The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), previously authorized as the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 (NCLB), was reauthorized on December 10, 2015 when President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), they has been working with staff from the United States Department of Education to “analyze the new ESSA legislation, identify programmatic and fiscal changes, clarify obligations for State Educational Agencies and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), and determine timelines for compliance with the new and changing obligations.” In early February 2016, a memo was sent to districts addressing topics related to this new Act.
Some highlights of the Act include:
- Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers;
- Ensuring accountability and guaranteeing that when students fall behind, steps are taken to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools where subgroups are falling behind;
- Continuing to ensure that parents and educators have annual assessment information about how students are doing, while supporting states and districts in reducing unnecessary, onerous and redundant testing;
- Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement;
- Protecting students from low-income families and students of color from being taught at disproportionate rates by ineffective, inexperienced, and out of field teachers.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has prepared a summary of ESSA. According to the summary document, changes as well as deadlines for grants and funding are on the way. Below are some key points:
Transition/Effective Dates: For noncompetitive programs the effective date is July 1, 2016, with most competitive programs needing to adopt by October 1, 2016. Certain waivers are terminated as of August 1, 2016, specifically those under Section 9401 of No Child Left Behind, as first introduced in a letter to chief state school officers on September 23, 2011. The transition to new state plans will begin in the 2016-2017 school year, with full implementation occurring in the 2017-2018 school year.
School Improvement Grants: School Improvement Grants in their current form are ended. Instead, to carry out statewide system of technical assistance and support for local educational agencies, each state shall reserve either seven percent of Title I Part A or the amount the state had reserved for school improvement in 2016 and the amount it received, whichever is greater.
State plans: The State Education Agency (SEA) must submit a Title I plan to the U.S. Department of Education that is developed with timely and meaningful consultation with Governors, members of the state legislature, and the state board of education (if the state has such a board).
Academic Assessments: The bill keeps the current schedule of federally required statewide assessments.
Identification of schools: States must establish a methodology to identify (beginning in 2017-2018 school year and then at least every three years subsequently) those schools in need of comprehensive support and improvement, which will include the lowest performing five percent of all schools receiving Title I funds and any high school failing to graduate 1/3 or more of their students.
School-wide Title I programs: LEAs can consolidate and use Title I and other federal, state and local funds for school-wide Title I programs in schools serving a school attendance area where not less than 40 percent of the children are from low-income families, or where 40 percent of the children enrolled are from such families.
Maintenance of Effort (MOE) Requirement: The current requirement maintaining effort at 90 percent of prior funding is continued, and federal funding is reduced if a state also fails to meet the MOE requirement for one or more of the five immediate preceding years. However, the Secretary can waive the MOE requirement in the case of exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances like a natural disaster or change in the organizational structure of the state, or precipitous decline in the financial resources of the state.
Title II: The most important change in Title II is a change in the state allotment formula. The formula will shift from the current formula, of which 35 percent is based on total student population aged 5-17 in the state proportionally relative to this population in all states and 65 percent is based on student population aged 5-17 from families below the poverty line in the state proportionally relative to this population in all states to: 35/65 in FY 2017; 30/70 in FY 2018; 25/75 in FY 2019; 20/80 in FY 2020 and succeeding years ESSA maintains the requirement that 95% of state allotments be sub-granted to LEAs, but a state may reserve up to three percent of the 95% for state activities for principals and other school leaders.
Title IV (21st Century Schools): This section of the bill contains where some programs are eliminated or rolled into a single grant.
See http://www.ncsl.org/documents/capitolforum/2015/onlineresources/summary_12_10.pdf for more detailed information.