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It Is Time to Put Florida’s Students First

WASHINGTON, DC—With back-to-school season in full swing, Florida remains the sole state without a federally-approved education plan. UnidosUS (formerly NCLR), along with a coalition of civil rights organizations and its local Affiliates, have repeatedly expressed concern at the failure of Florida’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to comply with federal law. The plan fails to include critical protections under the law designed to improve education outcomes for historically underserved groups, including English learners (ELs).

Florida currently has the third-largest K-12 EL population in the nation with more than 290,000 students in the state. Under ESSA, accountability for tracking the academic progress of vulnerable groups of students, including racial and ethnic minorities, those from low-income families, ELs and those with disabilities became a central fixture of the law. But as the start of the school year draws near, Florida’s ESSA plan continues to ignore stakeholder input and still does not align with key parts of the ESSA law.

 Despite feedback on how to improve the plan from the U.S. Department of Education, the state’s current ESSA plan could further widen achievement gaps that already exist between ELs and their non-English learner peers in the following ways:

 Failing to include an English Language Proficiency (ELP) indicators in its accountability system.

  • Refusing to employ native language assessments to better assess what students know.
  • Lumping together the lowest-performing students as a proxy for race/ethnicity—rather than assessing the performance and unique needs of each group of students separately. 

“Our students are our future workers, taxpayers and voters, and their success, or failure, is a testament to Florida’s commitment to providing all students with a high-quality education. The unwillingness that we are seeing from the state to reverse course and submit a plan that is fully compliant and upholds ESSA’s fundamental values is unacceptable, to say the least. ELs and other historically underrepresented groups deserve a shot at an equitable education and it is shameful to see Florida officials stand in the way of that right,” said Jared Nordlund, Florida Senior Strategist at UnidosUS.

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