Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource (2017)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approved California’s plan for meeting requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act on Thursday, just one day after the State Board of Education sent to Washington its third version of the state plan.

DeVos’ approval was expected, although it may have come faster than state officials had anticipated. Jason Botel, DeVos’ chief administrator reviewing state plans, had written the state board a letter last month stating that he would recommend that the secretary approve the plan if the board made final changes that he and state officials had discussed. The state board did this quickly and unanimously after little discussion Wednesday.

“Given the differences between federal and state law, the plan approved by Secretary DeVos today represents the best possible outcome of our discussions with U.S. Department of Education staff,” Michael Kirst, president of the state board, said in a statement Thursday.

With the approval of the state plans of California and Utah, which DeVos announced in a press release, Florida remains the only state with an unapproved plan. The federal law is to take effect in the 2018-19 school year.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, the principal federal law governing public schools, provides the bulk of federal funding for low-income schools. It requires that states improve their lowest-performing low-income schools and meet other requirements in exchange for aid: about $2.4 billion for California in 2018-19.

Approval follows eight months of intensive negotiations between Botel and top state education officials. Although Congress gave states flexibility to fix low-performing schools, California and the U.S. Department of Education had a fundamental disagreement. The federal law requires states to concentrate on the lowest-scoring schools as well as on the lowest-performing ethnic and student groups within schools. California’s Local Control Funding Formula, the state law governing funding and requiring districts to lay out school improvement efforts, emphasized broader district reforms that identify common areas needing improvement among schools. The state board fought to avoid two parallel, potentially conflicting, systems of improvement.

In the fall, the state will identify the lowest-performing 5 percent of low-income schools, about 400 schools. The state board was not required to spell out in its federal plan the actions it will require districts to take to satisfy the federal law. It will hold hearings this fall to get the public’s ideas. One approach, which the state board staff raised in a memo in April, would be to require districts to include plans for intensive help for the weakest schools as an attachment to their Local Control and Accountability Plans. Districts must update these plans annually, which detail how they use funding formula dollars to address low-performing student groups.

In her press release, DeVos highlighted how California provides information on the performance of the state’s many student groups through the California School Dashboard, the website that uses multi-colored ratings for multiple indicators of student achievement. It also cited the state’s extensive outreach efforts to solicit the views of “thousands of California’s education stakeholders” in developing its state plan.

In a celebratory note, Kirst added, “California is a national leader in supporting students with extra needs, providing local control over spending, encouraging community participation in schools and releasing critical information on measures that indicate student success. Our ESSA plan allows that work to continue.”

SHARE ARTICLE

Comments (5)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments Policy

The goal of the comments section on EdSource is to facilitate thoughtful conversation about content published on our website. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Bill Conrad 1 month ago1 month ago

    California has changed its theory of action as it relates to accountability moving from a focus on academic achievement and reducing the achievement gap to a reorientation toward "Whole Child" with its myriad of ill-defined student characteristics and almost non-existent metrics for measuring success. All the while, California builds a boondoggle of an academic indicator Dashboard that fails to include high school achievement and redistributes scale scores from higher performing students to lower performing … Read More

    California has changed its theory of action as it relates to accountability moving from a focus on academic achievement and reducing the achievement gap to a reorientation toward “Whole Child” with its myriad of ill-defined student characteristics and almost non-existent metrics for measuring success.

    All the while, California builds a boondoggle of an academic indicator Dashboard that fails to include high school achievement and redistributes scale scores from higher performing students to lower performing students that actually masks the academic achievement gaps.

    You know that you are in big trouble when the Trumpsters can see through your accountability charade and you come in almost last just in front of Florida in getting your ESSA plan approved. We have a long way to go in improving K-12 education in California! We continue to run around within the fog of education!

  2. Steve torres 1 month ago1 month ago

    It’s a shame how much money is being taken out of public schools in favor of charters and vouchers with little to no accountability for success while public schools are forced to work and achieve more with less. I think greedy corporations just see this voucher program as a new form of income regardless of student achievement.

  3. Dawn RIcker 1 month ago1 month ago

    As an educator, school choice and vouchers are an effective way to assure children improve academically. Most parents are more invested in their child’s success than the Big Government of California. There is excessive waste and not enough opportunities for individual families to afford private education. The public school unions are the ones holding better education hostage from the families that are not able to readily afford a better education.

    Replies

    • Joe Tonan 1 month ago1 month ago

      “As an educator,” or do you mean as a director of a private Christian preschool since 2009? At least that is what I can find for a Dawn Ricker on LinkedIn. Yes, vouchers would help pay your salary and parents at your school to pay for Christian education. Public school unions do not hold anyone “hostage.” The lady protests too much, methinks.

    • AB 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      What about the students with disabilities? Private schools are not legally required to provide special education and related services.