In the final hours of the 120 day review period, the U.S. Department of Education notified Wyoming officials that the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan had been approved.
In 2015 the No Child Left Behind Act was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA. The plan de-emphasized standardized testing and gave more power to the states to monitor equity in education. Instead of the federal government keeping an eye on discrepancies in school performance, for example, now it’s the work of the states to identify struggling schools and to support their improvement.
Wyoming’s plan outlining how it will fulfill these new responsibilities was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in the fall. In December, changes were made following feedback from federal officials that more specificity was required on how equity would be measured for all students. The plan with those changes received final approval Tuesday.
Jillian Balow, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, said she welcomes the new policy because it’s more streamlined. Under the old policy, districts had to answer to the federal government and the state. Under the new plan, Wyoming has one integrated accountability system.
“And we think that that will create a much better environment and atmosphere for being transparent about how our students are really doing,” said Balow. “Not just on tests, but how they are doing in the classroom, and not just academics but how they are doing on some of the quality indicators that we know are so vital to a well-rounded education.”
Under ESSA, Balow said, reporting on school performance will be less burdensome for educators. A new online database available next fall should also allow Wyomingites to more easily monitor the state’s education system.
“We have one comprehensive accountability system that allows us as a state, and the citizens of the state to look at school performance, and look at school performance ratings under the Wyoming accountability system,” said Balow, “and to make some pretty objective judgments about how well our Wyoming schools are doing.”
Balow said she got a call from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recognizing Wyoming’s hard work on the plan. Balow added that the state’s ESSA plan was created with stakeholder feedback. Now that the states have more power to determine education policies and practices, Balow said public input will continue to be a tenet of her approach moving forward.