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Education department OKs state education plan

Xavier Smith • Aug 31, 2017 at 3:40 PM

The U.S. Department of Education recently approved the state’s latest effort to improve education standards in public schools.

The department approved Tennessee Succeeds, the state’s plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act. State education leaders developed the plan in a year’s span based on feedback from thousands of Tennessee parents, educators, district leaders, advocates, business leaders and community groups.

The plan incorporates many initiatives that were already underway in Tennessee schools. The final plan is also an update to the department’s work in several key areas, including district and school accountability, school improvement, support for English learners and historically underserved populations and strengthening teacher and principal pipelines.

Jamie Woodson, CEO of Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education, discussed the state’s plan and approval. She said three key parts of the plan would be vital to helping students achieve more in the classroom.

“First, there now will be success measures for every school so parents, educators and community members can understand whether all students are being served well,” Woodson said.

She said the plan also creates an innovative “ready graduate” measure that should increase opportunities for high school students to earn college credit or industry certification.

“Finally, it establishes a clearer and more comprehensive approach to turning around low-performing schools in collaborative ways,” Woodson said.

The department released a draft ESSA plan in December with the help of six working groups and about 3,000 comments from Tennesseans and stakeholders.

The department finalized the plan last winter after a series of town hall meetings, which saw more than 1,000 residents, as well as more than 2,000 additional comments.

Some key areas include:

School accountability: As required by state legislation, the department will provide an A-F letter grade to schools following the 2017-18 school year. The final ESSA plan outlines a multiple-measure grading framework based on five indicators.

English learners: The final plan provides additional accountability and support to ensure English learners make progress, as well as increase transparency about their performance. The department is also continuing to research and partner with advocates on how to best serve English learners, particularly both long-term English learners and recently arrived English learners.

Assessment: Third- and fourth-grade science and social studies TNReady assessments will be cut in half, and the department will continue to explore how to streamline assessments throughout all grades, particularly in the 11th grade.

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