California’s ESSA plan received some of the harshest feedback from the U.S. Department of Education. Each state is required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to come up with its own plan to improve schools. The U.S. Department of Education called the state’s new dashboard that tracks school performance complicated and incomplete.
California significantly overhauled its accountability system and created a framework for multiple measures so that standardized test scores would not be the sole measure of performance. The largest change was increasing local control and flexibility. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) must adopt and annually update three year Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) that focus on how they will meet each of the eight state priorities and more effectively serve high needs students.
The California School Dashboard incorporates six state performance measures that are:
- Academic Indicator, which includes results on standardized tests
- Career/College Readiness
- English Learner Progress
- Graduation Rate
- Suspension Rate
- Chronic Absenteeism
However the Department of Education requires a single summative rating that according to State Superintendent Tom Torlakson “would severely undercut the value of the multiple measures approach that the state adopted as a key feature of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and would undermine the value of ESSA’s requirement that states include indicators beyond test scores.” Torlakson noted that California’s ESSA plan emphasizes continuous improvement, public participation and equity.
The government’s feedback to California indicated that the plan doesn’t show how the state will identify its lowest-performing schools so they can receive extra support and ensure progress is actually made. They also said the plan doesn’t show how the state will measure improvements among student subgroups, such as English learners, or provide long-term goals for all English learners. It was also not clear how the state will support schools with student subgroups who are consistently underperforming or how the state will measure improvements among student subgroups. They want clearer targets to measure school’s interim progress and long-term goals.
The California School Board worked two years to reach a consensus on what should be in the plan and then deal with federal objections. The state plan spells out how California will improve the state’s lowest-performing, low-income schools in return for about $2.4 billion in federal funding to spend on low-income children, teacher training, services for migrant children and English learners.
The state driven system will be preserved. The board voted to separately ask Secretary DeVos to grant a waiver to reverse a change they had reluctantly agreed to, involving the metric for measuring the language proficiency of English learners. The California board wanted to credit the progress of students who have been reclassified as proficient in English.Secretary DeVos has 120 days to rule on the waiver request. Pending Secretary DeVos’ approval, the state will be able to proceed without the US Department of Education’s interference and the state’s system of improvement and accountability will filter down into the classroom this fall.