Colorado Department of Education Delivers ESSA Plan to Federal Government

After more than a year of meetings, discussion and development, the Colorado Department of Education on Monday submitted to the U.S. Department of Education its plan on how Colorado will implement the country’s federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

After ESSA was signed into law in December 2015, each state was required to come up with their own plans on how they would implement the law. The U.S. Department of Education offered two windows for states to submit their plans and Colorado chose the first round. The Colorado State Board of Education unanimously approved the plan at its April 13 meeting and Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it on Friday.

ESSA represented a shift from extensive federal oversight of primary and secondary education under No Child Left Behind to giving states more flexibility and decision-making at the local level. However, Colorado for the past decade has been building a new education system that incorporates many of ESSA’s requirements, such as rigorous standards, an assessment system that measures student success, an accountability system that targets supports where needed and a fair educator evaluation system.

The law also required states to undertake a robust community outreach effort to collect input. In the spring of 2016 the Colorado Department of Education embarked on a statewide listening tour to gather feedback on how the state should implement the law, reaching more than 1,500 people. Over the next year, state officials held more than 170 meetings and received approximately 5,000 comments on the plan. A hub-and-spoke committee process helped develop Colorado’s plan. About 130 community members joined seven topical committees and 20 statewide leaders formed a hub committee that provided recommendations to the State Board of Education.

“The thousands of comments and ideas that the ESSA process raised make Colorado’s ESSA plan a living document, something to be revisited continually, scrutinized regularly and modified as needed based on the ideas and feedback of people within this state,” said Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes.

“We applaud the Colorado Department of Education for its ESSA stakeholder process and statewide outreach,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “As we submit our plan, we remain committed to protecting the students who have been chronically underserved in our state. We look forward to continuing the conversation with key partners to create a more equitable system for every student in Colorado and ensure that every student is college and career ready.”

“It is truly heartening to see the vast community involvement that went into producing this document,” said State Board Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder. “Although we could not incorporate all of the input in the state plan, we can and will use it to inform how the department implements the requirements of ESSA.”

ESSA includes provisions that help ensure success for all students and schools by focusing on the following areas:

  • Ensuring states set challenging academic standards for all students to prepare them for success in college and careers;
  • Ensuring vital information is provided to educators, families, students and communities through annual statewide assessments that measures students’ progress toward those standards;
  • Helping support and grow local innovations – including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators;
  • Holding schools and districts accountable for students’ performance and supporting improvement efforts in our lowest-performing schools;
  • Upholding critical protections for disadvantaged and high-needs students.

An overview of the Colorado ESSA plan gives a high-level description and has been posted to CDE’s website (PDF).

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