Optimistic Ybarra awaits news from feds on Idaho’s compliance plan

TWIN FALLS — By late next week, state leaders expect to know whether or not the feds will approve Idaho’s plan to comply with a federal education law.

During a State Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra told fellow board members she is planning to participate in 90-minute conference call with the U.S. Department of Education on Dec. 28.

At issue is Idaho’s massive plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

After spending parts of two years developing it, Ybarra and the State Board submitted Idaho’s plan to the feds in September. The heavily scrutinized plan is important because it sets forth a new public school accountability system, outlines Idaho’s education goals, directs the implementation of nine federal programs and represents the state’s application for $83 million a year in federal funding.

Controversy could be brewing. In recent weeks, outside groups have given Idaho’s plan mixed results. Some think tanks and consulting groups have praised Idaho’s academic standards and assessment tests. At the same time, several groups have pointed out that Idaho deliberately neglected to include a single, bottom-line rating system for schools, such as an “A” through “F” system.

Without such a system, the groups say, it is difficult for the public to have a simple way to understand how schools stack up. State education leaders deliberately left out a summative rating, saying Idahoans spoke out against the five-star rating system the state ultimately repealed in 2014.

Thursday’s call will offer Idaho officials the chance to “make any tweaks or changes and go over maybe what didn’t meet the letter of the law,” Ybarra said.

Ybarra again mentioned the pushback over the lack of a single ranking system, but she didn’t seem too discouraged.

“The feeling is good is what I will say,” Ybarra said.

In August, Ybarra vowed to push back against any federal effort to change Idaho’s ESSA plan “unless it breaks the law.”

Further reading:

Click here to read Idaho’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

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