How do states plan to spend school improvement money?
- An analysis of 17 states’ plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), released Thursday by the nonprofit Collaborative for Student Success, provides a glimpse into how those states intend to target federal funding to improve low-performing schools.
- In four states — Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Tennessee — state education departments are taking a leading role in articulating a clear message regarding improvement and developing a system to monitor the process. Education agencies in five states — Connecticut, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota and Nevada — are working in partnership with districts and taking more of a “how can we help” approach, the report says.
- Finally, eight states have taken a district leadership approach, allowing districts to make decisions about interventions based on a local needs assessment. These states are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York and Texas.
Conducted with the input of 24 peer reviewers, such as former state superintendents, district leaders and school improvement experts, the report focuses on how states will use the flexibility to choose school improvement models allowed under ESSA. Author Liz Ross of HCM Strategists also references the Obama-era School Improvement Grant program, which researchers found largely unsuccessful.
“Given the lessons learned from the SIG program, it is fair to ask: how can we be sure that districts will not continue to take the path of least resistance when provided with more flexibility under the law?” she writes.
The reviewers evaluated the state’s plans in eight categories, such as having a coherent vision, using evidence-based interventions and involving local leaders, school board members, families and other groups. While they spot “troubling trends” — such as not requiring districts to explain how they will increase equitable access to effective teachers, a strong curriculum and enrichment opportunities — they also highlighted some state efforts, such as a web-based tool in New Mexico that helps districts develop school improvement plans and find proven interventions.
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