What Parents and Advocates Should Know About ESSA Plans in Florida and Arizona

UnidosUS recently released new briefs on Arizona’s and Florida’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans with a focus on English Learners (ELs). The briefs examine student graduation rates and achievement gaps in those states, as well as aspects of their ESSA plans—e.g. testing and accountability policies, short- and long-term goals for improving educational outcomes as they relate to English Learners.

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Each report includes key questions that advocates and parents of English learners can ask to ensure those students are getting the instruction they need and deserve.

Here are some highlights:

Florida has a quarter-million English learners (the vast majority of whom speak Spanish), yet their high-school graduation rate—67%—is well below that of their never English Learner peers (84%) in the state. Unfortunately, Florida’s current plan for reducing that gap consists mainly of covering it up.

As the report notes: Not only did Florida fail to provide “baseline data for the EL subgroup used to determine the goals for academic achievement and graduate rate,” but “Florida’s A-F grading system for accountability does not include subgroup performance in the calculation of a school’s grade.”

That’s all the more reason, the brief suggests, for parents and advocates to ask questions like: Why did Florida decide to exclude ELs from their accountability system? How will schools be held accountable for the progress of ELs attaining English proficiency?

Click here to read the full report.


Arizona has 85,000 English learners, and a not-very-good reputation when it comes to serving them.

Like Florida, it refuses to offer native-language tests that would more accurately measure the progress of some English learners, who graduate high school at much lower rates than their peers. Readers might also recall that the state’s decision to weigh student reading and math test scores differently, depending on how long a student has attended a school, sparked fears a while back that some transient students were being overlooked.

What’s more, Arizona’s A-F grading system doesn’t always include subgroup performance for ELs, Latino students, and the like, which begs the question: Is the state’s accountability system doing right by all of its students?

Click here to read the full report.