On behalf of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and the Arizona State Board of Education (SBE), Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and President of the State Board of Education Lucas J. Narducci sent a letter to district superintendents and charter leaders regarding the future of statewide assessments. The letter was in response to a communication from the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) that stated Arizona law was at odds with current federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) law regarding assessment.
In December 2018, ADE made a request to US ED asking to waive certain federal requirements as they pertain to the Menu of Assessments state law (A.R.S. 15-741.02) that passed in 2016, which required Arizona to offer a Menu of Assessments to allow schools to administer an alternate assessment instead of the statewide assessment (i.e. AzMERIT). This was designed to be phased in over a set timeframe, beginning with high school in Spring 2019 and for grades 3-8 in Spring 2020.
Last week, ADE received notification from US ED that this waiver request was denied. Since that time, ADE and SBE officials have collaborated with education stakeholders throughout the state to communicate the effects this will have on schools, as well as to work toward solutions regarding the future of statewide assessments.
Please see the letters below from Superintendent Hoffman and President Narducci to Arizona schools, as well as the letter from US ED to ADE:
US ED Letter to ADE | ADE and SBE Letter to Schools
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today announced the approval of Arizona’s consolidated state plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE).
“I am extremely proud of the hundreds of hours of work put into developing this plan by my staff here at the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), and I am most thankful for the thousands of comments we have received from parents, teachers, administrators, stakeholder groups, community members and elected officials that truly helped make this a plan for all of Arizona,” Superintendent Douglas said. “This is a plan made by Arizona – for Arizona – that would be ideal with or without ESSA.”
The USDOE highlighted several aspects of Arizona’s state plan, including the ability of elementary and middle schools to earn additional points in its accountability system for accelerating student achievement. Arizona was also recognized for allowing high schools to earn additional points in its accountability system for preparing students to be college and career ready, including students performing well in Career Technical Education (CTE) courses, passing college-level courses, earning an industry credential and/or completing a work-based learning internship.
“After reviewing Arizona’s plan and ensuring it complies with the law, I am pleased to approve it,” said USDOE Secretary Betsy DeVos. “I commend Governor (Doug) Ducey, Superintendent Douglas and the many stakeholders in Arizona who helped craft a plan to improve education for the students of the Grand Canyon State.”
ESSA was passed into law by Congress in December 2015, replacing No Child Left Behind as the primary federal legislation addressing America’s public education system. Taking effect in the 2017-18 school year, $1 billion of federal aid to Arizona would be at risk without compliance.
To learn more about ADE’s state plan, please visit www.azed.gov/essa.
The Arizona Department of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan was praised in a report released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute today. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s “Rating the Ratings Report” determined that Arizona submitted one of the highest-rated plans, earning a “strong” rating in the main three categories of evaluation.
“Arizona has taken the lead nationally in regards to ESSA implementation and innovation,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said. “Not only am I extremely proud that Arizona was the first to submit its state ESSA plan, but also for the well-earned accolades the state has received from this report. I credit the hours of hard work undertaken by my staff, as well as the thousands of comments we have received from parents, teachers, administrators, stakeholder groups, community members and elected officials that truly helped make this a plan for all of Arizona.”
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute evaluated the first 17 state ESSA plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Education this year, naming Arizona as one of only three states to receive “strong” ratings in all three categories. Arizona was singled out for clear and intuitive school ratings, a rating system that encourages schools to focus on all students and a rating system that is fair to all schools.
“The most important thing ESSA does is empower states to design improved school rating systems,” Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Mike Petrilli said. “Arizona has done just that, developing one of the best approaches we’ve seen to date. With clear and intuitive A-F ratings, a design that signals that all students matter, and an approach that is fair to all schools, including high poverty ones, Arizona has become a national exemplar.”
Those interested in learning more about Arizona’s ESSA state plan can log on to http://www.azed.gov/essa/.