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ESSA Accountability


In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law. ESSA amended and reauthorized the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.  In April 2017, Tennessee submitted a final ESSA plan that was based on feedback from thousands of Tennesseans over the course of a year. In August 2017, our plan was approved.

Some key areas of Tennessee's final ESSA plan include:


  • School accountability: As required by state legislation, the department will provide an A-F letter grade to schools following the 2017-18 school year. The final ESSA plan outlines a multiple measure grading framework based on five indicators. These include a Ready Graduate metric that credits schools for providing a variety of early postsecondary pathways for students, including ones that lead toward readiness for college, careers, and the military.
  • District accountability: The district accountability framework has been aligned to mirror, as close as possible, the priorities and structure of the school accountability framework.
  • School improvement: The final ESSA plan maintains urgency around turning around the lowest performing schools and builds on what the department has learned over the past several years. Of note, the final plan provides a revised Priority school improvement continuum, which outlines a series of evidence-based intervention options, clear entrance and exit criteria, and proof points that check for progress. The state will provide support to districts with Priority schools through a new Office of School Improvement and the processes outlined in the continuum. The plan also includes additional clarity on the role of the Achievement School District, which remains the department’s most intensive intervention and is focused on its original mission of turning around the state’s lowest performing schools. The final plan resets the timing for the next Priority school list to run in 2018 in alignment with first A-F school designations. The school improvement continuum and associated interventions will begin this summer for current Priority schools. Additionally, the plan defines which schools will be considered Focus schools and the specific supports available to help them improve students’ performance within specific subgroups.

  • English learners: The final plan provides additional accountability and support to ensure English learners make progress, as well as increase transparency about their performance. The department is also continuing to research and partner with advocates on how to best serve English learners, particularly both long-term English learners and recently arrived English learners.

  • Assessment: This year, third and fourth grade science and social studies TNReady assessments will be cut in half, and the department will continue to explore how to streamline assessments throughout all grades, particularly in the 11th grade year.

  • Teachers and leaders: The department will support teacher and principal residencies to create more high- quality pipeline opportunities for prospective candidates to move into those roles. The department will also create a new grant initiative that focuses on increasing diversity in the educator workforce.