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Every Student Succeeds Act: Betsy DeVos approves Georgia's blueprint for school improvement

Based on Betsy DeVos' repeated comments that the federal government ought to let states set their own course, I did not expect her U.S. Department of Education to veto Georgia's education blueprint for raising achievement and improving schools, as required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

And it did not.

The federal stamp of approval came today even after Georgia's own governor raised doubts about the plan crafted by the state Department of Education after statewide meetings and hundreds of public comments.

As my AJC colleague Ty Tagami reports:

Georgia’s report card for schools, the College and Career Ready Performance Index, is still driven by scores on state standardized tests, but the new plan diminishes the impact of those test results by giving schools credit for providing arts, language, PE and advanced coursework.

Though DeVos appreciated the design, Deal rejected it, saying it “falls short in setting high expectations” and tells school districts how to run their schools.

The approval means Georgia’s 111-page plan complies with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act and that the state can implement it.

From the federal ED  tonight:

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the approval of six consolidated state plans—Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Montana and New Hampshire—under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Today’s approvals bring the total to 35 states whose ESSA plans have been approved.

“I am pleased to approve these plans which comply with the requirements of the law,” said Secretary DeVos. “I encourage states to use their plans as a starting point, rather than a finish line, to improve outcomes for all students.”

Allowing states more flexibility in how they deliver education to students is at the core of ESSA. Each state crafted a plan that it feels will best offer educational opportunities to meet the needs of the state and its students. The following are some of the unique elements from each state's approved plan as highlighted by each state:


  • Recognizes schools making significant progress with traditionally underserved subgroups through its Closing Gaps indicator.
  • Focuses on the whole child through its College & Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), which measures student access to fine arts education, world language instruction, physical education, AP/IB enrollment and career pathways.

“Thousands of Georgians—parents, students, educators, policymakers, members of the business community—gave us their feedback as we worked to create our state’s ESSA plan,” said Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods. “We listened and heard that Georgians want a K-12 education system that supports the whole child; a system that produces students who are not just college- and career-ready, but ready for life. This plan is a direct response to that feedback, and reflects our continued focus on expanding opportunities for Georgia’s students.”

Georgia DOE issued its own statement:

The U.S. Department of Education has approved Georgia’s State ESSA Plan, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced today.

The U.S. Department of Education highlighted Georgia’s work rewarding schools making significant progress with traditionally underserved subgroups and creating an accountability system that expands opportunities for students and supports the whole child.

What is the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. ESSA gave states additional flexibility and authority over their educational systems and tasked them with developing state plans to support education – although wholesale flexibility was not granted, and requirements of the law vary in specificity from issue to issue.

Georgia’s ESSA plan sets a new course for K-12 education in the state, moving away from an excessive focus on high-stakes testing to an education system that places the whole child at the center.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.