A “Dear Colleague” letter sent to State Chiefs Monday from Acting Assistant Secretary of Education Monique Chism offered confirmation of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) expectations for when interventions should go into place under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
In the letter, Chism notes that an original timeline for implementing interventions in schools was published as part of the accountability regulations issued by the Obama Administration. However, Congress passed a joint resolution rescinding these regulations last month, rendering the previous timeline ineffective. While ED had said earlier – and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had asserted in her confirmation hearing – that the timeline for submission of State plans would remain, before this week ED had not offered any information on how States should address the lack of specific instructions for when interventions should go into place.
According to the letter, States may continue with their plans to use new accountability systems to identify schools for comprehensive and targeted intervention beginning in the 2018-19 school year. In the meantime, States can choose to either maintain their lists of schools receiving additional support (exiting schools which meet certain criteria demonstrating they no longer need that support), or may create a new list of schools for additional support using their existing methodologies. States may also choose to identify a new list of low-performing schools for the 2017-18 school year using the new methodology it plans to implement under ESSA, even if ED has not yet approved its State plan. However, ED notes that if a State chooses this route, it may need to tweak its methodology for identification of schools based on feedback from peer reviewers.
States must allocate funding under Section 1003(a) of the law (School Improvement) to districts with low-performing schools. However, the guidance says that a State which does not allocate all its funds under that section in the 2017-18 school year may carry them over and use any remaining funds to bolster new interventions in the 2018-19 school year. Those funds may also be used to support full implementation of School Improvement Grants made with prior year funds. Chism says that ED “encourage[s]” States to carry over funding if they are exiting schools from improvement status but not adding new schools to the list.
The letter also attempts to clarify some confusion generated by ED’s new consolidated State plan template. Though submitting information on consultation with stakeholders is optional under the new template, Chism says, conducting that consultation is strictly required under a number of provisions in the law.