Wednesday, September 20, 2017

State ESSA plan wins federal approval

U.S. Department of Education officials recently gave final approval to the Illinois plan for implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a 2015 law that broadened authority for local governance of schools.

ESSA, which supplanted the No Child Left Behind Act, requires testing in reading and math at various grade levels. Although standardized tests remain part of school accountability, each state develops its own accountability model. The accountability model in Illinois’ plan for ESSA incorporates factors of importance to local school leaders, such as post-secondary readiness, school climate, and school safety.

Accountability is measured for groups of students, but school districts can develop interventions based on local needs if a subgroup is identified as underperforming, with equity as the grounding principle.

State officials say the plan transitions Illinois to a system of balanced accountability. They say the plan gathers and examines multiple indicators of school quality and student growth to inform differentiated levels of support for schools.

The plan advances specific long-term goals for all students to attain by 2032: 90 percent or more of third-grade students are reading at or above grade level; 90 percent or more of fifth-grade students meet or exceed expectations in mathematics; 90 percent or more of ninth-grade are students on track to graduate with their cohort; and 90 percent or more of students graduate from high school ready for college and career.

“Illinois is committed to supporting the whole child in transforming learning opportunities for all students in our state” said Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith.

The Illinois State Board of Education reports that it is still strengthening the state plan by engaging stakeholders, particularly through working groups assigned to develop grade-level accountability indicators and advise educators on school-based expenditure reporting methods. ISBE will finalize all indicators to be used in the new accountability system by Dec. 31, according to an ISBE memo dated Sept. 13.

The newly approved ESSA plan is available on the ISBE website.