State drafts plan to comply with federal ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen on Tuesday released a first draft of the state’s version of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal education law enacted last year, and is planning a “community imput tour” around the state this week, reports The Tennessean.

The proposal would give local school district more control over issues such as turning around poor-performing schools and call for families to have access to more information about their schools.

“We definitely want our districts to be empowered with our support,” McQueen said in an interview Monday.

She said the draft is an extension of what the state has already set out to do with its Tennessee Succeeds strategic plan, also passed last year.

“We are building on what we know is working, as well as supporting equity and a well-rounded education,” McQueen said.

Some of the biggest changes Tennessee is proposing relate to transparency, accountability and school turnaround.

Changes also include more money — how much is unclear — through the state’s funding formula for education spending as well as grants. A portion of that money is designed to improve schools on the state’s priority list of those performing in the bottom 5 percent in the state.

The Tennessee Department of Education will submit its final plan to the U.S. Department of Education in the spring. Meetings will be held in Knoxville, Jackson, Memphis and Nashville over the next two weeks to gain input from communities.

Note: See also Chalkbeat Tennessee’s article, HERE. The Department of Education news release is below.

News release from state Department of Education

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen released details today about how Tennessee is planning to transition to the new federal K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Specifically, the department has published new materials that outline five opportunities and proposed strategies for how Tennessee’s education system under ESSA will increase equity, share more information with communities, and better support a well-rounded education that prepares all students to be successful after high school.


Across the country, states are working with their education communities to prepare plans that outline what their policies will look like under ESSA, which replaces No Child Left Behind. In May, Commissioner McQueen launched a statewide listening tour that gathered input from more than 2,500 Tennesseans to inform the draft ESSA transition plan, which will be out later this month. Ahead of its release, as the department looks toward finalizing the plan next spring, Commissioner McQueen has launched a series of town hall discussions beginning this week to share some of the takeaways from the process so far and gather additional feedback in key areas.


“ESSA has provided an opportunity to continue the conversation about how we can build on our successes in Tennessee and leverage ESSA’s state-centered focus to determine what we want our education policies to be,” McQueen said. “Across the state, our educators, parents, and advocates believe we are on the right track, and they want to help us go further in areas like better supporting our historically disadvantaged students, providing more access to early postsecondary opportunities like dual credit and AP classes, and increasing the focus on supporting our whole child. We are taking key steps to do just that.”


Last fall, Commissioner McQueen released the state’s strategic plan, called Tennessee Succeeds, which outlined the five-year vision of education in our state. The ESSA state plan will align toTennessee Succeeds and expand on five specific opportunities, which are outlined in more detail on the department’s website today:

  1. Set high expectations that align to postsecondary and workforce readiness so all of Tennessee’s students are able to pursue their chosen path in life.
  2. Attend to the needs of all students in pre-K-12—especially historically disadvantaged students—so they can experience success after high school.
  3. Provide support, funding, intervention, and innovation for persistently low-performing schools.
  4. Focus on strengthening and supporting educators.
  5. Empower districts to drive toward student goals.


At the town halls, Commissioner McQueen and department leaders will share more details about the policies within each opportunity and ask attendees a series of questions, which are also posted on the department’s website today for the public to read and respond. The questions will be posted through January. In addition, the department will also gather public comments on the draft ESSA state plan once it is released

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