U.S. Department of Education offers clarification on ESSA advisements

Dive Brief:

  • The Department of Education has released additional information that intends to clarify some of the issues that arose after the Department sent three states (Delaware, Nevada and new Mexico) early feedback on each state’s submitted plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, according to Education Week.
  • States must come up with their own definitions of terms that aren’t explicitly defined in the legislation, such as how to define “ambitious” academic goals, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos can determine how reasonable these definitions are. This is notable because the initial letter to Delaware questioned whether the state’s achievement goals were “ambitious.”
  • However, questions do still remain; it is unclear whether states will be allowed to utilize social studies and science as “academic indicators,” in the way states do for reading and math. And it remains uncertain whether states can offer their districts an array of options to show whether a student is college- and career-ready.

Dive Insight:

The pushback on the initial plans came as a surprise to critics and supporters of DeVos, who consider her to be someone who wants to scale back the Department’s regulatory oversight on states and school districts. It is unclear how the Education Department’s feedback will impact the implementation plans submitted by other states. According to the department’s site, 17 states have submitted complete plans for analysis and approval. While states have been planning ESSA implementation for a long period of time and will likely not make sizable changes, the ED’s specific issues with the already-submitted reports, coupled with the fact that the Department is issuing suggestions for revision in the first place may mean states won't see the leniency they expected when accountability provisions of the law were rolled back shortly after the new Congress was in place.

As each state tries to determine its own definitions and rubrics for success, from defining “ambitious” achievement goals to determining performance metrics and school rating systems, when crafting the final submissions it will be helpful for states to know whether the Department will be more or less likely to approve their proposal on the amount of specificity and direct oversight over schools and districts factored into the plans.

Filed Under: K12