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ANALYSIS: ESSA State Plans Landscape and Key Trends

• Christy Hovanetz, Ph.D.

The U.S. Department of Education has approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This provided an opportunity to update our landscape analysis of the nuts and bolts of these plans to reflect the final, approved versions.

“Approval of all state plans is a major milestone and the beginning of the most important phase of this work – implementation,” said Christy Hovanetz, ExcelinEd Senior Policy Fellow. “States have outlined their strategies to improve student outcomes and now must use the information from their accountability systems to follow through with comprehensive implementation.”

Key Trends Across ESSA Plans

  • Summative ratings: In 45 states and DC, schools will earn a summative rating; in 13 of those states, schools will earn an A-F letter grade.
  • Student outcomes: In 35 states, student outcomes account for 80 percent or more of a K-8 school’s rating; in 24 states, it’s 90 percent or above.
  • Minimum N:All states will use a minimum N-size of 30 or less for accountability and 25 or less for reporting.
  • Measuring student growth: Although 48 states plus DC will measure student-level growth, only 19 states will incorporate criterion-based growth models that hold schools accountable for ensuring that students progress each year toward reaching proficient or advanced achievement before graduation.
  • Interventions: Most state plans fail to articulate a rigorous approach to school turnaround; only 17 states will use competitive grants to leverage federal school improvement funds.

We will explore how states are implementing ESSA to improve struggling schools at our strategy session, “Rising to the Challenge of School Turnaround,” at the National Summit on Education Reform on Thursday, December 6.

About the author

Christy Hovanetz, Ph.D.

Christy Hovanetz is a Senior Policy Fellow for ExcelinEd focusing on school accountability policies. Dr. Hovanetz served as the Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education and Assistant Deputy Commissioner at the Florida Department of Education. She has worked in education policy for the state of Florida since 1999 serving as the Director of Evaluation and Reporting, Director of Reading First and a Policy Analyst for Governor Jeb Bush. She graduated summa cum laude from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with a minor in mathematics and is a certified teacher in the state of Minnesota. She earned her Masters of Public Administration at the University of Minnesota and a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University.