July 27, 2017 – A new era begins next month as the U.S. Department of Education focuses on a more well-rounded approach to student development under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

ESSA becomes the nation’s public education standard with the arrival of the 2017-18 school year. Educators have one eye trained on ESSA’s implementation, the other on Congress as it deliberates over the DoE’s 2017-28 budget.

Before federal funding is passed down, the DoE must review and accept each state’s education plan. A key element to states’ plans will be an explanation detailing how local districts will develop data to prove schools will deliver programs that fully prepare students for success both in college and their postgraduate careers.

ESSAWe summarized ESSA as it stood last summer, going into some detail on the different buckets of funding that would be available. From a physical education standpoint, we looked at how money previously available in competitive federal grants such as the Carol White Physical Education Program (PEP) grants would be distributed.

Last summer, The Champion Initiative’s Kathleen Satterley stressed the importance for teachers to work closely with district officials to craft plans that could help state departments of education formulate their proposals and submit them to the U.S. Department of Education. With the bulk of that work heading toward completion, let’s take a look at the implementation of ESSA as currently sits.

State ESSA Review Process

According to U.S. Department of Education figures issued in May, only 17 states (including the District of Columbia) had submitted their ESSA plans for review. States have until Sept. 18 to submit their plans. The government then has 120 days to review and accept each plan. Each state’s plan should show how schools will meet the four basic tenets of ESSA:

  • Hold all students to high academic standards;
  • Prepare all students for success in college and career;
  • Guarantee that steps are taken to help students, and their schools, improve; and
  • Hold schools accountable for student outcomes

Beginning in late 2016, local education leaders came together to formulate plans to submit to state leaders. State leaders weighed the different plans and crafted the best plan to submit to the Department of Education. Early feedback on plans that have been submitted to the Department of Education shows states are focusing on delivering a complete curriculum.

Multiple state plans emphasized their intentions to provide well-rounded curriculums; ensuring students have increased access to high-quality science and social studies in addition to reading and mathematics,” Dr. Elizabeth Primas, the Educational Program Manager for ‎National Newspaper Publishers Association, wrote in the San Diego Voice on July 26. “In fact, more than half of submitted state plans include assessments for science and social studies in addition to the required English Language Arts, reading, and mathematics. Some states went as far as including fine arts, music, physical education, and library media specialists.

Despite ESSA’s mandate that the states set their own standards, the government has asked some to raise their standards or provide more detail in their plans. Some plans have been returned for revision by the Department of Education despite early indications that plans meeting the letter of the law would be approved, according to Education Week’s Alyson Klein’s reporting on June 21. Three states, including Delaware, saw their plans kicked back for lack of detail.

“The messaging that the states had been hearing up to the submission point was there was no reason a plan would not have been approved,” said Dale Chu, the vice president for policy and operations at America Succeeds, which works to get business involved in education. But this early feedback “wasn’t as rubber-stampy as folks might have thought it would be.”

The 33 states that still need to file their plans may benefit from the early feedback by providing more detail, especially when it comes to reporting and measuring progress, Klein wrote.

Finding funding

On July 20, Education Week reported that a number of state teachers of the year journeyed to Washington to meet with their legislators to stress the importance of a fully-funded educational budget.

“On Wednesday, dozens of state teachers of the year were at the Capitol here, armed with talking points, compelling stories from their districts, and a fierce determination to protect education funding,” wrote Madeline Will.

If current projections hold, ESSA figures to represent about 25 percent of the total $66 billion education budget, but that’s nearly $2 billion less than the 2016-17 budget, Education Week reported in mid-July.

President Obama’s ESSA budget included $17 billion for programs that qualify under three criteria:

  • Title 1: $16 billion for schools populated with high levels of low-income families.
  • Title 2: $569 million provides funding for professional development of administrators, teachers and staff
  • Title 4: $1 billion to fund programs focusing on healthy schools, well-rounded education and technology.

While projections indicate that Title 1 will be fully funded again, educators fear that the overall decrease will impact the funding available under ESSA’s Title 2 funding. Budget approval is expected in advance of the Oct. 1 start of the government’s fiscal year.

The funding funnel

By consolidating funding formerly set aside in a number of competitive grants — the PEP grants as a primary example — ESSA changes the way local schools can request and compete for funding.  

Once the education budget becomes final, the federal government will allocate funding to each state’s department of education based on the plans submitted and subsequently approved. Local schools will, in turn, apply to their state education agency for specific ESSA-allocated funding through, as schools in Texas must do, Consolidated Grant Applications. States will fund most grants based on need, particularly for Title 1 requests.

The new school year — and formal implementation of the ESSA guidelines, are mere weeks away. IHT will continue to work with school officials from teachers to superintendents to discover the best way to deliver tools that can help students take advantage of a well-rounded education.


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