April 11, 2017

(ESEA) Permanent link

Guest Blog Post: Independently Reviewing State ESSA Plans

Today's guest blog post comes from our friends at Collaborative for Student Success

Since the Every Student Succeeds Act passed with bipartisan congressional support and was signed by President Obama, there has been much debate about how states will – and should – use this opportunity to make bold decisions in designing their new accountability systems, capitalizing on the freedom and flexibility the new law affords them.

As states submit their plans to the U.S. Department of Education, eyes across the country are on them, wondering which states following through on that promise, and how. That’s why the Collaborative for Student Success has teamed up with Bellwether Education Partners to spearhead an independent peer review of state ESSA plans. This effort will look beyond compliance, and focus in on whether a state plan has a strong likelihood of success. It will provide states, districts, parents, teachers and advocates with an additional level of feedback and guidance. 

We are proud to have assembled a list of phenomenal experts, who will use their depth of experience to help each state design the best plan possible. Our peer reviewers boast diversity, partisan balance, and state and national expertise. We have also recruited content specialists to ensure additional attention to the needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

Here’s how it works: Our findings will go to states first. This isn’t an attempt to shame anyone. We welcome changes on the basis of the guidance our peers provide. We will inform national and state partners soon thereafter. We plan to publicly release a summary analysis of the strengths and weaknesses our peers have found across state plans in June, and plan to share these findings as “Lessons Learned” to help guide future state plans for states submitting in September.

Now is the time for states to lead, with a special consideration towards opinions from district leaders who understand how policies work on the school level. Now is the time for states to prove that the confines of federal dictation hamstrung them and, left to their own accord, they would do what is in the best interests of their students.

But, the reality of the situation is that children have waited far too long for the education system they deserve nationwide – in every classroom, school, district and state. In past years, many relied on the federal peer review process to help ensure state plans were moving in the right direction, but with a new administration staffing up and with states exploring the new power they have been gifted at the same time, mere compliance with the law is not enough to ensure real change and improvement.

How can you help? We’re sharing this information so that you are aware of this effort and will expect the forthcoming analysis. We encourage you to share this information with colleagues and policymakers in your state. We hope you use it to help advocate for the changes that will strengthen your state plan and help ensure meaningful accountability. 

Click here to find more information on our independent peer review.