Vermont submits education plan to feds

Despite a last-minute hurdle, the state met a deadline for telling Washington how it plans to comply with the federal law that replaces the No Child Left Behind Act.

Congress changed the rules to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act late in the game, but the Agency of Education made the April 3 deadline.

Some states are delaying submitting their plans for implementing the law.

The agency sent Washington a plan this week that it says supports the most vulnerable children in the state, focuses on preparing students for college or a career, and leverages federal funding to advance the state’s education agenda.

Extra help will go to communities struggling with poverty and special education needs, according to the Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, who added that when these children are well-supported, learning improves for all students.

More than 2,000 stakeholders provided input to the plan that was developed to comply with ESSA, the latest version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The federal program mainly funds programs for low-income and historically marginalized children. It requires states to report how students are performing, expose gaps in equity, and explain how they plan to fix schools with poor results. Federal dollars are then targeted to support local efforts to close achievement gaps and help underserved children.

Rebecca Holcombe

Agency of Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe at the Statehouse on March 15, 2017. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Under ESSA, states must explain how they intend to measure the performance of schools and students. Vermont will use the Education Quality Reviews to show how school systems are performing in the categories of academics, personalized learning plans, high quality teaching and cost effectiveness, according to the plan.

“The plan will help the AOE direct federal dollars and support to communities where we can make the biggest difference for the children who need it most,” Holcombe said. “Just as importantly, this plan pushes our higher performing schools to seek better ways to engage and challenge all of our students to take risks and pursue interests in depth.”

ESSA funds make up 6.5 percent of local spending in Vermont’s most impoverished communities and more than 3 percent on all statewide spending on schools. The federal government’s money also covers all of the accountability and school improvement efforts, according to the Agency of Education.

States had been developing their plans when Congress last month threw out the rules that were guiding the process for creating state plans. Vermont was already close to finalizing the proposal and chose to stick to the original deadline.

Tiffany Danitz Pache

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