In 10 years, Nebraska wants to reduce by half the number of students who are not proficient in core subjects, according to the plan it has submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Nebraska Department of Education is among a host of states that has submitted its plan under the new federal education law know as the Every Student Succeeds Act.

ESSA, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015, replaced the controversial No Child Left Behind law, which was criticized for being punitive and requiring states meet unrealistic academic benchmarks.

The new law returns much flexibility to states about how to measure accountability and improve low-performing schools, but Trump’s election — and a new U.S. education secretary — ushered in a new round of uncertainty about how the plans would be handled.

Although 16 states turned their plans in last spring, the deadline for the remaining states is Monday, with the exception of four that received extensions due to hurricane damage.

Most of the plans submitted earlier were approved, despite some initial concern that a U.S. Education Department headed by a secretary who promotes local control was being too heavy-handed.

Nebraska officials have expressed optimism about their work with federal education officials to incorporate the new state accountability plan, especially because this state had avoided some changes advocated under the Obama administration.

Both Sen. Deb Fischer and Gov. Pete Ricketts sent letters of support for the plan, according to a news release from the Nebraska Department of Education.

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The plan combines the state education department’s strategic plan with its new accountability system, which classifies school performance at four levels and requires the state intervene in three low-performing schools.

Under the federal plan, Nebraska’s overall 10-year goal is a 50 percent reduction in the number of students who aren't deemed proficient through the statewide assessment, according to a news release. The plan also sets specific benchmarks for subgroups of students and a target for a four-year graduation rate of 94.4 percent for all students.

Nebraska’s ESSA plan also incorporates the state’s new accountability plan, which uses state test scores, academic progress, graduation rate, progress for English Learners, and chronic absenteeism to gauge school performance.

In addition to the state’s priority schools, which get some state money as part of the education department’s intervention, about 24 schools identified as in need of improvement would qualify for federally funded improvement activities under the plan.

The education department visited seven cities to get input on its ESSA plan, as well as online surveys with more than 1,700 responses.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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