Department Issues New Guidance on ESSA

On January 28, the U.S. Department of Education issued more guidance to states on transitioning from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law in December.

The new law requires the eight states without NCLB waivers to continue intervening in schools identified as being in need of improvement in 2015-16 through 2016-17. But they don’t have to set aside 20% of their Title I dollars to provide tutoring and school choice. Should these states forego the requirement, they will have to develop and implement a 1-year transition plan to ensure their local education agencies provide alternative supports for eligible students and schools with the highest need. Additional information will be sent to the nonwaiver states in the coming days or weeks. (The eight nonwaiver states are California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.)

The states with NCLB waivers must continue their interventions in priority and focus schools but do not have to identify new schools. In essence, these states will continue to use Title I dollars as they did under the waivers.

The guidance letter also addresses the fact that ESSA does not contain a “highly qualified teacher” (HQT) provision, which NCLB did. In fact, the continuing resolution passed by Congress last fall and prior to ESSA being signed into law included an extension of the HQT requirement into the next school year. The new transition document informs states that they do not have to ensure that teachers of core subjects meet the requirements to be considered highly qualified. However, the Department emphasizes that the state plans to ensure that all students have access to highly effective teachers should be adhered to for this year and next school year. To review your state’s plan, click here.

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Deborah Koolbeck

Senior Director of Government Relations, AACTE