ESEA/ESSA Update #252

Issue #252 | January 19, 2017


DeVos hearing adds to concerns about nomination

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee held a hearing this week on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education that added to concerns supporters of public education have about the nomination.

If confirmed, DeVos would become the first secretary of education without experience with public schools. Instead, DeVos has spent decades working to dismantle and privatize public education. Her lack of experience and antipathy toward public education was evident in both her opening statement and her failure to respond to many of the questions put to her.

  • Despite being a key architect of Detroit's charter school system, which has been described as one of the biggest school reform disasters in the country, DeVos could not say what she might have learned from the failures there that would inform her decision making as secretary of education.
  • DeVos suggested that states should have a right to determine whether schools receiving federal funds should be subject to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal civil rights law.
  • DeVos refused to agree that all schools receiving federal funds should be held to the same standards of accountability.
  • DeVos appeared not to understand the distinction between growth and proficiency as measures of student learning.
  • DeVos appeared unaware of federal regulations governing for-profit institutions of higher education, and when informed of them, refused to commit to enforcing them.
  • DeVos refused to commit to upholding regulations that protect students from sexual assault.

NEA President Lily Eskelson GarcĂ­a emphasized NEA's opposition to DeVos in a statement released Tuesday: "For decades, instead of supporting public schools, she has led efforts in her home state of Michigan and across the country to dismantle and privatize public education. She is a staunch advocate of giving taxpayer-funded vouchers, with no strings attached, to parents who send their children to private schools. She supports for-profit public charter schools while opposing policies to hold them accountable to taxpayers for their performance. In the end, unfortunately, it's the students who pay the price for her failed policies."

ED withdraws supplement not supplant proposal

The Department of Education (ED) will not issue a final rule on supplement not supplant under the tenure of Secretary of Education John King, Jr., according to news accounts. ED's detailed proposed rule had been highly controversial and a similar final rule might have been overturned by Congress. It is unknown whether the Trump administration will propose a new version.

ED releases 42 pages of questions for states submitting ESSA plans

Following up on the consolidated state plan template released at the end of November, ED last week released detailed plan submission guidance, including 42 pages of questions, for use by states submitting plans and the peer reviewers who will examine them. According to ED, "an SEA [state educational agency] must respond to all bold questions" contained in the guidance. Non-bolded questions "reflect guiding questions that the department encourages peers to consider when evaluating the quality and sufficiency of the SEA's plan." In a related development, ED announced that it was looking for peer reviewers, including educators, to analyze the upcoming first round of consolidated state plan submissions. The deadline to apply is January 27.

ED also yesterday released two more guidance documents impacting state plans: "Accountability FAQs" and "Resource Guide: Accountability for English Learners under the ESSA."

School ambassadors application deadline extended

The deadline to apply for ED's school ambassadors program has been extended to February 6. This year's paid full-time and part-time fellowships are open to teachers, principals, and for the first time, other school staff.

ESSA report card requirements detailed

ESSA requires SEAs and local educational agencies (LEAs) to develop and disseminate report cards that provide information on state, LEA, and school performance and progress. The report cards must be distributed annually and include information on accountability indicators, schools identified for improvement, and any additional data elements.

ED reaffirmed and clarified requirements in recently released nonregulatory guidance. The guidance reiterates that SEAs and LEAs must consult with stakeholders in developing report cards, which must be disseminated by December 31, 2018 for the 2017-2018 school year. The guidance gives examples of additional data elements an SEA or LEA might consider, such as:

  • Percentage of students requiring or not requiring remediation in post-secondary education
  • Percentage of students attaining career and technical certifications
  • Percentage of students who drop out
  • Percentage of first-time 9th graders who were promoted on time

NEA supports the inclusion of additional elements, especially those listed on NEA's Opportunity Dashboard like optimal ratios of specialized instructional support personnel (SISP). For more information on ESSA, please visit

Educator support grant competition begins

ED launched the latest Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) competition, which will award approximately $40 million to national non-profit organizations for projects that support teacher or principal training or professional enhancement activities. The application deadline is March 7, 2017.

How to calculate graduation rates under ESSA

ED released guidance to states to help calculate high school graduation rates. Under ESSA, states are required to report on the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, which provides for a uniform measure of reporting that can be compared and reviewed. States also have the flexibility and option to report on extended-year graduation rates for students who need additional time to graduate. ED's guidance in this area provides states with clarity about who is to be included in graduation rate calculations, model formulas for the calculations, and a discussion about the options states have when meeting the needs of a students who have significant cognitive disabilities, are migrant, or who transfer. The guidance also links states to ED resources for support and interventions for dropout prevention. NEA supports a system of uniform reporting of high school graduation rates and encourages the use of extended year graduation rates to incentivize all efforts to increase graduates rates for students.

Take action

Time is running out to weigh in on the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. America needs an experienced, qualified secretary of education who wants to strengthen and improve all public schools, not a career privatizer and voucher advocate with no public school experience. Ask your Senators to vote NO on the Betsy DeVos nomination.