“Because Nothing Says ‘Memorial Day Weekend’ Like an NPRM”


May 26, 2016

By Marianne Lombardo

H/T: Quote from clever Tweet by Anne Hyslop, Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.

NPRM Memorial Day

This is the 7th ESSA implementation update in a series.
To see all posts on ESSA implementation, click here.
To see our interactive 50-state ESSA implementation map, click here.



USDOE releases NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking). This morning at 8:30 a.m., USDOE issued an NPRM addressing accountability, data reporting, and state plans. Informed by stakeholder input given at hundreds of meetings, events, and through public comment, the Department seeks to balance state autonomy with critical civil rights and equity concerns. The big unknown? Since state plans are not due until March 2017, the review of the plans will be in the hands of the next Administration. For a more comprehensive description of the proposed regulations, see a chart depicting how they compare to NCLB, read a summary of the regulations, or read the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. More from us later after a full and thorough reading.

The ESSA battle breaks on through to mainstream media. Lauren Camera at US News & World Report explains how Republicans, the teachers unions, and other groups are accusing the U.S. Department of Education of “overstepping their bounds” on remedying school funding inequities. The Department, with the support of Democratic Senators and every major civil rights group, asserts that it’s upholding its responsibility to assure that ESSA doesn’t leave the most vulnerable students behind and that addressing resource inequities is the intent of the federal law and federal investment in the first place.

The 74 writes that John King won’t back down. “It is both our responsibility and moral obligation to build on the civil rights legacy of (the original federal K-12 education law from the 1960s) and ensure Title I dollars are truly supplemental.”

DFER/ERN’s Charlie Barone suggests the unions, for the good of the teaching profession, rethink their defense of a seniority system that primarily benefits students in the most affluent schools and veteran teachers at the expense of other students, new teachers, and principals in: Teachers Unions, Do You Really Think It’s Okay to Spend Less on Poor Kids?

Education Week’s “ESSA Explained: Inside the Nation’s New K-12 Law” presentation is available free for a limited time here and the slide deck can be accessed here. There’s an interesting discussion during the Q&A about the political context of the regulatory environment and the next administration’s approval of state plans.


In the States

Illinois. The Illinois State Board of Education’s ESSA listening tour recently visited southern Illinois. A meeting participant urged the state to seize the opportunity and improve technology: “The last time Illinois revised its technology plan for schools was in 2007. That’s the same year Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone.” Another area of discussion? The need for a diverse teaching force.

Indiana. The 23-member committee responsible for rewriting the state’s standardized assessment (ISTEP) met for the first time and is starting to get nervous about its six-month deadline to provide recommendations to state legislators. First, they’ll need to agree on the purpose of the tests. Chances are Pearson might survive another year (or two) in the Hoosier state.

New York. “We have to find accountability measures other than test scores that show our schools are moving forward,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. A think tank made up of (best we can tell, as yet unnamed) teachers, administrators, professional associations, higher education representatives and business leaders is being assembled to come up with a statewide accountability plan – one that looks at factors other than just test scores – by the 2017-18 school year. What will this do in a state that’s already weakened accountability and diluted the potency of school interventions? Stay tuned.

Tennessee. Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, State Department of Education senior leaders, and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) are heading out for a whole lot of meetings to get stakeholder input and buy-in. “We look forward to hearing from a variety of educators – from classroom teachers to directors of schools – as well as advocates, parents, and students – as we craft a plan for Tennessee to transition to ESSA,” McQueen stated. Not one to rest on her laurels, she wants Tennessee to continue being the fastest-improving state in the nation in student achievement.

Vermont. Vermont’s small size and student population may bring advantages. Maria Worthen, vice president for federal and state policy at iNACOL: “I think in smaller states, it’s easier to bring stakeholders to the table and come up with a more cohesive vision. Vermont is probably the size of a large urban school district, so they seem to be thinking in a more statewide way when they’re taking on initiatives.” In 2013, the Legislature passed the Flexible Pathways Initiative requiring all students in grade 7-12 have personalized learning plans. The state also has proficiency-based (also known as competency-based), rather than credit- or seat time-based, graduation requirements – a model other states may look at as they explore ESSA flexibility.

Wisconsin. “ESSA is, at its heart and by its intent, civil rights legislation,” State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers explains as the Equity in ESSA Stakeholder Council embarks on a listening tour. The Council is tasked with taking a fresh look at Wisconsin’s education accountability system and will also be asked to “consider how accountability measures relate to school improvements, what school improvement strategies should look like, and when the state should intervene in a school or district,” Evers said. With a black-white achievement gap wider than that of every state except one, Wisconsin definitely needs to step up its game here.