USDE Approves MDE's ESSA Plan. What's Next?

On January 10th, Secretary DeVos notified the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) that their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability plan has been approved. In the letter, Secretary DeVos congratulated Commissioner Cassellius on the approved plan and “for the important work that you and your staff [MDE] are doing to support the transition to the ESSA and most importantly to lead Minnesota’s students to achieve higher levels.”

The road to creating the plan and receiving USDE approval has been long and involved. According to MDE, over the past two years they have engaged in more than 300 meetings and public events throughout the state to “educate, listen, and receive critical input from Minnesota citizens.” In particular, since August 2016, MDE has engaged extensively with six stakeholder committees to gain input about components of the plan.

However, just because MDE’s plan was approved does not mean that their work is done. MDE will have to fully implement the plan during the 2018-19 academic year and, in order to gain input about improvements and additions that could be made to the plan in the future, they have also formed a new stakeholder Committee. Below are detailed descriptions about the new stakeholder Committee, timeline for ESSA implementation, and a summary of the changes MDE has made to the plan over the past month.

When Will Minnesota’s ESSA Plan Be Implemented?

The 2017-18 academic year is a transition year to the new ESSA accountability, reporting, school improvement, and recognition system. According to MDE, some components of ESSA are taking effect this academic year, "while much of the data reporting, school improvement, and accountability requirements" will not be implemented until 2018-19.

In terms of identifying schools, MDE will identify schools for Comprehensive School and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support in the summer of 2018, and notify them in the fall of 2018. In their executive summary, MDE estimates that they will “identify and support between 300 and 400 schools, much more than under our No Child Left Behind Waiver.”

As a reminder, MDE will use a “funnel approach” to identify the bottom 5 percent (about 50) of Title I schools for CSI. The next cycle for identifying schools for CSI will be in 2021. Additionally, about 167 schools will be identified for Targeted Support, which is any public school with one or more student groups performing similarly to the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools or any consistently underperforming student group. Finally, MDE estimates that about 246 public high schools will receive support for having a four year graduation rate below 67 percent.

What Has Changed in MDE’s ESSA Plan Over the Past Month?

On September 18, 2017, MDE submitted their plan to the US Department of Education (USDE). On December 18, 2017, USDE provided MDE with an initial feedback letter that was mainly positive. In an ESSA newsletter, MDE noted that USDE didn’t have any questions on Minnesota’s decision-making process for identifying schools for support and that their plan had “fewer requested clarifications in the accountability section of the plan than any other state plan that has been reviewed to date.”

Even though the feedback was mostly positive, USDE did ask MDE to provide, among other technical clarifications, further clarification in two primary areas:

  • 1. Exit criteria for schools that are identified for CSI.
  • 2. Reporting of disproportionate rates of students from low-income families, students of color, and American Indian students taught by ineffective teachers.

In response to USDE’s feedback, MDE made changes to their plan and submitted a revised version on January 3, 2018, the USDE given deadline. With regard to the exit criteria, for a school to exit CSI Status, they must now meet both of the following criteria:

  • 1. Must not be identified for CSI again
  • 2. Must show improvement relative to itself on all indicators that led to their initial identification

With regard to reporting the disproportionate rates of students from low-income families, students of color, and American Indian students taught by ineffective teachers, MDE indicated that they will add information to data profiles about whether these student groups have equitable access to effective teachers. This will be measured by examining the percentage of students who are taught by teachers with advanced degrees.

Opportunities for Engagement: MDE’s ESSA Reporting and Recognition Committee

Even though MDE’s plan has been approved, they have formed an ESSA Reporting and Recognition Committee to provide guidance on the “the development of a data dashboard, school recognition process, and possible future indicators or school quality or student success.” Additionally, the Committee is also charged with upholding the stakeholder priorities from previous ESSA stakeholder meetings.

The Committee is divided into three Subcommittees—Data Dashboard, School Quality or Student Success (SQ/SS) Indicator, and School Recognition— that are charged with doing the following:

  • Data Dashboard: Provide input about how to best present importation information about schools and districts in a transparent and useful manner.
  • SQ/SS Indicator: Referred to as the “fifth indicator,” stakeholders will provide input on possible measures of well-rounded education and career and college readiness when identifying schools for support.
  • School Recognition: Provide input on how best to identify and share information about schools and districts that are experiencing success.

On January 17th, the SQ/SS Indicator Subcommittee will meet from 12:30-2:30 PM and immediately after the Data Dashboard Subcommittee will meet from 2:30-4:30 PM. Both meetings will be held at MDE. Read here for a list of all of the meeting dates for MDE’s Subcommittees.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on Minnesota’s ESSA state accountability plan.

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