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An ESSA Update: Gearing Up for August


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The first major education legislation to go into effect since the critically panned No Child Left Behind Act is set to go into implementation just months away in August. Here’s some buzz about the legislation that you should know before that time comes.


You Should Know About ‘Supplement Not Supplant’

One of the biggest things ESSA could possibly do is attempt to change the way schools use federal funding.

Although the legislation is largely being championed for giving more power back to states when it comes to running schools, the federal government might now have more say about how states fund schools, specifically low-income ones.

Supplement not supplant refers to ensuring that states do not give schools that receive Title I funding less state and local money than other schools; the goal is to make sure that federal funding supplements state and local funding but does not replace it in order to create a level playing field between advantaged and disadvantaged districts.

According to policy expert Nora Gordon for The Atlantic, "A department official wrote in an email that the department views the proposed rule as essential to overcoming local funding disparities it views as undermining 'the intent of federal title I dollars, which are supposed to provide supplemental resources for high poverty schools, not to fill in shortfalls in state and local funding.’”

But Gordon says that this provision has the possibility to backfire due to the way that school funding actually works.

She says because districts spend their most money on paying teachers, equitable funding becomes a more complicated thing that is not easily fixable through the simplicity behind a proposal such as supplement not supplant.

"This national conversation about grave disparities within districts is long overdue. But the proposed rule is too blunt an instrument—penalizing districts that have made significant strides toward equity, and imposing incentives that could hurt Title I students. The Education Department’s one-size-fits-all approach could set back the equity agenda, rather than advance it,” Gordon argues.

One of the major architects behind ESSA, Lemar Alexander, seems to agree with Gordon. Last month, he scolded Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. for interpreting the law to require equal versus comparable funding spending per pupil.

According to Alexander, the Education Department’s interpretation of supplement not supplant dictates how states calculate funding for schools.

An exasperated Alexander said he will use “every power of Congress” to ensure the Department’s interpretation does not become enacted.

In other words, supplement not supplant is an important concept to understand because it might become one of the legislation’s biggest controversies. 


Department Wants Schools to Revise Policies on Homeless Students by October

States have more leeway when it comes to restructuring school accountability systems, but there’s one provision that the Department of Education wants to see implemented by October 2016.

The legislation’s amendment of the McKinney-Vento Act requires "that the country’s schools ensure school staff is trained to identify homeless students to therefore offer the proper support services to help them succeed.”

The amendments specifically require the presence of services that increase school stability for homeless children, offer college counseling and information about obtaining financial aid, and ensure that young homeless children have access to early education programs.

These amendments will go into effect October 1, 2016.


Preliminary Accountability Rules Released

This month, the Department of Education released its intended accountability rules which gives states and schools a good idea of how they will be required to act moving forward.

The rules require that states adopt accountability systems that are clear and understandable by the general public, must take action still when less than 95 percent of students are assessed (losing federal funding is no longer a direct threat), and must be judging school performance based on student subgroup data as well.

The accountability rules try to balance protecting the rights of disadvantaged students while allowing states to have freedom to build their own respective systems.

"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,” John B. King, Jr. said following the release.

Read more about what the regulations say here.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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