DeVos issues approval for California’s ESSA plan

July 27, 2018 Staff Writer

State Board of Education President Michael Kirst and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on July 12 that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has approved California’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan.

This announcement was welcome news, since California’s ESSA plan was developed over two years with input from thousands of Californians.

“I am pleased to approve Utah and California’s plans, both of which comply with the requirements of the law,” DeVos said. “I look forward to seeing how these states utilize the flexibilities afforded in ESSA to rethink education and to improve outcomes for all students.”

The approval was not unexpected as representatives of DeVos’ office had already indicated they would recommend approval with the latest changes California had made to the state plan.

“Given the differences between federal and state law, the plan approved by Secretary DeVos represents the best possible outcome of our discussions with U.S. Department of Education staff,” Kirst said. “California is a national leader in supporting students with extra needs, providing local control over spending, encouraging community participation in schools, and releasing critical information on measures that indicate student success. Our ESSA plan allows that work to continue.”

“California has the most ambitious plan in the nation to give additional resources to students with the greatest needs as we prepare all students for college and 21st century careers,” Torlakson said. “The ESSA plan approved will support those efforts.

“We disagreed with the federal government on some issues and interpretations of federal laws. But we are pleased that the federal government has approved our plan.”

Signed by President Obama in 2015, ESSA requires every state that receives federal money for low-income students and English learners to submit and receive approval of a plan for managing and using the funds.

ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind and differs from its predecessor by giving states more flexibility to use accountability systems that reflect local values and goals on multiple measures of student outcomes.

California’s accountability system is focused on improving teaching and learning for all students and especially those that need extra help in achieving success.

The state’s new California School Dashboard evaluates schools and districts on multiple data points and by performance of student groups such as English learners, foster youth, and students with disabilities.

Grounded on the Local Control Funding Formula statutory requirements, California’s focus is on supporting districts – rather than individual schools – and differs from the federal model. Districts will continue to be evaluated on their students’ performance on the state and local indicators embedded in the California School Dashboard.

While the ESSA plan was approved, much of the focus at the state and local level will now shift to the implementation of the components of the plan. Starting this fall, CDE will be tasked with identifying the state’s lowest-performing five percent of Title 1 schools to receive comprehensive and targeted support. The state recognizes that the challenges of individual schools are often related to wider systemic problems. As a result, there will likely be discussions on how schools will receive support given the state’s focus on supporting districts.

California receives $1.8 billion in Title 1 funds through ESSA. The funds represent about 2 percent of California’s total $78 billion K-12 budget, which includes $10.1 billion in resources for low-income students, foster youth, and English learners through the groundbreaking Local Control Funding Formula. A small percentage of these Title 1 allocations can be leveraged to provide additional resources to the state’s lowest-performing five percent of Title 1 schools. The state has not determined how these set-asides will be distributed, but will likely be a point of discussion in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

For questions on the implementation of the ESSA plan, and what this means for California’s students, please contact Martha Alvarez, ACSA Legislative Advocate at


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