Chiefs for Change Members Have Top-Rated ESSA Plans

Chiefs for Change
December 12, 2017

Today, Bellwether Education Partners, in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success, released the results of its independent peer review of state ESSA plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017. We are heartened to see that the top-rated plans overall — NM, LA, NV, and TN — are Chiefs for Change member states, followed closely by other states in the Chiefs for Change ESSA Workgroup.

The states in our workgroup had plans that received an average rating of 3.2, while state plans nationally had an average rating of 2.7.

What set these states apart? They set ambitious goals for what students would learn and paired that with actionable plans to achieve those goals through proven, evidence-based strategies.

The Chiefs we worked with benefitted from participating in intentional conversations with each other about this work across our network over the last 24 months. In February 2015, Chiefs for Change (CFC) launched its ESSA Workgroup, led by former Tennessee Commissioner of Education and CFC alumnus member Kevin Huffman and supported by former Assistant Commissioner in New York Julia Rafal-Baer, who is CFC’s Chief Operating Officer. Our Chiefs understood that the greatest driver of successful ESSA implementation would be the vision of state education Chiefs. Would they learn from what worked (and what did not) under NCLB? Would they take full advantage of the new opportunities afforded to states under ESSA?

To ensure a smooth, productive, and timely transition to ESSA implementation, Chiefs for Change led a collaborative, facilitated process of goal-setting and envisioning statewide systems of school improvement. The process was more than technical assistance; it was a deep dive into the design of these systems, guided by the Chiefs themselves.

We’re pleased with how well our states fared in this review, but we know that a strong plan is only the beginning. The real work comes as Chiefs and their teams move into implementation, and we look forward to continuing to support them by advocating for policies based on their proven practices.



Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education Chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems. Learn more on our website: