1-aasa-logo.jpg school innovations and achievement

This document is one in a series of reports on key aspects of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) produced in a partnership between AASA, The School Superintendents Association and School Innovations & Achievement’s Cabinet Report. The full set of resources is available at aasa.org/AASAESSA.aspx.

 State and LEA Plans: fewer documents, more flexibility

It may not seem like it, but the federal government has been slowly moving to give states and local educational agencies more flexibility when it comes to reports and planning documents. It was with the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that Congress introduced the consolidated applications to replace program-by-program reporting. With adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, flexibility was expanded—at least some.

With the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress took another step toward consolidation by putting the applications, which are really more of a series of related plans, into a single document.

State plans

ESSA calls for states to develop a plan in consultation with stakeholder groups aimed at enhancing educational equity and improving performance. The plans also must be reviewed by a panel of practitioners, meaning teachers and principals, charter school leaders, and specialized instructional support personnel, among others.

The plans must be submitted to the U.S. Secretary of Education within 120 days of August 1, 2016. The secretary then has 90 days to approve or disapprove the plan; the law specifically puts the burden on the secretary for showing why a plan doesn’t meet federal requirements. States then have the opportunity to revise and resubmit with a second decision from the Department of Education required within 90 days.

In general, the state plan must show

  • “[T]imely and meaningful consultation with the Governor, members of the State legislature and State board of education …, local educational agencies …, representatives of Indian tribes …, teachers, principals, other school leaders …, charter school leaders …, specialized instructional support personnel …, administrators, other staff, and parents;”
  • Coordination with other major federal programs including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002, the Education Technical Assistance Act of 2002, the National Assessment of Educational Progress Authorization Act, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001, and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998;
  • Adoption of “challenging academic content standards;”
  • Efforts to provide assistance to LEAs and schools in support of early education programs; and
  • That low-income and minority students are not served disproportionately by underqualified teachers.

There is, at the time of this publication, one key element of concern. While the law itself gives states flexibility in combining multiple program reports into the single plan, states may need to develop as many as eight separate applications if that option is not taken.

“In order to receive Federal funding, the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, requires each State to submit plans or applications for the following formula grant programs:

  • Part A of title I (Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs);
  • Part C of title I (Education of Migratory Children);
  • Part D of title I (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk);
  • Part A of title II (Supporting Effective Instruction);
  • Part A of title III (English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Advisement Act);
  • Part A of title IV (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants);
  • Part B of title IV (21st Century Community Learning Centers);
  • And subpart 2 of part B of title V (Rural and Low-Income School program).”

Like several other proposed regulations, these orders might be subject to Congressional action and may be revised. There is clear language in ESSA itself that gives states the option of putting all of their program plans into one document. “For any State desiring to receive a grant…,” the law reads, “the State educational agency shall file with the Secretary a plan.”i It then goes on to say, “A State plan … may be submitted as part of a consolidated plan…”

The department has also proposed regulations that describe the components needed to perform this consolidation. It is a reasonable assumption, based on past practice, that states will obligate LEAs to incorporate the same elements into their submissions. By the same token, it is likely that most, if not all, SEAs will choose to submit a consolidated proposal rather than several isolated ones.

LEA plans

Local educational agencies must also develop and submit to the state their own plans for improving performance and equity. Like the state, LEAs must engage parents, community leaders and any other interested stakeholders in the planning process.

For district leaders, ESSA calls for plans that cultivate a “well-rounded program of instruction.” Unlike the top-down system imposed by NCLB, the new law doesn’t define what a “well-rounded program of instruction” looks like, leaving that question for the states to decide. However, the law notes that such programs needed to “meet the academic needs of all students.”

The LEA plan would need to define a “well-rounded program of instruction,” as well as how a district will:

  • address disparities in teacher distribution,
  • meet its responsibility to provide comprehensive school support and improvement,
  • provide effective parent and family engagement,
  • coordinate and integrate services with preschool programs and
  • address overuse of discipline practices that remove students from classrooms.

Further, the LEA plans need to explain how they will facilitate transition between middle and high schools, how they will ensure coordination with Head Start for preschool students and how they will meet the needs of students with disabilities.