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Betsy DeVosK-12

Betsy DeVos' Education Department tells California that its education plan does not yet comply with federal law

 (Erik Lesser / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Erik Lesser / European Pressphoto Agency)

The U.S. Department of Education has asked California to resubmit its plan for satisfying the Every Student Succeeds Act, a major education law.

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 to replace the No Child Left Behind Act. Where the much-criticized former act took a prescriptive, test-score-based approach to grading schools, ESSA gives states more agency to design their own systems. 

Californians used the opportunity to include multiple factors, such as attendance rates and suspensions, in new school ratings under ESSA.

In developing the state’s plan, education officials said they kept details minimal, because anything promised amounts to a contract with the Trump administration. Civil rights advocates, however, criticized the plan as incomplete and missing the mark on educational equity.

This week, DeVos’ assistant secretary James Botel sent state officials a letter asking for revisions. Some areas in which Botel said the plan needed to be filled out more were those that experts debated before its submission. Here are a few of them:

  • The U.S. Education Department wrote that California has not sufficiently “provided longterm goals for all students” and each group of students.
  • There also aren’t goals for improving high school performance, Botel wrote.
  • The state plan leaves too much in the hands of districts when it comes to measuring certain aspects of progress.
  • The state’s proposed metric of academic achievement does not always include the right tests. 
  • The state has “not sufficiently” described how the plan would satisfy the law, which requires academic metrics to factor into school ratings more than other measures.
  • There are also holes in how the state would identify and help underperforming schools.

“California appreciates the federal government’s feedback and looks forward to the opportunity to further clarify and strengthen our Every Student Succeeds Act plan,” California State Board of Education president Mike Kirst said in a statement. “We will be working to address technical points of clarification while noting that there are areas of disagreement over the interpretation of federal statute.”

The state has until January 8 to submit the revisions.

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