Start Your Engines: Why Pending, Draft Federal Regulations on ESSA State Plans Are So Important, And Five Things to Look For
In the days ahead, the US Department of Education (ED) is expected to publish its first proposed regulations under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This will likely include hundreds of pages of draft regulations and explanation on critical education policy issues under Title I of the Act, including federal requirements regarding state assessments, state accountability systems, and state-local supports for lowest-performing schools. But the proposed regulations will also address another critical topic that has gotten less attention – “consolidated state plans.”
These state plans are critical to the success of ESSA implementation, as they will likely define (at least in part) the contours of state (and local) implementation over the next several years, and will likely jump start ESSA activity. If done right, state plans will set expectations for leadership, coherence, impact, and continuous improvement in ESSA implementation. This is the first time in nearly 15 years that states must take a comprehensive look at their plans under federal law.
Here are five questions that stakeholders should ask as states and districts begin to develop their consolidated plans:
- What is the theory of action? ESSA state plans should require states to describe for each key area a clear theory of action that links proposed state strategies to the dual goals of equity and excellence.
- What priority areas should be addressed in state plans? ESSA consolidated plans should focus on several priority areas that are central to the Act.
- How can the process of developing plans create and support authentic stakeholder engagement? ESSA consolidated plans should require states to describe how they will establish systems for meaningful and continuous stakeholder engagement.
- How will states plan for continuous improvement? ESSA consolidated plans should expect states to define their systems of periodic review and improvement for each priority area – utilizing ongoing cycles of information and evidence, aligned with the consolidated annual reports that each state must produce under the Act.
- How can USED best sequence state plans to get the best results? ED should permit states to submit portions of their consolidated state plans in a sequenced manner – not all at once.