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Feds take first steps in transition to new education law

educationWASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Education took the first steps toward implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which President Obama signed into law this month to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and replace key requirements of the outdated No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

The Department launched the rulemaking process by publishing in the Federal Register a Request for Information (RFI) seeking advice and recommendations for Title I regulations under ESSA.

The Department also issued a Dear Colleague Letter to states to clarify some initial steps as states, districts and schools transition to the new law and signal the Department’s commitment to facilitating a smooth transition to the new law—with minimal disruption to students, families, teachers, and schools—while ensuring compliance with all ESSA transition provisions.

“The passage of ESSA means that we can continue challenging our kids to live up to new, higher standards—and that’s a good thing for our schools and a good thing for our nation,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We know there’s a lot to be figured out as the nation moves to implement this new law, and we will continue to provide support and guidance throughout the transition.

“Starting in August, the new law rightly gives states and school districts new flexibility to tailor their own strategies and interventions to meet the needs of students and schools. At the same time, the law also maintains the Department’s clear responsibility to work with state and local partners to ensure the effective use of taxpayer funds to improve educational outcomes for more than 24 million low-income and minority students in high-poverty schools across the nation,” Duncan said.

The RFI is part of the Department’s effort to solicit input from states, educators, teachers, educator organizations, civil rights advocates, business leaders, parents, students, and other interested parties about the implementation of the new law. The filing notes that the Department is considering conducting negotiated rulemaking on academic assessments and the requirement that funds under Title I, Part A be used to supplement—and not supplant—state and local funds, and specifically invites comments on those issues. It also requests feedback on other areas on which the Department should regulate under Title I.

The Dear Colleague letter provides guidance to states regarding a smooth transition of state activities under No Child Left Behind to the new law, such as requirements and follow-up actions under the renewal of ESEA flexibility waivers, Title I assessment peer reviews, and both annual measurable objectives and annual measurable achievement objectives.

“As we move forward with implementation of ESSA and the critical work that lies ahead, the Department will continue to partner with states,” Duncan said. “Our staff will work with states and other grantees to develop solutions to the many important policy and implementation decisions that will arise along the way, and will provide states with comprehensive guidance and, as necessary, regulations.”

The new law, signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 10, builds on key areas of progress accomplished in recent years through the efforts of educators, communities, parents, and students from across the country. It helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:

  • Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers;
  • Ensuring accountability and guaranteeing that when students fall behind, steps are taken to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools where subgroups are falling behind;
  • Continuing to ensure that parents and educators have annual assessment information they need about how students are doing, while supporting states and districts in reducing unnecessary, onerous and redundant testing;
  • Expanding access to high-quality preschool;
  • Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement; and
  • Strengthening competitive programs that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.

Over the coming days and weeks, the Department will continue to consider input from stakeholders and provide clarity and guidance about the transition to the new law.

The Department will hold two public hearings in January to collect feedback on transitioning to the new law:

  • A hearing on Jan. 11, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Barnard Auditorium, Washington, DC. To present comments during the meeting, RSVP to no later than 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 4, 2016.
  • A hearing on Jan. 19, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, at UCLA, Carnesale Commons, 251 Charles E. Young Drive West, Palisades Room, Los Angeles, CA. To present comments during the meeting, RSVP to no later than 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 12, 2016.

For more information about ESSA, visit

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