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Accountability and school improvement are top concerns as Angelenos give input on California’s ESSA plan

Mike Szymanski | June 15, 2017

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Barbara Murchison is collecting ESSA data for the state.

Only eight people showed up at one of the last chances for parents and educators to give input on the state’s overall school plan that they need to submit in order to get about $80 billion from the federal government.

Their top concerns for the state as it formulates its Every Student Succeeds Act plan were accountability and school improvement.

A teacher, a union rep, a school board member from Azusa, a charter representative, a parent from a private school, and some PTA members attended the 2.5-hour meeting Wednesday evening at the Los Angeles County of Education’s department office in Downey to offer feedback on the state’s ESSA plan.

California needs to submit its plan to the federal Department of Education by Sept. 18 in order to get federal funding. That’s the deadline for 16 other states as well.

“These last meetings may have a low turnout but we are getting robust, fully thought-out ideas and feedback, so that is good,” said Barbara Murchison, who has collected the ESSA input from throughout the state for the last month. It’s been quality, not quantity in the responses, but Murchison has been getting the word out about the ESSA plan for the last year and a half. The latest rendition was available for the past month.

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The state Board of Education fine-tuned their presentation by dividing up the plan into 11 sections, with each including an explanatory video and also translated into Spanish.

The 11 parts include the education of migratory children, academic achievement grants, homeless assistance, intervention for at-risk youth, and other education issues that the state must provide plans for to the federal government.

“Right now, most groups coming to these meetings are interested in the sections involving accountability and school improvement, and that is the same throughout the state,” Murchison said.

The accountability includes how a school will be graded in conjunction with the new color-coded state report cards. One of the questions for the public is if the non-academic assessment of suspension rates should be graded at the same percentage as English or math test scores.

Many of those attending thought that the assessments, including English learner improvements and chronic absenteeism, should all be weighed the same. But, during the discussion, some of the educators were concerned that some of the non-test criteria could be more easily manipulated.

Some attendees were concerned that schools would be penalized if parents allow their children to opt out of the tests. Suggestions ranged from forbidding students from opting out to offering support for schools where large numbers of students are opting out.

Part of the law involves improving the lowest-performing 5 percent of a state’s schools, and California is trying to figure out how to identify those schools with certain indicators. The state requires assessments for every school, including private and independent charter schools, that receive Title 1 money for low-income populations.

Murchison said the state board asked that the ESSA plan specifically include more language involving equity.

Murchison and Joy Kessel, a consultant involved in the statewide hearings, are collecting the public’s feedback to present to the board and at their next meeting, July 12 and 13. One more very short opportunity for the public to offer input is expected after a final ESSA plan is sent in September.

“This is important because we will be living with this for a long time,” Murchison said. “We are glad to have any and all input, and there are few more chances available.”

Remaining chances for input to the ESSA plan are:

Saturday, June 17, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Bobby Duke Middle School
85-358 Bagdad Street
Coachella, CA 92236

Wednesday, June 21, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 24, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
To be part of either webinar, email

June 28, 2016, 1–4 p.m.
Los Angeles County Office of Education
9300 Imperial Hwy – EC 281
Downey, CA 90242


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