January 19, 2018

Indiana's ESSA Plan Approved By US Department of Education

An elementary school classroom in Indiana. - Eric Weddle/WFYI News

An elementary school classroom in Indiana.

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approved Indiana’s plan to adhere to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act Friday.

Indiana’s 168-page plan details how state officials will comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind law in 2015.

As part of the guiding policy, Indiana schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick pledged to close the student achievement gap in English and mathematics for special education students, students of color and other unique populations by 50 percent by 2023.

“Today is a great day for Indiana,” McCormick says in a statement. “Our ESSA plan reflects the input and perspective of many stakeholders in communities across our state. From the beginning, we set out to build a plan that responded to the needs of Hoosier students. From our clear accountability system to our innovative, locally-driven approach to school improvement, our ESSA plan was designed to support student success.”

States must receive approval of their plans from the U.S. Education Department to keep receiving hundreds of millions in federal funds. Indiana’s plan includes major goals for improving student success.

That includes increasing the passing rates for black students in grades 3-8 from the current 45 percent to nearly 77 percent on the state standardized test for math and English.

Part of the measure also includes a new A-to-F accountability system for schools. The new calculation would include how schools fair with chronic absenteeism and how well students learn English as a new language.

Earlier this month the Indiana State Board of Education approved proposed changes to the A-to-F that do not align with the ESSA plan. A public comment is being held before changes are voted on again after April. If the final policy is different than the blueprint already approved by DeVos, the state can request a change to the ESSA plan.

Indiana's ESSA plan emphasizes evaluating a students' readiness for college or career based on earning dual credit or an industry certification. The recent controversial approval of the "graduation pathways" set's up a multitude of ways for students to earn a diploma by proving their readiness.

Educators say ESSA allows more flexibility in standardized testing and school improvement compared to No Child Left Behind. In past years, Indiana had sought federal waivers from certain provisions of No Child Left Behind.

“I am pleased to approve these plans which comply with the requirements of the law,” says Secretary DeVos in a statement. “I encourage states to use their plans as a starting point, rather than a finish line, to improve outcomes for all students.”

McCormick’s department held nine meetings across the state in March and April last year to take in feedback on the plan.

All states were required to submit a new education plan last year. As of Friday, the department approved ESSA plans from 35 states.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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