Migrant Education Programs Under ESSA


As part of our commitment to provide school district administrators with resources and guidance on federal program compliance and administration, we regularly publish blogs featuring guest writers. We are honored to feature David Nieto of the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education, writing about changes to migrant education programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by ESSA. 

Guest Blog.David Nieto.pngMigrant education is one of the less familiar parts of the Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Included under part C, the Migrant Education Program’s (MEP) purpose is defined as:

  1. Support high-quality and comprehensive educational programs for migratory children to help reduce the educational disruptions and other problems that result from repeated moves;
  2. Ensure that migratory children who move among the States are not penalized in any manner by disparities among the States in curriculum, graduation requirements, and State academic content and student academic achievement standards;
  3. Ensure that migratory children are provided with appropriate educational services (including supportive services) that address their special needs in a coordinated and efficient manner;
  4. Ensure that migratory children receive full and appropriate opportunities to meet the same challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards that all children are expected to meet;
  5. Design programs to help migratory children overcome educational disruption, cultural and language barriers, social isolation, various health-related problems, and other factors that inhibit the ability of such children to do well in school, and to prepare such children to make a successful transition to post secondary education or employment; and
  6. Ensure that migratory children benefit from State and local systemic reforms.

The migrant program dates back to the 1960s, after Edward Murrow’s documentary ‘Harvest of Shame’ drew attention to the living conditions of seasonal and farm workers. In the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, the provision (Title I, Sec. 103) was titled: “Payments to State Educational Agencies for Assistance in Educating Migratory Children of Migratory Agricultural Workers.” Today, the MEP serves over 500,000 children in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The most recent reauthorization of the ESEA, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), has not made significant changes from its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The changes are with regard to: the system by which allocations to states are determined; the priority for services, and the program definitions. But let’s first look at the key components of the MEP:

  1. Identification, recruitment, and eligibility: MEPs may serve children from birth to the age of 21 that qualify for migrant services. In order to qualify for services, children must have moved within the past three years, across state or school district lines with or to join a migrant parent or guardian who is seeking to obtain qualifying temporary or seasonal employment in agriculture, fishing, or dairy.
  2. Program Planning: MEPs must complete and submit to the Office of Migrant Education at the US Department of Education a Comprehensive Needs Assessment and a Service Delivery Plan.
  3. Provision of Services: Provide service from identification and recruitment to programs in academic year and summer schools.
  4. Family Engagement: MEPs have regular meetings and activities with families of migrant children.
  5. Program Evaluation and Performance Reporting: MEPs must establish goals based on the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and report their progress toward those goals.

Changes to the Migrant Education Program under ESSA

  1. Allocations: ESSA establishes that allocations to states will be made via the average number of identified migrant students in the three preceding years plus the number of students served during the summer rather than the count of total students by a certain date.
  2. Priority of Services: Under ESSA, services must be prioritized to students that are failing or at risk of failing; and students who have dropped out of school.
  3. Program definitions regarding eligibility: The definition of ‘migratory agricultural worker’ remains the same as ‘an individual who made a qualifying move in the preceding 36 months and, after doing so, engaged in new temporary or seasonal employment or personal subsistence in agriculture, which may be dairy work or the initial processing of raw agricultural products.’ The same for the definition of ‘migratory child': ‘a child or youth who made a qualifying move in the preceding 36 months'-
    1. as a migratory agricultural worker or a migratory fisher; or
    2. under ESSA, it is necessary to prove that these workers moved in order to obtain work, and that they are actively seeking qualifying work.

The MEP faces the challenge of locating, enrolling, and maintaining contact with eligible students and their families in the language that the parents best understand. They must also establish programs that meet the unique living conditions of these families and students. Still, MEPs do work that is essential in order for children of migrant workers to be able not only to succeed academically, but also to be career and college ready when they complete their education.

David Nieto is the Executive Director of the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education. Prior to joining BUENO, David was the Director of Bilingual and Migrant Education at the Illinois State Board of Education. He has also worked for the Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the University of Massachusetts. David’s research focuses on the areas of education policy, language, and equity and, in particular, policies and practices that shape the education of cultural and linguistically diverse students. In addition, he has an interest in teacher preparation and leadership in diverse settings. He has written about bilingual education, English language development, and language policy in education. 

Jesse Markow

About The Author

Jesse Markow is the Director of Key Accounts and Relationships for TransAct. He communicates with State Education Agencies as they seek information about TransAct services and acts as project manager for SEAs once they have joined. He represents TransAct at conferences and meetings and presents to a variety of audiences on school planning and execution of communication with parents and families. Prior to joining TransAct, he worked with WIDA for over 10 years, most recently as Director of Strategic Development and began and directed the WIDA Annual Conference. He also has experience as project lead for the development of customized, large-scale, criterion-referenced statewide assessments for 10 years, overseeing test design, item development and review, standards alignment, open-response scoring, and issues of accessibility for test takers. Prior to his work with assessments, Jesse earned an M.A.T. in Secondary Education and a B.A. in American Studies and taught in a variety of school environments at grade levels 6-12 and post-secondary for eighteen years.