Idaho’s ESSA plan goes to the feds

Idaho submitted its Every Student Succeeds Act plan to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Wednesday, after Gov. Butch Otter gave the plan his approval.

Otter signed off on the plan Wednesday. But in a letter to the State Board of Education, Otter asked for more details about how Idaho will deal with its lowest performing and chronically underperforming schools. The 2015 federal law requires Idaho to identify low-performing schools, and develop a plan to support them.

Otter asked for more details on several topics:

  • Principal and superintendent networks, and how they will be funded.
  • Principal mentoring programs, and how they will be funded.
  • Identifying mentoring program participants.
  • Tracking and reporting impacts on student outcomes.

“It is important these programs lead to measurable and significant improvement in student results,” said Otter, who requested details by the end of December.

Otter spent almost a month reviewing the plan but made no changes to the 84-page document, said Allison Westfall, a spokeswoman for state superintendent Sherri Ybarra.

The State Board of Education unanimously approved the plan in early August, sending it to Otter for his review.

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Idaho’s ESSA plan took seven drafts and nearly a year and a half to complete. The first draft was published on Nov. 1.

The U.S. Department of Education will review Idaho’s plan – along with plans other states – and could take up to 120 days to provide feedback. DeVos and the feds have approved at least four state plans so far — Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and New Mexico.

The ESSA plan is important because it represents Idaho’s application for about $83 million in annual federal funding. The plan also includes the state’s first public school accountability system since 2014 and directs the implementation of nine federal programs that affect students with disadvantages and directs professional development training for teachers.

The ESSA plan was a hot topic over the summer. In June, Idaho Education Association and Idaho School Boards Association leaders and some lawmakers complained they were excluded from developing the plan.

In response, State Board member Debbie Critchfield organized a series of public meetings to review the plan. At those meetings, educators and legislators picked apart sections of the plan — prompting changes in the final draft that Ybarra unveiled in July.

In his letter, Otter commended the State Board for ensuring stakeholders were involved in the process.

Otter also asked to see feedback from the U.S. Department of Education and wrote “Idaho has a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate that we can develop and implement practices that best meet the needs of Idaho students.”

Click here to see Idaho’s ESSA plan.