In May 2016 the U.S. Department of Education (USED) posted for comment proposed regulations for Accountability and State Plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Those proposed regulations generated over 20,000 comments. Since USED is required to respond to comments, it took them a significant amount of time to finalize these regulations.
On November 28, 2016 final regulations were posted with some significant changes compared to the proposed regulations. Details for some of the changes include:
- The timelines for submission of ESSA State Plans have been moved from March and July 2017 to April and September 2017.
- The timelines for determinations related to the two ‘school improvement’ categories, “Comprehensive Support and Improvement” and “Targeted Support and Improvement”, have been moved from the 17-18 School Year to the 18-19 School Year, with determinations for identifying “consistently underperforming subgroups” for Targeted Support and Improvement moved to the 19-20 School Year. (NOTE: According to a “Special Rule” in ESSA, a group of schools will need to be identified for Targeted Support and Improvement in the 18-19 School Year based on performance of subgroups. Any school with a subgroup that performs at or below the lowest performing 5% of all schools receiving Title I funds will be identified for Targeted Support and Improvement. After 18-19, the consistently underperforming subgroups will be the only determination method used to identify schools for Targeted Support and Improvement.)
- When it comes to identifying schools with consistently underperforming subgroups, states are allowed to use no more than two years of data. There is, however, an exception that allows for use of a longer timeframe if justification can be given that it will help the underperforming subgroups.
- The final regulations clarify that states can use the ESSA categories of Comprehensive and Targeted Support and Improvement, as well as an “Other Schools” category for the required 3 levels of summative ratings for schools.
- ESSA requires a “School Quality” indicator as part of the Title I accountability system. The final regulations provide some clarification here as well, indicating that this can be any indicator that has research that backs it as having a positive impact on student learning.
- For the numbers of students needed in a student subgroup to be included in accountability measures, called n-size, the final regulations say states can use any n-size, but if they use an n-size larger than 30 they will need to report the impact on the number of schools included / excluded verses using an n-size of 30.
- Both ESSA and NCLB have the requirement that 95% of students participate in the state’s annual content assessment. The final regulations allow for some leniency for dealing with opt outs, especially in situations where participation rates are close to the 95% threshold.
- ESSA Title III now requires reporting on long-term English Learners (ELs) as defined by ELs in Title III EL programs longer than 5 years without reaching English proficiency. The final regulations offer some guidance for setting timelines in which ELs should become proficient. The regulations say that the maximum timeline should be based on research. Determinations of English proficiency can now take into account not only an assessment of English proficiency level, but time in EL programs, age, grade level, native language proficiency, and limited or interrupted formal education.
- In the area of standardized entrance and exit procedures for EL identification required for state plans under Title III, the proposed regulations eliminated a “local” option, such as teacher observations, as part of a state’s exit criteria, saying that it could not be standardized across districts. The final regulations allow for the local option as long it is applied and weighted consistently across the state (i.e. a state determine local option).