Proposed ESSA Regulation Supports Well-Rounded Education

Thomas Shaw's picture

In a major step toward implementing the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and providing important clarity for parents, students, and educators about the new law, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced proposed regulations to implement the law’s accountability, data reporting, and state plan provisions. The regulations would replace the narrow, one-size-fits-all approach that defined ESSA’s predecessor, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with new flexibility for states and districts; a more holistic approach to measuring a quality education that will help prepare all students for success; and strong protections to ensure the progress of all students. It also reinforces ESSA’s strong commitment to transparency and ensures meaningful engagement and an active role for parents, teachers, students, community leaders, and other stakeholders in implementing the new law. The proposed regulations themselves were informed by extensive input from a diverse group of stakeholders. The Department of Education (DoE) participated in well over 100 meetings and events and received hundreds of public comments prior to the release of the regulations. The Department will encourage additional feedback on the proposal from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders through the public comment period, and looks forward to receiving suggestions for improvements to the proposed regulations.

“These regulations give states the opportunity to work with all of their stakeholders, including parents, and educators to protect all students’ right to a high-quality education that prepares them for college and careers, including the most vulnerable students,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said. “They also give educators room to reclaim for all of their students the joy and promise of a well-rounded educational experience.”

ESSA gives states and districts the opportunity to move beyond NCLB’s reliance on narrow measures of school success so that they can reimagine and redefine accountability for their schools in a more holistic way that supports a high-quality education and equal opportunity for all students, and ensures they are learning to college- and career-ready expectations. To that end, the proposed regulations build on the statutory language by ensuring the use of multiple measures of school success based on academic outcomes, student progress, and school quality, reinforcing that all students deserve a well-rounded education that prepares them to succeed in college and careers. Along with many stakeholders, the Department is eager to move towards this new, broader vision of accountability that goes beyond just test scores as soon as possible. The regulations also uphold ESSA’s critical civil rights protections and enhance equity for historically underserved students by including all students and each individual subgroup in decisions related to school support and improvement. This will mean that meaningful action is taken in places where whole schools or groups of students are falling behind, and that states provide clear and transparent information on critical measures of school quality and equity to parents and community members. Where NCLB prescribed top-down interventions for struggling schools, the Department’s proposed regulations provide flexibility for schools to implement evidence-based, locally-designed solutions to support and improve struggling schools. It also defines a clear role for parents, families, teachers, principals, and other stakeholders in the development and implementation of state and local plans, and the school improvement process.

In addition to implementing the law’s accountability components, the Department’s proposed regulations would help states in the implementation of the new data reporting requirements in the law, as well as promote greater flexibility in states’ ability to consolidate state plans to meet the needs of all students.

In order to deliver on ESSA’s goal of empowering students, families, and other stakeholders with quality information, the proposed regulations ensure that states consult with parents to design state and district report cards so that they provide easily accessible, meaningful, and clear information to families on student progress and school quality. ESSA requires that state and local report cards include a robust set of information for parents and the public about school performance, while also affording states flexibility to include additional information. Finally, the proposed regulations streamline requirements for consolidated state plans to reduce burden and duplication while offering the flexibility for states to coordinate across programs and think comprehensively about how to improve educational outcomes for all of their students.

Key features of the proposed regulations include:

A More Comprehensive Picture of School Success
Replaces NCLB’s narrow definition of school success based primarily on mathematics and English language arts test scores with flexibility for states to take a broader view of what makes for a successful school.

  • Allows states to set their own ambitious goals and measurements of interim progress, provided those goals take into account the improvement necessary to close achievement and graduation rate gaps.
  • Includes indicators of academic achievement, graduation rates (for high schools) or academic progress (for elementary and middle schools), and progress towards English language proficiency.
  • Creates the opportunity for states to select new indicators of school quality and student success, while ensuring that those indicators:
    • Measure the performance of all students in all public schools (including public charter schools);
    • Demonstrate variation across schools;
    • Allow for comparisons between subgroups of students; and
    • Are likely to increase graduation rates or academic achievement.
  • Promotes accountability in a format that is easily understandable by parents, requiring a comprehensive rating for each school based on the state’s indicators, to provide a clear picture of a school’s overall standing; while also providing them with a more nuanced picture of school success through reporting on individual indicators.
  • Requires states to consider each subgroup of students separately to ensure that each student group is meaningfully included in the state’s accountability system.
  • Ensures that states include all public charter schools in their accountability systems.
  • Allows states to update their accountability systems as they are able to include new measures in their indicators.

Tailored Support for Struggling Schools
Maintains our commitment to every child, aligned with the law, by guaranteeing meaningful action where whole schools or groups of students within schools are struggling; replaces the prescriptive interventions of NCLB with locally designed, evidence-based strategies to fit schools’ unique circumstances.

  • Clarifies the types of schools that are identified in the state’s accountability system.
    • Schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement are:
      • The bottom five percent of Title I schools in the state based on their ratings;
      • High schools with on-time graduation rates below 67 percent; and
      • Title I schools with chronically low-performing subgroups that have not improved after receiving additional targeted support.
    • Schools must be identified for comprehensive support and improvement at least once every three years.
    • Schools identified for targeted support and improvement are:
      • Schools with a subgroup performing as poorly as students in the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools (identified at least every three years); and
      • Schools with a consistently underperforming subgroup, as defined by the state, based on two or more years of data (identified annually).
  • Eliminates the prescriptive interventions required by NCLB, allowing states, districts, and schools to select evidenced-based strategies based on local needs and circumstances.
    • Involves parents, educators, and other stakeholders in developing improvement plans.
    • Emphasizes identifying, and addressing, critical resource inequities.
  • Prioritizes school improvement funds to the schools that need the most help and ensures states provide a solid base of funding for schools, proportionate to the need for intervention.
  • Gives states time for an orderly transition to the new provisions for the 2017-2018 school year, while preventing a gap in supports for students and critical information for parents.

The Department also is announcing approximately $10 million in technical assistance funds to help states and districts focus on low performing schools.

Better Data for Parents and Communities
Ensures that families and stakeholders have clear, robust, and consistent information needed to engage meaningfully in their education systems.

  • Ensures that parents are consulted in designing State and district report cards and that report cards are made public before the end of each calendar year.
  • Provides new transparency around vulnerable subgroups of students, including children in foster care, English language learners with disabilities, and long-term English language learners (those who have not gained English proficiency within a period of five years of their initial identification).
  • Gives states flexibility to design their own report cards while ensuring that key information such as student achievement, graduation rates, and other critical indicators of school quality, climate, and safety are easily accessible to parents and the public.
  • Clarifies how students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who earn alternate diplomas may be included in graduation rate calculations.
  • Ensures more transparency around resource equity measures.
  • Includes new information regarding district- and school-level expenditures to ensure transparency around educational spending; and postsecondary enrollment, so parents and educators know whether students are prepared for and enrolling in college.

Streamlined, Consolidated State Plans to Eliminate Duplication
Encourages meaningful stakeholder engagement and planning across programs to enhance educational equity, improve student outcomes, and give every child access to a quality, well-rounded education that prepares them for success in college and careers

  • Requires broad, robust engagement with a diverse group of stakeholders, as state plans are being developed and implemented.
  • Reinforces equitable access to a full range of educational supports for all students.
  • Builds upon states’ Educator Equity Plans by asking for plans to support and develop excellent educators, including how states will ensure subgroups of students have equitable access to effective, in-field, and experienced teachers, especially in our highest-need schools.

For a more comprehensive description of the Department of Education’s proposed regulations, see a chart about how they compare to NCLB, read a summary of the regulations or the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The NPRM will be on public display with the Federal Register starting on Thursday, May 26th, and can be accessed directly on our website at www.ed.gov/essa. There will be a 60 day public comment period starting May 31 through August 1. The Department welcomes comment from all interested parties on the proposed regulations.