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    Iowa sends Every Student Succeeds Act plan to U.S. Department of Education

    State plan, developed as No Child Left Behind phases out, submitted Monday

    Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Aug
    Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

    DES MOINES — Iowa officials submitted their plan to meet new education standards under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the No Child Left Behind policy and was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. In Iowa, it is intended to be fully implemented by Fall 2018.

    The legislation maintains some of No Child Left Behind’s focus on school accountability, though not its sanctions against underperforming schools, and gives states more control over how schools are assessed and monitored.

    “We did not intend for ESSA to create a power grab opportunity for the state,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said during a Monday news conference. “ ... There were lots of opportunities to drive decision making to the local level.”

    The 231-page state plan, signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, outlines how Iowa will meet federal accountability standards and “support” those schools that fail to meet academic goals.

    In Iowa, schools that need improvement will be identified by several factors, including academic achievement, growth, “conditions for learning” and students’ “postsecondary readiness.”

    “This is significantly different from No Child Left Behind,” Wise said. “It’s ensuring state and local districts are going beyond single point-in-time measures on math and English language arts.”

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    To gauge conditions for learning, surveys — posing questions about whether facilities are safe, if students deal with bullying, if they have friends at school and feel cared for by adults — will be administered to students, staff and parents, said Amy Williamson, an administrator of the Iowa Department of Education.

    The state’s postsecondary readiness measure will take a “bigger picture” approach to measuring student success, Williamson said, than isolated measures such as standardized test scores or enrollment in Advanced Placement courses.

    “The problem with all of these measures is none of them are very holistic,” Williamson said. “ ... They measure a small slice of what it means to be college and career ready.”

    The new federal legislation also requires states to set academic proficiency goals. Iowa will aim to increase reading and math proficiency rates by half a percentage point for all students, and by a full percentage point for students in “subgroups” — such as those who receive free or reduced-price lunch, English language learners and racial and ethnic minorities — every year for five years.

    The state will measure progress using the Iowa Assessments and will adjust when a new state assessment is put in place in the 2018-2019 school year.

    A school’s failure to achieve those goals will result in as many as three years of support and supervision from the state.

    The U.S. Department of Education has 120 days to review Iowa’s plan, Wise said, and the department will begin work with school districts to implement the plan fully later this year.

    l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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