Texas submitted its final ESSA State Plan to the U.S. Department of Education for review and approval on Sept. 25, 2017, after posting a draft plan for public comment in late July. Although TCTA submitted comments urging the Texas Education Agency to do more to address inequitable gaps in the assignment of qualified teachers to poor and minority students, and to include more holistic measures of school success in the plan, the final plan changed very little in these areas. 

The U.S. Department of Education has 120 days to review Texas’ state plan, so a decision is not expected until January 2018.

The main differences between the draft plan and the final plan were largely in the area of the long-term goals for academic growth, graduation rates, college/career/military readiness (high schools), and student success indicators (STAAR reading and math at "meets grade level" or above) for elementary and middle schools.

For academic growth (applicable to elementary and middle schools), the long-term goal is that 80 percent of all students and subgroups will achieve a certain level of growth on the Math and Reading STAAR by 2032, with interim goals of 70 percent for 2017-2022; and 75 percent from 2022-2027.

For the four-year graduation rate: 94 percent (with interim goal of 90 percent beginning with the Class of 2017, increasing to 92 percent for the Class of 2022, and to 94 percent for the Class of 2027).

For the five-year graduation rate: 96 percent (with interim goal of 92 percent beginning with the Class of 2016, increasing to 94 percent for the Class of 2021, and to 96 percent for the Class of 2026).

For the six-year graduation rate: 97 percent (with interim goal of 93 percent beginning with the Class of 2015, increasing to 95 percent for the Class of 2020, and to 97 percent for the Class of 2025.

For the school quality/student success indicators, the long term goals are:

  • For college/career/military readiness (high schools), 60 percent of all students and student subgroups will meet the standard for college/career/military readiness by 2027, with interim goals of 40 percent in 2017-18 through 2021-22 and 50 percent in 2022-23 through 2026-27.
  • For student success in achieving "meets grade level" or above on STAAR Reading and Math (elementary and middle schools), 60 percent of all students and student subgroups will meet the standard by 2027 with interim goals of 45 percent in 2017-18 through 2021-22 and 52 percent in 2022-23 through 2026-27.

Regarding the school quality/student success indicators, TCTA was disappointed in TEA’s proposal to use STAAR Reading and Math results as the school quality/student success indicator for elementary and middle schools, instead of taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by ESSA for states to add new and different accountability indicators to provide a more holistic evaluation of school success beyond test scores. 

In TCTA’s comments on the proposed plan, we pointed out that ESSA specifically lists student/educator engagement and school climate/safety as examples of possible school quality/student success indicators, and that one way for Texas to incorporate all of these facets of school quality into the accountability system would be via the use of results from a validated climate survey.

Unfortunately, TEA did not heed our recommendation and the measures of school quality/student success in the final plan remain the same.

Equitable access to in-field, experienced, effective educators

Regarding the final plan’s provisions for ensuring that poor and minority students are not disproportionately assigned to ineffective, out-of-field, and inexperienced teachers, these also did not change from those proposed in the draft plan. TCTA had submitted comments on the draft plan expressing concern about the lack of provisions in the plan that would address this issue, especially with respect to situations in which Districts of Innovation exempt themselves from state teacher certification requirements. 

TCTA additionally recommended that the plan include state use of federal Title II funds to support quality local school district mentoring/induction programs based on state-established program standards as a strategy to address any gaps in inequitable assignment of certain teachers to poor and minority students. Again, unfortunately the final plan made no significant changes to its provisions regarding this issue, instead focusing on skill development for principal supervisors, and relying on existing strategies, such as continuing implementation of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System, the Educator Excellence Innovation grant program, and recently adopted changes to educator preparation program rules to address any gaps.

TCTA will continue to seek ways to influence the state ESSA plan as it progresses through the process at the federal level.