ED Makes Changes to ESSA State Plan Peer Review Process

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is reportedly changing how it provides feedback on State plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has received blowback in recent weeks in response to preliminary feedback from ED on some ESSA State plans with stakeholders, advocates, and lawmakers expressing concern that ED’s comments were too prescriptive and went beyond the letter of the law.


The new process will include a phone call with States prior to ED releasing an official feedback letter.  During this call, ED officials will review any issues that peer reviewers identified in the State’s plan.  States will have an opportunity here to explain any problems identified by ED.  If those issues are explained to ED’s satisfaction, they may not be included in the official feedback letter that is released publicly.


Stakeholders and advocates are sure to raise concerns over this change given that 9 States who have turned in their plans have received feedback already.  Making modifications in the middle of the process raises issues regarding consistency and fairness for States.  In addition, there could be a concern over transparency if the discussions taking place over the phone are not released publicly.


Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for ED confirmed the shift in a statement Thursday.  “The Department is committed to working with States to help ensure their plans align with the statutory requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act,” Hill said in a statement.  “Part of that commitment, in addition to the required peer reviews, is maintaining an open dialogue with State leaders.  That feedback is intended to provide an informal opportunity to address any potential concerns prior to plans being submitted to Secretary DeVos for review.  Secretary DeVos looks forward to reviewing plans and approving every plan that complies with the law.” 

Alyson Klein, “Ed. Dept. Weighs Changes to Process for ESSA Feedback, Sources Say,” Education Week: Politics K-12, July 27, 2017.

About the Author

Kelly Christiansen is an associate with the Washington, DC law firm of Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Title I Association.