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NASBE Analysis Outlines Seven Questions State Boards Should Ask before State Plans for ESSA Are Submitted

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2017

Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

NASBE Analysis Outlines Seven Questions State Boards Should Ask before State Plans for ESSA Are Submitted

Alexandria, Va. — In April and September, states will file comprehensive plans for how they will spend federal funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although state education agencies (SEAs) have the primary responsibility for developing and filing the state plan, many state boards of education have statutory authority for carrying out elements of the plan, and most will take a formal vote on their plans before they are sent to the U.S. Department of Education. In a new NASBE Policy Update released today at NASBE’s Legislative Conference, President/CEO Kristen Amundson lays out seven big questions board members should have answered before they vote.

  1. What are the goals for improving K-12 student performance and outcomes? State boards should ensure that their ESSA plan is built around ambitious goals that reflect the state’s vision for education and ask for information about how these goals were developed. A focus on goals will help boards and SEAs prioritize federal funds.
  2. How will our plan protect equity? Congress’s recent action to rescind ESSA accountability regulations under the Congressional Review Act not only eliminated key equity protections that were included in the regulations, it prevents the Department of Education from ever creating similar regulations. It is up to states to guarantee that plans continue to look at promising practices to promote equity and excellence in education and encourage innovative approaches.
  3. How does our plan promote flexibility in allocating funding? ESSA allows greater flexibility in allocating federal funds to provide critical support to schools and districts. Board members should ask whether and how their state plans take advantage of this flexibility and what regulatory changes or internal SEA adjustments will be necessary.
  4. How does the state plan improve the quality of teacher and education leaders? Research shows teachers are the single most important in-school factor affecting student achievement. In 33 states, the state board has full control over teacher licensure. State boards must ensure at-risk students have access to high-quality teachers and that their plan makes some provision for tracking the quality of educators who teach the neediest students.
  5. Does our accountability system measure what we want students to know? ESSA gives states the opportunity to measure student achievement through multiple measures, including such aspects as social and emotional learning or career readiness, and ensure assessments measure what the board wants students to know or be able to do.
  6. How will our state evaluate and support local plans for low-performing schools? ESSA puts the responsibility for addressing underperforming schools in the hands of local districts. States must ensure school districts adopt “evidence-based” interventions but can offer tailored supports through ESSA’s Direct Student Services and Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants. Asking questions that clarify why a school improvement plan has or has not been successful will better inform decisions on dispersing these funds.
  7. Is stakeholder engagement embedded in the plan and seen as an ongoing activity? ESSA calls for “meaningful consultation” with a wide variety of stakeholder groups. Stakeholders—especially parents—are force multipliers. State boards can and should ensure stakeholder engagement is a central part of their work around ESSA implementation.

 “The first state plans submitted under ESSA will shape education policy in the state for many years,” writes Amundson. “Boards can and should play a critical role in developing them. These seven questions will ensure state boards stay at the table throughout the process.”

Read Seven Questions State Boards Should Ask before State Plans for ESSA Are Submitted.

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at


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