States Submitting ESSA-Aligned Plans for Student Success

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Washington, D.C. (September 18, 2017) - Today marks the second round of states submitting plans aligned to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), putting forth visions for their state education systems that were crafted with their parents, educators and students.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia submitted ESSA-aligned plans to the U.S. Department of Education in the April submission window. To date, 14 have been approved.

"State chiefs work hard every day to provide an equitable education to every student, a commitment also at the core of Every Student Succeeds Act," said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO.

"I am proud of the work states have done to engage stakeholders at the state and local level and craft plans to do what's best for the students in their state. These plans were created with educators, parents, students and community members who want to ensure the highest quality education for all of their kids. Each plan is part of the state's broader effort to ensure better outcomes for students, and I look forward to seeing how states will work with their stakeholders to successfully implement these plans and improve education for all kids."  

The following are a few highlights from the state ESSA plans:

Arkansas created the Arkansas Educational Support and Accountability System based on a strong theory of action that shifts the focus of its efforts from directly intervening in schools to empowering and enabling local districts to make decisions to promote success for their students. Now, local education agencies will be empowered to harness local, state, and federal resources to enhance outcomes for all students, particularly those schools in need of support and those schools historically underserved.

Through its ESSA plan, the District of Columbia has created a common, consistent and transparent system for all public schools called the STAR Framework. The Framework affirms the important role that school environment factors play in increasing student achievement by including concrete, quantifiable measures that provide important indicators of how schools are engaging and supporting students. In addition, the District has expanded its view of school performance to make sure schools are supporting all students whether it is increasing access to challenging courses or providing extra time to graduate from high school. 

Hawaii has taken advantage of flexibilities offered in the federal law, changing its approach to ensure its ESSA plan focuses on the state's plans and visions and how federal requirements and resources can support the state, rather than letting the federal government dictate educational goals and improvement strategies. For example, Hawaii reshaped its school accountability system so interventions, based on school performance data, will productively support rather than punish schools with the most struggling students.

Idaho's plan incorporates the state's new accountability framework to create a simple, easy-to-understand method of monitoring progress among all schools and identifying schools the most in need of support. In addition, the state has created a state team dedicated to supporting and partnering with schools to improve outcomes for students.

Iowa is shifting its approach to accountability - from limited prescriptive solutions, to a state accountability system that provides support to school districts where and when they need it most. Differentiated Accountability is a system that is data-driven, tailored to schools' needs, and is rooted in collaborative problem-solving and continuous improvement. Through Differentiated Accountability, the state takes the work of accountability and equity for all students seriously, yet the system allows for thoughtful collaboration, rather than offering a set of limited options that may not work for schools. This is a direction Iowa has been moving in and ESSA allows Iowa to continue down this path.  

At the heart of Kentucky's state plan is a new accountability system developed with input from thousands of Kentuckians. It is built on a foundation of rigorous standards and high expectations for each student, with an intentional focus on low-performing students and closing achievement gaps through many inclusive strategies. Among the highlights of the new system: the state is including an indicator to ensure every student has equitable opportunity and access to standards, content, programs, quality educators, and educational experiences that support and lead to student success, and students have a choice for how they will demonstrate readiness, whether it be academic, career or military readiness.

Maryland's plan includes a strong focus on personalized professional learning for new and veteran teachers as well as a strong school system-focused approach to supporting all low performing and high poverty schools, with specific emphasis on turnaround leadership, talent development, instructional transformation, and culture shifts.

Minnesota's new accountability system increases the focus on equity by supporting high schools with graduation rates below 67 percent overall or for any student group. Also, schools identified for support will benefit from collaborative partnerships with the Minnesota Department of Education, a marked change from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Under Minnesota's plan, the state's Regional Centers of Excellence will expand their involvement with schools and districts identified for support. The centers provide on-the-ground assistance to districts and schools to create the capacity and conditions that facilitate change. Under ESSA, Minnesota will identify and support between 300 and 400 schools, including high schools - a far larger number than under No Child Left Behind or the state's waiver.

Mississippi will invest in supporting districts to develop and implement grow-your-own programs, which create a teacher workforce pipeline for students, paraprofessionals, and other community members. Grow-your-own programs also help to create a sustainable pipeline of educators who are members of the community in which they teach.

Montana is taking advantage of the new flexibility allowed under the law to provide a stronger focus on the whole child and preparing every student for the next step in their education. Most notably, Montana will now include academic growth in its goals and ensure more support for all students. In addition, the state is making greater efforts close long-standing achievement gaps. The state has collaborated with tribal community and education leaders to ensure the Montana plan is culturally responsive and reflective of the unique challenges American Indian students face throughout their education.   

North Carolina's theory of action provides a concise statement of the innovation the state expects for students, including using adaptive environments, personalized learning, and empowered educators. The plan also establishes 10-year goals for student performance using end-of-grade and end-of-course exams and goals for closing achievement gaps, and continues the School Performance Grades model, in which schools earn a A-F grades based on proficiency measures and student-growth targets.

Oklahoma's state plan demonstrates the state's commitment to an individualized approach to education to ensure all kids succeed. To advance equity, the state is committed to examining each student group's progress toward targeted goals, increasing the number of minority students identified for gifted and talented programs and creating more access to advanced coursework in rural communities. The state also worked with stakeholders to create innovative approaches to improving its education system. One example is that Oklahoma is now recognizing child nutrition as an academic intervention because the state understands students will struggle to learn and succeed if they are hungry. 

Pennsylvania is broadening the scope of the indicators in its accountability system to provide a more holistic school report card with less emphasis on standardized test scores. Pennsylvania's proposed indicators for federal accountability include a greater emphasis on academic growth, career readiness benchmarks, chronic absenteeism, and extended-year graduation rates for federal accountability purposes. The Future Ready PA Index, Pennsylvania's new public facing school report card, will launch next fall and include other important indicators, including access to advanced coursework, postsecondary transitions, decrease in percent below basic and increase in percent scoring advanced, among other measures.

Rhode Island sets a vision for graduates who are well prepared for a rewarding career. The state outlines challenging learning opportunities, investment in dual and concurrent enrollment, creation of a statewide Seal of Biliteracy, expansion of work-based learning opportunities, and an initiative to put computer science courses in every school in the state by the end of 2017. In its aspirations for 2025, it aims to have 100 percent of graduates earn added credentials.

Virginia's accountability plan under ESSA is closely aligned with the state's standards of accreditation. Academic achievement, student growth, and English Learner progress towards gaining proficiency in English are integrated into the state's system. The state is also implementing a tiered system of support that is a data-driven decision making framework for establishing the academic, behavioral and social-emotional supports needed for schools to create effective learning environment for all students. 

West Virginia's new school accountability system includes a well-balanced approach that relies on multiple measures of evaluation for schools. While 87 percent of the previous accountability system was tied to the summative assessment, the new system will provide schools with a balanced scorecard that truly considers multiple measures. Schools will earn one of four performance levels within each indicator and no summative score (or grade) will be assigned. As part of its support for schools, West Virginia will utilize "statistical neighbors" to help form partnerships between schools and districts to enable the sharing of best practices and resources. The West Virginia Department of Education will identify local education agencies and schools with statistically significant high performance in specific areas and match them as statistical neighbors to demographically similar LEAs and schools that are struggling in those same specific areas.

Wyoming's plan sets forth a path to success for all of its students by looking beyond college readiness and including career and military readiness measures in its accountability model. The state will support schools in meeting their ambitious goals through a statewide system of support, and allow teachers and school leaders a larger voice in determining the professional development offered by the state. Wyoming is also partnering with its university on their Trustees Education Initiative to improve their teacher prep program and ensure a solid teacher pipeline from the only four-year university in the state.     


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.  

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