Thursday, September 20, 2018

Civil rights groups urge U.S. Education Secretary DeVos to reject Florida’s latest accountability plan

After several delays, the Florida Department of Education submitted its revised Every Student Succeeds Act plan to the federal government in mid April.

Some civil rights group leaders want U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to do to the second version what she did to the first — reject it as noncompliant with federal law.

"As the plan currently stands, it excludes critical protections for our English learners, students with disabilities, students of color, and low-income students by failing to include required provisions for subgroup accountability, inclusion of progress toward English language proficiency in the accountability system, and implementation of native language assessment," LULAC state director Mari Corugedo and NAACP state education chair Shirley Johnson wrote in a letter sent to DeVos on Thursday.

The leaders noted that, when they met with U.S. Education officials, they were assured a plan that doesn't meet federal law wouldn't gain approval.

They drove home the point that, in their view, the updated version still doesn't qualify. In a backing document, they contend the plan doesn't include a single unified accountability system for the entire state, and suggest the bifurcated system proposed would be confusing and misleading.

They further note the state's refusal to consider testing in languages other than English, despite the federal requirement that states make every effort to do so.

"We believe that good law has the potential to lead to good policy and practice," the leaders wrote. "However, the desired outcomes are not automatic. The strength in the link between ESSA, equitable state education policy, and the district implementation of high-quality education programs depends on wise leadership and staunch enforcement by the U.S. Department of Education of the letter and spirit of the law as enacted by the Congress. Compliance with the law is the first step in the process."

The U.S. Department of Education has not yet taken a position on Florida's plan. It is one of a handful still outstanding.

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