These tests will also include passages from texts that students have studied in class, rather than test them on new material.  
  • New Hampshire is working to scale its cutting-edge Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE), a competency-based assessment that requires students to demonstrate proficiency on a given topic before moving forward to the next. This system has been in place for multiple years in New Hampshire. Under ESSA, the state would scale it to make it available to more students across the state. Through PACE, educators are able to judge student growth based on outcomes rather than inputs like time spent in a class.

Stakeholder Engagement

  • The District of Columbia has worked with community-based organizations to collect feedback from almost 1,900 parents to drive the design and launch of their new report card aligned with ESSA. While the report card is still being designed, D.C. heard from many stakeholders who prioritized information about teachers and school culture.

Evidence-Based Practice

  • Connecticut has identified leading practices in seven school improvement areas that research suggest will increase the likelihood of improved student outcomes. The Evidence-Based Practice Guides are intended to inform school and district decision-making regarding instructional and student support programming and to optimize the use of local, state, and federal school improvement funds. Resources include guides for early learning, reading, mathematics, English language proficiency, On-Track for graduation, school climate and culture, and student, family, and community engagement.

Continuous Improvement for All Schools

  • Oklahoma’s Champions of Excellence program will invest in schools seeking to advance student achievement by addressing well-rounded education, safe and healthy schools, and effective use of technology. This program will establish rubrics for Programs of Excellence that will supplement the existing accountability system by providing schools the option to celebrate aspects of their school programs. Competitive grants will be awarded to programs that support access to one or more of six focus areas: fine arts, mathematics, science, social studies and civics, world language, and safe and healthy schools.
  • Oregon has been sending regular communications to local school districts describing the changes to school improvement identification and the roll-out of Oregon’s new model of supports aimed to strengthen district systems. In Oregon, the system recognizes individual schools as part of a larger district system, differentiates supports to ensure students and schools most in need prioritize improvement efforts and make steady progress, and shares responsibility and accountability for the success of students in all of Oregon’s schools.
  • Louisiana and New Mexico have both approved plans for their state’s lowest-performing schools, coupled with significant investments in these schools. In New Mexico, for example, the Governor announced an additional $15 million support package for the state’s most struggling schools.


Teacher Recruitment and Retention

  • Mississippi, Georgia, and Pennsylvania are using ESSA to support efforts around recruiting teachers of color, improving the teacher preparation experience, providing induction and mentoring to novice teachers, increasing teacher pay, and creating or encouraging career pathways for educators.

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