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Progress of ESSA State Planning

As states continue their planning process for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the 2017-18 school year, the Coalition looks to be a helpful partner for states. During the Coalition’s recent Partners meeting on February 21 Chris Minnich, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State Council Officers (CCSSO), shed insight on key opportunities and challenges for states as they head into ESSA implementation.   

He noted that the biggest opportunity they see at CCSSO for states in ESSA is to no longer just rate schools but to think about how to support schools and help them improve so the same ones are not on the "failing" list ten years later, as was his experience at the Oregon Department of Education. Pursuing equity more deliberately is another opportunity for states under ESSA, and CCSSO released a guide on ten commitments state leaders can take to advance equity, including through ESSA.  

As for challenges in ESSA, Mr. Minnich warns against making the fifth school quality indicator for state accountability systems-things like chronic absenteeism, school climate, etc.- so high-stakes that schools are tempted to make that indicator look great in a superficial way without really addressing the issues behind it. He also noted that states recognize the importance of leadership for school improvement and increasingly ask for great leadership programs for superintendents and principals; and he said states will need to reflect and build up their capacity to assist districts and schools to implement the new provisions of ESSA. 
Finally, Mr. Minnich spoke of the community school strategy as a real option for states as they consider school improvement strategies, and encouraged us to communicate this to states. The Coalition is responding to this call through our upcoming brief, "Community Schools: A Whole Child Framework for School Improvement" and our development of an emerging learning network on community schools for state chiefs, co-led by CCSSO.

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