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Press Release

Thursday, March 09, 2017

States Lead on Transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act

Contact:Olympia Meolaolympia.meola@ccsso.org202-336-7071

Washington, D.C. (March 9, 2017) -- The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today released the following statements after the U.S. Senate vote to overturn accountability regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

ESSA provides a long-term, stable federal policy that gives states additional flexibility and encourages states and schools to innovate, while at the same time holding us accountable for results. Under this new law, every state now has more opportunity and responsibility to improve the way all kids are served in public schools across the state.  

Since the law passed in 2015, states have taken the lead in implementing the new law and creating state plans aligned with the state's vision for improving outcomes for all kids.  

"States are creating good plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, with or without regulations," said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. "Despite the back and forth in DC, states are focused on creating plans that are best for the kids in their state."  

"South Dakota has an aspiration that all students leave the K-12 education system ready for college, careers and life," said South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp, who serves as President of CCSSO's Board of Directors. "Our approach since the passage of ESSA has been, and will continue to be, to follow the language and intent of the law, which was to provide states and local school districts more autonomy to develop high quality policies and accountability systems that provide support for schools, opportunities for students, and information for stakeholders.  

"In the absence of the accountability regulations issued as a result of ESSA's passage, South Dakota will continue to lead in this area by staying true to the law - with a guiding principle of making decisions based on what is right and beneficial for the students of our state," Schopp said.    

Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said, "Mississippi is forging ahead with our statewide accountability system whether or not federal regulations are repealed. We have a strong accountability model that we are strengthening further to address the performance of English learners. Mississippi's plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act includes accountability for all student subgroups, closing achievement gaps and improving outcomes among persistently low-performing subgroups. We will publicly report all of these data points so that our state stays focused on improving achievement among all students."   

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said, "Pennsylvania is actively engaged in developing its ESSA Consolidated State Plan. We believe that ESSA provides Pennsylvania a once in a generation opportunity to revise our system of evaluating schools and guiding school improvement for persistently struggling schools to drive the instructional practices and educational opportunities that will enable all students to achieve. The goal of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is to help every school be ready to prepare students for success in postsecondary education, workforce and career, and as responsible and involved citizens. This is our ESSA state plan goal as well.  

"In the event of Congressional Review Act action on the accountability regulations released by USDE in final form last November, Pennsylvania will continue to lead our ESSA work with our focus on the policies and initiatives already in development by Pennsylvania Department of Education that further our education goals."  

"New Mexico developed School Grades in 2011-12 and is heading into its sixth year of full implementation of meaningful school accountability with single summative ratings for each school and district on an annual basis.  Our state will continue to use School Grades as a tool for both accountability and improvement, with proven interventions for struggling schools like Principals Pursuing Excellence (heading into its fifth year) and additional flexibility for schools meeting standards of excellence," said Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Secretary of Education.  

"New Mexico recently conducted a statewide New Mexico Rising Community Tour, the state's most extensive stakeholder engagement process in recent history.  Through this, state leaders heard that New Mexico's School Grades should account for science education, high-performing students, growth-to-proficiency models for English Learners, and updated student and family survey instruments that account for school safety, climate, culture, and responsiveness to community needs.  In the years ahead, New Mexico plans to build upon its School Grades system to incorporate this stakeholder input, while continuing to weigh student academic proficiency, student achievement growth, and high school graduation as the three predominant factors for accountability and public transparency."

"The regulations released in May 2016 and finalized in November 2016 distract from the original requirements devised by Congress to improve student academic achievement and school success. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and our stakeholders are clear that a system based on punitive measures and the ranking and sorting of our schools does not serve the best interest of students, educators, schools, or communities. The regulations require such a constraining and punitive approach. This approach assumes that schools and those who work in them cannot be trusted and twists the concept meaningful differentiation for all public schools away from the intent of ISBE, our stakeholders, and the ESSA statute," said Illinois Superintendent of Education Tony Smith.

"From the inception of our work, we have taken to heart Senator Alexander's guidance for states to develop our plans with the intent of the law in mind. Since ISBE has aligned its state plan to the intent of the law, should the regulations be repealed, ISBE will continue its work in accordance with the statute to create an accountability system in the best interest of Illinois' students." 

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said, "Despite the rollback of regulations related to ESSA, the message from Secretary DeVos is clear. Thus, Wyoming will continue to carefully and swiftly plan for full implementation of ESSA. We owe our students, teachers, and communities a clear and cohesive plan for the 2017-18 school year. The congressional intent that ESSA return the bulk of education governance to the states and state education agency is unobjectionable with or without regulations. We look forward to continued conversations, guidance, and regulations that help refine the implementation of ESSA but have adequate guidance to proceed as a state."  

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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.