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Civil Rights Groups Weigh In On Florida's Delayed ESSA Plan

Aug 20, 2018

Florida remains the only state that hasn't received approval of a federally mandated education plan.

Now, civil rights groups are weighing in on the delay.

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states latitude in creating systems for measuring student success, but they still have to be accepted by the U.S. Department of Education.

Florida's ESSA plan was initially rejected for failing to address several provisions including testing for English language learners.

The ESSA directs states toward offering English language learners exams in multiple languages.

Earlier this month, the Florida Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In the note, the group wrote, "as Florida's plan currently stands, it excludes critical protections for English language learners, students with disabilities and students of color," among others.

The advocacy group's Florida head, Mari Corugedo, says English language learners should be able to take tests in their native language.

"When you have English language learners, and you give them every subject in English of course that child is not going to show the ability that they have," she said. "If you have a subject like science, like math, then what you could do is assess them in their home language and then you would be assessing the skill."

The U.S Department of Education also challenged Florida's method of accounting for demographic subgroups in measuring achievement.

Florida currently gives schools  “A" through "F" grades based on the whole student population. Civil rights groups want separate data included for minority groups and students with disabilities. 

"Basically for the reporting to be meaningful we need subgroups so we could see where we need to go based on the data," said Corugedo.

In its revised plan, the state wrote that it will use a subgroup methodology to “identify those schools that have subgroup performance at 31% or lower across the school grade metrics. This information will also be used to identify schools for support and intervention.”

The group, along with Latino advocacy group, UnidosUS also sent a similar letter to Florida Education Commissioner Pamela Stewart.

Without ESSA approval, the state risks the potential loss of federal dollars. 

Florida's Education Department currently receives more than $1.1 billion per year from the federal government.