Every Student Succeeds Acts committee wraps second session, agrees only on computer adaptive testing

Every-Student-Succeeds-Act

Information courtesy of the National School Boards Association

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Negotiated Rulemaking Committee finished their second session Friday, but did not come to an agreement on any of the issues except for Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT).  The committe will reconvene for a third session on April 18 and 19 and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will rework the proposed regulations based on the feedback received this week from the committee members. 

The first agenda item discussed in-depth was supplement, not supplant. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) explained the proposed regulation, and indicated that the purpose of the regulations is to give more clarity to states and districts, since this will impact more than non- Title I eligible schools within a district.

However, the issue polarized negotiators, with local administrators explaining district financial operations and budget allocations and spending. Other negotiators praised the new requirements, but raised additional concerns as well.

Before lunch, the facilitator summed up the conversation by saying that those responsible for implementing the regulations are having a difficult time figuring out how the proposed regulations could be implemented. ED staff responded that they understood the district-level concerns raised, but that there is an equity issue and that Title I schools are not getting the funds that non-Title I schools receive. ED staff indicated that the underfunding of our high poverty schools was the basis for their proposed regulations.

The facilitator reiterated that all negotiators are very committed to student success, and what she observed as hurtful is the implication by some that this is not the case. She said she that solutions are not being proposed, but rather, she’s seeing more of a “ping pong” match.

The following proposed language was discussed at length from the Issue Paper: Supplement Not Supplant under “Compliance.”

(b) Compliance
(1) School costs or services.

(i) To comply with paragraph (a) of this section, an LEA must annually demonstrate, at such time and in such manner as the SEA may reasonably require, that the methodology it uses to allocate state and local funds to each Title I school ensures that the school receives all of the state and local funds it would otherwise receive if it were not a Title I school.

(ii) An LEA may determine the methodology it will use to allocate state and local funds to its schools, provided that the methodology —

(A) Results in the LEA spending an amount of state and local funds per pupil in each Title I school that is equal to or greater than the average amount spent per pupil in non-Title I schools as reported under Section 1111 (h)(1)(C)(x)  of the Act; and

(B) Allocates an amount of State and local funds that is sufficient to enable each Title I school to provide:

(l) the basic educational program as defined under states or local law; and

(ll) In conjunction with the funds provided under the IDEA, services required by law for students with disabilities; and services required by law for English learners.

The first term under this proposal, “Basic educational program,” included in (B)(1), proved very concerning to some negotiators.  The issues discussed included:

  • How will this work operationally within a state and school district?
  • When something is not defined for an auditor or a state legislator, it takes years for the definition to mature.
  • The steps a district would be required to take to comply with the proposed requirements would not allow the district to serve the student that are being served now.
  • Add language to further define “basic educational program.”
  • Strike the term or further address it in guidance.
  • How this affects Maintenance of Effort?
  • How would this impact schools that are really doing a good job?

Tony Evers, Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction, questioned how “basic educational program” would work in practice. “How is that being determined? In Wisconsin there’s no statutory language defining the term. He said he is fearful that the determination would be left to auditors.

Moving on to subsection (A), items of concern noted by negotiators included:

  • The need for additional funding to fulfill the requirement.
  • One negotiator said the “flexibility” afforded in the section makes her “nervous,” suggesting in the absence of new money, districts can relocate funds from the administrative office to the classroom.
  • Focus more on the “methodology” of funding allocation.
  • How can we reach the intent of Title I — does ESSA require using average per-pupil spending?
  • Should the term “average” be changed to mode?
  • Proposal to change the criteria from “spending” to “allocation.”

Alvin Wilbanks, from the Gwinnett County Public Schools, Georgia, said, “the big issue is the averaging for per-pupil expenditure.” He added, “Sure there should be checks and balances, but at the same time we have to have a process in place to do what we have to do. You can’t add more regulations and requirements and make it impossible to implement.”  Wilbanks noted that having a methodology in place is more effective and that perhaps a compromise is looking at ED’s 2015 supplement, not supplant, non-regulatory guidance.

In addition, some negotiators expressed concern over how this proposed regulation could affect districts in states that use a weighted student funding formula (per-pupil allocation is differentiated by student needs). Ryan Ruelas, Anaheim City School District, California, which uses weighted student funding, cautioned the proposal could “really punish and disincentive” weighted student funding by obscuring the funding in Title I and non-Title I schools.

After the lunch break, the committee resumed discussion on supplement, not supplant. Proposals were made to strike some proposed language, but no agreement was made. ED will review the issue again based on all the concerns expressed and propose something more workable. The following are the proposals and concerns expressed:

  • Proposal to remove subsection (B) regarding average per-pupil spending
  • Adding language addressing non-Title I schools serving high numbers of students with disabilities and English language learners and children from low-income families
  • Proposal to move the criteria of methodology used by districts from regulations to guidance.
  • Proposal to allow districts to rebut perception/appearance of violation.
  • Concerns over having to move teachers around to achieve per-pupil spending requirement.

Thomas Ahart, from the Des Moines School District, Iowa, expressed concern that, “Unless I violate my teachers’ contract to move them around, I can’t meet the regulation or reallocate funds as the regulation dictates.” Several negotiators opposed removing the per-pupil funding criteria. ED officials said that the goal is to review the proposed language and come up with something less burdensome for school districts.

The next issue addressed was looking at Issue Paper #6 with recommendations from ED. This topic focused on explaining and clarifying the assessment requirements in ESSA. Several issues were brought up during the discussion:

  • Proposal to add language regarding “measure student performance at different ability levels” based on challenging state academic achievement levels.
  • Concern that some assessments do not capture the performance of lower performing students.
  • Add language to make sure assessment information available to the public via “alternate means” in addition to the state’s website.
  • Discuss the definition of a child in foster care, homeless child or youth and migratory child

The committee members will resume the discussion for a third session April 18 and April 19.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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