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Florida submits its Every Student Succeeds Act plan

By Jeffrey S. Solochek
Times (2016)

After months of planning and feedback, the Florida Department of Education submitted its federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan on Wednesday.

The plan had been due Monday, but the state won an extension because of Hurricane Irma.

Originally, the department had intended to request waivers relating to percentages of students tested, assessment exemptions for English learners and the use of demographic subgroups to differentiate accountability.

"Florida is ahead of most of the nation in our policies that feed into the ESSA State Plan," commissioner Pam Stewart told superintendents in a May memo. "We will seek the opportunity where necessary to request waivers and continue current practice where we believe as a group it is best for Florida."

In August, a coalition of civil rights organizations urged the state to reconsider its plan, taking into account the needs of the poorest and most needy children.

In its final version, the department did not pursue the waivers. It explained on its website that officials "reevaluated the need for separate waiver requests at this time, describing within the state plan the current accountability system and rationale for why it is best for Florida's students to continue on this path."

Changes it listed as being made since first publishing the draft plan included:

• Will use state, district, and school report cards as part of accountability system to provide information to the public about subgroup performance.
• Increased the reporting period for former ELLs from two years to four years.
• Established long-term goals for ELLs on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 English Language Proficiency assessment.
• Clarified and added more specificity to the Title IV, Part A section on allowable use of funds for new Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants.

Regarding ELL's, for instance, the department continued to contend that all students will be tested in English:

"Neither federal nor Florida law defines languages other than English that are present to a significant extent in the participating student population. Furthermore, Florida's constitution does not provide for the delivery of governmental services in languages other than English. In fact, Florida's constitution specifies English as the official state language. Spanish is the most prevalent language other than English spoken by students. The percent of ELA test takers that are Spanish-speaking English Language Learners (ELLs) is 6.8%. There are an additional 240 languages that make up the rest of the languages spoken by Florida's ELLs and they account for 2.1% of the ELA student test takers."

Read the full document for more details.