Timeline on state ESSA plan slips, could be a trend

Timeline on state ESSA plan slips, could be a trend

(Calif.)  After planning for months to submit the state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act by the first of the year, California officials have abruptly pushed the deadline date back by three months.

Although the proposed delay would likely result in schools being unable to comply with federal accountability requirements at least for another year, a spokesman for the California Department of Education said last week they have little choice since the U.S. Department of Education has yet to finalize all the regulations governing the implementation and operations under ESSA.

“The CDE decided to move back the date for submitting the ESSA state plan to the federal government because there are multiple proposed regulations for the U.S. Department of Education and other guidance from the federal government that could impact our ESSA state plan,” said Bill Ainsworth, communications director.

As recently as May, department officials had planned to submit the plan to federal regulators in January, 2017.

But buried in a timeline matrix attached to an informational memo released last week in advance of next month’s regular meeting of the state board of education, the CDE is recommending that an initial draft of the state plan be taken up by the board in January with the final product sent to the U.S. Department of Education until after the board completes a second review at its March meeting.

The March date, however, does make sense and not just because key ESSA regulations are still in the review process and may not be finalized for months.

In revising the nation’s primary K-12 education law, Congress returned to the states most of the authority over how school performance would be defined and evaluated. They also generally designated the 2016-17 school year as transitional but placed August 1, 2017 as the deadline for when states needed to have their new accountability systems up and running.

To meet that date, Congress called on states to create a plan for fulfilling the new goals of ESSA to enhance educational equity and improve student performance. The law requires that states develop the plans in consultation with stakeholder groups and have the proposal reviewed by a panel of practitioners, meaning teachers and principals, charter school leaders, and specialized instructional support personnel, among others.

The plans must be submitted to the U.S. secretary of education within 120 days of August 1, 2017.

Therfore, the last date that a state could submit their plan would be April 3, 2017.

One of the potential problems with waiting is that local educational agencies are also required to develop plans for meeting ESSA requirements. But the LEA plans need to be aligned with the state plan, thus local officials will have to wait – meaning districts will not be compliant with federal law at least through the 2017-18 school year and maybe longer.

California officials are probably not the only ones looking more closely at the calendar and the amount of work that needs to go into the state plans. If a host of states also wait until the last minute to file their plans, the outlook for federal compliance gets even murkier – especially because the sudden workload will fall on a new president and a new administration.

ESSA requires the Education Department to approve or disapprove state plans within 90 days – which is why originally the thinking was that states needed to submit their plans in January, allowing the new programs and goals to be ready for the start of school next year.

In one of the many ways Congress sought to restrict the role of federal regulators, ESSA puts the burden on the secretary of education for showing why a plan doesn’t meet federal requirements. States then have the opportunity to revise and resubmit with a second decision from the Department of Education required within 90 days.

In general, the state plan must show:

  • “[T]imely and meaningful consultation with the Governor, members of the State legislature and State board of education …, local educational agencies …, representatives of Indian tribes …, teachers, principals, other school  leaders …, charter school leaders …, specialized instructional support personnel …, administrators, other staff, and parents”
  • Coordination with other major federal programs including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the Education Sciences  Reform Act of 2002, the  Education Technical Assistance Act of 2002, the National Assessment of Educational Progress Authorization Act,                McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001, and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998
  • That “challenging academic content standards”  have been adopted
  • That effort have been made to provide assistance to LEAs and schools in support of early education programs
  • That low-income and minority students are not served disproportionately by underqualified teachers

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