Garden State Gets Feedback From Feds On ESSA Plan

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New Jersey was one of four states that received feedback from the federal government on their proposed state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Unlike the prior round of feedback, this round may produce a little less drama related to local control but the US Department of Education (USDE) is still raising questions.  The questions raised to the Garden State focus on test participation and how progress for English-learners is set.

NJ Specifics

Specifically, according to the feedback, the State needs to make sure it is looking at the progress of English-learners in mastering the language when deciding which schools are low-performing and which schools need extra help with traditionally overlooked subgroups of students.  New Jersey’s application indicated that schools wouldn’t be counted as low-performing when they no longer meet the criteria for “comprehensive support” outlined in ESSA (that includes being among the bottom 5 percent of performers in the state). The department says that’s not nearly specific enough and that the state needs to set expectations for continued progress.

The actual interim feedback letter includes a table of items that must be clarified or revised.  Among these are items related to education of homeless youth as well as migratory students, better articulation of supports for schools transitioning out of ‘status’ as low performing, an outline on how comprehensive ongoing stakeholder engagement will be accomplished and what actions the State will take to improve educator skills, among other items.

Thankfully, however, the USDE appears to be fine with the way New Jersey is handling test refusal issues.  As you may remember, the State’s application simply wanted to note on a school’s report card when test participation dips below 95 percent. That doesn’t go nearly as far as other states in combating opt-outs. But, the Department has not flagged the issue so presumably, the Garden State is good to go. 

What Now?

The department has 120 days from when plans are considered complete to give states a yay or nay on their proposals.  The State has 15 days from the letter’s receipt to respond to any questions raised by the USDE…so stay tuned!