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As 2016 Ends, Deadlines for State ESSA Plans Approach

As 2016 Ends, Deadlines for State ESSA Plans Approach

States were busy throughout 2016 crafting and receiving feedback on their respective plans to adhere to the new regulations dictated by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). State leaders used the year to conduct public feedback sessions and "listening tours" to get the best idea of how education should best be represented in their respective state plans.

In 2017, states will be required to finalize these plans as the Department of Education’s deadlines rapidly approach. To elaborate, states have the option to submit their plans to the Department’s peer review process by either April 3, 2017, or September 18, 2017. On January 10, 2017, each state must let the Department know which deadline they will be meeting.

Under the finalized ESSA regulations, state plans must each identify "a more holistic view of student success," one that includes not only academic achievement and graduation rates, but also school quality and student success. ESSA seeks specifically to undo the controversial constraints of No Child Left Behind and return significant decision-making powers back to individual states. The finalized regulations in their entirety can be viewed here.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, it will be offering webinars beginning next month (January 2017) to help states with the ESSA transition process. Further, the Department announced the launch of "the State Support Network, a new, four-year technical assistance effort focused on helping states and districts in their work on school improvement, particularly achieving significant improvements in student outcomes, scaling up effective systemic approaches and practices within and across states and districts, and identifying and sharing effective practices."

As states get ready to submit their finalized plans next year, here is a roundup of the Department of Education’s guidances issued throughout the past year. These guidances were issued to emphasize how ESSA can benefit both individual student groups and education as a whole.

Supporting Foster Youth

In June, the Department released a joint guidance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to urge leaders to use ESSA to better protect the civil rights of students in foster care.

While the guidance does not impose new regulations, it asks leaders to understand:

  • The new stability requirements under ESSA
  • How to best determine what school is in the best interest of a student in foster care to attend
  • How to provide transportation to relocated foster youth who are staying in their original school for their best interest
  • How to ensure relevant records are transferred in a timely manner

… and more.

Read more about the guidance here.

Supporting Homeless Youth

A month after the Department encouraged states to understand how foster youth can best be supported under ESSA, it issued a similar guidance looking out for homeless youth.

The guidance, the Department said, was designed to help "state and local partners in understanding and implementing the new law in order to better protect and serve homeless students and help schools in providing these students with much needed stability, safety, and support."

ESSA amended the McKinney-Vento Act to improve both how homeless youth are identified and what kind of support services are available to them while ensuring that barriers to enrollment and school stability are removed.

The guidance also encourages leaders to provide "professional development and technical assistance" to education leaders at both state and local levels to best support homeless youth.

Read more about the guidance here.

Supporting English Language Learners

In September, the Department turned its attention to protecting English Language Learners (ELLs) under ESSA.

The guidance reminds states that under ESSA, ELLs must be identified and their achievement accessed in a "timely, valid, and reliable manner." All ELLs must receive access to language assistance programs which are to be guided by well-trained and supported staff. The guidance also ensures that states establish appropriate provisions to ensure that ELLs are not segregated within the school community; this means ensuring that all ELLs have adequate access to the opportunities the school offers, like extracurricular activities and clubs.

Read more about the guidance here.

Supporting Educators

Also in September, the Department released a guidance addressing how the ESSA addresses and protects the needs of the country’s educators.

The guidance, designed to elevate the teaching profession after a series of rough years, identifies how all students can receive access to quality educators under ESSA’s provisions.

Read more about the guidance here. 

To see where your state is at in the ESSA planning process ahead of next year’s deadlines, check out this ASCD interactive map.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

12/29/2016

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