Department of Education Sends ESSA Update to State Education Leaders

This morning the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to chief state school officers on matters concerning the implementation of The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The letter specifically addresses the implementation timeline, school improvement requirements for the 2017-2018 school year, and stakeholder consultation requirements that apply to consolidated state plans.

What This Mean for States:

  • States may delay the identification of schools targeted for support and improvement plans until the 2018-2019 school year.
  • States can choose how they identify low-performing schools it will support during the 2017-2018 school year. States can either:
    • Continue supporting schools previously identified, with the exception of removing schools from its priority and focus list that meet the state’s exit criteria.
    • Make a fresh list of target schools using methodology in place prior to the start of the 2017-2018 school year. A state may also use methodologies consistent with the new state implementation plan even if it has not yet been approved by the Department of Education. Although the Department encourages schools to modify their methodologies based on a December peer review of the new state plans.
  • States must allocate improvement funds for the 2017-2018 school year using one of the options above, but may carry over any remaining funds for use in 2018-2019 once its state plan has been approved.
  • States must meet stakeholder consultation requirements of the individual programs even though it is not required to include how they met the requirements in the consolidated state plan.

Last month the Department released their new state plan template for ESSA implementation which included fewer requirements than what existed under the Obama administration. One major critique of the new state plan template was the removal of the stakeholder engagement requirement. The Department’s new letter addresses these concerns by saying these consultation requirements exist, but still does not require states to disclose exactly how they met these requirements in their individual state plans. 

ESSA received initial bipartisan support when introduced under President Obama largely due to the stakeholder engagement requirement. Parents, teachers, and those closest to the students would have their voices heard when states develop their state plans. Although the Department’s letter clarifies these requirements are still in place, not requiring states to disclose exactly who they consulted with leaves the door open for states developing accountability plans without stakeholder input. 

ESSA Update Letter.pdf425.06 KB