New Jersey One of Few States to Win Approval of Fed Education Plan

John Mooney | August 10, 2017 | Education
Garden State’s accountability and monitoring plans center on supporting specific student groups, moving beyond testing to gauge school performance

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
New Jersey this week became one of the first states to win federal approval of its latest accountability and monitoring plans — with districts next required to submit their own extensive plans for following the law by the start of the school year.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday announced New Jersey’s approval under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), one of just four states that have so far won approval from the Trump administration. Also announced yesterday were approvals for Nevada and New Mexico. Delaware had previously won approval.

New Jersey’s plan centers on more targeted state strategies focusing on support for specific student groups, and the use of measures beyond test scores in gauging school and district performance.

Among the new emphases, for instance, is a school’s rate of student absenteeism, and reducing the number of students who miss at least 10 percent of the year. The plan also sets ambitious performance targets for limited English students, and separately, gives greater weight to overall growth on student tests.

“Nevada, New Jersey, and New Mexico’s plans meet the statutory requirements of ESSA, and these plans will provide a solid framework for educating students in ways that meet each individual state’s needs,” DeVos said in making the announcement. “The efforts put into these plans by chief state school officers, governors, and others is evident,” she said.

The state said districts would be required to submit their plans for meeting the requirements of ESSA by the end of August, including specifics about how districts plan to spend their federal funds.

The guidelines for districts are extensive, including setting plans for determining and outlining specific needs each year and for seeking stakeholder feedback on those plans.

Much of the requirements are in documenting how federal funds are to be disbursed. While federal funding to New Jersey districts averages less than 10 percent of overall spending, the funds are nonetheless critical for programs serving especially low-income students and also for technology and teacher professional development.

“Developed by New Jersey educators and parents in the best interest of New Jersey students, our ESSA State Plan builds on a strong foundation of excellence and allows us to continually improve how we support the success of each and every child,” said state Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington.