Unpacking ESSA State Plans: Insights for Policy, Research, and Practice

American Institutes for Research (AIR) and EducationCounsel are separately conducting in-depth reviews of state plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a law that oversees K-12 public education policy. Each organization has undertaken a review of all the state ESSA plans that were submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in April and May 2017 across a wide range of issues. On June 9, 2017, they co-hosted a panel discussion with policy experts, researchers, and practitioners who shared their initial insights in order to inform planning and decision making at the local and state levels.

View the Event Recording:


Betheny Lyke, Ed.D., executive director for the Illinois Center for School Improvement, works closely with the state’s lowest performing urban, rural, and suburban school districts to transform their systems and ultimately drive higher student achievement through research-backed best practices. Dr. Lyke assumed leadership of a low-performing high school in south suburban Chicago and implemented a variety of turnaround strategies, dramatically reducing student expulsions and reversing the trend of declining student achievement within a year.

Kerstin Carlson Le Floch, Ph.D., managing researcher at AIR’s Washington, D.C., office, specializes in school improvement, state accountability policies, and Title I implementation. Dr. Le Floch has studied accountability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since 1999, directing the Study of State Implementation of NCLB, the Study of Implementation of Flexibility under ESEA, and most recently, a national study of Title I schools.

Kathryn Young, a senior policy advisor at EducationCounsel, has also served as a policy advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education for the U.S. Department of Education and as an Education, Children, and Families legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Patty Murray where she led legislative efforts on Child Care, Education, Youth Workforce Development, Nutrition, and Civil Rights. Additional prior work includes director of National Education Policy for Jobs for the Future, legislative associate on the Education, Early Childhood, and Workforce Committee for the National Governors Association and work with the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Scott Palmer, founding partner of EducationCounsel provides policy, legal, strategic planning, and advocacy services to education leaders across the country, including state/national policy counsel and federal advocacy before the White House, U.S. Department of Education, and Congress. He works on a wide range of major reforms, from designing K-12 policies that promote college and career readiness, to building comprehensive birth-to-five early learning systems, to promoting access and diversity in higher education. Mr. Palmer previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education and Attorney and Policy Advisor in the Clinton White House where he worked on the President's Race Initiative on education and civil rights issues.

Opening Remarks:

Jessica Johnson, vice president at AIR’s Naperville, Illinois, office, provides district and school improvement guidance and management oversight for a range of projects with states, districts, and schools primarily in the Midwest and Northeast regions. Johnson's previous experience includes serving as a local school board member in Indian Prairie School District, Illinois.


9:00 a.m. Registration and breakfast

9:30–11:00 a.m. Panel

Event Information

June 9, 2017
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM ET