Superintendent Reykdal Submits Federal Education Plan
The plan grants schools more flexibility over meeting the needs of every student and places an intentional focus on historically underserved populations of students.
PASCO — September 18, 2017 — Student success will be gauged using many variables, not just test results. Schools will create improvement plans that identify and close gaps in student success. And districts will have the flexibility to make changes that best serve their students.
Those are some of the changes outlined by Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal in Washington’s federal education plan, which the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) submitted to the U.S. Department of Education today.
Honoring the submission at Curie STEM Elementary School in Pasco, Reykdal said he was excited about the submission. “Our plan focuses on students who have historically been underserved, such as students of color, students with special needs, low-income students, and our English Language learners,” he said. “It emphasizes a deeper look at performance gaps between groups of students. And our plan puts local educators and parents in the driver’s seat.”
Each state is required to submit its Consolidated Plan to the Department of Education as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015.
“U.S. Senator Patty Murray deserves much of the credit for her work,” Reykdal said. “Her leadership, tenacity, and bipartisan efforts were crucial in getting the bill passed.”
Gov. Jay Inslee thanked Reykdal and his staff for their commitment to an open and transparent process during the development of the draft plan and their responsiveness to public comments that followed. “Hundreds of people participated in workgroups, webinars and informational events,” he said. “Students and families, educators and community leaders, legislators and thought leaders all had a hand in this. I look forward to the continuing collaboration among policymakers and stakeholders, and continuous improvement among schools and districts, as this plan is implemented.”
State Board of Education Chair Kevin Laverty noted the transparency of the process. “The State Board of Education appreciates the work and public feedback opportunities that have gone into the ESSA plan submission by Superintendent Reykdal and OSPI,” he said.
Under ESSA, primary decisions about students will occur at the school and district levels in collaboration with families and communities. School Improvement Plans, which are already required by state law, will become a more important and meaningful document of continuous improvement. By starting at the school level, plans are better able to identify student needs and intervene with appropriate supports.
At the state level, the accountability system provides for continuous improvement. Broadly, it can be divided into two categories. First, multiple measures will be tracked. Reykdal said that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act failed, in part, because it relied too heavily on state tests. While state tests are still required by federal law to be given to students in grades 3–8 and once in high school, Reykdal said their importance will be diminished.
“Tests are like a thermometer,” he said. “They give us one piece of information at a given moment. But ESSA provides schools with a more complete checkup.”
Reykdal pointed to a broader range of measures, including how schools are building programs to support and enhance learning, such as dual credit classes, College in the High School, and combating chronic absenteeism. Schools will also look at how they make progress in certain measures, such as educating English learners.
“We want schools to look at the whole child,” he said. “That includes providing supports that help our students succeed both inside and outside the classroom.”
The second category of the state accountability system involves a deeper look at gaps in student achievement, such as performance by students from low-income households compared to students from non-low income households. The new state accountability system will also use a different system to identify schools as needing improvement. While NCLB required schools to examine the performance of groups of students, a school with only one group of struggling students may not have been identified for improvement. Under ESSA, schools with even just one struggling student population will be identified for targeted supports.
Laverty said the State Board “will work with the Superintendent to develop an improved school accountability system that supports a comprehensive evaluation of the progress our schools and students make under the new law.”
The state accountability system should be available by the end of December 2017.
Other components of the plan
Washington’s Consolidated Plan revolves around a number of core concepts, including support for:
· Students struggling to learn;
· Migrant students;
· A well-rounded education, including health and physical education, drug and violence prevention, and comprehensive mental health;
· Effective teaching; and
· Opportunities for students to learn outside of school hours.
The support, Reykdal said, will help schools identify potential issues students have before the issues become problems. “Our plan creates a more efficient state system,” he said. “Districts will have more flexibility in using funds than they ever have. They will be able to use funds in more intentional ways for students. The result will be a better use of taxpayer money in our education system.”
Reykdal noted that the flexibility extends beyond how districts use money. “The plan allows for adjustments if things aren’t working,” he said. “We want districts and schools to keep monitoring their programs and see what works and what doesn’t.”
Many contributors to the plan
ESSA is the sixth reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. ESSA replaces the previous reauthorization, the No Child Left Behind Act. Work on the ESSA Consolidated Plan began in January 2016, when 12 workgroups, comprising more than 200 educators and experts, were formed. An initial draft plan was released in November 2016.
Public comment periods occurred after the release of the initial draft plan and then again after a revised plan was released in August 2017. Together, more than 1,000 pages of comments were collected from the public during the two periods.
“We have been as transparent as possible in this process and diligent about gathering feedback from our communities,” Reykdal said. “The plan represents a shared vision of education in our state.”
He also praised the efforts of organizations that ensured parent interests are included in the plan. Roxana Norouzi is the Deputy Director of OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy organization in Washington. She said the organization was focused on including the voices of students and families who will be most impacted by the plan.
“OneAmerica, in collaboration with many communities of color, has been deeply engaged with developing Washington’s ESSA plan to close the opportunity gaps in our state,” she said. “We’ve collectively advocated for the process of developing the plan to be accessible and inclusive of community voices. We did this by asking for the plan to be translated, pushing out submission timelines to ensure ample and authentic community engagement and providing ongoing feedback to various portions of the plan itself.”
“ESSA has come out of landmark civil rights education legislation,” Norouzi continued. “The importance of the implementation phase of the plan and OSPI’s continued partnerships with communities of color cannot be understated. We’ll continue to partner, support, monitor, and advocate to ensure ESSA is implemented with a focus on racial equity and spurring fundamental shifts in our education system for students of color.”
Bill Keim, Executive Director of the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), praised the writing and revision process. “WASA’s members appreciate all the opportunities that have been given to provide input on Washington’s ESSA plan,” he said. “We look forward to working with OSPI to improve learning outcomes for all students as the plan is implemented.”
The Department of Education will review Washington’s plan within 120 days. The plan goes into effect starting in the 2017–18 school year.