Every Student Succeeds Act meeting explores standards and assessment

Every Student Succeeds Act meeting explores standards and assessment


Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius hosted another Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Topic Area Meetings Monday afternoon. The topic for this session was “Academic Standards and Assessments.” There is a lot of interest in this topic, reflected by the 150 people in attendance.

Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) staff provided an overview and reiterated that stakeholders will be involved throughout the whole process as we redesign the new accountability system that aligns with ESSA.

The feedback provided at these meetings will help Commissioner Cassellius inform the U.S. Department of Education as they adopt regulations as guidance for the states. When the state meetings conclude and federal draft regulations are complete, the next step is to form work groups. Once the work groups do their work and finally develop “the plan,” they will hold regional meetings to share the plan with stakeholders across the state.

Department staff provided an overview of content and definitions of terms in regards to standards and assessments under ESSA.

Three points were made in regards standards:

  1. Standards are defined as knowledge and skills required for college and career readiness.
  2. All state academic standards apply to ALL students.
  3. Rigorous standards MUST be aligned with entrance requirements for college.

Since the inception of the new law, stakeholders are very interested to know whether or not there are new opportunities to replace the MCA tests. Another reoccurring question: Do local school districts have to use MCAs? The common response from the department was:“it remains to be seen.”

In regards to assessments, we do know that the new accountability system still requires yearly testing aligned to standards for all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

It is not clear but it seems as though ESSA provides local education agencies (LEAs) with the option of locally adopted assessments, but the technical criteria must be accomplished, which really limits the selection of assessments.

Some other questions by members of the audience are as follows:

  • Is there support for Professional Development under ESSA?
  • What are some examples of the additional student performance criteria of well-rounded student list?
  • How are we supporting standards that don’t have assessments?
  • Are we able to substitute SAT/ACT in place of the MCA in high school?
  • Can ESSA help fund Centers of Excellence in case they are cut?
  • How can we engage youth in process?

“It remains to be seen” was a common response during the session, due to what is not known at this point. There seems to be more flexibility for LEAs. However, those options become limited as we are required by federal law to meet the TECHNICAL criteria of ESSA.

The department encouraged all interested stakeholders to be a part of the working group and stay involved in the process.


Check back later for an update on another ESSA Topic Area Meeting that was held earlier in the day regarding “Data Collection and Reporting.”

The next ESSA Topic Area Meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 2, at the MDE office in Roseville.

See http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/SchSup/ESSA/MDE035276 for the complete meeting schedule.

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