In our When Equity Is Optional series, we analyzed data from the first year of ESSA implementation in 10 states (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, and Washington) and found that states have used ESSA’s flexibility to take wildly varied approaches to school ratings and school improvement.
The likelihood a school was identified for support varied widely by state. Some states identified half, or more, of the public schools they serve, while others identified fewer than 5% of schools. While some states ensured that the lowest-rated schools were consistently identified for support under ESSA, other states made choices that resulted in low-rated schools being overlooked. As a result, students in low-performing schools—who are much more likely to be students of color or from low-income families—in different states have very different odds of receiving the support they need to improve.