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Local administrators react to Every Student Succeeds Act approval

Before the start of the holiday weekend, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos approved North Dakota's state plan under the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

A pair of local administrators who played a role in the plan's construction have expressed their pleasure with DeVos' decision.

Dickinson Middle School principal Marcus Lewton and Dickinson Public Schools curriculum coordinator Melanie Kathrein are members of the ESSA planning committee, a group made up of 50 North Dakota teachers, parents, school administrators and legislators of education groups.

"We are excited about the approval of the North Dakota Every Student Succeeds Act, largely because it gives North Dakota a voice in how we are held accountable," Kathrein said. "The department of public instruction did a phenomenal job of including stakeholders from multiple groups to help develop the plan."

Signed into law in December 2015, ESSA is replacing No Child Left Behind as education law. While NCLB focused primarily on standardized testing in the math, English and science fields, ESSA is more flexible with how and when testing is administered, allowing for better concentrated goals for teachers and schools when educating their students. Every state creates its own all-encompassing plan under ESSA later approved by the Department of Education.

"With ESSA, there's more state and local control, which is a good thing," Lewton said. "No Child Left Behind seemed to take a very black-and-white approach and took a lot of autonomy away from local and state people."

Key elements of the plan includes "Choice Ready" indicators measuring how schools are preparing their students beyond high school as the students are required to meet at least two of the pathways: college ready, career ready, or military ready. In addition, the plan will include surveys taken by students to examine items such as student engagement.

Implemented in July 2017, this year will be used as more of an interim year as schools statewide will gather information for adjustments made down the line.

"I'd say it's less about having a number and shooting for that number and more about accessing where you're at and how we going to improve," Lewton said. "Then, we'll make goals and meet those essentially, adapting to your individual school."

Even with the plan's recent approval, more work needs to be done.

"There are still some things that need further refinement in order to get us to the point where we know how it will be implemented," Kathrein said. "I think that there needs to be still some definition around the formulas that are used within the plan. That is probably one of the biggest pieces that still needs to be looked at."

Patrick Bernadeau

Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press. He can be reached at his office number (701) 456-1211 or email him at Joining the Dickinson Press in July 2017, he was previously a freelance sports writer for Treasure Coast Newspapers ( in Stuart, FL as well as carrying bylines from the Associated Press, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today and Naples Daily News. Prior to his move to Dickinson, he resided in Port St. Lucie, FL, earning a Bachelor's Degree from Florida Atlantic University. Patrick was born and raised in Brockton, Mass and is an avid Boston sports fan. Born to Haitian parents, Patrick's favorite meal is Griot with Banana Peze, Pikliz (Fried pork with smashed plaintains and a spicy vegetable relish) and a tall glass of Cherry Coke.

(701) 456-1211