On Monday, November 28, the U.S. Department of Education released the final accountability rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which provide further guidance for states on how to implement the requirements under the law. Based on the feedback on May’s draft regulations, a number of changes were made.
Please note that with President-elect Trump slated to take office in January, the future of these regulations is unclear. The new administration could use their powers to ignore, delay, modify or even eliminate the regulations. More will be known in the coming months. In the meantime, this is what we know:
Timelines – The final regulations extend the requirement one year to 2018-19 for states to identify schools for “comprehensive improvement” (essentially the lowest-achieving schools in the state, or those with graduation rates below two-thirds) and “targeted improvement” (schools with poor-performing subgroups). This same process must be followed to identify schools at least once every three years.
School Accountability – ESSA requires states to develop new accountability systems that require a summative rating of schools, such as a number or letter, but the final regulations allow them to be as simple as using ESSA’s classifications of “comprehensive,” “targeted” and “other.” To further differentiate among schools, states can also use something like a dashboard to provide more context to the different indicators.
In determining English-language proficiency, an indicator to be used in the new accountability systems, the final regulations require schools to demonstrate progress towards English Language Learners (ELLs) to become proficient and states to determine a maximum timeline for ELLs to gain proficiency.
Subgroups – ESSA requires that states identify schools where subgroups are “consistently underperforming” compared to their peers. The regulations require states to begin identifying these schools annually beginning in 2019-20.
ESSA gives states the ability to set their own “n” size, meaning the minimum number of students within a subgroup in which a school must be held accountable. The final regulations require that the state justify setting an “n” size at 30 or above.
Participation Rate – Under ESSA, as well as No Child Left Behind, schools are required to test at least 95% of students, both as a whole and for subgroups. Under the final regulations, states are prescribed only a handful of options for schools not meeting the participation rate, but the state is permitted to develop less dramatic remedies based on how close the school was to the 95% participation rate.