Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law in December 2015, amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and replacing No Child Left Behind provisions. With a strong, proven accountability system, Florida is already ahead of most of the nation as it relates to the requirements laid out in ESSA. Student performance has consistently improved since Florida introduced rigorous accountability measures.

States were required to submit a state plan describing their approach to ESSA compliance. The department held a first round of public input summer 2016 via online survey, and outreach continued throughout the school year to educator associations and stakeholder groups. The commissioner also convened a superintendents’ workgroup to provide input on major decision points. Then, a draft of the state plan was posted for public comment June 30-July 31, 2017. There were 450 respondents (1,295 comments) to the accompanying online survey. The comments were reviewed and further refinements were made. The state plan was submitted to the Governor for review, as required by ESSA. Florida received approval from the U.S. Department of Education on September 26, 2018.

Florida’s Approved ESSA State Plan

School Advisory Councils

In addition to the state education goals, the statute established School Advisory Councils at each of the state’s public schools. The councils must be representative of each school’s community and must include parents, teachers, administrators, business people, and other community members. High school, vocational-technical and adult education center School Advisory Councils must include students; elementary and middle schools may include students. A majority of the members of each School Advisory Council must be persons who are not employed at the school. These councils play an integral part in implementing Florida’s System of School Improvement and Accountability at the school level.

The Data-Driven Process

School Advisory Councils assist in developing School Improvement Plans based on needs assessments that address the school’s status in relation to the state’s goals and the Adequate Yearly Progress indicators. These plans, using the state’s template, are submitted to the school board for approval. The state’s role is to set standards and measure results, while the process used to achieve those results is a local decision. Student performance is the primary focus. The standards in this area are based upon the United States Secretary of Labor’s SCANS (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) Report, which detailed what students need to know and be able to do to ensure our nation’s success in a global economy.

Public reporting is an essential component of Florida’s System of School Improvement and Accountability. The School Public Accountability Report (SPAR), contains a brief summary of the school’s results on indicators related to the state’s goals, progress on the School Improvement Plan, and limited financial information. Information regarding the school’s status in meeting Adequate Yearly Progress is also made available. A second report, the end of year Report of Progress Toward Improvement is presented to the school board indicating the school’s success in meeting the goals of the School Improvement Plan.

In an attempt to report results rather than processes, and to focus on what Florida students know and are able to do, the Department of Education developed the Florida Standards Assessment. This assessment includes both traditional multiple-choice items, as well as items that require students to construct their responses. The FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) Writing assessment is also performance based and measures writing levels from student writing samples. Schools are accountable for the performance of their students and the improvement of instructional programs to ensure that students meet high standards.

Florida’s approach to school reform allows flexibility, encourages change, sets high standards, and holds schools accountable for results–improved student performance.