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ESSA Implementation: An Update from Washington DC

On March 9, Congress exercised its authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the accountability regulations implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that were issued by the Obama Administration. This unprecedented act may raise some questions for states, which this update attempts to answer.

But, our advice to states remains the same as the day the law passed: ESSA provides authority to states and school systems to develop and adopt innovative approaches to accountability for school performance while ensuring that programs address the needs of all students and student subgroups.

We encourage states to develop and implement strong ESSA plans as soon as possible.To assist with understanding these changes, we’ve created a comparison of key accountability, identification and intervention provisions that will remain in effect compared to those no longer in effect.

What does this mean for ESSA and its requirements?

  • Although the accountability regulations have been overturned, the ESSA statuteand its requirements related to school accountability, school identification and school interventions remain in place.
  • The assessment regulations were not overturned by Congress and are, therefore, still in effect. We do not expect Congress to overturn this set of regulations.
  • The innovative assessment pilot regulations were not overturned by Congress and are, therefore, still in effect. We do not expect Congress to overturn this set of regulations.

What will the U.S. Department of Education do next?

  • ESSA Plan Submission Deadlines: Last month, the Department issued a letter to State Chiefs confirming that the timeline for plan submission remains unchanged: states may decide whether to submit their plans on April 3 or on September 18, 2017.
  • ESSA Plan Templates: Today, the Department issued a streamlined template for consolidated State plans. The streamlined template closely reflects the requirements in the ESSA statute. States should plan to conform their ESSA plans to that template before submitting their plans (on April 3 or September 18).
  • Peer Review Process: It is our understanding that the Department is in the process of selecting peer reviewers from among the applicants received over the last several months. The Department is also developing guidelines that those peer reviewers will use to evaluate plans. We expect those peer review guidelines to be publicly released in the next several weeks.
  • Additional guidance from the Department: Although the Department may issue additional non-regulatory guidance in the future, states should not expect the Department to issue additional guidance (other than the template and the peer review guidelines) prior to the April 3 deadline.

What should state policymakers do now?

  • Keep calm and carry on: ExcelinEd recommends that states continue to focus on developing and implementing rigorous ESSA plans that comply with the law. States that planned to submit their plans by the April 3 deadline have every reason to stick to that timeline.
  • Conform the state plan to the new template: States should plan to conform their ESSA plans to the consolidated state plan template that the Department plans to release on March 13. This means not only following the new format established by the Department but also ensuring that the state plans satisfy all the requirements of the law. State plans that do not comply with the law will not be approved by the Department.


J. Alex Kelly
Vice President of Advocacy