Priority Issue: The Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Maryland

State Resources – Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) ESSA Website 

U.S. Dept. of Education Resources – Maryland’s State Plan Review and Approval 

BALTIMORE (January 17, 2018) –The U.S. Department of Education has approved Maryland’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal law requiring state action on school improvement.

Washington — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the approval of Maryland’s consolidated state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“Maryland’s plan met the requirements of the law, and so I am happy to approve it,” said Secretary DeVos. “This plan should not be seen as a ceiling, but as a foundation upon which Maryland can improve education for its students.”

Allowing states more flexibility in how they deliver education to students is at the core of ESSA. Each state crafted a plan that it feels will best offer educational opportunities to meet the needs of the state and its students.

The following are some of the unique elements from Maryland’s approved plan as highlighted by the state:

Awards credit for elementary school students completing a well-rounded curriculum as measured by the percentage of students passing social studies, fine arts, physical education and health.

Supports low-performing schools through innovative strategies based on collaboration between local school districts and the state, including providing access to leadership coaches for school leaders at low-performing schools in order to give guidance on the implementation of school improvement strategies.

“Maryland’s efforts, built on strong stakeholder input, are based on the belief that each child is important and deserves the highest quality education program,” said Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon. “We appreciate the support of the U.S. Department of Education, and we will continue our school improvement work with a focus on preparing every student for college and career.”

History of ESSA Plan Development

MSDE Receives Request for Responses to Concerns Raised by USDE/Peer Review of Proposed ESSA Plan (Dec. 12, 2017)

Governor Hogan Refuses to Sign Maryland’s ESSA Plan (Sept. 13, 2017)

State Board Approved Revised State ESSA Plan (August 22, 2017)

Presentation of Decision Items (August 22, 2017)

MABE Presents Comments on the Proposed ESSA State Plan to the State Board of Education (July 18, 2017)

On July 18, MABE President Joy Schaefer addressed the State Board of Education on MABE’s letter outlining the Association’s priorities and concerns regarding the draft ESSA State Plan. President Schaefer was pleased to have the opportunity to present MABE’s positions on the draft ESSA State Plan, including concerns with the proposed five-star ranking system, timing and definition of schools identified for interventions and supports, and definition of a well-rounded high school education.

Opportunity for Input on the State’s Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has replaced the No Child Left Behind Act as the federal law governing elementary and secondary education. ESSA gives states broader flexibility than NCLB and encourages states, local school systems, and schools to innovate while at the same time holding all accountable for results. Under ESSA, each state is required to develop a state accountability plan which describes the state’s academic standards, assessments, and accountability measures.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) formed a stakeholder group including local board members and superintendents and developed a draft state plan in December 2017. On June 27, 2017 the State Board of Education approved the updated draft plan provided below and is seeking comments during the next 30 days, including responses to the survey provided below. The final plan will be voted on in August, and must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in September.

MABE encourages board members to review the State Plan, the helpful overview of the State Plan, respond to the survey, and submit comments.


General Assembly Enacts Major ESSA Legislation in 2017- Limitations Placed on the State’s Federal Accountability Plan

Consolidated State Plan and Support and Improvement Plans (Protect Our Schools Act of 2017) (HB 978) (Ch. 29) (Del. Luedtke)

This bill requires that the State’s consolidated state plan to improve student outcomes, which the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) must submit to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), complies with the requirements detailed in the bill. The bill specifies parameters for academic and school quality indicators; comprehensive support and improvement plans; and targeted support and improvement plans; and prohibits specified interventions. The bill also requires the State Board of Education to establish a composite score that provides for meaningful differentiation of schools and specifies how the composite score must be developed and reported. The bill takes effect July 1, 2017.

Governor Hogan’s veto of this bill was overridden by the legislature on April 6 by votes of 90-50 in the House and 32-15 in the Senate, resulting in the bill becoming law before the end of session.

School Quality Indicators: An educational accountability program must include at least three quality indicators that measure the comparative opportunities provided to students or the level of student success in public schools. One of the school quality indicators must be school climate surveys. The school climate surveys must include at least one question to educators regarding the receipt of critical instructional feedback. Other school quality indicators may include: class size; case load; opportunities to enroll in Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate Programs; opportunities for dual enrollment; opportunities to enroll in career and technology education programs; chronic absenteeism; data on discipline and restorative practices; and access to teachers who hold an Advanced Professional certificate or have obtained National Board certification. The school quality indicators used may not be based on student testing.

Academic Indicators: Of the academic indicators established by the State board, one must be access to or credit for completion of well-rounded curriculum that is indicative of on-track progress at key transition points within elementary and secondary education. The combined total of the academic indicators may not exceed 65% of the composite score. The composite score must be calculated numerically in a percentile form and may not be reported using a letter grade model. No academic or school quality indicator may be weighted as less than 10% of the total amount of the composite score. Subject to these restrictions, the final weights of the academic and school quality indicators must be determined by the State Board of Education, with stakeholder input.

Limits on State Interventions: After a three-year period from the date of a plan’s implementation, if MSDE determines that student outcomes have not improved at a public school and intervention is necessary, MSDE must collaborate with the local board of education in determining the appropriate intervention strategy, subject to existing collective bargaining agreements between the local board of education and the exclusive bargaining representative. An intervention strategy may not include (1) creating a State-run school district; (2) creating a local school system in addition to the 24 school systems established in the Education Article; (3) converting or creating a new public school without local board approval; (4) issuing scholarships to public school students to attend nonpublic schools through direct vouchers, tax credit programs, or education savings accounts; and (5) contracting with a for-profit company. A decision of MSDE regarding an intervention strategy is final.

MABE supported this bill with amendments to address concerns with the bill’s prescriptive approach to defining the role of non-academic school quality indicators in the state accountability plan being developed by the State Board of Education as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). MABE participated in the development of amendments to the “front half” of the bill which would have limited the role of academic factors to 51% of the overall plan; and the final percentage is 65%. MABE strongly supported the “back half” of the bill which clearly prohibits the State Board or MSDE from mandating several specific types of intervention strategies for persistently low-performing schools. (MABE Testimony)

Federal Updates

ED Department Releases New ESSA Guidance 

On April 10, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education released the first substantive guidance regarding implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) since the accountability and state plan regulations finalized under the Obama Administration were repealed on March 27th.  The Dear Colleague Letter addresses specific issues relating to the identification of schools for comprehensive and targeted support and improvement for the 2017-18 school year and “meaningful consultation” requirements in ESSA.

For the 2017-2018 school year, and with the absence of federal regulations, the Department clarifies that States without an approved ESSA State plan must continue to provide supports and interventions in the States low-performing schools for the 2017-18 school year-in the same manner as in the 2016-2017 school year. The State has options regarding how to identify such schools:

  • A State may continue to support and intervene in existing schools identified as priority/focus or in need of improvement, corrective action or restructuring, depending on whether the State operated under a flexibility waiver; or
  • A State may refresh its list using a methodology in place prior to the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

For each option, a State may remove from the list any school that has met the State’s exit criteria, respectively. Additionally, the Department is allowing States to refresh its list of schools for support and intervention using the methodology the State proposed in the State’s new plan developed under ESSA. Local school board members will need to monitor how each State determines how it will identify schools for the 2017-2018 school year.

Finally, the Department addressed stakeholder consultation requirements included in ESSA, pertaining to the development of state plans. The Consolidated Plan template released by the Department on March 13, 2017 disregarded requirements in the law for States to consult with stakeholders, including local school board members, in the development of State plans. While the Department acknowledged the legal obligation of States to consult with stakeholders in the development of State plans, it stopped short of adding a requirement that a State demonstrate how it engaged with stakeholders. In the guidance document, the Department stated that while “State is not required to include in its consolidation plan” how it “met [those] consultation requirements, . . .  a State may include supplemental information such as its efforts to consult with and engage stakeholders in compliance with the requirements of the law.”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) previously joined with AASA  in expressing concern over the Department’s Consolidated Plan template and also joined eight other organizations in submitting a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, urging leaders to require a threshold demonstration of meaningful consultation with stakeholders and focus on continued engagement throughout the initial implementation process.

U.S. Dept. of Education Issues Revised Template for ESSA Consolidated State Plans 

On March 13, 2017, USDE released its revised template for submitting ESSA State Plans in the wake of the repeal of the regulations which had governed the plans.

ESSA Accountability Regulations Repealed 

Resolution H.J.Res. 57, initiated under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), repeals the Accountability and State Plan regulations finalized by the Obama Administration last November. The Accountability regulations were set to take effect on January 30, 2017, but the Department of Education postponed the effective date to March 21, 2017. The regulatory package included over twenty regulations that addressed all matters relating to accountability and set requirements for State Plans, which States have been working to develop and finalize over the last year.

On February 7th, the House of Representatives approved  by a vote of 240-181; and on March 9, 2017, the U.S. Senate approved it by a vote of 50-49. The President approved the resolution on March 27. NSBA submitted a letter to leadership of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in support of the repeal.

With regard to accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Department of Education has announced the Administration will maintain previously announced State plan application deadlines that were included in the regulations. Furthermore, the Department of Education announced the intent to release a new Consolidated Plan template.

NSBA submitted a letter to the House Education committee in support of Congress’ effort to provide regulatory relief to local school districts, but urged Congress to ensure the Department provided technical assistance to States and local school districts, including clear guidance on the expectations of compliance with ESSA.

ESSA Guidance

The U.S. Department of Education had released three guidance documents to provide resources to States in transitioning to the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The three guidance documents, which were intended to provide clarity to States and local school districts on meeting the requirements of the law, included Consolidated State Plan Guidance, State and Local Report Cards Guidance, and High School Graduation Rate guidance

MABE Encouraged Participation in State Listening Tour and Survey on ESSA

Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE)  Schedules Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Listening Tour Dates and Survey

MSDE held a series of meetings across the state to provide overview information on ESSA and allow participants to engage in a group discussion regarding the ESSA State Plan. Each ESSA feedback session included an overview to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Participants chose specific topics to discuss in small groups. Within the small groups, participants were provided an overview of the selected ESSA topic and then engage in discussion questions surrounding the topic.

The discussion topics included:

  • Accountability
  • Educator Supports
  • Student Supports
  • Supporting Low Performing Schools

Maryland’s State Plan for ESSA Implementation  

Maryland’s Draft Consolidated State Plan is available for review. Click here for the whole plan.

MABE Input and Participation in Developing the State Plan

10/25/16 –  MABE Leadership Provides State Board Members Presentation on The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Accountability Plan

MABE Statement & Materials

The State Board provided the opportunity for representatives from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) to present the association’s perspectives on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the development of Maryland ESSA Accountability Plan.   Board President Andy Smarick welcomed MABE’s representatives, and noted that the State Board had afforded the same opportunity to other major stakeholders including the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM) and the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA).

MABE’s President-elect Joy Schaefer, who chairs MABE’s Committee on ESSA and is a Frederick County board member, presented MABE’s statement. She was joined by Ellen Flynn Giles, MABE’s representative on the MSDE ESSA Stakeholder Committee, and a Howard County board member, who participated in the morning’s dialogue with the State Board.  (more)

The “Supplement, not Supplant” rule proposed by the U.S. Dept. of Education

On August 31, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education posted the proposed supplement, not supplant rule that was sent to members of Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

In light of the fact the negotiated rulemaking committee was not able to reach a consensus on the proposed rule, the Department was then permittted to propose and publish a rule without being bound by the discussions that occurred during the negotiated rulemaking process. The rule has not been formally published in the Federal Register. Once the rule is formally published, it will be open for public comment for 60 days. We will continue to keep you updated regarding the formal date of publication, and provide more information on the proposed rule.

Link to Alliance for Excellence in Education’s Federal Flash 9/6/16: Why You Need to Know about ESSA’s “Supplement, Not Supplant” Provision

Assessment Regulations

On September 9, 2016, NSBA expressed support for local governance and asked the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) to amend the proposed regulations to remove provisions and requirements that exceed the scope of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and minimize the emphasis on federal compliance by providing an opportunity for state leaders and local school board members to focus on the academic success of students. The Department also should delete provisions in proposed rules that are unnecessary, outside the scope of ESSA, and establish regulatory requirements that effectively limit the authority of state leaders and local school board members.

NSBA conveyed these points in comments it submitted to the Department on a key proposed rule: Title of Collection: Title I—Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged—Academic Assessments.

“Flexibility in the hands of local decision-makers, best equipped to determine how to support and help students succeed, will further public education,” stated Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO, National School Boards Association. “Conversely, requirements that strip local decision-makers of the authority to govern will be detrimental and significantly impede local school districts’ abilities to utilize, to the fullest extent, the opportunity and flexibility authorized by ESSA.”

The Department should promulgate federal regulations that assist states and school districts in implementing provisions of ESSA and to reaffirm ESSA’s clear directive to restore local governance and community ownership of public education. The Department’s regulations should promote a balanced “federal-state-local partnership” that encourages states to work with local school districts, promotes flexibility, and ends the current “top-down” approach to education that has proven so ineffective.

Gentzel stated, “Full restoration of local governance can only occur if prescriptive, rigid components of federal oversight are eliminated. It is our hope that the Department will amend the proposed regulations to support and strengthen local governance of public education.”

School boards, elected or appointed by their communities, represent the community’s beliefs and values. They also shoulder the responsibility to ensure that every child receives a high quality education, and for preparing children to live productive and satisfying lives. Given the unique understanding of their communities and vital role school boards have, federal regulations should empower state and local leaders to make decisions, which Congress clearly intended when it passed ESSA.

On the issue of assessments, federal regulations should support the authority granted, through ESSA, to local school board members, as locally elected officials, to participate in the process of determining the type of assessments that are administered at the local level. Additionally, states must meaningfully engage with locally elected officials, such as local school board members, to determine how statewide assessment systems can foster student success and growth.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the

MSDE and MABE ESSA Activities

MABE Ad Hoc Committee on ESSA – MABE has established a Committee on ESSA in order to provide a forum for members of local boards of education to review, analyze, discuss and recommend MABE positions on issues pertaining to the federal, state, and local school system implementation of ESSA.

MSDE State Stakeholder Committee on ESSA – This MSDE stakeholder group, on which MABE is represented by Mary Kingston Roche of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, was created to participate in the review of the new federal law and development of Maryland’s State Plan to implement ESSA.

Update – MABE’s Committee on ESSA met for the first time on August 8, 2016; and agreed to write a letter to State Superintendent Karen Salmon (sent August 16, 2016) regarding the ESSA stakeholder group and implementation timeline. Dr. Salmon responded on August 29, 2016.

MABE Presentation – “From NCLB to ESSA … An Introduction to the Every Student Succeeds Act” 

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, represents a comprehensive revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which since 2002 has been known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). MABE and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) agree that ESSA provides a historic opportunity for school boards across the country to help shape how this law will impact their schools, teachers and students. Unlike NCLB, ESSA reduces the specificity of federal requirements while increasing the ability of States and school systems to define how school boards individual schools are held accountable for student achievement. With the passage of this law, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and States are now embarking on the work to implement its provisions.

It is important to note that while ESSA has passed Congress, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) must publish regulations, guidance and program applications that will shape requirements for States, school districts and schools under the law. The law requires USDE to finalize regulations within one year of the passage of ESSA. Under the rulemaking process, a proposed regulation, referred to as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) must be issued. An NPRM is a draft regulation that is open for public comment. In addition to the typical NPRM process, ESSA requires the Department to conduct negotiated rulemaking on a subset of statutory requirements, including standards, assessments and supplement/not supplant requirements. The standards and assessments are those which States are required to adopt under Title I.

MSDE Resources

NSBA Resources

U.S. Dept. of Education Resources

For more information, contact John R. Woolums, Esq., MABE’s Director of Governmental Relations, at or 410-841-5414.