Announcing “Check State Plans: Promise to Practice”

A message from Jim Cowen, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success, to our partners and friends:

Why Do We Still Care About State Plans? = Equity

I wanted to send you a note to explain the exciting program that we started earlier this summer and that will culminate later this fall. It’s called “Check State Plans: Promise to Practice” and it is a natural extension of our peer review of ESSA accountability plans submitted last year. (Learn more at

You all know that states now have substantial responsibility and opportunity to tackle school improvement. Our view is that there is no more important challenge than closing the achievement gaps in our lowest performing schools and no greater equity lever in ESSA than how they implement their school improvement plans.

The title of the new program adds “Promise to Practice” because we have now moved beyond evaluating plans, as we did last year, to monitoring the implementation of these plans. After all, ESSA plans are meaningless if they are put on a shelf.  Our effort not only shines a spotlight on innovation and best practice, but also is a snapshot of how states are approaching the most challenging issue facing states today.

Our Method: Expert Partners Conducting an Exhaustive, Fair Process

Like in our initial program, the Collaborative for Student Success is acting as a convener of the nation’s foremost policy experts to engage state policymakers, assess their progress, and provide the public with analysis.

Our primary goal is to understand the trends in implementation, how states are directing funding and resources, and to shine a light on best practice. In order to accomplish that goal, the Collaborative commissioned HCM Strategists and Education First to be partners in this process.

Ed First was asked to query policymakers in every state on their progress towards identifying and implementing plans to improve struggling schools. This has been an exhaustive process and conversations will likely continue throughout the fall.

HCM Strategists is developing the overall policy analysis, the facilitation of the peer review process and   writing the national and state reports.

We will again convene a group of approximately 25 peer reviewers later this month to consider the progress made by each state. Please note that we have gone to great lengths to add specific school improvement expertise at the state, district and local level to our peer network.

After our peer reviewers have completed their analysis and subsequent conversations with state policymakers, we will release a final report plus derivative state reports in November.

Our Goal: Informed Policymakers, Allies, Media, and Stakeholders

For nearly three years the Collaborative has employed our talent and resources to maximize the equity potential provided by ESSA and this work continues today. As always, we welcome the input of others to improve and help promote our products.

In the end, our objective is for every policymaker, reporter, and interested citizen to have the best available information about which policies are most likely to improve student outcomes.

Finally, if you have any additional questions I invite you to contact me directly. Also, I recommend that you may want to review the additional materials that we are making public today, including (1) the press release we are sending to the media; (2) the instructions sent to our peer reviewers; and (3) the flow chart (below) to clarify the relationship and responsibilities among the Collaborative, HCM Strategists, Education First, and our peer reviewers.

Thank you. I appreciate our partnership.